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Thirty-three Cents

by Minon Auda Hiebert

I clutched the paper and stared. Thirty-three cents! My senior year of academy was only half over, and my account carried a credit of just 33¢.

Father was ill, and Mother could never manage to help me from her meager earnings. When I had arrived in September with my savings of $200, I had hoped that I could work off my expenses. But my wages were low, and expenses were high. Now I had just 33¢ for the rest of the year!

I plodded to the principal’s office and perched on the edge of the overstuffed chair facing his desk. He listened graciously to my woeful tale. With a sympathetic smile, he told me, “There’s little we can do, but I would hate to see you go home now. Why don’t you hang on for a while and see what happens?”

I crept to my room and flung myself on the bed. Surely I would have to go home! I couldn’t possibly add to my workload. My desk was camouflaged by a shuffle of books and papers, each needing attention; my closet hid a basket of clothes that needed ironing and mending; my bedside table held a stack of letters that needed to be answered. If I continued working so much, I’d never get caught up. But now I needed to work more.

Suddenly I heard a tap on the door and the sound of footsteps hurrying away. I looked up and spied a small pink envelope on the floor, halfway under the door. I opened the door and peered down the hall. There was no one in sight, so I picked up the envelope and read in precise but unfamiliar script: Don’t be discouraged. The Lord has a place for you in His work, and He will help you prepare to fill it. He will open the way for you if you trust in Him. Pray; that’s all you can do. God will answer.

I turned the note over. There was no name, no identification. But whoever had brought this note was right. I had left God out of my reckoning!

A wave of shame washed over me. How could I have forgotten? This was not the first time such difficulties had confronted me. But every time, God had opened a way for me, often at the last moment. I sank onto the edge of the bed, remembering.

Blessings from the past
The first great test had come after I finished eighth grade in our little church school. My parents wanted to send me to academy, but the summer turned out hot and dry, and the farm did not thrive as we had hoped.

“I’ve always said I’d rather you didn’t go to academy at all than go to public school, and I’m not changing my mind now,” Dad reminded me when he broke the news. “Don’t get discouraged. You can study some at home; and if the Lord wants you in academy, He will open the way.”

It’s easy for Dad to be so confident, I grumbled as my friends returned to school. It’s not his life that’s being ruined! 

I was raking October leaves when tires crunched over the gravel of our driveway and stopped in front of our house. I dropped the rake and ran to meet Pastor and Mrs. Johnson, friends from a city 70 miles away.

“We heard you were here,” they explained. “We thought you might like to attend our junior academy. You could stay with us—that is, if your parents would let you. Would you like that?”

I surely would! God had answered our prayers. Dad was right—the way had opened. That afternoon I waved goodbye to my family and the farm.

Living with the Johnsons was wonderful. The girls at school were friendly, and I loved all my teachers. Everything went smoothly until after Christmas, when it became impossible for the Johnsons to keep me. Again I prayed, trusting that God would provide.

Soon one of my teachers stepped forward. “My wife and I would love to have you stay with us,” Mr. Shadel offered. “We could use a little help around the house, too.” They seemed thrilled to share their tiny apartment with me, and how I enjoyed it! Mrs. Shadel was so cheerful and kind, and their little home was always cozy and neat. Both were understanding, unselfish, and sympathetic with the students. I spent many evenings helping Mr. Shadel grade papers, and he shared his wisdom while we worked. It was a pleasure to discuss life’s problems with a consecrated friend and teacher who so thoroughly understood his students. I found myself changing from a timid, awkward country girl to a young person who had a vision, an aim—and determination, by God’s grace, to reach it.

May swept in quickly, and I returned to busy farm life. Again we prayed that God would enable me to attend school in the fall. This time I was confident that the Lord would provide, even though the way looked just as dark as it had the summer before.

In September I received a letter from Mr. Shadel: “We have found a place for you with a church family.”

All went well until Thanksgiving, when a situation at home made it necessary for me to stay home. Mr. Shadel told me I could study at home and come to school just to take tests. When spring came and I took my exams, my grades were the best I had ever made!

The next fall our little junior academy expanded to include one more year. So I returned, a junior this time, enjoying everything from geometry to caring for a toddler after school hours. I spent the last part of the school year living with a young couple who had come to teach and help with an evangelistic crusade. I was sorry when the school year was over, for I knew I would not be back.

Larger academy
All through the summer of hot, hard work I planned, hoped, and prayed; and September found me packing to leave for a larger academy. Even though I had very little money when I enrolled at the academy, I knew the Lord was leading. That year—up until the moment I got that dismal statement of account—had been even more wonderful than I had imagined. In fact, it had been the happiest year of my school experience. Each day had been packed with study and work and blessings.

God has been with me so far, I reminded myself. He has heard and answered my prayers so many times in the past. Why should I quit trusting Him now?

As I knelt and gave my problem to Him, a weight seemed to fall from my shoulders.

Letter from home
The next morning I stopped at my mailbox. Only one envelope was in my box: a letter from home, addressed in my mother’s careful handwriting. I tore it open and read its message with amazement: The Lord has provided—He helped me find a much better job. Now I’ll be able to help you finish out the school year.

For the rest of the year, when someone would ask me about my plans for the future, I would smile and say, “College next year? Certainly! No, I don’t have the money, but I’m willing to work—hard! I’ll colporteur in the summertime, and I know my Father will take care of me.”

I didn’t worry, because I had learned something important: If you plan to fill a place in God’s work, and need training for that place, there’s no need to worry and fret. Instead, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; . . . and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

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