A Free Gift

Debbonnaire Kovacs

Kenya Jayne Washington couldn’t stop bouncing. “Hurry up! Can we go yet? Susannah, you look so cool! I wish my mom could sew like yours. Hurry, everybody!”

The entire Primary class, Ms. Kimoto, three moms, two dads, one aunt, and one grandma were assembled in the church parking lot. All the kids were dressed up, but not like the other kids they knew they would see in the streets that night. There were no witches or goblins or ghosts and no TV or movie or comic book characters. Instead, they were all dressed in the clothes of sixteenth-century Europe.
The girls were wearing robes and headdresses, and most of the boys were wearing tunics with their jeans. Solly and Mike had actually had the courage to wear tights and tunics. Ms. Kimoto wouldn’t let anybody laugh at them. She pointed out that they were the most realistic of all. Mike had a hat with a fur edge that looked almost like one Aunt Rose had seen in a picture of a sixteenth-century man. Solly had a mantle [cape] draped around his shoulders.

Susannah was considered to be the best dressed of the girls, because her mother had made a dress with long, pointed sleeves and a pointed headdress with a veil.

“You look like a princess,” Tania giggled.

“Can we go now?” Kenya begged.

“Yes, we can go,” Mr. Patterson laughed, loading the last of a box of books on a red wagon with a sign that said, “Happy Reformation Day! 413 years of liberty and knowledge of God’s Word!”

The group trailed down the street, Kenya still bouncing and giggling. Ms. Kimoto let her go to the door of the first house. Kenya picked up a book from the wagon, grabbed Tina’s arm, and the two girls walked up the steps and rang the doorbell while the others waited.

The woman who answered the door had a basket of candy in her hand, but Kenya looked past it and smiled at her. “Hi, my name is Kenya Washington, and this is my Sabbath School class. We have a present for you!” Kenya said breathlessly.

The woman looked surprised. “A present for me?”

“Yes, ma’am. You see, tomorrow is Reformation Day—413 years since Martin Luther nailed the—um . . .”

“The 95 Theses,” Tina whispered.

“Yeah, the 95 Theses to the door of the cathedral. He had learned that the Bible teaches salvation is a free gift from God, and you can’t buy it or do good deeds to earn it. So we’re giving away free gifts too.” Kenya held out the book. “This is a book called Steps to Christ and it talks about how to get close to Jesus.”

The woman took the little book, but seemed confused. “But you want some candy, don’t you?”

“No, ma’am. Thank you very much, but we’re giving tonight, not taking.”

“Well . . . thank you!”

“You’re welcome! Happy Reformation Day!”

“Uh . . . you too.”

Kenya and Tina rejoined the group at the bottom of the steps. “Isn’t this fun?” she giggled.

“She looked so surprised! May I go next?” Tania asked.

The next door opened to a man’s face. He, too, had candy. And he, too, looked amazed when he learned the children were there to give something to him, rather than begging for treats.

“That was easy!” Tania gave a sigh of relief. “I thought I’d be nervous.”

“May I try?” Mike asked.

“Of course!” Ms. Kimoto assured him.

Susannah had her arm through Mike’s, so she went to the door with him, whispering, “Three steps up. OK, we’re here. I’ll ring the bell for you.”

“Go away!” a grouchy voice shouted from inside. “Bratty little beggars!”

Mike gulped. “Sir,” he called back. “We’re not begging. We have something for you.”

“For me? I don’t believe it! Get out of here!” the man replied.

“OK, sorry to bother you,” Mike called. “I’ll leave your present here on the porch.”

He and Susannah turned to go back down the steps. When they reached the bottom, the door opened behind them.

“What’s this, what’s this?” the grouchy voice demanded, from much closer.

Mike turned back and smiled a little nervously. “It’s a present, sir. Really.” He hesitated. “I know there are all kinds of people telling lies these days, on TV and everywhere,” he added bravely. “But I promise we’re not. We want to give you a book that tells about God’s free gift of eternal life.”

“Hmmph!” the man grumbled and slammed the door.

“Did he take the book?” Mike whispered.

“Yes,” Susannah whispered back, squeezing his arm. “Good work, Mike. I was scared to death!”

Mike grinned. “I have experience. Don’t you remember when Mr. Fontaine used to be like that?”

Kenya heard, and took his other arm. “Mr. Fontaine was never that bad! Anyway, maybe he’ll read the book. Come on, let’s go to the next house. Your turn, Solly.”

“Not me!” Solly exclaimed. “I don’t like to talk to strangers. I’ll walk with you.”

So Kenya did the next house.

The group moved on up the street. Down a side street they could hear screams and laughter. A crowd of teenagers spilled out into the intersection, laughing and pushing each other. People were shouting after them.

“Hey, let’s give them some books,” Kenya suggested.

“Them? You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Salvation’s free to anybody, isn’t it?”

The adults looked doubtful. Mr. Patterson watched the big kids for a minute and then nodded. “Let’s go together,” he said. “We’ve prayed for God to send us to anyone He wants to hear the good news.”

As they approached the teenagers, the biggest boy stopped and looked at them. “What are you staring at?”

Bravely, Kenya held out a handful of books. “We have something for you. Not candy, but better.”

The boy took the books, glanced at them, and threw them on the ground. Still laughing, he and his friends ran up the street.

“It’s a free gift,” Kenya said sadly. “You can say Yes or No.”

And they picked up the books and moved on.

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