Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Love in the Mail

Before I get into the "meat" of this post, I should explain why I'm writing (and hopefully, after regaining the use of my own computer, posting photos) about love on Thursdays. It's all because of one of my favorite bloggers, Karen over at Chookooloonks. Several years ago, she decided to dedicate her Thursday posts to love in it's many forms and then invited the rest of the internet to join her. So now, many people post and share their stories and photos of love in what has come to be known as Love Thursday. (Well duh!) This is an idea I have enjoyed while reading other's blogs and decided that I can get behind it on my own, because who doesn't need more love in their life? Henceforth Que Sara Sara will dedicate Thursdays on this blog to love, in whatever form it takes. Which brings us to today's post.

On Tuesday when I retrieved the mail, there were two striped air mail envelopes waiting for me. Okay, they weren't actually for me. They were addressed to "Mary Ganey Rose" and had exotic stamps from some place I had never heard of affixed to them. But since Mary is not yet reading and would require my services, I have taken partial ownership of the letters. She was very excited to get mail--something I completely understand. I absolutely adore getting mail! Well, if it isn't something that means I must part with my money, anyway.

We tore open the letters and were disappointed to find it written in French. Neither of us speak French and only one of us speaks very broken Spanish. In fact, Mary has a better grasp of English at 4.5 years than I do of Spanish after having taken several years of classes. However, when we turned over the letters, we were delighted to find several sentences of very basic, somewhat broken English on the other side. These letters were from the same person and contained essentially the same information, but there were slight variances in both the French and the English translation.

I was a bit concerned that Mary was being asked by a Nigerian prince for funds to help him recover his hidden money and that he would gladly send her a share when he got his money back. But this was not the case. This letter was a special letter indeed. This letter came from the little girl who received the box that we put together for Operation Christmas Child. As a family, we have participated in this effort for many years, sending off many shoeboxes in the hope that the recipients would enjoy the contents of the boxes and find some joy, and also that they might understand compassion from a stranger and even possibly come to know Christ Jesus. We have also participated to give our children a larger world view so that they understand how privileged they are to live where and how they do and the many other valuable lessons that come from giving. But in all of our years of sending off brightly wrapped shoeboxes, we have never received a letter back. Until now.

The little girl that received our box is 9 and lives in Burkina Faso. And if you are anything like me, you are scratching your head and cursing your geography teachers right about now, because it's likely you've never heard of this country. Here's what I can tell you in a nutshell: Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in west Africa. It used to be called the Upper Volta. Some of its neighbors are Mali, Niger, the Ivory Coast and Ghana. It's about the size of Colorado. Approximately 9% (9%!!) of girls are educated. It is extremely poor.

This young lady told us a little of her life and thanked us for the box. She told us she loved playing and chocolate, to which Mary replied "Me too!". She has two sisters. She loves Jesus because he is sweet to her and he loved her first. Then she included her address so that we could write back to her and there was a jaunty little "bye bye!" at the bottom of the page. Mary was astounded. "I have a friend in Africa and she likes things that I like!"

She couldn't wait to share the letters with her brothers and sister and daddy. They were all interested and wanted to see where Burkina Faso was on the globe. They oohed and ahhed over the exotic stamps and the striped air mail envelopes. They called her lucky, because none of their boxes ever caused a letter to come.

From the bit I was able to gather from the French letter, the little girl liked the picture Mary sent of herself and thought she was very pretty (tres jolie) and then I think there was a statement along the lines of "if you ever come to my home, we will have a grand party". I would dearly love to find someone fluent in French to translate the other sides of the letters.

Later in the day, I was thinking about the letters. I couldn't help thinking of the great disparity in the lives of our Christmas box child and my own children. The relative wealth and privilege my children enjoy versus the poverty and harsh conditions this little girl lives in made me stop and consider the things I take for granted: an overabundance of food, plenty to wear, a comfortable home, two parents, and healthcare to name a few. It made me grateful--not only for what I have but for the little we were able to contribute. I was taken with the sweetness of the letter and with the generosity of whoever did the writing and translation--obviously an adult who had taken the time to help. I was grateful for feeling like the world was just a bit smaller, if only for a moment. I was overwhelmed by the love and care I am certain that Jesus has for this child. I know He is holding her in his palm just as he is my own children and I am thankful for that grace.

On what was an otherwise ordinary day, those two letters became the ribbons and bows on a gift of love that was sent in a shoebox halfway around the world. Can't wait to see what's waiting in the mail today...

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