Joanne opened her new study Bible to the front page and ran her hands over the words she had calligraphied there. Words her pastor had proclaimed from the pulpit. Words that had pierced her heart and propelled her on a journey that was only just beginning.
Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Romans 14:18
The murmurs of the students gathering for their first lecture receded.
Joanne forced herself not to sigh and focused her attention on cutting the steak on her plate.
Here we go gain.
‘Jo, honey, your mother and I… Well, it’s commendable, working two jobs to pay your way through college so that you can concentrate on your studies, but Bible College, and did you have to choose that one?
She dragged her eyes off her plate. ‘Dad, I want to follow Jesus….’
Alex slammed his cutlery down on the table and glared back
Joanne hated that look. It made her feel like she was five and had yet again crossed one of his clearly drawn lines.
She swallowed, fighting for the well rehearsed words, forcing them out, despite the consequences. ‘Dad, isn’t it about time you let go. That you asked… asked Jesus to help you accept what happened to Aunty Kath?’
The words rape and murder hung unsaid in the air between them.
Alex slowly stood, his chair scraping the timber floor.
‘Never, ever speak His name in this house again.’
Joanne shook off the memory, though the sorrow of that last conversation with her father left her gasping for breath.
She raised a shaky hand.
Oh, Aunty Kath, how I wish you were here to guide me.
Dr Shaw took off his glasses and gave her a tiny knowing smile before scanning the roomful of students.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. If I can believe everything I read on a student application, each of you has chosen this path prayerfully. It is my sincere hope that you have. The path set before you will not be easy.’
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the lectern.
‘Many of you come with the blessing of your family. You know that they are constantly interceding on your behalf. For others coming here has put a sword between you and your loved ones. You have already tasted opposition to the call the Spirit of God has placed in your heart. Turn with me, please, to Hebrews Chapter twelve, verse one following, reading from the New KJV.’
Joanne watched mesmerized as Dr Shaw replaced his glasses.
‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.’
He removed his glasses, picked up a remote and began slowly pacing around the room.
‘Some of the “great cloud of witnesses” are alumni of this institution.’
Joanne gripped her Bible as smiling faces appeared one after another on the screen at the front of the room; waiting to be confronted with her Aunty Kath’s.
‘They sat, just as you sit today, anticipating a life of useful service to God. Nobody could have anticipated that they would make the ultimate sacrifice spreading the Good News about Jesus in foreign lands, but they did. Some of you may follow in their footsteps. Now is the time to count the cost. How prepared are you to resist to blood?’
Odd that she hadn’t seen that photograph before. Aunty Kath, kneeling in a garden bed, weeding, a smudge of dirt across her cheek, her surprised smile.
I shouldn’t be surprised, the parable of the Sower was her favourite.
She remembered that last conversation, Aunty Kath’s hands gently cupping her face. ‘God has chosen me to sow the seed, JoJo. Maybe one day He’ll chose you and we can work side by side.’
Joanne slowly released the grip on her Bible.
Jesus, thank you that You alone are my guide. Thank you Aunty Kath is among the great cloud of witnesses; leading my cheer squad.
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