Orion and I were overjoyed to learn that we were pregnant and expecting a daughter “close to the end of summer training”. We prepared ourselves. We created our “baby wish list” of everything we now needed to take with us to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. I completely re-wrote my “daily activities in PNG” plan to revolve around raising this new missionary. I planned for how I would demonstrate Godly parenting to those around me while still making time to build friendships with the local women. Then, we continued having family worship, and attending AFM summer training, wondering when our precious little Anna would decide “this is the day”.
The last Sabbath of training 4 student missionaries got into our van and we drove to church for our dedication program. At the end of Sabbath school, I wasn’t feeling well, and one of the other missionaries who is a midwife checked on me. Anna’s heartbeat was steady, although she wasn’t moving as much as she should have been. We called the senior midwife and asked if she could check on me. Half an hour later in her office, I had progressed into very strong labor but Anna’s heartbeat could no longer be heard. We made the decision to go to the hospital where we could confirm for sure if Anna was still alive, and I could be carefully monitored. There, Anna was confirmed dead and we stayed in the hospital until after I had safely delivered her.
We understand that the entire church service was interrupted to pray for us, after we learned that baby Anna had died. Although all of the services continued as scheduled, there was an extra sense of solemnity. The news of Anna’s death reminded everyone there that “Our adversary stalks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. Each person there was reminded that Satan especially attacks missionaries.
Thus began one of our hardest days. We cried together, and recognized that this was the first of what would be many many sessions of tears. Although this pain could not be understood, we choose to trust God, and His divine wisdom in allowing us to go through this experience.
Orion sent text messages to those at church and our AFM family began lifting us up in prayer. Through the day we were visited by many of the other missionaries and AFM staff. Each one had tear-filled eyes as we talked of the promise of Heaven, and how much we long to be there. As I hugged one of the other missionaries who is like a brother to me, I asked, “When I long for heaven this much, how can I have any other occupation than that of a missionary sharing the gospel among unreached people?”
Anna was born on Sunday morning. Instead of the sweet sound of an infant crying as she learns to use her lungs, the room was filled with the sorrowing wails of parents who have lost a daughter. We thank the hospital staff for giving us as much time as we needed to spend with her before she went to the funeral home.
The Stevensville MI church hosted the funeral. As we planned the service, we chose a theme of hope of the second coming, selecting Bible verses and songs of promise. Although tears streamed down our faces, we sang “Gleams of the golden morning . . .” (Seventh-day-Adventist Hymnal, page 205) longing for that morning and the day when Anna will once again be able to hear our voices as we sing—and will learn to sing with us.
We buried her with her family in a cemetery in northern Michigan, She is the sixth generation in Keren’s family to be buried there. Including her great-great-grandmother Anna, whom she is named after. Although, we would love to be standing in that cemetery on the day Jesus shouts to wake everyone up, we trust God’s angels to bring her to wherever we are on that wonderful day.
All of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with many great aunts, uncles, and one great grandmother were able to be at the funeral. It was especially touching to hear her young cousin speak of the day that “Jesus will make Anna alive again.”
As I (Keren) spent time talking to God about all of this, I asked Him. “Why if you sent Anna to remove the stigma of me being childless so I could be a better missionary in PNG (see August 2016 Frontiers ), why would you allow this to happen? Doesn’t it negate the benefit?” As I listened to His reply, it came in the form of a question: “Keren, how many grown women will you meet in PNG who have not buried a child?” As I contemplated the answer, “about zero”, tears streamed down my face as I recognized that God had indeed removed the stigma.
We continue in faith, knowing that we serve a loving God. We walk by faith, knowing that He has called us to Papua New Guinea.