B. CALLING AND BIBLE SCHOOL
CHOICES, TRIALS AND JOYS; JACO’S BIRTH
We all need to make frequent choices; making the right choice enriches one’s life, puts one on the forefoot, brings progress, whereas making a bad choice leaves one poorer, causes one to lose ground, has the effect that one has to take another two steps just to get where one would have been had one made the right choice right from the start. Some things may seem to be the right thing to do but very soon prove to have been exactly the opposite or at least a waste of time. Towards the close of my second year at Bible School, on the evening just before I had to write my final exam on a certain subject and was cramming the last bits of knowledge, my mother phoned and said that the doctor had been to see my father and it seemed that he had had a heart attack. He was not in good shape at all and she thought it might be best for me to come over as soon as possible.
I was uncertain as to whether I was to go and had not yet learned deeply not to react to each and every request and pressure that came my way, but to look to the Lord for guidance, even in matters that one would normally solve intellectually. However, I prayed saying: “Lord, now what am I to do, I have to write my exam tomorrow and if I travel 120kms and back, when will I study? On the other hand, should I not go and my father dies, I will always blame myself.” Immediately I sensed the Lord replying: “Don’t go,” so I phoned my mom and said I would pray for both of them but could not go for I felt the Lord wanted me to study and to do my exam. She accepted my decision graciously. I studied till late that night, phoned her back early the next morning when she told me that he had somewhat recovered. I then wrote the exam, did quite well and on phoning her later that afternoon, was relieved to hear that my father was much better and on his way to a full recovery. The right decision had lifted me to higher ground and peace flooded my heart. The devil is a master in the art of deception and can skilfully manoeuvre us to waste half of the precious days which the Lord has allotted to us on earth.
Life is a mixture of bitter and sweet and things meant to be altogether joyful, may suddenly turn into sorrow. In June of that second year of Bible School, the other major thing that happened in our lives was the birth of our second child, our second son, Jaco. Towards the end of Martie’s pregnancy, my mother-in-law came to stay with us to assist her when the time came for the baby to be born. Once again there was an onslaught on my study time. About three days before the date on which the baby was to be born, Martie had a false alarm. I took her in to the maternity home where she spent the day unsuccessfully waiting for the birth to take place. That afternoon I brought her back home. Then, three days later, on the night just before I had to write my Zulu exam, Martie came in saying: “I must go at once, quickly, quickly, there is no doubt about it, I’ve got to go”. Her suitcase with necessities was already packed and we left my mother-in-law in the Park Home to look after Frans and rushed off to the hospital. This time I would not be tricked again and I took my Zulu textbook with me, intending to put in some study should this baby play any more tricks.
On getting there, we found the place in turmoil. It seemed as if all the babies of Pretoria that were to be born in that month, had decided to be born that specific night and the place was overflowing with anxious mothers to be, and nurses and doctors rushing to and fro. At reception they asked me all sorts of “irrelevant” questions that I could not answer; the type of questions that only the wife can answer; birthdays and which sicknesses Martie had had since childhood, her blood group and the physical ailments of her relatives, and by the time I got through and was sweating profusely, the matron took me by the left arm saying: “Take this white coat, put it on and stand by your wife in that ward over there, for we have no nurses to spare.” With my Zulu handbook clutched under my arm, I did as I was told for you do not argue with matrons in maternity homes about the need of studying for your Zulu exams. After some ten minutes of smiling encouragingly at Martie while biting my fingernails, the doctor arrived and was I grateful to be relieved of maternity duty and chased out of the ward.
I stood near to the door, wondering what was going on inside. Apparently they had affixed a heart rate monitor to Martie but something was wrong for one could hear the baby’s heart beat clearly but then it would become softer and softer and fade out altogether. The next moment the door burst open and the doctor emerged and rushed down the passage without even looking at me. A minute later he and a specialist came charging back, entered and closed the door behind them. Now I was certain that there was trouble but tried to remain calm. All I could do was to pray. A few minutes later the specialist left the ward, went down the passage and our house doctor approached me, saying that he was sorry to bring me bad news but they suspected that the umbilical cord had wound around the baby’s neck and that he might not live.
This was bad news indeed but my first thought was for Martie who had carried this little one for nine months and was so excited for our second son to be born and now, at the very last moment, to be faced with such dreadful news. Since the hospital was so short of staff, they asked me to remain with Martie and just hold her hand. The doctor took over and proceeded to assist her to give birth. I had never imagined that women had such pain during childbirth and how my heart ached every time she cried out. At the same time I was thinking of what to say to her when, after all that pain, the little one was born dead, as surely he would be. Minutes dragged by but then, at last, there he was and what do you know, safe and sound, no umbilical cord around his neck, no damage done and when he was given a good smack on the behind (for giving us such a fright?) he cried out lustily, filling his lungs with air.
Oh, what a relief, not only for me but also for the doctor and nurse who confirmed that our son was well. The devil had just been scaring us out of our wits. As soon as the baby was wrapped in a cloth and laid in a cradle or whatever, I said: “Please stop for a moment and close your eyes,” and as they did so, I poured out my heart in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for what He had done. The doctor then attended to Martie and when she was ready, the nurse lay our little one in her arms.
When I got home, the lights were still on and Martie’s mother was anxiously waiting in the lounge for news as only a mother could. Her face lit up with joy as I told her that all was well and that she had just acquired another grandson. How different it would have been if I had had to bring her the terrible tidings that the cradle would remain empty and the carefully accumulated baby clothes tucked away somewhere in a drawer, perhaps forever.
Did I study Zulu that night? No. The duties of assistant midwife had depleted every ounce of my energy. I went to Bible School the next day with red rimmed eyes though, wrote the exam and I think I did reasonably well and thus received a double blessing.
Those are the bitter-sweet occurrences in the lives of us as human beings and also of the lives of God’s children. These experiences all add up to make our Lord so much more precious to us.
HE IS RIGHT BY OUR SIDES; THROUGH FLAMING FIRE, DEEP WATERS, EXAMINATION HALLS AND MATERNITY WARDS!
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