A little over a year ago, Dr. John Dreisbach, veteran missionary to western Africa and other places, passed away. When he died, I was in the middle of working on a biography about him for children. After his death I published the first chapter of that book on my blog. But you may be interested in Chapter 2 as well–it tells a story I love: the true salvation of a boy growing up in a Christian home.
Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Cookies
“Johnny, have you finished your chores?” Mother’s voice called from the kitchen.
“Yes’m! I mean, no’m! But I’ll do ’em right now.” Twelve-year-old Johnny slapped his book closed and jumped from his chair.
“Goodness sakes, Johnny, what were you reading?” Mother wiped her brow with the back of her hand as she slid the bread out of the oven.
Johnny looked at the floor, his face turning pink so that his freckles stood out almost like polka-dots. “Mary Slessor.”
Mother let out a low chuckle as she slid the knife around the edge of the bread pan. “Don’t you have that book memorized by now?”
“Yes’m,” Johnny replied. “Pretty much.”
“So what’s your favorite part?”
Johnny paused to consider. “I guess the adventures.”
“The adventures? That’s the whole book!”
Johnny looked up and smiled. “I guess that’s why I keep reading it!”
“Well,” Mother went on as she sliced the steaming bread and slathered one piece with butter. “Here, have some of this before you run out. I’m grateful to God that you still want to be a missionary like Mary Slessor and those others.”
“Yes’m,” Johnny replied, his cheeks bulging like a chipmunk.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, son. I do pray, though, that before you go to Africa, God will do some work in your own heart.”
As Mother turned back to her work, Johnny’s face blushed scarlet. He grabbed the water pail and ran out the door to the pump. He pumped vigorously, angrily. “Do some work in my own heart? Didn’t I learn all the catechism? Don’t I want to be a missionary? Isn’t that enough?”
But way in the back corner of his mind he thought about the cookies. But then he didn’t think about the cookies. He wouldn’t think about the cookies.
“Johnny!” Mother called again. “Don’t forget to get back from the store right on time tonight. We got meetings at church.”
“Yes’m,” Johnny mumbled. When his chores were finished he ran down the block and around the corner to his uncle’s grocery store. Quickly he tied on his apron and slid behind the counter. Just this summer he had finally grown tall enough to no longer need to stand on a stool to weigh out the customers’ orders.
“Well, hello there, Johnny.” A smiling lady walked through the door.
“Hello, Mrs. Turner,” Johnny answered in his most polite voice. This lady would be his teacher in the fall at Findley Junior High School, and he wanted to make a good impression. “What can I get for you today?”
“Five pounds of sugar, first,” she answered.
Johnny grabbed an empty bag and expertly began to fill it from the large sugar bin. There it was, right next to the chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies. The ones he’d been snitching when nobody was looking. I won’t take one today. We got meetings at church tonight.
Setting the sugar bag on the scale, Johnny said, “Looks like five and a quarter, ma’am. Will that be all right?”
“Oh, certainly,” Mrs. Turner chuckled. “We can always use a little extra sugar. More cookies!”
Johnny nodded as he tied the bag, but he felt his face becoming hot again.
Three hours later, with his starched collar and bow tie and slicked hair, Johnny sat in a straight-backed pew next to his mother. The preacher hollered about sin.
What did he say? Johnny couldn’t even sort out the words. All he could see was the cookies.
How many were there? Dozens? He couldn’t count them. Every chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie he had ever stolen from his uncle’s store, all of them lumped together to make one big mountain of a chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie.
All he could hear was Mrs. Turner’s voice crying, “More cookies! More cookies!”
Johnny choked back a lump in his throat and hid his face from his mother’s view.
Finally he heard some different words, words he had been waiting for. “Won’t you come?” He jumped up from the pew and almost ran to the front, crying and crying.
“Please, oh God! I’m so sorry! Do some work in my heart!” He closed his eyes tight as he felt a gentle arm around his shoulders. It was the preacher, ready to pray with him.
“Lord Jesus,” Johnny sobbed, “forgive my sin and save me!”
The chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie mountain melted in the light of the love of Jesus Christ. Johnny Dreisbach stood before the cross, a saved sinner.
Ready now, to learn how to take the gospel he had finally received.