Posted by: howvoicebegan | 06/02/2012

Three Sparrows

When my mom would bring home Reader’s Digest each month, I would pick it up and read it. It wasn’t so much that I was a big fan of the magazine, but that as an avid reader I couldn’t resist it. Once I moved to South Africa, I didn’t miss the magazine.

Yet when my mom and grandma came to visit two weeks ago, Mom brought some Reader’s Digests she had been saving for me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep away from reading them, but at the same time I didn’t really want them; I thought of them as one more thing on my never-ending to-do list.

In the evenings I would skim through the magazines and pick out the articles I wanted to read. I had another motive for getting through them as quickly as I could: to get them out of the house and into the hands of the children at the orphanage, who frequently use magazines for school projects.

As I skimmed through one issue, I found a short article on identifying a drowning person. I read through the article, as I had been interested in the subject but never devoted time to researching it on my own. Drowning was on my mind a lot as the children’s favorite outing is swimming. It was scary reading the statistics: 90 percent of children drown under the watch of their parents, simply because it’s not the violent and loud scenario that we think it is. Instead it is silent and often very still.

The next day, Sunday, we had a church outing. Children from the congregation jumped into the pool with no adult supervision. I was watching for children terrorizing other children, which is a favorite activity of good swimmers to do to those who are more cautious of water. I hate that style of teasing and immediately discipline any child using fear to make fun of another.

As I was scanning the pool, I saw it: a little boy, arms stretched out to the sides, with only his forehead above the water. His motionless floating and silence was precisely as the article I had read the night before described. A nearby child was clueless to the event, so I yelled to him, “This child is drowning! He is drowning!” Fortunately being tall enough to walk to the child, he pulled him out of the water and handed him to me.

My nerves on end, I knew I couldn’t leave the pool, as much as I wanted to. The scene was chaos with so many children; how could I possibly watch them all, with no one else around to help? I wanted to give up and lay the responsibility on the parents, but I stayed anyhow. It was a good thing I did, because I saw it again: this time, a little girl, in the same position as the boy. Two boys around the girl were playing and oblivious to her condition. I yelled out, “That girl is not all right! Pull her out!” They grabbed her and handed her to me. It was another close encounter.

After the third save

When the third child for the day was drowning, I had no option but to jump in myself. The girls around him thought he was playing, and they were laughing at him. I knew they would not be able to help pull him out– so I did. I handed him to my mom, who waited outside the water for me to hand him to her.

If I had never read the article, I would not have known I was watching three children drown. I know that impeccable timing is not coincidence but divine providence.

Right away with the first boy, I knew the article had been handed to me by God through a series of life events that led up to those important moments. God made me a lifelong reader for a reason. God had my mom buy Reader’s Digest for a reason for all those years. And for some reason, he put it in her heart to think of me as she packed them along in her suitcase. God put me in South Africa on that particular day for a reason.  Some of these events had been lined up even before these children were born– because God knows all the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11).

Life has a way of building into a crescendo; we look back at events that shape what is happening in this moment. God built up to this for well over a decade. For what– to have me bask in the glory of being a hero? Surely not, for fortunately my efforts went largely unnoticed that day. It was for God to say, “I mean it when I say my eye is on the sparrow. And today, I saw these three sparrows and thought I’d just prep the way for watching over them.”

Praise be to God who sets our lives in motion to fulfill his promises to us today!

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