Martin was unimpressed with the subject he had been assigned for the final paper in the class.
The topic was "Obscure Twenty-First Century Writers," and the teacher had randomly selected names from the literally millions of writers whose work had appeared on the Internet in the previous century. The assignment was to put together a biography on the writer and include samples of their work.
The name on his slip of paper was Deborah Harlen. Of course he had never heard of her--"obscure" was the name of the game here. He had begun by running the simplest search and scan on biographical information, and her name came up a few times--dates of birth and registration, an ad from her high school yearbook. Lots more digging would be required.
On his second effort, he was pleased to find that she had a criminal record. Okay, he thought, now we've got something. Maybe she isn't such a letdown after all.
Arrest and conviction for public sharing of a religious faith. Suspended sentence.
Arrest and conviction for possession of a non-governmentally approved Bible. Fine and probation.
Arrest and conviction for public sharing of a religious faith, second offense. Two months jail time, fine, re-orientation training.
He winced. Re-orientation training had been notoriously unpleasant, and had finally been outlawed the year he was born.
Arrest for non-compliance with the EARA, Equality of All Religions Act. Fine, one year in prison, property seized.
Immediately upon her release from prison she had been deported for "un-American behavior in the public arena with regard to religious practices."
She finished out her life an expatriate because of her beliefs, when all she had to do was recite the pledge they wanted her to, whether she lived by it or not. Why?
He didn't know much about religions--very few university students did. It had become a thing of the past--worthy of analysis and study, but not much more. Deborah obviously didn't hold that view, and had paid dearly for it. His interest was kindled in this long-dead 'rebel' writer, and he couldn't wait until the next time he got the opportunity to work on the paper.
Next he accessed her writing, first the government-approved version, which he assumed had been heavily edited. With a little help from a more computer savvy fellow student, he managed to bring up original, unedited versions of her stories, essays, and even poems. Her writing was good, and clear, and he found he enjoyed reading her 'stuff,' especially the glimpses into her heart and soul.
No wonder she got herself into trouble with the guv, though--mentions of God and Jesus (mental note--who is that?) are scattered through all of her writing.
Martin realized that the many mysterious notations, things like: "See John 11," "Mark 2:1-12," and "Psalm 139" must be from the Bible. The regulations on Bible versions had relaxed considerably, so he was able to purchase one without governmental editing. Deborah seemed to draw a great deal of inspiration from the book of John, so he sat down and read it in one evening.
One question answered. Now I know who Jesus is. Things she had written about following Him and wanting to be like Him surfaced in Martin's mind, and he began to understand why she found Him to be so compelling.
Another day, another trip to the library. He had been wondering about her personal life: Husband? Children? Profession? Success of any type? No data existed.
After her exile, information about Deborah was sparse, but he did find one more incident in her new nation of residence. She had been deemed an "undesirable," and was to be deported again, this time to a country ravaged by war and disease and poverty. At her trial, she had not objected to the ruling, despite the fact that she was 75 at the time and unlikely to live long in that hellish place.
Deborah had been allowed to take the stand, and Martin knew he'd close his paper with the last words from her testimony. Though he scoured records, archives, and public documents from around the globe, he could find no mention of her after the deportation proceedings.
Martin got a good grade on his assignment.
Deborah's final statement not only concluded his paper, but also convinced Martin to give his heart to the Lord:
"If anything I say or do or write leads even one person to Christ, I will have lived a worthwhile life."