“Naomi, did you see Martha Rollings’ dress? asked sister Blanche. “And at a funeral no less.”
Sister Naomi nodded condescendingly.
“Now don’t you two start in again,” said Howard, Blanche’s husband.
Undaunted, Naomi continued with her gossiping cohort.
Martin, Naomi’s husband, leaned forward and gave Naomi the “don’t start” look, which as usual, was ignored.
“Yes, and how about those trashy people in the third row,” said Naomi, gesturing to two shabby men of the streets. Both women shook their heads disgustedly.
“It’s shameful how Pastor Morris puts on the ol’ guilt trip just to get people here,” remarked Blanche.
Naomi piped in, “Pastor Mo’ knows he can pressure our husbands because they’re elders.”
“Martin,” whispered Howard, “do you recognize anyone here?” Martin shook his head.
Glancing around, Martin observed, “there must be thirty people here that I don’t know.”
Howard nudged Blanche, “hush, pastor’s about to start.”
“We’re here to remember our dear sister, Hannah Ridgeway, who went home to be with her Lord recently.”
“Blanche,” whispered Naomi, “ I hardly knew her.”
“Once she shared something at a women’s meeting,” said Blanche, “about hospitality, if I remember right.”
“Well,” huffed Naomi, “she always rushed out of church…how could we know she was sick.”
Shortly, Pastor Morris announced that there were “people here to share about the life of sister Hannah.” He nodded toward the back. An older, distinguished gentleman came forward.
“The year was 1972,” he began. “I’d just been released from prison. Sister Hannah stood on a street corner with her four-year-old son. I crept up behind her and grabbed her purse. Dashing across the street, I was hit by a speeding car. I awoke with sister Hannah kneeling at my hospital bedside, praying. She nursed me in her home for five months. I’ve been on the mission field in Africa for the past 31 years.” The white-haired man stepped from the podium and sat down.
Two Hispanic men stepped forward, also dressed smartly in suits.
“The year was 1979,” said the first man. “I was eighteen; my brother here was sixteen. We led a brutal gang in east LA.”
“A rival gang murdered our parents,” explained the second brother. “Our gang went after revenge. We were ambushed by two rival gangs.”
“My brother and I were shot and left for dead on the street,” inserted the first brother. “Sister Hannah lived nearby with her son. We stayed with her for five years. Currently, I pastor an inner city church in LA. My brother works for an international world hunger organization.” The two men promptly sat down.
Two church elders uncomfortably, cleared their throats.
Next, an attractive gray-haired woman came forward holding the arm of large brute of a man.
“The year was 1986,” she began. “I was thirty two. My son was eight and dying of Leukemia. In those days bone-marrow transplants were ineffective. Sister Hannah found me in a women’s shelter with my son after my husband had beaten me. She took us in.”
Big man stepped forward. “We lived with her for five years. At twelve years old, I was on my deathbed. Sister Hannah entered my room and prayed for me in a hushed tone. The next morning, I ate healthy helpings of hotcakes and syrup… without Leukemia.” They both sat down.
Next, the two odorous men stepped up. “Six months ago,” started the first man. “Me and Mick here was ‘shootin’ up and needed more stuff…especially Mick. We broke into sister Hannah’s house looking for ‘somethun’ to swipe and turn into cash.
We heard coughing real bad in the bathroom. Sister Hannah emerged with tears in hear eyes holding her stomach. Mick was holding his chest. Sister Hannah stood herself up, went to the kitchen, got some cold water and gave it to Mick. We been ‘livin’ with her ever since. First, she took care of us. Then we took care of her. One week ago, at her bedside, me and Mick here asked Jesus into our hearts.” The two pungent smelling men sat down.
Two gossip-driven women fidgeted uneasily in their seats.
A “forty-ish” man stepped forward. “My name is Karl Ridgeway, Hannah Ridgeway’s son. The year was 1971. I was three years old. My mother was diagnosed with Lupus, a debilitating disease. She was never healed.” He then sat down with the other testifiers.
Standing up, Pastor Morris said, “I’m calling an elders meeting next Sunday night, Howard. We’ll discuss the priorities of our church. Let us pray.”
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