Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
TITLE: Remembering Mrs. Wheaton
By Betty Castleberry
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He moved slowly toward the open casket, wanting to see her again, and at the same time, dreading it. Her face, though old and wrinkled, was still beautiful to him. He placed a hand over hers, and said a silent prayer.
His thoughts wandered back to his childhood. He was six years old again. Mrs. Wheaton lived by herself in a big house on the corner. She rarely came out, and when she did, it was usually just to pick up her newspaper. She was almost always covered head to toe in long, drab dresses, and wore her hair coiled on top of her head. The neighborhood children could hear her muttering to herself, and they were scared of her.
Once he chased a ball into her yard. When he looked up, he was startled to see her sitting on the porch. She smiled pleasantly at him, and asked him if he would like a freshly-baked cookie. Jeffrey had mixed feelings about going into her house. He wanted a cookie, but what if she did something terrible to him? What if no one ever saw him again? He weighed his options, and the cookie won out.
He followed her into the house. When he looked around, he didn’t see anything particularly scary. Mrs. Wheaton’s house didn’t look that much different from his own. She handed him a warm cookie laced with cinnamon. Jeffrey thought it was delicious.
Mrs. Wheaton began to talk. Jeffrey listened, and found himself wanting to ask her why she often talked to herself. He was a little bit afraid, but his curiosity got the best of him. In typical little boy fashion, he spoke the truth, and told her he and his friends thought she was weird when she mumbled aloud. Instead of getting angry, though, she threw her head back and laughed. She assured Jeffrey she wasn’t talking to herself at all, but to somebody called Jesus. She shared all kinds of interesting stories with Jeffrey, but the ones he liked the best were about this man she called the savior. Jeffrey’s family didn’t go to church, and although he had heard of Jesus, he didn’t know much about Him.
He began to visit Mrs. Wheaton frequently. She always had cookies for him, and a bible story or two. One day she told him that she had always wanted to be a missionary. He didn’t know what a missionary was, so she explained it to him. It sounded like a lot of fun to young Jeffrey. He wanted to go to a far away country. What fun it would be to ride in a plane, and maybe even see wild animals when he got there. The most fun of all, though, would be telling people about Jesus. When he asked Mrs Wheaton why she hadn’t become a missionary, her eyes filled with tears. She told him it was complicated, but before she knew it, she was just too old.
Jeffrey’s thoughts came back to the present. He didn’t have a lot of time. He needed to get home and take care of some things, because he would be leaving soon. His first mission trip started in just a few days. He looked at the elderly lady lying peacefully in the casket. If not for Mrs. Wheaton, he might never have come to know Jesus, or become interested in being a missionary. He pulled a small piece of paper from his hip pocket. He always carried it with him, and read it frequently. It was a recipe for Mrs. Wheaton’s cinnamon cookies. Long ago, he had scribbled these words at the bottom of the page, “Mrs. Wheaton is the best missionary in the world. All she needed to reach me was her love for Jesus, and a warm cinnamon cookie.”
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