Of Storms and Storks

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“Rema! Rema! Please come quickly!” The little girl pleaded, rain dripping from her scraggly hair. “Mama Mylene is in real bad trouble!”

“Now?” Rema asked incredulously. She wrapped a tattered blanket a little tighter around her shoulders as the category-four typhoon drove giant raindrops horizontally through the cracks in her bamboo walls.

“Oh, Rema!” the little girl cried. “Mama Mylene has been trying to give birth since early this morning, but the baby isn’t coming. Everyone knows that you studied to be a healthcare worker under Brother John, way up north in the Tawbuid tribe. I know that we Hanunoo are a different tribe, but you’re our only hope. Please, won’t you help?”

No one could resist those pleading eyes for long. Rema carefully wrapped her notes from Brother John’s training in a plastic bag, said goodbye to her family, and plunged out into the storm.

The family’s lone umbrella wasn’t much help to Rema as the wind kept changing directions faster than she could adjust it. Her feet sank into the muddy trail up to her ankles, and she struggled to stay upright.

“Oh no!” Rema tried to holler above the howl of the wind as she saw where the little girl was leading her. “There is no way I’m crossing that rickety bamboo bridge during a typhoon!”

But the little girl didn’t hear. With a child’s innocent confidence, she stepped daintily across the bridge—a single rotten bamboo pole—lightly holding onto the two vines strung on either side to keep her balance. Rema could see the angry brown water hurtling along inches below the pole as it sagged under the child’s weight. In her bones she could feel the grinding of the boulders being carried along in the current.

If she didn’t cross the bridge, though, Mylene and the baby would die. With a prayer to the True Creator God, she climbed onto the slippery pole and gingerly made her way across. When she finally stepped into the squishy mud on the other side, the rain and cold didn’t seem quite so bad. After all, she could have been tumbling with the boulders at the bottom of the river.
Finally they arrived at Mylene’s tiny hut. Smoke stung Rema’s eyes as she climbed up the rickety ladder. Mylene lay on a pile of blood-soaked flour sacks as the local midwife massaged her with ginger and other herbs.

“Rema!” Mylene whispered. “You have to help me! The baby won’t come out.”

“But Mylene! I’ve never delivered a baby before. And this isn’t a normal delivery. We have to get you to the hospital.”

“I’ll never make it, Rema, and you know it. No one could carry me across that bamboo-pole bridge, and even if they did, there are three even wider river crossings with no bridges before we get to the road. The last river crossing is almost half a mile wide. Even if we could get to the road, no vehicles are driving during the typhoon. We would have to walk more than 20 miles to get to the hospital. No, Rema, you are my only hope.”

Rema hung her head. She knew that Mylene was right. But how could she help?

“I have faith in you!” Mylene said, seeing Rema’s hesitance. “I know that the white missionary who speaks so many languages trained you to be a native healthcare worker. Everyone you have treated since you came back from the course has gotten well. But most of all, I’m certain that you can help me because you believe in the True Creator God. He knows that there is no other hope. He will help you.”

And so that’s how it happened that Rema, with many fervent prayers and some feverish reviewing of her notes next to the smoky fire, delivered her very first baby, a delivery with complications no less.

Rema didn’t know that I have never actually delivered a baby either, and that I had simply taught her class the techniques I had been taught by an old missionary midwife years ago. But as so often happens in the mission field, when Rema and I were willing to do what we could, God took the little we knew and used it to save two precious lives, both in this world and for eternity.