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A Little Girl's Prayer


One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward;
but in spite of all we could do she died leaving us with a tiny
premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have
difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no
electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with
treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had
for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in.
Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She
came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it
had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates.

"And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.

As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in
Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water
bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores
down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely
can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts.
Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers
with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I
gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and
told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about
keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle.
The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the
two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with
the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God,"
she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God,
as the baby'll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she
added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You
please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could
I honestly say, "Amen?" I just did not believe that God could do
this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says
so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could
answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from
the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time,
and I had never, ever received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone
did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived
on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the
nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at
my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but
there, on the verandah, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt
tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent
for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string,
carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not
to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty
pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.

From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys.
Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted
bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little
bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas -- that would
make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand
in again, I felt the ... could it really be? I grasped it and pulled 
it out -- yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle!

I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed
that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward,
crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly,

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the
small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never

Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you,
Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that
Jesus really loves her?"

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 one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child
-- five months before -- in answer to the believing prayer of a
ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

By Helen Roseveare


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