by Taunya Parker
Awakened by the snapping of twigs, I snuggled down in my sleeping bag cradled in a twine cot. About ten feet away, Dad knelt beside his carefully-arranged wood which now had a small flame licking up to a point that released a steady stream of smoke to the top of the teepee where it escaped through an open flap. My eyes followed one of the teepee poles downward, examining with intrigue a cluster of grand-daddy long legs, sleeping while suspended upside down between the pole and the thick, beige canvas. The crackling fire would soon be nesting a cast-iron pot full of water for oatmeal and hot ginseng tea.
Those first five years of my life out in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, oft’ referred to as ‘The Teepee Days,’ made vivid impressions on me. Having just my family, our teepee, outdoor kitchen, and some natural springs, developed in me a deep bond for my parents and older siblings and a sincere appreciation for nature and a peaceful environment. My parents had been searching for, shall we say, the ‘peace, love, and joy’ of the early ’70s — living off the land and escaping any semblance of the establishment.
While I enjoyed my simple, young years, my parents had not found the inner ‘peace, love, and joy’ they sought, but that story is much too long for me to recount here. However, through a quite miraculous series of events, God used a Christian family from Latvian, which had fled to America for religious freedom and was also living in the Ozark Mountains, and a Baptist preacher from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to bring my parents to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
From my perspective, life didn’t change dramatically. Our campfire folk songs were intermingled with Christian tunes, and I had to start bathing in a house instead of a creek. However, within a few years, my mother and I began to meditate on and discuss the Bible together daily.
My life in the country was tremendous, but my going to school was not — for me…or my mom. Shall we say, I was a shy home-body that, growing up in the wild, had failed to develop any appreciation for or even anticipation of the structured, established environment of school. The slightest little ache or pain was excuse enough for me to stay home — for me… and my mom. After a good bowl of oatmeal, and don’t forget the ginseng, we would spend hours together pondering the great treasures of the Bible.
One day, I came home from second grade by myself. ‘Mom?’, I said rather loud because the house felt too still, kind of vacant. Panic gripped when there was no reply. God had been drawing me to accept him as my personal Savior for a few weeks, and I thought it was too late. Jesus had returned, my family was gone, and I had been left behind. ‘Mom!’, I yelled out. Suddenly, my brother’s head popped around the corner, ‘Mom is in…’ His voice trailed off in my mind. Just seeing his face let me know everything was ok.
That night, I heard the still, small voice of Jesus inviting me. Tears soaked my pillow as I lay in the dark. Again, I called out ‘Mom?’ and knew she would answer this time. Somehow, she understood what I was thinking, so she asked me what I remembered about salvation. ‘It’s a free gift, mom. All I have to do is ask Jesus’ forgiveness for my sins and trust him that he will make my heart pure.’ So we knelt by my bed together, and I asked Jesus into my heart with full confidence.
Since that time, my friendship with Jesus Christ has grown even deeper. His love for me is unmeasurable, His power limitless, and our bond eternal. There is no better place for me than in the center of His will, and there is nothing I would trade for His acceptance. The benefits of our relationship — both ‘peace, love, and joy’ here on earth and eternal life in Heaven — are available to anyone who accepts Christ’s salvation and gives up control of his or her life.
‘[I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9, 13.