Just the Right Thing to Say

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

 Michael Arthur Patterson had a whole herd of kangaroos jumping around his insides. The Primary friends had done so well with their program in the city park a few weeks earlier that they had decided to do it again. The church had a booth at the County Fair, and the grown-ups in charge were delighted to let the Primaries put on a program Sabbath afternoon.

So Kenya, Susannah, and Matt had worked hard perfecting their puppet stage and show. Solly had learned the Lord’s Prayer in a fourth language. Now he could say it in English, French, Arabic, and Spanish. Mike had practiced “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” on his recorder until he could almost play it backwards. That wasn’t what he was nervous about. He had to speak again!

The others had insisted.

“You did such a great job the first time! God has given you the gift of speaking!”

So here Mike sat, in the back of the church booth, mentally going over and over his speech, until Susannah interrupted him.

“Are you nervous, Mike?”

“Nervous! I’m scared to death! How many people will there be?” Mike groaned.

“Oh, I’m sure there won’t be that big a crowd,” Susannah reassured him. “Anyway, look at it this way. You can’t see them, so they can’t scare you.”

“That’s what you think!”

“Well, pretend you’re just talking to me, then. Are you going to give that same talk, about us being Jesus’ flower gardens?” Susannah asked. “That was cool!”

“Thanks, but no. Mr. Fontaine and I were talking the other day, about God’s love being a light in the darkness. You know, like in our Sabbath School lesson a couple weeks ago? I think I want to talk about that this time.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be great. Don’t get all stressed out over it. Remember what Ms. Kimoto always says—we’re just God’s messengers. The success is His business. Thank goodness! I’m a little nervous, too, to tell you the truth,” Susannah admitted.

Soon it was time for the program. Mike might not be able to see the crowd, but he could hear them. It sounded like enough people to fill the church! “Jesus,” he whispered, “just let me be Your messenger.”

Susannah greeted everyone who had gathered in front of the booth. “Sorry we don’t have enough straw bales for all of you to sit down, but the show won’t be very long. We hope you enjoy it. First, our class will sing some songs we learned in Sabbath School.”

As he took his place, Mike could feel his hands shaking. Not enough straw bales? Just how big was this crowd?

As they sang, he began to calm down. This was the easy part. And after all, Jesus was the one in charge. At least they wouldn’t be arrested, like Paul and the other apostles!

The puppet show was next. Mike heard a lot of laughter and clapping, and relaxed a little more. Which was a good thing, because he had to play after the puppet show, and shaky hands don’t play the recorder very well!

He heard Susannah say, “Now, Mike Patterson will play something for you on his recorder. After that, he has something he’d like to share with you.”

Kenya led Mike to the microphone and left him there.

“I’m going to play a melody taken from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It’s called “Ode to Joy,” but you’ve probably heard of it as “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” The instrument I’ll be playing is called a recorder. It’s a very ancient kind of vertical flute, and has been played for many centuries.” His heart was beating quickly again, but he made only one mistake, so that was pretty good. The people clapped again.

Then Mike cleared his throat and said, “Now, I have something I’d like to share with you. As he told the story of Saul on the road to Damascus, the people listened quietly. He couldn’t tell if they liked it or not, but it didn’t sound as if they were all walking away.

“When Saul was persecuting the Christians, he was doing what he really thought God wanted him to do. But the Holy Spirit was working on his heart. After awhile, he must have realized that he was wrong. But if he became a Christian, it meant admitting he had been wrong all along. That’s really hard to do, I think. It must be even harder for a strong, smart person like Saul. But Jesus appeared to him on the road that day and gave him three days of blindness to think about things.”

Mike laughed a little. “I can tell you, living in the dark gives you lots of time to think!” He heard a little commotion, but didn’t know what it meant. So he went on. “Saul decided he wanted to follow Jesus more than anything. When he did, God’s love shone into his heart like a ray of light. I think that even if God had not healed him of his blindness, he would have loved God till he died. I hope you know that God’s love is like light in your darkness. He loves you, and He wants you to love Him back.”

With a gulp of relief, Mike turned away from the microphone. He expected Kenya to appear to lead him back to his seat in the back of the booth, but there was an even bigger stir, with people whispering and talking. He looked around anxiously.

“Here, Mike,” Susannah whispered, taking his arm. “Stay here for a second. Ladies and gentlemen, we will close with prayer.” After she prayed, Susannah led Mike to the back of the booth.

“What’s going on?” he asked her.

“Nairobi Washington and some of her friends were watching the program, and now she’s crying. I’m going to go and—oh, here’s Nairobi now.”

“Mike, I want to thank you.”

Mike recognized Kenya’s sister’s voice and was surprised when she took his hand firmly.

“You were so right. Sometimes you know what’s right, but you don’t want it to be right. It’s not like you disobey deliberately. I didn’t say, ‘No, God, I don’t want to do Your will.’ It’s just—I didn’t—oh, I don’t know how to say what I mean, but I’m going to be baptized. And Mike, you’re right! It’s like a light in the darkness! I have to go find my parents!”

Standing there with his mouth open, Mike heard her run away, and then felt Kenya’s arms practically strangling him. “Thank you, Mike, thank you!”

“OK, OK, you don’t have to choke me to death!” Mike said, embarrassed. “Anyway, God did it. I was just His messenger.”

His hands were shaking again, but not from nerves. All he could think was, “Wow, God!”

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