Infant stroke victim grows with missions heart

GILBERT, Ariz. (BP) -- Reagan Andrews wasn't supposed to survive her first week of life.

Photo by Charlie Leight/Genesis Photos
A stroke before she was a day old put her at severe risk of massive, permanent brain damage. Death was a distinct possibility. First-time parents Lori and Dean Andrews received the stunning news as a medical team rushed to save their newborn daughter's life.

"She was given truly grim odds," Lori said. "We were told at best to expect cerebral palsy, but more likely brain damage that would give her less than a 17 percent chance for a normal life."

The Andrews noticed odd movements by Reagan shortly after she was brought to them in their hospital room. Their doctor assured them it was simply reflexes.

"At 3 a.m. a nurse woke me up telling me my daughter was having seizures and they were rushing her to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit]. Days later when Reagan was stable they told us to take her home and treat her as a normal child," Lori said.

With the prayer support of their family and church, the Andrews threw themselves into doing everything they could to stimulate Reagan's development, and God answered their prayers.

Today Reagan is a precocious first-grader who reads at a third-grade level and is working on second-grade curricula for her other schoolwork.

"The Lord had a different plan. You never know how things will work out, but she is our miracle. ... When Reagan turned 4 and had her check up with the neurologist, the doctor officially fired herself. Reagan was fine," Lori said.

Reagan is the Andrews' only child. After having difficulty with pregnancies, Reagan was an in vitro pregnancy, but without complications.

"I always wanted at least four kids," Lori said. "God knew better. We praise God every day for her and what He has done in our lives. He has given me a daughter who blesses me more than I can ever comprehend. She has always had a love of the Lord."

A seemingly unconnected series of events led Reagan to make an unusual request of her mother, at least for a 5-year-old.

"Two years ago we combined a business trip Dean made to Hawaii with a vacation," Lori recounted. "While Dean was working, Reagan and I would walk from the hotel to the beach or go to the pool. One day at the hotel pool, Reagan was playing in the water and there was a sweet Japanese woman with a young son, about 18 months. The woman spoke English and she started a conversation with Reagan as they played."

As they talked, Reagan told the woman her mother was from New Mexico.

"When I heard the woman say she went to high school in a small town in New Mexico as a foreign exchange student, I jumped in and asked her where," Lori said. "She said Aztec, my hometown. It was Ayumi. I had not seen her in 18 years. We went to high school together her senior year. We played volleyball together.

"Reagan's eyes really opened up to Japan from that moment. When we returned home we friended Ayumi on Facebook and Reagan learned everything she could about Japan."

Then came March 11, 2011, and a disastrous earthquake off Japan's coast.

"Reagan asked her dad all about the earthquake and tsunami and what was happening to the people," Lori said. "They talked about it every day for more than a week. Most of the children's shows she was watching were encouraging kids to do whatever they could to help."

Then one day Reagan told her mother she, too, wanted to help.

"I want to send them food."

"Honey, we can't send food," Lori responded. "There is no way for us to get it to the right place to make sure it is useful."

"What else can we do Mom?" Reagan asked.

Lori had just finished baking 90 cupcakes for her church's women's ministry. She suggested a bake sale as a fundraiser for disaster relief. Reagan was intrigued.

"I called Pastor Larry [Deskins]," Lori said. "I told him what Reagan wanted to do and he said it would be fine. He was planning a sermon on international missions and missions support."

With a date set, Lori and Reagan prepared for the sale, crafting nine dozen cupcakes and nine dozen cookies. Some friends donated baked goods as well, and Reagan ran the sale.

"We have two services," Lori said. "She sold items between the services and after church that afternoon. People were so generous. They bought everything and many made donations beyond what was sold. Some just gave her money. In one day she raised $900."

On April 22, 2011, Gateway Fellowship of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote a check for Japan Disaster Relief for $914.01. When Deskins received a letter of thanks from the North American Mission Board, he read the letter to the congregation and presented it to Reagan.

"It was nice for her to be recognized, but that is not why she did it," Lori said. "In fact, she is ready to do it again. She is so loving. She just gets it. She wants to help people. And to think we might never have had her. ... We tell her that God has something special planned for her."

Reagan made another discovery last year. She placed her faith in Christ as her Savior.

"She had been asking questions, praying and paying attention at church," Lori said. "She asked us what she needed to do to be saved. We talked with her and prayed with her. Reagan made her public profession of faith. She was baptized on Jan. 8.

"She was not supposed to live and God gave her life," Lori said of her daughter. God absolutely still works miracles."


Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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