"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels-a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity."
Jim Elliot wrote 'In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God's house consumed Him.'
Did that spirit die with him and the four others who perished in 1956 trying to reach out to the Auca Indians? No it did not. Still today young people are laying down their lives so that others may have eternal life. This is the story of two of these young people in whom dwelt the spirit of the "Great Short-Lived." Delphine Lemaire and Brianna Esswein were young and yet experienced missionaries both with twin ambitions of reaching the lost and meeting the needs of mothers and children in the developing world.
Why this focus? Latest reports from the WHO say that "Up to half a million African babies die on the day they are born - most at home and uncounted". CNN posts similar reports saying an estimated 2 million babies die within their first 24 hours each year worldwide. This is the world that we live in today. On December 11th 2005 two young girls gave their lives in reponse to this need and their desire to see people come into the kingdom.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9
One of our responses to this command was the pioneering of a training program in basic midwifery for developing nations - The Birth Attendant School. This school imparts the heart of God towards women, towards the life of babies and children, a biblical perspective of midwifery and keys of intercession and worship as students learn life saving skills in midwifery. Since it's development and beginnings in 1997 they have seen over 1439 babies delivered and prayed over. They have seen God do miracles with babies raised from the dead and women come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
In 2005 the Birth Attendant School set out from their training ground in Perth for an eight month practical phase in both Nigeria and Egypt. 14 girls from 9 different nations were ministering in Nigeria, touching the lives of women, delivering babies and praying over these new lives.
On December 11th 2005 ten of the fourteen girls set out with a group of Nigerian missionaries to attend the ordination of a pastor they had come to know well. A tragic accident along the way in which a truck pulled out in front of their bus resulted in the deaths of eight young missionaries. Delphine Lemaire and Brianna Esswein were among those who lost their lives.
This is their story, these are their lives. What will be our response to their example?
Brianna Esswein joined the Birth Attendant School in 2005. She was a bright, 25 year old full of hope in the Lord Jesus and her life in eternity with Him. Brianna's first taste of missions at age 16 impacted her life so much that from that time on she committed to go wherever the Lord called her.
With an intelligent and quick mind Brianna could have pursued any career avenue she wanted but she knew her call in God and continued to pursue health care and missions training. During her training she wrote, "God is a part of every second of my day. My life would never be the same without Him in it. My life is not my own and this is not my life, it is His. I have been placed in each situation to do His will and walk in His ways."
A life dedicated to missions saw Brianna travel to Latin America in medical missions and complete a DTS with Mercy Ships. In less than 10 years, she was privileged to represent the Lord in the nations of Mexico, Nicaragua, Romania, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Australia and Nigeria. She then trained in the BAS at YWAM Perth to fulfill a desire to serve in ministry as a midwife.
"The days seem to be so uncertain, never knowing what we will take part in as we walk into the labor ward. I never know whether my day will hold joy or sorrow, but I long for my heart to be open to whatever will come, knowing that we will not be given more than we can handle." Brianna Esswein 17th October, 2005.
Many of these words about Brianna have been formulated by her mother Mary Kay and we see a glimpse of what she must have seen in Brianna growing up.
We can see more glimpses of Bri through those who loved her and served with her:
"She was not satisfied with living a "good" Christian life... She wanted a FULL Christian life that displayed all God intended." Amanda Ruhl
"She was a woman that could bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the weary and could preach up an earthquake!" Sina Scherf.
"Having worked with Bri - I can tell you her love and compassion were clearly visible." Bairbre Ward And in what she said about herself…
"I am willing to live and die for my Lord and will follow Him to the ends of the earth, knowing that it may cost me everything. There is no greater joy that serving my God and only through Him can my life and joy be made complete."
Brianna's passion to serve the Lord in the mission field cost her everything, she poured out her life as an offering that will be remembered long after her time on earth.
Delphine Lemaire, of French descent, loved growing up in Tahiti. She loved life, she loved her family, she loved growing up on a boat and she loved God. Delphine heard the call to missions through a visiting team. Faithful to respond to God's voice she completed a DTS in Quebec and an Introduction to Primary Health Care School and Birth Attendant School in Perth. Kathy Kennedy, leader of health care ministries in Perth, comments on her initial meeting with Delphine. "We met together and talked about Delphine's desire to work with women and children and her love for evangelism." Within the BAS Delphine found a framework to be faithful to her call to mothers and babies as well as her call to see people saved.
We are not talking about an ordinary life here. We are talking about a girl who grew up in the islands - a traditionally missionary receiving nation - who heard the call of God and obeyed. Delphine was not deterred by the lack of finances and while there were many lean times she saw the Father release tens of thousands of dollars in order for her to go to the poor. Delphine was not deterred by language difficulties. She trained in a completely new field of health care in a second language, overcoming this obstacle to become, as Shirley Brownhill often describes her, "arguably one of our best mother and child health workers."
Delphine was not deterred by visa difficulties where processes could be long and drawn out. She never gave up. She was not deterred by the situations that she faced in developing nations where mothers often lost their lives in childbirth and babies commonly did not survive. Delphine pressed on believing in faith for every child to live and every mother to be comforted. She was a woman of faith and saw babies raised from the dead.
Above all Delphine was committed to obedience to the Father and faithfulness to the life he had called her to. She chose not to pursue her own comfort but committed the next five years to training mother and child health care workers through the BAS. This meant a life of new people, of training, of long hours and much travel - they were out for about eight months each year. But she was committed and God took her and used her in East Timor, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Syria, Jordan, Greece, Canada and South Africa. A life well lived.
Following is a testimony written by Delphine; this time not only affected but inspired Delphine's life:
Excerpt One: A woman came into the hospital with bleeding and tenderness. She came in the morning, quite anemic and the doctor thought she would deliver later on in the day. Returning at 5pm, the doctor found it was too late. The baby had been removed, but the mother continued to bleed because of mismanagement. She should have had a caesarean section. We rushed her into theatre, but it was too late. We tried to resuscitate her but before I knew it, she died in my arms. The husband came and asked me how his wife was…I couldn't tell him, I just cried. Her death really made me think about the many others who die and don't have anyone to fight for them. Being in this hospital really gave me a heart to be their advocate and pursue life for them. It also made me realise I didn't know if she knew Jesus; she left without me trying to give her a chance for heaven.
Delphine was not just a mother and child health worker. She was an evangelist and longed to see people know Jesus. Kathy remembers a time in Kenya where they were invited to the home of the Muslim family who managed the internet service that we used. As the team ate and talked together, Kathy discovered that Delphine was missing. Stepping outside to look for her, Kathy found her sharing and talking with their "host," who eventually gave her heart to the Lord. Kathy remarked "Delphine was jumping with excitement and joy - another person coming into the Kingdom!"
"She was an extraordinary woman, a wonderful example and friend," Kathy says. "She completed all her missionary and health care training within YWAM. People loved her in the places she worked and the staff who were often involved in desperate situations, would call on Delphine for assistance. "Sister Fina, Sister Fina", they would call; she helped them prepare people for operations, and stayed with women who were dying. Some of these nurses were afraid and not able to face such difficult work by themselves; Delphine gave them courage. She had learned many skills over the years, simply because she wanted to serve and had a willing heart to help."
Since her passing, we have seen more of Delphine's commitment in her own writings:
Excerpt Two: There was a lady with Hepatitis B who was in labour. They were not giving her much attention and were going to let her deliver by herself. The baby was coming Breech (bottom first) and the doctor thought it was dead. I started the delivery since no one was coming and in doing this, drew attention to her so the doctor came and helped. The baby delivered healthy and I named him Joshua.
This time reminded me of the scripture from Ezekiel 16, which talks about the Israelites being like a baby kicking around in its own blood. God comes and tells the child to 'live' cleaning the newborn and providing His protection and love. God's heart was to call this baby to life; He was giving this child His full attention because He always had a hope and a purpose for him!
Kathy writes in memory of Delphine "We are all very proud of Delphine at YWAM Perth. We honour her as a hero amongst us. She has made us realise more than ever that our time on earth is very short and eternity with Him is what our hearts are longing for. Her life inspires us to make the most of every opportunity, to get to know Him and the reason why He has given us life."