Letters to God: Hope for Those Left Behind

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The scripture from Isaiah 11:6 reads, "And a little child will lead them."

That's one of the messages behind "Letters to God" -- the latest movie from the producers of the successful Christian films "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof."

"Letters to God," which opens in theatres April 9, is inspired by the true story of 8-year-old Tyler Doherty and his courageous battle with brain cancer.

Tyler talks to God by writing letters and mailing them each day.  His letters, which are really prayers, end up in the hands of a beleaguered postman, who's searching for meaning in his own life.

From the Mouth of Babes

Ten-year-old Tanner Maguire plays Tyler in his first big screen role. CBN News asked him about his character's relationship with God.

"Tyler views God like a best friend, as a friend," Maguire said. "He writes these letters to God as he would a kid texting another friend."

Jeffrey Johnson, who plays postman Brady McDaniels in the film, says the letters are exactly what it took to reach his character's heart.

"You know they talk about wisdom from the mouth of babes and it makes a lot of sense because you never know where these answers are going to come from," Johnson said.

"And when we first see my character Brady at the church, he just kind of peeks in and then he slowly works his way in closer and closer," he said. "And so he doesn't realize what he's looking for, it kind of finds him."

A Different Type of Film

Being on the set of a faith-based movie was a new experience for Johnson.

"Everyone is so helpful and so loving and everyone believed so deeply in what we were doing," he said.

"It was fantastic," Johnson continued, referring to having prayer between sets. "I'm used to doing my own praying, but it was nice to have other people helping out."

Patrick Doherty, Tyler's real father, wrote "Letters to God" after his son lost his battle with cancer. He believes Tyler's courage and child-like faith will give others hope.

"Not just the hope for people that are going through cancer, but the hope for those who are left behind to know that this... isn't it," Doherty said. "There's more to life, there's more that goes on after life. We have an eternity with God if you place your trust in Jesus Christ."

Doherty admits "Letters to God" was, at first, just a "cool title" for a movie. It wasn't until after the death of his son and a year-and-a-half after the screenplay was finished that he found Tyler's real letters to God.

"I was going through his room -- his room is still pretty much the same. I go in there every now and then and look at some things. And I was going through one of his desk drawers and I came across this little notepad and I flipped it open and I started reading," Doherty recalled.

"I started reading some of the things he'd written and there were some funny things, things about his sister and so forth and I'd get a little chuckle out of it," he said. "I kept flipping through and I stopped at one and it said 'Dear God' and it hit me."

"I screamed out for my wife and I ran in and I showed her... then I flipped over and there was another one," the father continued. "He actually did write to God."

Comfort in Christ

Doherty says no words can describe the pain of losing his son, but there's comfort in knowing that with this movie, Tyler will reach countless people for Christ.

"It's amazing to me that five years after he passed away that he's again, touching more lives," he said. "Just the legacy that will continue on because of him."

Robyn Lively, who portrays Tyler's mom Maddy, said the role gave her a new respect for families coping with cancer.

"I truly believe that people who are faced with challenges like this, the only way to get through something like that is with God," she said.

Director David Nixon of Possibility Pictures believes Hollywood is seeing the light when it comes to faith-based films.

"I've always had a dream to make Christian films and use this incredible medium to get the Gospel out, but until about six years ago you couldn't even do that because you couldn't get a film like this a theatrical distribution," Nixon said.

"Until "The Passion" came out and when Mel Gibson made about $600 million, it kind of opened the eyes of Hollywood and they said, 'we want some of these God films,'" he said.

Along with the movie, Nixon added that they're releasing several books and a sermon series for pastors.

For more information on "Letters to God" and ministry resources through Possibility Pictures, visit the movie's Web site.

Originally aired on March 31, 2010.


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CBN News
Wendy Griffith

Wendy Griffith

CBN News Anchor/Reporter

Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for the The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, she co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendygCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/WendyGriffithCBN.