Lately, I have been working on a new story. Many of you know that when I start to make plans to self-publish a visualized children’s story, I first tell it myself. Then after I “test drive” the continued story in some camp or vacation Bible school, it might end up being published.
The story for this summer is of the Don and Grace Bowman family. After going to Japan to be missionaries, they were involved in a tragic boating accident while trying to take the gospel to an island. Seven of the ten people on the boat did not survive—including Bro. and Sis. Bowman’s four children.
As I was telling the story in Indiana, I realized that this was different from my usual story. I like to leave stories on a “cliff hanger.” But most stories that I tell, even if it looks like things are rough, end up all right. When someone pulled a gun on Charles Price Jones…he ended up getting away. When Elliot Hodge was shot in the arm…he was brought back to life. When R. G. Flexon ran out of food…a miracle took place. When my father was shot in the head by a sniper…God redirected the bullet. The cliff hangers work out.
However, when I was done telling the Bowman story Thursday morning, I turned to a family member and said, “Usually when I tell a story with a cliff hanger, it ends up being fine. This is the first time that it is going to go wrong.” I knew that Thursday night, I was going to finish the story and tell that this missionary couple lost all four of their children and three of their most devoted friends.
I thought this was powerful. Sometimes things don’t go the “correct” way. Everyone isn’t always rescued.
More than once, I have written about seeing my former pastor lose the battle to cancer. My life was changed by watching the victory he maintained.
Stories of difficult circumstances that real people go through affect me in a way that fictional ones do not. So, I trudged ahead with the difficult task of trying to get the Bowman’s original story adapted for use in children’s ministry. (It is challenging sometimes for me to try to balance how much dialogue, how many facts, all while trying to keep the story moving, etc. I’m not sure I always get this balance correct.)
I had spent hours working through the story when I sent it to my artist. God has given her a sensitive spirit. She wasn’t sure about the story. Even with limited reception at Colorado camp, I was able to talk to her for almost an hour and try to make a decision.
She didn’t want to scare the children…make them feel they couldn’t trust God…make them fearful of the future…put doubts in their mind.
I understand what she was saying. This does seem to be a day of doubts—doubting God’s goodness and even His existence. We know young children who have been taught evolution, children with destroyed faith.
My friend was afraid that children might not be ready for such a big tragedy. Maybe they needed their faith built up with smaller problems first. She remembers young people praying around the altar and crying, then turning away from God from fear at what might be required. She really didn’t want to push anyone away by such a drastic story. I mean…these missionaries faced eating snails, raw octopus, and sushi. They left their extended family and grandparents. They lost their lives.
I realize that this is huge, and I’m not wanting to shove children into fear and damaged faith. But I’ve decided to go ahead and have the Bowman story done.
Maybe some people would categorize the things my children have struggled with small, compared with leaving all their family. But they have had their struggles.
One time at a preacher’s convention, one of my children thought that God was asking her to get up and shake hands with the preacher during the message. And she didn’t do it. I believe that if she would have obeyed, she would have received a blessing.
Submission comes in a lot of shapes and colors. I only know that whether it is a “large” or “small” issue, if you submit, there will be a blessing and victory.
Yes, the rich, young ruler walked away when what Jesus asked seemed too large. And I really hope people who read the Bowman story do not walk away because they feel like what Jesus asks is too large.
I want them to have the response of my artist’s son and daughter-in-law when they read the story. They said, “This story shows the worth of Christ.”
Yes, Jesus is worth everything we give up. Let’s submit!