Blessings in the Mail
Summer had been difficult—support had been low for months, allowing for little margin. Then Bobby came down with a fever and spots. Soon Ricky had the chicken pox, too. Just as they were getting better, Carol said one night at dinner, “Mommy, I don’t feel good.” By morning she was covered with sores.
Thankfully the baby had been spared. At the moment, she was babbling on the floor as her mother, Florence, wrote letters.
“Love, the Seelys,” she wrote. “Christmas 1957.” Florence looked out the window and watched leaves drift to the ground; winter would be here soon. She heard a whine and felt little Aileen tug on her skirt. Florence looked down to see the girl raising her hands up to her mother.
“Next month it’ll be your birthday. How did you get so big?” Florence picked the girl up, but she fussed and wouldn’t sit still. “Aileen, what’s the matter?” She brushed back Aileen’s bangs and noticed her eye seemed red and goopy. Florence did her best to keep it clean, but by evening it was looking worse.
“Art,” she said to her husband that night. “Aileen has some kind of eye infection.”
Art lowered his newspaper with a sigh. “More sickness?”
“I know,” she said. “We’ll need to treat this quickly.”
“Well, there’s not much we can do besides pray.”
“Of course we’ll pray,” she said. “But she’s not even a year old. The others might have been able to muscle through without doctor visits, but this could get bad.”
He pushed his glasses up his nose. “It’s not a matter of convincing me. If we could, I’d take her to the doctor tomorrow.” He put his newspaper down and folded his hands. “I went to the bank today.”
His pause made Florence nervous.
“How bad is it?” she asked. They had been as frugal as possible all summer, trying to stretch the money until the next quarter’s support arrived in October. When it did, it had been shockingly low.
Art pursed his lips, then said, “We have 50 yen to last us until January 10th.”
For a moment she was speechless. “It’s only November.”
Florence leaned back into her chair and shut her eyes. “Lord,” she began. “We trust You and know You will provide for our needs, big and small. We don’t understand why financial support has been so low, even as we are confident that You called us to minister in Japan.” She took a deep breath. “Remember us in our time of need—especially Aileen. Keep our spirits generous even though there is little to give. Bolster our faith when we are discouraged. And help us to honor You in all that we do, for the glory of Your Kingdom.”
“Amen,” Art said. He picked up his newspaper. “I’ll call the doctor tomorrow. Perhaps he can give some advice, even if we can’t afford an appointment.” He paused. “Will we have enough food to last us?”
“We won’t be able to buy anything fresh, but I think I can make our canned goods last.” She chuckled. “If Jesus can feed 5,000 men from five loaves and two fish, He can certainly feed our family of six with what’s in our pantry.”
The Lord’s provision
The next day, Art was hanging up the phone when Florence popped out of the kitchen.
“What did he say?” she asked, wiping her hands on her apron. She could hear their children upstairs and tried not to worry about them waking Aileen.
Art shifted in his seat. “He said we ought to use a certain salve from the American pharmacy downtown.” He sighed. “But I know the train ticket alone will cost 40 yen.”
Florence sighed, too. “Well, we will continue to pray.”
“Yes.” He stood up and shuffled toward the door. “I’m going to check the mail.”
She went back to washing dishes. There was something satisfying about scrubbing a filthy plate until it gleamed. If only she could fix other things as easily. Help me to trust You, she prayed. Aileen looked worse this morning. Please help my daughter.
She was still praying when Art came rushing into the house. “Florence,” he said, his eyes bright. “Look at this.” It was a Christmas card from his father, who sent a card and a monetary gift “for the children” every year—it had arrived earlier than usual. “Five dollars,” Art said. “That’s about 1,800 yen. We can use this to get the salve for Aileen.”
Florence didn’t smile. “But this money isn’t ours.”
Art pushed his glasses up and folded his arms. “Yes, it belongs to the children. But isn’t Aileen one of them?”
“Not all of this is for her.” She wanted to help Aileen, but she couldn’t steal their Christmas money.
“So, we’ll ask their permission. And pray the Lord will provide a replacement for it.”
She looked up at him. His face didn’t show any of the hesitation she felt. Help me to trust, Lord, she prayed silently. If this is You providing for us, give me a spirit of gratitude.
“All right,” she said. “But let’s pray first.”
They held hands as he prayed aloud for wisdom and provision. Florence also silently prayed for inner peace. Then they went upstairs to the boys’ room, where Carol, Bobby, and Ricky were playing. Florence sat next to her toddler, Ricky, and said, “Your father has something important to ask all of you.”
Art cleared his throat. “Aileen is sick and the doctor said to get some medicine. But we don’t have enough money to buy it.”
Carol glanced at Florence, who smiled reassuringly.
“Grandfather sent his Christmas money to you early this year. Mommy and I wondered if we could use that money to buy the medicine Aileen needs. We’ve prayed that if you say yes, God would replace it, but you might have to wait until after Christmas for presents.”
Florence rubbed Ricky’s back and looked at her children’s solemn faces. They were all still so little. Carol, the oldest, was only five. Did they understand?
“What do you think?”
“Yes,” said Ricky.
“Me, too,” said Bobby.
“She can have it all,” Carol said. “If she will get better, we don’t need presents.”
Florence’s eyes welled up with tears. “Thank you,” she said, hugging them in turn.
When Art came home from the pharmacy, Florence was cooking supper while verbally breaking up a fight between her boys. Carol was looking through a picture book with her fingers in her ears, and Aileen was lying on the couch and whining.
He hung up his hat and smiled at his wife. “I got the salve.” Then he pulled several opened envelopes out of his coat pocket and said, “And we got a few more surprises from my work mailbox.”
Florence turned the heat off from under the pan to flip through the Christmas cards as he hung up his coat. “These are lovely, but what’s the surprise? The fact that they’re early?”
“And that they included thirty-five dollars, which I cashed with Father’s five at the bank.”
Her eyes widened. “Forty in all?”
“That means 14,400 yen.”
Florence closed her eyes and pressed the cards to her heart. “Praise God,” she said. “Oh, praise God.” She laughed and hugged Art. “He is so good to us!”
Christmas cards continued to arrive in the mail. They received more letters that season than they ever had before or since, many from those who only sent that year. In total, they received over $800 (¥288,000) from God through their generous supporters. With it they were able to meet all of the family’s needs. Aileen’s eye healed and the family was even able to celebrate her first birthday with a small cake, a luxury Florence had thought they’d have to go without.
On New Year’s Eve, once the children were asleep, Art and Florence sat in their living room, holding hands and quietly singing praises to the Lord. With all the bills paid, and their pantry and fridge fully stocked, they still had ¥25,000 in the bank.
They were filled with awe and gratitude. The Lord had provided. He had remembered them in their time of need. Fat tears rolled down Florence’s smiling cheeks, as she and Art sang together. When they finished, she wiped her eyes, laughed, and said, “Praise God. Oh, praise God.”