Two weeks ago now, Bronwyn came down with malaria for the first time. She began with vomiting and we thought she just had some kind of stomach bug. I think I changed my clothes 12 times in 3 days as Bronwyn managed to bury her face in my chest 2 seconds before every projectile vomit. (It’s a good thing I love her more than myself. We both smelled pretty rank by the end.) We monitored the vomiting and focused on keeping her hydrated. We weren’t terribly worried until she spiked a fever, and that’s when we decided to get her a malaria test.
We drove into town to take her to a clinic with a lab so that they could look at the parasite count under a microscope. Whenever Jeremy or I get tested for malaria at our local clinic, we question the diagnosis - probably due to the fact that they tell us we have malaria even when the test comes back negative. With a finger prick and a blood slide, the lab techs were able to confirm that there were indeed little parasites floating around inside my darling daughter’s body, making her feel all kinds of crummy.
We got her medicine and brought her home. After several pitiful attempts of getting her to swallow it without spitting it out or puking it up, we called in the reinforcements: two Mwewa’s a Chama and a Moze – a group of funny boys who soothed Bronwyn’s aching heart with side splitting laughter. Three days of meds and Baby B was back in working order!
I’ve thought a lot about her sickness this week. Before we came to Zambia, I told people that my number one fear was that Bronwyn would get sick. It’s true that Malaria kills thousands of Zambian kids every year. It’s true that it’s a nasty disease and needs to be taken seriously. But at the same time, there is something in my heart that keeps prompting me to not live in fear. I’ve been challenged in the last nine months to reevaluate my belief that Bronwyn would be safer if we moved elsewhere. It is true that there is no malaria in New York and fewer dangerous snakes and less giardia and other intestinal yuckies. But isn’t “safer” a relative term? Has my American-ness and my (relative) trust in US doctors swayed my emotions to hope in things that I shouldn't? Have I given way to misplaced fear based on factors that I think I should be able to control?
The truth of the matter, and that which has sunk deep into my heart in the last few weeks and months, is that no harm will befall my daughter without the Lord allowing it. Regardless of location, our God is still the same. If a holy God sees it fitting to let my baby fall ill or even to take this precious one home, it does not matter whether we live in Fimpulu, Zambia or Ithaca, New York. The decision is His and I must trust its perfection.
I often sing to Bronwyn the song “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”
We tenaciously do all we know to do... and we trust. We obediently live in the bush, even during malaria season. We obediently use the wisdom God has given us to act wisely, sleeping under nets and screening for parasites and giving medicine. And we trust wholeheartedly that our very lives are held in the hands of our all-wise, all-good, sovereign Father.
Is God then not the Lord of life and death? He is. None lives and none dies but by God’s sovereign decree. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
“He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)
He declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:10)
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38; see Amos 3:6)
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21; see 16:9)
Therefore, “if God is for us, who can be against us? . . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-37).
These are hard words for a non-believer but oh what security for the Christian! We will continue to keep doing everything we know to do to keep our precious little one healthy and safe. However, if she is ever taken from us, for whatever reason, we will not “blame” the disease, or grumble against Africa, or run “home” where it is “safe,” but instead we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.