Cider Goes To Camp

July 3, 2012

Cider Goes to Camp

Cider was sitting on a stack of empty fruit boxes at the open air market when his friend Fabián approached him. “Hey Cider, have you heard what’s new in the neighborhood? A family of evangelicals has moved in and they are going to start a church. Let’s go try it out. What do you say?”

Cider’s previous experience with church hadn’t been good.  He had gone a few times and always felt out of place» He was always looking for something for himself of course, and when he had gone he never found anything. They always wanted people to buy candles, or rosaries or make a contribution to the sisters of charity. “There’s nothing in it for me,” he thought. Cider’s real name was Juan. He lived with his mother and 5 brothers and sisters. His father had left home and refused to support his family. They lived in a crowded little wooden shack, all his mother had salvaged from her unhappy marriage.

Cider was glad to be able to work at the fruit and vegetable stand at the local open air market that carne to his neighborhood each Tuesday morning. They didn’t pay him much, but he got to eat all the fruit he wanted while he was working and at the close of the day he always carried home a big box of overripe fruit. One day he was carrying home a big box of apples when he met some of his friends. “What are you going to do with all those apples?” they ask.  Just in fun, he said, “Oh, I think I’ll make cider out of them.” That’s how he came to be called Cider.

“Come on Cider, let’s go try out the new church,” Fabián pleaded. “If we don’t like it we don’t have to go again.” Reluctantly he said, “Ok, I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 10:OO.”

Cider was pleased to see that a number of his friends were there when they entered the church the next morning. What really sounded good to him was the announcement about a camping trip they were planning. They said he would have to be there every Sunday for the next 4 Sundays to be able to go. He could hardly believe it. Surely he would have to pay something. Cider looked forward to going back on Wednesday night in hopes he would hear more about the camping trip. He thought they must have forgotten to say how much it cost. You just had to pay for it, after all, wasn’t church a way of getting money out of people? Even on Sunday they passed an offering plate and expected everyone to give something. Cider put In some old peso coins that didn’t have any value.

Again on Wednesday evening the pastor didn’t say anything about money. After church Cider ask him about the cost. “Well son,” replied the pastor, “If you come to Sunday school and church the next 3 Sundays you can go and it won’t cost you one single peso. There are some things you’ll need to take though, like a towel and soap, swimming trunks, and a Bible. You will also need to get a haircut.”

Cider was whistling the tune to “Jesus Loves Me” as he crossed the little foot bridge across the creek. How relieved he was to know he wouldn’t have to pay for camp, but where would he get those things he had to take? Their family only had one towel that usually hung In the tree In the yard beside the hand pump. It was faded and threadbare. He had never owned a pair of swimming trunks. And a Bible, he had no Idea how much they cost. By the time he reached home his joy had turned to bitterness as he faced the certain fact that he wouldn’t be able to earn enough money in 3 weeks to buy all those things. “It’s Just like I thought,” he said to himself. “Church is just a means of getting money out of people.”

Cider had almost given up going to camp until he met Fabián the next Sunday morning playing marbles with some of his friends under a big tree. “Hey, your going to church aren’t you?” he asked. “No, what for?” Cider asked. “But you will miss out on that camping trip if you don’t go.” “So what?” Cider shrugged, “I can’t afford to buy all that stuff you have to take with you.” “Ah, you’11 get it somewhere,” they all said. “We don’t have them either but we aim to get them somewhere.” So Cider decided to go to church again. He heard the pastor talking about salvation. He said it was free but Cider thought it surely can’t be. You have to pay for what you get. Then the Sunday school teacher told them about a new life they could have by letting Jesus come into their life. That sounded good. He wondered how much it cost. He couldn’t believe it was free.

After church Cider was more enthused about going to camp.  He and his friends discussed the problem of getting those things they needed to take to camp. Someone suggested stealing towels and swimming trunks off the neighbor’s clotheslines. That sounded tempting to Cider but he knew it wasn’t right. “And we could maybe steal Bibles in church,” Fabián suggested, “Steal in church?” Cider asked, “Who would ever do that?” “Well you don’t exactly steal them,” Fabián corrected, you just pick one up and if you get caught you say, “oh, I thought it was mine.” Cider wasn’t sure he would enjoy camp if he had to go with stolen goods. There had to be a better way. One day one of the ladies from the church carne by Cider’s house with a big box of used clothes for them. After she left they excitedly went through the box. Among its contents were 3 towels and yes, a pair of swimming trunks. Cider was beginning to change his mind about church. It wasn’t just to get money. In fact, it seemed like the church was giving more than it was getting!

Cider had been saving his money from week to week. One more week and he would have enough to buy a Bible» After church the next Sunday the pastor said, “Say, I have a surprise for you. One of the men in the church bought you a Bible and asked me to give it to you.” How thrilled he was. Now he had a Bible of his own and it didn’t cost him anything. The pastor told him a little about the Bible and gave him some suggestions about reading it.  Then he said, “The most wonderful thing about the Bible is that it tells us about God’s plan of salvation. Do you know what it means to be saved?” Cider said he had heard about it but he wasn’t sure he fully understood it.  Then the pastor outlined three simple steps to salvation. “First,” he said, “you must admit that you’re a sinner.” Cider knew that was true.  “Then you must believe that Jesus died for you as it says in Romans 5:8 “God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Then you must pray and confess to God that you are a sinner and ask him to save you.” “You mean that’s all I have to do?” Cider asked. “Not a thing more,” the pastor said. “Wouldn’t you like to do it?” “I sure would,” Cider said. They both knelt beside a bench there in the empty church and Cider asked God for a new life.

On Wednesday there was time for testimonies* Ciider’s heart was bubbling over. He knew he had to say something. “For weeks now,” he began, “I have been thinking about how to get a towel, a pair of swimming trunks and a Bible. Now praise God, I have all those, but last Sunday I found something far greater than all of them. I found Jesus Christ as my Savior. Now I’m going to camp with a whole lot more than just what I had to have. I’m going with Jesus in my heart and I hope to learn a lot more about him there.”

After church Cider was troubled about something.  Fabian still wanted to go to camp but he still lacked a towel and a Bible. He could loan him one of their towels and yes, he could use his savings to buy him a Bible.  When the day carne to go to camp Cider and Fabián found their place inside the old station wagon.  Cider thought, this is the happiest day of my life. Now he knew that the church was not just a place to get but a place to give.

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