Katya looked at the walls of the city in the distance. Soon they would be chalky white, washed clean of the filth left behind after the winter -thaw. The telltale signs of spring after an endless Siberian winter in Chelyabinsk were a welcome sight. Although the Ural Mountains beyond seemed determined to trap the arctic wind beneath their craggy wizened faces.
A shiver made her step away from the window. The bedroom was awash with sunlight as she knelt by her bed.
“Oh, Father in Heaven,” she prayed, “Why is Papa not hearing your words? Why will he not allow us to be baptized-- even as your beloved son? I pray that you will soften his heart,” she wrung her hands. “I need my sins washed clean. I pray that thou wilt touch him the same special way thou hast touched my heart. In Jesus name, Amen!” She stayed on her knees savoring the sweet feeling that came over her.
The old ways were ingrained in many people she knew. Papa always spoke of how his life had changed after the war. She put her head on the tattered -quilt.
In the quiet she felt the words touch her mind… “Soon my child,” she grabbed at her mouth to choke back a sob.
Katya froze. She heard voices outside. It wasn’t Russian they were speaking…she rushed to the kitchen’s cracked windowpane to listen.
“We have to stop for help!”
“No, we can make it. I can see Chely up ahead.”
Brother Grover caught his companion as he stumbled.
“No, it’s further. There’s a garden house up there. That head wound looks pretty bad, buddy. Did his dog bite you too?” He motioned to his leg. “So, you’d rather go to the hospital instead?” Grover held back a smile.
The missionary paled. The previous week they’d “liberated” a fellow missionary who’d been hospitalized and knew that was the last place on earth he wanted to be.
“You win,” the young man winced. “But if they’re drunk I’m running for the hills this time! That guy hefted that bottle like he was David and I…”he held the handkerchief to his wound, “should sit….”he sat hard where he was standing.
“I have a feeling about this next house, my brother.” He patted his companion on the shoulder before he sprinted to the cottage—and knocked.
Katya watched Sergei clean his glasses with a hanky. The knock on the door made Katia’s heart race.
“One moment please,” Glasses restored, Sergei walked to the door. It creaked open an inch as he deftly motioned for his daughter to stay back.
Katya peaked from where she hid. The young man stood waiting. “Sir,” he turned pointing to his friend sitting on the cobblestone roadside. “My friend has been injured, would you please help us?”
Sergei hesitated then nodded curtly to the young man. “Bring him in.”
He ran to his friend and brought him into the house.
Sergei looked out into the street before closing the door and bolting it tight. “Katya, bring my box. Hurry!”
Katya did what she was told. The first man helped the other to a chair. Blood trickled down his face.
“What did this?” she heard Papa’s voice soften as he applied pressure with his clean handkerchief.
“Brother Johansen here had an encounter with a broken vodka bottle, Sir. Can you help us?”
“I was doctor back in the day. I will fix this. But he must rest and be very still. It will hurt. Is this okay?”
Brother Grover explained. “Sir, my companion is new to Russia. Please speak slowly.”
Sergei explained slowly. The man nodded. The stitches were painful. The bleeding was under control in no time. Katya put her papa’s box away.
“Who are you to be so far from America?” Sergei said in faltering English.
Brother Johansen smiled. In the best Russian he could muster he began weakly, “We are missionaries come to teach you about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you listen to our message?”
Sergei looked to his daughter Katya, then to Brother Johansen. His eyes crinkled at the corners. “You will talk” he poked Johansen in the chest, “and [I]this[/I] foolish man will listen,” he reached for Katya’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
Katya’s hopes soared.
“May we thank Heavenly Father for your help?” Brother Grover asked.
Sergei nodded. “Please, let us pray…”
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