The coronavirus challenged compassion-providing ministries in new ways
At Christmas we celebrate one spectacularly unusual birth, but it’s also a good time to recognize babies like Madeleine Kara Lim. Her first year of life since her birth on Nov. 29, 2013, has been remarkably unremarkable. She loves to laugh, explore, and move—but she floated in liquid nitrogen for three years before the Lims adopted her.
Madeleine, created through in vitro fertilization (IVF), owes her life to medical innovation along with an attempt to revive an ancient practice. When ancient Romans discarded babies, Christians rushed to scoop them up. Now, about 600,000 fertilized eggs sit frozen, embryo storage is costly, and parents often discard the frozen embryos they don’t want. “Most will die,” Madeleine’s adoptive dad, Paul Lim, says: “It’s the moral equivalent of throwing your child out into the field.”
The Lims, with a 9- and 7-year-old born the usual way, chose to adopt Madeleine. Doctors thawed her and placed her, along with a sibling embryo, into the womb of Paul’s wife Susan. The babies were each about the size of the head of a pin: only 100 cells big. The procedure took 30 minutes, and Susan spent the next day bed-bound in a hotel.
Six weeks after implantation, though, Susan’s first ultrasound revealed just one beating heart. “Are you sure there isn’t another one?” Susan asked. There wasn’t. The Lims grieved.
Throughout the unusual pregnancy, Susan faced another difficulty: From 2008 to 2010, Paul had worked as a surgeon and Susan as a pediatrician in an Ethiopian hospital, correcting cleft palates—but it turned out that new, leaky, and fragile blood vessels were growing in her right eye, killing retinal cells.
The problem forced the family to move back to the United States in 2010. Susan needed regular injections of the drug Avastin to stop extra blood cell production and save her vision—but she would not be able to take Avastin while pregnant, as it could harm the baby. Susan would have to refuse the drug and risk her sight. Once pregnant, she began to see divots when she read fine print, but she refused to treat the condition.
By God’s mercy, Susan’s eyesight grew no worse and she gave birth Nov. 29, 2013, at 9:03 a.m. Mother and 1-year-old are doing fine.
Where is he now?
After more than three decades as a newspaper editor and publisher, I became this fall a farm hand. God, in His sovereignty, had allowed a corporate staffing realignment in which my position was eliminated.
That end marked a new beginning, including a stint as a farm worker during the harvest season. Instead of stressing over budgets, news coverage, and personnel issues, my new job description was remarkably clear—get the crops safely from the field to the bin.
My experience on the farm began when a longtime family friend needed a tractor driver to haul wagons of corn from his fields to the storage bins on his family’s farms. I jumped at the chance. I exchanged my button-down shirts and khaki pants for jeans, boots, and a John Deere cap.
For six weeks starting Sept. 24 I was at the helm of a John Deere 8320, pulling dozens of wagons of golden corn down the back roads of south-central Illinois. The days were long but satisfying, as I saw that:
• Small things done consistently add up to big things. With about 1,500 acres of corn, yielding close to 200 bushels per acre, we harvested nearly 300,000 bushels.
• It’s fun to try new things. I learned to operate several tractors, including a monstrous four-wheel-drive John Deere measuring 12 feet wide by 24 feet long and sporting eight 6-foot-tall tires.
• Challenges are good. I’ve never liked heights, but part of my job as I emptied my wagons into storage bins was to monitor the grain level in those bins. That involved climbing ladders attached to the outside of the 25-foot-tall bins and peering down through a door in the roof. I had to discipline myself to push through the fear the first few trips up the ladder, but it did get easier.
• We have opportunities to praise God. The solitary nature of farm work gives ample time for ongoing prayer conversations. The beauty of the sunsets and the varied topography in this part of the state also inspired me to praise God for His creative extravagance, and for His provision in times of economic uncertainty.
—Chelsea Kolz Boes is an editorial assistant for God’s World News
See a 2013 series about Paul and Susan Lim’s decision to adopt embryos.