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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Evangelism (11/01/07)

TITLE: Sweet Gum Gospel
By Betty Castleberry


Mrs. Mundy watched her son Jake hang a block of home made suet in the sweet gum tree that shaded their faded clapboard house. She loved making food for the wild birds. They entertained her with their songs and antics.

She squinted against the early autumn sun and spied a figure walking up the lane, kicking up dust.

Jake ran up onto the weathered porch where his mother stood. “Ma, Billy’s a comin’. You know he don’t like me none. He said he was gonna beat me up sooner or later.”

Mrs. Mundy folded her arms. “Are you scared?” Jake nodded. “Don’t be. He ain’t gonna bother you. Least ways not while I’m standin’ here.”

Jake stood so close to his mother that his leg brushed hers. His thin eleven year old frame looked even smaller beside his mother’s ample one.

They watched as Billy came closer. He picked something up off the ground, then fished in his back pocket and pulled out a sling shot. A moment later, he aimed up into the tree. A flash of yellow plummeted to the ground, and Billy’s laughter rang out.

Jake almost shouted. “Ma, he shot a warbler.” He wiped away a tear. “Why’d he do that?”

Mrs. Mundy spoke sternly. “He ain’t got nobody to show him what’s right, Son. His pa’s only half raisin’ him, and you know his mama’s been gone for years. I doubt he knows The Lord, either.”

Billy approached them, whistling. “Hey Jake, did you see me shoot that bird?”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have done it. That bird didn’t do nothin’ to you.”

“Aww, it’s just a stupid bird.”

Mrs. Mundy took a step forward. “Billy, we like watchin’ the birds. Ain’t no call for you to kill ‘em.”

Billy blinked. “Like I said, it’s just a stupid bird.”

“Come on up here, Billy. I wanna talk to you.”

The boy shrugged and joined them on the porch.

“Billy, what’d you pick up off the ground?”

“Nothin’ but a old sweet gum ball.”

“Well, you see, sweet gum balls are spiny and most people think they’s no good. They fall off the trees and make messes.”

Billy nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, Pa hates ‘em.”

“Truth is, they do have a use, and it ain’t for sling shot ammo neither. Jake, go pick one up for me.”

Jake returned with a handful of the spiked seed pods. His mother held one up. “They’s lots of baby sweet gum trees in each one of these.”

The boys listened intently. “The real reason for these is to hold seeds. These here is still green, but they’ll turn brown and pop open. When they do that, the seeds will scatter, and make new trees.”

Billy scuffed a worn shoe back and forth. “So?”

“Billy, do you know Jesus?”

“Heard tell of him, but we don’t talk about him at home. Anyways, I thought we’s talkin‘ ‘bout sweet gum balls.”

“Well, I think maybe you’re just like a green sweet gum ball.”

“That’s crazy talk Ms. Mundy.”

“I don’t think it is. See, you just ain’t accepted Jesus yet. When you do, you won’t be able to contain yourself. You’re gonna bust open just like a ripe sweet gum ball and spread gospel seeds everywhere.”

Jake interjected, “Ma’s like that. She’s always tellin’ folks about Jesus.”

His mother nodded. “Jesus loves you and your pa and everybody else, too.”

Billy snickered. “Ain’t nobody that loves everybody.”

“I’m tellin’ you there is.” Her enthusiasm caused her voice to rise slightly. “He loves you so much He died for you. He don’t care what you’ve done neither. Long as you come to Him with a pure heart and ask forgiveness.”

Billy looked at Jake. “So do you know Jesus?”

“Sure. Mama told me about Him years ago.”

“That why you ain’t never in trouble?”

Mrs. Mundy grinned. “Oh he gets in trouble, all right. Knowin’ Jesus don’t make you perfect. It just makes you forgiven.”

Jake tossed the rest of the sweet gum balls back on the ground. “Billy, you wanna come to church with me next Sunday?”

“I’ll think on it. Right now I gotta go. Pa’ll be lookin’ for me.”

He stopped to pick up a sweet gum ball, then faced Mrs. Mundy. “Pa might wanna take another look at this.”

“He just might. Church starts at nine.”

Billy smiled and walked away, tossing a sweet gum ball in the air.

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This article has been read 1189 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/08/07
This is a really good story for evangelism. I love the analogy of the sweetgum balls, although I must admit I wasn't crazy about them when I stepped on them in the yard.
LaNaye Perkins11/10/07
I really liked how you made the characters come alive in this story. Well done!
Yvonne Blake 11/12/07
I like your use of dialect, not easy to do. Well done.
Jan Ross11/12/07
Great work with the dialect. Never heard of sweet gum balls--it's a new one for me. But you told the parable the way Jesus would have, taking something familiar and making the plan of salvation so very understandable. Great job! :)
william price11/12/07
Masterful story telling! Loved it all. Great effort. God bless.
LauraLee Shaw11/13/07
Your title is perfect, and I love the way you tied it into the end. Perfect on topic and very well-written, too!
Jan Ackerson 11/13/07
You have such a gift for writing with a rustic touch! Every bit of dialogue sounds natural and real.
Patty Wysong11/13/07
This is great! I could see the dust and hear them talking. The dialect fit and flowed perfectly and the lesson was great. Super job!! :-) Hugs!
Kristen Hester11/13/07
I loved your dialogue and dialect. I could just picture Mama, Billy and Jake. Great job.
Dee Yoder 11/14/07
Very natural voices in the characters and a good illustration of the gospel. Truly original characters, too.
Pam Carlson-Hetland11/14/07
What a wonderfully creative and beautifully woven story. Perfect for the topic of Evangelism. Great characters. The dialogue is realistic yet easy to read. Absolutely excellent.
Beth LaBuff 11/14/07
Sweet story (I mean that in a good way). You've captured a LOT of personality in this. Beautiful writing!
Beckie Stewart11/14/07
This was excellent....kept me reading to the end. I love how you brought about the gospel presentation.
Sara Harricharan 11/14/07
Nice story! I liked the story with the sweetgum seeds. I especially liked the relationship between Jake and his Mom. It was neat that his mother could so easily tell Billy about Christ. Awesome writing! ^_^