In my elementary school years, our family lived out in the country between Buckner and Independence, Mo. We didn’t live on a farm, but they surrounded our house. We attended Six Mile Baptist, a tiny white church with the typical cemetery in the back. The church got its name because Fort Osage, the nearest fort, was six miles away. I often wondered who would want to attack a church. And if the church was in danger of attack, why not build it six feet from the fort instead?
Summer means many things to a young country boy. Sometimes, my brothers and I worked for our neighbors. The one who lived three houses down grew potatoes. He hired me to walk behind the potato digger, pick up the newly unearthed potatoes and load them on a wagon. Sometimes I worked as a strawberry picker. At other times, my brothers and I picked up pecans or walnuts that had fallen to the ground. There in the country, someone always had a job for a hard-working young man. When the work was done, we boys gathered in the empty lots between the houses and played baseball for hours on end.
In the cool of the evening, we often sat around a little transistor radio and listened to the Kansas City As. You can feel as though you’re behind home plate when you watch baseball games on your high-definition widescreen television today. Still, nothing compares to a young boy’s imagination and a transistor radio. As we huddled around that little box, we saw the game as a television screen could never show it. There were no instant replays, just an announcer, his cries of excitement garbled by the tiny speakers. When God designed summer, He surely had young boys in mind.
I remember the last day of school one year. We had already turned in our books and said good-bye to friends. Now, we waited for that last bell to ring before we escaped to freedom. Our science teacher kept a garter snake in the room and wondered aloud about what to do with it during the summer months. Out in the country, I had caught many harmless reptiles just like this one, so I volunteered to take care of it until school resumed. Casually, I picked up the four-foot long specimen and wrapped the bottom two-thirds of it around my neck, holding its head in my hand. I earned a seat by myself on the bus on the way home that day as I displayed my new friend to the other passengers. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mom and Dad that the teacher had entrusted me with the safekeeping of the school snake.
When the bus pulled up in front of our house, I leaped off the top step and ran down the driveway. I threw the door open and ran through the kitchen, dining and living rooms, but no one was there. When I reached my parents’ bedroom, I found my mother taking a nap on the bed. Since I knew she would want to see my prized new possession, I ran to the bedside, yelling, “Mom! Mom! Look what I got!” I still had the snake’s head in my hand and wanted to make sure she got a good look, so I held it a few inches in front of her face. She roused herself from deep sleep and rubbed her eyes before opening them to see what I had this time. As soon as her eyes were open, the snake’s tongue slithered out and nearly touched the end of her nose. I don’t know how to describe the scream that left her mouth, but it has left an everlasting groove in my cranium. She wasn’t nearly as excited about the good news as I was, and the thought of caring for a slithering summer guest didn’t appeal to her at all. We made a quick trip back to the school.
Of all my summer memories, though, church camp holds a prized spot. I’m grateful for Falls Creek, associational camps and others that provide a place for a child to get away and spend a week with God. Many of you readers first found the Lord at summer camp. Last week, I had the privilege of visiting Trinity Church in Bristow, where they were raising money so students could have the privilege of going to camp. And many of your churches are doing . . . the same thing. Maybe, just maybe, the young boy your $10 gift helped send to camp will find Jesus as his Lord and Savior there. And maybe, just maybe, that young boy will end up writing an article about . . . Mom, a snake and camp.