‘Before they call, I’ll answer’

I n the book of Isaiah is found the promise: “Before they call I will answer.” Out of Africa comes the story. But let the medical missionary tell it in his own words:

“I worked so hard to help the young laboring mother, but in spite of our efforts she died leaving a tiny premature baby and a two-year- old daughter crying for her mother. In the West there would have been an incubator, but we had no incubator. And even if we had an incubator, we didn’t have electricity to run it.

“Our hospital is on the equator, but the nights are bitter cold. A student midwife brought a box and wrapping for the baby. Another, going to fill a hot water bottle, returned in distress. The bottle had burst as she filled it (rubber doesn’t last long in tropical climates) and it was the last one we had. ‘Ok,’ I said, ‘Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can. Your job is to keep it warm.’

“At noon I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I told them about the tiny baby, about the problem of keeping it warm, about the hot water bottle and about the little sister crying because her mother had died.

“Ruth, a 10-year-old, prayed with the usual bluntness of our African children, ‘Please, God, send a hot water bottle today; tomorrow will be too late.’ I gasped inwardly as she added, ‘And while you are at it, please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know you love her. Amen.’ “A s of ten w it h children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, ‘Amen?’ Oh, I know that God can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there?

“That afternoon, quite unexpectedly, a 22- pound parcel arrived and some 40 pairs of eyes watched as I tore off the wrapping and lifted out knitted jerseys, bandages for the leprosy patients, a box of raisins, and on and on. Then I felt it, and pulled it out—a brand new hot water bottle!

“As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I heard Ruth cry out, ‘If God sent the bottle, he must have sent the dolly, too!’ Rummaging down to the bottom, I pulled out a small, beautifully dressed doll. Ruth’s eyes shone; she had never doubted!

“ That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And some one had put in a doll for an African child—five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a 10-year-old to send it ‘that very afternoon’.”

Listen again to God’s promise. “Before they call I will answer.”

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church in Temple where he served as senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several Central Texas newspapers.

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