An Australian Christmas
The chapter does not begin where we left off. What did the Harts think of camp meeting? Did Mrs. Hart give her life to Christ at the altar call on Sabbath evening? (It was Sabbath in the last chapter, right?) No idea. The last chapter just sort of ended with them coming into the tent.
The chapter begins, instead, with Heather opening a Christmas present. Of course it’s her very own copy of The Desire of Ages. Because Heather doesn’t have a personality outside of being Adventist. Actually, none of these characters really seem to have personalities. They’re all mostly cardboard cutouts. I could switch the names around and not have any idea which girl I was writing about.
In any case, we are actually still at Campmeeting. Except now it’s Christmas, which feels weird to Heather.
“I like it better this way,” Nathan said, buttoning up his new vest. “We get to have Christmas and camp meeting all at the same time. What could be better!
What little I have read about Nathan makes this seem very out of character. I also wince a little because this is not how people talk.
I could also think of a ton of things better than having Christmas and camp meeting at the same time. Like not having all of your presents come from the ABC.
Aunt Rachel and Mrs. Gibson talk a little bit about Nathan after he goes to put away his vest.
“Nathan sure is growing up quickly,” said Aunt Rachel.
“Yes,” Mrs. Gibson agreed. “Working with his father this summer has certainly matured him. He is practically a man now.”
Ignore the fact that Nathan is still only 13. Notice how the adults are saying that going door to door selling books really caused him to grow and mature. I’ve heard this argument many many times: canvassing will help you to grow. It will help you to grow spiritually and mentally into a young man or woman of god.
I would just like to say that it was my experiences in canvassing that made me an atheist. Because it did help me to mature and grow mentally and spiritually. Just not in the way literature evangelism propaganda would have you believe.
I have some hope for Nathan.
Mr. Gibson asks Laura if she wants to go home for Christmas, but she says she’s fine. Mr. Gibson says to let him know if that changes, and then Addie and Mrs. Hart come in. They are here to invite the Gibsons and Laura to the beach, which is apparently an Australian tradition on Christmas.
I have to agree with Heather on this one. Christmas at the beach? How weird. Cool, but weird.
Just as they’re about to ask Mr. Gibson if they can go to the beach, he comes up and asks them if they want to go to the beach. Yawn.
When they get to the beach, Heather once again reminds us of how strange it is to have Christmas in summer. This cannot be over emphasized.
Mr. Douglas surprises Laura by meeting her at the beach. Laura’s very excited to see her father.
Addie and Nathan play tag. Addie wins, and everyone talks about how fast she is. Addie informs them that her school has races, and she always wins.
Poor Addie. If an Adventist education is in her future, there go her dreams of being a runner.
Nathan tells her that his school doesn’t have races, but that if they did, he’d win. Then he tells the girls he thinks he sees a shark. Nobody believes him, so he runs away.
Addie tells them she did see a shark last summer, but she wasn’t scared. She just left the water until it went away, then waded back in. “We Australians wouldn’t let a little shark keep us out of the water!”
After that pointlessness, Addie asks Heather what it is like to go to an Adventist school.
My answer to this question was always, “I don’t know.” Upon being asked why I didn’t know, I would reply, “I don’t know what it’s like to go anywhere else. I can’t compare it to anything because I don’t know how. What’s it like to go to your school?”
Growing up, I had an obsession with school, because even then I knew my way of life wasn’t normal. So I read all the books I could get my hands on that had stories about children going to school. I wanted to know, so badly, what it was like to go to a real school.
I’m not sure the author has any more of an idea than I do about what it is like to go to a public school. Here is the author’s idea of how a ten year old would respond to this question.
“Well,” Heather began, “It’s like going to school with your whole family. We read the Bible and pray together, and we all believe in most of the same things…..There are a few girls who are not very friendly, but I imagine that is the same in other schools, too.”
This is not at all what it is like to go to an Adventist school. I mean, I guess it could be, some schools are different than others. Adventist education really does run on both ends of the spectrum as far as class size goes. I’ve gone to fairly large (for Adventist) schools that have roughly 250 students in the entire school. I’ve also gone to teeny weeny one room schools that have exactly 8 students. (I was the 8th grade. Literally. My father always used to brag that I was the smartest person in my class. He conveniently left out the fact that I was the only person in my class.)
Even in the smaller schools, though, at no point did I ever really feel like I was going to school with my family. I felt like I was in a fishbowl, going to dinky little schools with lots of drama, bullies, and a really tiny pool of potential friends.
The rest of it though? Yeah, spot on. Adventist education involves a lot of prayer, bible readings, and almost everyone there believes the same things you do.
Addie seemed to be thinking about what Heather had just told her. “I wish I could be an Adventist,” she said.
No, you don’t.
Heather felt a surge of joy. “You can be,” she said. “Just ask Jesus into your heart, and He’ll show you the rest.”
I will admit that, mentally speaking, Addie can be an Adventist. But just because she’s an Adventist does not mean her parents will allow (or will be able to afford to send) her to go to an Adventist school. Which seems to be what Addie really wants when she says she wishes she could be an Adventist.
Just then Laura calls to Heather and Addie, telling them that she and her family are going home now.
“My father has to work tomorrow. He is right in the middle of building the new College Hall building. They want it to be ready when school starts.”
It really is too bad there’s not a section at the back of the book that explains more about the history of the school. I really would be fascinated.
Heather and her family hurry to clean up so they don’t miss the evening meeting. They need to hurry to get good seats because Ellen White is speaking. Of course. Who else would it possibly be.
Ellen White talks about salvation “that warm Christmas night,” and I can’t think of a worse way to spend Christmas.
At the end of the talk, Mrs. White gives an altar call.
“….I ask all who would like to be in heaven with our God who loves us so much to raise their hands now.”
Heather quickly raised her hand while her eyes were still closed….Heather couldn’t help but peek out of one eye. All around her, people’s heads were bowed and their hands were held high in the air.
Heather sneaked a look at Addie. Her hand was up as high as it could stretch. Heather looked through squinting eyes down the aisle. Mrs. Hart held her hand high in the air, too. Tears of joy streamed down her cheeks.
A couple of things here. First, yes, this is a type of altar call. The pastor (or speaker) will ask everyone to close their eyes, bow their heads, and raise their hand if they want to accept Jesus/stop smoking/fill in the blank.
The pastor (or speaker) always has their eyes open and is staring out at the congregation. That’s rule #1. Rule #2: everyone in the audience is totally peaking. Rule #3 is that there will be talk about this later. Who raised their hand, who didn’t raise their hand, why Sister Susie raised her hand during the altar call to stop smoking when she doesn’t even smoke, why Brother Benjamin didn’t raise his hand when asked to give his heart to Jesus…. etc. I always thought that if you want people to respond, let them do so quietly in their hearts. Jesus is magic, he can read minds.
Heather prays a thank you prayer, and the chapter ends with this:
“Amen,” Heather said, and opened her eyes. Then she blinked to be sure that what she was seeing was correct. A man with a very serious look on his face rushed down the aisle toward them. Heather looked again to be sure and then grabbed Addie’s wrist. “Addie!” she whispered hurriedly. “It’s your father!”
Oh no! Heather’s father just saw his wife and daughter pledge to join a cult! Will he be pissed, or will he join too? I’m sure we already know the answer to that, but join me next time anyway as we roll our collective eyes at the whole thing.