I was so tired. I just wanted a good nap.
It was blazing hot in the midday African sun. Our tent was unbearably hot. I thought about resting under the mango tree.
Our tent was pitched outside the village hospital. My friend Meza said that there was an empty office in the hospital with a fan where we could rest.
We went to the office to rest but Meza had to go back to the tent to get something. As she walked to the tent, she saw a family sitting on the sidewalk.
They were holding a tiny baby and crying.
She immediately went to them to see what was happening.
They said their baby was not breathing. They had gone to the hospital but did not have enough money to pay for treatment. Meza assured them that we could pay for the treatment and she called for the doctor.
Meza ran to the office to get me. She said, “There is a baby out here that we need to pray for.”
We rushed down the hall to the family who was now sitting inside.
What I saw next, I will never forget.
This tiny baby was staring at the ceiling with very little life left in her eyes. She gasped for breath every five seconds. I have never seen a baby this close to death. We all prayed and cried over this sweet baby girl. As I prayed, I felt like I was about to watch her die right there.
Finally, the doctor arrived.
As the doctor treated this eight month old baby named Natalie, the rest of us continued to pray and sing over her.
At one point, Natalie’s mother left the room. No one knew where she went.
During this time, the doctor said that he had done all he could do. She was breathing better but she had a very high fever that was not going down. There was bigger hospital down the road, so he asked us to take Natalie there instead.
We climbed in the bus with Natalie’s father and aunt and drove to the other hospital. We still did not know where her mother was.
At the second hospital, Natalie got hooked up to oxygen and fluids. She was starting to breathe much better and her fever was going down.
After an hour, her mother finally came back. She told us that she thought her baby had already died, so she went to tell her parents to prepare for the funeral.
When we told her that her baby was still alive and doing much better, she broke down in tears. She couldn’t even look at her baby. She sat on the floor, crying.
We sat with her and prayed. We all worried about this young mother. When I looked in her eyes, I saw sadness and darkness. I wasn’t sure if it was postpartum depression, fear, guilt, exhaustion, or something much darker.
All I knew was she needed a lot of prayer. She needed Jesus.
We stayed at the hospital all day, waiting. That night, Natalie finally came off her IV and oxygen. We visited with the family. The last time I looked in Natalie’s eyes, I thought I was going to watch her die.
Now she looked like a normal baby, smiling, playing, cooing. We were all overjoyed.
However, I was still worried about Natalie’s mother. She never smiled and she seemed so numb.
We asked the mother and father if they were Christians. They said no.
For the next week, we continued to check on Natalie. Our team went to a different village, but we continued to pay for Natalie’s treatment in the hospital. Her breathing never completely normalized, so they kept her in the hospital to continue treating her. We called Natalie’s father two times a day for updates.
She seemed to be getting better. We were all hopeful.
A week later, we got a call from Natalie’s father. He said that they hospital had done everything they could for his daughter. They had exhausted their resources and were releasing Natalie from the hospital. She was still not breathing normally.
The next morning, Natalie’s father called. Natalie had passed away in the night.
Meza screamed, “No, not Natalie!” She fell to the ground crying.
I felt like I was looking in a mirror. I had the same exact reaction just five months prior when my neighbor’s daughter died.
When you spend so much time praying over a baby girl, you crumble when it all comes to a screeching halt.
Meza and I are both mothers. We took this grief upon us as if it were our own child. Our momma hearts were breaking. I could only imagine what was happening to Natalie’s mother. I prayed even harder for her.
As we grieved, God comforted me with the thought that He is bigger than all of this. He was still working. He still had plans for this family. I felt that God was going to use this to draw the mother and father to Him. Our ministry team would be in their village for the entire year. I knew that even when I went back to the United States, our team would still be there, loving on this family, and speaking God’s love over them.
Two days ago, I got a message from our ministry team. The house church in that village was growing. They have been meeting together for five months. Many people in this village have become Christians.
The house church picked three people this week to be their “Persons of Peace.” They will be in charge of the audio Bible as the village comes together each week to listen to God’s Word.
I stared at the pictures of the three “Persons of Peace.” I recognized the woman in the middle. It was Natalie’s mother!
I frantically messaged our ministry team leader for confirmation. He said that it was Natalie’s mother. He found out that she had been involved in Voodoo, but after her baby died, she decided to visit the house church. She has now become a Christian and has been coming every week to listen to God’s Word. The village has now picked her to be one of the people responsible for encouraging everyone in the house church.
I was overwhelmed. God really was speaking to me on the day that Natalie died. I was comforted by the fact that He had plans to draw Natalie’s parents to Him, and only a month later, He had already done that with her mother.
This Mother’s Day week, we are praising God for his miraculous works in the midst of death and grief. We still grieve the loss of baby Natalie, but we are overjoyed at the salvation of her mother. She has been brought from darkness to light!
As you can see from the story of baby Natalie, there are so many medical needs in rural Togo. At Sight.org, we only have the resources to help with eye medical needs.
So many people come to our team with non-eye related needs. Sometimes we can help, and sometimes we can’t. We pay for them to go to the hospital when we can. But even then, the rural hospitals have limited resources, as was the case with Natalie. We will never know if Natalie could have been saved if she were in a big city or in a western hospital. We all wonder.
Our team often gets overwhelmed by the needs of the people around them. They can’t fix all the needs they see every day. However, we are comforted by the fact that Jesus is bigger than we are. His plans are better than ours.
He has placed our team in rural Togo for a reason. One of the reasons is to heal people’s eyes. But the biggest reason is the be the love of Christ to them.
Because of our eye surgeries, Jesus opens the door for ministry. Through that, house churches are being established, hundreds are giving their lives to Christ, and the Word of God is heard.
We will never understand all of God’s plans. We don’t understand why Natalie had to die. But we do know that Jesus loves Natalie and her family. And we know that He has a big plan for her family.