Thursday, January 18, 2024

Sunbeams, Memories, and Joy.

This has been a week filled with memory.

On Sunday, Bay spoke at Burton Baptist Church, which his grandfather (a missionary to the cowboys of Northern Arizona) helped to start back in 1927. 

I took a picture of him behind the very same pulpit his grampa preached from in those days.

Many of the older folks remember Fred Barnes (whom Bay is also named after) and shared several stories that left us grinning. 

On Monday, we drove down the hill to the Valley, stopping at my brother and sister-in-laws' home in Sun City for a mini-Barnes family reunion with siblings and cousins and spouses who were in town. 

Again, the memories flowed, leaving us all laughing over the past.

On Tuesday, I gathered with seven dear friends from college days. There's a lot of "past" behind us, over 40 years (& more for some who were even childhood friends). 

So much history, so many warm memories; and, the laughter filled my soul.

However, as Bay and I drove to Arizona on Saturday, he reminded me of a memory I'd tucked away in a filing cabinet somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. 

I'm not even sure what brought it up in our conversation; yet, this memory looms larger than all the others shared over the week, and has been on repeat when my mind is quiet.

About 30 miles outside of Nairobi (Kenya), in Thika District, is a primary school for children who are disabled, called Joytown. 

Joytown was founded by a Salvation Army missionary back in 1962, with the purpose of providing resources and rehabilitation to the physically disabled, that they might be enabled to walk and/or gain skills that would help them live self-reliant lives (information from their website). 

Our friend Dr. Dick Bransford (1940-2022) frequently visited to provide medical services literally changing lives of hundreds of children. 

(pictures from the Joytown website)

Dick specialized in spina bifida, club feet, polio and other congenital handicaps; so, Joytown was dear to his heart. 

Now and then, he would take one of us along with him.

Somewhere, I've still held onto pictures of Adam playing soccer there as a youngster. He's "kicking" the ball around with a group of boys, many of whom are on crutches and even in wheel chairs. This, too, is a sweet memory I cherish.

But, I have a personal memory, as well. 

It's a snapshot stuck in my heart of a one-day visit. 

In an early education classroom, the teacher pulled us aside to say the students had asked if they could share a song. 

I looked around this overcrowded room filled with kiddos being taught in fairly primitive conditions. 

Every student held in common their particular medical issue, and, mutually shared one more thing - bright, smiling, enthusiastic spirits, ready to give from their hearts to ours this sweet gift.

Those who could stood.

Right in front of me, however, sat a sweet girl in her wheel chair.

She'd been born without legs or arms, yet she sang with gusto, more than any of the other students.


At the top of her lungs.

Her brown eyes huge, her smile reaching up and pulling on those very eyes as she sang, 

"Jesus wants me for a sunbeam / to shine for Him each day. / In every way try to please Him / at home, at school, at play..."

(Sunbeam: a ray of sun light; may be used to describe a beam of sun light that shines brightly and happily...)

Oh! My! Word! was she ever a sunbeam (🌞) and she lit the entire room!

This precious girl, in spite of her difficulty, and in spite of issues that wouldn't be perfected til she entered heaven's gates, held a joy inside of her that spilled over to every one of us.

Somehow she'd caught hold of an understanding of the gospel in such a way that it lived through her. 

She didn't manufacture gratitude, she personified gratitude with joy, and spritzed it every where her wheelchair took her.

And, I?

I left humbled. 

Maybe it's why I tucked the memory so far to the back behind other memories...

I'm not sure I've grasped the gospel quite so well. 

With all my years lived, education, physical health, opportunity, and "ability," there are still moments I don't necessarily want to be a sunbeam.

There are still times my smile doesn't reach my eyes and I have no gift of song to offer.

There are times when the gospel isn't allowed to live through me. 

This week, though, the Lord has reminded me He is THE LIGHT of the world and when I follow Him I am to shine the same light (John 8:12).

In fact, He told His disciples: 

Not to be hidden under frustration, anger or frowns.

Not to be covered up with a bushel of complaints.

Not to be placed under a basket of bitterness.


We're to sit at the front of the room, singing loudly, letting our light shine for the glory of God...

IN SPITE OF...well, whatever the circumstances!

What a memory and what a reminder!


  1. 😭 Thank you for this beautiful reminder to be grateful and SHINE HIS LIGHT and ❤️ LOVE!

  2. Peg, I am blessed to share this. Thank you for stirring my memories of Dick, the kids he served and loved. The last year we spent in Kenya I volunteered to work with the moms of the kids in the ward. Recalling listening to their stories and helping with the kids makes me for God opening a door.