By Joan Brewer as told to Kayleen Reusser (her daughter)
When I was eight years old in 1938, the preacher at our church in Ossian, Indiana, made a surprise announcement: “The person who brings the most people to church next Sunday will win a prize.”
My mind raced around the word “prize”. What if they were giving away a doll? At recess the next day I looked for someone to invite. A new girl in town, Joyce, seemed like a prospect. I wasted no time meeting her and asking her to come.
The next day she said she could go. I asked Joyce if she needed a ride. She said, no, her parents would bring her.
Sunday morning I dressed hurriedly, eager to get to church and see my friend. Upon arrival, I had a delightful surprise. Not only Joyce, but also her parents and five brothers and sisters stood outside the church waiting! I could almost feel the doll’s porcelain features under my fingertips.
The preacher’s sermon seemed to last forever. Finally, he closed his Bible and asked all the visitors to stand, introduce themselves and tell who had brought them.
Joyce’s father said they were new in town and that I was the first person to ask them to church. When asked to stand, I did so, blushing profusely.
The preacher welcomed all the newcomers. I wiggled in my seat. No one had brought more than eight people, so the prize should be mine, but you could never tell with grownups.
“We thank our visitors for coming today,” the preacher said. “We commend every person who took the time to invite someone. One person has done more than what was expected. The Bible would say she has committed her work unto the Lord.”
Guilt overcame me. I hadn’t thought about God when I asked Joyce to church. I only wanted the prize.
“Joan, would you come up here, please?”
I had won! The preacher nodded to someone at the back and I almost clapped my hands to hurry them along. With my back turned, I was unable to see what was brought in. I began to suspect something was amiss when the boys on the front row began to snicker. My excitement changed to horrified disbelief, when “the prize” was set before me.
The preacher laid a kind hand on my shoulder. “Unfortunately, our prize probably isn’t something a child dreams of winning,” he said.
He was right. Twenty-five pounds of flour had never entered my mind.
The congregation laughed, and I made my way back to the pew. I wasn’t crying but wanted to.
Understanding, Joyce squeezed my hand.
My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a doll, but I got over that. More importantly, Joyce and I became best friends and stayed that way throughout school.
We still live near each other and get together occasionally. When we do, we laugh about the “pile of dough” that brought us together.
During Kayleen Reusser’s 30-year writing career, she has written 25 books for adults and children. Her nine books on World War II are based on interviews with 260 veterans. She has presented programs to thousands of people, in-person and virtual. She is a proud Air Force wife/mother. KayleenReusser.com