A conference-wide youth congress at Mountain View College in the Philippines was fast approaching. A week before the event, Elpie, one of my former Mindanao Mission Academy students, contacted me to see if I’d be at the youth congress.
When Elpie found out I’d be attending, she told me she’d prepared something—a gift for me and for my students. I smiled, remembering how Elpie had often visited my office and helped me. Now she was in her third year of college, studying medical technology. It would be good to see her again.
As the congress began, people packed the Mountain View College campus.
I arrived on Wednesday. Elpie asked if I could meet her near the entrance, but we had conflicting schedules that day, and it didn’t work out. The next day we had a short conversation, but I wasn’t able to pick up the gift she had for me. Friday didn’t work out either because of the many activities going on.
I knew she’d be leaving Sabbath evening, so I checked her tent area, but she wasn’t there. Then I received a message that she’d already left. I wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye or pick up her gift.
On Sunday morning, the once-packed campus seemed almost empty—just a few tents still standing and a few people dismantling booths. Back at my tent, I received a message that Elpie’s gift had been left with a friend in the tent next to mine.
I expected a small item and was surprised by a heavy box. When I excitedly opened it, I discovered school supplies for my teaching and for my students to use: bond papers, pens, sharpeners, chalk, rulers, etc. I immediately messaged Elpie, thanking her for her thoughtfulness. There was also a sealed and confidential envelope in the box. After unpacking and settling back in, I finally had a chance to open it.
Saved from death
In the letter, Elpie told me how she’d been suffering from depression. She’d tried to commit suicide multiple times when she had problems with family or finances. Then, when she heard about the youth congress, she decided to buy school supplies for me. Whenever the depression struck her, she’d buy an item to help remind herself that God would take care of her, just as God takes care of the children in the mountains and islands where SULADS missionaries serve.
Every item in the box represented a potential suicide attempt refocused by God’s saving love. I couldn’t imagine how many times she was saved from death, because the box was filled and heavy! She’d used her own money to buy those supplies.
After reading the letter, I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for preserving Elpie’s life. I praised the Lord for the ministry of SULADS missionaries who reach students, their families and communities too.
I messaged Elpie again after reading her letter and realizing how precious those school supplies were. And I thanked God that Elpie had chosen to keep pressing on—to not give up on God or her life. She had found a purpose in life through giving.