Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Letter Back

If you've been following this blog, you know about the letter to Alphonsine.

Twelve days before Avery's death we attended a Christian concert in Madison. Jamie Grace was opening and tobyMac was headlining. The lobby was filled with tables of merchandise - artist t-shirts, posters, CDs, bracelets - anything and everything you could think of! There were also some tables from the Food for the Hungry network. Pictures of starving children from third world countries smiled up from every surface. Avery told me we needed to sponsor a child. I suggested we look at the CDs.

She insisted; I relented. We walked out of there the proud sponsors of a 15-year old girl from Rwanda. I thought, all these beautiful faces of little kids and Avery picks a fifteen year old.

You see, I was spending a LOT of time trying to undo what God placed on Avery's heart. I thought I knew what was best... you'd get more for your money purchasing a music CD than you would a printout of a child's face. Surely, these programs don't really work. For every dollar they collect maybe ten cents goes to actually feeding people, I thought.

Avery wrote a letter right away and asked me to mail it. But I didn't.

She said it was important, but I worried that maybe she had innocently written something that might offend this Alphonsine from Rwanda. These matters had to be approached delicately.

Avery asked me again if I had mailed the letter. I hadn't.

A week after Avery passed away, in what I would now describe as the darkest hour of my entire life, I pulled that forgotten letter from my purse and read it:

Dear Alphonsine,

My name is Avery. I am a girl. I live in Wisconsin, I’m 11 years old and in the 5th grade.

I am here with you always. I will always write to you. I will never forget about you. I will keep you in my heart forever!

Do you know Jesus!? Because I do and if you don’t know him I will share his word with you! I just want to share this verse to you and then I have to go to bed,

Psalm 121:
“I lift my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of Heaven and earth!”
Your Sponsor,
Those words, perfectly formed by the heart of my precious daughter, brought a light that shone so bright! To know God planned for me to find these words at exactly the time I needed them most, is a gift of grave I would never be able to forget!
But that's not all...
Of course I had to write to Alphonsine.  I told her about God's love and that I would be writing her faithfully. I told her about Avery and I told her about the letter. (I have the original framed and hung on the wall.) I told her I loved her and I mailed my letter not really expecting anything in return because I still didn't quite believe these programs worked the way they claimed.
And of course I received a letter back, almost immediately. Because if God is going to tug on a little girl's heartstrings to write a letter to a 15-year old she has never met before, maybe, just maybe, the power of those words weren't meant to stop with me. Maybe there's something bigger.
Because in Alphonsine's letter back to me she asked me to pray for her. See, her best friend had just died, and maybe, she wrote, maybe we could help each other.
I wrote back saying I definitely would. I decided then and there that I would write to her regardless of whether or not I ever received another letter back. . Yet each time I wrote, she wrote back.
I write words that I hope are filled with encouragement, with love, with support, with faith. She writes back about her school and her friends and her family.
I found out recently when Aphonsine's birthday is: the day before Avery's. Of course it is!
And then today, as if God can't stop showing me how this girl from Rwanda is going to change my heart, I received another letter:
Dear my beloved sponsor,
I am so proud of the letters you usually send to me. I will always miss Avery because she loved me so much. Her prayers to me always was that I should get to know Jesus and receive Him as my Lord and Savior. I pray that God may help me to draw good lessons from Avery so that I also lead people to know Jesus. I am with hope that one day I will be able to meet with my friend Avery in Heaven. I believe she is now with Jesus. My favorite verse is Psalms 46:1-4.
I cannot help but know that this is way bigger than I am. Bigger even than this world. Our earthly way of thinking is to break it down into smaller, easier to swallow bites. Sometimes, big is just too much to handle. It makes us uncomfortable, awkward. To receive a letter almost a year to the date of Avery's death (Oct. 24th) so poignant and beautiful, when all these months we have been writing about studying hard and living true, is just another way God is showing me Avery's death is crazy important to His world. And that makes me feel really, really good.
October 5, 2013: Singer Riely Rae Mikrut speaks to the crowd at A Troast to Avery describing a Bible Study Avery had wanted to start. The night before the Bible Study was to meet, Avery spoke with Riely expressing fear that no one would show up. Riely's response: I promise you at least one person will show up, and how cool will it be knowing that one person was introduced to Jesus because of you.