Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Love and Grace (09/11/14)
TITLE: Big Sarge's Goodwill Squad
By Noel Mitaxa
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Which is fine if you can help people. But when you can’t control strength that erupts within you without any warning―and without anyone’s benefit in mind―it’s no good.
Believe me. I know….
I’m Big Sarge, and I started the local Goodwill Squad three years ago―after my newfound freedom caused three other guys to lose their jobs. We enjoy helping people with home projects and repairs, livestock or crops and other odd jobs.
People are constantly ambushing us with their requests, but three years ago no-one would come near me.
I guess people laugh with friends about nightmares―knowing they could never really happen. But my nightmares kept happening―with me saying stuff I’d never want to say―with voices that weren’t mine.
Without warning, I’d suddenly feel my pulse racing; my face contorting; my stomach in knots; my throat rasping dry with all the shrieking. I would shiver with cold or burn with heat. And my head would throb for hours.
It was like I was lots of different people at any time. People called me “Army”―but never to my face. They were too scared.
I was out of control. And out of town. Forced to live in the cemetery beside the lake.
Maybe I was cheap but scary entertainment out there. Though the guys who held me down one day to chain my ankles and wrists weren’t too entertained when I snapped the chains like cobwebs. Nobody stayed for my next move!
That all finished three years ago―after a storm that thrashed us from nowhere and disappeared just as fast.
In the calm, a fishing boat pulled into shore. From across the lake.
The fishermen leapt out, splashing and clattering pebbles onto the grass as they tied up to a rock. One of them looked relaxed, but I could hear the others complaining…
“He slept―while we could have drowned?”
“We shouldn’t have come here anyway!”
“Why come to Gadara―they’re all Gentiles!”
“We’ve made God angry!”
“But how could Jesus order the weather around?”
“Jesus????” I felt an ear-splitting scream from somewhere inside as I raced down towards these visitors. What was it saying?
“You’re the Son of the Most High God! Don’t torment us!”
“Who are you?” asked the calm one.
“We’re ‘Army’ because we are so many,” came a desperate reply. “But don’t send us away! Send us anywhere close – like those pigs!”
Jesus looked up. And two thousand pigs became an instant, squealing avalanche that propelled itself into the lake.
Impossible to stop! All drowned!
Three swineherds gasped. And raced back to town. Jobless.
The pigs were gone.
And I felt free.
Weightless and relaxed.
Accepted and understood by this Jesus. And even by his now-relaxed Galilean shipmates, who offered me some clothes from their boat, as we swapped names.
My torment was over. Was this how love was supposed to feel?
The whole town returned with the swineherds.
Gaping at the dead pigs, they surrounded us with confused anger.
“Are these fishermen Galileans?”
“Galileans don’t like pigs anyway!”
“Is that Army?”
“Forget Army, what about the pigs? Where will our meat and wineskins come from now?” Jerash’s voice. Most of the pigs were his.
“A lot of people will go broke!”
Jerash was not finished. “Army looks okay for now, but for how long?”
Raising his hand for silence, our town elder Ishmael cleared his throat. He glared at Jesus…
“If Army is better, he is welcome back in Gadara. But you have caused us plenty of trouble. Our pigs are dead, our meat market is finished, food will cost more and people will lose their jobs. Your religion might be wonderful for you; but we’ll thank you to keep it in Galilee!”
Jesus shrugged. He knew when he wasn’t wanted.
Watching them getting back into their boat, my heart sank. “Please let me come with you,” I asked.
But Jesus replied, “No, you must tell these folks what God has done for you.”
It wasn’t easy to watch them sail away.
Since that day our Goodwill Squad has worked to overcome everyone blaming us for “That Day We Lost the Pigs.” Even Jerash has cheered up, because we saved our wages to restock the pig herd, and my swineherd friends are learning lots of new skills.
We keep telling people how special Jesus is, and some folks have believed us.
But some folks still look nervous if they see me anywhere near the pigs on market day …
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