A Gift for You!
As a way to say, Thank you for your friendship, love, and financial support for our work with MNA ShortTerm, I am sending a copy of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” It should arrive within a few days via Amazon. It is the story of a toy rabbit whose journey toward wholeness and love is a path very much like our own. If you will allow yourself to enter into the story, I believe you will experience a pathway that leads to Jesus.
Since Amazon limits note options to only two hundred and fifty characters, it was necessary to send this email. I need a few more characters to tell another story. It is the story about a hurricane, a church, a book, a little girl, and Jesus. I believe the retelling of this story just might make your heart sing even more. It might also give you a bigger picture of our work and how God uses your financial gifts to advance the gospel through the work of MNA ShortTerm.
"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."- C.S.Lewis
The Story of a Hurricane, a Church, a Book, a Little Girl, and Jesus
Kelly and I were living in Gulfport, MS when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At the time, it was one of the strongest storms to hit the United States coast within the last 100 years. God always seems to work beauty out of brokenness and this storm was no exception. The Mississippi Gulf Coast became the largest short-term mission destination in US history as God mobilized His Church to serve those in need.
Bay St. Louis, MS was ground zero where Hurricane Katrina made landfall. As a result, 80% of the commercial and residential properties were damaged or completely destroyed by the 150 knot winds and a 30 foot tidal surge. Yet God used the winds and waters of this great storm to reveal His greater love. It seems paradoxical but that is the pattern of sin and grace. This is how it works, if you’ve built your life on anything other than God, it will be a painful exposure. But it is the nature of God’s love to expose patterns of false worship, in order to reveal the hope of the gospel, exposing sand in order to reveal rock. Likewise, restoration comes from a great and costly reversal, the replacement of temporal trust and slavery with eternal hope and freedom- the ultimate cost being born by the Son in our place. This work of grace is a painful corrective intended to expose the deception of false worship in order to release our white-knuckle grip from the things of this world, from things that can never satisfy restless hearts. That was Jonah’s experience after being exposed to God’s pursuing love. Remember your bible story? God hurled a storm and a fish in order to free the enslaved prophet. Nothing else would do. To this point, John Newton wrote, “All that God sends is necessary, nothing he withholds can be.” Jonah’s turning point was the moment his loves were realigned, from within the belly of the fish, in the depths of the ocean. It certainly was an odd location for the declaration of exultant praise and hopefulness. Yet he cried out, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs (Jonah 2:8).” This pattern of exposing and revealing is the pattern of grace and the pathway back to the living God, to lasting joy and satisfaction.
The Southern novelist, Flannery O’Connor, understood this paradoxical pattern of grace and the heart’s aversion to change. It is a theme embedded within many of her short stories and novels. During a lecture to young writers O’Connor said, “I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will work.”
While He could certainly use other means, God has chosen to use His people to display His glory. God planted a church in Bay St. Louis. I was part of the church planting team of Lagniappe Presbyterian Church, a gospel outpost and relief operation that hosted and deployed almost 20,000 short-term missionaries who demonstrated the love of Jesus to a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Through Lagniappe's construction efforts 50 new homes were built and over 400 homes were repaired. During that time we had the opportunity to share the love of Jesus and witness the work of God in the most amazing and diverse ways.
Here's where "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" fits into this story. Though I read the book several years before Katrina, it was a story that stayed with me. That's because it is more than a children's story about a toy rabbit. It is the story of redemption. It is the story of beauty born out of brokenness. It is my story and it is your story. It is the Easter story. Now before you conclude that I’m overstating my point, think with me for a moment about the power of fiction, parable, and allegory and consider this, the prodigal son is a fictional character. So is his father, brother, and the pigs. Yet the story is true and helps us understand the deeper implications of the gospel and of the Father's love.
Approximately one year into our work I discovered that the author of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” was best friends with one of my old friends. I contacted Kate DiCamillo, Kate sent 150 signed hardback copies of Edward Tulane, and our church gave them to children in our community. One of the children, the only one that stands out in my mind fifteen years later, was a little girl, who along with her sister, was living with her grandparents. Apparently a month or so prior to Katrina, the girl’s mother told her daughters to pack their bags because when she returned they were going to Disney World. However, instead of going to the bank to withdraw cash for the trip, she robbed a bank and went to prison. The girls were living with their grandparents because now both parents were in prison.
A church from Florida was working on the grandparent's house and through their one week of service, built a relationship that enabled our church to provide long-term comfort and care. This is the work of MNA Disaster Response and ShortTerm Missions. God uses natural disasters, relational chaos, and poverty to expose brokenness and sin in order to reveal the hope of the gospel. We gave a bible to the family and a copy of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" to the girls. One day while visiting in their home, the oldest girl was excited to show me a book report she prepared for her class. It was a large table top display illustrating Edward's journey. She also had a special outfit that went along with the presentation. Something about Edward's story resonated with her story.
I don't recall if they ever worshipped with us but that was never a condition for receiving our assistance, comfort, or care. I don't remember their names and I don't know if they came to know Jesus. What I do know is this, we demonstrated and declared the love of God to hurting people who were trying to make sense of their storms- and we prayed and trusted God for the outcome!
If you've made it this far in the story you understand why I needed more than two hundred and fifty characters. It’s no coincidence that you are receiving this book at Easter. If bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs displace the truths of the resurrection, maybe Edward Tulane will help with the realignment, not only helping you make sense of your own storms but also causing your heart sing, as you wait hopefully and with great joy, for the one who promises to come for you!
Oh, in case you forgot, this is a children’s story so you might want to read it to your children or grandchildren. Happy Easter!
With much love,
Curt and Kelly