Hailey’s Burden
by Joyce Noel Wyatt
I

t was time for prayer requests at the small neighborhood church. Seven-year-old Hailey raised her hand as she had done many times before.

“Hailey?” Brother David inquired.

“Please pray for my mommy and daddy,” she responded.

The people in the congregation nodded their heads. Most of them knew the sad story behind the urgent request. Daddy was in jail; Mommy had been released but had nowhere to go.

Finally, the young woman’s parents had reluctantly agreed to let their daughter come home─far away in another state.

While at her parents’ home, she reflected on her life.

How could I have let myself get to this point? she asked herself.

An honor-roll student, she was only a freshman in high school when her life changed forever. She remembers breaking the news to her mother.

“Mom, I’m pregnant,” she said, with a hint of fear in her voice.

The news was not well received by her parents. Emotions ran rampant; the atmosphere within the home was tense. Something had to give.

When she turned 16, she married her boyfriend, who was not the biological father of her baby. The young couple began a life of their own and eventually had a son together.

“I’m having horrible back pain,” she confided in her husband one day, thus the beginning of trips to the emergency room and continuous pain prescriptions, which lasted for six years. It wasn’t long before Mommy knew she was addicted to those pain medications.

Following the birth of Hailey, Mommy had to have surgery for gallstones. Because of her addiction, the doctor would no longer prescribe pain medications.

“We’ll have to turn to the streets to get the drugs,” Mommy and Daddy agreed.

With this decision came serious consequences. Accusations were made against the couple, and the Department of Children’s Services got involved. A drug screening was scheduled, which they failed. Subsequently, Hailey and her brothers were placed in the care of Daddy’s grandparents. Eventually, the couple lost total custody of their children.

As time passed, the couple’s drug addiction grew worse. Life had become unbearable. Mommy often said, “I just want this pain to go away.”

To make matters worse, Daddy’s beloved grandmother, who had raised him since childhood and was the one solid rock in his life, passed away.

“This is the final straw,” Daddy said. He began to search for something stronger to alleviate the pain in his life. Shortly, he and his wife, in order to get a better high, began using needles. As they had hoped, the pain basically went away, but later on, reality set in. This new-found high brought new problems with more consequences. One spring day the couple was arrested and placed in jail.

When the news of their incarceration reached Hailey, it appeared to be more than she could bear.

“I want to have a family like other kids,” she would say.

Hailey thought about the church in the neighborhood. She saw people coming and going, mostly on Sundays and Wednesdays. She had heard how they prayed to God and He answered their prayers. She had heard how He could change bad people and make them good.

I could go there and get the people to help me pray for Mommy and Daddy, she thought.

In the spring of 2014, Hailey and her 5-year-old cousin, Anna, showed up at the little church. They had come by themselves, the church being within walking distance. When the opportunity was presented for prayer requests, Hailey raised her hand. “Please pray for my mommy and daddy,” she pleaded.

Hailey’s burden became the burden of the entire church.

For a period of time, every Sunday and Wednesday night, Hailey and Anna came to church; and after each service, members escorted them back home to make sure they arrived safely. Sometimes the two girls would bring other children from the neighborhood with them.

In each service, Hailey asked the people to pray for her parents. At times, the altar held her tears as they gently dropped like raindrops into small puddles.

“Jesus,” she prayed, her slim body shaking, “please let Daddy get out of jail and bring Mommy back home. Please, Jesus.”

“Her heart is broken in two for her parents,” the pastor said. “She is carrying a heavy burden for them.”

Hailey’s burden became the burden of the entire church.

In a few months, in the fall, Hailey got to talk to her daddy, who was still in jail. Unknown to anyone else, Hailey spoke prophetically to him: “You won’t get to come home right now, Daddy, but by Christmas you will.”

Miraculously, Daddy was released at Christmas, although his allotted time was not up. Hailey’s prayers for her father had been answered.

To add to her happiness, he came to church with Hailey, and when the stirring invitation for prayer was given, he was visibly moved by conviction of his sins. He went forward and gave his heart to the Lord. It was indeed a life-changing experience and a joyful time for Hailey and the congregation.

But this young prayer warrior’s mission was not complete. She still carried a burden for her mother, who was still living far away and was far away from God. Hailey kept praying that her mother would come home.

Soon the child’s burden was lightened; Mommy did come home. She began attending church and subsequently gave her heart to the Lord.

God delivered her from the drugs that had held her bound for so long. Once again, how the church rejoiced!

Weeks passed. There were still hurdles regarding jobs and custody of the children. Hailey and the church people prayed.

Before long, a reputable company hired both of the parents. And then one Wednesday night, warm tears drenching her face, Mommy announced, “We have regained custody of the children. I thank God; I know He did it!”

Young Hailey, sitting between her mommy and daddy, was all smiles. No artist could ever fully capture that scene.

Presently, the family is still together. Charlene and her husband are still free from the drugs that almost destroyed their lives.

“We know these blessings have all come from God,” they are quick to say.

They know that God, in His love and compassion, responded to the burden of one little girl and the church that was impacted by her burden. It’s evident by the glow on Hailey’s face, and you don’t even have to look close to see it.

Joyce Noel Wyatt and her husband, Ron, live in Kodak, Tennessee. joycewyatt3149@comcast.net