Tenacious. Determined (aka stubborn). Compassionate. Beautiful. Impulsive. Unassuming. Real. Unique. Candor. Spiritual. Scattered. Strong. Stubborn. Did I already say that? I could go on…
Isn’t that what comes to mind when you look at this picture? I’ve been missing Tanika and thinking a lot about her, so I decided to write about her. That’s one of the areas we’re similar. We both like to write when we feel emotional – good emotions or bad ones. This is a girl that still writes and sends snail mail. So if you need a real pen pal, get in touch with her.
I’m sure I’ve shared before in this blog the testimony of Tanika’s life. She was born at 24 week s – 1 pound, 7 ounces. The docs gave her a 20% chance of survival but warned us that if she lived, she would have cerebral palsy, and if she ever attended school, it would be in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. That’s ‘if’ she lived. We knew what God’s Word said about our children being blessed, and that report didn’t sound blessed, so we began believing God for her to be completely restored to health – the way God created us. Whose report are you going to believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord!
Here’s Tanika when she was 8 months old.
Jump ahead 19 years. God gave us our miracle. She is alive and very well. It’s not been without many battles. I could write volumes. But God continues to give us victory. To give her victory.
One of the things that Tanika continues to believe God for is the complete restoration of her sight. Because of the prematurity, she had a detached retina among other eye issues. Her visual issues are not noticeable unless you are around her for a length of time, or you see her reading or watching TV. She has adapted amazingly well, even though she is considered legally blind. She’s always been told she won’t be able to drive. Before she left for college, her dad gave her a driving lesson. When she had her eye appointment this past August, her doctor told her that she should talk with him about some specific eye tests if she was interested in driving. That may not sound like a big deal – but it really is. Because when we were told she wouldn’t drive, we were also told that there was nothing more that could be done medically for her situation. Only that it needed to be checked regularly be make sure things didn’t worsen. So a report that driving is even a remote possibility – well, that’s a miracle.
We know Tanika believes as the Bible says that first, faith is now. It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. Tanika is hoping for her vision to be restored, even though we have not seen that with our physical eyes. Yet. She also knows that faith without works is dead. Well, let no one ever accuse Tanika of not taking steps of faith. Here is the latest one.
Making friends for Tanika has never been difficult. I remember a birthday party here in Niger – I think it was her 7th. We had invited a group of kids for her party and planned food/cake/gifts accordingly. We weren’t surprised when children kept coming to our gate, wanting to come in. We were surprised that our guard was allowing them in. We finally told him he had to stop letting kids in. He then told us that the children were all showing up, dressed in their best, and came because Tanika invited them. Indeed she had. I think a good percentage of the Maradi children were at her party that year. But I digress… Back to her latest step of faith.
Was I surprised when Tanika, (who is now a freshman at Oral Roberts University), told me about helping her new blind friend run her 2 mile field test? No. It was then that she told me about Sarah. Sarah was born prematurely like Tanika, and had the same eye condition, but it left her completely blind. Tanika told me that she likes being around Sarah because she’s fun, but she doesn’t feel sorry for her at all. (I believe candor is one of the words I used to describe Tanika). Here they are together.
Here’s the amazing, hilarious, fantastic part of the story. And Tanika, you can correct me if I don’t have all the facts right. Sarah’s parents have provided her with a golf cart to get around on campus. Of course she would need a driver. Well guess who Sarah’s driver is on Thursdays. Do we need a drum roll? None other than Miss ‘you’ll never drive’ Tanika Childs. I’m totally serious. I don’t think Tanika even realized the significance of her being the designated driver. She didn’t write or call and say “Hey Mom. Guess what!? I’m driving a golf cart for my blind friend!” In other words, I don’t think she saw it as that significant of a thing. Does she really realize what a step of faith this is? But however the opportunity presented itself, I’m also sure she didn’t say, “Well, I can’t see very well myself, so I’m sorry, but I’ll have to pass”. Maybe she did realize it was a step of faith…I suspect that she never even considered the irony of her driving around a blind young lady. The way I found out about it was really funny though. Tanika wrote an email telling me that she was having a frustrating day. One of the frustrations was that while she was driving the golf cart – on her way to pick up Sarah I believe, she got stuck. I’m sorry Tanika, but at that point, I was already laughing. I know the ORU Campus and Tanika is one of the few that could get a golf cart stuck on a sidewalk. Thanks so much for the belly laugh!!! She called security for help, but that took some time. I can’t remember how she resolved the situation, but we were laughing crocodile tears when she finally told us that it ended up that it wasn’t really stuck, but was in neutral so she couldn’t get it to go. But a little grace here…how could she, an inexperienced driver, know what neutral was? What a girl! What a faith-filled girl. I think of a song I knew from years ago…
“Faith without works like a song you can’t sing,
It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine…”
Now I’m in Maradi – we’re here for an evangelistic outreach/crusade that is happening next week. We lived in this city for 9 years so Trae and Tanika really ‘grew up’ here. Did I mention Tanika makes friends easy? I’ve been around the town since I’ve been here – to several places. In every place I’ve gone, without fail, people have asked me about Tanika. I reply “Oh! Ku san Tanika?” (You know Tanika?) They say, “Mu san ta sosai. Kai, tana da Hausa kwarai – fiyyada ki.” (We know her so well. She has very strong Hausa. Better than you.”) Thanks.
Tanika, you have made your mark. You make your mark wherever you go. And the mark you will make is so much greater than anything you can even imagine. Because the Lord has chosen you and called you for a purpose. His purpose. I love you.