Debbie Kraak shares how a simple prayer healed her baby daughter Bel Thomson’s swollen hands and changed the course of both their lives.
My parenting journey began in the ’80s. Amidst the fashion disaster of the era (I can still see my shoulder pads, big hair and polka-dot patterned dress!), my first child, Bel, was born. I was full of insecurities as a new mum, hoping and praying that I would have wisdom to raise this little bundle of blonde hair and pink cheeks!
Today, it seems like I blinked and suddenly, Bel is married with a child of her own. She is also known as an award-winning singer-songwriter and musician, with her songs played on the radio across the country. But to me, she will always be my little girl.
What many people don’t know is that Bel was actually born with something wrong with her hands. Every night as a baby, they would swell up and turn blue, because the skin around her wrists was too tight for the blood to flow. This impacted her ability to move her hands properly.
After many doctors’ appointments, she was booked into hospital to have an operation to fix the problem—a distressing prospect for us as new parents. The night before the operation, my husband and I went to church, and after the service, we chatted with friends and mentioned that Bel was scheduled for surgery the next day.
One of the older guys there asked, “Would you like us to pray about that?”
“Yes!” I replied, though I didn’t really expect anything to happen—we were new Christians. But that night, we prayed with those older believers that God would heal Bel. Nothing visible changed that night and after the prayer, we took her home, anxiously awaiting the operation the next day.
As the sun rose over the new day, I went in to get Bel out of her bassinette and I couldn’t believe my eyes! She had woken up without swollen hands for the very first time!
My initial thought was What’s going on, that’s weird! followed by, Oh great! Of all mornings to have healthy hands. Now the hospital specialist will question the problem and I just want it fixed!
It never really occurred to me that God had answered our prayer and Bel was actually better!
That morning, I took my precious daughter to hospital for the scheduled surgery, still feeling concerned and slightly annoyed. When we saw the surgeon, he looked at her, perplexed and surprised that after months of monitoring, the problem had suddenly vanished.
Debbie with her daughter Bel (far right) and grandson Michael.
They rescheduled the surgery for a week later, because they didn’t believe the problem could have possibly gone for good but, a week later, her hands remained healthy! With amazement, it finally dawned on me that God had answered our prayers.
Still, the doctors made me bring her back for monitoring for the next 18 months, but the problem never returned and eventually the experts conceded she was now well and wouldn’t require surgery. What an incredible relief to have my baby given the all clear!
Bel’s miraculous healing was a defining moment where I understood that God truly hears our prayers. I realised for the first time He really wants us to bring all our concerns, fears and challenges to Him. This changed my whole outlook and, suddenly, I understood that He was inviting me to do my parenting journey with Him close by my side.
My emerging faith grew and I realised how important it is to be open about our struggles and problems with a trusted church family, because their prayers and support make a difference. I now try to bring God into my everyday life and to pray about the situations I am facing, both big and small.
Bel’s father said he felt from that moment that our daughter’s hands belonged to God, since God had intervened to heal her. He felt sure God would somehow use her tiny hands for something special.
In the years that followed, Bel started learning music, began writing songs and was encouraged to sing at school and church. No-one else in our family was musical, so this was very special to watch unfold.
Over many years, this has now grown into a full-time music career, taking her across the country to play at many churches, conferences and events. Who would have thought my baby girl with the swollen hands would go on to use those hands to record albums that would bring hope to others? I thank God for healing my daughter and I am proud to hear Bel’s songs bringing healing and encouragement to other people now.
My faith today has been shaped by my experiences as a mum, seeing God equip me in both the good and the challenging times. I’ve learned that He understands our struggles, failures and anxieties. I am sure He hears when we call out to Him. One way He equips us is through others: I’ve learned how vital it is to be part of a caring community, to support one another through the unknowns of the parenting journey. I gained many parenting skills, and received friendship and support from being part of a church and playgroup, as well as having time with extended family.
I believe God always hears our prayers. Sometimes He answers with miracles and healing, other times He simply gives us strength to bear the burden and persevere through the difficulties. Either way, He brings beauty out of our brokenness and is present in every challenge. He is able to work all things together for good and I believe He watches and cares for our children more than we ever realise.
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