“I can say what I envision: Eighty years from now, an old woman will lie on a bed in her home at the heart of a thriving Ugandan village, wrinkles running her riven face, decades of life and love and happiness behind her; she will place a crinkled hand that is rife with arthritis but abounding in solace atop the hands of her crying children and grandchildren, offer a wink and a grin that says she is without pain and without worry, then closer her eyes, leave the earth, and enter glory. In heaven, she will run into the arms of Jesus. And singing and dancing and clapping beside Him will be our daughter, Emma Jo. And this Ugandan woman will walk over to her, and these two bodies made whole will embrace. And the woman will whisper to Emma that when she was but a child, her whole family was on the verge of death. She watched as her brothers and sisters, scourged with horrific bouts of dehydration, wept for help. But one day a miracle came. It came in the form of a well. It spouted clean water. They drank from it. They lived from it. She wondered one day why it came. What the writing on its wall meant. She received her answer. And then and there she fell in love with Jesus Christ. This love she poured over her whole family, her whole village, for decades to come, so that soon and very soon, we all might join together in the vast banquet hall of heaven as one body making one joyful noise. Yes, I believe this is a legacy that will never spoil. This is God’s love here and hereafter.”
– Daniel Walser (from To Make a LIfe)
Being more than 2 years removed from the death of our second child, there are some things I wonder if I should have done differently then. Not that I necessarily have regrets. I just know that during those days in the hospital I could not think clearly and certainly couldn’t think about the future. I don’t know if I could think past that hour. So when I was asked to make decisions regarding our baby, I’m not sure that I could really think through what would be best for our healing.
You see, I lost my baby further along than an early term miscarriage. Yet my child’s heart stopped beating before it’s gender was visible from the outside. I don’t know what “category” we fit into. Though I labored and delivered my baby, held my baby, and studied my baby, because we opted out of having the baby genetically tested, I don’t know if my baby was a boy or a girl. We didn’t give it a name.
I was 17 weeks along when I delivered. Yet our doctors guessed that our baby stopped growing at about 15 weeks. At 16 weeks, a death certificate is required. Legally a 16 week fetus is considered a person. We were just a few short days from that. So no death certificate.
A funeral home in the area did funerals for babies at no charge. We had to decide whether or not we wanted to get a casket, do a burial, and have a funeral. At the point the decision needed to be made, we opted out.
Though I don’t think any of this was detrimental to my heart’s healing process, I often wonder if it would have helped. Would it have given me any more closure? Would it have provided something more tangible for me to hold on to? Would it have made my pain any more understandable to others? Would it have “proved” that my baby was, in fact, Isaiah’s sibling…our 2nd child…a part of our family?
In spite of that God has brought so much healing to our hearts. The wound is still deep. The scars will never completely fade. That tiny face will never be forgotten.
But we’ve been humbled. Refined. Challenged by God’s goodness.
And we’ve also been graciously given our little Toby. Our 3rd child who will celebrate his first birthday in less than a month. Oh, the joy and soothing salve this boy has already brought through his life.
A few weeks ago, I read the above words of Daniel Walser in To Make a Life (learn more of his story at http://www.tomakealife.com). It was the first I had heard of an organization called “Holden Uganda”, a ministry birthed out of the death of a child whose heart never beat outside of his mother’s womb. Through the generosity of others, artisan wells are dug and built in Ugandan communities void of clean drinking water. And each well is named after a child that went to heaven before his or her parents. A verse of Scripture is also written on the wall of each well. And people are told of Jesus.
Because I had already been praying through what to do in lieu of gifts for Toby’s 1st birthday party, I was immediately drawn to this project…
Sacrifices made in honor of our Toby. A well dug, becoming a tangible memorial for our Heaven Baby. And the best part? Thirsty souls quenched.
We didn’t have a funeral…that reminder of life taken. But maybe we can have a well instead…a reminder of life given.
This past week as I was studying Luke 4, I read of the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry when He proclaims His fulfilling of Isaiah 61:1…
“…the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…”
The original word for brokenhearted means to break in pieces…shattered…crushed.
We’ve certainly experienced our hearts, hopes, dreams, and desires being shattered. But we’ve also experienced His binding up. His bandaging. His mending. His healing. Not just from the grief of losing a child…but from the breaking of our pride and realization of our sin and selfishness.
Our own hearts have been restored. Refreshed. Regenerated.
In Isaiah 58, God tells His people…
“Is (the fast I choose) not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
“…if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
In Charles Simeon’s commentary on Isaiah he says that God was asking the Jews to…
“Consider every child of man as a brother whom they should regard as ‘as their own flesh:’ they were to take the most destitute of the human race…to feel such sympathy with him, as to ‘draw out,’ not merely their purse, but even their very own souls, for his relief; and so to apportion their benevolence, as to aim at not merely comforting, but ‘satisfying the afflicted soul.’ This is the spirit which God loves; this He approves infinitely beyond all outward services of whatever kind; and this He required of His people, as the best proof of a regenerate heart, and as the surest evidence of their love to Him.”
“THEN shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily…”
“And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.”
In verse 8, the original word for healing means a restoration…restoring to soundness. And the word for spring here means to grow…to sprout…to spring up.
It is in the pouring out of ourselves…the going without…the sacrificing for others…that our restoration, our healing and growth sprout up.
In verse 11, the original word for spring of water means a place of going forth…an export. A well of water that never runs dry.
God promises the Jews that He will continually refresh them so that they can, in turn, refresh others.
And it is the same for us.
Our own thirsts quenched by The Living Water so that our lives can become an export of blessing for physically and spiritually thirsty souls.
March 19th was our Heaven Baby’s due date.
March 22nd is “World Water Day”.
And March 24th is the mark of Tobias Samuel Johnson’s first year of life.
It seems so fitting to partner with Holden Uganda to begin funding a well in Uganda in our baby’s memory in these coming weeks. If you would like to join us, visit http://www.holdenuganda.org and select to donate to the fund “Toby’s First Birthday”.