Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Evangelism( 11/01/07)
By Ann Grover
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“Brothers, let’s thank God for His abundant mercy, for bringing us safely here.” The howling gusts tore the words from Glúindibh’s lips, like bits of froth scattering in the wind.
The brothers huddled together, drawing strength and warmth from each other, as their sodden robes clung to their stiffening ankles, numb feet.
“Give us courage, strength, and patience as we proclaim Your Word to Your children.” A chorus of “amen” echoed from the circle of men.
“Gather our things. We’ll find shelter for the night.” Glúindibh wrung the hem of his robe with unfeeling fingers, then led the eleven shivering monks to the road leading to the village.
The villagers stood outside their thatched homes and stared. The brothers smiled, showing themselves friendly, and some responded in kind, but for the most part, were stonily silent. Scrawny children, naked except for a dirty rag, wanted a better look, but were called back with a curt word from a parent.
Seanan ran to catch up with Glúindibh. “Father, I don’t think they’ll listen to the words of our Lord.”
“O, ye of little faith, Seanan.”
Seanan frowned as he contemplated the hostile faces of the villagers. “What shall we do?”
“We ask a favour. In the way of our Lord.” Glúindibh stepped up to a lank-haired woman who tugged her shawl tightly around her shoulders. “Good woman, I beg you, could I trouble you for provisions for my brothers?”
The woman eyed Glúindibh and the other brothers, then laughed derisively. “I don’t have enough for my own, much less you.”
“Dear lady, our Lord multiplies the smallest offering, if we are willing to give in His name.”
“What lord? Is this a new levy, that the stew in the pot is taxed?”
“Nay, lady, just the request of God’s servant. You will be repaid.”
Another woman stepped up to Glúindibh. “I have soup. You’re welcome to it.”
Not to be outdone, the lank-haired woman ran to a nearby fire and swung a steaming pot from the coals. “Take it, sir.”
“Bless you.” Soon everyone was seated around the fires, sharing bread and mugs of mead while the monks ate their meal. The villagers told fishing stories while the sun sank into a crimson sea, and the children collapsed in sleepy heaps around dying embers.
The monks awoke in the morning to a deserted village. Shrouding mist reeled between the trees and had edged the grass with tiny pearls of dew. Faintly, they could hear the distant surf.
The footsteps were clear in the dew, so the brothers set out to follow their hosts, to thank them, befriend them, to share more about a loving Lord who deepens the soup and doesn’t tax.
Away from the sea, farther into the forest, into the murky fog went the monks, the only sound the dripping of water from leaf to leaf.
They heard the villagers before they saw them, the eery sounds of pagan prayers eddying through the swirling haze. Then the mist cleared. The villagers were gathered in worship, their arms raised as they stood in a sacred grove, ecstatic, oblivious.
“God, give us wisdom,” whispered Glúindibh.
At a signal from Glúindibh, the brothers entered the grove and stood among the villagers. The worship was broken, and one by one, each villager put down their arms and looked around dazedly.
“This is a special place,” began Glúindibh “It’s very beautiful. God, our Creator, makes wonderful things for us to enjoy.”
There were looks of hostility.
One of the men spoke. “The Romans also told us of God, then destroyed our sacred places.”
“This is your place and your people. We don’t want to change anything that belongs to you. But we’d like to tell you another way.”
The people looked doubtful.
“Our Lord - the One we spoke of yesterday - died on a tree like these you worship. Died so we could live forever. But He doesn’t want you to worship trees, only enjoy them. He wants us to worship Him.”
There was light in the eyes of the listeners.
“And the grove?”
“We will cleanse it of any evil presence. Then you will be free to worship the True God here.”
So it was, a village found that in giving sanctuary, they found their own.
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