My Room

“Let me show you Jesus.” The stranger knelt beside the checkerboard, pulled a book from his pack, opened it, and read.

Dick Duerksen
My Room

A Seventh-day Adventist church elder told me this story while we were standing in the garden beside his home.—Dick Duerksen.

He had a cow. A good cow with strong legs and a wide back. A cow who knew the way from his garden to the main road. A cow who was willing to carry him there on market day.

Tuesday was market day, and the day before, the man would pick the ripest tomatoes, unearth some potatoes, chop some leafy vegetables, and place a clutch of goose eggs in a safe spot within his ancient market basket. The basket needed new reeds, but he was too busy tending weeds to worry about weaving. His wife was a good weaver. She would fix the basket soon. He knew that.

He milked the cow before Tuesday’s sunrise, placed a cloth over the frothing plastic bucket, and carried it to the outdoor fire, where his wife was preparing a simple meal for him and the two children they loved. They laughed as they ate, sitting on the ground outside the tiny one-room hut that was their home. Then he gathered the basket of produce, mounted the cow, and guided her from the garden toward the road.

* * *

It was a good distance. But if he left early, they would arrive at the abandoned store at the edge of the asphalt road in time to find a place on a small passenger van that would take him to the vegetable market in the city.

He could have traded the tomatoes and eggs with his neighbors, but not for money. And even the few coins he would earn at the market would not buy the kerosene and cooking oil his wife needed. Besides, this trip was his only way to learn the news and play checkers with old friends.

On this Tuesday his cow walked easily, and they arrived before the van. He tied her to a dusty tree, told her to be a “good cow,” and wedged himself into an already-full seat. An hour later he was threading carefully through the market. One old man tried to sell him a mangy goat, while several others shouted about who had the best fish for sale. Women sat silently behind piles of cabbages, onions, avocados, and tomatoes. Children ran everywhere, playing games only the young understand.

His place was near a spreading tree on the far side of the market, a spot a wily landowner held for him in exchange for a few fresh eggs. He paid the rent and spread his cloth on the ground, quickly forming his tomatoes into three-sided pyramids. The potatoes he laid in a meandering circle, showing off their carefully cleaned eyes. The leafy vegetables he left hanging over the edge of the basket. Then he leaned back against the tree and waited for his customers. They always came. People who knew they could trust his goods to be the best. People with news. City news.

By noon he had only a few potatoes and a couple of beets remaining, so he gathered them and took his cell phone to the charger. The boys with the electrical cords charged him two potatoes for a phone charge, and if he was careful, the charge would hold for a full week.

Back beneath the tree three of his friends had gathered and laid out the checkerboard. It will be a good afternoon, he thought.

* * *

Then the man came, a traveler he did not know, a man who seemed to be in a rush to find something he had lost. He stopped, watching as the game unfolded, and then asked his question to the players.

“Do you know Jesus?”

The game stopped, and all four men looked quietly up at the stranger, wishing for him to leave.

“No. I don’t know Jesus,” responded one.

“I don’t know anyone by that name either,” said another, “but I seem to remember that there is a person named Jesus in a village over by the coast.”

“No. No.” The man spoke rapidly and without fear, like the voice of an old friend. “Jesus is not a person, but God Himself. Do you know God?”

That brought a delicious discussion, with each man describing the God he knew and then arguing that his God was better than all the others.

“Let me show you Jesus.” The stranger knelt beside the checkerboard, pulled a book from his pack, opened it, and read.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am [John 14:1-3, NIV].

“I would love to tell you more,” the stranger said, “but I am out of time today and do not have any books I could sell you. Here, though, let me tear this page from my Bible and leave it with you. In it you will find Jesus.”

The stranger tore out the page he had been reading and placed it in the closest hand. Then he closed his eyes, said something into the sky, and waved a rapid farewell to the four men beneath the tree.

When the game was over, he put the torn paper into his well-worn basket, and worked his way back through the market toward the van that would carry him to his cow. Once home, he showed the paper to his wife and children, telling them the story of the “Jesus God” who was making each of them a room in His house.

“I must learn about this Jesus,” he told his family. “Imagine! A place where each of us will have our own room. Maybe even with a door, and with our personal name on it. Living with a God who loves us! Ahh! That would be like heaven!”

Dick Duerksen