In the late 1940s, my family stayed for a year in a cabin at the Lake Region Christian Assembly in north-western Indiana in the United States. The LRCA was a large conference ground located along the shores of a large body of water called Cedar Lake and in summertime it hosted week long camps for young people. This anecdote concerns something that happened to me as a boy at camp-time during one of those summers. It is part of a book in process, provisionally titled Impossible Adventures.
A good memory of the Cedar Lake period involved a young man named Bob Green. He would have been about eighteen years old. He was the life-guard at the Lake Region Christian Assembly during the summer months of 1948, when the young people’s camp weeks were taking place. He knew my father, and would likely have been somewhat aware of his missionary plans.
Bob asked me to be his “Assistant Lifeguard”! I am not sure why he did this. I was nine years old at the time, and could hardly have saved anyone. I know he admired my father—he told me as much—and my “appointment” may have been a kind of indirect favour to Dad. Or perhaps he wanted me as an extra set of eyes to help in keeping track of the many young swimmers whose safety was his responsibility.
Bob told me there was only one thing I needed to meet his requirement: I should get a life-guard’s whistle to carry around my neck. Obtain one of those, he said, and I would be his official “Assistant Lifeguard” for the summer.
I cannot tell you how excited and pleased I was. I began immediately to search the nearby stores in hopes of locating the needed whistle. It was all in vain. No one seemed to have one for sale.
I had no idea where one could be found. My parents had taught me to pray for my needs and, at that moment, the whistle was certainly one of them. I prayed fervently.
At some point, a strange idea suggested itself. In those day “Cracker Jacks” were popular. They were caramel-corn that came packaged in small boxes that sold at ten cents per box. When I was a boy, each box contained a “prize” as well as the popcorn. I remember metal “crickets”, small plastic magnifying glasses, tiny plastic stand-up soldiers and cowboys, plus a variety of other trivial objects de-signed to increase Cracker Jacks’ sales. Perhaps, I thought, I could get a lifeguard whistle in a box of Cracker Jacks!
It is little use delaying the end of a story the end of which you have already guessed. But, the truth of the matter is, I found a grey plastic lifeguard whistle at the bottom of the first box of Cracker Jacks I purchased following the request for it in prayer. I had enjoyed many a box of Cracker Jacks complete with tiny prizes before. However, I had never had one with a whistle before that prayer, and never one after either. Just that once. And, having met the requirement, I did become Bob Green’s Assistant Lifeguard for that summer.
For me personally, the crucial point is this: I remember that little whistle as the first immediate and recognizably direct answer to prayer that I had ever received. In its impact on me, the answer was more like a trumpet than a whistle! It taught me that God is concerned even with the little things we are in need of. But it also encouraged me to ask believingly for more from this great God of ours—not merely for the minutiae, but things more challenging and worthy of this One “who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or even imagine.”