Showing friendship through letter writing

Published 12:30 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

By Tonya S. Swindell

In light of America’s current social climate, it may be helpful to consider a letter apostle Paul wrote to two fellow Christians: Onesimus, a former slave; and Philemon, Onesimus’ former slave owner.

Paul urges Philemon to bond in friendship with Onesimus despite injustices they both faced in their former relationship as slave owner and slave. The apostle’s letter was so integral to the Christian faith that it was canonized as the New Testament book of Philemon. The credibility and weightiness with which Paul penned his sentiments confirmed the significance of friendship as a means to exemplify Christ’s likeness.

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While summarizing themes presented within the book of Philemon, The New Living Translation stated: “In Christ we are one family. No walls of racial, economic or political differences should separate us. Let Christ work through you to remove barriers between Christian brothers and sisters.”

I have also benefited from friendship and encouragement that was expressed through letter writing. In 1993, when my husband and closest friend was out at sea for 80 days on the USS Simón Bolivar serving as a navigational electronic technician for the U.S. Navy, I lived alone in base housing at Goose Creek, S.C. At times I felt depressed and lonely as a result of my inability to have more substantial contact with him.

In one very meaningful letter, my husband’s words improved my mood and sustained my emotions until he returned. The letter was among several he wrote prior to departure then gave to the ombudsman to mail at designated times. Right when I needed it, I received the following written words found in Isaiah 60:1 The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition: “Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you — rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!”

According to Alena Hall, The Huffington Post author of “9 Reasons Not To Abandon The Art Of The Handwritten Letter,” “Research has shown that the general act of writing by hand can promote…physical and mental benefits, from improving learning abilities to fostering a more positive outlook on life…the impact of such messages lasts far longer than any alternative version offered in our high-tech world.

“1. They create lasting memories; 2. They show how much you care; 3. They make you feel good; 4. They make every word count; 5. They spark creativity; 6. They require your undivided attention; 7. They require unplugging; 8. They honor tradition; 9. They’re timeless.”

Although times have changed and technology is much more advanced, military men, women and families may still appreciate receiving handwritten materials. While researching for this column, I Googled “Operation Gratitude” which assists people with writing, sending and receiving handwritten letters and care packages for troops, veterans, new recruits, wounded heroes (and their caregivers) or first responders. The results may be priceless, because writing from the heart has many great benefits.

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for and is a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School ( She can be reached at