WOW! WE FEEL GOOD! IN A SINGLE WEEK, we’ve run across two kinds of truly heartwarming stories—good for families and also great for your community to share.
Mark your calendars (or set your TV recorders) for 9 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday on the Hallmark Channel to catch the debut of “Safe Harbor,” a dramatic made-for-TV movie about a real-life couple who turned their boat into a home for troubled boys.
Here’s the Hallmark homepage for the movie, if you want to watch clips or check on various time zones for the showing. And, while it’s nowhere near as fancy, here’s the home page for the real-life Safe Harbor Boys Home in Jacksonville, Florida.
After two decades of raising young men, the couple who co-founded this ministry has expanded beyond what you’ll see in the debut movie. They’re even expanding into an auto-mechanic-training program as well. This is just a flat-out good-hearted story.
The real-life story springs from the couple’s evangelical faith, an element stressed in some earlier TV news coverage of this waterfront nonprofit. The movie doesn’t try to dig into the specific religious orientation of the founding couple, which follows a long Hollywood tradition in retelling such stories. There is one scene halfway through “Safe Harbor” that shows the first crop of troubled youths attending church with their new adult foster parents near the marina where their boats are docked. This makeshift “family” talks about the worship service on the walk back to the dock—and the young men say they actually enjoyed it. One of the most troubled kids says that church is so refreshing that he wants to go back the following Sunday.
But that’s the extent of pointedly religious moments in the Hallmark production.
The movie’s producers wisely focus the plot on a whole series of small personal dramas: One boy’s drunk Mom finds his foster home and stirs up trouble, one boy lights a terrible fire, one boy starts racing sailboats, one boy gets so furious over his lot in life that he demolishes a public restroom, one boy … You get the idea. This is “Boys Town” meets “Rebel Without a Cause” on the high seas with lovable kids trying to straighten out their lives—and there’s even a dramatic mid-ocean rescue at both the beginning and the end of the movie! The whole film would rate a PG rating in movie theaters, but there’s also a warm, believable husband-wife chemistry between Nancy Travis and Treat Williams, who play the real-life Safe Harbor founders.
There’s more specific religious content in two new Berenstain Bears books from Zonderkidz, the children’s lit division of Zondervan.
Depending on your own family background, you’re either warmly smiling at Berenstain news—or maybe you’re rolling your eyes over these simply sketched children’s books that lovingly spoof Southern culture. But, on a serious note: If you’re someone who closely watches media and popular culture, you’ve got to stand in awe of Jan and Michael Berenstain’s publishing record. Get this: Since 1962, this couple has sold 260 million copies of their books! Yes, “Harry Potter” and the Bible have sold more copies than that, but 260 million still is a jaw-dropping number.
The two new titles are “Love Their Neighbors” and “Play a Good Game.”
“Love Their Neighbors” reaches back for Southern stereotypes that Americans once watched on shows like “Hee Haw,” back in the day when poor, rural Southerners sometimes were called “hillbillies.” The derogatory term never appears in the book, but the object of unfair bigotry in this story is a classic “Beverly Hillbillies” clan. Of course, by the time we reach the back cover in this tale, we learn that no one should show such bigotry to people just because they’re poor and keep a pig in their yard.
“Play a Good Game” is aimed at the millions of American families with children in soccer leagues. There’s a big neighborhood soccer match brewing and overzealous parents get too involved in trying to sway the game.
Both books turn on specific biblical references from the New Testament, although neither book is exclusively Christian in its teaching. We won’t spoil the biblical surprises in these books but one is a contemporary retelling of a gospel parable and the other one illustrates a line in the Beatitudes.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)