Tobi. First, he was a surprise. The best kind. Though not at all unconventional like his sister, (things should be done by the book!) he also joined us early. But 11 weeks early and 16 weeks early is a huge difference. In fact he was over 2 pounds! Though a stressful situation, I also discovered a benefit. I would visit him in the hospital daily. At first, we couldn’t even hold him. So I would just touch him and pray. It occurred to me that not many Moms had the kind of time I had to just pray over their new babies. But that’s all I could do. So that’s what I did. Sing and pray. Tobi quickly became a favorite in the South African hospital with his big eyes and dimple. All the nurses dubbed him ‘Tobes’. The day he was a week old, I walked in to visit to find the nurses shaking their heads over his isolette. The Dr. had just been there and told them they didn’t think Tobi would make it through the night (he had a blood infection and was not responding to medication). I can’t say at that point that I was a picture of strength. I was pretty much a basket case. I had just been released from the hospital after spending time in ICU. And very hormonal. Neal was the rock. Never wavered. Ever. People around the world began to pray. The infection cleared up and Tobi began to grow. Daily I prayed that Tobi would be full of joy, and would bring joy wherever he went. I can’t say if I was specifically led to pray that prayer, or if it was because of the prayer that Tobi is what he is today. But the fact is, God answers prayer. Tobi brings a smile to everyone’s face. He’ll be 8 next month. People have said to me countless times something like “he brings such joy.” The first time I heard it my mouth nearly fell open, remembering my bedside prayer -while he was still breathing with a ventilator.
You can’t help but realize if you’re around the little guy for any length of time how literal he is. It sometimes makes us all crazy. And using American slang and idioms with a kid not much familiar with that culture makes it all the more pronounced. He could do his own Abbott and Costello act. Case in point. We were at a carnival put on by the school (one of Trae’s planned Student Council activities). Tobi was playing the fishing game. The fishing poles had magnets for bait. The fish in the paper pond had safety pins attached to them. If the paper fish that was caught had the word ‘prize’ written on it, the fisherperson won a prize. The first time Tobi did it, no prize. He paid and played again. He picked up the fish and the game ‘operator’ (who happened to be one of his teachers) said to Tobi, “Does it say anything?” Tobi looked at her with a very strange look and looked back at the paper fish in his hand. The teacher repeated herself. Tobi, with a look on his face that said, ‘I’ll do what you say but it doesn’t make sense’, slowly held the tiny fish up to his ear to listen… We couldn’t help it. The teacher and I both busted out with stifled laughs. Poor Tobi had no idea what was so funny. These kinds of things happen daily.
He’s quite a sensitive guy as well. But practical. It was hard for him when his friend Obed died – about 18 months ago. He challenged me with many questions about heaven. First, how did Obed get to heaven? Did he go through the ceiling? And if he was in heaven, why did his Mom and Dad have to take him back to Nigeria? And then questions about Obed in heaven. Who is going to make his breakfast? (Food is very important to this guy, particularly breakfast) Who is going to play with him? About 2 months later, Tobi asked me if Obed’s Mom and Dad were still sad. I told him I was sure they were. He matter-of -factly said to me “Tell them I’m not sad anymore. Obed is in heaven and he gets to play with Jesus.” About 3 weeks ago, we were discussing how names change when one gets married. How I used to be Goodmanson and am now Childs. That led to him saying, “Obed is lucky”. I could not figure out what the segway to that was. We haven’t talked about Obed for some time. I of course asked him why. Tobi’s matter-of-fact answer? “Because he’s in heaven and doesn’t have to get married”. End of discussion.
The boy loves music – but is quite particular to African music. He wasn’t much impressed with American music. We were in one service while in the US last summer and he had brought his small drum along. (He’s a great drummer). He was going to play, but the church didn’t really have any praise. He was waiting patiently during the worship time and finally leaned over and said to me “When are they going to start singing?” I quietly told him we were singing. He thought for a couple minutes and then put his drum down and said “I don’t like this kind of singing”. His favorite church in the US was a church pastored by an African. And those people could dance. Now that’s what I’m talking about. It took Tobi a bit to warm up, but by the evening service he and the pastor were cutting a rug together. Between services, that afternoon, Tobi told us he needed shoes like the pastor so he could slide across the floor. He doesn’t dance and sing because it’s the thing to do, or all the other kids are doing it, he does it when he feels it.
This is a boy who brings joy to our hearts, and joy to the heart of God!