Monday, June 25, 2018

A Surprising Heaven


Here in The States, we have a holiday coming up. Summer holidays are often celebrated outside in community. This picture book is about one neighborhood's strange, unexpected gift. One young leader helps them choose to be open to its possibilities and come together to bring about positive change. It has all sorts of applications for faith communities too!  
Picture Book: A Bus Called Heaven
Author & Illustrator: Bob Graham
Summary: This story begins at little Stella’s house where an abandoned bus appears with no explanation.  
Taped on the front is a hand-painted saying “Heaven.” The community stops their hurrying by and gathers to puzzle over this strange gift. Stella says it's as sad as an abandoned whale. 
She goes inside and finds trash, debris, and possibilities. 
Stella says to her neighbors, "It could be ours." 
Stella's mom determines that it needs to come off the road so together they roll it into Stella's yard, but it still sticks out some. 
 Heaven becomes a gathering place for conversation 
 and play. 
 There is work to do: clearing & scrubbing.
After some graffiti artists leave their mark, they are recruited to "make the whole bus sparkle." 
 Stella gives them some of her art to copy. 
Then the neighbors bring donations including a Table Soccer set. Now Heaven is homey, 
and yummy.
Soon Heaven becomes a second home for neighbors who had never spent all that much time together. Life returns to the bus. 
Sharing and caring soars. There's music, dancing, picnics, and laughter until... 
 another surprise arrives.
Because Heaven sticks out onto the sidewalk, it must be towed. 
A question arises from the crowd:   
 They follow Heaven to a new home and lament. 
The junkyard boss shows the regulation, "Thou shalt not park on the street," and proclaims that Heaven is headed to the crusher.    
Stella challenges the driver to a Table Soccer game. If she wins, she gets the bus. 
 Victory!  
After showing the driver, a new family of birds living in Heaven's engine, the driver explains the bus must be moved to a private space. 
Little Stella has an idea and all push Heaven to a new home in the vacant lot behind Stella's house.    
 All are worn out, but they're worn out together. 
Once they recoup, there is music and dancing! Heaven for sure! 
Hanna’s Comments: A community is transformed, and a little girl finds her voice. Concepts of heaven and the Kingdom of God are all over this book as are allusions to the early Christian church's inclination to share and Jesus' teachings about loving neighbor. All of these ideas are potential for great conversation with a group of children or adults in loving faith community. If you have a big change, here's a tool for exploring meaning and possibility. If your group needs to be motivated to invest in their surroundings, this book could begin a conversation. Be specific about the differences the bus made for individuals, not just the group. Also, talk about creative problem solving being sourced by God. Emphasize the kindness and gentleness modeled in these pages as opposed to the rudeness we sometimes see in the media and even in communities of faith. 
Original Publisher & Date: Candlewick, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present 
Scripture Connections: Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12); a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6); Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:31, 1 John 4:7), Loving community (Acts 2; Hebrews 10:24-25)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of adult leaders in a church who are dealing with a significant change.