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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Police (10/12/06)

TITLE: The Price You Pay
By Andrea Hargrove


“And now let us pray.” Pastor Han Sheng and his small congregation of five all bowed their heads.

Knock, knock.

Sheng might have been annoyed at the interruption if it hadn’t sent the adrenaline of fear coursing through his veins. “Wait here,” he told the others, rising from his hard, wooden seat.

The knocking was becoming more insistent. It only stopped when Sheng cracked the door open.

“Can I help you?”

“You will want to.” The young man outside the apartment shouldered his way past the humble pastor and took stock of his surroundings with a practiced eye. Despite the plain clothes he wore, his whole demeanor proclaimed him to be a policeman.

He made his way to the room where five of his fellow Chinamen gathered. Slowly, he recited their names. “Chen Biao, Li Gan, Li Mei, Wang Yi Cheng, Wu Yan Nan…” He glanced back at the pastor. “…and Han Sheng. I am here to warn you that certain members of the government feel threatened by your secret meetings here. I may be able to convince them that there is nothing to fear.” For a price, of course. It was always for a price.

“Yes, of course.” The pastor reached into the offertory jar- or “the jar of bribe money”- and withdrew several wads of bills. “This is to show our gratitude.” He bowed to the policeman. “Thank you.”

“No, thank you.” The bills quickly disappeared into the policeman’s jacket pocket. “Such unexpected generosity.” With a satisfied smile, he exited the apartment.

The members of the “secret” house-church had barely prepared to pick up where they left off when they heard another visitor knock on the door.

“It must be another department,” Li Gan sighed.

His young wife squeezed his hand encouragingly. “We’ll just have to tithe double this week.”

“Yes, of course. Answer the door, Pastor. We’ll fill the jar.”

This was the usual plan, and the Pastor followed it with familiarity. He let the second policeman in with one predominating thought- 'How much will this man cost my flock?'

As his hand dipped into the jar, he had his answer. Though it saddened him, he was proud of their generosity all the same. “This is for your generosity,” he said mechanically. “Thank you.”

The man was gone as quickly as he came.

“Your rent money?” Sheng asked Wang Yi Cheng. He nodded. “Then we will have to put in a special request to the One who paid a bigger price for our freedom than we ever will.”

Finally, uninterrupted, they all began to pray.

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Sara Harricharan 10/19/06
The names were a bit confusing, but the storyline was powerful just the same. Good job. :)
Mary Smith10/20/06
Something I wouldn't have thought of for the word 'police'... Very well done. The police aren't a force for protection everywhere in the world, and there are places where people have to pay, in one way or another, for the freedom to worship God.
Donna Powers 10/20/06
A very good story but it's too bad to think it is true. A great reminder for us to be prayer warriors for those who don't have our freedom to worship.
David Liberto10/25/06
I think this was very well done. I really appreciate it's point and I especially like the line at the end where we consider what Christ paid. Really good job here, thank you.
Donna Haug10/25/06
This was well written. I'm not sure how I feel about the topic. I HATE bribes. I have seen lots of it in Mozambique with the police or border patrol. I detest the idea of perpetuating the problem. Not sure what to think about this situation. But as I said, your story was interesting and well written.
Betty Castleberry10/25/06
This story made me angry...I am complimenting you, by the way. It evoked an emotion, and that's what you want. How sad for these people to have to bribe the police just to worhsip. Thank you for this well written piece.
dub W10/25/06
Unfortunately, this story to too true. There are many places in the world where faith is only on the edge.
Well written.
Leigh MacKelvey10/25/06
Very original and powerful. I think you have a winner! Well written.I love the title.
Lynette Duquette11/01/06
Oh wow. That was good, especially that last line. Makes me want to smack myself upside the head for all the times I thought I had 'a price to pay'. Awesome job!