Braille Bible Beats Out Barbie
Angel Tree® program volunteer John was calling children's caregivers for gift suggestions when he reached the mother of Tiffany, a 14-year-old. Every Christmas, Angel Tree mobilizes local churches and organizations to minister to hundreds of thousands of children. Volunteers deliver a gift, the Gospel message, and a personal message of love on behalf of their mom or dad behind bars. This simple act lets the child know that their parent in prison loves them and has not forgotten them.
On Tiffany's application, her father had suggested headphones, tennis shoes, and books. John asked Tiffany's mother what kind of books Tiffany would like.
"Sir, my daughter is blind," said the girl’s mother. "She has been blind since birth."
John was undaunted. "How about books in braille?" he asked. "Does she read braille?"
"Yes, but books in braille are expensive and hard to find," said Tiffany's mom. "Do you think it would be possible?"
"Madam," assured the former Marine, "nothing is impossible."
On the gift tag for Angel 260A, John wrote, "Books in braille." Then he hung it along with the other tags on the church Angel Tree.
WHERE DOES ONE FIND A BOOK IN BRAILLE?
Following church services the next Sunday, sisters Amanda and Evelyn went up to the Angel Tree to choose their tags. Their father, Sean, steered 8-year-old Evelyn to a tag for twin girls her own age. The girls asked for Barbie dolls and clothing. Those would be easy items to find, he reasoned. Instead, Evelyn focused her attention on tag 260A. She asked her father what "braille" meant.
"It means she is probably blind," said Sean, wondering where one would start looking for a book in braille. Again, he tried to interest Evelyn in the tags for the twins, but Evelyn removed Tiffany's tag. "This is the one," she insisted.
Sean and his wife went to work. They checked with multiple bookstores before finally contacting the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. There they spoke with a man named George who told them the Institute kept some braille books in stock. They even had a bookstore on site. "We decided that we should see them that same afternoon," Sean recalls, "so my wife brought Evelyn and Amanda to my work after school, and by 3:30 the three of us were on our way. It was a 50-mile ride."
Surprised that they had shown up so quickly, George asked what Tiffany liked to read. "We had to explain that we didn't know the girl," says Sean. "So, we shared with George the Angel Tree [program]. How men and women in prison work through chaplains and local churches to arrange for gifts to be given to [prisoners'] children so that they can have a Christmas."
A BIBLE FOR THE BLIND
George then told the family that he had heard about a Bible arriving recently—a copy of the King James Version in braille. "We would be very interested in getting a Bible for Tiffany," Sean said. George then called his supervisor, who listened carefully as Sean explained why they wanted to buy a Bible for a blind child they had never met.
Because the Bible in question was not for sale, the Institute offered to give it free in trust. It would need to be returned when the owner had died. But when Sean explained that Tiffany was quite young and would likely use this copy for many years, the supervisor "told us we could take it with us right then!"
The braille version of the Bible was more of a "them" than an "it"—18 volumes stored in three hefty boxes!
"We loaded the boxes in our truck and made our way home, numb with the excitement of what had happened," says Sean. "We all thought about the special gift we had and how it might be received."
On the ride home, Amanda, an avid reader, had a sudden revelation about Tiffany's gift: "Dad, she can read the Bible all night!"
"With that," says Sean, "we realized what opportunities [lay] in store for Tiffany and how fortunate we are to have God's Word so available to us all."
On Saturday, Dec. 15, Sean, his daughters, and Angel Tree volunteer John delivered the braille Bible and other gifts. Overjoyed, Tiffany opened one of the volumes and began reading from it right away.
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