It was a scorching hot summer. Benjamin, 14 years old, got a job working as a literature evangelist (also known as colporteuring). He practiced and practiced his appeal to potential customers; and he even worked on getting his door-to-door smile just right. He carried a shoulder bag with books and a pocket for money. Benjamin also grabbed a stack of books—a cookbook, Bible book, The Great Controversy, Steps to Christ, two children’s books, and more—and went to his first neighborhood.
Success! Benjamin sold lots of books. He had a great first week, then second, then third week. Then outdoor temperatures got even hotter, and the people he visited either declined his offers or didn’t even open the door. By Wednesday, he had only sold one slim book for a couple dollars. Benjamin was hot, tired, and discouraged.
On Thursday the sun was setting when Benjamin approached the last house on the block. It was an older home with ivy and ferns growing on its brick walls. Benjamin trudged up the meandering driveway and with sweat dripping down his body he pushed the doorbell button.
No answer, Benjamin turned to leave. Then he heard locks turning and a tiny elderly woman opened the door. She waved at Benjamin and said, “Are you going to stand there or come in?”
Benjamin entered the air-conditioned house and met Grace. Her husband had died a few weeks before and before Benjamin knew it, he and Grace had talked for an hour about everything from losing her husband to the weather, school, family, and religion. Knowing he had stayed way too long, Benjamin rose to leave and Grace gave him a big hug.
Grace walked him to the door and as Benjamin stepped outside she asked, “Aren’t you going to ask me if I want to buy your books?”
A little embarrassed that he had forgotten about the books, Benjamin recovering quickly and said, “I’ll give you the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.” He handed Grace He Taught Love.
“Bless your heart,” whispered Grace. As she took the book a tear slowly trickled down her cheek. Benjamin went home.
At church on Sabbath Benjamin went up to give the Scripture reading for the service. As he waited for the audience to find the Bible text, he looked around. His eyes stopped at the back row. There sat Grace, waving to him.
After the service Benjamin asked Grace what she was doing there. Her smile got big as she handed him a white envelope. “I forgot to pay you for your book,” she said.
“No,” Benjamin said, “That’s not necessary.” He tried to give Grace the envelope back but Grace had moved on to shake someone else’s hand. Then someone came over to talk to Benjamin. By the time Benjamin was free again, Grace was gone.
A Special Gift
Benjamin sat down in the last row and opened the envelope. A neatly written note was inside: “Dear Benjamin, Your visit was the first time I have felt joy in my heart since my husband died. Thank you so much for the beautiful book you gave me. We have a friend in Jesus. I can never pay you for your gift, but here is a little token of my appreciation. Sincerely, Grace.”
Folded into the note was a check for $1,000.
Benjamin ended up having an extraordinary summer doing God’s work. And he ended up colporteuring for two more summers after that. He sold thousands of books, and had as many experiences. But Benjamin never forgot Grace.
Recently, about 20 years after that summer, he was on a computer doing some research in a database of obituaries of church members in Adventist periodicals. There are thousands of names in the database, but somehow Benjamin happened to see an obituary entry that sent a chill up and down his spine.
In disbelief he quickly clicked so he could view the actual entry. It was a very brief notice from 17 years before. It was about Grace: “A widow . . . in a Southern town . . . converted to Adventism near the end of her life . . . from a book . . . now rests, awaiting the last trump.”
—This story is based on Benjamin J. Baker’s article, “The Last House,” on pages 18-21 of the November 27, 2014, Adventist Review.
1. Have you ever had a task to do that was really tough and you wanted to give up? What happened?
2. Did you ever do something nice for someone else and later got a surprising and unexpected reward?
3. You're not out selling books; how can you share Jesus with others around you?
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