October 24, 2010


Packages.  Oh, how I love them.

Normally, packages from America contain some sort of goodies from my dear mother - dark chocolate, sugarless gum for the kids, t-shirts she found on sale.  Sometimes we get packages from sweet little Awana groups or Sunday school classes - gifts for the kids, grits, supplies for care packages for our medivac patients.

But this week I received something totally unexpected in a package.

A family friend in the U.S. mailed me two books that belonged to my grandfather, the Rev. John Beam, affectionately known by many as "Brother Beam" (often shortened by kids to 'Butter Bean'), and in our family as "Pop".  This friend found Pop's books among her things and thought I would like to have them.

Pop's books (photo by Tripp Flythe)

What makes them especially meaningful is that when we packed up and moved to Indonesia nine years ago, we took very little with us that had sentimental value.  We'd been advised not to, because in the cross-pacific trip, things are often damaged or lost, and once things arrive in country, whatever made the trip intact can be damaged by mold, critters, etc.  So we took the bare essentials with us, leaving behind letters, old photographs, our nice dishes, etc..

So when I received these books, and saw again for the first time in years my grandfather's beautiful handwriting, it touched a place down in my soul that I rarely go to over here.  I am a sentimental sap at heart - I tend to save every letter, photo, and scrap of paper that has any kind of memory attached to it.  I remember before we left to come overseas - which coincided with my parents' move from the house of my childhood -  I went through boxes and boxes of the most random assortment of junk:  ticket stubs to movies from 1989, a note from a seventh-grade boyfriend (complete with the obligatory "Do you like me? Check the box" postscript), neon green cassette tapes of my brother and I singing.  Most of it got tossed; the good stuff was promptly squirreled away again.

Having reformed my junk-collecting ways, I have no desire to return to the life of a packrat.  Thus, piles of papers and old junk sort of freak me out now, and are quickly tossed.  But these are two old books that will stay on my shelf forever, because they belonged to Pop, the all-time King of Packrats.

I have found myself missing Pop - who passed away in 1999 -  a lot lately.  My growing-up years were spent at his inner-city church in Savannah, Georgia.  I remember riding the bus with him as he rode through the projects to pick kids up for Sunday school or weekday clubs.  He was one of my heroes - a man of faith, a man who believed the best about others, a man who lived out Jesus' command to love "the least of these."  He is one of the reasons I am serving in a far-flung corner of the world with my family.

I wish I could discuss ministry matters with him.  How did he deal with being surrounded by needy people, knowing he probably couldn't help everyone?  How did he avoid burnout?  Did he struggle with doubt and discouragement?

I will take care of these books.  They will stay in our air-conditioned bedroom, safe from the tropical heat and humidity.  I will pull them out from time to time, maybe even read through the one that is an old commentary on Mark's gospel.  And I will remember Pop, and thank the Lord for such a heritage.

Thank you, Tami, for sending them.