I look out over a sea of red. More than three hundred young voices are raised in exuberant song. Boys and girls are swaying and smiling. One of them glances my way to wave shyly at ‘the famous author.’
It is my first visit to a British Primary school. I’m here because my sweet nephew, Jake, carried his copy of Love Letters from God to school one day and showed it to his teacher.
I’m here to sign the copies that were bought for each classroom and to read the children’s favorite stories to them.
Because fifty years ago, I was one of them, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the assembly hall in my red British uniform, in a school not too far from theirs. I never would have imagined that one day I would be living in the United States, or have the enormous privilege of being an author. And so I’m here to inspire these young minds, and to help them dream of what might lie beyond the horizon.
I don’t really know what to expect on this sunny British morning – but I’m definitely not expecting this. ..
A welcome enthused with so much warmth that it makes me feel like JK Rowling;
a prayer written especially for me;
a trio of smiling girls who lead worship during assembly and then use their free time to patrol the school in order to check that everything is being done in a Christian manner. They form part of a wider group of children, known throughout the school as ‘ The Ethos Warriors.’
I don’t expect to see halls and classrooms so boldly and brightly decorated with stories and scenes from the book;
or wonderful children’s letters to God displayed on every wall.
And I am moved by what those letters say, and how their contents reveal their need for God.
I’m honored by the huge bouquet of flowers waiting to greet me on the ‘top table’ at lunch time, along with eight smiling pupils who have earned a place there.
And most of all, I am truly amazed and humbled as I witness the school’s ‘show case’ at the end of the day, where each class shares a presentation of work based on the book.
The youngest children wear the colorful animal masks they made and parade in two by two.
The oldest show videos they created based on the story of The Lions who Lost Their Lunch.
And in between, classes sing songs and perform raps; they read out their letters to God and proudly show their paintings inspired by the story of the Wind and Waves.
None of this wonderful work was I expecting.
I’m sitting on the plane now, flying high over the Atlantic Ocean, homeward bound to the USA. In my suitcase I carry a book, made by the children of Sutton Oak Primary School in St Helens, England. It is decorated painstakingly and beautifully with little colorful stamps, just like the ones my illustrator created for the book.
And in my heart I carry memories of wonderful, committed teachers;
And I know that God is wonderfully at work in the world, through words that I was somehow privileged to author.