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All the chocolate you would ever want

July 10, 2018

Hershey Chocolate Company - Making Chocolate Bars OakdaleDuring my upper elementary and middle school years our family resided in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which at the time was probably the best town in America.  I mean, think of it – you’re growing up in a town whose fortune is in making chocolate.  At least half of my classmates had parents who were fully employed by the Hershey Corporation.  Each year the school would hustle us little ones into a Hershey Elementary School bus to drive over to the factory for a tour (in those days, yes, you went through the factory itself – a luxury not afforded to the public anymore.  The factory itself, man. ).  On other elementary field trips, such as those to the Landis Valley Farms or the Hershey Rose Gardens, my sole intent as a second grader was to cavort with my little gang of deviant friends or flirt with that outrageously attractive classmate Kathy O’Brien (She never responded.  Sigh).

However, the trip to the Hershey Factory was different.  This was the pinnacle, the zenith of all field trips.  Every outside influence was dead to me.  Nothing around me mattered – I zoned in.  That chocolate was my key obsession.  I was mesmerized.

It was all about chocolate.  How can I begin to adequately describe my excitement as we unloaded from the bus?  Arriving was equivalent to stepping into Shangi-La;  I wasn’t sure if we should pause in a moment of respect.  The whole atmosphere was Heaven to me, from the carpet to the cocoa bins.  So help me, the color schemes were even brown and tan.  The clean white-capped workers bustled around like happy Oompa Loompas.  It smelled like chocolate.  I kid you not – you could taste the chocolate in the air.

Man, I was a mess.

My senses began to overload.  I started growing dizzy when we walked past the bars being poured into molds.  I got glassy-eyed in seeing the “kiss machine” that dotted the conveyor belt with drops of chocolate in the dozens every second.

But it was the conching machine that got me weak in the knees.  Technically speaking, the conch machine is designed to keep swirling and stirring the liquid chocolate for hours and even days in order to eliminate any fraction of bitter taste that the cocoa bean crushing and roasting may have introduced.  I want you to imagine a vat over twenty feet long carrying melted chocolate at least four feet deep.  The conching machines were my favorite part of the tour; ah, they were celestial constructions.  With a vat of chocolate that would be waist-deep to a 2nd grader, these luxurious machines were billowing wave after wave of fluid Heaven, emanating a smell that drove me wild.

By the end of the tour I was a complete wreck.  I hulked about like a slobbering cave man, dragging my knuckles on the carpet, panting for sugar.   Only the free gift of a full size standard Hershey Chocolate bar kept me from gnawing the stairway’s wallpaper.  Classmates around me – especially the girls, curse them for their daintiness – would nibble at the ends of their bars and fold them away for a post-dinner snack.  Me?  I had the whole bar swallowed before we pushed the exit doors.  I was a grunting, cocoa-craved Neanderthal at that point.  I came close to taking the tour guide’s hand off as she handed the candy out.

It was way too soon over.  But man, it was great.

I recall the same excitement in my childhood – the all-too-brief weeks at Mt. Lou San Bible Camp outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  What a great place!  We were lifted from the hardscrabble days of living without a father and without money to a far-off retreat of swimming pools, hiking, campfires and rough-hewn cabins.  I loved the counselors and the camp food.  I loved the bedtime storytelling of “Aunt Jan” as she read another chapter of a Danny Orlis adventure over the all-camp intercom.  I loved the team sports, the craft shop and the snack stand.

I loved most of all the evening messages when a missionary or a camp speaker would talk about Heaven.  I hung on every word.  We all did.  Not rules.  Not attitudes.  Heaven.

The speaker would lovingly describe the reception by Jesus and the glory of God at His banquet table and it would explode my imagination.  We couldn’t get enough of it.  The wide rivers and high mountains and never-ending energy of Heaven; the joy of deep, deep friendships with Believers across the world and across time.  The food of Heaven.  The music of Heaven.  The incredibly satisfying joy of Heaven.

It was as if we took a tour through the divine place itself.  It was over way too soon.  But man, it was great.

Can we say that about our weekly gatherings in our churches?  You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…”(Heb. 12:22–24)

On Sundays we’ve come to worship and experience the closeness of the Savior Jesus, to see a bit of the heavenly Jerusalem, to visit the city of the living God and even feel the closeness of angels in a festive gathering.  Isn’t that what worship is supposed to be? 

That’s my goal for this year in the classroom.  I pray to God that I can guide the students on a tour through Heaven so that they can see  – even if it’s a glimpse – of the celestial wonder and glory of God.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would give me the words and ways to allow us to say at the end of our study “Man, it was great.”

 

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3 Comments
  1. A beautiful post! When I lived in Haiti, teaching m.k.’s, one of my housemates came back from vacation with a 10 pound Hershey bar. We put it in the freezer and saved it. Little by little, we worked on it until it was gone. Swiss chocolate was sometimes available to us, but I always preferred Hershey’s.

    • Ah, Beverly, that brings a great memory back from my days as youth pastor in Phoenix AZ. A ten pound candy was donated to our youth group and I used it as a prize to whomever brought the most visitors to our next Wednesday night gathering. A young lady named Lisa won the bar – she brought almost thirty friends! – and later in the night’s meeting I asked her how she liked the chocolate. “Oh, I didn’t eat any,” she relied. “I broke it up and gave it out to all of my friends.” I will always remember that God-honoring generous spirit.

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