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“TATTOOED”

Posted on September 18th, 2011.

I was a redheaded, freckled, little girl of five living with my small, missionary family in Rahama, Nigeria.  I had no playmates and only a few old books to read.

Polly, our African Grey parrot learned to call my name and sometimes I would get confused and think my mother was calling so I would run to see what she wanted.

During the day Polly spent her time in a small tree outside our front door.  Every noontime, when mother rang the bell for lunch, Polly would climb down the tree, walk to the front door and knock loudly with her beak so we would let her come inside. She took her place at the table by climbing her perch and would carry on with flair and drama as she ate lunch with us.

My brother Paul, who was almost ten years older, was at boarding school but he would come home for breaks. When I wasn’t too much of a nuisance, he would give me bicycle rides and play a game or two with me.  One day I was told that Paul was very sick.  The doctors tried for a year to help him but finally they advised my parents that he should leave Africa and return to the U.S. for medical care that was not available in Nigeria at that time.

Paul was fifteen years old and too young to be separated from his family.  Yet, as his health declined, the fact was that his life was in jeopardy.  I remember my dad pacing the floor at night and my mom wrestling with a mother’s heart that she thought would break.

The day arrived for Paul to leave us and return to California to live with dear friends and go to school.  I watched the tiny speck of the silver twin-engine plane surface over the horizon and the drone of the engines became louder.  The plane landed on the dusty, red-dirt runway and slowly came to a halt.  The only people standing to wave goodbye to Paul on that desolated airstrip were Dad, Mom, Michael our baby brother and me.

The lump in my throat was chocking as I tried to hold back my tears.  I hugged Paul and told him I loved him.  The hot Sahara desert wind blew the dust as Paul picked up his suitcase and headed for the airplane.  At the top of the stairs he turned around and with a brave smile waved goodbye.

Two years passed and it was time to return to the U.S. for our first one year furlough.  The anticipated moment to see Paul was just a few days away.

In the early 1950’s travel in Third World countries was inconvenient.  Our tickets were purchased and a telegram was sent to Paul Jr. advising him of our flight schedule. The disappointment was devastating when Dad learned that our flight had been overbooked and there were only two seats for the Bruton family instead of four.  The agent tried to convince dad to send two of us on that flight and the other two a few days later.  Dad was adamant!  We would not go unless we all traveled together.

Air France offered service to New York via Europe and four seats were available.  The only hitch was that we had to drive to another country to catch the flight.  Our missionary host graciously drove over 100 miles on terrible roads at breakneck speed so that we could connect with Air France in Lome, Dahomey (now Benin).

The skyscrapers seemed so tall and the New York skyline foreign as we landed in the early morning hours at La Guardia.  Home at last! “If only those men in the U.S. Customs uniforms would hurry and let us go,” I thought.  My brother was waiting in Delano, California for our call and I would hear his voice for the first time in two years.

Bags were hurriedly thrown as we entered the hotel room.  Dad’s face was flushed with excitement as he placed the call to Paul Jr. Suddenly, I could tell something was wrong.  Gravely, Dad kept asking, “Son, what is wrong?”  At last, Paul explained the awful news that the Pan AM flight we were booked on had crashed in Liberia and there were no survivors.   For three days he thought that we were all dead.

Our family was soon reunited in Springfield, Missouri with Paul and other family members.  Our reunion seemed to be a little bit of Heaven. I remember the magic of catching Fire Flies in the warm, summer Missouri evenings and the relief of being together, eating tacos and enjoying the hugs just because we could.

A few months later, Dad was the mission speaker at the Southern California Camp Meeting.  As he began to relay the story of God’s protection, two ladies asked to speak.  They told how they had been going to a women’s meeting on a certain date.  Driving along the freeway one became very burdened for our family.  They stopped the car and interceded in prayer for us until they felt that the Bruton family was safe.   They compared notes with the time of Dad’s decision to make other travel arrangements in Accra.  Five time zones and 8,000 miles did not interfere with the Spirit of God who spoke to these ladies who recognized “His voice”.  Because of obedience to God’s “still small voice” decisions were made that re-directed our travel plans and our lives were spared.

If you are wondering today if God really cares about you and even knows your name, He says in Isaiah that “….you are engraved in the palms of His hands.”  The Hebrew word for “engraved” means “tattooed”.  You are indelibly and inerasably tattooed in the palms of God’s hands.

 “……..See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me”

(Isaiah 49:13-16).


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