As far back as either could remember, Archie and Ron had been friends. Ron lived on one side of the street with his parents and grandparents, and Archie came often to visit his own grandparents on the other side. Archie was a year older but that didn’t matter. Any spare minute they could find they were together.
There was one major difference between the two boys: Archie’s grandma and grandpa were devout followers of Jesus and were active in their church. Ron’s mom, dad, and grandparents, not so much. They never attended church and gave no indication they were even Christians.
The summer the boys were six and seven Archie invited Ron to attend campmeeting with him. It was a lot like a circus, Archie explained. There were big tents, crowds of kids, and lots of music; Ron liked all three. Archie’s grandparents negotiated the details, and they and the two boys headed out for eight days of a brand new adventure. It was better even than Ron thought it would be and it became the first of a ten-year routine.
With each passing campmeeting season the boys got acquainted with an ever-expanding circle of the staff. Soon they were helping…setting up chairs, handing out song books, running errands. It was somewhere between an eight-day picnic, a circus, and a Boy Scout camp.
The schedule was finally disrupted the summer Archie joined the Marines and was deployed to Europe. Even though his grandparents tried to maintain contact with Ron, it just wasn’t the same without Archie there. All they could do now was pray. Maybe Ron would go to church with them sometime he kind of half-promised, but he seemingly had little interest.
But there is another piece to the story: Ron’s family were all heavy smokers. There was seldom any time during those years that someone in the house wasn’t smoking. Often more than one. Ron’s granddad developed emphysema and eventually died from it. As Ron grew up he was not close to his parents; his grandmother was his rock. So when she began the wheezing and coughing as his grandfather had done, Ron was deeply concerned he would lose her, too.
The tobacco habit was deeply ingrained in grandma, and she found it extremely difficult to quit. Remembering what he had learned during that decade of campmeetings, Ron began to urge his grandma to pray that God would help her.
Last week Ron called Archie’s grandma to tell her they had begun attending the Roseville, CA, SDA church. They had both agreed they needed Jesus. We’re thankful but not surprised because we know, “The kingdom advances among friends.”
By Don Jacobsen