Combined Efforts: A Corporation, Intentional God

by Lisa Suhay, Author; Norfolk,VA

Faith is a like a spider web. From some angles, it looks fragile. It is easily shaken; often wavering in the mildest of ill winds, but is remarkably resilient, binding and strong. You can walk into it face first and flail all around trying to shake it, but somehow it holds onto you.

My personal faith in corporate America has been pretty abysmal in recent years, with all the toads hopping around boardrooms. Even corporate giving seemed canned and just a little too staged and plastic to warm my heart. Then a charity project that my community has come together to create went awry and we needed to be rescued in the 11th hour...

I wrote a children's book that would benefit The Literacy Partnership and the Joy Fund. One gives new books to needy children, along with the other holiday gifts. We got a grant and published ourselves and were all set for the big launch and a slew of literacy events and school visits when hurricane season stranded our book.

The ship from Singapore got rerouted to avoid hurricanes. Instead of following our special arrangement to come directly to the Port of Norfolk, Virginia, 10,500 charity books ended up on the wrong coast in Long Beach, California; in the Port of Los Angeles just days before the release. This was my nightmare since I had done a story for the Christian Science Monitor two years ago about a children's book getting stuck in that port during the dockworkers' strike. I knew just how deep the hole was that we had just been tossed into.

So maybe I was just trolling for a scapegoat when I began calling big shipping corporations during my hour of need. Maybe I didn't really expect anyone to respond and I would have someone to be angry with - other than God - for creating this natural disaster. But I was just looking at how stick was the web and not the beauty of the spinning. We were facing strict post-911 customs inspections and a very long rail ride across country that would make the book weeks overdue. We were gonners...Gonner miss the book launch. Gonner miss all the school visits planned.

I had 24-little-hours to find someone who would move the books for FREE, at top speed, and make a decision in a blink. There was no way the charities could afford to fly the books in. DHL said that they could not possibly make a decision in less than a month. UPS didn't respond at all.

On a Friday afternoon, with one hour left before the books were doomed to the rail, I began an Internet search for any CEO hailing from Virginia. Yes, I was in shock when the first name to pop was President of FedEx Freight Douglas Duncan, born and raised right here in Hampton, Virginia. I called his office in Memphis and, getting voicemail, I left my hopeless, faithless message and sat down to cry. Twenty minutes later the phone rang: FedEx had approved the move as a gift.

FedEx had people dogging the shipment through customs and onto trucks that very hour. A man named Ken VanGuilder at FedEx in Memphis spent his whole weekend tracking the progress. At one point I got panicky. "I am confident those books will be there," he e-mailed. "Don't forget, we have 600 FedEx jets backing this up!"

I've never had 600 jets backing up my efforts. It makes you a little light-headed for a moment. The truck arrived here at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the day of the launch.

For perspective...Friday: California - buried in a rail container, bogged in Customs mire. Wednesday: Norfolk, raising money for our kids. Seeing a company that big move so fast was like watching Mt. Rushmore leap up and sprint across the nation!

A friend, who has left her church in recent years and who rolls her eyes at me when I speak of faith, listened to me tell this tale and said simply, "God wanted those books here."

I was astonished. "I thought your faith was gone?" I said.

"Well I guess it's back," she said with a little sniffle.

Our city has a 24% illiteracy rate, and 18% of residents live below the poverty level. That means 40,000 people in our city can't help a child with homework or fill out a job application. Facing those odds, every minute and every sale counts twice. Thousands of kids in Virginia will get free books and holiday gifts because people in a corporate office in Memphis thought inside the box, knowing that the contents were precious. They believed in a book they hadn't ever seen and children they've never met. They made a snap decision based on faith.

I'll never look at a spider web or a big corporation the same way again.

(This article is reprinted from Daily Wisdom,, a service of Gospel Communications International. Lisa Suhay has been a frequent contributor to Daily Wisdom. She is the mother of four boys and author of five books. You can see the charity book project at, or read more about this story, as well as another essay by Lisa at Footnote from Lisa: "This is my fifth children's book but the first one I did myself as a charity project. It has been a smash hit and raised more than $14,000 to be shared between the two charities. That sum was raised between October 1st and December 1st - not to mention the massive name recognition the two charities are now enjoying as a result, and the fact that our whole team feels about 10-feet-tall!" You may email Lisa at

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