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Letter from camp

All times are the right times to talk about Christ

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A letter from my 11-year-old granddaughter in week six of summer camp said, in part: “Please pray for my friend, her sister died and she had to leave camp. They gave her the wrong shot when she went to China.” Death is obscene.

In summer’s beginning I had wanted to write to my granddaughter about lofty matters of her soul’s salvation but had held back, reasoning to myself that solemn words are not effective in lighthearted settings. Better to wait for an appropriate time.

I had scrawled Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees” in a card instead, telling her I was her age when we memorized it in fifth grade: “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree. / … Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree.”

The holding back of spiritual things till “a better time” is a trait a child of God has many opportunities to be disabused of. My cure should have come in 1973 at Swiss L’Abri. The place was heaven itself, our senses filled to the full with mountain air and grazing cows with bells the size of toasters—when a truck missed the turn and plunged headlong down the terraced slope into the yard of a chalet below. The L’Abri house director standing with us along the ledge in the aftermath said what we were all suddenly thinking: “Ultimate reality.”

I had wanted to write to my granddaughter about lofty matters of her soul’s salvation but had held back.

One is at such times ashamed of one’s embarrassment over the offense of the gospel. One realizes that all times are the right time for the gospel. Death is rude and confident; it has no such scruples of timing. It is the party-crasher of our best-planned parties, mocking our notions of ordinary life as “real life.” Death showed up to spoil the celebratory mood in an early church the day it sucked two liars down to judgment. “Ultimate reality.” The church was filled with fear again (Acts 5:11). These are needed corrections.

But one forgets. I was embarrassed in 1981 at my cousin’s cousin’s house the first time I met her. I had come because she knew infant nutrition, and I was pregnant. I had planned on the drive to share the gospel. But as I sat in her kitchen, her house was so orderly and well-appointed and full of wise touches, and she herself was so discreet and kind and respectful toward her husband, that I completely chickened out. What was I supposed to tell her? “Wow, you really need Christ!”? A year later our paths crossed again, and she announced that she had become a Christian since our last encounter. I confessed that I had wanted to tell her about Christ in her kitchen but had held back. She said: “Well I wish you had! You would have saved me six months!”

I visited my grandmother for years until her death at 98 and meant to have a serious talk at some point about her soul’s salvation. But she seemed not very interested, so I held back until a more opportune time. I rationalized to myself that I would let my life be my testimony—like the old saying, “Share the gospel, use words if necessary.” In the ignominious end I was fairly shouting into her comatose ear as she lay unresponsive in a hospital bed. The rich man fades away in the midst of his pursuits, says James (1:11). So does the person who keeps meaning to tell his neighbor the way to be saved.

The Bible teaches: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. … He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:1, 4).

The key is “in season and out of season.” At summer camp, as well as in the shadow valley.

“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6).

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Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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