In this season of Advent, the weeks leading up to the Christmas celebration, Christians remember and anticipate the coming of Christ. I’ve been thinking about hope, about waiting, and I keep coming back to this story. Not about baby Jesus but baby Ticvah, a girl whose name literally means hope.
Through a beautifully random series of events, my family connected with a family from Congo. My mom has traveled to that country and we have a long history of supporting mission work and families in Africa. One morning earlier this year, she read a front-page article in the Omaha World Herald about a family from Congo who had sold everything and moved to the United States in search of a liver transplant for their baby, Ticvah, who’s dying of liver disease. The family was living in the Ronald McDonald house at the Nebraska Medical Center while Ticvah was receiving treatment. This house is just blocks from where my sister lives in Omaha. My mom decided to stop by the Ronald McDonald house after visiting my sister and introduce herself to the family and welcome them to Nebraska. The nudge she felt to connect with them has blossomed into a friendship between our two families.
As a nurse, my mom was able to help Ticvah’s parents navigate aspects of the confusing medical landscape. She got frustrated and saddened by the barriers that seemed to keep stopping Ticvah from getting a liver. Not enough money, no precedents for international transplant cases, she’s not a citizen, she doesn’t have health care, not enough money. It seemed hopeless. Regardless, she spoke with our home church in rural Nebraska, which donated thousands of dollars for Ticvah’s transplant and family needs.
This summer I got to meet the family and hold little Ticvah. Her eyes were yellow and her stomach was distended–typical signs of liver disease. But she was playful and observant, happy to grab onto my long hair. Her brother started school in Omaha, and picked up English insanely fast. He drew colorful, intricate pictures of animals and gave them to my mom and dad.
When it became clear that there was little hope for a liver in Omaha, Ticvah and her family flew across the country in early fall to Portland, Maine. They had some loose connections in that area. We didn’t understand why they would go there at the time. It seemed like a dead end. But my mom remembered that there was a Covenant church in Portland, the same denomination that our home church was. She got in touch with the pastor and told him to reach out. That church has completely opened their arms to this Congolese family, assisting with rides, money, an apartment, childcare, you name it. Much of Ticvah’s care is in Boston at Massachusetts General. One of the pediatric doctors there goes to the Covenant church in Portland. What an amazing coincidence.
There are complicated issues at play here, I know. Immigration and health care, transplant lists and visas, education and racism and politics. Meanwhile, a one-year-old baby is waiting…waiting…waiting. While waiting she’s become a big sister. She’s moved to Omaha, to Maine, been shuffled back-and-forth to Boston for treatment.
Through the entire ordeal, her parents have clung to hope. They are unwavering in their belief that in spite of everything, they are exactly where they are supposed to be. Ticvah may or may not get a liver. We just don’t know. So we keep praying, fighting, offering support, and interceding for this beloved baby. We do our best to cling to hope.
For more on Ticvah, check out these articles: