Ellen Burgess sat in chapel, deeply moved. Weekly chapel in her small Christian school was usually a humdrum affair that followed a predictable pattern every Wednesday afternoon. There were the usual praise songs, followed by announcements for sports and drama and yearbook, the weekly litany of dress code infractions, and finally a sermon from a local pastor trying to “relate” to the teens. But today was different.
Today a young man had come to them straight from the jungles of Burma. He brought videos and news clips and his own eyewitness reports documenting the horrific treatment of Burma’s villagers by their own army. He told of whole towns burned to the ground, children shot before their parents’ eyes, people maimed by land mines. But he also told them about the help and hope being offered. He introduced them to his team of rescuers who reconnoitered the jungles, seeking displaced villagers, giving them medical treatment and food, and actively showing them Christ. Some of the villagers were believing in Jesus and even joining the rescue efforts.
“What can I do?” Ellen asked herself, “I’m too young to go anywhere. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, and I sure couldn’t find my way around a jungle.” She stood to leave chapel and took one of the brochures he was passing out. Good, the address and website were on the back. She still had no clue what she could do to help, but she was going to pray about it.
On the bus that afternoon, the kids talked of nothing else but that afternoon’s chapel. Ellen realized she wasn’t the only one who felt they needed to do something. But what?
Ellen and her friends IM’d late into the evening and finally decided to hold a car wash and donate all the money. One of her friends, Curtis, said they could all go without soft drinks and toss their daily 75¢ into a bank. “All of this sounds good…but I wish I could do more,” Ellen thought. “I just don’t have anything valuable enough to give.”
But she did. Ellen awoke at 2:00 the next morning, fingering her three-stone ruby ring. It was the only thing her favorite aunt, Janice, had left her. No, she couldn’t sell that – and even if she did, and even if she sent the money to Burma, the soldiers would keep burning and killing and maiming. She tossed and turned the rest of the night and in the morning decided she just couldn’t sell the ring. There had to be something else, another way.
So, the students held their car wash. They tossed their daily soft drink money in a bank in the school office. They called the missionary and donated everything to his cause. But Ellen wasn’t satisfied. Something didn’t feel complete to her.
When her mom picked her up from school the Monday after the carwash, she asked her, “Ellen, what’s going on with you? You’ve been so quiet lately.”
“You know all this stuff about Burma? I don’t know, Mom, I just wish I could give more and do something else. I keep thinking about Aunt Janice’s ring. It’s all I have from her, but I keep feeling I should sell it and give them the money.”
Mrs. Burgess was silent for a moment, and then pulled the car over to the side of the road. She turned toward Ellen with tears in her eyes. “Ellen, Janice was my only sister, and I’ll miss her forever. I loved her with all my heart. But there’s something about her you don’t know.” She signed and continued. “When she was your age, she planned to be a missionary. Everything was in place, but she met a guy. To make a long story short, she got pregnant.”
“You’re kidding! I never knew this. What happened to the baby?”
“She had a little boy, but he was stillborn. She never got over it and never went to the mission field. I guess she couldn’t forgive herself and thought God couldn’t use her.”
The two of them sat in the car, each thinking her own private thoughts. As her mother started the car and pulled into traffic, Ellen asked, “Mom, where was Aunt Janice going to go?”
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