The Man upstairs, His plan, and a van

recently wrote about being pregnant with my fourth child at age 41 and all the worries that come from being “high risk.” I wrote how I fight off those nighttime panics of “what ifs” with prayer. So far so good.

But God’s got a bigger fish to fry.

My sister-in-law saw what I wrote and forwarded to my husband the story of Ruth, Eric, and baby Pearl, a family in Nashville she knew only slightly.

It was then that I became positively immersed in the story, and, perhaps more importantly, deeply inspired by the heroic bravery that Eric and Ruth showed in the face of a grim medical diagnosis.

Already parents to a young boy and girl, Ruth and Eric learned at 20 weeks that the baby girl growing inside Ruth had a condition, alobar holoprosencephaly (HPE), that was “not compatible with life.” The doctor who broke the news encouraged them to abort the baby right then and there.

Eric and Ruth, profoundly saddened, confused and terrified, somehow had the nerve to say, “No.”

They felt God had made Pearl and only God should take her away. So they waited. They waited for Baby Pearl to die. Either she’d die inside Ruth, or she’d die within minutes of being born. Eric’s posts from this waiting time bring tears to my eyes. The Browns are an example of living faith; faith tempered with a very human doubt that we can all relate to. Great stuff.

But, do you know what? Pearl is 2 months old. Take THAT, doc!

Okay, this won’t become a rant about callous doctors, because, as Eric and Ruth are quick to point out, the current team caring for Pearl out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center is filled with folks fighting tooth and nail to keep Pearl as healthy as possible. These professionals see a life worth fighting for, despite some serious challenges.

Before I go on, please take a moment to read Marybeth’s moving column in the Washington Times about Pearl. Her article caused Pearl’s story to go viral among what might loosely be termed ‘the pro-life crowd’.

Eric and Ruth are not political folks, and we are all blessed that their story has not been used as some sort of political tool. God is good in that way, too. Pearl’s story is too precious for that.

But that’s not to say we can’t draw a few lessons from her life that can guide our own choices, because this story is about more than Ruth’s and Eric’s courage and the miracle that is Pearl.

It is about a virtual community, connected across the country via the Internet, providing a groundswell of moral, spiritual, and financial support. Through a web of hundreds of friends and strangers, Ruth and Eric have gotten babysitting for their two other children, advice from other parents of children with this very rare condition, a re-stocked pantry of food, transportation to and from church, and millions upon gazillions of prayers for every patch of burdened breaths that sweet Pearl has fought through, on and off, each week of her life.

And now they’ve got the wheels they need.

Early in the process, a family friend set up a van fund so that Pearl’s family can travel together. Because of Pearl’s fragile state, Ruth must ride next to Pearl at all times. This means that only a mini-van would allow the family to travel as a unit. The family didn’t have funds for that. They cringed at the thought of asking for a handout. Eric hated to even tweet the fundraising link to folks.

But, they really, really needed a van.

And the way everyday folks rallied around Pearl’s family in their time of need is actually … shocking. These are folks who are, themselves, struggling to keep things afloat. We all are. But neighbors help neighbors. You pitch in how you can. Every little bit helps.

It’s an old-school value that props up neighborhood and church communities all over this great land, but that gets little press. It’s what kept alive our pioneers (see this wonderful piece by Meghan Clyne on how this value is the key theme running through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series) and what gave strength to immigrants in the merciless slums of our 19th century cities.

It seems no one really believes that it happens anymore, hence the need for an ever-widening social safety net that, among its many pernicious effects, crowds out just this type of spontaneous generosity.

Truthfully, Pearl may need government assistance in the coming years. She deserves it.

But in her earliest days, hours and months, Pearl’s story, going viral, inspired average folk to dig deep into their own pocket to ultimately raise $10,000—and that’s a wagon-load of cash, folks—in a matter of weeks for a family in need. See the smiling crew below.

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