Mukinge Mission, Zambia, 1977
Marilynn Foulkes was not one to give up a fight. And sitting by the bedside, gazing at her daughterís deathly pallor, Marilynn knew that she was in the fight of her life. She was well-equipped for battle, though. Her years of experience as a nurse enabled her to care for Jill herself, guaranteeing that everything possible was being done to save the sixteen-year-oldís life. And a faith that could move mountains kept her on her knees night and day, claiming Godís promises and pleading for a miracle.
The months of fighting this unnamed disease were not without reward. Many of their colleagues spent their time between hospital shifts ministering to their beloved doctor and his sick little girl. Jillís bedroom was filled with borrowed hospital equipment, but the constant stream of visitors witnessed the effusive praise issuing from the dying girlís lips.
Marilynn watched in wonder as Jill shared Godís love with every single visitor. How could her young, frail baby exude such peace and courage? Through all the months of uncertainty and pain, Jill had sought only to bring glory to God. And now, Marilynn could see how God had honoured that desire. She was humbled and thankful that God would bring so much good from such a devastating situation.
In the quiet of the night, Marilynn would pray. She begged God to spare Jillís life, to demonstrate His power and to reward a faithful servant. She cried out to a Father who knew the pain of His Sonís death. And she prayed for strength to endure whatever the days ahead would bring.
Jillís condition continued to worsen. There were times when pain etched her face and Marilynn could almost see her childís life draining away. It was in those moments that Jill sang. Her voice was barely above a whisper, but her purpose was clear: thereís no room for self-pity in a praising heart. Jill worshipped the Lord in all things, but her praise was most fervent when life was at its worst.
Marilynn listened to that weak voice singing old hymns. All of the words seemed to have new meaning now. Rock of Ages. Amazing Grace. Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
"Lord, show Yourself to be faithful," Marilynn prayed. "Please heal my daughter."
Still Jillís condition declined. Her singing grew to be almost constant as the pain engulfed her. Marilynn watched one afternoon as Jill started to slip away. Her daughterís eyes were filled with a vision of heaven and her hands twitched as she strained to reach up. In a barely audible voice, she began to sing ďJust As I AmĒ.
And even as her daughter sang the words ďI come, I comeĒ in halting, gasping breaths, Marilyn prayed, "Please, Lord, heal my baby."
When Jillís song ended, the silence was deafening. Marilynn was afraid to breathe, afraid to look at her daughterís face. She squeezed her eyes shut and continued to pray. "Please, God, not yet. In Jesusí Name, please donít take my baby."
Marilynnís eyes flew open. Jill was trying to talk!
ďWhy did I have to come back here? Why did Jesus call me, if He hadnít wanted me just then?Ē
Tears streamed down Marilynnís face. The Lord had heard her prayer. She felt certain that that day would mark the beginning of Jillís miraculous recovery.
Through the next few days, Marilynnís faith never wavered. She fully believed that God would restore Jill to full health and strength. But that brief glimpse of heaven was soon a reality for her sweet daughter. Marilynn was left with only the echoes of Jillís voice singing ďI come, I comeĒ and a glorious image of the angels welcoming her into their choir.
Marilynn struggled to comprehend the seemingly unanswered prayers of so many faithful servants. In her grief, she questioned Godís logic. But as the weeks passed, Jillís story went out across Zambia, across Africa, and even across America. Scores of people heard of the young girl who praised God while she died, and they came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Foulkes family had to put into practice the lesson Jill had taught them: thereís no room for self-pity in a praising heart. Marilynn thanked God for her daughterís legacy, and followed in Jillís footsteps as she, too, was called Home just three months later.
Almost thirty years later, Jill and Marilynn are still singing together. And theyíve ďno less days to sing Godís praise than when they first begun.Ē
Based on an excerpt from "To Africa With Love: A Bush Docís Story" by James Foulkes, M.D.
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