Prayer, a Water Bottle, and a Baby Doll

I love the following story about prayer and God’s provision. I shared it this morning with my Sunday School class and was asked to share it online. The story comes from Helen Roseveare (1925–2016), English missionary to the Congo. Justin Taylor did a profile of her when she passed in 2016.

THE HOT WATER BOTTLE – A True Story By Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Helen Roseveare a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa, told this as it had happened to her in Africa. She shared it in her testimony on a Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

An Unsung, but Influential Sermon in the Rise of the Modern Missionary Movement

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister’s Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was “Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion.” The text was Haggai 1:2, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Andrew Gunton Fuller tells us, “who had refused — some of them not in the kindest manner — to listen to his proposal.” [1] Fuller said in part,

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” [2]

Fuller’s son records that the “impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his “thoughts.” [3] The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.” In 1792, he also published his “thoughts”—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (PDF). On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, the Particular Baptist Society for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched.


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 103.
[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 147–148.
[3] Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 104.

Good Friday and the Peace Child

By Garry and Steve Weaver (also posted on my dad’s blog; Training Real Missionaries)

It was over 20 years ago that we first read Peace Child. In this book, Don Richardson tells the story of his encounter with an unreached people group in the early 1960s. In 1962, Richardson, his wife Carol and their 7 month old son arrived in what was then known as Dutch New Guinea, to begin work among a violent, cannibalistic, head hunting tribe called the Sawi.

The task before them was great because the Sawi language did not exist in any written form. They would have to learn the language by living with the people and slowly accumulate a vocabulary while at the same time giving the language a written form. This was difficult, discouraging and time consuming work but necessary before they could even begin to translate Scripture into the Sawi language for evangelism.

Their task was complicated by the constant tribal wars that kept the young missionary family in a continual state of danger. Not only was their task complicated by danger, but even after Don had reached a level of proficiency in the tribal language, so that he was able to present the story of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus, he was confronted with a seemingly insurmountable problem involving their perverted system of moral values. A world view that made Judas Iscariot the hero of the crucifixion story.

Frustrated by their lack of progress in seeing conversions take place among the Sawi and frightened by the continual warfare that threatened the safety of his young family, Don issued an ultimatum: Either the fighting would stop or Don would take his family and leave. Because they valued the medical care provided by the Richardsons so highly, the Sawi took the dramatic step of ending the fighting. Unbeknownst to the missionary, the Sawi had a tradition that if warring tribes were going to enter into a peace treaty, then one of the tribes would have to give an infant from their tribe to their mortal enemies. After observing the ceremony that included the giving of the infant, known as the “peace child” to their enemies, Don knew he had at last had an open door to communicate the gospel. As soon as he could he gathered the tribe together and told them of how though they were enemies of God because of their sin, God had given his only Son as a “peace child” to make peace with his enemies.

Today, on this Good Friday we are remembering how God gave His only begotten Son to be our “peace child.” We are the natural enemies of God because of our sin, but God in His grace chose to provide a sacrifice for us to be reconciled to Him. This reconciliation came as a result of God’s Son making peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). Don’t ever forget what it cost to establish peace between sinful humans and a holy God. I believe that John Piper has said it best when he said, “The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” That way was through the sacrifice of God’s “peace child.”

Something Bigger Than Us

One of the joys of being the pastor of a church in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention is the privilege of cooperating together with other churches for a purpose bigger than anyone of our churches. The Cooperative Program allows us to pool our resources together and do more than we could ever do individually.

The primary purpose for which we have cooperated together as Southern and Kentucky Baptists is for the spread of the gospel among all nations.  This purpose certainly includes missions in Kentucky and North America, but it especially means extending our efforts to get the gospel into nations which currently have little or no access to the gospel.

Over the years, many programs have been established in the United States that, while they are  mostly good and helpful, use vital resources for lesser purposes.  In a day when financial accountability is on all of our minds, we must not allow our budgets to reflect less than our commitment to take the gospel to every nation on the face of the earth.

The Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention is about examining our budgets (as individuals, churches, and institutions) to see if our expenditures really reflect our stated commitment to the Great Commission.  The result has been that Task Forces have been formed in the Southern Baptist Convention and in some state conventions (including Kentucky) to make recommendations to the messengers of their respective conventions.  At the Annual Meeting of the SBC meeting in Orlando, FL in June, the messengers adopted the report of the GCR task force.  This was an essential first step, but whether or not there is a genuine Great Commission resurgence depends on the responses of the state conventions and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.  State conventions must be willing to adjust their budgets to reflect an emphasis on the Great Commission and churches must consider raising their Cooperative Program giving so that local, national and international mission needs will be met.

Today, the report of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Task Force was released.  I am pleased to announce that this report calls for Kentucky Baptists to give “More for Christ.”  This is a call to both individuals and churches.  It recognizes that a Great Commission resurgence can never be merely by adjusting numbers in a budget, but must spring from the hearts and actions of God’s people.  I believe this commitment will inevitably manifest itself in a change in our budgets, individually, corporately, and as a convention.  However, apart from individuals and churches resolving to do more for Christ in the days ahead, the Great Commission resurgence will remain a dream rather than a reality.

The most dramatic, and perhaps traumatic, aspect of the proposal of the Task Force is the call to move over the next several years to a 50/50 split in the KBC budget between the SBC and KBC (the current split is 63/37 with most of the funds staying in the Commonwealth).  This will obviously be a very difficult process.  Many good programs and positions will probably need to be cut.  However, we must choose between the good and the best.  I’m convinced that as long as more than 50% of our Cooperative Program giving stays in our own state, we cannot truthfully call ourselves a Great Commission people!

The report of the Task Force also calls for Kentucky Baptists to increase their Cooperative Program giving.  Some have maligned the whole Great Commission Resurgence movement as damaging this historic method of funding Southern Baptist work.  I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.  Failure to make the above mentioned changes in the budget will result in even more hemorrhaging from the CP.  Informed pastors and church members simply cannot in good conscience urge their churches to give more to the Cooperative Program knowing full well that the great majority of that money never leaves the state.  I am totally convinced that if the Mission Board of the KBC gives Kentucky Baptists a budget which reflects a compelling vision for the nations, we will give more than ever to make that vision a reality for the good of the nations and the glory of Christ!

Some will object to the proposals of this Task Force, and it is their right to do so.  However, please consider what the basis of their objections are.   For example, one of the cuts in the budget will probably be the matching retirement contribution that the KBC makes to the accounts of pastors, DOMs, and other KBC employees.  I receive and appreciate this benefit.  However, $17.50 a month (the max. amount given to pastors) is not worth more than one soul that has never even had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake, this is the issue.  There are unreached people groups around the world who have no access to the gospel.  Called and qualified missionaries who want to take the gospel to these peoples are being turned down by the IMB for lack of funds.  This must not be among a people who were founded and exist for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.  We have a unique opportunity to do something about this tragic state of affairs.  Together we can, because this is something that is bigger than any one of us!