LESSONS FROM AN INSPIRED TEENAGERHer name is Anna Redding and her father, Dr. Mark Redding, a neurosurgeon, came to Tenwek Hospital in 2014 for his third short term medical mission trip to our hospital. When he returned home, his daughter Anna wondered if there might be something she could do to make a difference in the lives of the babies and moms of the Tenwek nursery. She was entering her senior year of high school in the state of North Carolina and one of her senior assignments called for a community service project. Anna asked her dad "What do you think I could do to help the Tenwek nursery babies? I obviously don't have any medical or nursing ability but I want to help." They thought and prayed and Dr. Mark had an idea: "Anna, you love golf and are pretty good at it. Why not ask for people to pledge a gift for every birdie you make in your senior year golf season?" Anna looked carefully at her junior year performance and thought that maybe for her senior year she could possibly get three birdies per round of golf. She counted up all the matches and tournaments her senior year and predicted that she might get 30 to 35 birdies that season and then she went to work making phone calls and talking to friends at church, school, and in the community. They decided to call this project: "Birdies for Babies".
Now Dr. Redding and Dr. David Hoover, President of the Friends of Tenwek (FOT) organization, are good friends and Dr. Hoover suggested to Anna that this would be an exciting project for FOT. Pledges starting coming in for $1, $5, $10 a birdie and the fall high school girls golf season began. Anna had kept her project secret from the other golfers with whom she was competing, but she was a determined and focused young lady to help those babies! Her first several matches and tournaments were amazing. She played at a level that amazed her coach and teammates and the competition. She wasn't averaging three birdies per round but SIX birdies per round and led her team to many victories. Half way through the season she had already reached her prediction of 30 birdies and asked her dad, "Should I stop, because we told the donors that I would drop around 30 birdies? Will they be upset with me?" Mark and Anna decided that she should push on and work harder and let the donors decide what to do about their pledges. Every time she leaned over to sink a difficult putt, she thought about those tiny premature and sick babies in the Tenwek nursery. She was a putting machine! Her opponents had no idea what was going through her mind and inspiring this young golfer. By the end of the season she had dropped 63 birdies and three eagles and was the number one female high school golfer in North Carolina!! She was named female golfer of the year in that state and was mentioned in Sports Illustrated as one of the young female golfers in the US to watch in the future. At the final tally, Anna had raised over $22,000 for the Tenwek nursery through the Birdies for Babies campaign.
After consulting the Tenwek pediatrician, Dr. Chuck Bemm, on the top need for the Tenwek nursery, Anna and her father decided to purchase a brand new GE Giraffe incubator with the $22,000. Mike and the FOT intern stationed at Tenwek, Mr. Joel White, worked on the logistics of the purchase, shipping, and installation of the incubator at Tenwek in late 2015. This week Anna and her father, Dr. Redding, returned to Tenwek to see the incubator in use and found a tiny baby, named Kipkoech Bett, thriving inside. Kipkoech was born premature, weighing only 750 grams back in December, but this week had reached the weight of nearly two kgs and is nearing discharge. In a dedication and appreciation ceremony this week for Anna, the Tenwek nursery staff and members of the FOT Board gathered for prayer around the new GE incubator with Kipkoech sleeping inside. There was not a dry eye in the room as the following letter was read to Anna by Mike to the group:
We haven’t been properly introduced yet but we will forever be linked. My name is Kipkoech, I just woke up a few days ago. I was placed in a wooden box the day I was born because I needed help surviving this big world right now. Then all of a sudden I was given a new shiny home. I asked them why and how. They told me that a very special girl came to Tenwek once and fell in love with us little ones. They say she worked really hard to purchase a new home for us while we are here. I couldn’t believe how amazing this girl was and the feats she accomplished. After I heard their story I just had to meet and write this hero of mine. So I found out her name. Annie Redding. That’s you, Annie Redding, you were coming to Tenwek and I just had to write you. I had to tell you how much I love you! You saw a need and fought to see it met. Because of you I have a home. A home that is safe, clean and warm. Through you, hundreds of infants will inhabit this same home I live in and survive because of it. Thank you Annie Redding for your love for Jesus Christ. A man that I hope to one day follow and love just as you.
I love you Annie and I thank you for allowing God to work through you.
Patiently waiting to meet you,
|Kipkoech in his first home in the Tenwek nursery, a GE Giraffe incubator|
We don't know how many dozens, if not hundreds of babies' lives will be impacted/saved by this new state of the art incubator in the Tenwek nursery. What we do know is that Anna has encouraged and energized our nursery staff to the max. Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity." There are several lessons that Anna and her Birdies for Babies campaign can teach us but the main lesson is that God can use any gift or skill or talent that we have to bring glory to Himself. Placed in the Master's hand, a talent for putting a golf ball into the cup can make for a wonderful story like Anna's. God asked Moses "What is that you have in your hand?" and Moses gave up his shepherd's staff to be used to demonstrate God's power. A putter may not seem very divine or useful in God's kingdom but if given to the Master for His purposes can accomplish kingdom purposes.