Africa was not at all like I expected. Yes, it had poverty. But they had a grocery store, houses, a bank, hotel, and a church, too. It was like going back in time to the 1930s in America, except everyone was black but the six of us. Life was simple, people treated others with dignity, and families took care of their elderly at home. Children entertained themselves with homemade toys and old people sat around retelling their stories.
I have heard people say 'God speed' but never fully understood the meaning until I met Rachel. The minute I laid eyes on her, I loved her as if I had known her all my life. There was a connection and the only explanation I have is God made us become fast friends as part of His plan which would unfold over a decade later.
Their lives are so different from ours in America. Her pantry had no shelves, only a layer of newspaper on the floor with fresh potatoes on top...and a rooster. Yes, a real live cock-a-doodle-do rooster walking around waiting to be cooked for the next meal! That was all there was. There was no bag of flour, there was no sugar, and there was not a single can or box of food.
As a visitor to a foreign country, I didn't know how to arrange getting our clothes washed without a laundry. Rachel's husband Josiah offered to take them to a girl at their house who helped with chores in exchange for a place to live. I gratefully accepted his offer but he wouldn't take payment from me.
I was intent on paying the girl regardless of what Josiah said. So when we showed up unannounced, guess who was washing our dirty clothes in the yard? Rachel! She was scrubbing our clothes outside in a tub by hand like people did before they had washing machines. She was making sure our laundry was done to the highest standard by washing it herself!
She reminded me of Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord..."
Rachel's house was clean and orderly. To me, cleanliness is next to Godliness. How she managed to maintain a clean home without modern tools was a testament to the kind of worker she was. I loved Rachel immediately when I first met her. A new wave of respect and admiration washed over me at the humbling sight of her scrubbing those clothes.
Toward the end of the mission trip, I met Rachel's parents. It was dark inside their home when we arrived. They had no electricity.
Interrupting our introductions, I received a phone call from a nurse related to Josiah. I took the call and gave her the names of medications we had brought from America and left at the church for the community to use. She would supervise their use. I told her we had brought syringes along with Epinephrine in case anyone went into anaphylactic shock from antibiotics. I rattled off names of all of the drugs I could remember.
When I hung up, Rachel's dad asked if I was a doctor. I laughed and said no. He asked if I was a nurse. Again I said no, then without thinking volunteered, "I'm a missionary."
I wasn't a REAL missionary. I don't even know why I said I was. I was a guest on a mission trip, a baby Christian traveling along with 5 others who were on a mission. My mission was to see the animals and visit a foreign land out of curiosity. How selfish is that?
When I said I was a missionary, Rachel's dad raised his hands in the air and shouted, "Praise God!" I about jumped out of my skin. Dread filled my soul with his excited words, "We have been praying for help for my sick wife! Praise Almighty God for sending you!"
God sent me? Oh, no! What in the world was I going to do to get out of this? Me and my big mouth! "Lord, please help me! I've gotten myself in a mess I don't know how to get out of." I silently prayed, not even sure yet what it was they expected but positive it was not going to happen, whatever it was.
Rachel's mom spoke, "My face doesn't normally look like this."
I had no idea what she was talking about because it was dark in the house, their faces were black, and I couldn't see anything wrong with her face. Upon hearing I was unable to see, she instructed Rachel to get a 'torch'. Rachel brought back a flashlight. She shined it on her mother's face to reveal lips completely covered in fever blisters. I had never seen so many fever blisters.
"I have Typhoid Fever and Brucella," she explained. They either couldn't get the medicine to treat her for it or couldn't afford it. They had been praying for her to be cured.
When she said 'Brucella', my mind flashed back. The six of us Americans were taking Doxycycline daily as a preventative for malaria. I had read the directions on the Doxycycline pamphlet and one of the words jumped out at me. It said it was used for Brucella. I was familiar with Brucellosis because I'd raised dogs 30 years prior and it was a dog disease. At the time I kind of shrugged off the information, but in the darkness of the room in Africa I saw the light!
I asked Josiah to contact the nurse again. I explained I had kept a few bottles of different medicines for our little group's personal use in case someone got sick. I had kept an extra bottle of Doxycycline because if ours got spilled we certainly wouldn't apply the 5 second rule in Africa! I was trying to keep my lamp full of oil like The Bible says. In other words, I was looking out for our group by being prepared.
I had also kept a bottle of Valtrex in case one of us got fever blisters. The easiest way for parasites or disease to enter the body is through an open wound. I kept a handful of Cephalexin which is a broad range antibiotic.
I told the nurse what drugs I had kept and asked her if any of them would treat the Typhoid Fever. Yes, Cephalexin! I asked how many pills Rachel's mother needed per day, how long she should take each medicine, etc.
I had exactly enough pills of exactly what she needed to handle every problem she had, plus all of it was with me out side in the car in my purse! I couldn't believe it!
That, folks, is how God works! He took what I had kept for our own use and delivered it to a couple of elderly people in the dark of night out in the middle of nowhere Africa. The next voice praising God was mine as I ran to the car to get the pills!
Fast forward eleven years. Rachel's parents, now in their mid to late 80s are both alive and well. I get an email something is wrong, this time it is Rachel who needs help.
Suddenly it became obvious to me why 'Godspeed' was used to make me love Rachel. God knew back then what was going to happen in the future. He knew one day Rachel would be diagnosed with a brain tumor and she would need help for God's plan to be fulfilled. The Bible says "Faith without works is dead." Someone needed to work.
At first I was hopeless. I had seen the hospital in her home town of Machakos. I grieved for my friend as if she had already died. You see, the hospital in their town is a place people just go to wait to die. I'd been there and seen it. Josiah had taken her to a larger city, but it didn't compare to what we have here in America. But American hospitals cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that I didn't have nor did they.
Our church has a dozen or so people who go to Dairy Queen after Sunday night services. One night we prayed for Rachel. A brother suggested a way we might get Rachel to America! Maybe there was hope after all? Maybe a hospital would treat her pro bono? The next day I began a campaign to see if she could get free treatment close to my home. After all, it was no accident we lived near one of the best medical centers in the nation. I felt sure this was God's plan.
I called every hospital in Houston's Medical Center to see if they would treat her at no charge. The answer was the same everywhere, "No, no, no." Then one day Dr. Sean Boutros told me to try a hospital in India. He said it was more affordable there and the care was better than Africa.
A little googling and it turned out he was right! Rachel could have the same Cyber Knife surgery as in The Medical Center here in Houston! I knew about Cyber Knife. It was the newest and best method to zap tumors by laser and the patient didn't have to have their skull cut open! Rachel could have the best of the best treatment at a fraction of the cost! Now all we needed was money.
God provided all the money for the surgery and the hospital through an anonymous donor. Now the only costs remaining were two round trip tickets, plus room and board for a week in India.
I wondered why God didn't provide ALL of the money through the first person. I think I figured it out. If He had, you wouldn't be reading this story. By leaving a small remnant of funds to raise, people will know God still answers prayers. He made a way to save the life of a penniless woman in a small town in Africa because they had the faith to pray and believe!
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
I can only imagine how excited her family was to learn God provided the money for Rachel's procedure! Not only that, but provided the best of the best of care for her.
She doesn't have to have her hair shaved off her head or her skull cut open. She will have a painless noninvasive laser treatment then go home in one week cured without a drop of her blood spilled! Christ spilled His blood and in so doing, He made a way for Rachel.
"Thank You, Lord, for letting me and these readers be an eye witness to what You have done for Rachel and her family. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins (and other believers of theirs), for making a way so I (and others) can spend an eternity with You in Glory! You are AWESOME and You are MIGHTY. We honor You, we respect You, we revere You! We proclaim this TRUTH in the name of Jesus Christ our King, who died and was resurrected from the dead! Amen."
Their passports are in order. These few remaining funds are for transportation, room, and board for one week!
Rachel and I in 2006. "These gifts remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love."
In the beginning I had prayed, "Lord, we are praying for Your will to be done in this situation. We ask for mercy, but we accept Your will, whatever it may be.
You said, 'Faith without works is dead.' Since I don't know what You are thinking, Lord, until You show me what Your will is, I will work with faith as You said for us to do.
If it is Rachel's time to die, doors will not open. And we will accept that. But until we know what Your will for her is, Lord, I am going to be knocking on doors. They will either stay shut or You will open them. Amen"
The GoFund account was Pastor Paul Golden's idea. He was the pastor we went to Africa with originally. I didn't like the idea because I felt it would flop. The first week people gave to GoFundRachel and we were excited! Then the site went quiet..dead quiet. No one gave for a solid week. Sunday rolled around. I was thinking, "I knew GoFund wasn't a good idea...."
Sunday morning I felt hopeless. I was as discouraged as I could be. GoFund had pulled together 1/3 of the money needed and those were close friends and family. Only $40 had been donated by a stranger. I was discouraged, "Is this Your answer, Lord? You brought us this far and now this is it? Where is Your Church in all this, Lord? " I was hurt because at that point only two donations had been made, one from each church.
Before leaving for church I was distraught. I cried as I sent a text to both Pastor Paul from Light Christian Center (where we worshiped 12 years) and Brother John Raines at Alvin Missionary Baptist (where we worshiped this past year and currently). I begged them both for help.
Both church bodies had been praying for Rachel the past 3 or 4 months. I had taken my eyes off the power of God and was instead looking to the church leaders.
I was like Peter, one of Jesus' disciples. When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he jumped out of the boat in his eagerness and excitement and ran toward Jesus. Before he made it to Him, The Bible says he took his eyes off Jesus and he sank!
I felt exactly like Peter. I had been walking on water when things looked good but when there was a period where I didn't see what I expected to happen, I sank. I was drowning.
During church Brother John Raines asked the congregation if they felt led to help with Rachel's expenses to get with me after church. One little lady gave me $5 and asked, "Will this help?" I thanked her and Brother John as I left. I was still drowning.
After church I went to help our youngest son with packing to move. Being busy would keep my mind off how disappointed I was in God's people...in both my church families.
My son had very little help and moving is a huge job. To get his deposit back the house he rented had to be cleaned. He had run out of time so I insisted he could finish moving while I would clean. He really had no choice so he left. I needed to be alone with God.
In the wee hours of the morning, with no one in the empty house listening, I began to sing, "Broken Hallelujah". It is a song about praising God even when we are broken...even when things aren't what we want them to be. I accepted it was God's will for Rachel to die, for the doors to stay closed, and for me to remember to never set my eyes on men.
I asked for forgiveness for my attitude toward both church families. I thought about Brother John saying, "If God touches your heart to give..." I knew if God didn't touch their hearts, they shouldn't give out of obligation or pressure. I felt peace.
Then I went home and slept most of the day. When I woke Tuesday I had a text from our middle son Nathan. He forwarded a message someone had sent him.
It said, "Hey, Bud, I have been out of the country and just got back. I don't know how I ended up on your Facebook page because I rarely use Facebook. I saw what your mom was doing and wondered if that family still needed help with transportation? If they do, I will donate the rest they need." What? I couldn't believe my eyes!
I sent a message to Nathan to say, "Yes! We still need help!" But he was asleep and didn't reply. I checked the GoFund account and the stranger has not waited for Nathan. He had already donated the money!
A stranger to me, but not to God, had donated the rest which was $1300! God touched a heart to give enough money to fly Rachel and her husband to India! I praised God again with tears streaming down my face. Just like Peter, Jesus didn't let me drown! I was walking on water again!
The stranger, Doug McReaken, turned out to be a kid (now a grown man) who went to high school with our middle son Nathan. They hadn't seen each other in years. I discovered from someone else he was co-owner in a local restaurant in Alvin called The Caboose.
Josiah had asked me to give hugs to everyone who had prayed for Rachel or helped in any way. And I am still trying to pass out those hugs.
Yesterday I managed to track down the stranger, Doug McReaken, to deliver a hug from Rachel and Josiah. I wanted him to know the tug in his heart was God speaking to him. He already knew. He told me he is a Christian and I marveled at how God did use His people after all!
While we were at The Caboose in Alvin, we tried their brisquet. It was really good! It is where the old driver's license building used to be by the library. Go try it!
Back to Sunday when I was drowning:
I was singing 'Broken Hallelujah' about 2am Monday with a broken spirit, offering my broken hallelujah to God. The next day God provided what Rachel needed, not the way I expected, but by a total stranger. God says, "My ways are not your ways." My way was for both churches to offer to help with the $1290 needed.
I was begging the pastors for help and God wanted to show me He had a different plan than mine.
Then at the last moment the person who pledged the $7500 fell $1000 short. Pastor Paul Golden from Light Christian Center sent a text saying he had left his phone at home Sunday so how much did we need? When he learned we were $1000 short, he immediately texted back, "It is covered." I thanked God because after He taught me a lesson in where to keep my eyes, He used the people in Light Christian Center. Wow!
After the money was all there, the next time I went to AMBChurch, people began to come ask me what they could do to help. I told them we had all we needed.
Then a thought came in my mind, "But if you want to give a little extra so Josiah and Rachel will have spending money while in a foreign country, that would be wonderful!" They gave generously. God provided MORE than enough through His people at Alvin Missionary Baptist! I hadn't thought about spending money, but God did.
Today is August 3, 2017. All the money is sitting in my account waiting for Josiah and Rachel to get the Polio vaccines and other red tape finished. Please continue to pray for her while we wait. I have faith God will keep her safe until the appointed time because He has done all this for her already. But, faith without works is dead so let's all work together by praying together.
If anything should go wrong, and Rachel doesn't make it to India, all the money will be refunded to each person who gave. I have kept a record on paper right down to the $5 donation.
'The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16
I am thinking about the prayers of Rachel's mom and dad in the middle of Africa where they don't even have electricity. I am sure their prayers were fervent (passionate). I am thinking about her husband, Josiah, who surely prayed passionatly for his wife. He texts me late at night saying he can't sleep and we talk while Rachel lies near him sleeping. Now add in the prayers of the multitudes, which are both churches here in Alvin.
Thank You, God, for answering prayers! Please be with Rachel and keep her safe until the appointed time for her to go to India! Please pour out your blessings on each person who helped in this endeavor through prayer or through giving. Amen
I will keep everyone posted and will ask Josiah to send pictures when they get there!
- Douglas McReaken
- Ben & Teri Shoemake
- Katrina Barnette
- Chris/Ruth Roberts
- Sheila Brock
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