When Essential Medical Supplies Run Out, a Missionary Turns to One Remaining Resource: Prayer
June 8, 2016
It was most strange for my missionary-doctor-daddy to be home in the middle of the morning. Ordinarily he was not able to get away from the clinic or operating room before one or two in the afternoon. Yet, here he was now, riding into the back yard on his bicycle, right in the middle of our geometry class.
Calling the family into his office, my father explained the reason for his unusual presence: There was important praying to be done.
This was the morning of the weekly baby clinic, and the all-important supply of liquid quinine—the only antimalarial drug then known—had run out. A large drug order had been placed many months before, but the extended ocean voyage and the uncertainty of Congo transportation had exhausted our supplies.
My father’s faith was a source of unceasing amazement to me, his daughter in her early teens. And here he was now, calmly stating that he was going to pray that that drug order would arrive immediately, for it was needed right now.
It was inconceivable to me how any amount of praying could hurry the panting, sweating “cart men.” They had to push a huge cart loaded with a ton of heavy cargo over 80 miles of muddy road that lay between us and the nearest railroad point. Even conceding that the shipment had reached the railhead and had started on its laborious journey to our hospital, asking for the cart to move faster seemed unrealistic. A gnawing sense of guilty cynicism filled me as I listened to my father’s simple, trusting prayer.
Daddy simply reminded God that the sick babies were God’s babies too, and that for those taking the antimalarial regimen, the next dose was essential for “buildup,” lest the effect of the preceding doses be lost.
“This is an SOS, Father. We’ve got to have some liquid quinine!”
While we were still kneeling together, there was a knock on the office door. Concluding his prayer, Daddy rose from his knees, opened the door and greeted a tall colonial government messenger holding a letter.
Silently my father opened the letter and read it. Without a word he motioned for us to come to the door and look outside. There on the ground under the crooked guava tree was a big container filled with clear liquid. Liquid quinine!
The week before, we had entertained a Belgian public health officer. So impressed had he been with our medical work that he desired to make a contribution of some sort. Regretfully, his letter said, he was unable to make a monetary contribution. He hoped my father would not mind if he contributed instead a supply of the medicine, liquid quinine.
The messenger was thanked and the office door was briefly closed again—this time for joyful praise. Then Daddy was off on his bicycle again to see that the babies got their next dose of quinine right on schedule. It was all reminiscent of Isaiah 65:24: “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.”
The next day, the cart arrived with the full drug order. But Our Father cared enough about the babies to see that even one day’s need would be met. And my own father cared enough to ask in faith, believing.
Winnifred Kellersberger Vass, missionary daughter and missionary to the Congo 1916-1975
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PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (Luke 7:11–17, NIV)