Sermon Illustrations

An English missionary doctor named Helen Roseveare, tells this story about an incident she experienced during her time in Zaire, Africa.

One night she had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all they could do the mother died, leaving them with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. They had no incubators or even electricity so they used a hot water bottle to keep babies warm during the cold, windy nights. When one of the nurses filled the hot water bottle it burst due to dry rot. And it was their only hot water bottle. They wrapped the baby in a blanket and slept with it by the fire.

The baby made it through the night, and in the morning Helen gathered the other children to pray as she did each day. She explained the situation about the little two-year-old girl, who was crying because her mother had died, and her infant sister, and how the baby would probably die during the next night without a hot water bottle.

During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual bluntness of children who don’t know any better. “Please, God,” she prayed, “Send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon. And while You’re at it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her.”

Helen was in a tight spot. She knew that God can do everything. But there are limits, aren’t there?

The only way God could answer that particular prayer would be by sending her a package from back home in England, and in the four years she’d been in Africa, she’d never received a package from home. Anyway, even if someone did send a package, who would put in a hot water bottle? They lived on the equator!

Later that afternoon, a car came by and left a large 22-pound box at Helen’s front door. When Helen got home she saw it and gathered the children around.

They opened the box, and Helen began pulling out brightly colored clothing for the children, as well as bandages for the leprosy patients. Then she put her hand in and pulled out a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle!

Helen began to cry. She hadn’t asked God to send it, because she didn’t really believe He could. But Ruth, a little 10-year-old girl, did believe. She was in the front row of the children, and rushed forward, crying out, “If God...

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