Posted on : Monday September 26, 2011

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

SEVERNA PARK, Md.—I have in my hand a small, beautiful, meaningful work of art. It’s a coral colored paper crane made just for me by my friend Earl Gray, connections pastor at The Church at Severn Run. I chose my color from his collection. Earl painstakingly, nimbly, fashioned my personalized crane for me as we sat at a Starbucks in Severna Park. It’s dedicated to me, with the date, August 19 and it reads, “ With prayers for God’s blessings for peace in your life,” and it’s signed, Earl Gray. My crane is number 254. I am honored to receive this gift. It perches on top of a jewelry box in my bedroom where when I look at it, I feel cared for, and I feel God’s blessings on my life.

Earl is working on making 1,000 similar cranes and he gets great joy in giving them to people personally, or leaving them for people to find.

The inspiration came a year ago when he was doing some training for small group facilitators. They were going through the book of Philippians, which Earl calls a book of joy.

“We were reading the beginning, ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,’” (Philippians 1:2).

“I began to think, ‘what would it look like for me to be a person of grace and peace?”

As Earl meditated and prayed on the idea, he began considering peace cranes. Cranes are a sacred animal in Japan. One Japanese legend is that if you make 1,000 oragami cranes, a real crane comes to grant you a wish.

He thought of the story of Sadako, a young girl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima as a little child, but developed leukemia when she was twelve. Local residents sent colored oragami cranes to Sadako and other hospital patients. Sadako, cheered by the cranes, remembered the story of the 1,000 oragami cranes, and diligently began making cranes with the wish that she would be healed. Her family and friends brought her paper. Some stories say Sadako completed her task and others say she fell short of her goal before she died. Her mother gave some of the cranes to Sadako’s friends and some she buried with her daughter.

Later, Sadako’s friends honored the young girl by building a statue mourning all the children who died from the bombing. There is an inscription, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”

Earl decided to make 1,000 cranes to share God’s peace and blessings. He watched a video about how to make cranes.

“The first one took me an hour to make,” Earl confessed. After watching the video six times, folding and unfolding, number one was complete. Now he’s got it down to about five minutes and he can make them out of anything-menus, flyers and brochures. Earl kept his first successful crane. Doug Dubois, Director, Skycroft Conference Center, Middletown, had the honor of receiving the second one.

Earl makes a crane for anyone who requests one. So far, Earl’s cranes have gone to 22 states. He sent two to military personnel in Afghanistan and he has sent them to Australia, The Netherlands; Israel; Malaysia, Denmark and Singapore.

“It’s really grown and taken on a life of its own,” Earl said. Now, others have started making 1,000 cranes to give away. “One guy in Alabama sent me his number 8. Someone in Texas sent one of hers.” Friends ask Earl for cranes for their friends who are ill, or going through stressful difficulties.

Earl prays that recipients will know the true peace that God offers when they look at their cranes.

“Real peace is God’s peace,” Earl said. “Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’” (John 14:27)