The torn pages of the old Bible blew in the dusty wind. Silas stood with his back to the wind and his coat collar pulled up to the brim of his hat. He tried to look across the dirty faces of families. They had gathered together to sit on logs and stones and listen to Silas preach. He traveled across the plains, stopping only long enough to deliver a sermon.
“And the Lord said to Peter, ‘on this rock I will build my church.’” He paused and let a tumbleweed blow across the group. “Children of God, let us be in God's Glory, let us stand upon the rock of Peter, and let us give to the Lord our love and faith.” Silas stumbled with the power of the next gust. Lord, why did you send me to this place? He waved his hand and the congregation stood and began to sing the familiar hymn “Source of all Blessings.” When the crackling voices stopped, Silas offered a half-hearted benediction and remained standing while most of the men and women walked back toward the tent and rustic buildings making up the village.
Silas lingered behind, shook a few hands, and then walked to his mule and put the torn Bible in his saddlebag. He brushed the dust off the mule’s back and tried to settle his bags.
“We be putt’n some beans in a pot, if ya care to stay.” A heavyset-man held the mule’s reins.
“Oh, I would that the Lord didn’t have work for me up at the miners’ camp. I certainly would stay.” Silas adjusted his saddle in preparation for a long ride. An itinerant preacher rarely stayed in any one place long. And, along the trail, the pauses were only momentary. Ahead of him was a narrow mule trail up into the mountains where he had been told he might find miners.
“Yer mule’s spitt’n, I think she needs a rest. Pull them bags off her and stay awhile. I got another tent ya could use; and, like I said, we be glad to share some beans.”
“Tis true, the beast is old, and perhaps the time of day is such I could stay.” Silas looked at the red western sky and the dropping sun. I really don’t want to make that ride tonight.
The man began picking up Silas’s bags. “Come on, the missus will be glad to see ya.”
Silas took his saddlebag off of the mule and patted her neck. “Ol’ girl, I think we be rest’n here tonight.” He nodded to the man. “Got a tent, ya say?”
As the stars sparkled in the sky, several members of the earlier congregation gathered around a campfire. Children ran in between the tents, mothers scolded, and fathers stood in groups and smoked long pipes. Silas sat by the warming fire and quietly prayed, “Lord, you brought me to this place and fed me with the love of these folks…”
“Hey preacher.” A little hand tugged on his shirtsleeve.
Silas was, at first, disturbed by the interruption, but his mood changed when he looked at the little face staring at him. “Yes, child?”
“Preacher, ya know stories of Jesus and the children? My grandpa used to tell me.”
“Well, certainly. Would ya like me to tell one?”
The big eyes looked up at him. “Uh huh.”
Silas began telling the stories from the Gospel of Mark. He paused and looked around. All the children had gathered, as well as a number of the adults. He told Gospel stories well into the night. Finally, the embers grew low and mothers pulled their children to their own tents.
Silas leaned back against a log. “Thank ye Lord.”
The next morning Silas woke to the noise of children outside of his tent. He rose and crawled out to be greeted by an even larger group of people.
“I’ve got a breakfast fixed for ya if'n ya kin stay and tell us more about the Glory of God.” The same man who had provided Silas’s tent helped Silas stand.
“Friend, you don’t have to give me breakfast to make me preach.” Silas laughed and then accepted a tin plate of fried cornmeal and a cup of coffee. “Ya know, I think the Lord is telling me that on this rock we should build His Church.”
A little hand pulled on his trouser leg. “Preacher, tell the story of Jesus again.”
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