After a decade of working to write a memoir about how God changed our lives through our daughter, Ruth, it seemed that I had come to the end of everything. I had already done everything in my power to see it published and could do no more. My best efforts to find a publisher who shared my family’s vision of helping other children through Ruth’s story had failed. Miserably.
In the past five years, we’d lost Ruth, who’d died unexpectedly before her eighth birthday, and my missionary, prayer-warrior mom, who’d passed away at 65. My heart was too battered by grief, my hope too thin to keep going.
In March, I’d spent a tearful night reading my mom’s old emails. One was a short prayer that God would bless Ruth’s book. The next was about a Massachusett’s publisher.
“Recently I met the pres. of Hendrickson Publishers, right ‘here’ in Peabody MA,” she wrote more than five years ago. “Please include them in your requests to your agent. They are local, you are local.”
How had I overlooked this? Now, all these years later, I emailed my agent, who sent them my proposal. An editor agreed to bring it to their next publishing meeting at the end of May. For two months I prayed—along with a faithful group of friends.
“Prayer is like this,” one of those women had told me several years ago, quoting the late theologian Armin Gesswein. “Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing… Everything.”
When it came to my personal writing, for ten years, I had been on the receiving end of Nothing. So many times I had wanted to quit. But how could I when precious children like Ruth were still waiting to know how valuable they are? On Mother’s Day, I emailed Mandy, the director of Welcome Home Africa, Ruth’s orphanage, asking how it was doing.
She wrote about the home’s pressing financial needs, such as the high cost of school fees and medical bills. She wrote about paying to treat 387 people last month at a local medical clinic and of supplying a 12-year-old boy with AIDS and tuberculosis and a terribly swollen stomach with one egg and a handful of peanuts a day so he get enough protein.
And she wrote of a 10-year-old girl, being raised by her aging father, who drags herself along the ground, legs splayed in different directions. “I don’t want her to have to wait any longer as she needs the dignity of a chair,” Mandy said.
While all their stories touched me, this unnamed girl’s moved me deepest of all, knowing how much Ruth loved her own fire-engine red wheelchair, how we strapped it on the bus for her ride to school, how we spun her around the basketball court at the YMCA, and took her on her favorite walks to town.
The day of the publisher’s meeting, I waited anxiously, sure I had less than any chance. A little past 5:00 that evening, my agent called. I held my breath. If they said no, I was done.
“They said yes,” she said.
After telling my family and dancing around the kitchen, we started planning.
First? Buying a wheelchair for that 10-year-old girl.