for HSLDA members
Second HSLDA Essay Contest
Category 1 First Place

When Words Are Not Enough

By Grace Lichlyter

I've never seen her. But that doesn't mean I don't know her as well as the friends I laugh and talk with nearly every day.

Sandarwani Gunasekara lives in Sri Lanka, a small island situated in the Indian Ocean - eleven time zones, hundreds of religions and a world away. We've written each other for almost three years now. We've talked about three-legged-horses, sarees and some of the deeper philosophies of life. Sometimes, though, words just don't seem to answer the difficult questions she is continually tossing at me in her simple English phrasing.

"What are you thinking about life?" she wrote me once. "Do you feel it is happy? I think it is a sorrow. But I always make it happy." I rest my pen on a clean white page. How do I explain to her that it is our own fault that life is so full of pain and suffering? How do I use ink and paper to show her that Christ is the only one who can make us truly happy? Maybe if she could watch my life, she would see what I was saying, or if I could look in her eyes and tell her about the One who loved her enough to die for her, perhaps she'd understand. If I had fifty thousand dollars...

"We worship Lord Buddha every day. Like your Jesus." Sanda only knows what she has read and heard about "Christian America." Through Hollywood, media outlets, and television, America's image is firmly established in the mind of foreigners, and any claims to our tide of "Christian" is merely the rubble that is left from our once moral foundation. Even so, this is how our worship appears to foreigners: dead, hollow and imaginary.

I rest my head on my hand. How do I worship Jesus? Can Sanda see it through my letters, or do my words die somewhere between here and Sri Lanka? But if I could take her to church one Sunday, teach her some good gospel hymns, and maybe even show her a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, she would see what worshiping God really is - and what a great God we worship. If I had fifty thousand dollars...

"Even though I'm 17-years-old still I can't understand what this society is? Can you?" I stare down at her letter and then at the pages of my open Bible. Verse after verse jumps out at me that I have known since I was small but they would be just words to Sanda.

I push back from my desk in frustration. "I'm only fourteen-years-old! How should I know what this society is! How can I tell her, 'No, I have no earthly idea what this society is, but I know Someone who does.'? How can I explain such things to a girl who is thousands of miles away?"

The words on my page form slowly and painfully but full of a love that Sanda may never understand. Still, sometimes I sit back and dream. I could give her tons of books and videos that tell her exactly the meaning and purpose of life. Better yet, I could tell her all about the beginning of America's society, no, the beginning of the world! We could swing on the porch and talk for hours and days. If I had fifty thousand dollars...

No amount of money can buy a soul. I realize that as I send the sealed envelope, AirMail, to Sri Lanka. There are a million prayers inside that envelope, pounds of love and a couple tears. But still...

... If I had fifty thousand dollars... An airplane ticket? Two airplane tickets? A trip to the movies together? Two ice cream Sundays? Time together? Yes ... time ... when words are not enough.