Story Time Tales
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All stories teach us something,
and promise us something,
whether they're true or invented,
legend or fact.
Stewart O'Nan

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All stories appearing on Story Time Tales are believed to be in the public domain unless attributed otherwise. Please let us know if this is not true of this particular story.

Mustard Seed Faith

A True Story of My Personal Experience

What happens when we dare to "step out of the boat" and walk on water?

Matthew 17:20 pretty much sums up my Christian walk, not one of tremendous faith but one associated with a "tiny mustard seed of faith."

I am a woman more prone to be filled with doubts, fears and insecurities than one who dares to fully trust in the Lord for the big stuff ... except for this time. This time, like Peter, I dared to believe.

It began with a little Amish girl with cancer, a flop-eared stuffed rabbit named "Faith," and a simple little children's story. Although I had never met Mary Ann personally, I knew her Aunt Lydia quite well. When Lydia called to tell me Mary Ann had been diagnosed with a very rare, very aggressive form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, it touched me deep within my soul. I had grandchildren Mary Ann's age and all I wanted to do was hug her close and tell her God would be there with her every step of the way.

That's hard to do when you are separated by 800 miles, so I did the next best thing. I called Build-A-Bear Workshop and had "Faith" delivered to Mary Ann's bedside. Faith arrived moments before Mary Ann began her first of many chemotherapy treatments.

Mary Ann lives a very sheltered life and had no idea what a Build-A-Bear Workshop was so I sat down and wrote a story that walked her through Faith's creation. In the story, Faith tells Mary Ann, "You see, Aunt Rosie down at Build-A-Bear Workshop takes care of us 'til we have a mission to share the love and joy of Jesus." Then she goes on to say "Mary Ann's gonna need some extra hugs. The 'bestest' thing about that is when I hug her, she sque-e-e-zes me back – only harder."

Faith arrived at Mary Ann's bedside dressed to perfection and soft as cashmere; "I got to be the 'bestest' of all, a guardian angel. I got a beautiful set of feathery wings, silky pants, shiny slippers and a flowing white gown. You see, Mary Ann needed a traveling companion when she goes to Indianapolis for her chemotherapy treatments, and she needed someone to remind her of how much Jesus loves her."

I never dreamed this simple little story would go beyond the confines of Mary Ann's Amish home. However, within a matter of days, God opened the door for us to publish and market "A Story of Faith" in the hopes it would help Mary Ann's parents pay a portion of her mounting medical expenses.

There are many, many "God things" that happened before and during the writing, publishing and marketing of this children's book but I'm only going to touch on a few of them.

Earl:
In the fall of 2004, we had made plans to fly to Indiana, rent a car and travel the back roads of Amish country. An added blessing for us would be the opportunity to actually meet an Amish family, visit in their home and tour one of their one room school houses.

Shortly before we left on this scheduled vacation, James and I made a trip to Livingston Machinery in Chickasha to pick up a baler part. Earl, the owner and manager, invited us to lunch that day and began to tell us of his most recent trip to Montrose, Colorado and the innovative Amish farmer he met who mixes bits and pieces of modern machinery with centuries old horse power. In this case he was using six draft horses to pull a sled mounted with a large diesel engine. Behind the diesel engine was a Heston big square baler.

At that point in the conversation I couldn't wait for Earl to hush long enough for me to voice my question, "I don't s-u-p-p-o-s-e you happen to have any Amish customers in Indiana do you?"

My husband later told me he thought that was the most ridiculous question he'd ever heard until Earl said, "As a matter of fact, I do! The Amish farmer in Colorado put me in touch with his friend in Indiana. I sold him a baler a few days ago and I'm supposed to deliver it next week."

I asked Earl if he thought there was any chance we could meet them and he graciously made a phone call to Indiana. Little did any of us know God had already set his purpose and plan into motion.

My husband, James:
Shortly before we made our final commitment to print "A Story of Faith," he prayed, "Lord, if this is truly Your will and we haven't misunderstood, then I asked that you bless our efforts in such a way that no one can deny You did it."

Kelly, the illustrator:
She and I attended the same church but barely knew one another. When I approached her to illustrate Mary Ann's story she immediately responded, "Yes, I would love to." I later found out Kelly had been drawing rabbits all her life and she told me she wouldn't have been able to illustrate the book had I sent Mary Ann a stuffed bear instead.

Libby:
Libby is the young woman who narrated Mary Ann's book and sang "Jesus Loves Me" for our audio version. Although we had never met, she lives in the nearby town of Maysville. She and her husband had given several concerts at our church and I had purchased all of her CD's. One afternoon as I was boxing books for shipment, I had one of Libby's CD's turned up full volume while I hummed along. Then I had one of those "light bulb moments," "I wonder if Libby would consider narrating the book and recording 'Jesus Loves Me' just like the story ends. If so, then we could include a CD on the inside cover."

The only way I knew to get in touch with Libby was to call her parents' business in Maysville and that was exactly what I planned to do. But first I had to finish filling invoices and get the books in the mail. Well, it didn't happen that day. By the time I had finished boxing books, I had totally forgotten about calling Libby's parents.

The very next morning, I took my farmer husband to the field and returned home to hear this message on my answering machine; "Hello. You don't know me but my name is Bobbie Lou Williams. I am Libby Thomas's mother and I just read about your book on the front page of the Maysville News. I think we need to be a part of this. Would you mind giving me a call?"

Finances:
When we first ventured out to publish Mary Ann's Book, we had hoped to keep the expenses down to $3,000 or less. That didn't happen. Instead, by the time the books rolled off the press, I had spent a little over $15,000 and basically cleaned out our farming account at a most critical time, fall fertilizing and planting. While farming expenses rolled in on one hand, cash from book sales rolled in on the other. In balance, one never exceeding the other, until our wheat crop was planted and the farm account was reimbursed full measure. This left us with 2000 copies of Mary Ann's book, free and clear; each and every one of them belonging to her and designated to help pay for her cancer treatments.

Gretchen:
By this time, we had saturated our local market in Lindsay, Oklahoma, and I had no idea where we were going to go with the remaining 2000 books. That's when God sent Gretchen our way. Gretchen lives in Bloomington, Indiana and owns the apartment Mary Ann and her mother stayed in while she was undergoing Proton Therapy. As soon as Gretchen heard about Mary Ann's Book and its purpose, she stepped forward and organized a book signing in her church. The Sunday morning we attended the book signing at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, our book sales and donations exceeded $5,500. I never touched a dime of the proceeds. Instead, the church paid the sales taxes and sent every penny directly to Mary Ann's parents.

Television News Coverage:
Our next big break came a few weeks later. By this time Christmas was just around the corner and Channel 9 News heard about our fundraising event. Our television interview aired the first week in December and the response was overwhelming. Not only did people purchase books but they also gave generous donations.

I want to paint a visual picture for you here. The Amish community Mary Ann lives in only allows telephones if they are installed outside the home in a "phone shed," shop or nearby business. Mary Ann's father owns a dairy and does lots of heavy physical labor. There's nothing soft about his physique. He wears a straw hat, denim pants and coats made by Esther and he is the father of nine children. Mary Ann is his youngest child.

Before our check arrived at Mary Ann's home, I received a phone call from her father. He called late one evening shortly before Christmas to see if I had Gretchen's telephone number. At the time, I was doing some late minute shopping in Target when my cell phone rang. I couldn't resist asking, "Joe, did you get the check? He hesitantly said, "No." I was about to bust at the seams and said, "Joe, guess how much this check is for."

I could tell he was more than a little uncomfortable with the conversation but I couldn't contain my excitement and kept urging him on, "Come on Joe, guess."

"OK, a thousand?"

"No, more than that."

"Two?"

"Nope, guess again!"

Well, we kept up this game a few more times then I heard this big burly man whisper, "Hold on a second. I gotta sit down; nobody does this."

"Guess what, Joe? You should be getting a check any day now for $9,342.45."

December 25, 2006, was the most exciting Christmas I have every experienced! It is definitely more blessed to give than to receive!

James and I literally saw God move a "mountain of books." His presence was so profound we anticipated something new and fresh each and every day; always wondering what door God would open next.

The story behind Mary Ann's book was eventually released on nationwide television and published in several newspapers. This simple little book made its way to more than 40 states, Ontario, Newfoundland and Afghanistan all from the confines of a small country home in the middle of Oklahoma. I had no publishing or marketing experience. I was not a writer. In fact, at the beginning of our journey, I didn't even know how to turn on a computer, much less own one. All I had to my credit was a strong desire to help Mary Ann's family, a willingness to step outside of my comfort zone, the tenacity of a bulldog, and a God that was walking beside me every step of the way.

       Had God not intervened, I'm confident I would still have a mountain of books stacked in the middle of my garage.  I know, that I know, that I know --- God took those few simple words written for Mary Ann and blessed them beyond measure much like He did when He blessed five fish and a few loaves of bread over two thousand years ago.  God took Mary Ann's Book further than we ever dreamed.  He gathered people from near and far to take up her cause.  He opened doors that otherwise would have been closed.  He touched hearts and people responded with monetary gifts and heart felt prayers.  Becasue of the generosity and combined efforts of hundreds of people, we were eventually able to send Mary Ann's family $38,000 and today, three years later, we have less than 100 books left in inventory.

      The greatest blessing of all is Mary Ann.  Many children do not survive rhabdomyosarcoma.  However, God answered our prayers.  Mary Ann is alive, well and enjoying life to its fullest.

     Our God is good, Our God is merciful.  Whatever the circumstance, our God is ABLE!  All He requires from us is a "tiny mustard seed of faith" and He will do the rest.

Melynna Hewitt
The Author
A Story Of Faith (website)




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Story Time Tales