INDIA (BP)–Baby Solomon has died. I met Solomon in a small village in India, severely malnourished and starving because his mother was unable to nurse him. Our volunteer team from Seoul International Baptist Church helped the family with hospitalization and follow-up medical care.
Until recently, we thought Solomon was doing well. He was eating and growing, but in July, I received a note that he had died. Ironically, he died from overfeeding. In cases of starvation and malnutrition, it is important to introduce food, and especially proteins, slowly.
It is hard to know what happened and quite tempting for some to blame the hospital for inadequate education about Solomon’s nutritional needs. But I was there, and I know how difficult it was to communicate through all the different dialects and cultural barriers. I’m sure the hospital attempted to educate the parents. I’m also fairly sure the parents indicated they understood the instructions. But when a starving baby begins to thrive, it is not too difficult to see how a young, uneducated mother could overfeed her little boy, without understanding the consequences.
What I’ve realized as I’ve reflected these past few days on Solomon’s short life is the dire need for volunteers to conduct medical clinics in many of these small villages, not just in India but around the world. For every Solomon, there are countless others like him in every corner of the world.
One of the things I learned from talking with personnel in Solomon’s area is how village medical clinics can be a very effective piece of a church-planting strategy. Just a little education in basic pre- and post-natal care for young mothers would go so far in saving the lives of children. Just a little training in basic health care could make a difference in the lives of so many.
I have few regrets in my life, but I do have one. My regret is that in years past I have wasted so much money on useless stuff as children around the world are starving, impoverished and oppressed. Every time I go out to eat in America, I take half of my food home because the portions are so large. Yet, Solomon’s family did not have enough money to buy formula, let alone the education to know how to feed their child. And while I lived as I wished last week, feasting on the riches of America and trying to decide which pair of shorts to buy, a child died. But this wasn’t a faceless victim of global poverty that flashed across my television screen. He was a child I had held in my arms. He was a child I had prayed for. He was a child I had loved.
I don’t know what God will do through Solomon’s death. We have been asked to pray that Solomon’s death will not separate this family from the love of God. I believe that God is at work. Before time began, He ordained the number of Solomon’s days. He had a purpose for Solomon’s life, and that purpose has been fulfilled. Today, Solomon is in His Father’s arms. He is well fed and happy.
But my message is much deeper than a simple social gospel message. Not only are children dying physically, millions of men, women, and children are dying spiritually every day in villages just like Solomon’s in every corner of the world. “How will they know, unless someone tells them?” the Apostle Paul asked. But how will we go when our credit cards are at the limit and we are so strapped with consumer debt that we even buy our daily bread on credit?
Certainly, God has blessed America, but rather than taking those blessings and turning them back to use for His glory, I fear that as a nation and as a church we’ve become like Eli and his sons. We’ve become fat off the sacrifices of others, taking no thought for the burden our selfishness and materialism is placing on those around us and especially on the generations that follow us.
Still, we must go. We must with God’s help curb our spending on frivolous things, lay aside the entanglements of debt, and finish the work He has given us to do. It is our commission as Christians to preach the Good News to all people that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He forgives all our sins. As we do this, those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation are gathering before the throne of God in Heaven. This is not a pie-in-the-sky dream. It is a picture of a present reality and a future hope.
It is my prayer that someday Solomon, his parents and many from his village will be reunited before the throne of God. Never again will they hunger or thirst. Never again will they be outcast and unclean because of a cultural system that has declared them “untouchable.” They will rejoice in God’s faithfulness through difficult times. They will praise God for the times of blessing. In Jesus, their sins will be forgiven and their bodies made whole.
This is why I do what I do. No regrets. No turning back.
Tess Rivers is a writer for the International Mission Board.
*Name changed for security concerns.