About 2 years ago, we heard a word from the Holy Spirit through our oldest son, Noah, who was then 5 years old. Out of the blue, he said, “Mommy, you’re going to have a baby in Africa when Levi is one, and it will be a girl.” I doubt he remembers that day, but I do. Very vividly. After I relayed that information to Aaron, the Holy Spirit made it SO clear that if we were willing to trust God with missions then we should trust Him with the timing of our fourth child. You see, we both wanted more children, but we thought there would be a large gap between Levi and Baby #4, probably after our possible 2 year mission trip. To make Noah’s prophecy even more remarkable was that Aaron and I had not yet felt called to Africa. We were in the process of applying to the Post Residency Program through World Medical Missions, but we never felt led to a specific people group.
It took us about 2 months to surrender our family planning to God. Like I said, Noah was only 5 years old. Jacob was 2 1/2 and Levi was 6 months old. I already had a baby, and my life was crazy enough. The Holy Spirit was persistent and faithful. We conceived when Levi was about 8 months old. From the beginning of the pregnancy, I knew it was a girl. Not so much because of Noah’s prophecy (he’d never been right before), but I just felt like God-in His infinite, tender love for me-would give me a girl as a little reward for my obedience in having this child. I couldn’t quite convince Aaron of her gender though….God took care of that!
We interviewed for the Post Residency Program that summer. I was 6 weeks pregnant, and we were wavering in our call. Aaron was offered jobs that were too good to not consider. We were very open and honest with the people from World Medical Missions, and we basically told them we were counting on the Holy Spirit to speak through them! Looking back, I guess those were little tests in our commitment. We never forsook the call to missions; we just had to consider all the options and be sure of God’s best plan for us.
A short couple of months later, we received a letter that we were accepted into the Post Residency Program. Yikes! We had almost convinced ourselves that God was calling us to short-term missions, so this really shocked us. Yet God was faithful and tender to me. I think we received that letter on a Friday, and that Sunday I was in church by myself. (Aaron was working.) During worship, we were singing the words, “Where you’ll go, I’ll go. Who you love, I’ll love…” I couldn’t sing those words because I knew God was calling us to move to a place we had never seen. Then, He spoke so sweetly to my soul: “Stephanie, you don’t have to go. I will still love you. I will still bless you. BUT, if you go, I will bless you beyond what you could ever imagine.” In that moment, I knew I had to go, and I could sing those words through the tears.
Then, in October, we attended the Prescription for Renewal Conference in Boone, NC. I was almost 20 weeks pregnant and greatly anticipating my ultrasound when we got back to PA. The Holy Spirit spoke through many people that weekend, and we committed to moving to Tenwek. And Aaron received word (through Will Graham’s sermon on Hannah in the Bible) that our baby will be named Hannah. (Just as a side note, I always wanted that name. I’m always so happy when my plan actually is God’s plan!) Tuesday, when we were at our 20-week appointment, the ultrasound confirmed that Baby #4 was a girl. We started calling her Hannah Mae immediately.
Fast forward a year and a half. We are in Africa and adjusting much better than I expected. The boys love it here, but Hannah isn’t quite herself. Everyone gets a virus. The boys recover as quickly as ever, but Hannah just can’t stop vomiting. Zofran helps and we get to see our sweet, happy little girl at least moments out of each day.
On Sunday, we see a listless little girl. We let her rest all afternoon, but by 11am Monday I am too worried to ignore it. I take her to the hospital. We run tests both Monday and Tuesday, but nothing is coming back abnormal. We’re able to treat her at home. Thank you, God, for bringing us here to experience this, because Aaron and I are so blessed by the last two nights we had with her at home.
I’m not going to re-document everything that Aaron posted on his blog. Frankly, I don’t have that energy right now. Let me just say, that I am confident that God brought us to Africa knowing this would happen. He is not surprised. Not by Hannah’s tumor, her death, or the outpouring of love and support we are receiving. Especially not by the glory He is receiving. And we are humbled and grateful to be a part of Hannah’s story.
I will never forget how lifeless she felt when I woke up to find her not breathing. I will never forget the weight of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” when I was climbing the stairs to the ICU at Tenwek to take my first glimpse of my baby girl lying on the huge hospital bed with doctors all around her. I will never forget the hope I felt when I heard that Dr. Albright was at Kijabe and willing to operate. And I will never forget the unexplainable peace I felt through it all. As soon as she left my house with Aaron and Chuck, I somehow knew God was asking for her. How could I refuse Him?
I never felt more like Abraham, and I so wish that He would have provided a way to save Hannah from death. Well, I guess He did. The Way is Jesus. In my selfishness, I wanted a physical healing for my little girl. God wanted something better.
I never felt more like Job. I just pray that Satan won’t sift me quite as much! But if he does, I will continue to serve my holy and awesome God.
Hannah survived surgery, but she died the next morning. After we took her off life support, we coached her through the end. I remember saying, “Go, girl, go!” and then feeling her last breath. Then, Aaron and I crawled onto her bed with her body. Everyone gathered around to pray, and God-again in His tender love for me-gave me the most beautiful picture of Hannah meeting Jesus.
There are so many details I want to share. So many ways we have seen God’s hand working through our lives. I just can’t fit it all into one post. Please bare with me as I process this and mourn and ramble in this and the next couple of posts. My goal is to give all the glory to God, for He is worthy. Holy is His Name!