In the summer of 2004 my daughter, Laura, and I were part of a team of doctors, nurses, moms, dads, and students who ministered to orphans in Tianjin, China. In just one orphanage we gave medical exams to over 300 children, many of whom had never been treated.
Most of the non-medical people on our team were assigned to assist a doctor. Laura worked with a neonatologist, Dr. Jeff Paul, as they took vital statistics on every child in that orphanage. But another woman, Lynn, and I were sort of leftovers, and we asked if we could go to the baby room and just hold babies all day, every day. And so we did … we held babies with cleft palates who would likely never have corrective surgery, babies who had heart conditions and probably weren’t going to live, and babies who seemed so normal that we wondered why they had been left on the orphanage steps.
But there was one little tiny baby girl who continually drew my attention. I just couldn’t stay away from her. I was amazed to discover she was six weeks old even though she was the size of a newborn. She was lethargic and sleepy, and I couldn’t just let her lay in her crib. She seemed so vulnerable and alone, so I held her as often as the workers would let me.
After the first day, I suggested to Lynn that we name this baby since we couldn’t pronounce her Chinese name. So we started calling her Sarah. When Sarah’s turn came to be weighed and evaluated, I followed her over to the clinic like a mother hen to wait anxiously for the results. She weighed only five pounds.
That night I woke up several times, worrying about this tiny fragile life and taking those concerns to God in prayer. The next day our group went to another town to do some evaluations on another group of children, but when we got back to the orphanage that afternoon, Lynn and I made a beeline for the baby room.
In the dimly lit baby room, I bent over Sarah’s little crib, looked at her sleeping form, and thought, “She looks blue.” Wondering if my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark interior, I put my hand on her back and gently shook her to see if she would respond. She didn’t move.
I picked her up and called for the attention of a Chinese worker, who saw my alarm over Sarah’s condition. She grabbed Sarah from my arms and ran out to find a nurse.
Lynn and I ran to find our doctors and our interpreter, who all immediately rushed to find Sarah in the orphanage clinic. There she was resuscitated by Dr. Paul and by Dr. Allison Cabalka, a pediatric cardiologist. Both doctors accompanied little Sarah as she was taken to a local hospital.
When we left Tianjin a week later, Sarah was still in the hospital, but we knew she was going to live and we were greatly relieved. We also managed to get her vital information from the orphanage director, including her Chinese name and date of birth. We wanted to keep track of her after we had come back to the states and we also hoped and prayed that some day somebody might adopt her.
Two years later, Sarah is now the daughter of Dr. Paul, the neonatologist who saved her life, and she lives in Texas.
One tiny life in a huge country of over a billion people. She could have been considered disposable, not worth saving, just one more mouth to feed. But God knew Sarah from before the foundation of the earth, and He gave us the privilege of saving her life for His purposes.
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.