Mother lay in bed, twisting the sheet in her thin, frail hands.
It was the beginning of the Great Depression and things couldn’t have been worse. Daddy had been laid off from his job at the railroad, they were struggling to make their mortgage payments, and with four other children ages 8, 6, 4 and 1 ½, Mother was pregnant again.
This time her morning sickness seemed to last all day. Blood tests proved she had pernicious anemia that made her too weak to even hold her youngest toddler.
Late that afternoon, Mother called Daddy into the bedroom. “I believe I’m about to miscarry, “ she whispered hoarsely. Daddy responded as he always did by kneeling by her bed, holding her hand and praying fervently.
In spite of their dire circumstances, Mother and Daddy could not bear to lose a child. It was unthinkable. Each life was precious in the sight of God and therefore precious to this devout couple.
During the last year, visiting missionaries had spoken at the church Mother and Daddy attended. So impressed were my parents with the scope of the missionaries’ work that they desperately wanted to contribute to the offerings designated for their ministries. The problem was, they had no money.
After considerable discussion, they decided to give Mother’s gold wedding ring toward the missionaries’ support. It was not an easy decision, but not one they ever regretted and which had far-reaching effects.
Now as Mother lay on her bed, with evidence that she might soon miscarry, she and Daddy dedicated the unborn baby to the Lord, asking that if God so chose, the child might one day be called to Africa as a Christian missionary.
As the days and weeks went by, Mother passed the crisis and their healthy baby, their fifth child, was born. Wisely, Mother and Daddy never told their daughter, Norma, about their dedication until years later.
Norma was not only a strong baby physically but grew into a strong-willed child. As a teenager, she went through a rebellious stage that prompted Mother and Daddy to double their prayers for Norma. Still, they persevered in prayer.
One day when Norma was still a teenager, she made a life-changing decision to commit her life to Jesus Christ. Like Saul of Tarsus, Norma never looked back, never changed her mind and never strayed from the path she felt God had chosen for her.
So, it was a tearful time of thanks and praise when Norma announced to Mother and Daddy one day that God had called her to be a missionary to Africa. Only after her plans were complete and Norma was sure of her calling did Mother and Daddy tell her of their dedication prayer before her birth.
Norma graduated from Bible College and married her fiancé, Andy, who was also preparing for missionary service in Africa. Arriving in Guinea, West Africa, Andy began building schools, churches and missionary homes while learning the language and preaching through an interpreter. Norma involved herself in Bible translation and working with the native women.
After eight years of marriage and still childless, Norma was diagnosed with cancer. So grave was the prognosis, that it was determined she only had about three months to live
Norma and Andy immediately returned to the United States where oncologists in a New York hospital confirmed through extensive tests and x-rays that Norma did indeed have cancer in her abdomen. But before any treatment or surgery could begin, God performed a miracle of healing in her body.
She had tenaciously held on to Psalm 118:17,18, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he hath not given me over unto death,” and God had honored her steadfast faith.
Returning to Africa, God blessed them with three children born two years apart. All three later graduated from Seminary. Two of them returned to Africa as missionaries and the other joined the staff of a large church in the Northeast.
Norma and Andy were able to complete over 35 years of missionary service in Africa before their retirement.
Mother and Daddy’s sacrificial gift of her gold wedding band to support foreign missions would reap great benefits. But even more, their dedication of their unborn baby to God, their exemplary lives and their unshakeable faith resulted in their daughter, Norma, becoming an outstanding missionary, wife and mother in West Africa.
While some might have immediately accepted a miscarriage as God’s will in desperate circumstances, Mother and Daddy viewed it as an opportunity for God to show His power and His will. They entered into a covenant with God which He abundantly honored.
The blessings of God are indeed passed on to our children and to our children’s children.
Mariane Holbrook [email protected]
Mariane Holbrook is a retired teacher, an author of two books, a musician and artist. She lives with her husband on coastal North Carolina. She maintains a personal website www.marianholbrook.com and she welcomes your letters at [email protected].