It all started with Brenda Morrow’s request to her missionary friends for prayers.

Gene Gardner, a member of her church family had just been diagnosed with a second brain tumor.

When Morrow needed a few extra prayers her missionary friends were whom she called upon, and if any situation called for prayer, this was it.

Not only did her friends send prayers, they sent cards.

“Everyone tries to give me credit for this idea but it wasn’t me-God gave me the idea and I just carried it out,” Morrow said.

Morrow sent out 50 e-mails asking for help in collecting birthday cards as a special surprise for Gardner on his 25th birthday with the hope of collecting 250 cards.  That goal was met in the first three days, so a new goal of 1,000 cards was set. She continued to receive about 250 cards a day.

Through the generosity and compassion of countless friends, relatives, and even total strangers, an incredible 5, 880 cards have been sent to Bible Baptist Church

At a special birthday party, children presented the cards to Gardner.

Thousands of cards were handmade by schools and Sunday school classes all over the United States.

Cards of every shape and size were sent. They came not only from schools and youth groups, but churches, missionaries, loved ones and complete strangers from 43 states and seven countries.

Gardner grew up in the Bible Baptist Church family. He is the greeter at the door and  is known to always be the one with the positive attitude and the warm grateful smile.

   “This is a time for blessings and not tragedy,” said his mother, Elaine Gardner.  “This is a time for celebration of life, and Gene has come through with good spirits.”

She added, “Gene was only 16 when we first found out he had a tumor. That was through an accident he had while playing around at school and when the doctors checked they found the tumor.”

Through her family’s deep faith, Elaine Gardner says they have turned this over to God and He has given them the chance to celebrate their son’s life for as long as he has it.

She said they have read through about 1000 cards and have many more to open.

It is a long process, not only because there are so many, but also almost every card has a note or letter included. The notes tell who the people are or some talk about the day they are having.

“One little boy wrote about his day and ended his letter telling Gene that if he had some time to call him, they would talk on the phone.

“He even included his mothers cell phone number,” Elaine Gardner said.

 One card had a CD from an Elvis impersonator with his show on it for Gene to watch.

 “The outpouring has been almost overwhelming to everyone involved,”  Morrow said.  “Cards came in boxes from Kansas, Florida, Texas and Arkansas, all from kids.”  

Grove Lower Elementary and Joplin Middle School sent cards from each student.

In addition, Gene Gardner received a Book from a Christian Book Publisher and the OSU Basketball team took time to sign a poster and send it as well.

Friendship Church in Miami cancelled service the day of  the party so they could share fellowship with the Bible Baptist Church family and the Gardners.

  The party was a surprise, pulled off with the help of the church family and friends and relatives.

Two hundred and sixty friends and relatives attended the evening service and celebration.

The party included special music by Dr. Gregg Lamp, and a humorous DVD presentation of Gene’s childhood compiled by Brenda Morrow.

A barbecue dinner was served to all in attendance.

  Gene is the son of Mark and Elaine Gardner, and a lifelong member of Bible Baptist Church. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 1999.

An added blessing, Gene’s brother Dale, who has been serving in Iraq, was able to come home to attend the party. It was a great reunion of physical and spiritual families.

  The Gardner family and Bible Baptist Church are overwhelmed with gratitude and wish to thank Grand Saving Bank, Friends Church of Miami, the Grove and Jay communities, and all those around the world who made the 25th birthday of a fine young man a very wonderful event that will be cherished by all. Birthday cards continue to arrive, and Gene will enjoy opening all his cards in the weeks to come.