Knock knock knock. Knock knock. That was it. The code. Hickory Joe opened the door just a crack as Abbie slipped inside the cold, rugged cabin. The door creaked shut, and the group before him tensed, straining their ears for any evidence that someone heard them. They relaxed as the crickets offered their tune in the still night.
"Okay," Hickory Joe whispered. "We're all here. Let's continue where we left off. Tim, would you like to read?"
Tim crept close to the single candle illuminating the room as he took the pages from Hickory Joe. He leaned in beside Tim, helping him with the words he couldn't sound out. "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands."
Those gathered in the small cabin who could, took turns reading.
"...Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified," Abbie continued.
The whispered voiced continued into the night.
"Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master..."
As they finished, Hickory Joe gathered them around. Don't you see? Jesus died to take away our sin, so that we can live with Him one day. All we have to do is trust in Him as our Savior. Our Lord. Our Master. 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' Masta Jones don't want me to teach you to read. And he don't want you to know about the Bible either. But if you're willing to come, I'm willing to teach you. Is there anyone who would like Jesus to be their ultimate Masta?" Hickory Joe offered a silent prayer of thanks before leading five young ones to Christ that night.
"Deep river my home is over Jordan
Deep river I want to cross over into campground
Oh donít you want to go to that gospel feast
That promise laní where all is peace, Oh...."
Abbie followed the sounds of Hickory Joe's singing to the riverfront, being careful not to step any closer to Masta Jones' house than necessary. Excitement mixed with fear as the song grew louder. She hoped Mata Jones' and his family wouldn't hear the singing. If they did... She didn't want to think about it.
Tim was first. "I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," Hickory pronounced, as he dipped Tim under the cold, murky water.
Tim couldn't help himself. He let out a whoop and a holler as he rose above the water. They froze, as a light flickered on in Masta' Jones' house.
Hickory gave urgent whispered instructions. "Tim, hide. Get back to your cabin when you can. The rest of you stay with me. The Lord will protect us." He silently led Abbie into the cold water. In a whisper he declared, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." "Run."
By some miracle, Masta Jones first went out the back door, in the opposite direction, and didn't find them right away. He must have thought the splashing was from the ducks, and he didn't hear Hickory's strained whispers. As the last of the new believers was baptized and ran for safety, Master Jones spotted Hickory Joe.
"Don't try to run. Is there anything you'd like to say before I shoot you? You're too old to be of any use to me."
Hickory Joe's voice started out strong and steady as Masta Jones approached. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me..." The singing and Masta Jones' footsteps provided enough noise for Abbie and the rest of the m to slip back into the slave quarters. Two shots rang out. Abbie shuddered, as she silently mouthed the words. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see."
She could almost hear Hickory encouraging her. "My chains are gone. I've been set free."
Scripture is quoted directly from KJV with no revisions. In order of appearance:
"Deep River" Negro Spiritual
"Amazing Grace" by John Newton, with additional words taken from "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)" by Chris Tomlin
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