Stories From the Field
The Hot Water Bottle
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).
We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). “And it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.”All right,” I said, “put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During prayer time, one ten-year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. “Please, God” she prayed, send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.”
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?”
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen”. I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything, the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.
By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the … could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out – yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly too! Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked: “Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”
That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “that afternoon.”
“Before they call, I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24).
This awesome prayer takes less than a minute. When you receive this, say the prayer, that’s all you have to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want but do send it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards.
Let’s continue praying for one another: Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this right now. I am asking You to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance, and strength as they learn submission to Your leading.
Where there is spiritual stagnation, I ask You to renew them by revealing Your nearness, and by drawing them into greater intimacy with You. Where there is fear, reveal Your love, and release to them Your courage. Where there is a sin blocking them, reveal it, and break its hold over my friend’s life. Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them. Give each of them discernment to recognize the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to defeat it. I ask you to do these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa
Helen Roseveare a doctor missionary from England to Zaire , Africa, told this as it had happened to her in Africa .
How The Mission Grew In My Heart
I would like to share with you how an interest in the missions grew in my heart. I have looked forward to receiving the Echo magazine and calendar ever since I came to know your Congregation. With each issue, I discover more and more the beauty of missionary work. Wherever I go, the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver are always in my heart.
Your beloved Mother Foundress, Bl. Mary Theresa Ledochowska, received a special call and talent to do God’s work and she witnessed this for us through her example of serving the missions with great love and zeal. I find it amazing and inspiring how Bl. Mary Theresa left the court and her work as a lady-in-waiting at the age of 26 to go out into the world and dedicate her life to proclaim God’s love to all, especially those who are forgotten and unwanted in remote areas and in the Third World. I was very touched by her motto: “The most divine of the divine is to cooperate in the salvation of souls.”
When I first learned about Mother Mary Theresa’s life, I started to pray for her guidance in the decisions I needed to make. It was her dedication to bringing souls to our Lord that inspired me to sell my beauty shop in Seattle, in order to be able to travel to Vietnam more frequently to serve the poorest of the poor. In cooperation with your work, I am offering some of the gifts I have received from our Lord. Every day, I pray to Blessed Mary Theresa to accompany me on this journey and I hope that this pleases our Lord. I feel that Mother Mary Theresa is always with me: each time I pray for her intercession, I receive all the help I need.
With these words, I have entrusted myself to Mother Mary Theresa: “You are my spiritual mother in this journey of faith on earth. As long as I am in this world, I belong to you, Mother. Guide me in everything I do. With each breath I take, may the work of mission penetrate deeply my heart and soul.
Please, continue to pray for me that I may be faithful to the missionary call that the Lord has entrusted to me and that I may persevere in all the trials that I may face.
In Jesus and Mary,
Maria Chuc Thi Nguyen, Seattle WA
The Fortitude of the Missionaries Captivates Us
I’ve been reading Echo for more than a dozen years and thought Mission Sunday was a good time to thank you for your mission magazine. Like most children in parochial schools in the 1950s and ’60s, I heard from the teaching Sisters stories of missionary saints and the places where missionaries were answering Jesus’ call to go out to all the world. Sometimes missionaries would visit my hometown parish and school, and my parents, on occasion, invited them for a meal at our house near the church. We loved to hear about children in distant lands or about some dangerous mission trip the missionary had survived.
After Confirmation in 7th grade, a classmate cousin and I spun a globe, closed our eyes, and pointed to a spot where we would go as missionaries when we grew up. To our horror, he landed in communist China and I in the Soviet Union! Nevertheless, the incredible fortitude of the missionaries and martyrs captivated us, and do so even more today.
One missionary Sister I met some time ago had served in Kenya for 17 years. She said it took at least 5 years for missionaries to really feel that they belonged to the people they served. On one trip into the back country, she contracted malaria and was near death. An elderly woman took her into her hut and nursed her back to health for more than a month before Sister was strong enough to return to a town that had a doctor. She said the woman cared for her like her own mother had done, softly humming a song to calm her fears and help her to rest, spoon feeding her when necessary. Sister knew God’s love through this experience and learned how reciprocal is the relationship between a missionary and mission people. She loves them as her second family now. Her story taught me that wherever we are doing God’s will is our home.
In Echo, you give us the teachings of our popes and the selfless example of Blessed Mary Theresa Ledochowska to point out our role in building up the Kingdom of God on earth by supporting foreign missions and evangelizing in our own mission field–our homes and workplaces. In photos, your Sisters look to be from every continent, working in harmony to draw readers to the plight of all who don’t know the Son of God and His promise of eternal life and to assist missionaries with the money and publications needed for their work.
Please continue to print the mission stories and news and requests from missionaries. I think of these as invitations to do something beautiful for God. Keep reminding us that we who have been hugely blessed can be a blessing for others.
Susan from Minnesota
I Came to Know of the Missions by Stealing
My name is Peter, and I am a convert. I have been in America for 12 years now, and I am married to a very wonderful woman. We have one child, and another is on the way. Although my wife is Catholic, she never forced me to become a Christian: it was my own decision.
I came to know of your work for the missions by stealing your magazine from the post office where I work. Something about your magazine attracted me, and when a copy of your magazine was sent to a wrong address, instead of returning it to you as I was supposed to, I took it home to read.
By chance, the first page I turned to was a story entitled, “Why I Became a Catholic.” It was a fascinating story, and I liked it very much. At the time, I was not getting along with my manager and dreaded going to work. After reading the article, my mind and heart knew such peace that all my troubles at work suddenly seemed insignificant. God is using your Order as a wonderful instrument to help us, dear Sisters.
During my first steps toward understanding more about Christianity, I attended a Baptist church, but one day the Reverend said something that sounded very strange to me, so I decided not to return. That was about the time when I met my wife. After getting to know her, I slowly began searching the Catholic faith, not because I wanted to marry a Catholic, but because the Lord was drawing me to the truth.
On the day of my baptism, however, there was a note of sadness. My family is Buddhist, and although my mother and my siblings had no objection to my conversion, my father disowned me. My daughter has never met her grandfather
Nevertheless, I treasure my faith. When I was learning about it I could not wait until the next Sunday when I would go to church to study the catechism and listen to the priest explain about God.
At first, my wife and I said family prayers every night, but the past few months my wife has been working a night shift, and when she returns in the morning I am just leaving for work. Finding a time to pray together became so complicated that we finally stopped altogether. I recently picked up that stolen copy of Echo and was inspired by the Lord to reread that article. I feel that He is telling us that He wants us to come back to family prayer, which we are now trying to do.
I have a great admiration and respect for those who consecrate their lives totally to the service of the Lord and his poorest children. If we can do anything to support the mission, we would be very happy and grateful for the opportunity. God has blessed me with a good job and salary, and I would like to share by helping support the missions.
(Name has been changed)