“It’s a girl!” said the tribal midwife.
The exhausted mother of now nine children grunted unenthusiastically. “At least a girl will bring money when she is married,” said the father.
“There is something wrong with her feet,” the midwife said, peering at the baby.
“Then we don’t want her!” the father exclaimed. “She won’t be able to work, and no one will want to marry her.”
They named her Pilu—“Cripple.” Her mother didn’t nurse her. Sometimes someone would have mercy on the baby and take her for a few days and feed her a little. We heard that she survived on coconut water, and when that wasn’t available, plain water.
Once when a family had grown tired of caring for Pilu, they brought her back to her parents who set her on the floor in the corner. There she remained until one day a visitor happened to notice the tiny bundle wrapped in a dirty cloth and asked about her. “Oh, that? We don’t want her. She’ll never be able to bring in money. No one wants a cripple. We wish she would just die.”
One sunny Sabbath morning, our daughter Jilin and her family went to one of our native lowland churches. After the service, she overheard two women talking about a baby no one wanted.
Jilin said to me later on the phone, “I know what it feels like to be unwanted. I don’t want anyone to feel that. What should I do?”
“Jilin, I know you have a heart for the downtrodden,” I said. “Take the baby, and we will see how the Lord leads.” Wow, I thought. Lord, You sure have some creative ways to enlarge the tent of our family!
When Jilin received the little girl, she was told she was 10 months old. Yet her tiny body weighed only nine pounds, and her skin was stretched taut over her bones. Beneath a halo of brittle orange hair, her wary eyes watched everything but responded to nothing. She had no sucking reflex, so Jilin resorted to feeding her with a syringe.
When Jilin called and told me they had received her, I asked what they had named her. “Leonda Hope Milno,” Jilin replied. “Lanie for short.”
I was touched. “Thank you, Jilin! That is precious. Hope for Lanie—that will be the opening line of her life story.”
And that is exactly what we have for our new precious jewel—hope. Jilin and I share the middle name of Joy, and that is what we hope to bring to little Lanie. Each time she smiles at me, my joy and hope for her increases. I hope she grows up knowing that we love her unconditionally. I hope she comes to know the undying love of her Heavenly Father, and that this love overflows from her to others around her.
We have since determined that Lanie is actually about 18 months old. Her body is still tiny and weak. Her development is less than that of a three-month old, and she still can’t lift up her head. But her smile reveals a big heart that reaches out and grabs you, making you a prisoner of love—a prisoner of hope.