Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: NEIGHBOR (06/01/17)
TITLE: Hu is my neighbour
By Steven Turner
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Last of the worshippers to depart, old Hezekiah Foreman gripped the preacher’s hand. “That was a powerful word from the Lord, Pastor. I shall be looking out for my neighbour especially this week.”
“Thank you, Hezekiah. Sadly, there is not much neighbourliness between families in church. But then, I’m not sure I live up to my own preaching.”
“Don’t do yourself down, young man. There is more of Jesus in you than you know.”
“You’re too kind, Hezekiah. See you at Bible Study.”
Later, as he withdrew the smooth black key from the weathered door, Jeremiah heard running footsteps. He hadn’t time to stand aside as a black-hooded figure hurtled around the corner, knocked him into the church wall and vanished into a damp and dingy alleyway.
As Jeremiah stared after the disappearing figure, a dull pop followed by the tinkle of a thousand droplets came from behind him. Spinning around, Jeremiah stared open mouthed at the sight of bright orange flames leaping from the shattered window of the Chinese Takeaway. Screams demanded his attention and he ran forward to see Mr Hu searching for a way past the inferno.
Shouldering through the remains of the plate glass, Jeremiah reached over and hauled Mr Hu across the low counter. As they rushed back through the window, flames licked at Mr Hu, igniting his sleeve. Out in the street, Jeremiah stripped off his jacket and wrapped it around the burning arm. Mr Hu started across the street towards the Asian grocer, but the man stepped back into his shop and closed the door. A young Chinese couple with a buggy abruptly turned into a department store. Slowly, the street emptied until only Mr Hu and Jeremiah remained. Shaking his head, the Pastor spoke, "Let's call the fire brigade, then get you to hospital."
Approaching footsteps pulled his attention from the scuffed tiles of the emergency room floor. "The fire's out and a glazier is boarding up the shop front. How is he?"
"Thanks, Hezekiah. His arm is burned, and he's suffering the effects of the smoke, but the doctor says he'll recover. Mrs Hu is with him now. But who would want to burn the local Chinese takeaway?"
"I was asking around. A new gang has started a protection racket. Mr Hu wouldn't pay. Nobody will say who did this."
"Just before the explosion a young man in black hoody almost knocked me over and ran down the alleyway. I didn't see his face."
"I'd just left the car park when he ran out of the alley and into my car. He looked right at me before running off. Do you remember young Tony at the youth club? He disappeared round the time the new gang arrived."
"Maybe we should pay him a visit. Shall we go now?" As the pastor wearily got to his feet, Hezekiah put an arm around his shoulders and the two men left together.
Some hours later, two large black men and a uniformed police officer entered Mr Hu’s room. A look of horror passed across his face when he recognised the youth. Standing at the foot of the bed, head hung low, the boy mumbled something inaudible. Hezekiah stepped forward, laying a hand on his should. "Speak up Tony, so Mr Hu can hear you."
Tony looked up and started again. "I came to say sorry. I never meant to hurt you. They said it would just scare you."
Mr Hu looked up at the policeman. "Tony got caught up with the wrong crowd," the officer said. "As long as you're ok, he'll just get a warning this time."
"And we'll take care of him at church; see if we can't help him make something better of his life." Pastor Jeremiah placed a hand on Tony's other shoulder.
Next Sunday, there were two new faces in church as Pastor Jeremiah spoke about his week. "I now know that Hu is my neighbour, and so is Tony. Will you also be their neighbours?"
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