Bob threw his coat down on one chair, himself onto another. Phoebe looked up from her mending, her eyebrows forming question marks.
“No go?” Her soft voice was sympathetic.
Bob shook his head. “No go. Can’t change existing use.” He broke off with a bitter laugh before adding, “Existing use! There hasn’t been an existing use for years – except for the spiders and bats and the odd vagrant. Any chance of a cuppa, Love? I’m talked dry.”
“I’ll make one.” Phoebe raised the small garment she had mended to bite the thread.
“Phoebe! Where are your scissors?”
“Somewhere.” Fixing the needle into the folded work she laid them aside and stood. “Maybe under the cushion. I’ll make that tea.”
Bob grunted and leaned back in the old wing chair, stretching his legs in an effort to ease the tension in his long frame. Through the window he could see the shrubs concealing the building that was the focus of his contention. He sighed. How was he to ‘lengthen his cords and strengthen his stakes’ without the room to do so? He had quartered the village prayerfully and talked endlessly with the older men and this abandoned school seemed to be the only worthwhile prospect. He closed his eyes, reviewing again the tenor of his meeting with the village elders.
The old man who seemed to be their spokesman was adamant. The building was designed to be a school and a school it would remain. He conceded that for some years there had been neither pupil nor teacher, but brushed this aside as immaterial. It was a school. It would be used for no other purpose. There were general nods of approval. It was a school. It would not be used except as a school.
He sighed again. The old school would need a lot of work: cleaning, repairs and painting, but the construction appeared to be sound and it was close to the existing mission facility. The grounds would give them more room for expansion, too. In reality it seemed ideal – but how was he to convince the village elders to allow the mission to purchase it?
Phoebe brought cup and plate to the table beside Bob’s chair. “Have you spoken to Cliff and Irene?”
Bob shook his head, lifting the plate onto his lap. “They weren’t home. Chocolate cake – you are a love!” He grinned suddenly. “Perhaps these are the cords that’ll need to be lengthened – at least, around the middle! There doesn’t seem to be any other scope for expansion.”
He was picking at the last crumbs when they heard firm steps approach the door.
“Come in,” Bob called as Phoebe rose. “But you’re too late; I’ve eaten all the cake.”
Cliff took Phoebe’s place on the sofa, moving her folded mending to the floor at his side. Irene followed Phoebe to the kitchen.
Cups clinked and chocolate cake disappeared while Bob explained the outcome of his meeting with the village elders. There was a short silence while they considered his explanation. Irene set her cup aside and cleared her throat.
“Why don’t we start a school?”
Ignoring Bob’s frown, Cliff nodded thoughtfully. “That sounds like a reasonable idea.” Phoebe looked from her brother to his wife, comprehension dawning.
He continued, “Irene and I are trained to teach; Phoebe can look after the kids and the paperwork and ........”
Bob broke in, “What about me? I’m a preacher, not a teacher!”
It was Clifford’s turn to smile.
“You’re a minister – a servant of God. Isn’t the servant of God supposed to be apt to teach? You will have to expand your ministry, Bob, as well as your waistline. If we are to teach we will need pupils. It will be your job to find them. Go fishing. Seriously, this will be a practical way to strengthen our stakes in the community, and a good way to present the gospel to the children and young people who are the future of the church in the area. Perhaps our first plan should be to ask the Director of Operations what His plans are – shall we pray?”
All else was laid aside. Four heads bowed in prayer.
2 Timothy 2:24
1 Corinthians 12:6
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