About three years ago I took a girl in our village named Mami to get an ultrasound. At the clinic I met her boyfriend named Koo who was visibly concerned about her pregnancy. So much so that he made a deal with God: if his baby survived, he would dedicate his life to the Lord. Despite the audacity of his prayer, the Lord did save the baby and (after studying the Bible and coming to understand the Gospel), Koo gave his life to Jesus Christ. Within the next three years, Koo and Mami got married and have been studying the Word of God with us extensively. Koo has become a Bible translator, has learned to read and write, and has translated portions of Genesis and Exodus with our translation team. Koo and Mami were expecting their second child to be born at the beginning of March.
Yesterday, just a couple weeks before her due date, Mami was induced, and things were not going well during her delivery. Koo, this same guy who at one time was making deals with God, bowed the knee to the Lord and prayed a passage that we translated from Exodus, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). Koo told me that the Lord had the right to take his baby and that he still knew that he was good, and he would love him no matter what. From my side of things, I was praying for a miracle.
And then, the Lord took Koo and Mami’s baby. The heart that we heard beating at midnight could no longer be heard at 6am. I didn’t get the miracle I asked God for, yet I witnessed evidence of a miracle that has taken place in the heart of my beloved brother and son in the faith, Koo.
Here are some more details of what went down yesterday…
During the last few months of Mami’s pregnancy, Mami experienced bleeding. She had thus stopped doing the hard work of hauling water and work in the field. However, the other day the bleeding was pretty intense, so she went to a neighboring town to get an ultrasound. The doctor told her that the placenta was no longer attached to the uterine wall and that they should induce labor. He also said if the baby did not come when induced, then they would need to do a C-section. I then took her to a local clinic, where they put her on an IV to induce the pregnancy. Throughout the night, she was groaning but the pain was not as intense as it should have been. Then, at 5am, I returned home and got a couple hours of sleep. Around 9am her husband came to get me and said that they could no longer hear a heartbeat and the baby was not moving.
They recommended that we transport her to another clinic about a half an hour away for a C-section. On the car ride to the other clinic I pleaded with God to do a miracle. Did you not bring me here Lord to love these people and intercede for them? You brought me here for this, now please hear my prayer and save this life.
When we arrived at the clinic, two of their workers took Mami right away into a separate room. I walked back into the room and Mami said that she needed someone to stay with her in the hospital for two weeks to cook for her and take care of her after the C-section. I told her, “Mami, I will take care of all of the logistics; right now, we need to get you into surgery ASAP.” Dryly she replied, “Stacey, they told me the baby is dead.”
My jaw dropped. I immediately started crying and asked the hospital workers why they said that. They flippantly said that because there was no heartbeat, of course the baby was dead. “Can we please do an ultrasound to confirm?” I asked. “Ma’am, do you think I am God? Do you think that I have the power to give and take life? No. I am just here telling you the facts,” the sassiest of the workers replied. Through many tears I replied that their job was to do everything in their power to save this life and that I wanted them to do their jobs. “Fine” she said. They then took Mami “into surgery” for the next several hours.
In the meantime, I read the story of David in 2 Samuel 12:16-23 to Koo where David pleaded for the life of his child until the very last minute. I encouraged him to keep asking for a miracle and called all the Christians I knew to ask for the same. Around 1pm Mami wandered out of “surgery” because apparently the doctor had just arrived (she was just sitting in the operating room the whole time). The doctor then took her in for an ultrasound. It was there that I saw the head of the baby, the spinal column, everything. But what I didn’t see was a beating heart. I asked the doctor quietly if the baby had died and he said yes. When we walked out of the sonogram room Mami asked me what was going on and I told her that the baby had died. They then took her straight to surgery. I walked out of the hospital to go find Koo as I was weeping uncontrollably. I sat down and told Koo that I was so sorry. He said that this was God’s plan and we just sat there in silence.
The doctor then called Koo and me to his office where he explained to us what could cause the detachment of the placenta. He also explained the procedure he was going to perform for Mami. Koo started weeping and left the room. The doctor gave me his cell number and said that if I had called him, he would have performed a C-section the day before.
I have to have a personal connection with a surgeon in order to receive good medical care? Should not good medical care be available to all regardless of who they are and who they know? I thought.
They then performed the operation for Mami while some of us waited us in the waiting room listening to her cry out in pain. Koo and other men then carried her to a recovery room, and I went to ask with tears in my eyes for the baby’s body in order for us to take it to the village to bury it. The flippant medical worker was making jokes with her colleagues and coldly said, “Fine, take the body.” We wrapped the baby in a towel and rode silently to our village.
We arrived in the dark to weeping neighbors and buried the baby in Koo and Mami’s yard by flashlight. My neighbors hugged me weeping and thanked me profusely for loving Koo and Mami, and the Kwakum so well. They called down blessings from God and begged him to repay me abundantly for my love for them. “You have come here to save us” they said. I said, “The fact that this baby is dead proves that I am no savior.” I felt and feel nothing but helplessness and sorrow.
What do we make of all this?
There are many feelings to feel in a case like this. Many questions, many regrets, many frustrations. To name a few…
Rage against fatalism. Among the medical staff their attitude was more or less: “If the baby lives, it lives, if it dies, it dies.” I was in the “emergency room” and they were standing around looking at their phones while there was a man convulsing right in front of them. They fail to see that their efforts could save lives. People here know that the suffering they endure should not be and yet many times their choices keep them in the very suffering that they detest. When I sat in that clinic, I pleaded with God that perhaps my children could become medical doctors to the underserved. Someone needs to fight for life and many I encounter here do not. This is not a problem of lack of medical supplies (although there is that), or a lack of electricity or running water (there is that too), but is a lack of love for the suffering and a lack of ambition to save their lives. May the Lord bring change and may he somehow use me to that end.
Thankfulness for the sovereignty and wisdom of God. I literally have no idea how God can work the death of this child for the good of those who love him. However, Koo and Mami and I trust that he sees the full picture and knows things that we do not. There is a great comfort in that.
Longing for comfort. Yesterday, when Koo was crying, people kept telling him not to cry, to be strong, to hold himself together. I reminded him that Jesus cried when his friend died, and that tears were the correct response. What a precious promise to read, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:14). Is the suffering here overwhelming? Yes. Is it unbearable to watch a father crying as his little baby boy is buried? Yes. But I believe that comfort is coming. It is not yet, but it is coming.
Joy that the Gospel is for the poor. Working with the poor is difficult, very difficult. They do not have the resources that they need to feed their families and ensure the health of their loved ones. Therefore, they look to us for much and we often feel our own limits and are just exhausted by all the needs around us. However, I wouldn’t trade working with the poor for the world because God has chosen them to be rich in faith.
Unbelieving, unkind people steeped in traditional religion, drunkenness, and sexual sin cry out to God for salvation and help every day and when I open the Word of God and tell them that their Creator has something to say to them, they listen. If they see me walking to someone’s house to pray for someone or teach them the Word, they stop what they’re doing to come to listen. The clinic we were in yesterday was filled with the poor crying out to God for help. It was both heart-wrenching and beautiful.
Strangely enough, yesterday reminds me of the story of Abraham. After years of waiting, the Lord gave him a child only to turn around and ask him to give him back in a sacrifice. The Lord tested him, and Abraham passed the test. He showed the Lord that he loved him more than his child. Yesterday, someone else was tested and he too gave God his child with an open hand and a heart full of faith. The Lord is slowly redeeming the suffering in this place to create beautiful hearts of faith.
“Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?…
To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:34, 36