Harmony’s ministry motto is Comfort Always, Relieve Often, Save Sometimes. Our newsletters are filled with stories of children in the Save Sometimes category—those who were rescued and had their lives transformed as a result of our work. This month we want to tell a different kind of story—the stories of little Russell and Chan Ratsmey—two children from the Comfort Always category of our work.
Little Russell came to us with a reported heart problem. We were prepared to provide his heart surgery and fully expected him to graduate from our Three Steps to Hope (foster care, surgery, adoption) program. It didn’t take long for us to realize this was not to be.
Shortly after arriving in our care he developed a high fever and had to be hospitalized. With antibiotics he recovered and was released back into our care only to get sick again requiring his re-hospitalization. With his third hospitalization the doctors knew something was wrong. It took a while for them to discover his problem was that his kidneys were deformed. Because of his age, he was ineligible for the transplant he would need to save his life. Complicating matters further we were told he had tuberculosis. TB would endanger our other children, some of whom are also in frail health. With heavy hearts we sent him back to his originating orphanage. Christine and Neil Nichols (who adopted Mark from us) began efforts to get Russell transferred into the care of a sister organization with more extensive medical resources. Just when things were looking hopeful, Lily emailed that she had just learned from the orphanage that Russell had died.
Kerri Evans, a medical missionary with Water of Life (WOL) in Cambodia, ministers at a village near the city dump outside Phnom Penh. As I left Cambodia last year, I told Kerri if she ever needed help with a medical situation to let me know. It didn’t take long. Kerri soon emailed me about Chan Ratsmey, born to a poor family at the village by the dump, with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and needed surgery to install a shunt to evacuate the excess water.
I quickly emailed Kerri—cc to Randy Fleming, the Director of WOL—that Harmony would try to raise the funds needed for his surgery. Only I didn’t email Randy Fleming, as I thought. I had mistakenly emailed Randy Boughton who, together with his wife Laurie, had adopted little Rebecca from us last year. Before I even realized my mistake, Randy Boughton emailed that he and Laurie would fund Ratsmey’s surgery! The surgery successfully installed the shunt that Ratsmey needed and we were all hopeful. Three weeks later I opened an email from Kerri advising that little Ratsmey had died—suddenly and without warning. That same email conveyed a message from his parents expressing their deep gratitude for our efforts to help save their son. Cambodia is a Buddhist country. Buddhist priests believe a suffering child should not be helped because to do so would disrupt the cycle of karma and reincarnation. So when Christians offer what to them is small fortune to help a child and wanting nothing in return, it has a profound impact on them.
Little Russell and Chan Ratsmey were two sweet babies that God brought to us. It was never given to us to save their lives. What was given to us was to comfort them—to wrap our arms around them, to love and pray for them as we tried to help them—and, when their short lives were over, to tell their stories.