Congratulations! You’ve found it!”
I stared at the smiling woman through the car window. Huh?
“You’ve found the most beautiful campsite in all of Colorado!” A gray jacket half-hid her khaki shirt and baggy blue jeans. Shoulder-length hair that might have been blond at one time hung beneath her ball cap. “Pickett,” said the tag pinned to the front of her jacket. Is that really her name? I wondered.
“We’re here for a picnic lunch,” my husband explained. “My parents talked to you yesterday.”
“Oh yes! They were funny!” Her eyes brightened. “In that case, I saved the best campsite for you. Number 11. Up the road on the right.”
Our kids took off to clamber down the steep bank to the river. My husband lit a fire while my mother-in-law and I pulled out our Big Franks to roast. Then Pickett ambled into our camp, a polka-dot umbrella in one hand and a glass water bottle in the other. She sat down on a stump.
“Hungry?” Dad asked. “We have plenty of vegetarian hot dogs.”
“Tell us about yourself,” Mom started right in. She’s great at getting people talking. “Where did you grow up?”
Turns out her name is really Hanna, but she has always been called Pickett. She’s packed more adventure into one lifetime than most people even dream of doing. She grew up as a wealthy New York City heir, but was destitute by the age of 21. She married a carpenter, and they built houses. A series of four miscarriages led the couple to try to adopt.
“We hadn’t been attending church regularly, so we were denied,” Pickett stated matter-of-factly, but a hint of disappointment tinged her voice. Our kids were back now and listening, wide-eyed.
“Really?” I said, shocked. It always hits me like a gut punch when I hear of injustices done in the name of God.
“Yes, that’s the way it was back then. We divorced so he could have a family and I could travel.”
Travel she did. She went to Costa Rica to learn to surf. Then she did a walking tour of Central America. At one point she spent seven years in India absorbing the ideals of Hinduism and Buddhism. She pulled up her sleeve, revealing a tattoo of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. “I chose him because he is always serving god,” Pickett explained.
“Now your turn,” she said. “Tell me about you all.”
“But wait,” Mom protested. “You haven’t told us all your story. How did you pay for your travels?”
“I’d come back to the United States, work for a while, save all my money, then travel some more,” she explained.
We spent the next hour trading stories of travel and adventure. We learned of her “far-left” political beliefs, her “staunch” brother who stole the remnant of her inheritance, her work as a servant for a wealthy family in Aspen, Colorado, and now her nomadic life as a retiree living on $500 a month. “Everything I own is in the back of my pickup,” she said. “I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how much money you have. I’m happy.”
How do we share Jesus with her? I wondered. I told Pickett about growing up in Singapore and Taiwan as a missionary kid, and of a narrow escape I had in Eastern Europe as a student missionary. God is part of those stories, and I didn’t leave Him out, but I didn’t bring out those parts of the story as much as sometimes. Will she understand what it means to pray and seek God’s guidance? Do answers to prayer mean anything to her? I wondered.
Then my father-in-law shared his testimony— simply, quietly, honestly. “I grew up in the church but had a lot of the same questions you did,” he began. “I never really knew Jesus, so I left it all and just about lost everything in drugs.” He went on to tell how Jesus had won him back and he’d become a pastor, traveling the world to help people know Jesus personally.
“We believe each person is on a journey with God, and we’re not here to judge anyone,” he stated, his hands open and relaxed, a gentle smile on his face.
“I could tell that,” Pickett responded. “You’re not like some Christians.”
I wasn’t the only one wondering about how to share Jesus with Pickett. Later that day our family talked about our experience with her. “We can’t hide who we are,” Dad said. “But we don’t want to just blast people with Jesus without building trust. That’s why Mom kept asking her questions—so we could get to know her.”
That night I lay awake, revisiting her fascinating stories and praying for her. Had we shared Jesus with Pickett? Would she want to know Him because of meeting us? Had the Holy Spirit been able to plant seeds of faith in her heart through our time with her? I prayed so.
“Pickett’s been heavy on my heart,” Mom said the next morning. “I was awake praying for her a lot last night. She’s so alone in this world. I gave her our contact information, but I doubt we’ll ever hear from her.”
“I know. I keep wondering if we should have given her some sort of literature,” I said. But the truth was that I’d forgotten to bring any pamphlets on this vacation. Had we failed?
“Let’s pray for Pickett!” our kids said.
“There’s no doubt Jesus put her in our path,” my husband said.
“I know,” I said. “But did we do all we should have to share Jesus with her?”
“You’re asking a question we can’t answer. That’s in Jesus’ hands.”
He’s right, I know. We had shared our testimonies; the results were up to Jesus. We had loved her for an hour; Jesus has been loving her for 70 years and more. We tried to plant seeds of truth; the growth of those seeds will be the result of the Spirit’s working.
The next day I came across this passage and was encouraged. “The life which the Creator has implanted, He alone can call forth. . . . For a time the good seed may lie unnoticed in the heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last brings forth fruit. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This question it is not for us to settle. ‘In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand’ (Eccl. 11:6, KJV).”*
“Peace and love,” Pickett had said, flashing us the two-fingered peace sign when we drove out of her campground.
Yes, peace and love, Pickett. That is our prayer for you.
Oh, Father God, Please come close to Pickett.
Surround Your precious daughter with Your peace and love.
Open her eyes to see that You are their true source.
Heal her broken, adventurous, loving heart.
May she come to know and serve You, the true God.
And Father, please bless our bumbling efforts to share Jesus with her.
Water the seeds we tried to plant; cause them to grow and bear fruit.
We long to meet her again in heaven. I know You want her there too.
Thank You for giving us a little peek into what You are doing in her life.
Peace and love, Lord. Yes, please grant Pickett peace and love.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
* Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), pp. 104, 105.