Ice cream and Bible stories 

My first memory of being in a church building involves ice cream.  

I can still see the scene in my mind’s eye. And almost taste it, too. 

I was in the little room off to the left of the entranceway of our quintessential country church. It was in the new brick building just being constructed in the center of the village, right before the congregation’s move from the wooden structure that had existed for so long in the nearby woods. I could hear the sound of hammers coming from another room. 

At that moment, things couldn’t get much better for a 4-year-old. I cradled a small cardboard container while stirring its contents – vanilla ice cream – with a little wooden spoon.  

If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember those spoons, too. I always made sure the wood was covered with liquid before partaking because, somehow, the softened ice cream and coated spoon made the treat taste better.  

That day, Mr. Albert Smith, one of the congregation’s elders, was looking after me. I guess my normal sitter, his wife, Miss Annis, was busy. I’m actually glad she was – because that 1950s memory is something I cherish, along with a host of others from that special congregation of the Lord’s church. 

You’ll probably be glad to know that many of the other memories are more spiritual in nature rather than food-centered. But let it never be said that our Sunday potlucks were ever less than stellar. Deviled eggs. Fried chicken. Purple hull peas. Chocolate pie. 

And the singing. It couldn’t be beat. Mama sang an alto that people talk about to this day. 

As the saying goes, we went to church every time the doors opened. Well, Daddy didn’t attend all the time, but when he did, he often taught Sunday school, and his knowledge of history and the scriptures provided a depth that’s also still spoken of. 

When the Christian youth camp, Camp Ch-Yo-Ca, was founded in Calhoun in 1967 by a former member of our congregation, Mama and Daddy made sure I was one of its first campers – and my sister, Dianne, at that time a student at Harding College, served as one of the first counselors.  

Ch-Yo-Ca literally changed my life. I – a ninth-grader – loved it so much I cried when it was time to go home. My dedication to Christ and my knowledge of God’s love increased many fold there in the Calhoun woods, and this stood me in good stead all through high school and my college days at Louisiana Tech’s Christian Student Center. Once again, I attended every time the church doors opened. 

Until I didn’t. 

It almost happened without warning. The saying is true: One bad apple spoils the bunch. Or in this case – me.  

In early adulthood I became involved with someone whose moral views were divergent from mine, and while I initially continued to attend worship, I eventually just dropped out. A lot of my friends and family don’t even know this. I never quit believing, but I was an unfaithful Christian in many respects for 15 years. 

God is faithful, though. Even though I tried to wreck his plans – and my life – he never gave up on me. How he worked everything out is something for another column, but let’s just say that these days my favorite Bible story is the parable of the Prodigal Son. 

That narrative is the only one in the Bible that depicts God running. The father in the story ran to meet the returning and irresponsible son – and I know God ran to meet me, too. I’m sure he was also pushing and prodding me along as well. He’ll do the same for you, if you need it and if you let him. 

And that’s something that’s even sweeter than ice cream.   

Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at 

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