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How Easter Joy Entered a Nine-year-old's Bleak Heart
A broken life; a broken family; abandonment. Desperation and hopelessness pervaded two young lives until the Sonshine of God's love scattered the darkness.

Easter—spring days, daffodils and lilies, children's egg-hunts, soft bunnies, chocolate indulgence. Easter will always be special to me. But it means more than sunny days. Easter means Sonshine in our hearts.

The boys knew these angels had come just for them.

It was not always so, for me. Until my ninth spring, winter's chill gripped my soul.

Step back with me to Toronto in the late nineteen-fifties. An English immigrant family struggles through a painful marriage break-up. A desperate young mother leaves her husband alone in Canada. She returns to Britain with her two boys, aged five and six.

They spend the next 18 months in a Glasgow slum, with fear and poverty tugging at their elbows. Bleak days drive them south to England.

They arrive unannounced at the home of a great-aunt. Childless and suffering from serious schizophrenia, she cannot cope with long-term visitors. But, too detached from reality, she cannot properly object.

One cold November night, shortly after moving in, the boys' mother goes to buy a packet of cigarettes. She steps out of the house and out of their lives.

Few daffodils bloomed in those dark days. No chocolates were eaten. Bunnies fled.

The boys began acting out at school—when they remembered to go. Fights and scrapes erupted around them. The welfare department planned to take them into care.

One frosty bedtime, strange music played outside their window. Pulling clothes on over pyjamas, the boys ran into the street—and into a Salvation Army band playing Christmas carols. The boys knew these angels had come just for them. A tall man with a black beard, wearing a euphonium round his chest, bent low.

"Like to come to Sunday school?" he gently asked the little urchins.

"Yes please!" they keenly changed.

"On one condition," he replied with a smile. "Not until you've been home first for a wash. You're filthy!"

Over the weeks that followed, the boys were shown how real love looks, how it feels within a Christian home. Homes and families welcomed them where parents lived together and Jesus was in the midst. They were so obviously different from the homes the brothers had known.

… he met God in a remarkable way.

Easter came around quickly. At Sunday school, they heard all about Jesus. They saw Jesus hanging on a cross in their place, for their sins. It broke open the older boy's heart. Singing "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee," he met God in a remarkable way. Suddenly aware of his need, he wept aloud. He asked Jesus to be his Saviour.

For the first time, he felt clean. He knew such joy he thought his heart would burst. In his youth he met with God. What can a nine-year old child know about theology? Nothing, perhaps—and maybe everything.

Forty years later, the experience stays fresh and relevant. It moves the pen that writes this tale. Both boys, so much older now, are followers of Jesus. Easter is forever in their hearts.

Paul Beckingham is a visiting professor of Church and Mission at Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus in Vancouver.

Originally published in The Link & Visitor, March/April 2002.




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