Helen Roseveare, born in Hertfordshire, was converted to Christ while a student at Cambridge University. She completed her medical degree, and went to Africa as a medical missionary.
In her book Living Faith* she tells how one day they were caring for a woman in the labour ward. Despite everything they could do for her, the woman died, leaving a premature newborn baby and a two-year-old daughter.
They had no incubator - they had no electricity - and although they were on the equator, the nights could be chilly. She asked one student midwife to find a cardboard box filled with cotton wool to put the baby in, and another to fill a hot water bottle. The second girl came back in distress. While she was filling it, the hot water bottle had burst, and it was the last one.
"Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can;" Dr Roseveare told her, "sleep between the baby and the door to keep jt free from draughts. Your job is to keep that baby warm."
Later, the missionary went to pray with some of the orphanage children. Before they began, she told them about the woman, the two children and the hot water bottle.
A 10-year-old girl named Ruth began to pray. "Please, God," she said, "send us a hot water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby'll be dead; so please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she'll know You really love her?"
"Could I honestly say 'Amen,'?" thought the missionary. "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? And I had some very big 'buts.'" The only way God could answer that particular prayer would be by sending her a parcel from home, and in almost four years in Africa, she had never ever had a parcel from home. Besides, if anyone did send a parcel, who would send a hot water bottle to the equator?
That afternoon, she got a message that there was a car at her front door. By the time she got home, the car was gone, but on her verandah was a 22lb parcel bearing UK stamps. She called the orphanage children to help her open it.
There were brightly coloured knitted jerseys, bandages, soap, and dried mixed fruit. She put her hand in again, and pulled out - could it be? A brand new rubber hot water bottle. The parcel had been on its way for five months. God had prepared it five months before to answer the little girl's prayer "this afternoon."
Ruth said "If God has sent the bottle,He must have sent the dolly too." The girl rummaged in the bottom of the box and brought out a small, beautifully dressed dolly.
"Mummy," said the girl to the missionary, "can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"
*Living Faith: Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint. Tain, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2007.