“Come on. Hurry up!” Keeping these thoughts to myself, I valiantly work at reigning in evidence of my impatience, but it’s a challenge! The slow in-take process seems to have stalled out and there is still a long line of nursing students waiting for health exams who stand between me and my plans for the evening. Sucking in a deep breath, I let out an extended sigh and force my mind to reconcile to the reality that it is already 5PM and there is certainly no way that I will be leaving anytime soon. Today is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. This year it’s a lonely one. No one around me is sharing in the excitement of the day. No one else is relishing the rush to finish work, the push to get home, the anticipation of gathering for a feast with family and friends. No one else is taking the time to find little, big or even silly things to be thankful for. No, for those working at the hospital, today is just another Thursday in Egbe.
Its well after 6 o’clock by the time I finish seeing the last nursing student and all the other patients who trickled into the ER during that time. Seun made two loaves of wheat bread earlier in the day (Katie graciously took them to the guest house for me), so only the honey roasted carrots and broccoli casserole will be no-show’s at our dinner, casualties of my day. Before leaving the hospital I catch up with the resident on-call, make a pit stop at my office to write a few memos for tomorrow, then locking up I make one more stop, the one I’ve been waiting for all afternoon. Greeting the nurses on duty in maternity and the women’s ward, I remind them of my plan for the night. Because I forgot to bring a bag I scoop up an extra diaper and a small feeding bottle filled with the powdered formula for an eight o’clock feed, and fit them into the pockets of my skirt. Then I quietly enter the nursery and pick up sleeping Lily Anne. Finally, its time to go home!
Let me tell you about Lily Anne. She came to the hospital 12 days ago the center of a vortex of noise, confusion and anger. One of the hospital staff had been plating her hair when she and others heard the muffled cry of a baby. The cry persisted and as no one could locate the source, a search commenced that quickly had the group stopping in horror as they realized the cries were coming from a locked pit latrine. The owner of the latrine refused to remove the lock, so the police were called and after breaking it they removed the heavy stone that covered the latrine. Everyone peered into the dark recesses of the pit, a pit created to collect human waste, and saw a little bundle at the bottom. Lily was that bundle. Wet and still covered in birth fluids, she had been wrapped in two pieces of cloth then shoved into a plastic bag, her umbilical cord still attached. Discarded like trash on the day of her birth, a day when she should have been celebrated and loved, Lily’s first few hours of life were raw and dark. Thankfully she was found! Since coming to the hospital hours after her rescue, countless people have come to “claim her,” she has been visited by the King and many chiefs, and she is now waiting for a family to adopt her through the state’s welfare system. Almost everyone in the hospital and around town know her story and Lily Anne is doing great! She was unharmed from her time in the latrine and until she moves on to live with her adopted family, she is thriving here with her hospital family!
I brought Lily to our Thanksgiving meal, she was our special guest! She was held by many and cooed and prayed over. People commented on her sweet face and peaceful sleeping. We marveled at her story and at the obvious mercy and grace that has been present in her life. Over and over people whispered in her ear that she was alive because God had great things in store for her. Someone even wanted to change her name to Destiny. At the end of the evening, as I was taking Lily Anne back to the nursery for the night, the guard at gate B asked to hold her, one more person who marveled at the gift of her life.
How very thankful I am tonight! Thankful for what Lily Anne’s life represents, for she carries the distinction of bearing a story that mirrors the greatest story ever told — the story of redemption. Intended for death, she is alive. Covering her life is the certainty that good is greater than evil. That life is more powerful than death. That grace and mercy triumph over sin. That light extinguishes darkness. Unfortunately Lily had a premature encounter with the harshest reality that every human will come to know during life — in this world there is evil, raw and dark. I have yet to meet a person who has not felt the torment of the evil caused by sin, their own sin or that of another. Not a soul past or present has lived to escape the shadow of death. And every heart has tasted the bitter poison of pain. There are times when this wickedness traps us and we feel confined. Hopeless and abandoned. Thrown away like useless rubbish. Sinking to the dark bottom of a great pit, left alone to die. Left…Alone…To…Die…
Redemption tells the rest of the story. It tells of the story of a broken stone that was moved away. It tells of the merciful arms yearning to cleanse and heal. It tells of the Father anticipating the moment he could make us his own, adopting us into his glorious family. The story of redemption is extraordinary, made all the more vivid when contrasted against the darkest of evil. Are you living a redemption story? Have you experienced the great power of Jesus breaking away the chains of your sin, releasing you from the darkness that trapped you? From the perspective of humans on earth, sin feels powerful and overwhelming. From the perspective of the Eternal, Almighty, King of Kings, the very source of power, sin is nothing more than the first chapter in the greatest story ever told — the story of redemption.