Mr. Melvin Preston, III, attorney at law, commanded everyone’s attention as he spoke. “We are gathered today for the reading of the Last Will and Testament of Mr. Theodore Nathanial Bernhardt of Collins City. His estate has been estimated at twenty billion dollars.”
My husband and I looked at the impeccably dressed people – women in glitter and satin and men in foreign-made linen suits. No one spoke to us or acknowledged our presence. In truth, we had no idea why I had been summoned here. I didn’t even know Mr. Bernhardt. I was a waitress in a small café and my husband was a bricklayer.
Mr. Preston began reading Mr. Bernhardt’s will, “Most of you know why you are here, and I know your greed is making you anxious. You didn’t have time to visit me while I was alive, except to ask for money and favors. The business conglomeration started by my grandfather was built on trust, honesty, and an unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, not one of you has held true to that foundation. You have forgotten that your lavish lifestyles were funded by this business. Therefore, it is with sound mind and judgment that I write this final testament and will.”
One of the men said, “Can we just get to the end? My LearJet is waiting to take us to Paris.”
Others agreed and added, “Hurry and get done.” Two people were talking on their cell phones and two women were checking their make-up.
Mr. Preston ignored their comments and continued, “Mr. Bernhardt’s will continues as such: Your ways and actions have caused me great distress. For all of your lives, I have tried to guide you in righteousness, but you have refused to listen. I have forgiven each of you as I have been forgiven by God. However, I cannot and will not allow your greed and self-indulgence to destroy a business that, for over sixty years, has promoted love, goodwill, and the message of Jesus Christ.”
“What does that mean?” asked the man in the blue linen suit.
Mr. Preston said sternly, “Listen. Mr. Bernhardt continues: to my thirty-two living relatives, I leave the sum of two million dollars each, plus one copy of the Holy Bible. Use these wisely.” Amid gasps, he continued, “Thirty percent of my estate, I leave to East Shore Christian Church. The bulk of my estate I leave to the Living Gospel foundation. With its board of trustees, they will continue to see that the money is used correctly. And, finally, I leave a portion of my estate to Jill Ainsworth.”
I gasped in shock, while several people jumped to their feet and yelled, “Who is she?”
Again, Mr. Preston demanded silence. “If you will allow me to finish, you will find the answers to your question. Mr. Bernhardt states, “For ten years, Jill has served me breakfast at Carla’s Café, showing love and kindness to me, a man who has spent the past fifteen years in a wheelchair. Jill has been loyal to her employer, never complaining or arguing. Jill and her family are devout Christians, seeking to do the will of Christ. Jill’s children are grown now and two of them are missionaries. Jill and her husband have a fervent desire to join them. Therefore, I leave thirty percent of my estate to Jill for the furthering of Christ’s kingdom.” Chaos ensued in the room. My husband I sat bewildered. I had known the man in the wheelchair only as “Ed.”
Security guards stood by quietly while the relatives shouted, “we’ll contest,” “no waitress is getting our money,” and “it’s not fair.” Quietness prevailed as Mr. Preston again demanded attention.
“One final caveat you must know about. Mr. Bernhardt has stipulated that anyone who contests the will, or performs any adverse action, will forfeit their entire inheritance. It was his prayer that you will repent and accept Christ.”
Joe and I felt hostility in the room as the relatives glared at us. Mr. Preston had one final word, “this concludes the reading of the will of Theodore Nathanial Bernhardt. All of you, except Mr. and Mrs. Ainsworth, may leave now.”
I realized a great privilege had been given me, and I prayed that I would use it to God’s glory.
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