The more that I correspond with children from around the world, the more I have come to realize that while they face many issues that are very similar to our own lives, many of them face issues that are far beyond my experience and comprehension, issues that are extremely painful and difficult.
One such child is Bryan, a precious 15 year old correspondent boy in Kenya. Not only have both of his parents died, but his grandmother is gone as well, and he has been living alone with his sickly grandfather. Letter after letter he has mentioned his concern for his grandpa, and has asked for prayers for his health. His fears are very real. A recent letter even mentioned that he has often been staying home from school to care for his grandpa, and his friends stop by afterwards to fill him in on what he missed in his studies. When Bryan is not in school or caring for his grandpa, he is responsible for herding and caring for livestock. What a vastly different life from the typical teen here.
I was so grateful to receive this letter from Bryan a few days ago, where he wrote,
In reading this I’m torn between feeling glad that the letters and books I’ve sent have been making a difference for him, and feeling grief over the hardship that he faces on a daily basis.
One of the things I have been impressed to do for Bryan is to send along extra reading materials with my letters to him. Biographies of faithful Christians, classic children’s literature such as Heidi, and Creation Illustrated magazine have been among carefully chosen materials for him. In addition to the story of Heidi being such a well-loved classic, I figured that he would find it a story that he can identify with since he too has lost both his parents and is living with his grandfather, and he too herds livestock. The Trailblazer series of Christian biographies by Dave and Neta Jackson have stories of Christians such as Nate Saint, William Tyndale, Jonathan Goforth, David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael, John Bunyan, Hudson Taylor, and more. I like encouraging him with testimonies of how others have walked through difficult circumstances, trusting and honoring God.
Since Bryan is a Compassion child, I can send books and other materials in 1/4″ thick sections. I like to use clear packing tape along the rough spine of the book sections to keep them intact and also provide a smoother surface for holding as he reads. Since Bryan knows English, it makes it a whole lot easier for me to find books to send him. About every 2-3 months I send a huge box of letters snail mail to Compassion, including my own booklets that I have written for my kids, and other books and magazines. The Trailblazer series of Christian biographies by Dave and Neta Jackson is especially well suited for this purpose, since each volume contains 5 separate stories that easily divide into 1/4″ sections.
He also mentioned that he doesn’t have a bible anymore, as his was lost (or stolen?) at school, but he is happy for the bible stories that I write to him. In the recent lessons at his church, he “was very much encouraged by the story of Esther and Mordecai and how they were lifted and protected by God.” As you write to your child, share from Bible story characters who have impacted your own life. Remember that your child may not necessarily have their own copy of a Bible, so consider printing out the selected text to include with your letter. I appreciate Bible Gateway for this purpose as they have Bible versions available in many different languages.
While I’m particularly feeling the weight of being a burden bearer for Bryan tonight, I’m grateful that I can do something tangibly in the physical realm to lift him up through letters and books, and grateful that I can do something powerfully significant to lift him up spiritually with prayers and intercession. And I’m especially grateful for Holy Spirit who prays with me when my own words fail.