By Marcelo Tolopilo
I have received a great many things from God in my lifetime, but among His numerous and precious gifts I am especially grateful for my parents. With mom in heaven and dad at age 87, I still reflect on how God has used the force of their character and the efficacy of their values to shape much of what their three sons are today.
Their ability to mold us did not lie in what they were physically able to provide – for that was always significantly limited. Growing up in a pastor’s home we did not have the creature comforts of our peers, nor the financial leverage to plan for the future – car, college, career.
To be sure, our parents provided all that we needed, but the lion’s share of what they gave transcended the physical and will continue to produce a lifetime, and indeed, an eternity of dividends. One of the many gifts my parents lavished on their boys was, and is, the gift of prayer. My folks have always been people of prayer and that is important for at least two reasons.
1. They modeled a biblical imperative for us (Eph. 6:18, I Thess. 5:17). I have a mom and dad who prayed in obedience to God’s Word! That is part of my rich heritage and that is a gift I hope to bequeath to my children.
2. Their prayers have had a significant impact on the outcome of my life! I could outline a long list of evidence that would corroborate that, but I would much rather tell you a story that will illustrate it. The story does not involve me directly but rather my brother, Danny. It took place many years ago in a sleepy little town in a far away place called Argentina.
Praying For Our Children
Danny’s Story – Part 1
As the sun inched its way up the horizon, dawn poured its light into our modest parsonage. Our home was decked in the cheerful garb of a new day and our hearts were as hopeful as the young, summer sun.
Soon we would be reunited with dad, and this reunion would launch a family holiday – our much awaited vacation. Father was the pastor of a rural church deep in the heart of southwestern Argentina.
On this particular week he was speaking at a summer youth camp in the strikingly beautiful valley of San Juan situated at the foot of the majestic Andes Mountains.
I was too young to appreciate what was to transpire in that week – oh the sweet bliss of childhood – but I have often visited the events of those days through the vividly fresh memories of a mother’s heart. I have discovered that a mother’s heart does not easily forget. Deep in her soul she stores the treasured bittersweet memories of life that shape her character and teach her children.
Late in that ordinary summer afternoon, as the long day grudgingly gave way to evening, little did we realize that the night would bring with it one of life’s unexpected darker moments. It was in that afternoon that my brother Danny began to feel very ill.
Mom had been a whirlwind of activity, a one woman three ring circus, as she prepared her family for the upcoming trip – all the while attending to the unrelenting demands of a clueless toddler (myself). Her other boys, Henry and Danny, were old enough to keep themselves amused and on this particular day they had little choice.
The frenzied day marched by without incident until Danny stopped the parade late in that sweltering afternoon. Danny has never been one to complain about his aches and pains and so when he lethargically crawled into mom’s lap she knew something was amiss.
Turning his listless face toward mom, Danny blurted out in a pout, “Mom, I don’t feel very good.” Peering through her little boy’s tears, to her horror, she noticed the yellowing whites of his eyes as well as the jaundice pallor to his skin.
Something was desperately wrong. Danny had contracted hepatitis. In an instant, a mother’s preoccupation with a list of tasks dissolved in the concern over her child’s frailty.
Within an hour, our family physician stood over Danny’s bed and confirmed my mother’s concerns. Hours from the nearest hospital, with no transportation, it was decided that the doctor would closely monitor Danny’s condition at home.
As the next couple of days passed, the arresting concern of that night gave way to relief and gratitude that my brother’s condition seemed to be stabilizing. Vacation plans were scrapped but no one except Danny really seemed to mind. Mom was relieved, Henry was happy to see his brother improving, and I was probably off in some corner blissfully chewing away on an old sock.
After several nights of fitful, anxious sleep, mom finally lay her head down in peace. Danny was going to be okay and her maternal vigilance gave way to the deep slumber of utter exhaustion.
The silent calm of that night was broken about 1:00 a.m. by the forlorn and barely audible cry of Danny’s raspy call for help. As if in a bad dream, Danny’s weak cry pierced mom’s sleep. Wrenched awake she stumbled in the uncertain darkness to Danny’s bedside.
Turning on the lights, her eyes struggled to adjust but as her son came into focus, it was clear that Danny was worse than ever. His breathing was shallow and his weakened body lay as still as a corpse. Kneeling by his bedside, mom took his limp little hand into hers and with the other began to stroke his forehead.
Danny’s scratchy voice expressed what mom’s heart feared the most. Gathering all the air and energy his thinning frame could muster, Danny’s words shook my mother’s soul. “Mommy” he uttered hoarsely, “tonight I’m going to die.” Her tears betraying her words, she responded with, “Everything will be okay, sweetheart. You just close your eyes and sleep.”
Without a phone and with no immediate recourse, mom buried her face in her one freehand and began to pour out her soul’s grief to the only One who could help. She called out to her heavenly Father, to the One who had born her grief and held her hand since her youth. She prayed to the One who is always attentive to the cries of His children.
Weeping silently in the lonely stillness of that moment, mom groaned the hardest prayer that a parent can possibly pray. “Lord, Danny’s life is in your hands. You are the Author of life and the Master over death. If my son will not know and love the Lord Jesus as a man, take his life now as a child. But if he will grow up to follow Jesus, I ask that you spare my little boy’s life.” That was a hard prayer of complete surrender to the God she knew was good, just, and sovereign.
Overwhelmed by a need to pray, mom continued calling out to God for an hour and a half. She did not notice the passing minutes until she was distracted from her intercession by the suddenly restless, small hand that clung to hers.
Looking up, mom’s reddened eyes met Danny’s gaze. Somehow he looked different, better. His breathing was normal and his labored but unmistakable grin told mom that Danny had taken a turn for the better. God heard a mother’s anguished prayer and in His grace reached down to touch a little boy’s ravaged body. Danny made a full recovery from his illness, and mom and dad were reintroduced to the value and power of praying for their children.
Because of this experience my parents engaged themselves anew in a lifelong commitment to diligently pray for their children.