I did not need to listen in to the phone conversation to know that Pamela, my wife, was speaking to our eldest daughter, Amy. The way Pamela answered and her tone informed me. However, the tone of her responses was such as to cause me to pause. Her voice went low, quivering, then tears began to flow. Although I couldn’t hear the conversation, I knew instinctively what was being said. Amy, tests had finally revealed, was infertile; she couldn’t have children.
Six years earlier, soon after Amy got married, doctors discovered a large cyst growing on her right ovary. She had the cyst removed, of course, but with no guarantees that the ovary could produce an egg. She then found out that she had endometriosis. Amy was informed that cysts would continue to grow unless she stayed on the contraceptive pill. Naturally, this was going to cause problems conceiving. She was between a rock and a hard place.
Natural health has been a part of our family lifestyle over the generations, so in addition to conventional medicine she sought the advice of naturopaths and alternative health professionals. All the while she was disciplined in what she ate and drank; she and her husband, Scott, wanted a family. Finally, she took the plunge and went off the pill; but her natural cycle did not return. What did return was yet another cyst, followed by yet more surgery, with a view to stimulating the other ovary. But to everyone’s dismay nothing changed.
At this stage, Amy was not without hope. However, this, too, disappeared after she visited Perth’s leading fertility specialist. Tests revealed no hope of conception. Amy and Scott would never be natural parents. One ovary was not functioning and the other was covered with cysts; her hormone levels were those of a menopausal woman; she had no lining in her uterus, no monthly period.
A Special Intimacy
But there was still something in Amy: her prayer life. Through all the disappointments and bad news, she maintained that.
From a very young child, Amy had been a spiritual kid. As she matured, her relationship with God did as well. As a young adult, she was disciplined in prayer and Bible reading, a level and quality of connection that showed real intimacy and authenticity in her connection with God. This was Amy’s strength as she endured poking and prodding, operations, medications, and a plethora of medical advice.
Then one day for some reason, my sister sent Amy a Bible text she’d stumbled upon: “Forget all that, it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will create a pathway through the wilderness and rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isa. 43:18, 19, NLT, italics added). For Amy, this Bible verse was God talking directly to her. She claimed the promise: God would bring more life in her marriage, her ministry (she was a chaplain), and to her body. Deep down she considered the “dry wasteland” meant her childless situation. The river, well, against all the science and medicine, Could that be a baby? But she would just have to trust God, and wait and see how He would deliver, should she claim on this more than interesting promise.
Soon after receiving the text, Amy was in a special worship time with God when she felt convicted that if she were to really trust God, she should go off all her medications, including natural remedies. That way, she would know that whatever might follow, if anything changed, it would be the hand of God alone at work. She didn’t have to wait long, for on her next visit to the specialist she exhibited some remarkable changes to her physiology. In fact, the specialists were shocked at the improvement and encouraged her to keep doing whatever she was doing. That wasn’t hard, as she was just living her normal healthful lifestyle. But hidden from the specialists, in the background, Amy was daily claiming God’s promise over her body. She knew it was this that was making the difference.
Pamela and I lived in Perth when Scott and Amy lived on the east coast of Australia. We moved to Fiji when they moved to Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast, then Sydney when they went to Perth.
We saw each other relatively rarely and so valued the time we spent together. But we tried to regularly get together at Christmas, camping near Macksville on the north coast of New South Wales.
Prayers Answered and Asked
On Christmas Eve 2015, Pamela and I were walking on the beach. Amy, who had just arrived from Perth, saw that we were alone and followed us. She had something important to tell us, she said. With tears welling in her eyes she said two words: “I’m pregnant!”
I love serving a God who surprised us in the midst of a barren desert.
I heard, but the words really didn’t register. That was impossible. I had misheard. “Don’t tease! You cannot be.” But it was obviously true, for Amy and Pamela were in a full embrace while I just stood there in shock. As the only rational one present, well, it couldn’t be true.
We walked on, slower and dazed. Amy told us how she hadn’t been feeling well, so hoping against hope, purchased a pregnancy test during her Brisbane stopover, just before travelling to meet us.
I knew not to ask, “Are you sure?” as Amy is quite particular. Now it was my turn and tears came as the news registered. However, it was yet to be confirmed by a doctor. We would just have to wait and see. Those two weeks of camping were not the best for Amy: she couldn’t eat much, and what she did eat, well, good news, it just came back up. To everyone’s joy, she was nauseous, and slept a lot!
The holiday over and Amy back in Perth, we waited for the phone call. Another phone call. Pamela nearly always answers the phone at home and smiles radiated from the phone. Yes, confirmed pregnant.
But with Amy’s ongoing health issues, not surprisingly, there were complications: there was not one but two sacs of life in there. What? There can’t be. That’s medically impossible. So Amy emailed the ultrasound picture. It was settled: Twins! Boys.
After five months, Amy was advised to stop her busy chaplaincy work and rest more. There were some obvious issues and she was admitted to hospital.
My mobile phone rang for the second time as, disoriented, I grappled to pick it up. It was still dark. It was 2:00 a.m. and I was at my sister’s house far from home. It was Pamela: I was a grandfather! All was not well in Perth as at only 28 weeks, the newborns were alive but struggling. Amy, too, was not so good. Lying in the dark was surreal. I was a grandfather.
Born at only 28 weeks, Nate and Jai spent 11 weeks in the hospital before they were able to breathe on their own.
Pray. I thanked God that Amy was well and that the boys—Nate, meaning “a gift of God,” and Jai, meaning “light from God”—were alive, even if confined to humidicribs. I recognized them as a miracle that God was not about to give up on now. It was the most agonizing prayer I ever prayed.
Scott phoned. His wife and sons were in critical condition.
By early afternoon, Pamela was in Perth, her reports assuring. I arrived later in the evening, but hospitals and I do not mix well. I can feel faint just visiting one. So visiting Amy and the newly arrived Nate and Jai was actually a challenge. But hugging Amy was such a relief.
Then there were those two tiny bodies wrapped in blankets. I looked, prayed, but felt so helpless. Eventually we had to return home, leaving the new family. It took 11 weeks for the boys to be able to breathe on their own. Around the time they were scheduled to be born, they went home.
Since then the boys have grown as expected—sleeping challenges, colic, teething, and the like. Nothing out of the ordinary for these extraordinary, prayed-for, prayed-over babies.
One Christmas on, the crying in the next bedroom, while not much fun, was a reminder of God’s faithfulness, His willingness and ability to deliver on His promises, and His love for His faithful children. I love being Nate’s and Jai’s grandfather. More importantly, I love serving a God who surprised us in the midst of a barren desert, turning it into a flourishing forest.
Glenn Townend is president of the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists. This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Signs of the Times, and on HopeChannel.