A couple who supports Children’s Heart Project sees how their daughter’s short life is bringing glory to God.
Jason Smith and his wife, Susan, started The Emerson Rose Heart Foundation after their daughter died at 76 days old of a heart defect. Through the foundation, they donated money to Children’s Heart Project to help other children receive the life-saving heart surgery they need.
Have you ever had one of those experiences where you knew the full extent of it would not hit you until sometime later? I had one of those moments on March 19. Susan and I flew to Rochester, Minn., to meet three children from Mongolia sponsored by the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation in partnership with the Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project.
One of the children was the 1,000th child to have surgery through Children’s Heart Project, a 4-year-old little girl named Nomin. We know of children whose congenital heart defects have been caught through the equipment that our foundation has donated to hospitals, but we had never met one. Knowing we were going to meet a child whose life has been impacted because of our sweet girl stirred emotions within us both.
We had seen pictures of Nomin, but to see her in person was obviously more. She had the sweetest voice and was very tender, much like we envision our Emerson would have been. She was quick with a smile, a hug, and a kiss on the cheek.
Susan and I sat on the couch with her between us and read her a book. Even though she only speaks Mongolian, it was delightful. We read a VeggieTales book and all three of us played like we were eating the characters and feeding them to each other. We were and are in love with her.
Nomin was born with a heart defect called tetralogy of fallot. On March 5, she had open-heart surgery in Minnesota. Prior to surgery, her skin had a blue tint because of the lack of oxygenated blood in her system. Now her skin glows a beautiful golden color.
Before surgery she had to be carried up stairs and could only take a few steps on level ground before she had to be carried by her mother or father. Though she is still working on leg strength and lung capacity, one of her new favorite games is going downstairs and bringing her toys upstairs because she can! Before surgery her life expectancy was only a handful of years and her quality of life would have been poor. Now she will live a normal life, go to school, and have a family of her own.
Later in the evening while the Samaritan’s Purse videographer interviewed Susan in the basement and I watched Nomin play in the living room (after I had played tea party with her), I started thinking that it was probably what it would have been like to watch Emerson play. That’s when it hit me that even though Nomin is more than a year older than Emerson Rose would be, Jesus had it planned before Emerson was born for her to be an instrument He would use to help this sweet girl who lives some 6,000 miles and a 30-hour plane ride away. What an honor for our daughter to be used in such a way!
God Uses Those Who Are Willing
We met many Samaritan’s Purse people throughout the course of our trip, and they are all top-notch. They are warm, welcoming, and excellent at what they do. Most importantly, and they will tell you, they do what they do to bring glory to Jesus.
The evening after we met Nomin, we gathered to celebrate all 1,000 Children’s Heart Project children and to look forward to what the Lord will continue to do through the project. Several people spoke at the reception about how it is truly a team effort. There are many parts to the project, and the more we learned, the more we realized the significance—or more accurately the insignificance—of our contribution.
We met a young American woman, Emily, the assistant director of Children’s Heart Project in Mongolia. She has lived there for three years and from talking to her, I know she doesn’t think she’s making a sacrifice. J.R., a pediatric cardiologist from Cleveland, Ohio, was on his way to screen 60 Mongolian children for heart defects, along with Michelle, a member of the Children’s Heart Project staff. Michelle lives in North Carolina and has two young children, but she is flying 30 hours one way.
Then there are the surgeons, the 65 hospitals that have been involved, the nurses, and the host families, all of whom are volunteers. There are also the Children’s Heart Project staff members who handle all the logistics, and the logistics are enormous. The people who pull this off do it because they believe in it, and many pay a great price to do this work.
Susan and I applied for a grant from the comfort of our home. We had a writer friend edit it. She also wrote a fantastic cover letter introducing the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation. We didn’t raise the funding to bring these children over for surgery. Our goal for the Emerson Rose Heart Foundation, our lives, and everything we do is to follow Christ’s example of helping the needy, sick, and poor (physically and spiritually), but were we necessary to complete what the Lord wanted to do?
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things,” (Acts 17:24-25, NKJV).
We were not and are not necessary. What did we do? We were and are willing to be used by God for His glory. Before Emerson was born, we prayed that God would use our sweet girl to build His kingdom and for His greater purposes. But why were we willing? Is there something special about us that caused us to be willing?
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8, NKJV).
We were willing because He wanted us and He pursued us. Jesus would have been completely justified to leave us alone, reeling with the hopelessness of June 26, 2011, for all eternity, but in His mercy and grace, He broke us and hurt us deeply in order to give us something far greater than a daughter. He gave us more of Himself. And the Giver is far better than any of His gifts.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8, NKJV).
Jesus will be glorified with or without us. We are beyond grateful that the Creator God of all things opened our eyes to see, and He loves us so much He made a place for us to participate in what He is doing.
Sweet Emerson Rose gives us opportunities, almost daily, to share that it doesn’t matter what situation or circumstance you find yourself in, there is always hope and joy to be found in the darkest of times, in Jesus. He is sure when nothing else is. He is the God who redeems, and in that we can rest.
“He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me,” (2 Samuel 22:20, NKJV).