Who Sets The Limit?

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
August 10, 2010

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in
spite of all we could do she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby
and crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the
baby alive, as we had no incubator. (We had no electricity to run an
incubator.) We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with
treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such
babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to
stoke up the fire and to fill a hot water bottle.

She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle,
it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our
last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.

As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central
Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.
They do not grow on trees, and there are no drug stores down forest

"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and
sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts."Your job
is to keep the baby warm." The following noon, as I did most days, I went
to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather
with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about
and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping
the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so
easily die if it got chilled.

I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had
died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the
usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she
prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the
baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon." While I gasped
inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of a corollary,
"And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little
girl so she'll know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly
say, "Amen?" I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I
know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits,
aren't there?

The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending
me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years
at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway,
if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I
lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching
in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at
my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on
the verandah, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking
my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage
children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot.
We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly.

Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused
on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored,
knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the
knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a
little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas-that would
make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in
again, I felt the.....could it really be?

I grasped it and pulled it out-yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle!
I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He
could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward,
crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly,

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small,
beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted.
Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this
dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my
former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's
prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the
girls had put in a dolly for an African child-five months before-in answer
to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

He lets us set the limit...

 Author - Helen Roseveare
Helen Roseveare is a medical missionary and author
from England who served for years in the former Belgian Congo.
  1. Let the children come to me … the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.


  2. God promised Israel of a time when “before they call, I will answer,” Isaiah 65:24. We have such a limited, weak view of God. Somehow we believe that He is subject to our limitations and failures and that we can mess Him up. The truth is that He sets things in motion to “answer our prayers” before we give them all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is going into my file. What is really outstanding about this is that I needed a story of prayer for my devotional this week. I have one, but it really didn’t press the point as I wanted it to. This one does! How timely that I read this story this evening when I need it in the morning!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    Last year I felt led to pray for a little boy in our church who was not expected to live. I asked at prayer meeting to pray that he would be healed. One of the women who was a preacher’s wife told me that I shouldn’t pray for a healing since the boy was dying. I did even though the others listened to her. He is doing better and able to walk some. I still feel that God has something great planned for him and still keep him in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you all for your uplifting comments. Noah has grown remarkably this past year. I remember watching his aunt wheel him down the aisle in a specially designed wheelchair his first day at church. Back then he could barely walk and still needed a feeding tube. He had been using a walker, but today he was on crutches. I don’t know if the feeding tube is out. His home life was not the best, but Noah has blossomed under his aunt’s care.

    Liked by 1 person

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