Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)
TITLE: The Bell
By Judy Burford
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It was a bronze church bell, securely anchored in a brick frame. A plaque read: Ebenezer Church; established June 1, 1920. Randy looked up, half expecting to see an old church building behind it, but there was nothing. Only the bell and the grassy Nebraska prairie stretching as far as the eye could see.
Randy got back in his truck and continued his drive to work. All day long his thoughts returned to the bell and the unanswered question in his mind: What had happened to the church?
The drive home took him past the bell again. With the brilliant orange sun setting behind it, the bell glowed as if made of gold.
That night, Randy dreamed of the bell, and of a red brick church on the hill behind it. Children played happily in the church yard, and the sound of music wafted from open windows.
With the bell consuming his thoughts day and night, Randy decided to find out what had happened to Ebenezer Church. He’d start by asking at the local store when he stopped for coffee.
“May I help you?” the lady behind the counter inquired.
“Perhaps,” Randy said. “I noticed an old bell on Foxcreek Road that apparently belonged to Ebenezer Church. Do you know what happened to the church?”
“Oh my, I haven’t thought about that bell in ages. It’s still there?”
“Yes,” Randy replied. “Then you do know something about it?”
“Not much,” the lady said, “but I know someone who does. His name is John Garvin. He lives on Foxcreek, just north of the bell.” Extending her hand, she said, “I’m Esther Garvin, his daughter-in-law.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Garvin. I’m Randy Beck. I moved here in June to work with the pipeline. Do you think Mr. Garvin would mind if I stopped by this afternoon?”
“I don’t think he’d mind a bit. He’s been awfully lonely since his wife died. Tell him I sent you.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Garvin. I will.”
Randy returned to work, excited about a chance to solve the mystery of the lonely bell.
John Garvin’s house was small, surrounded by cedars to protect it from the ever-present Nebraska wind. Randy knocked on the door. “Mr. Garvin. Are you home?”
The door opened just a crack and a weathered old man peeked out.
“Mr. Garvin, my name is Randy Beck. Your daughter-in-law, Esther, said you might be willing to talk to me about Ebenezer Church.”
The door opened wide.
Randy entered a tiny neat living room. He and John Garvin settled into comfortable overstuffed chairs. Mr. Garvin asked, “Now, son, what do you want to know?”
“Well, sir, ever since I saw the church bell a few days ago, it has been constantly in my thoughts. I’m really not sure why, but I feel compelled to learn everything I can about Ebenezer Church.”
John Garvin’s face lit up. “Son,” he asked, “Are you a preacher?”
Startled, Randy said, “I am, sir. I finished seminary in May. I’ve applied for positions at several churches, but for some reason no church has called me. Whatever made you ask that question?”
“Ebenezer’s last preacher left almost twenty years ago,” John answered. “Later, the building burned to the ground. My wife and I and the few remaining church members met here for services. We prayed that God would send us a preacher to help re-establish the church. We prayed we would know him because he would see the bell and inquire about the church. I’m the only one left now, but I prayed that prayer this morning. I think you are the answer to that prayer.”
“I’ve never even pastored a church, much less started one, and pardon me for saying so, but you are old. How could we build a church?”
“Randy, we can’t build a church, but God can. The Bible says, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.’ “It also says, ‘With God, nothing is impossible.’ Do you believe that?”
Taking a deep breath, Randy said, “I do. How should we begin?”
Easing to his knees, John Garvin said, “With prayer, Randy. With prayer.”
Two years later:
A red brick building stood on the hill behind the bell. Children played happily in the church yard, and music wafted from the open windows.
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