I froze with the key still in the tiny lock. Turning my head, I saw two-year-old Jamie* holding onto her sister’s hand, beaming a toothy smile up at the startled man. Jamie never spoke in public, but Deni had no such inhibitions.
“Uh, sure I do, kid,” said the stranger, glancing around the room. “That’s the guy who was born in a manger. We celebrate his birthday at Christmastime.”
“But, is Jesus in your heart? Did ya ask Him yet?” Deni beamed up at the man, tilting her head to the right.
I locked the box and stood, but held my position at the wall of mailboxes. I didn’t want to interrupt. Both Deni and Jamie waited for his response.
“Uh…er…I-I-I’m in a hurry, little girl. I don’t really have time to talk right now.” The color rising on the stranger’s neck and cheeks matched his red plaid shirt.
“Okay, Mister,” said Deni. “Bye.”
Though she remained silent, Jamie lifted her hand to wave her goodbye along with Deni. At this point, I joined the smiling little cherubs.
I waited a moment for one of the girls to mention the interaction with the guy, but neither did. Before I had a chance to raise my own questions, Jamie pulled me close to ask if I would buy some cookies at the grocery store. She’d remembered our next stop.
Arriving at the town’s only supplier of nutritional staples, I held open the car door. “Remember not to touch anything, girls. Stay close to me.”
“Me ‘n’ Jamie knows, Mama Dar. We don’t touch, but we can talk if we don’t yell?”
“Yup, that’s right, Deni,” I said, taking hold of Jamie’s hand. “What kind of cookies do you want, Jamie?”
“Oweos!” A little jig accompanied her reply. Nevertheless, she kept hold of my hand as we walked.
Deni held the big store door open for us, greeting the lady who followed us in before entering herself. I grabbed one of the carts and retrieved my shopping list from my coat pocket.
Glancing up at the big clock, I recognized that I’d taken longer with my errands than I’d expected. I needed to hurry. “Deni? Do you remember where the bread is?” She nodded while pointing to the right store aisle. “I’m going to keep Jamie with me, but would you please bring two loaves of bread over to put in our cart?”
“Yeah!” Rushing off before her Mama Dar could remember that the kids should stay with her and not touch, Deni made a bee-line for the bread.
I heard her greeting other customers along the way, but soon my little helper placed the bread in the cart. “Sumtin else?”
“Jamie wanna hep, too,” said the African-American cutie. “Cookies?”
I remembered I’d find the next item on my list at the end of the cookie aisle. “Hmm? Gathering groceries is a big girl’s job,” I said bending down to look Jamie in the eye as I spoke. “Do you think you and Deni could fetch the Oreos without touching any of the other cookies?” Two little heads bobbed up and down. “And, you won’t open the package; you’ll just bring it to put in the cart?” More energetic bobbing. “Okay. Let’s go over to that aisle, and you two can get the cookies.”
Lifting the items on my list from the shelf, I kept an eye on the girls at the other end. How carefully they retrieved one package of Oreos. They perused the other cookie options, discussing the merits of each as they slowly made their way back to the cart.
If the line moved along, we should be on time for lunch at Carroll’s. How kind of my dear friend to watch Baby Susie* while I did my errands. And, offer us all lunch besides? I figured the least I could do was to be on time, so her kids weren’t waiting for us to eat.
“We go to the door?” Deni said, holding on to her younger sister’s hand.
“Sure. Don’t go outside, though. Stay out of the way of the people coming in and out.”
The check-out stands in the small grocery stood near the front door. I could easily keep an eye on the girls as I waited my turn. Deni loved watching the human traffic through the large door; Jamie just loved being with Deni.
“Can I asks ya sumtin?”
I looked up from my checkbook to see Deni talking to a couple that had just come into the store. The duo smiled back at the girls.
“Sure you can, Honey,” said the woman. “Do you need help finding something?”
“Nope. We’s done shoppin’,” said the freckled-face preschooler.
Jamie said nothing but pointed over to me; the couple followed her gaze. I smiled and waved.
“Me wanna know if Jesus’s in your heart,” Deni said, brows furrowed and lips a thin line.
“Oh my! Now, that’s a question we’ve not been asked in a grocery store.” The lady laughed. Her husband chuckled but said nothing.
“It’s ‘portant. Jesus loves ya and wanna forgive ya, too. All’s ya gotta do is tell Him you’s sorry. If ya ask Jesus, Him come to live in you heart.”
Again, I stood back, waiting and praying for the little girl and the couple. Okay, maybe I felt a little out-of-place, too, I had no idea what to do.
“Hmm? Well, you’ve really given us something to think about today, Honey,” said the lady.
“I reckon you’re ‘bout the youngest evangelist I’ve ever come across, Missy,” said the man, reaching out for a handshake.
“Me’s Deni and her’s Jamie,” Deni corrected the man. The girls smiled and shook the tall stranger’s hand.
As the couple moved forward, I joined the little group. “Hello!” I said to the couple. “We need to go, girls. Carroll and the kids are waiting for us.”
“Is she serious?” The man directed his question to me.
“Absolutely! She wants everyone to know about Jesus.”
The couple smiled and headed for the shopping carts.
Back in the car on the way to Carroll’s, Deni asked the question she’d been chewing on since we left the store. “The man said I a vangel. What that, Mama Dar? It bad?”
“Oh my, no, Deni,” I said. “He said you are an evangelist. Evan-gel-ist. That’s a very good thing for the man to say.”
“Yes, Sweetheart. An evangelist is a person who tells people the good news about Jesus.”
“So everybody a vangelist?”
I laughed. “No, but we should be.” I reached across the console and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I’m so proud of you, Deni. You just keep asking people and telling them about Jesus.”
Jamie began to sing her favorite song, so the two of us joined in. “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”
Honestly, I never said a word to Deni about telling people in the streets, stores, or post office about Jesus. She just did it. I found it as amazing as each of the people did. There can be no other explanation than this: Deni loved Jesus and knew He loved her, too.
You might enjoy reading Deni’s first time of sharing Jesus—with a three-year-old playmate:
Story thread begins here: With Just One Phone Call