“The baby is not breathing!”
It was Theo, the father, whom I had just flown from a bush location with his wife and week old infant, Titus. Theo said this softly so I was not sure what he said. I stopped unloading the aircraft and looked at him.
I asked, “Would you say that again?”
“The baby is not breathing.” He said it softly, almost in despair. In some cultures, the more important the subject, the more quietly it should be spoken. I was not sure of his culture, but his words connected.
I ran from the aircraft into the hangar and across to the other side where the van was parked. Fronda was sitting inside the van, holding her newborn baby; Titus. She handed him to me.
What should I do?
Titus was barely a week old. His parents had expressed concern over the radio about him being ill and not nursing. In their hot, wet, humid, moldy, mildewed tropical climate, they ate and slept by a smoky fire inside their grass-roof home.
The route over the jungle took us near their home that day, so I was asked to land the aircraft on their local grass runway, a few hundred feet from their house, and bring the young family to town for medical assessment at the hospital.
Medical culture there was not Western. Most small private clinics in the USA are better equipped than this hospital but it was all that was available. The most basic of medicines were often simply not on hand. Doctors were frequently not available or were out of town. Many times our request for an ambulance to meet the aircraft upon arrival had been met with no response. However, this hospital was the best medical hope in the area. The staff there had saved many lives in difficult circumstances with limited resources.
The van driver was planning to take the family to the hospital on the way back home.
Now baby Titus was not breathing.
I was not sure what to do. I had no medical training for this. While sending out a flare prayer for guidance, I quickly checked for signs of a pulse and breathing. I found nothing.
I did not know what to do, but I was sure that, if we did nothing, this child would certainly die. I had flown many bodies of the deceased over the years and I did not want Titus to be one of them.
A short while previously, when browsing through an old Reader’s Digest, I had seen an article about infant CPR administered by pressing on the infant’s stomach. Trying to remember what I had read, I quickly showed Theo how to repeatedly press gently but firmly on Taitus’ stomach. I did not know if it would do any good but at this point anything was better than nothing.
Just two miles away at the hospital were the doctors and nurses who might be able to help. If not before, this was now an emergency!
I called out to the driver of the van, who had been helping me remove cargo from the aircraft, “Come quickly! Drive the van quickly but safely to the hospital. I will call the hospital while you drive and try to have medical staff ready to meet you.” Response time was not necessarily quick at the emergency entrance to the hospital. In times past I had searched through several wards before finding someone who could help us with a patient.
As the van sped off under the coconut palms down the coastal road to the hospital, I ran inside the hangar to see if our telephone lines were working that day. They were working! I called Diana and gave her some phone numbers to try from her end while I called from the hangar. Maybe one of us would get through! Now all we needed was someone to answer on the other end. We both reached hospital staff who promised to send someone to the emergency entrance of the hospital.
Life as a Christian is often like that. We are busy about our business and, because we are in the vicinity, someone asks us to look into the concern of another person. Missionary work is like that; one person pointing out the need of another and asking someone to respond.
As we look into the concerns at hand, because we got involved, we become suddenly aware of a great emergency; a life-threatening danger that will have long term consequences if we do not act immediately. Missionary work is like that; a call to act beyond what is normal or comfortable.
Sometimes we do not know what to do, but because we have been reading God’s word, He sends us a life-saving thought at just the right moment. Missionary work is like that; a dependence upon revelation from God at the right moment.
Often we are unable to bring a life-saving event to a positive conclusion on our own. But because of what we have seen we can give the call to action to other people who can see it through to the end. Missionary work is like that; we often require people with other skills to save a life.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to communicate, you cannot get through to the people who are most able to save a life. Sometimes they are simply unwilling to respond. Other times they are preoccupied or inattentive. Missionary work is like that; other people may not respond to the level the emergency requires.
In our culture we value life. We value life enough that when a doctor is on duty and fails to respond to a medical crisis which has been brought to his attention, that doctor can be held accountable, deemed liable and can be judged to bring about the loss of his privileges.
God also has a value system in which He values life. More than just the physical life of a person, God values the eternal souls of men.
We tend to act only when we see our responsibility. When it comes to other people who are not direct participants in our daily lives, we tend to think that we have no responsibility and thus we do not act.
God’s revelation of Himself through the prophet Ezekiel shows that God has a different perspective on our responsibilities.
Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18 When I say unto the wicked, You shall surely die; and you give him not warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. 19 Yet if you warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
Well, you say, that was addressed to a specific prophet of Israel about his specific responsibilities toward Israel at a specific time. OK, that may be true, but let’s look at the principle of God’s attitude toward watchmen. He regards the responsibility of those standing on guard as a grave responsibility.
God has made us who have believed Him His ambassadors. We have been given the word of reconciliation and the ministry of reconciliation to plead with people to be reconciled to God. Like baby Titus, many of the Father’s children are in great need of the breath of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. His chosen method of delivery of this great message is personal courier.
What will it take for us to recognize the emergency? Will an urgent whisper do the job?
I was tempted to ignore the father. After all, I was doing important things; like tending to an airplane! The lives of passengers may be at stake. I’m glad that God prompted my heart to listen. I’m glad that God spared the life of Titus through those who responded.
Baby Titus survived the ordeal and is thriving because a team of people recognized the need and responded. Is this not what is needed to reach the remote people with the Gospel? Rescue the perishing. Care for the dying. How do we communicate the need and rally the team?
Untold millions are still untold. Thank you for your part in reaching the least reached.