Friday, January 19, 2018

2014 Christmas Contest: My Miracle Child

December 29, 2014 by  
Filed under 2014 Christmas, Contests

by AnnaLee Conti

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 4.03.33 PMAn ordained minister, author, and teacher, AnnaLee Conti resides in the Mid-Hudson River Valley with her husband, Bob. Together they have pastored churches in New York State for 35 years. Their son, who lives nearby, has given them five grandchildren. Conti has published numerous short stories, articles, devotionals, Sunday school curricula, a nonfiction book, and two novels. Her experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska provide inspiration for her stories.

My Miracle Child

After a tearful kiss and a last hug, I watched my husband Bob disappear into the long tube that led to the Alaska Airlines jet. It was June 9, 1969, the day before our second wedding anniversary. Bob, a career officer in the Regular Army, was headed for a year-long tour in Vietnam. The Vietnam War was at its bloodiest. Hundreds of American soldiers were being killed each week.

Blindly, I turned and ran to our car, the red Volkswagen square-back we had purchased in Germany, where we had been stationed the previous year. I drove to the end of the runway to watch his plane take off. As it disappeared into the clouds that bright June morning, I sobbed uncontrollably, not knowing if he would come back alive.

For the previous year and a half, we had been trying to start a family. In spite of my continual prayers, month after month brought only disappointment. Now, Bob was gone, and I didn’t even have a part of him with me to love and to hold.

Bob wrote to me every day. He’d been assigned as an intelligence officer to the 82nd Airborne and directed “fireflies”—night missions using helicopters. He described how he felt waiting for the helicopters to arrive at the fire base to pick him up around one or two a.m.: “The waiting is the worst part. Fear gnaws at my insides and tugs at my nerves. I wonder if I’ll see the sun come up in the morning.”

“Fireflies” were extremely hazardous. Equipped with giant searchlights, Bob’s operations helicopter flew high above the ground, while the other two choppers, carrying rockets and bombs, flew very low in the dark with no lights until they were over their target. At that moment, the top helicopter would switch on its spotlights, which made it an easy target for the enemy, while the other two would fly in from the left and the right, crisscrossing under the operations helicopter, firing rockets and dropping bombs. Some of his friends crashed and died.

One time, they got caught in a monsoon rainstorm and couldn’t see in any direction. Somehow, they made it back safely that time.

Another time at the fire base, when Bob’s unit was being relieved by another unit, he hopped into the command chopper next to his pilot, and they lifted off immediately. As the choppers of the next battalion swooped in behind them, Viet Cong soldiers suddenly sprang up out of the grass right next to the landing area and fired away, killing one officer and severely wounding others. The Viet Cong had infiltrated during the changeover and were already in place when Bob had jogged to his chopper. The man sitting in Bob’s position in the second helicopter had his arm and leg shot off.

Fear of becoming a widow became my constant companion.

During those months, though, Bob drew closer to the Lord. In the words of his favorite hymn, he wrote, “No matter what happens I want you to know it is well with my soul.”

Meanwhile, at home, my younger sister got married in November. At Christmas, she announced that they were expecting. That news only accentuated my pain and loneliness.

At the Watch Night service that New Year’s Eve, my father, a pastor of many years, preached on expectations. Based on the words of Jesus that “all things are possible to him who believes,” my dad pointed out that faith is a prerequisite for God to act on our behalf. He encouraged the congregation to pray concerning our needs and expect God to do a miracle.

I began to pray specifically that I would get pregnant on our R and R (rest and relaxation) in Hawaii scheduled for mid-February, expecting that God would answer my prayers. A month after I arrived back home from R and R, I knew we would have a baby around Thanksgiving.

Back in Vietnam, the 82nd Airborne had returned home. Bob had been reassigned to an advisory team to a Vietnamese unit in Tay Ninh Province. There, his job again required him to ride in helicopters frequently. One beautiful Sunday morning two weeks before he was due to come home, his best friend on the advisory team invited him to fly along to visit the province chief. Bob declined. He had decided not to fly unless his job required it. He told his friend that he planned to go to chapel and then write letters to me. That day, his friend’s helicopter was shot down. All on board were killed.

On Memorial Day of 1970, Bob came home from Vietnam unscathed. Sadly, he was the only officer on his advisory team to return home alive.

We were stationed in Rhode Island, and on December 5, 1970, three days after my twenty-fifth birthday, our son, Robert Benjamin, was born. You never saw a prouder father! He and our son have had a close relationship from the day Bob carried him home from the hospital. If Bobby had been born before Bob went to Vietnam, they would have missed out on the most formative year of Bobby’s young life.

My happiness on Christmas 1970 was heightened in comparison to the previous heart-wrenching one. As time went on, we never had another child—and not by choice. That’s why I believe our son was my miracle child. And like that first Christmas long ago when the birth of God’s Miracle Child brought Light into this sin-darkened world, the birth of my miracle child followed one of the darkest times in my life.

I had thought God answered prayer in only two ways: Yes or No. That Christmas, I discovered that God often answers “Wait,” because He has an even better plan.




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