I woke up this morning to the sound of screams. Seconds seemed to stretch into endless minutes while I rushed toward our front door. Mother and Sister were crying as they pulled Father’s lifeless body into our home.
Father had suffered beatings for proclaiming his faith on more than one occasion. Last night, after he had preached to a small crowd and led two more villagers to Christ, they came for him. Soldiers grabbed him as he walked out of our church.
I tried to rush at one of the armed men, but Mother held me back. She knelt down and wrapped me in her arms. With silent tears, she whispered, “Son, blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
As soldiers dragged Father away, every muscle in my ten-year-old body withered into Mother’s embrace. “Why can’t they leave us alone? What is so wrong with telling people about Jesus?”
Mother didn’t answer. She continued to hold me close and pulled Sister to her other side as she stood. We made a silent, tearful journey home.
I fell asleep by Mother’s side as she wept and prayed for Father.
This morning I ran to help Mother bring Father into our home. His body was so badly beaten. He was bruised and swollen more than ever before. I was afraid to look at his face.
Father was already in heaven.
Sounds of heavy footsteps forced my eyes toward the open door. Those same soldiers who had dragged Father away and brought back his lifeless body were now barging into our home. “Bring us your Bibles.”
Mother did not argue. She quietly lifted Father’s bloodied head from her lap and gently laid him back down as Sister took her place. She let tears fall unchecked as she gathered our family Bible in her arms and laid it in the hands of Father’s murderer.
I wanted to scream at her to fight. Our Bible was Father’s most cherished treasure. I could not remember a morning when Father had not shared words from those pages with us. I opened my mouth to protest, but useless sobs were all I could utter.
As the soldiers walked away with our treasure, I followed them into the street. There were other soldiers coming from the homes of our friends. Cherished Bibles were tucked under uncaring arms.
Soldiers stacked our treasures in one huge pile and burned every page.
Tonight we are gathered with our congregation once more. Hearts are heavy. Father’s strong voice will never preach to us again.
One small, elderly woman makes her way to the front of our church. She is holding something close to her heart. She turns to face us and quietly lifts her arms high above her head. In her hands she holds her treasure.
“When soldiers came to our home,” she speaks softly, “I placed my Bible under my skirt. While they searched my home, I sat and watched. They left without finding my treasure.
"Tonight, it seems I hold the last of our congregation’s Bibles. I cannot leave each of you without God’s Word. Please allow me to share my treasure with you.”
I watch in awe as this precious woman walks to the back of our church. She moves from one person to the next. She rips one page from her Bible for each man, woman, boy, and girl.
As she passed by me, she smiles. Her withered hand pulls away another page and places it in my waiting hands. I am anxious to know what page I have been given.
My heart races as my eyes focus on cherished words. I feel God calling me to follow in Father’s footsteps. I will preach His word – no matter the cost.
I find my voice and boldly read aloud from my single paged treasure, from the book of Matthew, chapter five . . .
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
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