Owning a Miracle

When I was in sixth grade, a family moved into the house across from the school. The daughter was tall, blond, smart, and talented. The best part was she was my age and very very nice. We became good friends.

The first day I stopped at her house to visit, I was shocked to find her mother in bed.

"What is wrong with your mom?" I asked boldly, because I was a bold little girl.

"She is recovering from malaria." My new friend told me as if I knew what Malaria was and that it was obvious bed rest was required. They had been living in Ghana, Africa's Gold Coast, where her mother contracted the disease and her health forced their move back to the states.

"Who does the cooking?" My inquiring mind pushed the conversation deeper.

She stopped pouring the juice that we were going to drink with our cookies and looked at me oddly.

"Why? I do!"

"Oh." I'm sure my face showed some astonishment, but I changed the subject because I knew it was either a stupid question or an insult.

We would sometimes sit on her mother's bed and tell her about our day. Other times we played the piano, our violins, her flute, or did our homework. We had many of the same interests. However, in addition to all those things, she knew how to cook, clean, and fold laundry. I thought she was amazing.

As the years passed, I knew how truly amazing my friend was.

We completed high school and went on to the same college. I dropped out and moved across the country. She completed her 4-year Registered Nursing degree and married a young pilot who wanted to fly the bush in Africa.

We kept in touch after she moved to Zaire. E-mail was still a twinkle in some computers eye, so she would send a letter to a friend who would Xerox them and pass them on.

She gave birth to two boys who knew Africa as their home and learned to speak a dialect that only one other non-native person could.

One of her amazing projects was building her own clinic where she provided immunizations for the children in the equatorial mountain area where they lived. She asked her friends for monetary contributions and she solicited supplies from larger organizations like CARE and UNICEF. I remember her excitement when she wrote to a large University in Southern California and they gave her a solar powered refrigerator. People realize that she is a mover and a shaker once they have an opportunity to meet and talk with her.

In the summer of 1987, her small clinic was running efficiently. She was treating sick children and adults. Often she would make contact with doctors in the U.S. to help her diagnose and treat her patients. Her pilot husband was interested in the dental care. He became proficient in pulling rotten teeth and teaching children how to brush and floss.

Although I could not physically be a part of what she was doing, I had made small monthly monetary contributions to her work. So the story she told me that year was one I have cherised and owned in my heart. Recently I asked her to tell me once more in her own words so that I could put them in print. It is as follows:

Some mothers would walk for several hours in order to bring their children for the magic needle which would protect their children from measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polio.
On this particular day, my supply of the measles vaccine was low. I don't remember how many children were vaccinated at the clinic that day but I know that I had one partially used vial of measles immunization left at the end of the clinic day. I took it home with me along with the plastic disposable syringes and needles which would be re-sterilized by boiling in a pot of water over my wood stove.
I was tired and ready to sit down to eat lunch when I saw a stream of women and babies coming down my driveway. I knew right away what they wanted and dreaded having to tell them that I didn't have enough measles vaccine for all of them. They had walked for two days from the lake which meant coming over the mountains, up and down the trail, knowing that they would receive the vaccines when they arrived. Their faith in me was great!
I had them all sit down on my large porch while I prepared the needed equipment and supplies. I estimated that I might get 6 or 7 doses from the vial but just said a prayer that God would supply the rest and went to work. Imagine my joy and amazement as I was able to draw up 32 doses of measles vaccines that day from this one small vial that shouldn't have given me more than 10 doses even when it was still sealed.
The mothers never knew that they were participants in a miracle that day but I did and wish now that I would have explained it to them. I think that they understood the miracle, however, because I had told them that I didn't think that there would be enough for everyone! Perhaps their prayers were answered too!

It was only a few years later that her family was forced to leave the country in haste because of the Hutu-Tutsi Conflict. She had to walk away from the clinic that she had not only raised the money to build, but also mixed mortar for and lay bricks. They left the people they had grown to love as family and her sons waved goodbye to forever-best friends.

She and her husband are still dedicated to improving the world they live in. Along with their teenage daughter, they are working yet again in another third world country.

Her sons are grown, both are pilots, and one is a registered nurse. They have followed in the footsteps of their parents. They, their wives, and children share their lives in the same wonderful way.


Anonymous said…
Awesome and amazing story. I admire their efforts and tenacity for the cause.
DesLily said…
great post Pamela. How incredible to know people like that!
BarnGoddess_01 said…
you are a lucky lady to have a friend in this woman, our World is a better place because of her :)

my father contacted malaria in Korea. Altho he is okay now, it makes his health complicated. It is a scary disease.
Claudia said…
Wow Pamela! That is a great story. I was actually born in Zaire, but we left when I was 5...during an uprising. It was the Americans that got us out thanks to my stepfather. I don't remember much, but your friend is one brave and incredible woman!
Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. It's amazing that there are people like this in the world!
Susie said…
How fortunate you were to have made friends with this amazing woman. I'm sure she enriches the lives of all she knows.
Thanks for sharing her story!
Devon said…
It is amazing what a person can do when fear is not a factor!

It is so wonderful to have such an interesting person in your life!
Anonymous said…
That is one of my most favorite stories.
Anonymous said…
I know that miracles happen everyday, I just wish we heard about them everyday. What a blessing she is in your life. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!
It's stories like these that make me adore you even more.

So beautiful
Amanda said…
Imagine what kind of world we would live in if everyone was so unselfish and determined. Such an inspiring family!
CyberCelt said…
She and her husband are heroes. I have never understood what makes one family so selfless and another so uncaring.

There would be no Darfur if there were more families like your friends.
Kila said…
Wow, amazing, I wish we had more folks like her. I've often fantasized of doing things like that once my boys are grown and on their own.
Anna Venger said…
What a fantastic story! Thanks for sharing it. God does do miracles today. And He uses people such as your friend as partners.
Susan in va said…
WOW! What an amazing family!

Reading this I realize, once again, how much I take for granted.

I don't want to sound like I'm passing judgment on American families who choose not to vaccinate their children, but I was struck by this part of your friend's story: "Some mothers would walk for several hours in order to bring their children for the magic needle which would protect their children from measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polio."

My generation has grown up not experiencing first hand the debilitating effects of diseases such as these and I am afraid that we have become desensitized. These diseases still exist and not just in third world countries. A family in my community recently took their five children to be vaccinated after they all contracted whooping cough. The mother said that she had never witnessed anything so frightening in her life.

I could go on and on, but I'll get off my soapbox now.
Yvonne said…
I will forever remember that modern-day "loaves and fishes" miracle. Thank you for sharing that story - and the dedication of your friends.
Oh what a great story! Funny that mass today was the story of Jesus turning the water to wine. Sometimes the miracle stories of faith like to come at you several times in a day -- maybe to wake us up the miracles around us? Thanks for a story that will stay with me!
Fish-2 said…
What a great story. Thanks for sharing that. There have been a few times in my life when little miracles have happened, and it makes you just sit back and wonder. Also realize this old world isn't the cut and dried place science would make us believe.
Bibi said…
I am in truly in awe of people who do this kind of goodness in the world. Thank you Pamela for sharing this story. Your friend sounds amazing. I've watched a lot of doc film on the situation in Rwanda and am amazed at people's courage.
Tammy said…
I echo what most everyone else has said...such an amazing and wonderful story.
How facinating that you have known her since you both were children and have seen the paths her life has taken.
And what a wonderful modern-day miracle that God mulitplied that vaccine!
Thank you so much for sharing it!
Rose Ghost said…
Wow! Some people are just amazing. I wish I could have a little of that dedication. :-)
Anonymous said…
what an amazing story Pam. I'm so glad that you got your friend to share it again with you, so you could share it with us.

you're a very talented writer.
Robin said…
Beautiful re-telling of a beautiful story, and a legacy that lasts for generations.

I can tell so much about you, Pamela, by the nature of your friendships :).
Anonymous said…
what makes a person become a giver and another person a taker?

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