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Letters to God

With cancer affecting more and more people every year, many of us know someone in the throes of the disease. Perhaps you personally have experienced the pain of sickness and the absence of laughter and faith. This is exactly the place where many of the characters in the heart-warming novel and film, ‘Letters to God’, find themselves…

A story of hope
Inspired by a true story, ‘Letters to God’  chronicles the true life of a boy with brain cancer. Eight year old Tyler Doherty copes with his disease by writing letters to God – his friend and ultimate pen pal. Surrounded by a loving family and community, and armed with unshakable faith, Tyler’s Heaven-bound letters to God find their way into the hands of postman Brady McDaniels. Struggling with alcohol abuse and dispirited by divorce, Brady is unsure of what to do with these letters. He follows the advice of his bartender and decides to drop the letters off at a church. The church pastor, however, surprises Brady by sending him on a special mission…
An out-of-the-ordinary relationship starts between postman Brady and the Doherty family (consisting of Tyler’s mom, grandmother and brother). Moved by Tyler’s courage and faith, Brady realises what he must do with the letters – a surprise decision that will transform his heart and uplift his new found friends and community.

Based on a true story
‘Letters to God’ was written by Patrick Doughtie, the real-life father of Tyler, together with John Perry. Patrick lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is a devoted member of the Grace Baptist Church. In 2005, his son, Tyler, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumour.

Doughtie decided to tell his son’s story to bring attention to childhood cancer.  “I began writing the book but soon became overwhelmed with depression. During this time, I decided a book would take me too long so I took a screenwriting course. I began writing a script for a fictional movie based on Tyler’s cancer.” Christian filmmaker, David Nixon (co-producer of ‘Facing the Giants’ and ‘Fireproof’) noticed his script and together with Doughtie produced the film. Although Doughtie fictionalised many of the elements of Tyler’s story for both the big screen and novel, it is clear that the story comes from a deeply personal place.

Dealing with real issues
The fictionalised elements, such as the existence of postman Brady McDaniels or Maddy’s outburst at Bible quotations failing to cure her son, help to portray the text’s ultimate message of man’s search for meaning and hope. “Quit telling me what God says!” Maddy yelled.

“Stop quoting the Bible to me! It’s not curing my son!” After Maddy’s outburst, Granna, the beloved grandmother, writes a letter (or sends a prayer) to God: “Dear God, She’s moving away from You. Lord, that little boy needs to see her faith, her trust in You…”

‘Letters to God’ demonstrates the importance of a loving and supportive community and church family in times of crisis. The film and novel don’t offer answers, but rather present a realistic, yet hopeful picture of living with cancer.  If you know someone who is suffering from cancer, or someone who is losing faith and hope due to depression, suggest that they write a letter to God – it is an easy way of praying. And as Tyler says, “It’s like texting a friend!”

We are living letters

2 Corinthians 3:2 says that we ourselves are letters, “known and read by everybody.” Ask your local church to screen this movie or consider reading the novel in your book club. This is the type of encouraging and inspiring story everyone needs to hear: it will move you to find hope, faith and comfort in life’s hardships, for “[w]e are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor 4:8-9

Feel up to a challenge? Consider approaching your local grocery store or shopping centre and asking them to set up a post box with a big, colourful ‘Letters to God’ sign. In the movie, Tyler’s church sets up a ‘Letters to God’ post box, for the community. Get your church behind a similar project and answer the letters with encouraging words or simply pray for those who write in.
 
The Word as Weapon
Be careful not to ‘Bible-bash’ people recovering from a traumatic event. Ask God for wisdom and insight. If, however, someone seems open to encouragement from Scripture, here are some shields of faith, “with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” Eph 6:16:

  • Deuteronomy 4:7
  • Psalm 91
  • Romans 8:28
  • Hebrews 6:10-11
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  • Revelation 17:14

Using resources like films and novels can often speak volumes into a cancer (or terminal illness) patient’s life. The book and DVD are available through Christian bookstores and CUM Books nationwide. For info: www.letterstogodthemovie.com

Interesting cancer facts:

  • Leading male cancers in South Africa (in order of most frequent appearance): prostate; lung; oesophagus; colon/rectum; bladder
  • Leading female cancers include: breast; cervix; uterus; colorectal; oesophagus
  • Leukaemia and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for over 50% of childhood cancers
  • There are over 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own treatment
  • About 90% of cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle related factors
  • The war on cancer could be won if humans were no longer exposed to environmental carcinogens such as chemicals, viruses, bacteria, UV light and maintained a healthy body weight through a balanced diet and exercise
  • Carcinogenic materials to avoid include: Bisphenol A in baby bottles, plasticisers in clingwraps, toxic toys, margarines and trans fats in fast food, acrylamide in potato crisps, smoke and certain lice shampoos.
  • For more info see www.cansa.org.za

Christian Art Distributors is giving away 5 copies of the book, 'Letters to God'. Send your details to julia@joymag.co.za

 

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