Between the lines: Keeping the faiths
In the summer, I bought my elder daughter a chic pair of silver gladiator-styled sandals. When I showed them to her, she exclaimed, "Oh I looove them!" As visions of a budding fashionista danced in my head, she said, "I love them because Jesus has sandals just like these!"
My daughter loves Jesus. Her exposure comes from her kindergarten, which teaches Christian values. I find this amusing because I hold Buddhist beliefs, so I never expected my daughter to embrace Jesus in the way that she has, and especially at such a young age.
I never really thought about my own connection to Christianity until I realised that I know many of the Bible stories and songs my daughter is learning at school. That's because I grew up attending Sunday school.
My immigrant parents had no second thoughts about my brother and me attending Sunday school even though our family was not Christian. Vancouver is ethnically diverse today, but in my primary school years there were only four Chinese children in our student body. Sending us to church was a part of my parents' efforts to assimilate in their new community. Our family participated in Halloween trick-or-treating, Canada Day backyard barbeques and such, so joining Sunday school seemed a natural extension of these neighbourly activities. As a result, what I got out of Sunday school was the comfort of belonging rather than any connection with God.
Despite my own feeling about Christianity, I'm proud that my daughter has developed an interest in something that was not initiated or influenced by me. (Of course, I'm also proud when she has interests in things that are heavily influenced by me.)
To encourage both of us to explore Christianity further, I have been reading bible stories to my daughter from The Jesus Storybook Bible written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago. Published by evangelical publisher Zondervan, this award-winning book also comes in a large format keepsake edition. My daughter's favourite story is the birth of Jesus. She loves to revisit this story in the different storybook editions, including The Christmas Story. Written by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin, this is a classic edition first published over 40 years ago. The artwork is beautiful and the story of Jesus's birth is retold to a younger audience while staying true to the bible.
Someone at my daughter's school gave me a copy of Todd Burpo's Heaven is for Real. It is an honest and inspiring account of a near-death experience by the author's son, Colton. Colton told his parents that, during his emergency appendectomy, he visited heaven and met long-departed family members. What is astonishing is that his recollections are so vivid and his descriptions so detailed. For non-believers, it is food for thought. For believers, Colton's account is an affirmation of what awaits them.
Heaven is for Real for Kids is a new edition of the original bestseller that has been adapted for children. I haven't shared it with my daughter yet because I foresee an onslaught of metaphysical questions and I want to wrap my head around how I might answer them. In the meantime, I'm busy with her day-to-day questions like why God doesn't need a raincoat when it's raining.
Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me A Book Hong Kong