View from a Gurney by Debby Thompson

Guest post by Debby ThompsonDebby Thompson has been on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for 36 years, 33 years living overseas.  In 1977, she and her husband Larry went with their infant daughter to live covertly behind the Iron Curtain.  Together with their 3 children, they have lived and served in Poland, Germany and Hungary. The past 18 years she has served as women’s ambassador alongside her husband, Director of Affairs, for the 18 countries of Eastern Europe & Russia.  Recently, they have transferred their leadership to a national couple from Poland.  And yes, she is a grandmother to 4 beautiful little girls! “To jest chlopak!” (It is a boy!) With that declaration our son, David Lawrence Thompson, Jr. entered the world, April 6, 1979, a hearty 9 pounds, 141/2 ounces. Lying on the cold, hard gurney, I took in my surroundings. I was in a birthing ward in a communist hospital behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland.The long windows revealed that it was an early, cold, spring morning outside.  Around me women were in various stages of the birthing process, some behind curtains, some not. It all looked and felt like something out of a black & white World War II movie.Only the birth experience itself and the nearness my husband seemed familiar. The language, the equipment, the smells, the sounds, even the dress of the attending medical staff were different. And the procedures were definitely different.  I was thankful to have arranged for a colleague to transport dissolvable stitches from the International Pharmacy in Vienna, having been told that none would be available.Larry needed to leave; he would return with food & toilet paper, since the hospital could not provide supplies for its patients.  A sister (Polish for nurse) came by and asked it I would like of cup of tea! Definitely. I was keenly aware of how terribly much I missed my mother.  The tea would be soothing. By myself on the gurney, having just given birth in a land so far from my own, my thoughts floated back over the previous few weeks.Larry and I had searched arduously for a doctor who would allow a husband to be present in the delivery room. Since this was Baby #2, we felt already trained in the method of natural childbirth. However, this was an outlandish request in the communist medical system, and we needed a Polish doctor to grant permission. Finally, and I say finally, 6 weeks before my due date, we found a professor doctor who gave the needed approval.  Though he was not even present and a midwife was just as involved as the attending physician, the professor doctor would later take full credit for the successful delivery.Why would any woman want to add childbirth to her repertoire of cross-cultural experiences?  A very good question.  My bedrock answer then and now: the will of God.  Years earlier, as a student at Mississippi State University, I became involved with the organization of Campus Crusade for Christ. There I met a group of students who had a smile on their face, a spring in their step and a song in their heart. They were marching to the beat of a different drum and I wanted join their ranks.Though I knew the Lord, it was in that season that I yielded to God complete control of my life and my future. I determined that Proverbs 3:5-6 would chart my life’s course, no matter what circumstances I was in or what insurmountable challenges I faced.  Larry’s marriage proposal had been, “Will you go with me in helping to reach the world for Christ?” My answer was “yes”-to the Lord, to him, and to a future of pioneer missionary living.The ramifications of those decisions found me on that gurney in a communist hospital. I was not trying to be a heroine; I was not seeking to be a martyr.  I just wanted to be in the center of God’s will. I was fully convinced that was the safest place to be, and I knew that His will was good, acceptable and perfect. (Romans: 12:2).A host of factors had led to our prayer-saturated choice. We had a little 3-year-old daughter to consider and we had a home of our own.  Any missionary will agree that, no matter where home is, it is home, even when the address is communist Poland. I did not want to have a baby while living transient out of a suitcase. Desperately I longed to bring our baby home to our home and the modest nursery we had prepared for him.  And that is what we did.Fast forward to 2007. “What in the world were you thinking?” My son had just become a father & the story of his own birth was being re-visited. This is the son that was the first baby boy to be born to evangelical missionaries behind the Iron Curtain. He will never be able to be President of the United States; our constitution prohibits anyone being born outside its borders from holding that office.  But he will always have typed in his passport “place of birth” Warsaw, Poland. That to me is a very precious treasure. The Polish people are a remarkable people, and our family is supernaturally bonded to their nation.But his question took me back to my view from the gurney where the cultural differences dominated, where the physical and emotional challenges were as real as my next breath.There on that gurney, a holy awareness took place. I sensed the Presence of God. He was there with me; I was not alone. In an ocean of the unfamiliar, He was The Familiar. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me.” He did. (Psalm 139:9-10) “My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” He did. (Exodus 32) “In Thy presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)Even on a gurney.