Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: The Old Brick House
By Donna Howard
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“It’s good to be home and to know we don’t have to leave again,” Vera sighed.
“It sure is,” her husband replied. “Serving on the mission field was wonderful, and I don’t regret one minute of it, but now that we’re in our seventies, it’s time to rest, and I’m glad Phil and Jan found a house for us.”
“I’m anxious to see it,” Vera said. “I’m picturing a little white cottage with lots of flowers around it.”
“Sounds good,” Jeff said. They couldn’t afford much, but were eager to settle into a home of their own, so they had asked their friends to find a “fixer-upper” for them. They were on their way to see it.
When they pulled into the driveway, Vera’s heart sank to her toes. “Are you sure this is the right house?” she asked.
“This is the address they gave me, and they said it’s a small brick house,” Jeff replied.
The small, square house was void of charm. The old, red bricks were dirty and dingy, and there wasn’t a flower in site. The lawn was overrun with weeds, and the sidewalk obscured by brush.
“I’d hoped for something a little nicer,” Vera said quietly.
“Me, too,” sighed Jeff. “I don’t think I’m up to fixing a house in this bad shape. Maybe we should look for something else.”
“Let’s see the inside,” Vera suggested. They approached the house, and Jeff opened the door. When light hit the dark interior, mice and bugs scurried in every direction. Cobwebs hung like curtains, and the mustiness was suffocating.
“Ugh!” Vera said, waving a hand to clear the air. Looking around, she was even more dismayed. Only three rooms and a bath, and they were all painfully small.
“The wallpaper is peeling,” noted Jeff.
Vera walked into the kitchen and stood before the sink. Originally white, it was now brown with stains. Then, a picture flashed across her mind – a one-room, mud hut with thatched roof, cracks in the walls, dirt floor and no sink.
“You know,” she said, “the fact that it’s small could be a blessing, and when I look at it in the right frame of mind, I can see a pleasant, cozy, little home.” Jeff grunted, but made no reply.
“Let’s come back tomorrow and do some cleaning,” Vera said. Jeff gave her a weak smile, but didn’t object, and they returned to the home of their friends.
The next morning, they gathered cleaning supplies and returned to the house. They set to work, washing, scrubbing, and peeling wallpaper. Several hours later, they heard a faint knock at the door. Opening it, Vera found a short, plump, middle-aged woman standing there.
“I’m Mrs. Payne and I live next door,” the woman said. “My husband and I would like to invite you to join us for lunch.”
“Oh, we couldn’t impose . . .” Vera began, not wanting to interrupt her work.
“You wouldn’t be imposing,” Mrs. Payne said. “It’s all prepared and we’d really like to have you come.” Vera sensed eagerness in her voice.
“You’re very thoughtful,” she said. “We’d love to come.” As she and Jeff laid aside their cleaning equipment, Vera realized how tired she was. She thanked God for this chance to rest, and she and Jeff followed Mrs. Payne next door.
The meal was simple but tasty – creamed tuna on homemade biscuits; a lettuce salad with tomato, hard-boiled eggs and honey-mustard dressing; cheese and crackers; and gingerbread with a dollop of ice cream.
The Payne’s had never met a missionary face-to-face, and they asked many questions.
“What did you do on the mission field?” Mr. Payne asked.
“I was a nurse and Jeff was a plumber,” Vera explained. “But our main emphasis was to introduce people to Jesus Christ.”
The Payne’s listened attentively to the stories of healing and salvation the Martins told, and before anyone knew it, the afternoon was gone. Jeff and Vera left with an invitation to come again soon.
Outside, Vera’s bright blue eyes met Jeff’s soft brown ones. Both were smiling.
“Let’s call it a day,” Jeff said. “We didn’t accomplish much, but the work has been started.” Vera knew exactly what he meant. God wanted them here, and he had not one, but two jobs for them.
A vision of a tiny house with bright, red bricks, and flowers all around it, flashed through Vera’s mind. “Thank you, Lord,” she sighed, “for this beautiful place to semi-retire.”
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