“You are no longer my daughter!”
She wept softly as the DC-3 lifted off into storm-darkened skies matching her inner turmoil as she recalled the argument with her father.
“Your idea is dangerous . . . I forbid it!”
“Father, I must heed my calling, but I want your blessing.”
“You’re too young to know your calling, Vivian. Ever since you ‘received salvation,’ as you call it, you’ve been different.”
“I am different, Father. Jesus gave His life for me . . . I feel led to do His ministry by serving in Uganda.”
“Vivian, this country is in the midst of a Depression . . . do ministry work here in the States. Better yet, find true love and get married.” Andrew Stewart paused. Vivian had been a frail child, prone to illness. He was her protector. She had never defied him, until now. “If you insist upon carrying out this ridiculous notion . . .”
“I insist, Father.”
“Then, you are no longer my daughter!” He abruptly turned on his heel and departed the room. Perhaps such a declaration would shock her into changing her mind.
By the weak light of a kerosene lamp, Vivian wrote of her first day in Uganda.
July 11, 1936: Dear Father, A highly contagious pneumonic plague is ravaging the precious people of this country. There is much sickness and death. My heart aches. As I told Dr. Sparks, I have no medical training, but I can offer my empathy . . . while my own illnesses could never compare to their suffering, I do know how it feels to be desperately ill and helpless . . .
The makeshift hospital was bursting at the seams, and the human tide continued to swell through the doors. Violent coughs filled the air as infected lungs, already weakened by poverty, poor hygiene and malnutrition, struggled for each breath. Doctors and missionaries labored valiantly despite fatigue, difficult conditions, and a shortage of supplies.
Vivian faithfully continued writing to her father. He never responded.
October 15, 1936: Father, I’ve learned to shoot a pistol! Killing rats is one of several ways to fight this battle. Dr. Sparks explained the plague is transmitted through infected flea bites or contact with infected people and animals. The government offers tax relief to Ugandan men who kill up to six rats. It’s indelicate, but it’s the reality in which we live. We’ve saved a few people. The gratitude in their eyes transcends the language barrier . . . that’s what keeps me going.
One afternoon, as Vivian and two nurses took a well-deserved break behind the hospital, a slight movement caught her eye.
A white dog left the shadows. He sat and cocked his head as if listening to their conversation.
Vivian clapped, “Here, boy!”
“No!” Ethel warned. “He probably has fleas.”
Vivian bit her lip. The dog was so thin she could see his ribcage, but his eyes were clear, not glazed with infection. There was a slight nudging in her heart. She decided to take a chance on him.
When she returned hours later, he was waiting for her. She named him “Victor” and watched as he devoured the food she offered.
Late one evening, Vivian whistled for Victor and he obediently trotted to her side. Suddenly, he ran directly in front of her and dove behind the trash bins. She was alarmed at the thrashing noises and growls. In the glow of the lamplight, she caught glimpses of Victor locked in a death match with a snarling side-striped jackal. Then, all was eerily silent. Victor emerged with blood staining his sides and collapsed at her feet. Vivian fell to her knees, vainly trying to rouse him.
Life exchanged for life.
Six months later, Andrew strode into the Uganda hospital, intending to retrieve his defiant daughter.
She was nowhere to be found. Hospital workers responded to his questions with downcast eyes. He finally located Dr. Sparks.
With deep sadness, Sparks replied, “A father appeared with his little girl, wracked by fever. Vivian held the terrified child in her arms all night. The girl survived, but Vivian became infected and died two days ago.”
“Did she say anything before she died?” The grieving father sobbed.
“Yes . . . she said, ‘Please tell my father . . . true love means having the willingness to exchange life for life.’”
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