Right in the middle of a hot cup of tea and a good chinwag came a loud
pounding on the door. My neighbor Della, a fellow church member and friend,
lived across the road from our parsonage that overlooked a lake in northern
Dellas husband Pete was a trapper. Della was a treaty Indian. Her government
checks kept the family fed when the trap-line was bare. With their six
children, they lived in two tiny shacks haphazardly thrust together on a
hillside dotted with dead vehicles, sagging fences, mangy dogs and ramshackle
outbuildings. They squatted on Crown land (owned by the Canadian government).
Petes theory was that, if he did nothing to improve the place, nobody else
would want it, and he could live out his days in peace.
It worked, almost. The authorities never bothered them, but the traveling
salesmen had a field day.
The most notorious was a man Ill call the Pushy Pepper Peddler. He drove a
purple van stocked with products, and he always showed up on payday.
Pushy paid me only one visit and never returned. Taking advantage of Dellas
agreeable nature, Pushy always sold her several products she didnt need and
couldnt use, depleting her small income to dangerous lows.
The day he interrupted our tea, Della, the gracious host, invited him in and
set out another cup. For the next 30 minutes he drove me mad with his
persistent interruptions and sales pitches. No matter what we said he twisted
our words into an opener for yet another product that we just had to buy and
that he would be happy to let us have at rock-bottom prices.
Irritated, I added a little pepper to my tomato sandwich and plotted my
escape. The pepper made me sneeze.
Have you tried our sneeze-less pepper? the peddler asked immediately. I
guarantee that our special pepper. That was as far as he got.
Hastily thanking my hostess, I whisked my toddler from the floor and dashed
out the door, thankful I still had a civil tongue in my head.
Sure enough, the next day Della showed me the fine array of products she had
purchased after my escape. Then she asked if I could loan her a bag of flour
until the next relief check arrived, so she could make bannock.
I was furious. But no matter what I said, Della would not believe that this
unscrupulous salesman was not her personal friend, doing her a favor by driving
all the way to her house with wonderful products she had never heard of before.
I gave up.
A year later, I visited another friend across the lake. Marie was a Dutch
woman who had married a local market gardener. We became friends through our
husbands shared interest in all things green. We attended different churches
but loved to discuss matters of faith since so few people in our community
showed any interest in that topic.
I assumed that, because Marie was in the church where I had grown up, she
must not be a born-again believer. I never heard the message of salvation by
grace during my 18 years there. Its my job to lead her to faith in Christ, I
thought. So I witnessed to Marie every chance I got. I was intentional as I
dove in with both barrels blazing.
After the second pot of tea, she sighed. Obviously frustrated by my most
recent comment, a not-too-subtle attempt to guide the conversation toward the
concept of salvation by grace and not by works, she spoke in a quiet and weary
I love our friendship. I felt so delighted to find a friend like you, said
this well-educated, world-traveled woman who spoke five languages. But I cant
shake the impression that youre trying to sell me something and I dont like
I was stunned. She had me pegged. I had become Pushy Religion Peddler. But I
couldnt admit it yet, so I rashly denied her gentle accusation and hurried
home. We soon moved away, and my contact with Marie grew thin.
Our next cup of tea was years later, and we both had stories to share of
Gods activity in our lives. Seems that not long after we moved, Marie had come
to faith in Christ through someones gentle witness.
She went on to attend seminary and became an editor of a Christian magazine
and a conference speaker. She has written a book and even has a website.
Ive changed, too. I listen more. I rely on the Holy Spirit for the words
when the opportunity arises to share my faith in a natural, authentic way. Im
bold, but I dont push; Ive learned the difference.
And I trust Him, because even when I fail, He doesnt.
Connie Cavanaugh is a writer and speaker living in Cochrane, Alberta.
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