Sharon didn’t want to go to church; she’d stayed up too late the night before. Besides, she didn’t care for church, didn’t care for it at all. Still, her mother and father made her go. And so off to church she went.
When she walked through the door of the church she was greeted with handshakes and good mornings. She kept her head down and didn’t say a word. She walked into the half-filled Bible Study class. There were three folding tables situated in the shape of a “U.” She took a seat. She sat still, staring at the spot directly in front of her, and didn’t say a word. She did notice however, that the teacher was someone she’d never seen before. He wore blue jeans and a plaid button-down-the-front shirt.
And he was wearing a hat.
He took the hat off, set it in an empty chair, and looked right at her.
“My name’s Max.” He said. “What’s yours?”
“Okay. We’ll try it this way. You tell me something about you and I’ll tell you something about me.”
She finally looked up. She glanced left and right at the others sitting around the tables, no one seemed to notice the conversation taking place. She turned toward the teacher.
“I don’t want to be here.” She said.
Max smiled. “And I’m an angel.” He said.
The tables disappeared. The chairs disappeared. The half-filled Bible Study class disappeared.
It was cold where Sharon was. And dark. Very dark.
She itched. Severely. And whatever the source of her itching was, it seemed to be moving slowly up her legs.
She was scared, and she wanted to run, wanted to get away. But the darkness prevented her from doing so.
Panic was about to give way to shock when she suddenly heard voices. A door opened and a small bit of light came into the dark room. For a moment she could make out what looked like a bed, or more to the point, old and dirty blankets laid out on the cold floor that made up a bed. The women filed in. There seemed to be about nine of them in all.
Nine women, in a room built to house maybe four.
The door closed shut, the darkness returned, and Sharon continued in her silence.
The women gathered around the bed and she heard one voice in the darkness, in a hushed and whispered tone.
“Wait until he’s gone.”
They waited. Then.
“Betsie? Would you like to read first?”
“Oh, yes. Yes.” Betsie whispered. A candle was lit and a small black book was passed to the one referred to as Betsie.
She opened the tattered book to a page found quickly.
Sharon remained an observer, a fly on the wall. The itching on her legs grew worse.
Betsie began. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Sharon could see each face as Betsie read, and without knowing any details, she knew that these women had suffered, had endured hardship that she would never have to face. Still, they read the words with joy and gladness. In her minds-eye she could clearly see a picture of two lives lived, the life they lived on the outside of that door, and the life they lived on the inside of their hearts. A life that glorified the one called Jesus. In that moment, as these women gathered and worshiped in their own church service, understanding began to fill her heart.
After a few moments of reflective silence, Betsie spoke again. “Corrie?”
Another women answered. “Yes, Sister.”
The others nodded in the dim light.
“As well as I.”
They all began to rub their legs.
“It’s fleas! We are invaded by fleas!”
Fleas! thought Sharon. That’s what’s been the cause of the itching.
“Oh, Lord.” Cried Corrie. “How can we live in such a place. How can we endure much longer?”
“I know how, Corrie!” Betsie exclaimed. “I know how!”
The women looked at her as she franticly turned the pages in the beat up Bible. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
One of the women exclaimed. “Give thanks? For fleas?”
Betsie nodded. “Don’t you see? That’s why the guards didn’t come in here. They don’t want to be around the fleas!”
Corrie smiled. “The fleas are the reason we can worship. Here. Together.”
The other women whispered “Amen’s” and “Halleluiahs,” and Sharon listened on as a prayer was given, a prayer which included thankfulness, for fleas.” And suddenly, she was back in her class.
Mr. Mills looked at her. “Did you have something you wanted to say, Sharon?”
She looked around the room, trying to get her bearings. “No.” she answered. “I …uh…”
Mr. Mills smiled. “Well, we better wrap this up before we miss the beginning of the second service.” He looked at his watch. “Time flies when you’re in God’s Word, yes?”
There were nods around the room, and Sharon looked at each face, and a love for each and every one suddenly overcame her.
He continued. “Well, then. Let’s pray.”
Everyone bowed their heads, including Sharon.
“Lord. We thank you for this time together, for the privilege to come to your house. Help us to take what we’ve learned today outside of these four walls and share it with a world that is in desperate need to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it’s in His name that we pray. Amen.”
Heads were raised as “Amens” were echoed throughout the class.
The class members began to file out. Sharon remained in her seat.
“Is there anything else, Sharon?” Mr. Mills asked. “Are you all right?”
She looked up, a little bewildered. “Yes, I mean no, I mean…” she got out of her chair. “I’m sorry. I’m okay. Just thinking about the class today.”
Mr. Mills smiled. “Well, if there’s anything I can help with…” he left the statement hanging.
“No. No.” she said “Thanks, I’ll be fine.”
She was headed out the door when something stopped her dead in her tracks. “That hat. On the chair right there.”
Mr. Mills followed Sharon’s eyes.
“Is it yours?”
“Hmm. No, it’s not. It was there when I got here this morning.” He looked at Sharon. “Strange, huh?”
She gave a nervous smile. “Yeah. Strange.” She started again for the door.
“I’m not sure why, but I think I’m to give you something.” He reached into his tote bag. “I haven’t thought of this book in so long, but for some reason as I was getting ready this morning I thought of it,” he pulled a small paperback book from the bag and held it out toward Sharon, “I think you’d really like it.”
She took the book and looked at the cover. “The Hiding Place.”
“Yeah. It’s the true story of Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Bestie.”
Sharon’s knees began to buckle, but she regained her composure.
“It takes place during World War II. Corrie’s family helped Jews escape from the Nazis and they were captured. It’s a most amazing story of courage and faith.”
Sharon held on to the book as she looked again at her teacher. “Thanks, Mr. Mills. Thanks a lot. I’ll read it. I really will.”
“Good, I think it’ll really help you with your walk with God. Well,” he continued. “I guess we better get to church, huh?”
Sharon smiled. “Yes, sir.”
They walked together.
“So, we’ll see you again next week?” Mr. Mill’s asked.
Sharon looked at the book, and her mind turned once more to the hat that sat alone on the chair. “Oh, yes.” She said. “Yes.”
My book WHISPERS (featuring the angel Max) is available in paperback. To purchase your copy, click on the link below:
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