A Token Testimony

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The story of how “I got saved,” which is something we nondenominational followers say.

My name is Kailey Ann. I’m a Christian, or better said in terms of today: I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My call to the word is loud in my life, and I know a story screaming to be told. Even as the world stays hellbent on silencing me, I will not quit. My testimony strengths every step of the way. I first discerned my path on a Wednesday in the summer of 2008. It was two weeks before I turned 14, and I found myself standing before the open door, which is a believer’s way of saying, “Will I be saved?” For me, that door was a Goodacre dollar—Sakakawea’s obverse face was staring at me in Pastor Terry’s upturned palm. During his message at dusk, he explained the terms of my eternal salvation as thus: 

“It’s a gift. All you have to do is take it.”

That is a moment suspended in my mind; it’s bright gold, and bronze and yellow and green, and I remember thinking, All right, Terry, but please, let this be the last time. See, my church camp pastor had already called me twice to the amphitheater floor before Wednesday; all three times, Terry explained that when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he left us a gift in his will. God came all the way to the present day to pay for the gift of salvation, which is the Holy Spirit. The price that God paid was his life as Jesus Christ. 

Salvation then, was not a prize to be won. It was a token to play.

I was playing to win already, or that is to say, I was saved. I came to know Christ when I was 11 (that was in 2004), and I was baptized in 2006. That was why Terry kept calling me up in front of all the other campers—he decided that I knew enough, that I knew Jesus well enough, to be made an example of faith in front of my peers. I was tough enough to handle the pressures of his nightly illustration, pressures which ranged from being blindsided into that example three nights in a row, to blinking back tears in my bunk at night as my friends whispered about why Terry had given me real money. 

Most of the other kids didn’t know that I’d paid my own camp registration and fees that summer, which totaled $150.00. My parents decided to send us to a different camp (they could only pay to send my five siblings and me to one camp each that summer), but I had already petitioned for an extra week at Supercamperific for those of us “older kids” who felt strongly about sharing one last retreat together at McCormick’s Creek—and I’d won. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I was going to go to camp. It was only a question of how I was going to get there.

I babysat, mostly, but I also mowed lawns and got a small partial-advance from my dad for painting his hydroseeder. I made enough money for camp by working well-below minimum-wage (I was only 13 and didn’t qualify for employment anywhere, anyway). 

On Tuesday night after I’d been made an example for the second time, I heard a few fellow campers mumbling about how a dollar could buy four whole nerd-ropes at the snack counter (“… and not all of us got snack money from our parents, right? He could at least pick someone else—”). I tried to let them say their piece without my listening, and went to see Jim, the camp keeper of sweets.

“COOKIES?” Jim requisitioned resoundingly, like a jolly train conductor.

Jim hardly ever spoke, but his eyes always lit up when he greeted me. Every eye turned toward the place where we stood on either side of the snack counter, and I remember laughing as I shook my head in reply.

“Can you show me how many punches I have on my snack card?” I asked. My mom had given me an extra $20 as a reward for working hard for something I wanted. Each hole punch represented 25¢ that I’d spent, and I had six… that left me with $18.50 to play. “I’m going to spend ten dollars,” I told him next, and after buying up all the nerd-ropes that Jim had left, he helped me deliberate the best distribution of the 19 punches left in my budget. He offered suggestions with points and eyebrow-raises, and he made a strong case for at least one roll of sprees by calling attention to its sharable crowd appeal; he said as much just by nodding to the purple foil-paper tubes, pointing with his palms pressed together, and when my attention was fixed, opening his hands like a book. Jim’s face was full-smirk.

“Give me two sprees,” I told him, punch-punch. “And fifteen airheads.” Punch-punch-punch-punch, punch-punch-punch-punch, punch-punch-punch-punch, punch-punch. “And… two goldfish,” (one of those was for me). With one punch left, and with enough candy for all my friends, I asked Jim, “Which one is your favorite?”

He beamed; I will never forget that. Then he pointed to the kit-kat bars in the well-meaning, but neglected, boxes of chocolate that even kids didn’t want to mess with in July. His smile asked what I thought of them, so I told him that they were my favorite, too. He put his left index finger to his lips and plucked out a kit-kat with his other hand. Making sure I was watching , he stashed it in the tiny minifridge freezer beneath the counter. “BREAKFAST COOKIES,” Jim said loudly, though only loud enough for me to hear.

“We’ll split it in the morning?” I suggested.

He agreed with enthusiasm. But Jim hadn’t punched my card, and I still wanted to spend the quarter I had left. That choice was hardest because I wanted to buy the last berry ring-pop for myself, but because my mom was a teacher, I remembered (a little deflated) that some kids have allergies…

Lastly, I bought a golden apple.

That night, the whole camp feasted on candy, and it turned out that one kid did have an allergy, and she was happy to have the golden apple. Everyone was happy, and when we chatted in our bunks later Tuesday night, a few girls asked if I’d spent my “golden dollars” to buy them snacks. I didn’t, I admitted. I used my mom’s money to buy snacks, and besides, I wanted to keep the Goodacre dollars anyway. I showed them how the two I’d been given were both dated 2000 P, which meant they were some of the very first ones that were made; when they asked how I knew that, I told everyone what all I could remember about them, which was mostly nothing concrete, just this one day in fourth grade that we talked all about Glenna Goodacre, who designed the obverse face of the coin. 

Then came Wednesday, July 2, 2008. 

Terry blessedly did not make me an example that night, although his delivery of the message was otherwise the same as it had been. I waited with baited breath the whole message, dreading having to stand up again because I thought the candy I bought didn’t really matter—if our pastor gave me one single more dollar, I was sure I’d be the subject of gossip again. I wasn’t the only one expecting it on the third night; I saw some stolen glances at me, but I sensed a lot more. I breathed deep when Terry breezed on through the It’s-a-Gift metaphor without paying me any special attention.

Until we were at the very end of the evening service. I was so thrilled to not be called out, that I forgot to pray along with everyone when Terry finished teaching.

“Kailey?” Terry’s voice stopped me just short of the limestone steps leading up to the cabins, where everyone was headed. 

I almost cried right then, but I didn’t. I joined Terry at the bottom-right bench in the amphitheatre and tried to hold my head high and look humble at the same time. When all the rubber-necked kids had finally dragged their feet all the way up the steps and fell out of sight, Pastor Terry offered me a seat, and we sat.

“Thank you for being a leader this week,” Terry then said. I started to interrupt him, but he kept on talking, so I listened. “You know, I’ve been doing this camp for almost thirty years. Do you know why most kids come to camp?”

That seemed like an odd question at the time. “Because they love it?” I hazarded a guess.

“Because it’s fun. And in all those weeks of camp, you’re the only one who’s paid for it themselves.” Terry stood and reached into the front pockets of his cargo shorts… and withdrew three fine coin-rolls, each holding 25 Sakakawea Goodacre dollars. 

“No! I can’t!” I remember crying clearly, raising my hands up, palms out, waving refusal right in Terry Foster’s face.  But later that night in my teal diary with brown binding, I wrote: 

OMG! Terry gave me $75!!! Why? Because he heard that I had to work for my money for church camp! I don’t deserve that! I mean, yeah, I put in a lot of babysitting hours, but that’s because I wanted to be here! I HAD to! NEEDED to! God… thank you for Terry, and Suzy, and Leah, Doug & Michelle, cabin mates… everyone!

And a week later, I wrote:

I guess the thing I learned that’s most important this past week is just being myself. If I could make so many friends by just being me… Can’t I do that at school too? They all like me for me… Why shouldn’t everyone else?
P.S. Love Jesus!!

Twelve years later, as I was sitting on my floor writing this, and I still know just exactly where to find my testimony token. I’ve kept it with me through every move (of which there were many) and every phase of life (of which I’ve had several), and I guard it with my heart because her face helps me remember to keep moving. I spent all the rest during various ‘hard times’ between high school and undergrad, which totaled a $76-spend because Terry had actually given me $77 in total. I had failed to observe this when I was a young teen, showing that I, too, was easily enamored with money. It didn’t take much more than a dollar to get my attention. 

Maybe cats have nine lives, and I hope to God the 76 I spent—on (mostly) last minute health essentials and (more frequently) cheap thrills—maybe helped somebody else just when they needed a golden dollar, too.

But this one coin, mine, is priceless. It’s a way to show someone who God is—and I know that it works! Example A—me!

I’ll be 27 this summer, and the world is a different place. I’m different from the person I was back when I first decided to have faith. I have strayed far, far from the path on a few occasions, and I don’t think I’ve ever come as close to looking like Christ as I did on that very first night that it clicked: I have to decide to live this way every day.

I didn’t try to do that in earnest until 2018. And oh! how I’ve only begun to realize all the times God’s just waiting for me to ask how I should play.

by Kailey Ann

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