The gift of a friend
Published: February 8, 2019

Taken from Toby and Susan Stevens’ January 2019 prayer letter. The Stevenses are church planters among Boston’s international population. 

This morning, while walking on the sidewalk, I enjoyed a conversation with “C” and his young son. Recently, C celebrated a birthday. At that time, I gave him a card with a note and invitation. Let me explain: Months back, a friend gave me a $20 cash birthday gift, suggesting that I take my family out for ice cream. This special gift had been given to me in memory of a dear lady who shared a birthday with me, Mrs. Beryl Bidlen. 

An unexpected pen pal

Many years ago, when I was 12 years of age, I submitted my name to a pen pal column. Weeks after submitting my letter, I received a formal letter from a Mrs. Beryl Bidlen. In her letter to me, Mrs. Bidlen explained that the column had been discontinued due to lack of interest, but my letter had caught her attention because we shared the same birthday. Mrs. Bidlen offered to be my pen pal. I was not interested, and I do not remember responding to her formal letter. That summer, in August 1989, on my birthday I received a card with a $20 bill. I responded, and Mrs. Bidlen became my pen pal. 

Friendship that grew

Years passed. All during my childhood and teenage years, a birthday card would come in the mail with a $20 bill. Later, Mrs. Bidlen became a significant financial supporter, desiring to help with my seminary training. At the time of her homegoing in April 2018, she had been continuing to financially support this Boston ministry and faithfully pray with us. At the time of her homegoing, our most recent prayer update was open on her desk.

With this $20 gift, remembering a mutual friend, I desired to invite a neighborhood family to join us. The C family came to mind. Today, during my conversation with C, I learned that he loves ice cream! We are arranging a time to get together with the C family; I like ice cream too, and I yearn to talk with them about Mrs. Bidlen, our special relationship, and her love for what God continues to do in this city.

Photo: Toby and Susan Stevens’ family with Mrs. Bidlen (seated) and another ministry friend, Grace.