Chapter 3 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood
The Great Faith Adventure Begins
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
2 Timothy 4:12
As the next school year drew to a close, a family from our church asked if we would rent their house while they went to New Mexico for a couple years. They would store most of their furniture but leave their piano so I could take lessons from our church pianist. I was so excited! I had watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday night, many times at Grandma’s, drinking root beer floats and munching popcorn, dreaming of being a singer and piano player. Now I could finally have piano lessons. The house also had a fire pit, swing set, four-person teeter totter that moved around when you went up and down, a drinking fountain and trees to climb. Could life get any better than this?
Third grade started that fall at my new school, with an evening roller skating field trip for the whole school. My parents dropped me off and were to pick me up two hours later. I have always been a dreamer. Loving anything musical, I daydreamed I would immediately be a perfect roller skater (despite having never been on skates before), that I would then be encouraged to switch to ice skating, then move right into the Olympics and win a gold medal. Sadly, before I had even circled the rink twice, I ran into someone else and fell with my left leg twisted underneath my body like a pretzel. Excruciating pain erupted – like firecrackers going off inside my leg – and my crying soon brought my teacher and the roller rink manager to my side, along with more than a few gawking fellow students. After eyeing my twisted leg, and straightening my leg, the manager advised my teacher to get me home immediately as it looked serious.
At home I encountered a “girl who cried wolf” situation. As I had been known to carry on and over-complain about various mild scrapes and bumps, Dad said they would wait until morning to take me to the doctor. That night was the longest night of my life. No matter which way I moved, it hurt.
In the morning, Mom took me to the hospital for x-rays. The doctor pulled her into the hallway to tell her the news privately. I had two fractures in my left leg needing to be set. Mom was horrified that they hadn’t believed my complaining!
The doctor told me that they were going to help me go to sleep, and that when I woke up I’d have a cast on my leg. This was exciting news, as I’d always wanted to have a cast for people to sign. So, smelling ether, I eagerly began counting backwards from 100. When I woke, my hand immediately went to my left leg, to see if the cast was indeed there. It was! But my mom was nowhere in sight. I was told she’d had to go to work, as she had just started a new job and they wouldn’t give her time off.
Feeling totally abandoned, I felt tears welling up at this unwelcome news. In those days, hospitals tended to keep children one or two nights for the type of injury I’d had, and parents generally didn’t stay overnight with them. I was sure I did not want to stay without my parents. But I did know that Jesus was with me, so I prayed, and felt myself “toughen up” a bit.
I shared the room with three other girls. Two of them had just had their tonsils out and the one next to me was going to have eye surgery to correct her crossed eyes. I took it upon myself to help call the nurses when they were crying or feeling sick. The little girl who was to have the eye surgery told me her parents were getting a divorce and she was very sad. I prayed for her, too.
To keep myself busy, I made cards for each of the girls in my room. I was disappointed when my mom called and said she couldn’t come see me but that she would be picking me up when I was ready to go. Feeling sad, I remembered the story of Paul and Silas in prison, in Acts 16:16-40 just the Sunday before. If they could praise God while they were scared and lonely in prison, surely, I could praise him in the hospital. I didn’t understand why my parents weren’t visiting me, but I did know I could trust God to help me be brave and help me share his love with others.
“Dear Jesus, please show me how to love others for you in this place and please help me not to be so lonely and sad.”
The next morning, a tiny, cheerful lady with bright red hair came into my hospital room and introduced herself. This physical therapist said she was going to help me learn how to walk on crutches. My leg was still hurting, so I wasn’t sure that I wanted to learn about crutches then and there, but I thought I should at least try to be brave. As soon as my leg came down off the bed, it landed on the floor with a loud THUD. My involuntary scream both scared my roommates and embarrassed me!
I immediately discovered that this cast was very heavy – not surprising since it covered my entire leg. She patted my back gently and encouraged me to go slowly. As I hobbled slowly down the hallway, I became aware of several more hospital rooms inhabited by what seemed to be very sick children. I could hear the sound of crying coming from one of the rooms, and my heart hurt for the other kids.
The physical therapist realized I was exhausted and brought a wheelchair to finish the return to my room. As she lifted me into my bed, I had an idea about using that wheelchair – would I be allowed to wheel myself to those other hospital rooms and ask the parents if I could pray for their kids? I asked her, and she said she’d ask the charge nurse.
I was nervous, thinking I may have asked a weird question. But my courage came back as the nurse returned the wheelchair to my bedside. She told me she thought I might be an encouragement to the parents but cautioned me to make sure I had permission before going into their rooms.
As I ate lunch before going on my prayer adventure, I asked Jesus to help me not say anything stupid! Upon finishing my macaroni and cheese, I promptly hit my buzzer and asked to be helped into my new “prayer-mobile”.
The first room I visited was dark. A mother sat with her head bowed next to a small red-faced little girl asleep in the bed. I approached very slowly and asked the mother what was wrong with the baby. Looking unsure as to why I was there, she hesitantly explained how the girl had pulled a hot pot of water off the stove and burned herself. As she told me what happened, the mother began to cry. I asked if I could pray for her daughter, and she agreed.
“Dear Jesus, please help this little girl get better and help her mommy to not feel so bad.”
I left the mother quietly crying as I moved out and on to my next assignment, a room with a sleeping young boy, with parents sitting in different corners of the room. When I asked to come in, the dad gruffly replied, “What do you want?” I very nervously explained I wanted to pray for his little boy and asked what was wrong. The father was less patient than the parent in the first room had been and informed me it was none of my business – but that he supposed a prayer wouldn’t hurt.
Very nervously and quickly I prayed, “Dear Lord, please help the boy!”
Moving as fast as I could to the door, I wasn’t sure I should attempt the last room. But remembering that Jesus was with me and determined to finish my mission, I breathed a little prayer of my own – Jesus, please don’t let these people be grumpy.
A soft light in the corner of this room shone on a crib covered by a clear plastic tent. A sweet-looking baby inside was dressed in a pink nightgown and had tubes going into her. The parents sat close by, the mother holding the baby’s tiny fingers under the tent and resting her head on her husband’s shoulder. As I approached, he looked up and said hello to me, and as I absorbed his kind voice and the peace in the room, all my fear ebbed away. I told them my name and asked what was wrong with their baby.
The mom smiled at me and explained that her daughter had pneumonia, a terrible disease for one so young, and how it required the oxygen tent. These people were so nice to me that I was very glad to ask if I could pray for their baby, and they gratefully accepted my offer.
“Dear Jesus, please take away the sickness in this little baby’s lungs and help her to breathe. Please help her mommy and daddy not to be scared.”
Looking up to see smiles and teary eyes, I knew Jesus and I had done the right thing, although I wasn’t sure how much I had helped. But I was confident Jesus would do the rest of the work. The mom and dad both encouraged me to come back the next day to see them.
The next morning, I was gently awakened by the parents of the baby with pneumonia. The mom had tears glistening in her eyes and I was afraid her baby had died. However, handing me a vase with a pink rosebud, the dad said they wanted to thank me for praying for their baby. The doctors had expected she would be in the hospital for at least a week – but she had miraculously been healed overnight and they were able to take her home!
The parents told me that they were Christians too, and that they knew that Jesus brought me to help them pray for their little girl. They wanted me to know that God had used me and my faith to encourage them and to help heal their baby.
After they left, I stared into space, amazed that just a little prayer and a little courage with Jesus could actually make a difference. For the first time in my life, I knew that God was super real. I also realized that He had answered my prayer to be with me, take away my loneliness, and help me to be like Paul and Silas. Wow, it didn’t matter how young I was. He was great and adventures with Jesus were going to be awesome!
While I was sitting in my bed smiling at Jesus, a nurse came in and told me if I could pass my crutches test, my parents could take me home that night. The physical therapist came back and helped me maneuver the crutches and my heavy leg down the hall, and I passed. As I left, the nurses thanked me for visiting the other families and told me all the children were doing a little better. I left the hospital in wonder at the great things Jesus and I could do together! Life with Jesus was more than a free ticket to Heaven; it was an adventure.