The Germans of Berlin had good reason to be short on hope and long on fear of American pilots. U.S. planes had bombed the city relentlessly during World War II. But when Stalin ordered a land blockade of West Berlin in June, 1948 to drive the Allies out, their planes brought very different cargo to the city.
American and British pilots flew food and fuel into West Berlin, landing around the clock every few minutes for over a year. While off-duty, one of those pilots, Lt. Gail Halverson, met a group of German children while they watched the planes land. He was impressed that though they had been through hard times, they were willing to continue living on little as long as they knew the Allies would not abandon them. Knowing that none of them had tasted candy for years, he promised to drop some to them from his plane the next day. How would they recognize his plane, the children wanted to know? “I’ll wiggle my wings,” Halverson replied. Puzzled, one girl asked, “Vhat iss viggle?” Halverson demonstrated by holding out his arms and rocking back and forth.
The next day he demonstrated with his plane. The children were ecstatic, and started running in circles for joy. Halverson’s crew dropped the candy attached to three parachutes improvised from handkerchiefs. They decided to continue the drops, with candy donated from other servicemen. Bags of letters from grateful children began to arrive. Other crews joined the effort. Reporters dubbed them “the candy bombers” and the story spread throughout Europe and America. American candy companies donated tons of chocolate, chewing gum and Life Savers.
One man recalled years later what it meant to receive candy. As he walked to school one overcast, drizzly morning he could hear the planes landing nearby. “Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It took me a week to eat that chocolate bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn’t the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.”
Someone cared. That is a powerful action, especially when that care gives hope in the Bible sense, which is “confident expectation.” That is the hope we offer because behind our acts of love is the Gospel of forgiveness and redemption.
Here are some ordinary suggestions for giving extraordinary hope.
1) Pray—Ask God to open your eyes to the needs of those around you. Recently a friend who works as a teacher assistant in a local government school noticed one boy in special need. She learned that he was living with his grandmother because his father had abandoned his family and his mother rejected him, telling him that she wished he had not been born. Our friend became involved in buying clothing for him and otherwise assuring him by action and word that God loves him . Likewise, once you ask God to show you someone in need, you probably will find that person right along your pathway.
2) Listen carefully to prayer requests in church meetings and other places for someone who is going through hard times. Without warning, meet with or call that person and pray with him or her. Pray as specifically as possible and with heartfelt passion. It does not matter if the person is not a Christian, but it is helpful if it is someone that you do not know well. If it is not possible to call, then email a prayer.
3) Send a gift of love through Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). There are a variety of ways to do this, which are detailed on the VOM website. You can send an “action pack” to a family in a country where there is much suffering. Currently, VOM is targeting Sudan, Iraq and Pakistan. VOM gives detailed instructions on practical items to purchase, specific to the needs in each country, and provides a special bag for packaging. You send the packed bag to VOM, and they ship it to the family. My family enjoyed doing this for Christmas. Another creative idea is a Colombia parachute. VOM provides instructions on how to make a parachute, to which is attached a bag of special items and dropped from a plane over a Marxist guerilla camp in Colombia. One caution: in their persecution updates, VOM tends to sensationalize stories occasionally. For that reason I rely on Compass Direct for the most reliable news on persecuted believers. But I appreciate VOM’s active program that offers us practical ways to give hope to persecuted believers and those they are seeking to reach with the Gospel of hope.