Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Birdies for Babies

Birdies for BabiesPam Chupp, former missionary, Kenya
The Call, October-December 2016

Anna Redding came to Tenwek Hospital in 2014 with her father, Dr. Mark Redding. He is a neurosurgeon who was serving on his third short-term medical missions trip to Tenwek. When they returned home, Anna wondered if she could do something to make a difference in the lives of the babies and moms in Tenwek’s nursery. She was entering her senior year of high school in North Carolina, and one of her senior assignments called for a community service project.

Anna and her dad thought and prayed about it, and Dr. Redding had an idea: "Anna, you love golf and are pretty good at it. Why not ask for people to pledge a gift for every birdie you make in your senior year golf season?" Anna looked carefully at her junior year performance and thought that for her senior year, she could possibly get three birdies per round. (A birdie is scoring one stroke under par per golf hole.) She counted up all the matches and tournaments she would compete in and predicted that she might get 30 to 35 birdies that season. She went to work making phone calls and talking to friends at church, school, and in the community. They decided to call this project "Birdies for Babies."

Dr. Redding and Dr. David Hoover, president of the Friends of Tenwek organization, are good friends, and Dr. Hoover suggested that this would be an exciting project for FOT. Pledges starting coming in for $1, $5, and $10 a birdie, and the fall high school girl’s golf season began. Anna had kept her project a secret from the other golfers with whom she was competing, but she was determined and focused to help those babies! She played at a level that amazed her coach, teammates, and the competition. She averaged SIX birdies per round and led her team to many victories. Halfway through the season, Anna had already reached her prediction of 30 birdies. She asked her dad, “Should I stop, because we told the donors that I would drop around 30 birdies? Will they be upset with me?" 

Mark and Anna decided that she should push on and work harder, letting the donors decide what to do about their pledges. Every time she leaned over to sink a difficult putt, she thought about those tiny, premature babies in the Tenwek nursery. She was a putting machine! By the end of the season, Anna had dropped 63 birdies and three eagles (scoring two under par) and was the number one female high school golfer in North Carolina! She was named female golfer of the year in that state and was mentioned in Sports Illustrated as one of the young female golfers in the U.S. to watch in the future. At the final tally, Anna had raised over $22,000 for the Tenwek nursery through “Birdies for Babies.”

After consulting Tenwek pediatrician Dr. Chuck Bemm on the top need for the Tenwek nursery, Anna and her father purchased a brand new GE Giraffe incubator. In January 2016, Anna and her father returned to Tenwek to see the incubator in use and found a tiny baby named Kipkoech Bett thriving inside. Kipkoech was born prematurely, weighing only 750 grams (about 1.65 pounds) at birth. By Anna’s visit, the little one had reached a healthy weight and was nearing discharge. In a dedication and appreciation ceremony for Anna, the Tenwek nursery staff and members of the FOT Board gathered for prayer around the new incubator with Kipkoech sleeping inside. There was not a dry eye in the room as the following letter was read to Anna by my husband, Mike:

Dear Anna, 

We haven’t been properly introduced yet, but we will forever be linked. My name is Kipkoech. I just woke up a few days ago. I was placed in a wooden box the day I was born because I needed help surviving this big world right now. Then, all of a sudden, I was given a new, shiny home. I asked them why and how. They told me that a very special girl came to Tenwek once and fell in love with us little ones. They say she worked really hard to purchase a new home for us while we are here. I couldn’t believe how amazing this girl was and the feats she accomplished. I just had to meet and write this hero of mine. So I found out her name—Anna Redding. That’s you, Anna Redding. I had to tell you how much I love you! You saw a need and fought to see it met. Because of you, I have a home. A home that is safe, clean, and warm. Through you, hundreds of infants will inhabit this same home I live in and survive because of it. Thank you, Anna Redding, for your love for Jesus Christ—a man that I hope to one day follow and love just as you. I love you, Anna, and I thank you for allowing God to work through you.

Patiently waiting to meet you,

Kipkoech

We don't know how many dozens, if not hundreds, of babies' lives will be impacted/saved by this new state-of-the-art incubator in the Tenwek nursery. What we do know is that Anna has encouraged and energized our nursery staff to the max. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV): "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity." 

God can use any gift or skill or talent that we have to bring glory to Himself. Placed in the Master's hand, a talent for putting a golf ball into the cup can make for a wonderful story like Anna's. God asked Moses: "What is that you have in your hand?" and Moses gave up his shepherd's staff to be used to demonstrate God's power. A putter may not seem very divine or useful in God's kingdom, but if given to the Master for His purposes, it can accomplish kingdom purposes.

What is in YOUR hand right now? What training, skill, giftedness, or availability can you offer to the Lord Jesus for His purposes? Anna Redding now has a full ride golf scholarship to the University of Virginia. Keep an eye out for this young lady. I have a feeling God isn't finished with her yet! I also have a feeling that He isn't finished with you and me either.

GIVE: Help more patients like Kipkoech get the medical care they need through the Tenwek Needy Patient Fund.
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