A Little Girl's Prayer

(As told by Helen Roseveare, a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa)

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 
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 her?"

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, too!"

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

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."

"Before they call, I will answer!" Isaiah 65:24

*Helen Roseveare, a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa,
told this as it happened to her in Africa.