Our little family, my husband, myself and our sons 7 and 9 years old, were sent out as missionaries to Tanzania in 1989. The following year I became pregnant with our third child. For some reason this pregnancy took us eight years and we all were overjoyed! We gave our child the name “Milly”, who later became Sarah, because she was only one millimeter when we received the news that we were expecting a new addition to our family!
It was a difficult pregnancy and a difficult time for adjusting to the new culture, the language, and the many struggles of a life ina third world country. Our sons went to a Danish school, we spoke Swedish at home, Swahili with the nationals and English with everyone else.
I became very sick during pregnancy and had to travel all over the country to find proper health care. One doctor told me to return home immediately, another told me I was further along than expected. In any case during my 6th month, I was very large and swollen, couldn’t keep down any food down and was unable to stand on my feet.
The following month my health deteriorated quickly. I was transported to a missionary hospital 7 hours away on very poor roads. The doctor did an ultrasound and said, “I see no life”. He explained that I had preeclampsia and that he feared for my life.The only alternative was to deliver the child. In my heart I wanted to believe that I would deliver my child alive, and that was the only thing giving me strength. The following three days were a desperate struggle and finally the child was delivered. The nurse coached me saying “push, push”, just like any other delivery. As I pushed the nurse said, “it’s a girl!”I continued pushing and felt a large dead clump fall from my womb. That feeling was absolutely devastating.
The doctor, the nurse and my husband fought to keep me alive. My husband pumped the oxygen into my lungs while the others did everything that they could to stop the bleeding and remove the placenta.
In that moment I was in a very peaceful place. I knewI was in my permanent home, peaceful and comforting. I heard the Lord ask me ifI had anything to return to. My response was no. The peacefulness surrounded me, and I was totally content. After what seemed to be an eternity, He asked me if I was sure there was nothing I wanted to return to.
I felt concern and queried myself. Had I forgotten something? I remembered my husband and realized that he needed me. From that moment I struggled and called out to him, trying to find my way back to him. Eventually, I felt a different sort of peace fill my heart. When I finally opened my eyes, he was holding me. His face - his cheek was pressed against mine while he repeated over and over again, “I am here, Pamela, I am here!”
The following day I was carried out to the small missionary graveyard located between the church and the hospital. My husband and my two sons had made a wooden cross with our daughter’s name on it and had painted it with Swedish flowers.
The tiny Mahogany casket, made by the local carpenter, was ceremoniously carried to the grave by our two sons. It was placed on a temporary altar in front of the minister, my husband. Afterwards, the tiny box was lowered down into the grave under the purple blooming Jacaranda trees. I laid on a bench next to the tiny grave, absorbing the only picture I would ever have of my daughter’s moments on earth.
We laid Morning Glory and Bougainvillea in the grave and everyone took turns casting a spade of dirt onto the grave. Many people had gathered around us to comfort us.Tanzanian nurses, villagers, Swedish missionaries and other friends continued to sing songs and prayers.
Afterwards everyone came with condolences. On three cards from three people, independent of each other, in English, Swedish and Swahili, we read, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God did not plan for Sarah to die, but He has always planned to give me a future and a hope and not to harm me.How could I ever see a future and a hope through the loss of my daughter? During my convalescence, I was unable to do anything, but lay in bed. I was depressed and suicidal for four months. It has taken me years to really see any hope in this experience at all. I questioned God’s love and it became a very dark place for me for months afterward.
I was called to visit different churches and communities to speak to the women's groups about God’s love. The women believedI was a prophet, because we had buried our child in their earth. Every time I spoke, I asked if any one of them had lost a child. The response was always nearly unanimous. It was and still is very common for these women to miscarry because of the enormous lack of healthcare. God allowed me to identify with them, to become one with the women to whom I was ministering. We became sisters, sharing the pain of an indescribable loss. I was comforted by them and they by me through the sharing of our pain. The connection with my fellow sufferers became a part of God's plan for me, and that fellowship guided me further.
Together with twoTanzanian friends we started a women’s education project. I was present at the first graduation of 80 women with a public of excited men. That project opened another door, many years later, toa project in a very poor and very remote village.
Our local church got involved and contributed to bringing water to that village. We also built a minister's home, a church, a grammar school and recently started a mobile health clinic in 2020.
Our daughter Sarah died in 1991 and her memory still encourages me to prosper in love toward these wonderful people 30 years later!
Today, I can see clearly how God wants and does prosper us - bear fruit through us, no matter what we go through! He can change great loss into great blessing! Of course, this sort of prosperity will never replace the loss of our daughter, Sarah, but it does prove to me that no matter what happens to me, God is still good.
The miracle is not only that we received this bible verse from three different people, but that this Word became true in my life. I know it because I have lived it. He will prosper us and guide us into loving actions. I will always know that my future is emersed in an everlasting and loving hope. One day I will return to that peaceful place forever.For now, I know what plans God has for me, plans to prosper me and not harm me, to give me a future anda hope! Say it to yourself and let God bless you too!
Marriage and Family Therapist and Tanzania Missionarya