First of all, thank you. I cannot possibly express how comforting your kind words have been to us this week. The past seven days have unquestionably been the most difficult of our lives, and if medical professionals are to be believed, there are plenty of decidedly more difficult days yet to come. Without your overwhelming outpouring of support and prayer, these hard days would have been truly unbearable. Our doctor called us today and told us that the recent amniocentesis results have confirmed our fears. Our child has Trisomy 18.
One week ago, after being told that our daughter Sophia will have to fight tooth and nail just to make it to her own birth, I sent out an urgent prayer request to just over eighty people in my e-mail address book. In the few days that followed, I got back exactly two hundred and fifty-eight e-mails from friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, all with words of encouragement and the promise of prayer. It might seem a little silly to share these totals as though they're box scores, but I'm a numbers guy and I can't help myself... Bear with me. Right now, this is what our prayer support looks like on paper (and this is just what I know about):
- Roughly 4,200 people...
- 39 churches
- 52 prayer groups
- 14 Sunday schools
- 77 families
- 103 individuals
- in 34 states...
- Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Montana, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Virginia
- and in 7 foreign countries:
- Mexico, France, Ireland, Israel, India, Brazil, and Canada (Canada counts as a country, right?)
To say that I'm humbled would be something of an understatement, but perhaps still more comforting than the sheer volume of prayer support is the content of the messages that I've received. A few noteworthy quotes:
- "When your hands are tied, they're nearly folded. This is not a coincidence."
- "If prayer is all you have left, you're in a great spot."
- "I believe that miracles still do happen, and I will be praying for full healing."
That last one came up more than a few times, and it's worth expanding on. In my previous e-mail I wrote, "...I fear it may be too late to pray for a healthy baby." After getting over twenty responses flatly refusing to pray for anything short of a completely healthy child, I began to regret my words. Why shouldn't I pray for something unreasonable? Why not beg for the impossible? If all I'm going to pray for is a sense of resolve and a little luck, why do I need four thousand people to pray along with me? I've changed the way I'm praying. Full healing for Sophia is a wildly unreasonable request, and as such, that's what I'll be praying for every day from now on.
There was one other recurring statement that struck me. I got six different e-mails with almost the same message: "B.J., you know me, and you know I don't believe in God. I don't pray and I never have, but for you, I'm going to start."
Now if I were asked to choose between the life of my unborn daughter and the eternal soul of a friend, I have to admit I'd probably choose my child. That said, it's remarkable to think that only one week into what I hope will be the most painful experience of my life, people who would never have spoken with God otherwise have begun to do so. It's comforting to know that some small good may have already come of this. It's amazing to even consider the idea that a broken baby could maybe, just maybe, help fix someone's relationship with God.
If you're one of those six people and are feeling really uncomfortable right now, don't worry. I'm not going to call you out by name, and I'm not going to get preachy with you the next time we talk. Should I see you or speak with you on the phone any time soon, I'll have only one thing to say: Thank you. Thank you for praying, even if you're lousy at it or out of practice. It means the world to us.
Finally, to all of you... From the seasoned prayer warriors to the six gracious rookies; From Hawaii to Maine and from Brazil to India: Thank you, and if you would, pray for something unreasonable.