Today is a special day in my life. The events that occurred on this day, May 16, 1986, would prove to be life changing for at least two people, but neither of us recognized that at the time.
On Friday, May 16, I drove through a little village in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa, on the way to visit missionary friends. As I made the trip through that village, I heard the death wail, something I'll never forget. I should just say briefly, although this should be a much larger story, that when death seems inevitable in Cote d'Ivoire, family and friends begin wailing, even before the person has died. They continue that death wail off and on throughout the coming days, for as much as a week or more. I have no idea, in this case, if the death had occurred, or if it was approaching. I would not know for whom they were wailing until the next week.
As I worked in the dispensary the following week, a teenager brought her nephew, a newborn baby, to the dispensary explaining that his mother had died in child birth the previous week. (It was then that I remembered hearing the death wail as I had driven through that village!) Without refrigeration available to the average African family around whom I lived and worked, there was little hope of a newborn surviving if his mother succumbed to hemorrhage, which was the usual cause of death following childbirth. I prepared a bag of bottles, baby formula, vitamins, etc., and gave them to the young aunt, asking my Ivorian worker to explain to the aunt how to use these products. I asked her to explain the importance of keeping a cover over the bottle's nipple in order to protect it from contamination from the ubiquitous flies. I also explained that only as much formula as the baby might be expected to drink at one feeding should be made at one time to prevent spoilage. It would be essential to use boiled water for the formula. I knew that what I was asking was almost impossible for a village family in this agrarian society.
After having gone through all of that, my Ivorian helper looked at me saying, "Auntie, that's not what they want. They want you to take the baby and raise him."
They wanted me to take the baby and raise him!?! Didn't they understand that I was busy all day in the dispensary? And besides, it was a male child. No family gave away a male child who could carry on the family name.
Well, to make a long story very short, Emmanuel came to live in my home. What a difference this child made in my life! What a joy he brought to me! I'd never understood the concept of love in quite the same way as I did once this newborn became a part of my life.
When the child was able to feed himself and toddle, he went to live in the home of the pastor of our local church. Mission officials felt it was better that he not stay in the home of a single missionary. That is another long story that I'll pass on at another time.
This child, my little Emmanuel, is now a young adult. In June and July, he will be taking exams with the purpose of advancing to another level of education. He called me last weekend to ask my advice regarding further education.
Would you pray with me about two things? Would you pray that he would pass these exams so that he can indeed go on to the next level of education? Would you also ask the Lord to give Emmanuel and me wisdom as we discuss what course of education he should pursue should he pass the exams, as we trust he will? He tells me that he wants to serve the Lord eventually. Even now he teaches Sunday school to the children in the church.
And pray that the Lord will continue to protect this child of my heart. Ask that He would protect him from sin in a culture that expects immorality among its young men. And pray that the Lord will protect him from the many tropical illnesses that are so much a part of life in that part of the world.
Thank you for praying with me as Emmanuel continues to seek the Lord's will for his life. And thank the Lord, too, for permitting this event that forever changed my life in a very positive way.