“Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”


Parent holding baby's hand
We all know that if something is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t. We’ve all been fooled at some time and none of us wants to be fooled again.
Most people have more sense than to believe things that cannot possibly be true. Things like, if you have seen a man killed before your own eyes, seen him dead, you are not going believe that he is alive, well and going around doing miracles unless you see at least the same quality of evidence put before you. That’s why all of us are Thomas. So I have never understood why so many Christians think that St Thomas is stupid. I don’t. Let me tell you why.

Many years ago, when I was doing a flying doctor job in the Amazon, I had gone out with the aeroplane to a very remote village high in the mountains called Karasabai. And, right near the end of the clinic, word came in from an even more remote village called Tiger Pond that they had a woman in labour with a hand presentation. Now a hand presentation is very nearly the worst thing that can happen to any woman in labour. What happens is that the baby, instead of coming out head first (which is normal), or at least feet first (what we call a breech birth – which is at least manageable), tries to come out sideways, so the hand and the arm come out first and nothing else will come out at all. And the reason that is an emergency is that once the womb starts to try to push the baby out, you have about 5 minutes before the baby dies. Then you may have as little as 3 or 4 hours before the mother dies as well. The only thing that helps is a Caesarean section – a cut to get the baby out. But, although she had been in labour for 16 hours, the womb still had not started to push – we still had a chance.

It took them four hours to carry her on a stretcher through the bush from Tiger Pond to Karasabai. And all the time I am pacing up and down the deck of the little clinic thinking – please let them have been wrong – please let it just a breech.

But, when they arrived and I looked, there was the baby’s little hand clear as day – seemed like it was waving to me. I listened and I could still hear the baby’s heart-beat, I thought that just maybe there was still a chance if we could get her to Georgetown, the capital city.

I went and talked to the pilot. He was American, from Arizona, and simply could never be hurried and never used two words when a long silence would do.
He said, in his slow drawl.
“Well, that’s 340 miles and two hours twenty minutes flying time.” …. long pause
“We got fuel for 380 miles and light for two hours thirty minutes” …. long pause
“And you gotta mother and baby that really needs to go.” …. even longer pause
“Yeah….  Course we can do it.”

We put her straight in the airplane and flogged it for Georgetown just as fast as ever we could go. We flew at 11,000 feet where the air is thinnest – as high as you can go without oxygen. It wasn’t good for the plane, and probably the scariest thing I’ve ever  done because there is so little oxygen that you actually feel yourself short of breath.

About half-way along, the baby suddenly stopped kicking. I listened for the baby’s heartbeat, but I couldn’t hear it above the roar of the engine.

Finally we got to Georgetown and as soon as the engine stopped I listened again. And I listened and I listened and I listened – but I could hear nothing.

It was a horrible moment because I knew the baby was dead. But at least we still had the mother to save. So we put her in the ambulance and sent her to the hospital. And we all went to stay with a friend of one of the pilots. But we were miserable; nobody was talking and we all knew we had failed.

Early next morning one of our co-workers went to the hospital and came back with the report: “Mother and Baby doing well!”

“What?!!” I said. “No, that can’t be right. I don’t make mistakes like that, that baby was not alive.”
So we sent her back to the hospital with – I confess – something of a rebuke.

She came back again: “Mother and Baby doing well – and they showed me the baby!”

I still couldn’t believe it. I was convinced they must have got muddled up with some other mother and baby.  I actually said, “Unless I hold that baby, I don’t believe it.”

So I had to go myself and see that mother – and check it was really the same woman – and hold that baby – and feel its heart beat. And then - I believed!

It was not until weeks later that I understood. I had forgotten to clear my ears after the descent before I listened.

The evils of this world can make us cynical – it can make us reluctant to believe almost any good news – let alone THE Good News. But, just now and again - once and far as they say in Guyana “if you can’ t hear, you have to feel”. And when you do encounter the Good News, you can only praise God and say: “My Lord and my God.”

When we listen for the Word of God, let us always remember to clear our ears.