The Deceptively Quiet Start
It was a quiet evening in the Canela village, half a lifetime ago, when I learned an important lesson. Jo was next door attending the birth of a baby that had been coming since the afternoon. With our three daughters in boarding school in Belem, I had our mud-walled, palm thatch house peacefully to myself for the next hour or two. As I relaxed in my hammock with a book, I thought, I love days when most of the Canelas are away hunting meat for a festival. No one to bother me as I catch up on my reading.
The Birthing Scene
But only ten minutes into my book I heard a kid running towards the house. He burst in through the open back door and shouted, “Your wife wants you to come right now!” I jumped up, ran after him to the house next door, and rushed into the room where a typical Canela birth scenario was unfolding. The young mother-to-be on the pole and mat bed leaned back against her husband who had his arms around her below her breasts ready to tighten and squeeze down when the moment came. A couple of elderly women were taking turns feeling inside her to check the position of the baby. What was not typical was that the mother’s head lolled to one side and her unseeing eyes were rolled up so that only the whites showed.
Jo looked at me with deep concern showing on her face and said in English, “Honey, this woman is dying. She is unconscious. I can’t even feel her pulse anymore. She has been in labour too long. She’ll die if we don’t do something.” I checked her pulse on the side of her throat, it was faint and slow. Not a good sign. If she died now the baby would die too, unless I cut her belly open to take the baby out. But there was zero chance of the relatives consenting to let me do that. “ Great Father in heaven, help us!” I prayed in Canela.
The Prayer of Desperation
I also prayed as I ran back to the house, “Lord, give me wisdom and give it now!” I grabbed a flashlight and began to look over the medicine shelves at the scores of bottles, boxes and packages. We had everything from antibiotics to anti snake bite serum, from pills for intestinal parasites and diarrhea, to eye and ear drops. I had no idea what I was looking for.
Suddenly, behind some dental extraction tools and anesthetic, an ampoule stood out, Adrenalin. Hmm, that’s for allergic shock. I remembered. It makes the heart beat faster and stronger. Okay, that’s it! I grabbed the ampoule, a syringe and needle. In the bright light of my flashlight, I drew in one millilitre of adrenalin and ran back to the house. Still praying, I injected the adrenalin into the muscles of her upper arm.
My fingers on the side of her throat, waiting. Ten seconds, no change. Another ten seconds and I felt a slightly stronger beat.
Another twenty seconds and her heart was beating hard and fast. Then her eyes popped wide open, she stiffened, panted, gave a scream and a mighty push. Her husband helpfully squeezed down, everyone shouted encouragement, and within a few minutes, Whump! There was the baby! Whew!
“Thank you, Lord,” I prayed as I walked back home to boil the syringe and needle. “Thank you for focusing my eyes on that adrenaline. Thank You for showing the Canelas You care and answer a desperate prayer for help.”
It’s amazing what we can accomplish in situations where there is nothing to lose. The woman and the baby were going to die. That was sure. We had heard of it happening before. When death is inevitable and near, people will take crazy chances. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.
The Miracles in Desperate Times
God often works his greatest miracles at times of utter desperation. Four lepers were starving outside the walls of a besieged city. “If we sit here, we die” they reasoned. “If we go into the city we die. Let’s go over to the besieging enemy, they might give us food. The worst they can do is kill us and we’re going to die anyway.” Their act of desperation in the end saved the lives of everyone in the besieged city. Read the whole story in 2 Kings 6:24 to 7: 20.
Queen Esther and all the Jews of the Persian empire were facing certain death. Only the emperor could stop the executions. Although Esther was the wife of the emperor, she risked her life if she came to him without being called. But she went anyway, saying, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16 (NIV). She was going to die anyway and had everything to gain. Her act of desperation in the end saved the lives of all her people.
It’s amazing what God can do when we call on Him for help in dangerous, deadly situations,and we are ready to act in desperation.