In July 2014, our team encountered one of our toughest trials to date while working among the Kamea people.
The day it all came to a head, I had just read a great blog post by Jonathan Parnell entitled “Keep Praying That Prayer.” In it Jon shared how his young daughter prays for her teddy bear to talk. It’s a great post on prayer. At the end, he states that either her prayer will mature for even better things–or her teddy bear will talk.
That morning I shared the story with our national pastor, James Naudi. For a week we had been under a severe trial and had been doing a lot of praying. You know the kind of praying; the kind where you wonder what you are even supposed to pray.
Pastor James’ daughter Jemila had begun seizing a week before. Along with the seizures, she would stop breathing entirely during some of her seizures. My wife Lena, along with nurses Rachel Wass, Ashley Norcross, and Rebecca Florence, and our literacy teacher Sarah Glover, took turns giving rescue breaths to Jemila…at one point they did it for over two hours non-stop. Things were looking grim, because you can’t keep that sort of thing up forever, especially when you live in a remote jungle, and the month-long bad weather won’t allow a plane to fly in to evacuate her.
“What are you doing God, and how are we to respond? We don’t even know how to pray in this, but we trust you to work it out. We pray you would heal Jemila.” But would God heal her–or would He mature our prayers?
Our summer intern, Suzanne Olson, wrote the following letter about that harrowing week:
It all started with a critical medical emergency with a youth girl named Jemila. She is our national pastor’s niece, but lives with his family; and, in their culture, she is his “daughter.” Two Thursdays ago, the nurses were frantically called over to Pastor’s house because Jemila was having a seizure and had stopped breathing. Over the next few days, at least one of the nurses stayed with Jemila around the clock because she was seizing frequently and needed rescue breaths until she could breathe again. Even with much medicine, the episodes continued through several sleepless nights. Few people here have ever seen this kind of sickness, and the side effects such as blurred vision, obstinacy, and violence brought much fear to their already heavy hearts.
Then the spiritual battle began. Most of Pastor’s extended family is unsaved or only nominally Christian. When they came to visit from the neighboring villages, they continually pressured him to take Jemila to a witch doctor because all of the medicines didn’t seem to be helping. Our whole team could feel Satan’s spiritual oppression trying to dominate the situation, but we could do little but pray that the Lord would strengthen the faith of Pastor and the church people. Many times, it seemed as though Jemila would die or the believers would give up on God and take her to the witch doctor. Through all this, God taught me again what it was to feel small and useless–I couldn’t help the nurses except to cook for them, and I couldn’t help Jemila’s family and friends except to sit on the floor with them and pray.
The following Wednesday, six days after Jemila’s sickness began, the church and many neighbors and extended family members gathered in Pastor’s house to pray and establish a unified decision to follow God no matter what happened with Jemila’s life. The next evening, Sarah Glover decided to read Ephesians to Jemila since Bible reading always calmed her down. Although she was almost asleep, when Jemila heard the verse in Ephesians 4 about not letting the sun go down upon your wrath, she started repeating it with Sarah. She then began apologizing, one by one, to everyone sitting there. It was like she just snapped out of it. She hasn’t had seizures or breathing problems since then!
There weren’t too many people in the house at that moment, so Bro. John went around the village telling people to come see her. Seeing her in her right mind brought everyone to tears. GOD IS SO GOOD!!! Pastor and his family were put through the fire of affliction, yet they stood strong and have come forth as gold. It was a revival at Pastor’s house that night–about 50 people crammed on the floor singing praises to God, and Jemila joining right along. She also specifically confronted at least a couple of her relatives who probably aren’t saved, telling them to look at what God did for her and to believe. Now we just pray that she will regain her strength and have no lasting brain injury from the seizures.
Jemila (yellow shirt) making things right with her family and friends
When I first arrived at the house after Jemila had been healed, she hugged me as she had already done to several others. She told me she was so very sorry for the way she behaved, and wept profusely on my shoulder.
That was when the Jonathan Parnell’s blog post came back to me.
The teddy bear talked.