The baby looked dead. A small arm emerged from a pool of blood and amniotic fluid. Tiny fingers rested limply on the mother’s abdomen. What had started as a routine Caesarean section that had pulled us from a promising Sabbath potluck had turned into a complicated nightmare, and now the baby was stuck.

We were all dripping with sweat because the temperature in the operating room (OR) was well over 100˚ Fahrenheit with rapidly rising humidity. The air conditioner didn’t work because of the tenuous electrical situation.

The little arm remained limp and lifeless. And yet . . . a twitch. Was it our imagination? Finally, a great sucking sound, and the baby was pulled forth. Dr. Bland quickly suctioned the tiny mouth. Dr. Vadym dropped the little girl into my hands and returned to do battle with the multiple hemorrhages threatening to kill the mother.

Left to right: Delores Bland, Rollin Bland, Tyler Pender, Melissa Pender, and Fabiene Essono, Adventist Health International Chad business manager.
Melissa Pender with twins after a late-night Caesarean section.
Tyler Pender (right) operating with Dr. Vadym.

My wife, Melissa, and I were completing our last rotation of medical school, the senior international elective, at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad, Africa. With Melissa's competence and compassion, there is no one I'd rather have by my side when facing a daunting task such as this. We laid the baby down and suctioned out globs of blood and fluid from her mouth.

“No tone, no heartbeat,” said Melissa. 

I started chest compressions while Melissa placed a mask over the baby’s face and began to dispense oxygen.

Silent prayer. Silent baby. Another little life snuffed out before it began. And yet . . .

“I have a heartbeat, slow but coming up!” Melissa cried. A little gurgle. Oh, joyful sound! A little gasp, and the baby took her first breath. Her respirations were ragged at first, but she was breathing.

“Heart rate over 100, good air movement bilaterally,” announced Melissa, stethoscope in hand.

We did some more suctioning.

“Heart rate is great, and lungs are clear bilaterally.”

Little eyes flickered, and then she peeked up at us. Little arms twitched and then moved. We gave her supplemental oxygen to ease her transition into the world. Her tone rapidly improved. Eyes open, she grabbed my finger and looked at me suspiciously.

“Hello, beautiful,” I breathed.

Unfortunately, as the baby grabbed onto life, the mother was losing her grip.

“Oxytocin! We need more suture and more compresses,” the surgeons requested.

Nothing would stop the bleeding. Drs. Bland and Vadym tied off bleeders and applied pressure. Even the mother’s 20-year-old body couldn’t tolerate this level of insult. Her oxygen level plummeted as her heart rate soared. Her eyelids closed.

Melissa administered oxygen. I soon had a unit of blood running into each arm. Dr. Bland used every trick he could think of to stop the bleeding. We all prayed. Death in a sauna.

I looked past the gray face of the mother to the moving blue drape in the neonatal area. Little chubby arms reached to the heavens. We had one miracle in the corner; would we get another? Things appeared grim. And yet . . . the uterus was finally convinced to clamp down. The bleeding slowed. Her oxygen saturation began to rise.

The patient had barely left the OR when Maternity called Dr. Bland to look at another patient. Unfortunately, she needed a Caesarean section as well. We cleaned up the OR and repeated the process. Fortunately, the next surgery went smoothly, and the baby barely needed any coaxing before screaming forth his complaints against the world. Late Saturday evening, our day was finished.

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As we pondered these Sabbath miracles, we reflected on the miracles that had happened earlier that day at church. A call had been made from the front, and the baptismal candidates came forward. Palpable, joyful celebration from the congregation filled the air. People surged to the front to surround them with prayer.

At the river, the celebration continued, with each new member coming out of the water to shouts of praise from ecstatic church members. This was a miracle of rebirth. We are dead in sin, and yet . . . we can become dead to sin and live a new life with Christ!

On a sweltering Sabbath in Bere, Chad, I saw miracles, each a testimony to the same power. God was on the move in my own heart, in the congregation, and in the OR. The scenes on the river bank and in the OR could not have happened without hard work and sacrifice by locals from Bere, workers from other countries in Africa, volunteers from Europe and America, and the Holy Spirit. The journey will be tough, the difficulties massive, and sometimes the whole enterprise will seem dead, and yet . . . “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Tyler and Melissa Pender
After completing their rotation at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad, Africa, Tyler and Melissa Pender returned to the United States and graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. They are now residents at the University of Utah. Tyler is a general surgery resident, and Melissa is an internal medicine resident. Both are enrolled in the General Conference's Deferred Mission Appointee program. They look forward to a career of international missionary service wherever God leads.