Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. Isaiah 58:9
Ruth, the refugees' teacher, slipped into the room. She had come to pray with me. It was early in the day, and the afternoon heat of the Thailand-Laos hill country was still to come. racked with high fever for five days, I had learnt to dread the afternoon's 40oC heat, and its labour of constant sponging to stave off the indignity of delirium.
Chris had driven off to the regional town, to organise my transport home via Bangkok. The chance of success seemed slight. Fire had swept through Nan days before. Communication with Bangkok was difficult, and local plane services were booked up well ahead. With suspected typhoid, and the enteric phase to come, it was likely that any delay would ground me in hospital at Nan or Bangkok, extending the separation from my family in Australia by weeks.
I was depressed at the prospect, and anxious about my much-loved elder medical colleague at the refugee clinic, whom I had planned to take back to Sydney for surgical exploration of a bowel mass. Clearly, that would be impossible now.
As Ruth started to pray, she recapitulated the promises in Isaiah 58:8-9 and answered the anguish in my heart.
Soon there were the sounds of the Land Rover returning, and Chris was at the door. Against the odds, he had been able to book a flight connection through a friend's pedal radio. Transit home was an ordeal, but I was buoyed up at every step by timely support: the Tear Fund representative who helped me in Bangkok, the airline official who pushed me, near-fainting, aboard the plane and the businessman in the next seat who `talked me down' all the way home to Sydney.
My colleague was transported to Chieng-Mai, where she had the surgery she required, before returning to the UK. Her operation was performed by a specialist friend who happened to be visiting Chieng-Mai when she arrived there.
Sometimes the Lord allows his servants to reach an extremity of concern so that they can experience the power of his rescue when it comes, as surely it will. Even though we ourselves may be too weak or burdened to pray for help, intercessory prayer is `powerful and effective' (Jas 5:16 NIV). Always `our help is in the name of the Lord' (Ps 124:8). So always we should pray in John Donne's words:
O Lord, never suffer us to think that we can stand by
ourselves, and not need thee.
Further reading: Is 58: 6-12.