Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Small Miracle

from Martha Parker, Individual Volunteer in Mission

I don't know how this really happened. I only know that when I prayed with a young girl in Cambodia, the prayer was answered. I would like to tell the story from my point of view.

My daughter Katherine Parker is a missionary in Cambodia working to improve the lives of the poor. I am a community health nurse in California, serving the elementary schools of Mill Valley, my home community. The schools have a long break during the summer and I volunteered through the UMVIM program of our church ("United Methodist Volunteers in Mission"). I raised money for my expenses and to provide funds to carry out the work of the CHAD program within which Katherine works. "CHAD" stands for community health and agricultural development.

While in Cambodia, Katherine and I visited a newly formed congregation in rural Kompong Chhang province. At the end of the Sunday worship service, the pastor told us that one of the families that was present that day had lost all hope of finding help for a 12-year-old daughter who had a heart that was not healthy. The mother said she had been to many doctors in Phnom Penh and that the girl needed to have surgery, but the family had used up all its money. In fact, she said she had sold all her land to try to get help for her daughter. She said her husband had deserted her and that she and her three children were destitute.

What I had learned from Irene Mparutsa, the nurse with the CHAD program, was that the government hospital in Phnom Penh would care for the very poor if they had documentation from their village chiefs. I also knew that CHAD had pastors who were trained to assist families with the process of going through this system. I asked the mother if we could pray about this, and the congregation and the family prayed together. I asked the mother to prepare her documentation and gather what she needed and that we would contact her. Then, I talked directly to the young girl through an interpreter. The girl said she wanted her heart to be healed, and we prayed together.

Being a nurse, I knew she probably had lived with the condition her entire life. The mother said the doctors just told her not to drink coconut milk; they did not say anything else she could do. I could feel a murmur when I placed my hand on her chest, probably something that would have been corrected as a young child in the US. It was like looking at medical books that were 50 years old about children who had murmurs that kept them from activities and that meant they always would be tired and weak. This girl had difficulty breathing and her muscles were not well developed, because she had to rest so much.

The following week, I started my volunteer teaching of the nurses at a hospital in Phnom Penh. I found out from CHAD's Irene Mparutsa that a team of Methodist missionary heart surgeons from Korea were coming the following week. All was very vague and we had no easy way to communicate directly with the woman and her daughter other than by going to the village that was a three-hour drive for us.

We reported to the pastor and made plans on our end to help the girl come for the heart clinic, but were disturbed to hear back a few days later that the girl's condition had worsened, that the mother was also sick, and that they had set out from their rural village for Phnom Penh with their letter from the village chief, but *without* the information from us as to the specific hospital to which they should go.

I was so upset! I had so hoped to connect the girl with the heart surgeons from Korea, who I had learned were doing their surgeries at Phnom Penh's large public hospital. All I could do was continue to pray, and I asked my home congregation and healing prayer group in Mill Valley also to pray.

Another week went by, and still no one had word of the woman and her daughter. The surgeons had come and gone. Katherine and I visited the village again and we all continued to pray together.

Two more weeks passed and, one day, the pastor called Katherine and me with the joyful report that the girl had returned to the village! She had had open heart surgery and was better! We drove the three hours to the church that Sunday . . . and, who was there? The girl herself and her mother arrived by bike at the small bamboo-stilt church, beaming and praising God for the miracle of the surgery.

We asked where she had the surgery and it was at the hospital where the missionary team of Korean heart surgeons had been, and it happened the week that they were there. Did they do it? No one knew, except that the girl now had a heart to provide her a normal life.

If I have ever seen a miraculous answer to prayer, this is my witness.