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The Day Baby Sarah Turned Blue

The story of an orphan who weighed only five pounds at six weeks, yet taught me about God's love and compassion.
By Barbara Rainey

In the summer of 2004 my daughter, Laura, and I were part of a team of doctors, nurses, moms, dads, and students who ministered to orphans in Tianjin, China. In just one orphanage we gave medical exams to over 300 children, many of whom had never been treated.

Most of the non-medical people on our team were assigned to assist a doctor. Laura worked with a neonatologist, Dr. Jeff Paul, as they took vital statistics on every child in that orphanage. But another woman, Lynn, and I were sort of leftovers, and we asked if we could go to the baby room and just hold babies all day, every day. And so we did … we held babies with cleft palates who would likely never have corrective surgery, babies who had heart conditions and probably weren't going to live, and babies who seemed so normal that we wondered why they had been left on the orphanage steps.

But there was one little tiny baby girl who continually drew my attention. I just couldn't stay away from her. I was amazed to discover she was six weeks old even though she was the size of a newborn. She was lethargic and sleepy, and I couldn't just let her lay in her crib. She seemed so vulnerable and alone, so I held her as often as the workers would let me.

After the first day, I suggested to Lynn that we name this baby since we couldn't pronounce her Chinese name. So we started calling her Sarah. When Sarah's turn came to be weighed and evaluated, I followed her over to the clinic like a mother hen to wait anxiously for the results. She weighed only five pounds.

That night I woke up several times, worrying about this tiny fragile life and taking those concerns to God in prayer. The next day our group went to another town to do some evaluations on another group of children, but when we got back to the orphanage that afternoon, Lynn and I made a beeline for the baby room.

In the dimly lit baby room, I bent over Sarah's little crib, looked at her sleeping form, and thought, "She looks blue." Wondering if my eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark interior, I put my hand on her back and gently shook her to see if she would respond. She didn't move.

I picked her up and called for the attention of a Chinese worker, who saw my alarm over Sarah's condition. She grabbed Sarah from my arms and ran out to find a nurse.

Lynn and I ran to find our doctors and our interpreter, who all immediately rushed to find Sarah in the orphanage clinic. There she was resuscitated by Dr. Paul and by Dr. Allison Cabalka, a pediatric cardiologist. Both doctors accompanied little Sarah as she was taken to a local hospital.

When we left Tianjin a week later, Sarah was still in the hospital, but we knew she was going to live and we were greatly relieved. We also managed to get her vital information from the orphanage director, including her Chinese name and date of birth. We wanted to keep track of her after we had come back to the states and we also hoped and prayed that some day somebody might adopt her.

Two years later, Sarah is now the daughter of Dr. Paul, the neonatologist who saved her life, and she lives in Texas.

One tiny life in a huge country of over a billion people. She could have been considered disposable, not worth saving, just one more mouth to feed. But God knew Sarah from before the foundation of the earth, and He gave us the privilege of saving her life for His purposes.

Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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