By Vince LaBarbera
As a child — and maybe later as a parent or grandparent — many times you may have heard it said or said yourself, “Eat your vegetables! There are hungry children in (China, India, Africa, Bangladesh, etc.)”
That’s similar to what Kiera Beckman heard earlier this year when she didn’t want to eat her green beans. “I like green beans. But I just didn’t want to eat them,” Kiera interjected.
Her mother, Shalei, said, “We watch the news and we’ve seen a lot of warfare and how devastating it is in Syria. When Kiera didn’t want to eat her green beans one evening it triggered us to go on line and see how different things are in other parts of the world,” she continued. “We sat there and cried as we looked at pictures of the little kids in Syria and how they’re living in tents. And Kiera wanted to know if we could pray for them.”
After Kiera went to bed her mother called Darcy Quinn, Kiera’s second-grade teacher at Most Precious Blood School in Fort Wayne, and told her what had happened. When Kiera came to school the next day, Quinn, who has been a teacher for 20 years but was in her first year teaching second grade, formed a prayer circle with her “sweet 16 children,” as she calls them. “We prayed for Kiera’s intention and I showed the class a couple pictures on line of what the children looked like in Syria,” she remarked. “I’ve always told the children you don’t have to wait until you are grown up to do the work of Christ.” The children asked, “But what can we do?” Quinn told them about a student-led service project a former class had done after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, coloring pictures to sell with proceeds going to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Student Madison Felkner suggested they make books to sell, which prompted Quinn to suggest making prayer books to both raise money for the children in Syria who were starving because of violence caused by terrorists and encourage others to pray with them as well. Since it was early in February and the beginning of Lent, the idea seemed very appropriate, Quinn added.
While the children wrote their prayers and drew illustrations, Kiera’s grandparents, Pat and Dave Beckman, stepped in. Pat offered to type the prayers and Dave said he would get them printed at Lincoln Printing, where he works. His boss, Todd Wiedemann, agreed to print 300 booklets for free.
“The Holy Spirit worked through Kiera and the children to make all this happen,” Quinn emphasized.
Next, she contacted her good friend, Melissa Wheeler, director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who could get in touch with UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Spaces providing safe places where children can gather, learn and play during conflicts and emergencies, such as war-torn countries in the Middle East.
The finished “Prayers for Peace” booklets were sold in classrooms for a week at a dollar, or whatever a student wanted to give, Quinn explained. Her class organized into groups of four and gave some brief, prepared remarks prior to sales. They sold the remaining booklets after weekend Masses and were very excited when a parishioner gave a child a one-hundred-dollar bill. They counted the money in class for a total of $736.22. At a school assembly, the class presented Wheeler a poster-size check made out to CRS. The children each got to read their prayer over the school’s public address system.
Reemphasizing that the project was prompted by the Holy Spirit, Quinn related that Pope Francis recently said, “The Syrian children invite children from around the world to join their prayer for peace.”
Prayers of the “Sweet 16 Children:”
Here are the 16 prayers of the “Sweet 16 Children:”
“Dear God, I am scared for the people out in Syria. I wish that there was food, no terrorists, and peace. I hope that there will be love, hope, and joy. I pray for the people of Syria. Amen. -Delaney”
“Dear God, I hope for joy and peace in the world someday so kids have peace and joy and they can sleep well and have food. -Jermayne”
“Dear God, I hope there is no harm. I wish for no gun shooting. I am concerned about people dying. Too many. Amen. -Nathaniel”
“To God and Jesus, I am concerned that people are getting hurt. I wish that everyone is ok and not hurt. I hope that everyone that doesn’t follow you will find you. Everyone should love you Jesus and God and also Mary. I hope that you will find them. -Aaliyah”
“My Dear Jesus, Mary and God, I wish for no one to be poor and I hope for love, and compassion so joy spreads all over the earth. And for it to stop. I would love to help these people. -Roman”
“Dear God, I hope that you help all the people in the world that are in danger, the people that don’t have food, the people that are scared. Help the people that are slaves. Amen. -Elijah”
“Dear God, I’m worried that terrorists will never stop. I wish for peace on the earth. I hope Jesus will shock bad people’s hearts so they can be in God’s hands. I know that you will bring your people back. Save them and I pray that the earth will be peace one day. And if it doesn’t work, give them what they need please. Love, -Madison”
“Dear God, I wish people around the world would stop doing mean things. “Madison K.”
“Dear God, I hope the violence in Syria and in other countries will stop happening. -JT”
“Dear God, Take love to the kids that don’t have food. -Briny”
“Dear Jesus, I’m worried about them so can you help them so they don’t die? Please help them Jesus so they don’t die. Please help them – I mean it – so they don’t die. Please save them, Jesus. Just do your best please, Jesus. Please don’t let them die. Please because I do not want them to die. So please save them. Do the best you can Jesus. Please don’t let them die. Do the best you can. Amen. -Cain”
“Dear God, I am concerned for the people from all over the earth. I want to help them with some of my friends and raise money for the sick and the poor. I don’t want them to die and I want people to not be mean to their siblings. It breaks my heart when people sin. We all try our best not to sin. -Owen”
“Dear God, I hope for love, joy and peace. Our Father who art in heaven, have earthly peace. Take the devil away from Syria, and terrorists. Harvest corn for the little children. Holy Mother, please have mercy on those who aren’t nice. Dear God, I pray for the families of Syria. No gun shots! I hope the little children get food. Holy Mother and Father please give out peace. Amen. -Kiera”
“Dear God, I hope for peace in the world some day because of all the violence that has been everywhere. People have probably got seriously hurt because of it. Amen. -Lydia”
“Dear God – Jesus – Mary, I hope for a message of love and I wish for hope and peace. Love, -Hayden.”
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