Twenty-five cents. That’s all we had between the two of us. My friend Mark and I had been on a road trip for three weeks. Now, it all came down to this one coin; our last quarter. As we drove through Fort Jones on the way to Yreka for our final day as gatekeepers at the Siskiyou County Fair, the bank sign told us the early morning air was a chilly 34 degrees Fahrenheit. But, we knew we’d be sweating in the dust and heat of a 100+ degree afternoon before long. My mind began to wander…
“Are you a good Christian?” I reeled at the man’s question. He had appeared suddenly through the crowded group of people on the front porch of the little country church. He stood in front of me, toe-to-toe, about a head shorter than I and halfway into my comfort zone. He blocked the way down the stairs. “How do I answer that?” I thought, as I fumbled around for words. Then he asked me to be a Jr. High counselor at the local Christian Camp for that next week. I accepted on the condition that Mark would be included.
Ten days before that, we had left our homes in Southern California. We’d packed a few supplies and clothes in the bed of Mark’s pick-up truck, leaving one sleeping bag open for taking naps while we took turns driving. We sped our way up Highway 101, making stops in Templeton, Hayward and Eureka to see friends. We worked our way over to Weaverville, crossed into Scott Valley on Highway 3 and finally made it to the tiny town of Etna where my Aunt and Grandparents lived. That first week of travel and visiting had been terrific, but by the time Sunday rolled around, we were getting low on cash and running out of time. We needed that counseling job.
The week at camp had gone well. The director and staff had welcomed us into their team. We felt like we’d been with them all summer. They stayed on for one last week of camp, but we had already signed up to work the fair. Our paychecks, however, wouldn’t come until after we’d returned home. Now, it was Saturday morning and, as that little four-cylider truck droned through down-town Fort Jones, I sat looking out the passenger window wondering how we were going to make it through the day.
“Do not worry,” Jesus had taught, “saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For your heavenly Father knows you need these things.” Sure, I knew that scripture, but was I enough of a “good Christian” to believe it? For me that day, I was more like the man that cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
The day went on and the noon hour approached. It was indeed getting hot and I was hungry and thirsty. The person who would relieve me for lunch was due to appear within a few minutes, but instead it was the camp director and team of counselors that I saw walking up the road!
They had finished their last week of camp and had come to the fair to celebrate. We chatted and laughed until they asked if they could buy me a soda or something. “Well actually,” I said, “Mark and I are down to our last quarter and have nothing for lunch. Would you guys be willing to help out?” “Sure!” they all cried.
In a few minutes, I found myself with both hands full of burgers, fries and soda, walking out to the entrance gate where Mark was working. He turned from the long line of cars and spotted me through the dust and heat. I can still remember the look on his face as dreariness was swept away with an amazed look of joy!
Many times in the years since then, I have recounted that story. It seems we all need to learn our Father’s faithfulness. So now, when things get tight and someone begins to worry about the situation and how ends are going to meet, I start by saying, “Well, we’re not down to our ‘Last Quarter’, yet.” They look at me, usually puzzled, but I just smile and begin, “Back in the summer of 1978, my friend and I went on a road trip…”