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Saturday, December 20, 2008

On teenage girls, unexpected babies, and strength in weakness

There are two teenage girls who bring Mary to my mind this week.  Both are taking care of babies whose mothers have died.  The first is an 18 year old older sibling to a scrawny and scabby little boy who presented malnourished, and was found yesterday to have AIDS.  She wept upon hearing the news, in fact the staff strongly wanted to keep her in the dark for fear she would run away and abandon the child.  She's already lost her mother and one other sibling, and her father's whereabouts are unknown, so there she sits with little more than a cloth to spread on the hospital mattress and two grungy borrowed pans for cooking, cradling the sleeping little brother, crying.  The second seems a bit more stoic--she is the same age, but technically the aunt of the malnourished child, her older sister (his mother) died of Ebola last December and left him as a 5 month old baby.  I remember providing formula for a while, but they dropped out of sight for the rest of the year.  Now they have resurfaced, seemingly equally alone, the clinging baby holding onto her as his only hope.  It is the Christmas story in real time, again.  Since the Garden, mothers under attack, AIDS and Ebola and hunger and childbirth.  And babies paying the cost, left abandoned.  And young girls, girls who did not choose this path, finding the responsibility to grow up quickly, to seek to help and protect and feed and love the fragile lives in their hands.  

It is easy to romanticize Mary, or the shepherds, to make them into heroic noble figures, people of holiness and strength whom anyone would choose for greatness.  But I think these girls probably hit closer to the mark--willing, but ambivalent, resigned, but unsure.  The good news is, that the same God who gave Mary the courage to face scandal, to leave home, to give birth, to flee to Egypt . . can also strengthen these two girls.  

I just finished a book on the life of Wilma and Arthur Matthews, missionaries in China in the early 1950's, who narrowly escaped with their lives and their young daughter (Green Leaf in Drought-time, thanks to Barb Ryan).  At the very end,  Arthur writes in a letter these words, which express the same thought :
The Lord preserveth the simple.  God does not look for a ready-made Hudson Taylor when He has some special work to be done.  He looks for a man, preferably a weak man, and then makes him ready and fit for His work.  What God did for Hudson Taylor He will do for the least and simplest of His children, if they will obey His voice and follow where He leads.  This is my testimony.

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