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...And

FAMILY DRAMA Just Won’t Stop


...And

FAMILY DRAMA Just Won’t Stop

A

F A M I L Y

D R A M A

N O V E L

Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua White


...And Family Drama Just Won’t Stop (A Family Drama Novel) Cover Design by Atinad Designs. Copyright 2011 TORCH LEGACY PUBLICATIONS: ATLANTA, GEORGIA; DALLAS, TEXAS; BROOKLYN, NEW YORK First Printing, 2011 This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except for brief quotations included in a review of the book. _____________________________________________________________________ The name TORCH LEGACY PUBLICATIONS and its logo are registered as a trademark in the U.S. patent office. ISBN-10: 0-9830141-6-7 ISBN-13: 978-0-9830141-6-4 Printed in the U.S.A.


Dedication

This book is dedicated to Christian families who need to be reminded that confession and forgiveness are the keys to maintaining great relationships. Every family has its issues. It is how we go about handling these issues, and who we invite in the midst of our battles, that makes the difference. God created everyone for a purpose and the experiences we go through in life help to point us in that direction. He wants us to begin to fulfill that purpose by trusting His Son, Jesus Christ, for salvation.


Acknowledgements First, I thank God for putting it in my heart to do this novel series that is based upon biblical principles. I also thank my wife, Meriqua, for assisting me in writing this novel series. I also thank the readers of my previously published nonfiction books for the kind words that they have sent down through the years. May God use this book to bring conviction, healing, peace, and hope to a whole new audience of readers. Last, I would like to thank my children: Danni, Daniel IV, Danita, Danae`, Daniqua, Danyel Ezekiel, and Danyelle Elizabeth for assisting us in publishing this book. We would also like to acknowledge Dr. Frederick Haynes III. One Sunday, my family and I were late for services at his church, and even though we did not hear the beginning of his message, one of the refrains throughout his sermon was "...and family drama just won't stop." That phrase is the inspiration for the title of this book.

Daniel Whyte III www.AndFamilyDramaJustWontStop.com


...And

FAMILY DRAMA Just Won’t Stop


Chapter One “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” ECCLESIASTES 12:13 “It seems like all the young adults are out tonight,” exclaimed Sis. Montague as she pulled into the New Mount Zion Missionary Evangelical Church’s parking lot with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Monica. “I didn’t know so many of them had a car.” “That’s why it is important for you to let me drive, Mother,” said Monica giving her mother a good-bye hug. “Have fun and call me as soon as it’s over with. I’ll be up waiting for you. Your Dad had to work late again,” she sighed. "You didn’t hear from him, did you?” “No, Mother. I’ll call you.” Monica was met with hearty singing and a signal from Stacy, 13


her best friend, to come sit beside her. Stacy was planning on going off to college at FAMU. “I’m so glad you could make it tonight,” she whispered. “Me, too. I almost didn’t come. Mother had to work late this Friday,” replied Monica. “So how’s everything? Have you met the new assistant yet?” “Not yet. They’re supposed to introduce them to us after the singing and devotional is over with. We’re to move into the Fellowship Hall. I believe they have some food and drinks waiting for us.” Monica nodded as she joined in with the singing. As far back as she could remember she had attended church. First, the Mt. Shiloh Baptist Church, and now the New Mt. Zion Missionary Evangelical Church after they moved to Texas. She loved church. Even though she took part in the young adult meetings on Fridays, she also often worked in the nursery and sometimes taught the preschoolers on Sundays. Whenever she missed church (which was rare) she felt like she really missed something. Monica loved Jesus and tried to do right, willing to be all that God wanted her to be. After a few minutes, everyone filed into the Fellowship Hall. A family of five was sitting at the head table with Brother Bill and Sis. Beverly, the youth pastor and his wife. “Mmm,” hummed Stacy as they sat down. “Do you see what I see? That has got to be the most handsome, well-put-together fellow I have ever seen.” “Yes. That little fellow is cute,” replied Monica grinning. “You know who I am talking about,” said Stacy trying hard not to stare. “Well, keep your eyes in your head at least for right now.”

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Monica gave her a nudge. Before Stacy could answer, Bro. Bill stood up to introduce the new assistant pastor and his family. “Listen up everyone. Quiet down. Once again, I am glad you all could make it out tonight. Tonight, we have as our special guest, our new assistant pastor, Bro. Dwayne Reynolds. I’ll let him introduce his wife and children when he comes up. Bro. Reynolds has been preaching for about five years now. He earned his undergraduate degree in History from Howard University in Washington, DC and his M.Div degree from Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology in Virginia. You’ll hear more about him and his family on Sunday so make sure you bring your family and friends. Come on up, Bro. Reynolds. It’s all yours.” There was a hearty round of applause as Bro. Reynolds rose to the podium. “Thank you for allowing me to meet with you tonight. I have never been around such a lively group of young people, and guess what? I have two more to add to your number. Let me introduce my oldest son, Jonathan. He’s twenty-one and in his last year in college.” Jonathan nodded as he made a quick survey of the crowd. He seemed to be a confident young man. “Mmm. That is what you call a fine young man,” Stacy whispered nudging Monica. Monica tried hard to suppress her chuckle. She lowered her head, a little embarrassed as Jonathan’s eyes met hers. She thought his eyes lingered a little at their table but then she was not sure. Maybe he somehow knew they were whispering about him. Bro. Reynolds continued to introduce the rest of his family. “Anything else you want me to tell them about you, son?” he said half-jokingly to Jonathan, to which Jonathan held up a hand

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signifying “no.” “Next is my daughter, Janice. She just finished her last year in high school and will be off to college in September. She will be a part of this youth group during the few months she is here.” Janice smiled and waved to the crowd. “Then this is James, my youngest. He’s sixteen and is in high school. I saved the best for the last—my wife, Jacqueline. We’ve been married for twenty-two years and it gets better each year. Stand up, family, and meet the youth of New Mt. Zion.” There was another hearty round of applause as the audience welcomed them. Bro. Reynolds spoke for about ten minutes from Ecclesiastes 12:13 on the whole duty of man. He encouraged the young adults to give their lives totally to the Lord while they were young and not wait until they had one foot in the grave. After the final prayer, refreshments and finger foods were served as the young adults mingled with the new family. Stacy literally pulled Monica off her seat to get better acquainted with Jonathan who was making his way over to a group of young men. “Hi, I’m Stacy. We’re so glad to have you join us. If you need anything just ask...” “Pleased to meet you, Stacy.” He showed slight displeasure at the interruption. “Oh, this is my friend, Monica. Both of us will be starting college in September also.” He stopped for a minute to acknowledge Monica with a quick nod of the head. Stacy persisted, “What college are you going to?” “TCU. If you'll excuse me.” He continued in the direction of the group of young men. Stacy took a step forward, but Monica gently steered her in the direction of the refreshment

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table. “C’mon, grab a plate and let’s sit down.” Stacy reluctantly did as she was told. “Girl, what is wrong with you?” Stacy said. “No, what is wrong with you? Did you have to be so in his face like that? You’re going to give off the wrong impression— not only on yourself, but also on the whole youth group, and on me.” “You?” “Yes, me.” Stacy seemed to think about it for a few seconds before replying. “Monica, I’m leaving for FAMU in three months. Three short months.” She emphasized the ‘three’ with a show of her fingers. “I know a good thing when I see one, and...” “Stacy, calm down. I'm sure they will still be here after three short months. Let’s go meet the daughter and mother, then I have to call Mother to come and get me.” “Oh, all right,” answered Stacy reluctantly, glancing in Jonathan’s direction as she rose from the table. Stacy was a good hearted person. Somehow she had the notion that once she began college she had to have a boyfriend. She often chided Monica for not showing any interest towards young men. None of the young men in the youth group seemed to grab her attention. Stacy would often tell her, “Monica, I’m human and I have feelings too.” But Monica would always reply, “I have feelings too, but those feelings can wait. Can’t they?” And even though Stacy always replied back with a "Yes, but how long?" she appreciated Monica for helping her to keep her head on straight and her thoughts going in the right direction. After a short exchange with Sis. Reynolds and Janice, Monica headed for the phone. She hung up with a deep sigh.

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“What’s up?” Stacy asked. “Oh, nothing much. Dad just has to work late again and then he also has to work on tomorrow.” “What’s so bad about that?” “I just love for him to be home in the evenings and on Saturdays.” “Well, what could happen on tomorrow that cannot wait?” “A lot,” emphasized Monica. “A lot could happen especially if I did not put you on a detour from making a fool of yourself before the whole youth group.” Both girls burst out laughing as they headed up the stairs and out the front door to wait for Monica’s mother. “I was not thinking, but I could give you a ride home,” Stacy said. “You sure weren’t thinking. Promise me you’ll go straight home after I leave.” Monica was looking her dead in the eyes. “Where could I go but home. My parents are expecting me.” “You know what I mean. Don’t hang around to converse with you know who. And don’t pretend to have car problems either,” laughed Monica. “The opportunity of a lifetime and my best friend blocks me,” sighed Stacy. “Good night to you, ladies,” said a familiar voice. Both girls turned around to see the Reynolds family exiting the church building along with some of the other young people. Sis. Montague pulled up front at the same time. With a quick hug and an “I’ll call you tomorrow,” Monica hurried to the car. “Does Stacy need a ride?” Sis. Montague asked. “Oh, no, she drove tonight.” “How come you did not ride home with her?”

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“She’s too busy casting her eyes,” Monica said, nodding in the direction of the Reynolds family. Sis. Montague smiled as she tooted good bye to Stacy. “Go home, now!” shouted Monica through the window.

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Chapter Two “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” JOHN 7:24 “Is Dad home yet?” asked Monica. “He came in and took a shower, ate and left again. Said he had extra work to do; his boss asked him to fill in.” Monica waited for her to continue. “Let me pick up some ice cream. I need something sweet and cool tonight. I could just go ahead and do the shopping but I think I’ll wait ‘till tomorrow. How about you?” Monica’s mother ran her fingers through her shoulder length curly black hair that gleamed a tint of red as an oncoming car light cast its beam on her hair. Mrs. Montague was born and raised in St. Kitts. “Ice cream sounds good to me,” answered Monica. “Well, what happened with Dad? He’s been working quite a bit more 21


lately.” “I started to protest. I don’t know what kind of computer job calls you in after hours. He said something about special delivery times and packaging the computers. Sounds kind of fishy to me but I have never known your father to lie to me.” Both settled on butter-pecan ice cream as they pulled into the convenience store around the corner from the house. “Did he say anything about our plans for tomorrow?” Monica asked. “As an after-thought. He says to tell you he’ll have to cancel but he’ll make it up to you.” Both drove home in silence. “Tell me about the new assistant pastor and his family,” her mother said once they settled down. “Mother, they are the greatest. The pastor’s name is Dwayne. His wife’s name is Jacqueline. They have three children: Jonathan, whose finishing college; Janice, she’s getting ready to begin college; and James is still in high school. They seem like the perfect fit for our church.” “I’m glad to hear that because I am going to prepare a meal for Sunday’s fellowship dinner that will knock them off their feet.” “That’s not all. I had to almost pull Stacy away from Jonathan before she started drooling all over him.” “Say what?” Sis. Montague replied as she started to laugh. “I don’t know what we are going to do with that girl. You just be careful.” “Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll be careful,” said Monica as she filled her mother in on the events of the evening ending with, “And don’t you worry about Dad. Like the Bible says, ‘All things

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work together for the good.’” Monica kissed her mother good night. “I think I’ll sleep in tomorrow...if Stacy does not call me too early.” “Go and get some rest. I’ll be going early to the store. I may wake you up before I go. Let’s pray before we turn in.” After a short word of prayer, Monica kissed her mother good night again, and went on to her room. Monica softly closed the door to her bedroom. She had decorated it herself. The walls were of a soft pink hue dotted on one side with bright pink and white petals. The other side held pictures and a few trophies she had won at school competitions and church activities, including certificates she had received. A student desk holding a computer along with a book shelf and a floor lamp occupied the space on the third wall. There was a walk-in closet in the fourth wall where her bed stood with a bedside table and a small reading lamp. Seeing her bedroom was at one corner of the house she had two sets of windows through which she was able to see the sun rising each morning in the distance. That often helped to get her day started right. Before Monica got in the bed, she paused to look at herself in the mirror. Her beautiful, olive colored skin was a mixture of her mother’s West Indian Creole complexion and her father’s darker skin. Being more tired than what she thought, she quickly slipped into her cotton nightgown and lowered herself beside her bed to pray again before turning in for the night: Dear God, I thank You for a great day. Help me to get into the nursing program at TCU. I don’t exactly know what is going on with Dad’s job, but You do. I pray that You will keep him

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safe and make it so that he can be home every Friday night and every Saturday. And, Lord, I love You. Help me to always do right. As an after thought, Monica added: Oh, Lord, help Stacy to keep her head on straight and not get boy crazy. Amen.


Chapter Three “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” PROVERBS 18:24 “Seven thirty in the morning. Who could that be?” Monica moaned as she reached over for the phone. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. No wonder you are so beautiful; you’re always sleeping,” said a cheery voice. “This has got to be Stacy.” “Yeah, right the first time. So what do you really think about Jonathan?” “Who’s Jonathan?” Monica rolled over to go back to sleep. “Girl, you ought to wake up. That good looking fellow, the son of the assistant pastor...” “Stacy, you ought to quit.” Monica had propped herself up 25


on her elbows now. “Give the people time to settle in before you start invading their lives.” “Like I said last night, I only have three short months before I take off for FAMU. But I was thinking last night, I probably would do better going to TCU, you know closer to my best friend.” Monica burst out laughing. “Yeah, right. If I recall, Bro. Reynolds said Jonathan is attending TCU. Could it be for that...” “You catch on fast. But like I said, I was only thinking.” “On a serious note, though,” said Monica changing the subject, “what are you going to major in?” “Oh, I still do not know. My father suggests business because I’m good in math. My mother wants me to go into social work like her.” “Well, just pray about it. Are they still at odds with each other?” “Every now and then. It gets rough sometimes. In fact, last night when I came home, Mother was asleep on the sofa. Normally she and Dad are either in bed waiting on me or in the living room together.” “Mmmm.” “I did not see Dad when I came home. Apparently, he stepped out. I didn’t know what to do before I woke my mother up. I could tell she was crying. I asked about Dad and she said she did not know where he went. She hesitated to tell me what took place; said I would know soon enough...Hold on a minute, Monica.” While Monica was on hold her mother stuck her head through the bedroom door to let her know she was off to the grocery store. Monica thought she heard a bang coming from Stacy’s side of the phone. Her heart skipped a beat.

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“That was my father, slamming his bedroom door, on his way out,” said Stacy, returning to the phone. “Stacy, I wish I knew what to tell you, but I don’t. The only thing I can say is look to Jesus.” “You know, this is one of the reasons I want to go off to college. The tension gets a little high in here sometimes. I wake up some nights and hear them arguing. They are trying not to let it show, but I can’t help noticing it.” Monica could hear Stacy sigh deeply. There was a moment’s silence before Stacy continued talking. “So how are things going with you and your family?” “Well, things are going quite well. Lately, Dad has to be away on Friday nights and on Saturdays and I still have not gotten used to that. Neither has Mom.” To change the conversation, Monica suggested they meet up at her house to bake some cookies for tomorrow’s fellowship meeting. “I sure am going to miss the ole Mt. Zion Missionary Evangelical Church,” Stacy said in her deepest voice. “I am going to miss you too, Monica.” “I am going to miss you too, Stacy. See ya at two o’clock.” Monica laughed as she hung up the phone. After a quick shower, Monica put on her light blue slacks with a pink cotton blouse. This morning she felt like cooking so she put together a small serving of grits, with a few slices of bacon and two scrambled eggs. Smothering the grits with butter and sharp cheddar cheese, she settled down at the kitchen table with the newspaper open in front of her. She ended up browsing the careers section, not that she was looking for a job, but she was curious about what medical positions were available in doctor’s offices or any private facility. She knew she would

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probably have to work in the hospital for a while before launching into a doctor’s office. The pediatrics field was wide open as were other positions in the medical field.

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Chapter Four “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” PROVERBS 21:23 The ladies of the church were busy cleaning up and getting everything ready for Sunday’s fellowship dinner. It was to be a big day. Two other churches were invited to partake in welcoming the new assistant pastor and his family. Sister Mills and Sister Bettie were wiping down the tables in the Fellowship Hall. “Have you met the assistant yet?” Sis. Mills asked. “Nope. But my grand daughter met the family on yesterday evening. She says they is a lovely family.” Sis. Bettie picked up a bit of paper off the floor. “We go through assistant pastors so fast. This is the second one this year.” Sis. Mills shook her head. “I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go.” 29


“Well, not too many people can work under Pastor Richardson. He’s a tough man to work for,” Sis. Bettie said. “Uh huh,” nodded Sis. Mills. “It also takes a special woman to live with a man like that. My hat goes off to Sis. Richardson.” “Well, I hope this one lasts a while...if Stacy Wilmington don’t run them off with her fast-moving self.” Sis. Bettie moved in closer to Sis. Mills. “Now, what you talking about?” Sis. Mills stood upright, squinting her eyes. She loved to hear a good piece of gossip and made it her duty to fix things after they were broken. Sis. Bettie took a few steps closer to Sis. Mills and lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “My grand daughter told me Miss Stacy was falling all over herself to meet the oldest son.” “No, you don’t say,” Sis. Mills said. “Uh huh. She said if it was not for that Monica girl she would have embarrassed herself.” “What you mean by that?” Sis. Mills asked. Sis. Bettie raised a finger across her lips. “Yes, honey. ‘Cause he was trying his best to get away from her.” Sis. Mills’ eyes opened a little wider as her mouth gaped. Shaking her head from side to side she added, “That child has no training at all. She’s always looking at the young boys here. What is it with the young girls today?” “You must not know what I know.” Sis. Bettie raised her eyebrows encouraging Sis. Mills to go on. “Her parents don’t have time to train her. They is too busy fussing at each other.” “How do you know that?” Sis Bettie’s squinting eyes spurred her on.“I knows these things. I been around. About three or four Sundays back she had on a blouse that reached up to her

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neck. And on top of that she had on a scarf. And sometimes her and her husband don’t sit together.” The two ladies moved into the walk-in storage closet to get the burgundy tablecloths out. “Now, sister, you is going too far,” said Sis. Bettie with a half smile. “The truth is the truth. I call myself, sometime last year, when they just joined the church, paying my respects to them. When I got to the door and got ready to ring the doorbell, I swear I heard shouting coming from the inside of their house. And it wasn’t the television either. I was wondering what to do. Curiosity got the better of me and I rang the doorbell like crazy.” “Go on, Sister,” Sis. Bettie said with a wave of her hands, “‘cause these kinds need a lot of praying for.” “Well, old Joe Blow Wilmington burst the door open. After telling him who I was, I asked for his wife. That liar told me she was very busy. So I excused myself and went on home. I been watching for them every Sunday as I watch every couple in dis here church. Yes, Ma’am.” Hearing footsteps coming down the stairs, both ladies hurried out the storage closet and started putting the tablecloths on the tables. “These sure are some pretty tablecloths. What the young folks say...exquisite.” Sis. Bettie passed a quick wink in Sis. Mills’ direction. “They sure are.”

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Chapter Five “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.” PSALM 119:101 Sis. Montague called around eleven o’clock. “Hi, Mom. Could you please bring back some cookie mix for tomorrow for about four dozen cookies. I asked Stacy over to help me with them.” Once home, Monica helped her Mom bring the groceries in. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would do without you,” Sis. Montague said. After putting on something more comfortable and grabbing a bite to eat, mother and daughter set about preparing their dishes for Sunday. “I’m going to fix a big pot of some lip-smacking oxtail with lima beans. That’s my main dish. Then I’m going to surprise them with my West Indian jerked chicken and some rice and peas,”


bragged Sis. Montague. “Mother, in America we say red beans and rice, not rice and peas,” reminded Monica. “It’s the West Indian in me. It comes out when I least expect it.” After a hearty laugh, her mother asked when to expect Stacy. “At two o’clock, if that is all right with you?” “Oh, yes. I’ll be out of the kitchen by then and on my way to help clean the church and I have choir rehearsal after that. What do you two have planned for the rest of the day?” “Well, probably just talk. It was Stacy who called when you were leaving this morning. It seems her parents were at it again last night.” “Was anybody hurt?” asked Sis. Montague. “No. They just did not sleep together, and on top of that, Stacy told me she’s going to FAMU to get away from it all. She says they seem to be arguing more.” “My goodness!” Sis. Montague turned away from the sink long enough to say to her daughter, “You try to be a blessing to her, Monica. As you already know, she is welcomed to visit here any time she wants to. Just remember our rule: no men or boys allowed when me or your father are not here.” “I’ll remember,” said Monica. “Are you upset with Dad for not being here today or last night?” “I wasn’t really upset. Just a little disappointed that our weekends are getting so messed up as a family ever since he got that new job.” Sis. Montague pursed her lips a little. “Mother, have you heard from Leah? Is she coming tomorrow?” Monica missed having her big sister home. “She is not sure. She’s been on call at the hospital on

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the weekends now. They are short-staffed.” Sis. Montague added more seasoning to the meat. “I sure do wish she would come on back home.” “Me, too.” Monica’s voice trailed off into a few seconds of silence. “I hate to think that you will be leaving us some day, too,” Sis. Montague said with a sigh. “But that’s life. Anyway, the oxtail is on slow cook, the rest of the food is looking good and I’m going to take my shower, catch a nap, and head on out to the church. I plan on being back by six-thirty to get a good night’s sleep. And you will have to keep an eye on everything for me.” Sis. Montague hurried on up to her room and Monica curled up on the love seat with her favorite book to get some reading in before Stacy came over.

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Chapter Six “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” PSALM 103:8 Stacy hung up the phone. She quickly got dressed and headed to the kitchen. Her mother was sitting at the table sipping some hot chocolate. She never touched coffee for her morning perk-up. It had to be hot chocolate. “Morning, Mom,” Stacy said giving her Mom a hug. “Good morning, Stacy. Did you have a good night’s sleep? I thought for sure you would sleep in.” “I thought it best to get up. Besides, Monica wants me to come over to bake some cookies and spend some time together before I go off to college. I told her I’d be over at two o’clock. But if you would rather I stay home...” Stacy pulled the cereal out the cupboard and a couple slices of 37


bread from the bread bag and proceeded toward the toaster. “Oh, no. Go ahead and have fun. I’m good for the day. How was youth meeting? I failed to get a report on last night.” “It was a blast as usual. The new assistant pastor and his family are adorable. Wait till you meet them. You and Dad are coming tomorrow, aren’t you?” Stacy poured milk on her cereal before sitting at the table. She smothered her toast with butter and took a big bite. “Of course we are coming,” Sis. Wilmington said with a smile to which Stacy replied. “Mom, were you and Dad at it last night? What happened?” Sis. Wilmington hesitated before answering as she thought back to last evening. She had received a series of phone calls, five to be exact. The female voice asked for Bro. Wilmington two times and the other three times no one responded when she picked up. She had learned to expect those calls the past few Fridays. On top of that, Bro. Wilmington brought up the topic of her quitting her job again. She thought that was settled. The anonymous phone calls had begun to bug her and she wondered if her husband was doing something behind her back—again. She had asked him point blank if he had some woman calling for him to which he responded negatively. That set off a series of other things including not letting Stacy know what happened over eight years ago. ______________________ “Don’t you dare go there. I told you I would handle it,” Bro. Wilmington said. “No, we need to handle it now. Your daughter is going

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off to college. She needs to know. Are you waiting for someone to tell her? Do you know how devastating that would be? Don’t let her go off to college without letting her know. Willie, I beg you, don’t do that.” Bro. Wilmington was at a loss for words. He started to leave the room, but was followed by a string of words from his wife. “By the way, we’ve been having some anonymous calls to come in the past few Fridays. Do you know anything about that? Do you have some lady calling for you?” Bro. Wilmington looked at her with surprise in his eyes. He paused a little as if he was about to say something, then deciding against it, proceeded to the bedroom. “Willie, we need to talk; everything’s not settled in my mind yet. Can’t you see this is slowly driving a rift between us?” Sis. Wilmington’s words were met with a slamming of the bedroom door. How could a perfectly good evening begin to turn so sour in such a short time? she thought. ______________________ “Mom.” Stacy’s voice brought her back to the present. “Are you all right?” “Oh, yes. I was just thinking. What happened last night? Well, your father and I have some unresolved issues which came up again last night. Don’t you worry about it. You’ll know in time...his time.” His time, thought Stacy as she rose to get some orange juice. “Where’s Dad any way? I thought I heard him leave earlier this morning.” “He probably went walking or jogging.” “Mom, how did you and Dad meet? I don’t believe you

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ever told me.” Stacy thought changing the subject would bring peace back to her mother’s anxious face. “It’s real strange. I was trying to avoid this fellow who claimed he had a crush on me and that God told him I was the one for him. One day, in trying to avoid him, I was breaking a corner around the English Department when I bumped into your father. Or rather, he bumped into me. Or maybe we both bumped into each other. Turned out he was hurrying to turn in his English research paper which he was running late on. He bumped into me with such force, that I flew backward. But his quick thinking saved me from an embarrassing moment. He grabbed my arms as I was about to hit the ground and pulled me toward him. As he steadied me on my feet, our eyes met. We looked at each other for a few seconds and burst out laughing. He was gracious enough to help me pick up my books and he hurried off saying, ‘You may owe me one if my paper is not accepted by my professor.’ It seemed that afterwards, we kept bumping into each other. He called me Ms. Bumper and I called him Mr. Bumper. This was our third year in college. We started studying together, went out on Saturdays, and went to church together on some Sundays. In fact, he stopped going to his church on a regular basis and started coming to church with me.” “Mom, that sounds so romantic. How did he ask you to marry him?” “If I tell you, you will not believe it.” “Try me,” Stacy said. “Well, we were at this restaurant. We had just graduated and he and I decided to celebrate together—just the two of us.

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I remember it was about nine-thirty that night—a warm May night, full moon—a kind of lazy-type evening. It was one of those French-type restaurants where they serve you your food a course at a time. (I could never get used to those type of restaurants. I want to see all my food before me at the same time.)” Stacy could see the gleam in her mother’s eyes as she waited for her to continue. “He kept whispering to the waiter. They looked like two school boys hiding some kind of secret. I kept asking what it was all about, but he said, ‘Don’t worry about it. He’s an old friend of mine.’ We had a pleasant meal. Then I noticed the lights had gotten dimmer.” ______________________ “Are they closing already?” Grace asked in surprise. “No, not yet. At least I hope not. My friend told me tonight was a special night,” answered Willie Wilmington. Grace looked around a little disturbed, then she whispered to Willie, “Is everyone looking at us or is it just me?” Before Willie could answer, the waiter walked toward their table balancing a silver platter on the tip of his fingers, Frenchstyle. Willie stood up to meet him. The waiter placed the platter before Grace and after lifting the cover scurried away like a little mouse afraid of being caught. Underneath the cover sitting in a black satin doily was the most exquisite diamond ring Grace had ever seen. It sparkled as the light’s rays beamed on it. By this time, Willie was down on his right knee, and with the most sincere look on his face like that of an innocent school boy, he proposed to Grace: “Grace, I know that I am not perfect, but will you

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marry me?” Grace did everything to keep from screaming in surprise. “Yes, Willie, I’ll marry you.” Willie took her in his arms and as the other diners cheered them, he gave her a long hug and a soft kiss on the forehead. The rest of the night was like a dream. ______________________ “Oh, Mom, that is so romantic.” Stacy was all dreamy-eyed. A genuine smile flashed across Sis. Wilmington’s face. Stacy was happy to see her mother smiling.

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Chapter Seven “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” I TIMOTHY 6:6 The footsteps turned out to be Pastor and Sis. Richardson. “Don’t tell me you two ladies are the only ones down here!” boomed Pastor Richardson’s deep bass voice. “How are you ladies doing today?” “I’m blessed, Pastor,” Sis. Mills answered. “Very blessed,” Sis. Bettie replied. “And how are you, Sis. Richardson?” “Too blessed.” Sis. Richardson extended her arms to hug both ladies. “Looking good already,” said Pastor. “I have a couple of young men bringing down the centerpieces in some boxes. Sis. Mills, make sure you put them to work. They have the energy. Let them burn it up for the Lord.” 43


“Amen!” Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie laughed. “Wanda and I are taking off before the choir gets started. I’m going home to study and she is going to cook for tomorrow and get some rest. I would advise you two to take off as soon as you can and get rested for tomorrow. We’re going to have a long day.” “Don’t worry, Pastor. We will.” As Pastor and Sis. Richardson turned to leave, a couple of the young men of the church brought in some boxes. “Where do you want us to put these, Sis. Bettie?” Sis. Bettie pointed to a table. “Oh, and help us put the tablecloths on and then help us put the pieces in the center of the table.” The young men made a race out of putting the tablecloths on the tables. They had them covered in no time. Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie meanwhile pulled the decorations out of the boxes. Ooing and aahing, they set everything on one table. “Boys, help us put these beauties in the middle of each table.” “Yes, Ma’am,” the boys chorused together. In no time, the centerpieces were right smack in the middle of each table. “You boys have done enough,” said Sis. Mills. “If you can just neatly stack the empty boxes to the back of the storage closet we’ll have two tall glasses of ice cold lemonade waiting for you. We’ll put the napkins on the tables.” Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie went into the kitchen to pour the lemonade as the boys took the boxes to the storage closet. “Oh, to be young again,” said Sis. Mills. “Yes, I remember those days: Out all night, getting two to

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three hours sleep, full of energy. These old bones can’t handle that anymore and where does the time go?” added Sis. Bettie. “Now, don’t go reminiscing about the good ole days, Bettie.” The boys gulped down their lemonade and with a quick ‘thank you’ took off up the stairs.

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Chapter Eight “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.” PSALM 34:8-9 Monica checked on the red beans and rice. It was perfectly done and gave off a pleasant aroma. The baked jerked chicken was done also. It had a nice color and looked so tender. Monica could not resist the temptation to try a piece of the drummettes. The oxtail had a little ways to go. She went to check on her mother who had fallen off to sleep. It was going on one thirty. “Mother, it’s time to get up.” “Thank you so much. I call myself reading. Has Stacy come yet?” Sis. Montague swung out of the bed. “She should be here in about thirty minutes. I’ll go down and make you a ham and cheese sandwich while you get dressed. 47


If you don’t mind, I’ll eat with Stacy when she comes.” Sis. Montague was dressed and in the kitchen in no time. “How’s my cooking coming along?” She peered into the pots and the oven. “Looking good. Looking good.” She finished her sandwich and giving Monica a kiss, took off for the church. No sooner had Monica locked the door she heard the doorbell ring and a familiar rap on the door. “Daddy!” She swung the door wide open. “How’s my favorite girl doing?” he asked giving her a hug. “I misplaced my keys,” Bro. Montague said. “Your favorite girl is doing fine and she is still upset that you left early yesterday evening and we had to cancel all our Saturday plans.” “Oh, man, how can I make it up to you?” he asked entering the house sniffing. “Something sure smells good. Is your mother cooking some of her West Indian food?” “Yes, and you cannot touch it. But you can make it up to me by taking me shopping. Are you going to be in church tomorrow?” “So that’s why we are fixing all of this food,” he grinned as he headed toward the kitchen. “Yes. Tomorrow is the day when the new assistant pastor and his family will be presented to the church. I already met them. You haven’t forgotten, have you?” “Forgotten? Forgotten what?” “Oh, Daddy.” “I’m just kidding. Of course I’ll be in church tomorrow but right now I’m more interested in filling up on your mother’s cooking. Where is she by the way?” “She is gone out for choir rehearsal. They’re doing some

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extra practice today to prepare for tomorrow.” “Good. Now I can get some of her food unhindered.” Bro. Montague winked at Monica as he pulled out his favorite bowl from the China cabinet. “Daddy, you’ve hardly told me anything about this new job of yours. You used to tell me everything that happened on the job—the people you meet and everything. I miss that.” Her dad looked at her with such tenderness. “I miss that too. I thought you were getting too old for that. After all, you are on your way to college. Anyway, it’s kind of like my old job I had, only this one is not as big. Not only do I sell computers, I also fix them and program them. On top of that, I also deliver them to customers who call in orders.” “Sounds to me like you need more people then.” “Yeah, we probably do. It’s much smaller than where I worked first, I get paid extra for delivering the computers and for working on Friday evenings and some Saturdays. That is when I do special deliveries.” “Well, Daddy, we miss you being here. Mom says she can hardly plan anything for the family on Fridays and Saturdays anymore. I think she’s a little frustrated.” “She told me so. But I told her to give me a few more weeks so don’t you worry about a thing. How does that sound to you?” “Sounds good,” smiled Monica. “By the way,” he continued, “don’t tell your mother this, but I have to go back out again and take care of something. In the meantime, I’ll help myself to this red beans and rice and a couple pieces of this chicken,” and winking at his daughter, he said, “And don’t you tell her I took any of it either.” “I won’t, but if she asks I’ll have to tell her.”

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“I hear you.” They were interrupted by the doorbell. “Expecting company?” “Oh, that’s probably Stacy. We’re making cookies for tomorrow.” “Well, I’ll run upstairs, eat, take a shower and take a nap. You two have fun.” “Bye, Daddy. If you wake up and we’re not here we probably walked up to the church.” “All right, baby. Love ya.” “Love you, too, Daddy.”

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Chapter Nine “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” ISAIAH 26:3-4 Stacy did not want that time with her mother to pass too quickly. It was already one-thirty p.m., but she wanted to hear the rest of this romance story. “You know, sharing this with you actually makes me feel better. I feel so young again.” “I wish you and Dad did not have these disagreements. Well, finish telling me part two. How soon before you both got married?” Stacy asked eagerly. “Things began to happen so fast. He lived with his grandmother. She practically raised him. He never knew his father. 51


His mother died when he was five years old. Anyway, he had rented an apartment before he asked me to marry him. Within two months we were married.” “Wow! Talk about fast.” “Yes, he had it all planned. He had a job already and had saved up his money, rented the apartment in the next city and made plans to sell his grandmother’s house so she could move in with us. I did not have to do anything.” Sis Wilmington’s voice rang with joy. “That’s cool! Was it a big wedding?” “Not that big, but big enough. Grandma and Grandpa came, a few college friends, and a few people from the church, some friends from his job, and a few of my friends. It was a glorious day.” “So you all dated for almost two years?” Stacy put an emphasis on the ‘two’. “Yes, almost two years. We’ve laughed with each other, had our disagreements, had our debates, but it’s been good.” “Mom, did you and Dad kiss before you got married?” “Yes, we exchanged a few pecks here and there.” “Did you all ever, you know, get intimate?” “You know, I can honestly say no we didn’t. But we almost did. We talked about it and neither of us wanted that to happen. We made a pact to maintain that level of respect for each other. Besides,” said Sis. Wilmington with a laugh, “your grandparents would kill me if I did.” “I sure hope I can wait...if I ever find a boy interested in me.” “Oh, don’t you worry about that. I was in my third year in college before your father and I started talking. You have a

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long ways to go. What you need to do is focus on your studies, get your degree, and get yourself set up financially before you even start thinking about anything like that. And don’t you worry, there’s someone out there for you; he just hasn’t found you yet.” After a moment’s silence her mother said, “You had better hurry if you are going to make it to Monica’s on time. We’ll have more time for such talks. And while you are there, I’ll get busy preparing something for tomorrow. I’ll probably fix a roast with potatoes.”

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Chapter Ten “Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.” PSALM 128:1 “Well, we almost done. Those are some pretty napkins to go with the centerpiece,” Sis. Bettie said moving her hand gently over a napkin on the table closest to her. “It sure is,” Sis. Mills said. “Anyway, like I was saying before we was interrupted, you have to keep your eyes and ears open; sometimes your eyes more than your ears.” “Now, what you mean by that?” Sis. Bettie was all ears once again. “Sister, if a husband and wife come to church in different cars, you better watch that. They coming to the same place from the same house so why drive different cars? If they don’t sit together, you better watch that.” 55


“My goodness!” “If either the husband or the wife come to church without the other and the missing one is not working or sick, that you better watch.” “Go on.” “And if they sit all serious beside each other trying to front, but don’t say one word to each other, I say watch that.” “Now, that’s bad. Real bad.” “And finally, if Pastor says ‘reach out and greet the person next to you’ and they greet everybody else but each other, that says it all.” “Sis. Mills, you certainly full of wisdom. But is some of that from experience?” Ignoring the question, Sis. Mills went on. “Just observe, Sister. Just observe. You learn a lot by just looking.” “I certainly will begin ‘observerating’ as my granddaughter used to say,” Sis. Bettie said. “Well, we best be heading on home. My daughter is supposed to be coming over with my grandbabies. They going to sleep over for tomorrow. I’ll probably just bring some dinner rolls. Don’t feel much like cooking,” Sis. Mills said. “If Bro. Harold’s finished out in the church yard, can you give me a ride home? I don’t feel like waiting for my daughter to come pick me up.” “Sure.” Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie both turned around before exiting the room. “Everything sure looks lovely.” Sis. Mills flipped the switch to the ‘off ’ position and slowly climbed up the stairs with Sis. Bettie.

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Chapter Eleven “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” JOHN 4:24 “Hey, Stacy! I’m so glad you could come. I hope you haven’t eaten yet.” “I had a little something with Mom earlier, but I sure could eat something else,” Stacy said. “How’s your mother doing?” Monica asked. “She’s doing much better. We had a great talk. I’ll tell you all about it while we mix the cookies. Mmm, I can smell that familiar smell and if it is what I think it is, I may just invite myself for a sleepover.” “It is what you think it is, but all hands off.” As the girls put the cookie dough together, Stacy shared with Monica the events of the morning. “You know, Stacy, I believe God is going to do 57


a work in both our families. Putting each family on the prayer list is moving God’s hand. I just thought about that earlier today. Just the talk you had with your Mom is an indication of that.” Stacy thought for a while. “You know, you’re right. Just encouraging Mom to share with me when they first met rekindled such joy and hope in her. I’m hoping things will stay well for ever.” “I know what you mean. Things are getting a little testy here also—no hitting or anything like that—my Dad is just working weird hours on the weekends.” Monica, without realizing it, was speaking in a much lower tone. “I’m curious,” Stacy said lowering her voice to almost a whisper, “why are we whispering?” “I don’t know. Dad’s upstairs. He should be asleep by now,” Monica whispered back. “I know. I saw the car.” Stacy was trying hard to stifle a laugh but was unsuccessful. Both girls burst out laughing. Taking their sandwiches upstairs to her bedroom, Monica put in a movie for them to watch. “I don’t know about you, but I love a good family movie with some high drama,” she said as they settled down on her bed. Conversation stemmed from college expectations to possibly working to Jonathan to getting Stacy settled in on a major. Shortly there was a knock on the door. It was Monica’s father. “Hi, Daddy.” “Hey, baby. Hi, Stacy. Sounds like you two got it going on up in here,” he said. “Oh, it’s one of those old family movies that make you cry and laugh at the same time,” Monica said. “I’m stepping out for a while to take care of something for

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the job, but somehow I misplaced my key again. May I please borrow yours. I want to surprise your mother so don’t tell her I came in.” Bro. Montague gave her a quick hug. As Monica handed him her key, she reminded him of his promise to be in church with them on tomorrow to which he reassured her that he would be there. After about another two hours, Sis. Montague returned home. “Choir practice certainly wears you out,” she said entering the bedroom. “How are you girls doing?” “We had a great time, Mother. I was trying to get Stacy to sleep over, but I guess she’s had enough of me for one day.” After Stacy said good bye both went to the kitchen to check on the food.

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Chapter Twelve “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.� ISAIAH 55:8-9 Dear God, We come before You this evening thanking You for Jesus. I thank You for His dying on the cross for our sins. And I thank You for His resurrection and for eternal life. I also thank You for my wife, Wanda. Bless her this day. Lord, for some reason You have chosen not to bless us with children, and my wife is still struggling with that. I pray that You would comfort her heart. I pray that you would continue to strengthen her and myself to be a father and mother to the souls You have given to our care here at New Mt. Zion. And I pray that You would send us new children. Bless in the services 61


tomorrow and bless this food to nourish our bodies. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen. “Amen,” Sis. Richardson said as her husband squeezed her hand. “Don’t you worry, honey. Like I said, God has a plan for you. You have me. Ain’t I enough?” Pastor said in a kidding tone. “I know. I just want my own children.” Pastor Richardson nodded in an understanding way as he bit into his baked chicken. “You outdid yourself again. This is some good chicken. I can’t get over it though—why you cook so much? It’s just the two of us.” “Honey, each time I cook, I can almost see little hands and faces asking ‘Mommy, may I have some more food.’ I guess I get carried away before I catch myself.” “Baby, I know it hurts, but you can’t let it steal your joy.” “I just feel like I am missing out on so much. You know whenever we drive by a playground and I see the little children playing, I just want to scoop them all up and take them home with me. I get so jealous when I see these ladies with babies in their arms.” “You’re either not busy enough or you’re not truly trusting God.” Pastor Richardson looked her squarely in the eyes. “Oh, I’m busy enough.” Sis. Richardson slid her plate from before her. “What with helping out in the Kindergarten and visiting families at home and in the hospital and keeping up with your demands. But I must admit, I get a little impatient with God sometimes and quite frankly, I am getting frustrated with you.” “Well, this one thing I know,” Pastor Richardson said, “and

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that is, I am going to spend the rest of the evening studying, and you, my dear, will be in the bed resting. You can read if you want to, but I want you to stay in the bed for the rest of the evening.” “Well, I was hoping to fix a dish for the fellowship tomorrow.” Holding his hands up in the ‘time-out’ position, Pastor Richardson said firmly, “Read my lips: no, nope, not today! You are looking tired and you don’t even realize it. Plus, you are always cooking for the families of the church. Let them cook for you tomorrow. I want you to look and be well rested for tomorrow. Come on and give me a kiss and be obedient.” “I give up.” She rose to do his bidding. As she passed through the door leading to the hallway, she attempted again with a “Well, may I...?” But she was met with “What did I say, lady? And don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll take care of them.” “I thought I’d try again. I’ll see you in a while,” said Sis. Richardson.

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Chapter Thirteen “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into his grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2 Terrence Montague took off in his Acura. No matter how many deliveries he had to make tonight, he had to be in church tomorrow for his daughter’s sake. He knew he could not keep at the job much longer, at least not with the knowledge he now had about it. His wife was a good woman and she had been faithful to him these past twenty-two years. She had never lied to him and he had never lied to her, but he felt bad he could not fill her in on the details of his job---not yet anyway. Maybe he could switch before things got out of hand. How did I allow myself to get into this situation? 65


He didn’t know quite how to get out of it without possibly causing a scene and possibly bringing harm to his family. What a tangled web he had himself in. He used to think he could stand on his own strength, overcome any obstacle and any temptation that came his way. But he was beginning to find out how wrong he was. While riding around town burning some hours before meeting with his boss, his mind drifted to when he first met his wife. He had stopped in at the office complex where she worked at that time. She was the receptionist for five business firms that operated out of the same building. Her beautiful inviting smile flashing those snow white teeth just pulled him in. ______________________ “May I help you?” “Yes, I’m here to see Mr. Sykes, Sr., of Sykes and Sykes, but before you let him know I am here, I must tell you, I just love your beautiful accent. Where are you from?” Terrence Montague asked. “Why, thank you. I’m from St. Kitts,” Stella Kirby responded in a matter of fact way. “St. Kitts. Hmm, is that one of those small islands somewhere in the seas,” he asked sheepishly not really knowing for sure its whereabouts. Frankly, he had never heard of it. Stella Kirby could not resist a chuckle. “It is one of those small islands in the Lesser Antilles, if you know where that is.” Terrence tried to put on a more serious intellectual tone but underneath this facade he was having fun. “The Lesser Antilles...refresh my memory, please.” “You know where Cuba and Jamaica are, don’t you?” to

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which Terrence nodded in the affirmative. “Well, move to your right, and keep going, past Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and keep going, and keep going like the energizer bunny, and before you know it, bam! You stumble into St. Kitts...that is if the hurricanes do not get you first. I’ll let Mr. Sykes know you are on your way up.” Taking a quick glance around her desk, he noticed a Bible and a small picture of what he assumed was of her mother and father; she looked the splitting image of her father. He did not notice a ring on her finger nor a picture on her desk with anyone who might be a husband or boyfriend, so he assumed that she did not have a husband or a significant other. That, he felt, left the door to her life unlocked for him to try to enter. Terrence Montague could not help but to smile at the first course of action he had taken once he returned home that evening. He feverishly looked up St. Kitts on the internet as well as in his encyclopedia and read everything he could about that small exotic island almost hidden away from the rest of the world. He spent all night thinking of how he would make his next move: maybe directly invite her out the very next day, or maybe wait for a day or two before making another appearance. Two days later, he turned up at Sykes and Sykes under the pretense of checking up on the new programming he had installed for them. In reality, he just wanted to touch base with her and hear that lovely accent again and see her lovely face. After a week of ‘playing around’ he decided to make a serious move. “You know they say there are more monkeys than people in St. Kitts,” he said catching her off guard one early morning, to

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which Stella burst out laughing. “Yes, that’s why my family and I left. The monkeys put us out. I can tell someone has been doing his research.” Terrence Montague went on. This was one prize he aimed to take home. “Your family? Are you married?” “Nope. Not yet anyway.” “Well, whoever is waiting, tell him Mr. Montague, the computer programmer from Harrington Technologies, says he has a good one.” “Why, thank you, Mr. Montague. I’ll be sure to tell him— whoever he may be,” Stella added as an after thought. “You mean there’s no one waiting?” He crossed his fingers behind his back. Yes! He rejoiced inside when he heard her answer. “Well, this is my lucky day. Would you mind putting me first on your waiting list by going out with me tonight. If that is too short a notice, tomorrow night, Ms., Ms...?” “Ms. Kirby. And I don’t go out with men I do not know anything about.” “That can be easily fixed. My name is Mr. Terrence L. Montague. I was born and raised in these United States, Texas to be more specific. I have two brothers and one sister. My parents both passed away in a tragic car accident three years ago. I had a girlfriend once but we don’t like each other anymore. I have a degree in Computer Programming. I work for Harrington Technologies. I own my own place. Right now, my brother and sister are staying with me, but soon my sister will be married and my brother will be going off for college in two months time. So, after two months, I’ll definitely be a lonely bachelor. Please go out with me before my soon to come loneliness sets in.” While

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catching his breath, he gave her his business card after scribbling his home telephone number on the back. Stella sat back in awe with her left hand gently resting on her chest. Not able to contain herself, she let out a deep belly laugh. “What’s the matter? I didn’t know I was that funny,” Terrence said with a serious look on his face. “O.K., you have me convinced. I’ll go out with you on tomorrow. Did you want me to let Mr. Sykes know that you are here?” “Oh, I did not come to see Mr. Sykes. I came strictly to convince you that I’m a nice guy who needs a significant other.” “Why, you devil. Get out of here before I change my mind.” Stella was trying hard to stifle another laugh. “I will as soon as I get your address, telephone number, specific time to pick you up, and your first name, Ms. Kirby.” He had his notepad and pen in hand ready to make note of this significant piece of information. “Stella. That’s a beautiful and fitting name. And what do you like to eat?” “Surprise me.”

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Chapter Fourteen “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” MATTHEW 6:6 “Monica, did your daddy stop by earlier?” Sis. Montague asked with a knowing smile from her bedroom door. “Yes, Mother. He told me not to tell you; he wanted to surprise you. How did you know?” Monica asked as she approached her mother. “Come on in.” She signaled to Monica to come into her room. “Take note for when you get married.” Sis. Montague raised her eyebrows as she pointed to a pair of slacks thrown across the chair, a towel left on the floor in front of the bathroom door. “And,” said her mother trying hard to hold in a chuckle as she 71


pointed to her bedside table, “a dirty bowl that once held my tasty rice and peas and it looks like a few pieces of my chicken for tomorrow’s meal.” Both women had a good-natured laugh. “You’re not upset, Mother?” asked Monica. “Baby, I’ve been picking up behind your father for twentytwo years now. Let me let you in on some secrets for when you get married: One, husbands never hang up their clothes; two, husbands leave plates, cups, and bowls wherever they take the last spoonful; three, don’t expect to find the bathroom clean after they get through with it; and four, don’t complain, just clean it up. Upset about what? To tell you the truth, it’s a little comforting cleaning up behind him. Why spend a whole hour or two fussing about it when you can take about five minutes to clean it all up.” “Daddy says he is going to be in church tomorrow. He’s making up for the Sundays he’s missed, and the Fridays and Saturdays he hasn’t been home.” “Well, praise the Lord! You know, I am a bit concerned about your father. He used to pitch a fit if he was so much as late for church. Now he’s missing it. I don’t know of any computer job that has you on call. They are supposed to have delivery people. I just don’t know what’s going on.” After a moment’s silence, Sis. Montague apologized to Monica for dumping her thoughts on her. “I just hope I’m not getting carried away over nothing.” “Don’t worry, Mother. I pray for him everyday and I believe he will be all right. You’ve taught me to trust God in everything.” Giving her daughter a hug, Sis. Montague said, “Let’s go ahead and have our devotions. I was hoping your dad would be here for that, but I guess he’s probably going to be home late

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again. Then, it’s off to bed for both of us. We have a big day tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it.” Monica and her mother had a sweet time of fellowship with the Lord. They both parted for bed with the words of the devotional song ringing in their heads: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus There’s just something about that Name. Master, Saviour, Jesus Like a fragrance after the rain. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Let all Heaven and earth proclaim, Kings and kingdoms, will all pass away But there’s something about that Name.

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Chapter Fifteen “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” I JOHN 4:18-19 Bro. Montague drove around town for a while, trying to buy time. He stopped off at the locksmith and exchanged a few words with him while he had the house key duplicated. He pulled up in the church’s parking lot and read the words on the marquee: Come celebrate with us! New assistant pastor, Dwayne Reynolds God loves you and so do we “Lord, I know how much You love me,” prayed Bro. 75


Montague. “I’m caught up in this situation and I don’t know exactly how to get out of it. Would You please show me what to do?” After some time, about an hour or two, he pulled across the county line into the next town; turning left then right under the underpass, he pulled up in front of a modest two-bedroom house with white shutters. He sat there just staring at nothing in particular. One of the rooms had a light on. Lord, I don’t even know if I should be here. After what seemed to be an eternity, he slowly dragged himself out of his car, pushing the door up making sure it did not slam shut. Walking up to the front door, he reached out for the doorbell, but stopped in midair. Shoving his hand back into his pocket, he looked up into the night sky. It had to be about one in the morning. His wife would be asleep, so would his daughter. He lifted up the door knocker but let it down slowly. Turning around, he returned to his car and pulled off without turning his lights on. As he crossed the county line heading back home his cell phone rang. “Hello!” “Yes, Terrence, what happened? I was expecting you at around 1:30.” “Well, yes, I changed my mind. I do not want to get in any further than I am already. I have my family to think about, man,” said Terrence with hesitancy. “Well, I can make you look good, brother.” “I appreciate it, Richard. But I hate keeping things from my wife. I have always been open with her. Plus, I’m a Christian and I just don’t feel good in my spirit about it.”

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“God knows that you mean good and you have a good heart and He wants you to provide for your family without struggle, doesn’t He?” “I have no doubt about that. Plus, I am not struggling to take care of my family.” “Well, see this as God pouring out an extra blessing upon your family. Think about it, man.” “I’ll think about it, Richard.” Pressing the ‘off ’ button, Terrence breathed a sigh of relief that the conversation was a short one. Stopping off at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, he strolled around at a leisurely pace before paying for some blueberry breakfast croissants, a favorite of his. Once in the car, he headed home. Slipping his shoes off at the front door, Terrence tiptoed throughout the house. He checked all the doors to make sure everything was secure. He quietly closed Monica’s bedroom door after peeking in to make sure all was well. He then proceeded to his bedroom. His wife was sound asleep. Looking down lovingly at her, he lifted a tendril of hair off her forehead. She was a good woman. Leaving the light off, he slipped his clothes off and crawled under the covers as softly as he could. It was 3:05 a.m. He tried to smoothly pry his pillow from his wife’s grip. She was normally a light sleeper except on occasions when she was very tired as was the case tonight. His attempts not to awaken her failed. Opening her eyes, she started to sit up. Terrence smoothly and quickly placed his left hand over her mouth to stifle a possible scream or whatever would come out. “It’s me. Don’t fight.” He pressed his lips against hers to which she relaxed after realizing it was her husband. “Please don’t scare me like that anymore,” she said with a

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smile. “It’s good to see you though...even if it’s 3:08 in the morning,” she said glancing at the clock. “You should have seen your face,” he said grinning. “What took you so long to come home. I don’t know of any computer job that keeps a man out until 3:30 in the morning. Terrence, I am getting concerned about...” Kissing her again, he interrupted with “Can’t a man come to his own house whatever time he feels like it?” “How did you get in? I thought you lost your key this morning.” “Oh, I have my ways.” Raising his eyebrows, he took his pillow and placing it under his head, pulled her closer to him. Playfully, she grabbed at his neck and applying a little pressure said, “You broke into my house and I am going to squeeze you breathless.” Settling down into his arms she continued, “Terrence, I’m a little concerned about this new job you have. You are gone just about every Friday evening, and on most Saturday evenings into the night, to the point of missing church some Sundays. We miss you being here on the weekends. Can’t you just start your own business, which I know you can, or better yet take the job at the church. The position is still open.” Terrence sighed. He was hoping he would not have to have this conversation again. He had tried to avoid it each time it came up and so far he was successful. His wife was not one to push an issue and she often quoted an old proverb more than once: God sees the truth but waits. “You missed me, didn’t you?” Stella propped herself up on her elbows and kissed him lovingly. “I know Monica does.” “I want to know about you. You missed me, didn’t you? Go ahead; admit it. I saw how tight you were hugging my

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pillow. I could hardly pry it away from you. And is that my pajama shirt you have on? That says it all. Don’t try to hide it.” Tickling her, he added, “Come on now, confess it.” Stella could not help laughing. “Stop. You might wake up Monica.” “Not me. You’re the one laughing and wiggling around saying, ‘Stop, stop,’” he said in a fine voice as he mimicked her. “Come on, show me how much you miss me.” ______________________ The alarm went off at 7:00. Bro. Montague reached over to hit the snooze button. His wife propped herself up and said, “You don’t have to get up yet. I have to warm the food up, shower, and get all prettied up. I’ll come and get you in a couple more hours.” “O.K., baby.” “I love you,” Sis. Montague said giving him a kiss on the cheeks. “Lady, didn’t you get enough last night?” he said peeking out of his right eye. “I’m squared away for the day.” “That’s what I like to hear.” Sis. Montague laughed as she scrambled out of the bed. “By the way, do not touch my croissants,” said Bro. Montague.

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Chapter Sixteen “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” PSALM 90:8 Sis. Wilmington was pulling a large tray of oven fried chicken out of the oven when Stacy arrived home. “Hi. Mom. Something sure smells good,” she greeted her mother. “Thank you, Stacy. I felt so much better after our talk, I decided to prepare something for tomorrow. Did you have a good time at Monica’s?” “I sure did. She’s a great friend. Is Dad home yet? I did not see his car.” “Oh, no, Not yet. By the way, something came in the mail for you today. It’s on the dinner table.” “Yes!” cried Stacy joyfully after reading the contents of the 81


letter. “Mom, I’ve been accepted at FAMU. I’m gonna go right up and tell Monica the news. We were just talking about that earlier. They want me to finish registration right away.” “I’m so happy for you. Here, have a couple pieces of chicken. There’s some potato salad in the refrigerator. Take it on up to your room. I’ll check in on you as soon as I’m finished here.” Stacy and Monica rejoiced for a few minutes, and then Stacy got comfortable in front of her computer and finalized her registration. “Mom, I’m done,” she called to her mother. Sis. Wilmington came into her room, looked things over, then gave the O.K., after which she went to her room for a shower. Stacy surfed the Internet for a while and looked up some pages on Jacksonville, Florida before getting ready for bed. Hearing the slam of a car door, she peeked out through the window to see her dad stepping on the porch. She did not quite know what to expect, so taking Monica’s advice, she began to pray: Dear God, I pray for a peaceful evening and night. Please help mother and father not to argue. I really do not know what is going on but things have been tense around here lately. And Lord, please let us all go to church as a family tomorrow. Amen. Stacy decided to go ahead and get dressed for bed. She could hear her dad pattering around in the kitchen, no doubt looking for something to eat. She smiled at herself as she pictured her mother’s expression at seeing more than a couple pieces of chicken missing. As she was climbing into bed, Bro. Wilmington rapped on her bedroom door before sticking

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his head in. “Hello, Stacy, I’m glad you’re up. Sorry I missed you last night and this morning,” he said strolling over to her bed. “Hi, Dad. I missed you too.” Helping her to pull the covers back, he continued, “I hope my big girl does not think she is too old for me to tuck her in.” “Oh, no, Dad,” Stacy said giving her Dad a hug followed by an “I love you.” “I love you, too.” Flicking the light switch to the ‘off ’ position, he jovially said, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” “Oh, Dad, I finalized registration tonight. Mom looked over everything and gave the O.K. And one other thing: Are you going to be in church tomorrow?” “Sure. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Good night.” Stacy laid in the bed not knowing what to expect. Sis. Wilmington had just stepped out of the tub after a nice hot soak, and was slipping into her baby blue robe with the rainbow across the front when Bro. Wilmington entered the bedroom. “Hi, Willie, nice to see you. I did not cook anything, just something for the dinner tomorrow. There’s some potato salad in the refrigerator and I guess you can have a couple pieces of the chicken. It’s in the oven.” After a few seconds silence, Sis. Wilmington added, “I can fix it for you if you want me to.” “Don’t worry. I already helped myself to it.” Bro. Wilmington undressed and went into the bathroom to freshen up. After putting on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt he headed out the door. “Are you coming to bed soon?” asked Sis. Wilmington.

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“Maybe. I’m going to relax a little. Maybe catch the late news. You can just go ahead on to sleep.” Bro. Wilmington, remembering Stacy was in bed, closed the door softly but loud enough to be heard. Go ahead on to sleep, thought Sis. Wilmington. Well, I can’t help it if you are still upset. I did not tell you to do what you did. For all I know you probably have not broken ties with this woman. Stacy sighed a deep sigh of relief. It seemed as though everything was well. She had only overheard her father’s last words. ______________________ It was two in the morning when Stacy awakened to overhear her parents talking in low but serious tones. It seemed to be coming from the hall way. They probably did not realize they had stopped next to her door. “Willie, you can’t keep this from Stacy any longer. She is eighteen and getting ready to go off to college. I don’t know about you, but every time I look at her, I feel as though I am deceiving her.” “Grace, you promised me you would not say a word about this to her.” “Yes. You don’t have to remind me. And I am tired of waiting. You have to tell her soon or I will...” “Or you will what?” Deep down he knew she was right and if she pushed the issue he would be fighting a losing battle. She had always respected his wishes and never really asserted herself, but if she felt strongly about something she would put up a fight. “Willie, can’t you see what is happening to us? We are slowly drifting apart. This relationship secret is coming between

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us. Lest you have not noticed, the only time we have a disagreement is when this matter comes up. It’s been too long and it’s time to do something about it. The longer you keep putting it off, the less I feel I can trust you. I feel like I am deceiving Stacy. You think about that, but I am not going to lose sleep over this any longer. Good night!” Bro. Wilmington was at a loss for words. He knew his wife was right. The longer he waited, the harder it was becoming for him to face up to the truth, and it was not fair to Stacy. He leaned against the wall for a few minutes. He had often foolishly hoped God would solve it for him even though he knew what God wanted him to do—confess it to those who needed to know about it. Stacy shut her eyes quickly when she heard her father’s hand on the doorknob. She fell asleep wondering what the relationship secret was that she should have known about earlier.

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Chapter Seventeen “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.� I JOHN 2:28 Everyone could feel the excitement in the air at the New Mt. Zion Missionary Evangelical Church. Lively music was floating through the open windows. For it to be almost the beginning of August surprisingly there was a light cool breeze. Sis. Richardson was pulling up into her parking space. She had dropped Pastor Richardson off earlier so he could get some extra studying in and be in place in case anyone wanted to see him before services and of course, to pray with his deacons and Bro. Reynolds and any other men of the church who desired to pray with them. ______________________

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Bro. and Sis. Montague and Monica walked into the Fellowship Hall together to drop off the food. “I still feel you should have left some food at the house for me, for later,” Bro. Montague said. “Oh, Terrence, you ought to stop,” Sis. Montague replied lightly. “I’m going to fellowship and pray with Pastor and the men of the church. You go ahead and join your choir friends. You make that choir look good.” He pecked her on the cheeks before strolling off. “Love is in the air every time I look around,” sang Sis. Gene Willis as she approached Sis. Montague and Monica with a hug. “How are the Montague ladies doing today?” She had been the personal shepherd of the family when they first started attending New Mt. Zion. At New Mt. Zion every new family or single person who got saved through the church and who became a member of the church was paired with a seasoned saint of the church; someone who loved the Lord and who was living in obedience and someone who could disciple them in the faith. Such a shepherd would pray with them and for them, make encouraging phone calls to them throughout the week, maybe fix a meal for them, give them a tour of the church, keep them updated on the events of the church, and if needed, secure a ride for them to the church on Sundays. Sis. Gene Willis was as sweet as could be and had never been married, but she seemed to find great contentment from serving the Lord. She worked closely with Sis. Richardson when it was time to visit the sick. Both her and Sis. Montague walked off together to the choir loft. Monica decided to remain behind and help with any final touches to be done in the Fellowship Hall.

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______________________ Sis. Mills and her husband, Bro. Harold, were pulling up in a parking space a few seconds before the Wilmington family pulled up. “Well, what are you waiting on and what are you staring at?” asked Bro. Harold. “My opening-the-door-for-you days are over with. Can hardly get out of the car myself.” Sis. Mills pretended not to hear. “Just look at them,” she said pointing toward the Wilmington family as they emerged from their car. “That’s one fine family, if you ask me.” “I didn’t ask you. I just said, ‘Look at them,’” Sis. Mills snapped. “Ain’t nothing wrong with them. He got a suit on, she’s dressed modestly, and the daughter is modest and don’t have any scandal on her.” “You don’t notice anything, do you?” “Sure. I notice you ain’t getting out of this car fast enough and I’m getting ready to leave your butt behind.” “Look, Harold, he’s walking in front of her like he mad or something,” she said with some assurance. “Woman, you is crazy. I walks in front of you many times. Besides he got that tray of hot food, probably burning his hands off. He trying to go set it down before he drops it.” “Nonsense. Any way you walk in front of me because even though we is both up in age, you still got a little spring in your step.” “That’s what you think.” Bro. Harold cocked his head

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sideways at her. “If I didn’t tell you once, I know I told you twice, keep your crooked nose out of other folks business. And if you causes any disturbances in this church,” he continued in a serious tone of voice, “I am going to personally take you to Pastor Richardson. Now get your nosy always-looking-for-trouble self out of this car. And I’m going to walk in front of you and see if I care what folks think about that.” Bro. Harold pushed the car door open. “By the way, I am still a Christian.” Slamming the car door shut, Bro. Harold mumbled to himself, “Looking for trouble on a great Sunday like this. Hey, wait up, Bro. Wilmington!” he shouted just as Bro. Wilmington’s wife pulled the door open for him. Handing the tray to his wife, he met Bro. Harold at the end of the walkway leading up to the church’s front door. Giving each other a hand shake they both went inside to Room B Classroom where all the men met at 9:40 to pray for the services every Sunday. A disgruntled Sis. Mills made her way to the Fellowship Hall where she cordially greeted others who were already present. Secretly, she was looking for Sis. Bettie; at least she gave her a listening ear without any back talk.

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Chapter Eighteen “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” PSALM 126:5-6 Promptly at eleven o’clock, Pastor Richardson, Bro. Reynolds and the music director took their place on the podium. As the choir sang Praise God from Whom all blessings flow Praise Him all creatures here below Praise Him above ye heavenly host Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen,

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a holy hush fell over the crowd. As the three men knelt down to pray, the entire congregation joined in prayer. Both the adult and the children’s choir joined in singing a couple of specials. The preteens outdid themselves with their mime dance as a way of offering up praises to God. “Amen” and “Praise the Lord” could be heard all over the auditorium. Bro. Reynolds and his family were well received with a standing ovation. As Pastor Richardson took his place before the mic, all movement ceased. “New Mt. Zion, I thank you for making Bro. Reynolds and his family feel so welcomed. Now, don’t you forget them after this day. Just love on them, and love on them, and love on them some more. Sis. Willis will be their personal shepherd for one week. Anyone who wants to help must go through Sis. Willis. I don’t want all you ladies breaking down their front door. Let them rest another week because as I told Bro. Reynolds, ‘We is a busy church.’ Amen.” “Yes, Sir.” “Amen.” “We are busy.” “I know some of you came just to hear Bro. Reynolds preach, but he won’t be preaching until next week so I guess you all are going to have to come back next week.” Someone yelled, “Pastor, don’t do us like that.” Laughter broke out over the crowd. “This morning I want to preach from Romans chapter 10:917, and I want to focus on verses fourteen and fifteen. Out of respect for the Word of God, let’s stand for the reading of His Holy Word. We’ll read alternating verses.” Everyone read enthusiastically and after settling down in their seats, Pastor Richardson emphasized verses fourteen and fifteen:

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“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! “The message for this morning is: ‘Each One Reach One.’ If you are wondering: Why is it that we are not growing in numbers? Why is it that we are not seeing any new faces? Why does it seem that the excitement is dying a little in the church? I challenge you to look at yourself and ask yourself: ‘Am I doing my part?’ “For the past two months, I’ve taken over putting tracts in the tract holder. I check it every morning and one or two may be missing, but I am disappointed that most, if not all of them, are still sitting in the rack. Folks, we are not witnessing and telling people we meet each day about Jesus as we should. “We raise our lying hands with a ‘Me, Pastor. Me, Pastor. I’ll tell someone about Jesus this week. I’ll give someone a tract everyday this week.’ But we’re not doing it, folks. We’re not growing in numbers because we’re not witnessing to folks and telling them about the One Who can make a difference in their life. We do not even invite them to church. One lady told me on Wednesday night, ‘I invited my coworker the past two Sundays and she did not come.’ I asked her, ‘Did you think to go by and pick her up and let her know that you really, really want her to come to church with you?’ “We’re not seeing any new faces because we’re not telling

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people about Jesus and inviting them to church. If the excitement’s dwindled a little, if that flame is losing its spark, you are probably not witnessing as you should. I firmly believe that an exciting church, an exciting and truly happy Christian, is one that is being obedient to God and is telling others about Jesus. “Whether you want to believe it or not, we are all called to be preachers. You say, ‘What? A preacher? Pastor, you must be out of your mind.’ Yes, we are all called to be preachers. “Verse fourteen says: How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall the person you sit beside on the bus hear about Jesus if you, the preacher, don’t tell them? How shall your co- worker hear about Jesus if you, the preacher, don’t tell them? How shall your friends at school hear about Jesus, if you, the preacher, don’t tell them? You stay-at-home Moms, when you go shopping, how shall the cashier or the grocery bagger hear about Jesus if you, the preacher, don’t tell them? “You say, Preacher, that is your job. Oh, no, no, no. That is part of my job and part of your job as a Christian. Lest you haven’t figured it out yet, the only thing you can take to Heaven with you when you die is another Christian, another person you told about Jesus and who started living for Jesus. “Your friends and the people on the job cannot believe in Jesus if no one tells them about Jesus. If no one told you about Jesus, if no one invited you to this church, would you be in church today? Would you be serving Jesus? Don’t be like the beggar who found a bag of gold, took it and bought himself a house,

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some fine clothes, cupboards of food and a car, and everyday he drove by his beggar friends and did not even think to help them. “Some of you may be saying, ‘But, Preacher, verse fifteen says, how shall they preach, except they be sent, and I have not been sent.’ That’s where you are wrong, my dear sisters and brothers. Mark 16:15 is your sending verse and it says: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. “Matthew 28:19 backs it up: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. “Folks, these are Jesus’ words. This is Jesus telling you to go. Just go! Just go! Don’t worry about what will happen. Just go! My command to you Christians is to GO! Tell at least one person you come across each day about Jesus; invite them to church, pick them up for church. “And in case you are here and you are not a Christian, meaning you have never asked Jesus to save you from your sins, this is all you have to do: back in our text at Romans ten, verses nine and thirteen: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. “If you are not saved, and you want to be saved, you want to be a Christian, close your eyes and pray this prayer with me: “Dear God, I come before You as humbly as I know how. I realize that I am nothing without You. I now call upon the Name

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of Jesus Who died for my sins to save me today and to live with me today and forever.” Those who prayed that prayer (about twenty) were led to another room for further counseling. One of the deacons brought a box filled with tracts to Pastor Richardson. “You heard the message. If you want to tell someone about Jesus this week, walk by the front and we will give you a stack of Gospel tracts to pass out along with talking to someone. After you get your stack, head on down to the Fellowship hall. God bless each of you. Come Wednesday night for Bible study prepared to share how the tracts worked out. Amen.”

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Chapter Nineteen “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” I CORINTHIANS 13:13 Wednesday night Bible study was a blast. Most of those present had either verbally told someone about Jesus or had given out most or all of their Gospel tracts. All over the auditorium one could hear such phrases as: “Pastor, telling someone about Jesus brings a joy like no other.” “I feel good.” “There’s a new excitement in here tonight.” There was definitely a new spirit in the church. Everyone seemed genuinely happy. Bro. Reynolds and his wife with some input from their older son, Jonathan, told of a couple they met when they, on purpose, went knocking on doors in their neighborhood. The 97


couple was watching television when the wife said out of the blue to her husband that they should begin going back to church to which the husband agreed. They were actually looking through the phone book when the Reynolds knocked on their door. After sharing the Gospel with them, Ron and Rebecca Campbell, a mixed couple, both asked Jesus to save them and they were in church that same Wednesday night for Bible study. “That’s what I mean, folks,” Pastor Richardson said. “Tell them about Jesus and bring them to church. Notice I did not say ‘invite them to church,’ I said ‘bring them to church.’ Now love on Bro. and Sis. Campbell while they are here and Sis. Reynolds, I give you the honor of being their shepherd.” Prayer time was very touching. Special prayers were still going up for Sis. Richardson that God would bless them with a child. Added to the prayer list was special protection for those beginning college. Rather than a regular study, Pastor Richardson preached a minisermon on love based on First Corinthians chapter thirteen: “Love is a choice, people. Because we are a sinful people, we do not naturally love each other as we should. Ask your mother and father, ask Sis. Richardson—sometimes you love each other and can’t get enough of each other; other times it is like you can’t stand to be around each other, but those unloving times are when a husband and wife have to choose to love each other or have chosen to love each other. Why do marriages survive four, ten, thirty years? Because both have made the choice to do the mature thing to love each other no matter what.” “Amen!” Bro. Harold shouted. “I made a lot of those choices” to which the church burst out in ripples of laughter. Others were nodding their heads in agreement. Sis. Mills gave Bro. Harold a sharp jab in the side. She would have kicked him

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if she could. “Parents, when your child begins to smell him or herself and just decides to be rebellious and stubborn and go against everything you stand for and everything you have taught him or her, what do you have to do? Just love them.” “Amen, Pastor. You’re telling the truth now.” “And for you young ladies who are beginning college, and even some of you in high school (which is much too young for you to be thinking about having a male friend), but when that sweet-talking fellow comes telling you that jive about how much he loves you, I’m here to tell you, he does not love you. He loves the way you look; he loves the way you talk; he loves your lips, hips and tips; and he especially loves what you can do for him in the bedroom. I say to you: Stay away from him! Run! Run! Run as fast as you can! Love is a choice and it is not a choice to give in to the pressure to have sex before marriage either from this lust hound or even your girlfriend who may be telling you to try it.” “Run fast!” This sent uncontrollable laughter within the walls of the church. “No marriage, no sex. You talking my language, Pastor.” “No matter how nice he seems, I say RUN!” Monica and Stacy high-fived each other amidst laughter. For the most part they sat together for Bible study. “And young ladies, if he ever, and I repeat, if he ever says, ‘If you love me you would do this or that,’ don’t wait for him to finish that statement. As soon as you hear, ‘If you love me...’ RUN!” “Say it, preacher. Say it loud and clear,” Bro. Montague said.

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“And you boys, there are some treacherous young women out there. The Bible calls them ‘strange women,’ ‘the stranger which flattereth with her words.’ If a young lady comes batting her eyes at you and is all up in your face, trying to force you to talk with her, I say, RUN! Run for your life! The Bible says because of such a woman, a man (young or old) is brought to a piece of bread—brought to nothing. I say RUN!” Sister Montague was doubled over with laughter. “That is not true love. True love waits. True love does not seek its own pleasure at your expense. First Corinthians thirteen says, True love is patient; it is longsuffering. In other words, it waits a long time. True love is kind. True love does not envy others. True love is not full of self. True love behaves itself. True love always puts the other first. True love does not think evil. True love does not get upset easily. College bound student, remember love is a choice and true love waits. Shall we stand for prayer.” After prayer, Pastor Richardson challenged everyone, but especially the college bound, singles and high schoolers to read through the book of Proverbs before beginning the new school term. People replenished their supply of tracts. He gave Stacy a goodbye hug and prayed a special blessing upon her and likewise, Monica. After the meeting was over with, a group of men congregated near the front exit. As Monica and Stacy approached the door on their way to the vestibule area to wait for their parents, Jonathan’s eyes met Monica’s eyes, and he acknowledged her with an affirmative nod of the head. Monica smiled. “You ladies have a wonderful evening,” Bro. Johnson, one of the older deacons, and head of the boys’ group said. “And remember, RUN!” 100


Chapter Twenty “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” EPHESIANS 4:29 Monica busied herself with her tutoring class over the next two weeks. The following Monday, she requested half a day off from her tutoring class so she could go on campus to pick up her books and to familiarize herself with the school set up. While browsing the bookstore shelves she ran into Jonathan. “Well, hello, Ms. Monica. How are you today?” “Hi, Jonathan. I’m surprised to see you here,” Monica smiled. “Let me guess. From the Biology book you just picked up you’re in your first, maybe your second year.” Monica could not believe he was actually taking time to talk with her. He always 101


seemed so business-like. “Actually, I’m just beginning.” “What program are you enrolled in?” he asked. “I’m leaning towards nursing, specializing in pediatrics.” “So you love working with children?” Monica nodded. Their eyes had met a few times, and he always acknowledged her with a nod of the head. She, in turn, would nod back with a smile. They had exchanged a few “hellos” at the church. He was the talk of some of the girls in their private conversations. “That’s a plus for you. Not too many young ladies now- adays want to be bothered with children. They take up too much of their time they say.” “I know. I’ve had a few conversations with some at the church and at school.” Then in a light tone Monica added, “How would you know what women like?” “Well,” said Jonathan glancing around as though he had some secret to disclose, “I had a few girlfriends who let me know up front that they did not want any children because they want to get their degree, then after that they were going to put their degree to use by pursuing their career—whatever it takes—and they did not want any children in the way.” Being almost a half head taller than Monica, he had to lean forward slightly. They both laughed. “You don’t say,” said Monica. “No, I’m serious. I dropped them like hot potatoes. Here, let me help you with your books,” he offered. “Thanks, but no thanks. You have yours to carry.” “Don’t worry about that,” he said taking her books from her. “I can come back and then you can carry my books.” As

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he walked away whistling Monica was in awe. Not only was he tall, but he gave off a spirit of confidence. Surprisingly, she felt comfortable talking with him. Did she have a story to tell Stacy. “All right, I’m all set. By the way, did you drive?” he asked. “Oh, no. I don’t have a car, not yet anyway. I’ll be calling my Mom to get me. I’ll probably hang out at the library, and do some more reading until she gets here. She should be here in a few minutes.” “I could take you home...if that’s no problem.” Monica hesitated. That sure would be something, she thought with a smile. “I don’t want to be a bother. I’m sure you have other things to do.” “As a matter of fact, I don’t have anything to do, but to head on home and begin cracking my books (if I feel like it), maybe go out to the church and hang out with my Dad.” “I take it you don’t work?” “Not yet. I do have a job lined up to begin a month after graduation.” “Good for you. Well, I best call my mother,” said Monica pulling out her cell phone, “and let her know I am ready. She gets worried if she thinks I am taking too long.” “Why don’t you tell her I’ll take you home. Please,” he said lowering his head with almost pleading eyes. While Monica talked with her Mom, Jonathan took a quick up-close survey. He liked what he saw: She seems the same in church as well as out of church. Monica handed the phone to him. “My mom wants to speak to you.”

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“Hello, Mrs. Montague. How are you today?”... “Yes, Ma’am.” ... “Yes, Ma’am. I won’t.” ... “Thank you, Mrs. Montague. I’ll be knocking at your door in no time.” “Don’t tell me,” said Monica as he handed the phone to her. “She says to take me straight home. Not to divert to the left or to the right and no hanky-panky.” “How did you know that?” he said with an almost knowing look and a twinkle in his eyes. “She’s my mother. I know her. Plus she and Dad said the same thing to my sister on her prom night.” “Sounds like my mother,” he said. “Well, let’s go. This way.” Taking her by the right elbow, he directed her to his car. Jonathan said, “Nothing fancy, but it gets me from point A to point B with no drama.” From the ride home, Monica learned that Jonathan would be working for a computer business firm in the next town. It was about a forty-five minute commute one way. Depending on how it worked out physically for him, he planned on commuting each day. He was pursuing a degree in Religion and a minor in Business. He hoped to be a preacher some day and follow in his dad’s footsteps. He loved peace and quiet but knew how to have a good time. He also enjoyed going to New Mt. Zion. His father was giving him a kind of on-the-job training there at the church. Goodness, I can’t believe we’re here already, thought Monica as they pulled into her driveway. “O.k., Dr. Montague, we’re here,” he said as he tooted his car horn once. “I’ll get the door.” Sis. Montague met them at the door. “Thank you, Jonathan, for seeing her home safely.” “You’re more than welcome, Mrs. Montague. The pleasure was all mine.” Stepping aside so Monica could go in, he said to

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her, “I enjoyed your company. If nothing happens, I’ll see you both in church on Wednesday night for Bible study. Thank you again, Mrs. Montague.” ______________________ “Love is in the air,” sang Sis. Montague as Monica closed the door behind her. “Oh, Mom,” she said smiling. “Twinkle, twinkle in the eyes,” Sis. Montague continued. “Mom, you ought to stop,” Monica said as they both burst out in laughter. Giving her daughter a hug on the way to the kitchen she added, “I’m all ears.”

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Chapter Twenty-One “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” ROMANS 5:8 On Tuesday, Monica stopped off at Stacy’s on her way home from tutoring class. “Sorry I did not call you on Sunday and yesterday. I was so excited about getting my books, I could not draw myself away from them,” she said after they settled down in her bedroom with some fruit. “I’m just glad you stopped by” said Stacy. “Wasn’t that some message Pastor preached a couple Sundays back? Made me want to get saved all over again. I know I said this, but your mother’s oxtails stole the whole dinner.” “Everything was great! I’ve been passing out the tracts. I gave one to all the children I tutor and passed the rest out on the bus. I get a good feeling when I pass them out. I’m definitely 107


going to pass out some more,” said Monica. “Girl, you should have called me to come and get you,” said Stacy. “We could have passed some out together. I’m home everyday all day. I hope to get quite a bit out before I take off for school. My uncle who lives in Florida near the campus, should be up on a business trip and I’ll be traveling down with him.” “I’m going to miss you, Stacy. So what’s been happening these past two days with you?” “If I tell you, you wouldn’t believe it.” “Try me,” said Monica. “I think I may be adopted. Or my father may not be my real father. Or maybe my mother may not be my real mother.” Stacy told Monica everything she had overheard early Sunday morning to which Monica’s reply was, “And that makes you think you were adopted? That’s a rather vague conversation; nothing specific to really go by. It could be anything.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe one of them is seriously ill or maybe I have some terminal disease or...” “Stacy, you’re taking it too far. Have you asked them about it? Better still, have you prayed about it?” “Not really. I guess I was too busy trying to figure out what it might be.” “You know what I am going to do right now? Pray. Come on. Pray with me,” said Monica taking Stacy’s hand in hers: "Dear Heavenly Father, We don’t know what this secret is that Stacy’s parents have. Somehow it seems to involve Stacy. I pray that You’ll give her peace of mind regarding this and show her parents the best way to handle it. And, Lord, please watch between me and Stacy as we go our separate ways off to college.

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Protect her and bring her safely back to us every holiday. Amen. Oh, and Lord, help her to not get boy crazy lest she forgets me. Amen.” “Amen. Girl, you ought to stop,” said Stacy giving Monica a friendly shove. “But ain’t nothing wrong with that.” “I mean it. You’re going to go down to Florida, find you a Florida man, and forget all about me.” “Monica, you’re a great friend; the best friend I’ve ever had,” said Stacy. “I’ll never forget you. Come on, let’s surf the Internet and see what new things we can find out about Florida and see how many good looking men they have down there.” “Let me call my Mom first and let her know I’m still here.” “Sure, and tell her I’ll give you a ride home about five o’clock as soon as my mother comes home,” said Stacy. After about thirty minutes on the Internet, Stacy blurted out, “Do you know who else I’m going to miss?” Monica raised an eyebrow. “Jonathan. He is fine, girl. I ought to call him right now and...” “Whoa. You slow down. I got so caught up with your family secret I forgot to tell you, he gave me a ride home yesterday.” “Say what!” Stacy answered in surprise. “How’d you get him to do that?” “I called you after I got home but your Dad said you were still at your auntie’s helping her with the children and that she was not feeling well,” Monica quickly defended herself. “You know I did get the message, but those kids wore me

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out. The baby cried and whimpered for his Mama the whole time I was there, and the four year old was a handful. But waste no time. Tell me all about it so I can bathe myself in envy.” “We ran into each other at the bookstore and he insisted on giving me a ride home,” said Monica. “I found out he was pursuing a degree in Religion and a minor in Business. He loves children. And he also loves peace and quiet. He was a gentleman all the way.” “Wow!” Stacy said. “Did he carry your books for you?” Monica nodded, yes. “That says a lot right there.” “Stacy, that’s elementary school stuff,” laughed Monica. “That is nothing. Absolutely nothing. But like I said, he was a gentleman all the way.” “Girl, you had better wake up. He hardly talks to any of the girls at the church. However, I have noticed how he nods at you whenever he sees you; and I believe everybody sees that...” “Not everybody now,” interrupted Monica. “He really likes you and since you are my best friend, I will back off,” Stacy said. “However, I would encourage you to move fast lest anybody try to take him from you.” Monica smiled.“On a serious note, though,” continued Stacy, “don’t you ever wonder what it would be like to go with someone? I feel kind of left out sometimes—seems all the girls have a boyfriend to chat and giggle about.” “Yeah, I’ve thought about it. Sometimes I think something is wrong with me. But I’m not in a hurry. I would like to finish college first before I even think of getting serious. Mother and Daddy say that’s the best way to go. They did it that way and

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from what they told me, it relieves a lot of pressure including the guilt of not finishing college. Plus the big one, as my Dad says, is: you’ll be more mature by then and understand life much better.” “Yeah, you’re right. My Mom and Dad did the same thing. But we are a new generation now,” said Stacy. “On a more serious note, I really want you to get the best out of your life: a good husband, a big house, a good job, and a house full of children because you know how to handle them,” winked Stacy. “I wish the best for you too, Stacy.” “Say, where’s your ring? You didn’t do you know what, did you?” Stacy raised her eyebrows in a quizzical manner while trying not to smile. Monica burst out laughing. “Oh, goodness, no. My Dad’s having it cleaned so I can flash that ‘True love waits’ in the eyes of any guy who tries anything. Every time I look at that ring, I remember the promise I made to my parents and most importantly to God.” “I ought to get one, too,” said Stacy. “I’ll ask my Dad,” said Monica. “I think he bought it from Zales Jewelry.” “Please do, I need something to help me not go boy crazy.” Both girls were in chuckles when Sis. Wilmington knocked on the bedroom door.

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Chapter Twenty-Two “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.� GALATIANS 6:7 It was late Saturday morning and Sis. Wilmington was busy cleaning house. She had a busy week at the job and was working on a case seeking a foster home for a five year old stemming from a bitter custody battle because the father and mother refused to choose to love each other. She had sat in on the court case. It was awful and she felt for the little boy. She wanted to bring him home with her for the weekend, but case workers were not allowed to personally get involved with their clients. Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. It was a young lady asking for Bro.Wilmington who was not home at the moment. The caller did not want to leave a message. Thinking nothing of the call, she resumed her household 113


chores. About an hour later the same person called but refused to leave a message. Bro. Wilmington had gone visiting with the men of the church. By the time he got home, it was about four o’clock. The same lady had called five times but refused to leave a message. Bro. Wilmington looked just as puzzled as Sis. Wilmington when she told him about the calls. After showering and sharing a pleasant meal with the family, they all settled down to look at the six o’clock news. “Dad, Mom,” said Stacy about thirty minutes later, “I don’t know about you, but all this news is making me depressed—one tragedy after another. If you don’t mind, I am going to go on up to my room and begin making a list of things I’ll need for my stay at the school. I also need to get in touch with Uncle Eli and Auntie to finalize everything with them. I can’t believe I only have less than two weeks.” “Go right ahead, Stacy. Tell your uncle I’ll call him next week to square away everything with him,” said Bro. Wilmington. “Are you sure you want to live on campus? They said you could stay with them,” Sis. Wilmington asked. “I know, Mom, I don’t want to be a bother to them. Plus they have their own children to care for. I’ll spend the weekends with them and any short holidays.” “We’ll be up shortly to say good night,” said her Dad. “You know,” said Sis. Wilmington after Stacy left, “why can’t we have more peaceful evenings like this one?” “I know—if you stop being so stubborn,” said Bro. Wilmington with a smile. “Don’t get me started,” Sis. Wilmington said turning her attention back to the news. After about thirty minutes, Stacy called to her Dad. “Dad, a

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lady by the name of Rochelle is on the phone. She wants to speak with you.” Bro. Wilmington sat up rather suddenly. “Thank you. I’ll take it in the kitchen,” he said more to his wife than to Stacy who hung up the phone as soon as he picked up the receiver. “Hello, it’s been a long while since I heard from you,” said a sing-song voice. Bro. Wilmington lowered his voice as he pushed the door shut. “Is this who I think it is? How did you get my home number?” “It is and I have my means,” said the caller. “Why are you calling me now after all these years?” “You could ask about your daughter first. But any way, I’ve been keeping up with your whereabouts. You still work for the same company you worked for when we first met. I believe you attend the same church. You...” “O.k, o.k., What do you want? It’s been eight years.” It was clear that he was somewhat irritated with the caller. “You. I want you back, Wil.” “Oh, brother! For one thing, stop calling me ‘Wil.’ And in case you have forgotten, the agreement was as long as you stay married, we have no contact whatsoever. I have sent you money on her birthdays and at the beginning of each school year. What more do you want?” “I don’t think you heard me the first time. I want you. And for the record, I’ve been divorced now for the past five years. I’ve had some male friends, but no commitment—not with a child. You know, men nowadays don’t want a serious commitment if you have a child. So wisdom tells me to get the man who is the father of my child.”

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“Again, in case you’ve forgotten, Rochelle, I am still happily married.” Bro. Wilmington tried to say this as convincingly as he could, but Rochelle still persisted. “Just as you were when we first met,” smirked Rochelle. “I’m Rochelle, and I do not give up easily.” Sis. Wilmington walked in the kitchen pretending to get a can of orange soda. She was curious as to why her husband had to take the phone call in another room. As far as she could remember he had never done that before. She nodded at her husband who gave her the thumbs up. “Thanks for calling. My family and I are just relaxing right now. Bye.” “Don’t you...” Rochelle’s words were cut off as Bro. Wilmington hung up the phone. “What was that all about?” asked Sis. Wilmington as her husband returned to the family room. “Just an old friend who checked the phone book for my number.” He turned his attention back to the television. “That was nice. Have I ever met her?” asked Sis. Wilmington testing him. She was not sure whether or not it was a female. Bro. Wilmington caught on. “No, I don’t think so. How do you know it was a woman?” “Oh, I don’t know. I just remembered some female has been calling here all day asking for you. And some anonymous calls have been coming in the past few Fridays as well.” Bro. Wilmington managed a faint smile. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to check on Stacy and turn in for the night.”

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Chapter Twenty-Three “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” ACTS1:8 It was the second weekend in August—two more days and Stacy would be off to FAMU. Stacy and Monica decided to spend the day together. This was also Monica’s last day tutoring. She decided to focus on her studies for the first semester of school at TCU and once she got into the swing of things continue the tutoring on Tuesday evenings and on Saturdays (maybe). She would definitely tutor for the summer months if she did not volunteer to do work at the hospital. Stacy was a great help to Monica that Friday. “I can’t believe how attached those children are to you,” Stacy said. 117


One little girl, Stephanie, who was eight, brought Monica a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies she made herself. Another girl, Sheila, who was nine, read her a poem she wrote herself. Sheila was having difficulty in English grammar and reading. But she shined when she read her poem. Darius, who was nine, read a whole book to the class. Roger who was ten, had drawn a picture of Monica sitting beside him, helping him with his math. On the picture he had written: ‘My Favorite Teacher, Ms. Monica.’ But one little girl, small for her age, Tiffany, stood out. She was nine-years-old, but could easily pass for a seven year old. She gave Monica a hug and just as sincerely as she could said, “Ms. Monica, my Mama and I read the tract you gave us about Jesus. Mama said she would come to your church. Could you pray with me? I want Jesus to know I believe what I read.” Monica was almost in tears. She prayed with little Tiffany as she asked Jesus to save her, to save her Mama and her Daddy as well. Stacy was blinking away a tear too. Having an hour remaining, Stacy asked to be excused, telling Monica she would be right back. She was back in about twenty minutes with paper cups, two bottles of soda, and some deli ham and cheese sandwiches she picked up from the grocery store. “This day is a day of celebration, everyone.” The children had a good time. They finished off the celebration with the chocolate chip cookies. Each parent thanked Monica and Stacy. They told her how much they appreciated her giving up her summer to help their child. Tiffany blurted out first, “Mama, Ms. Monica prayed with

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me. She can pray with you, too. Then we can go to her church.” Tiffany’s mother, Mrs. Herron, hesitated. Monica, generally not a pushy person, could not resist this opportunity. “Yes, I’ll be happy to pray with you,” she said with a smile. They held hands with Stacy and Tiffany as Mrs. Herron asked Jesus to be her Saviour and to live in her heart. Everybody was shedding tears by the time they got done. “Thank you,” said Mrs. Herron. “Thank you so much. We’ll definitely be in your church on Sunday.” After giving each other a final goodbye hug, Monica said to Stacy, “It was worth it all,” to which Stacy replied “Why don’t we go into a neighborhood on the way home and pass out the rest of the tracts we have. I have some in the car.” Monica was in full agreement. Both girls cleaned up the room and after checking in with the principal, went off to obey the Great Commission to GO and tell others about Jesus Christ by passing out tracts and witnessing. ______________________ “Willowbrook Homes,” said Stacy. “This seems like a safe place.” Between them they had eighteen tracts. No one was home at the first five houses, so they left the tracts inside the screen door. They were not surprised seeing it was only 3:45 in the evening. The residents were probably still at work. At the next home a teenage girl answered the door, took the tract and said she would give it to her parents. At the seventh door, the mother took the tract but was busy taking care of her newborn. At the eighth door, a mother and her young daughter answered.

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They listened to Monica and Stacy and promised to be in church on Sunday. At the next door, the girls were surprised when Mrs. Reynolds answered the door. “Hello, Sis. Reynolds, we had no idea this was where you lived,” said Monica. “How are you girls doing? Please excuse me, but I’m a little slow with names. What are your names again?” After the girls reminded her of their names she invited them in. “I’m sure you want to get off your feet for a while.” “Well, we did not come to stay. We were in the neighborhood passing out Gospel tracts, and your house was next in line.” “Praise the Lord. Come on in anyway. It’s mighty hot out there and a tall glass of lemonade would do you good.” The girls stepped in trying hard not to look around. Sis. Reynolds directed them to the living room. After they had settled down, she went into the kitchen and poured two tall glasses of ice cold lemonade. Both girls looked at each other with a raise of the eyebrows. The furniture was antique and very exquisite looking. Soft lavender drapes flowed out from the windows. There were two floor lamps on either side of the sofa. The bookcase almost reached to the ceiling and occupied half of one wall. Hymns were playing softly in the background. It was peaceful inside the room. “Here you both go,” said Sis. Reynolds as she offered the girls their lemonade. “Well, tell me all about it.” Monica and Stacy shared with her their whole day including the tutoring class activities to which she responded, “All we can do is go.”

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“You have a beautiful place and I see you are into antiques,” said Monica and Stacy almost at the same time. “Thank you. Yes, I love antiques. I take after my mother. She would take me and my sister to just about every antique shop she heard of. She had a nose for it. Whenever we would go traveling, her trip was not completed until she visited an antique shop. That’s a picture of her and my father on the side table,” said Sis. Reynolds pointing to the picture. “She’s beautiful. You look just like her,” said Monica. “Thank you. On the other table is a picture of Bro. Reynolds’ parents. On the wall over there are the baby pictures of the children. That little one with the sailor hat is Jonathan. We thought he looked so cute in his little cap. He used to tell us all the time how much he wanted to go sailing. I did the best I could and bought him a sailor’s hat. The closest he ever got to sailing was to splash around in the tub with his sail boats.” The girls could not help but laugh thinking how cute he looked. “That’s Janice as a girl scout. And that one is James with his little puppy. He pitched a fit almost every Sunday because he could not take his puppy with him to church.” “Is that you and Bro. Reynolds on your wedding day?” asked Stacy looking in the direction of a rather large-sized picture. “Yes, that’s us. It was a beautiful day. We’ve been married now for twenty-five years.” Their conversation was interrupted when Jonathan entered swinging his keys around his fingers. “Excuse me, Mom. Sorry to interrupt. Dad wants me to come to the church to help him install the new church programs on the computers. Do you need anything while I’m out?” “Oh, no. You remember Stacy and Monica. They were out

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passing out tracts and stumbled upon our humble place.” “I sure do. How are you ladies today?” he asked. “Are you ready for college life? I’m an old pro at it.” “Son, get going and don’t keep your father waiting,” said Sis. Reynolds with a laugh. Jonathan kissed his mother good bye, and waved to Monica and Stacy. He said, “I’ll lock the door, Mom. You don’t have to get up.” “He can be such a clown when he gets ready. But he has a heart of gold and thank God he has his head screwed on straight.” The girls conversed with Sis. Reynolds for a while longer. As much as they hated to leave, they cheerfully said their goodbye with an “I’ll see you in church on Sunday.” “Thanks for a great day, Stacy,” said Monica as she hopped out of the car upon reaching her house, “I’ll see you on Sunday. Call me tomorrow.”

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Chapter Twenty-Four “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.” PROVERBS 2:10-11 Bro. Montague locked up around 3:00 on Saturday. After making sure everything was in place and the three computers were stacked in the delivery truck, he made a quick phone call to Richard, his boss. “Richard, I just locked up. I’m going to grab me a bite to eat before I make the deliveries.” “Fine with me, brother. Don’t forget to stop by after you make the deliveries. I’ll have something for you.” “I will,” said Bro. Montague. If he hurried, he could make it home early and spend some time with his family. Swinging by Captain D’s, he ordered a three-piece meal deal with fried okra 123


and corn on the cob. He parked in the parking lot to eat his meal. He only ate inside restaurants if he had his family with him. He thought about the situation he was in. He knew it was not good especially since he professed to be a Christian. He was devastated after losing his last job because some woman who could not control her emotions lied on him. He could not bear the thought of not being able to provide for his family and grabbed the first thing that came along in the computer field—six months later—only to find out that he was delivering drugs and not just computers. Richard had told him that as long as he kept it quiet he would be all right. How could life give him such a bad hand when he had been a faithful and honest worker? Mr. Harrington the elder, CEO of Harrington Technologies, had summoned him to the office. This was the second time he was in the presence of Mr. Harrington. The first time was at a meeting discussing the new computer program that they were producing. Mr. Harrington was a no nonsense, get-to-the-point CEO. He always had a stern look on his face. “Mr. Montague, I think you know why I called you to my office,” Mr. Harrington said. Mr. Montague looked at his immediate boss, Mr. Calvin, with a quizzical look, who looked just as surprised as he did. Mr. Harrington continued. “Let me refresh your memory which you seem to have lost, Mr. Montague. My daughter told me you not only made several passes at her, but you actually backed her in a corner in the lunch room on one of your socalled breaks. She says you have been disrespecting her for

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a while now.” “Say what!” Mr. Montague said. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t know my daughter to be a liar so I have to go by her record,” Mr. Harrington continued. “Mr. Harrington, I’m a happily married man. I have been married for twenty-two years now to the same woman. I have no interest in your daughter whatsoever. In fact, she is the one who is always trying to talk with me. To be honest, I try to avoid her because of what I have heard about her.” “And just what have you heard about her,” asked Mr. Harrington sternly. “I’d rather not say, Sir.” “You answer me when I ask you a question, Mister!” Mr. Harrington said. He was used to having things go his way. “If you insist, Sir. I’ve been told to stay away from your daughter because she is fast.” “What do you mean by ‘fast’?” Mr. Harrington, a rich white man, was not familiar with the terminologies of the black community. “I’d rather not say, but since you asked, fast means she is loose and runs after men.” “What!” Mr. Harrington slammed his fist on the table as he rose slowly from his leather chair. “Who told you this garbage?” “I’d rather not say. But the truth of the matter is, she came into the coffee room immediately after I had gone in to get a coke from the machine. She walked up behind me and stood so close I could not move without touching her.” “Stop this nonsense. My daughter is not like that!” Mr.

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Harrington moved from behind his desk. Mr. Calvin placed a hand on Mr. Montague’s shoulder, with some pressure as an indication for him to stop while he was ahead. But Mr. Montague ignoring him continued to speak. “Yes, Sir. She was so close to me I could not get away from her. She grabbed my upper arm saying she had seen me around and would like to get my number...” “I will not tolerate you speaking such slander against my daughter!” “Mr. Harrington, I have a reputation to uphold and I’m not going to let your daughter or any woman tear me down and bring shame to my name. And I am telling you all this at the risk of losing my job. I literally had to tear myself away from your daughter’s grasp. She slipped and I don’t know what happened to her because I left the coffee room as quickly as I could.” “You are right, Mr. Montague. As of today, you do not have a job. John, see him to the exit. And do not let me see you in this place ever again!” “I can see myself to the door.” Mr. Montague exited the room and headed in the direction of his office followed by Mr. Calvin. “Man, what got into you? You normally keep your cool.” “John, I can’t sit back and have this crazy white girl lie on me like that. She is spoiled rotten and used to having her own way. She has her father wrapped around her finger. She has you men on pins and needles; too afraid to say anything to her lest you rub her the wrong way. My reputation and my relationship with my wife and daughter is not worth losing

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over some lying woman, just to hold on to a job.” “Brother, my hat goes off to you for taking a stand.” After a moment’s silence John continued. “What are you going to do? You’ve been with us for over twenty-five years.” “I’ll think of something. Right now I have to think of how to break the news to my wife. She’s already aware of Harrington’s daughter coming on to me. The computer field is wide open. Just put in a good word for me when anyone calls.” “I sure will. Man, I hate to see you go. We’ve had a lot of good times here. Give me a call if you need anything.” “Thanks, John. You’re a good manager, and most importantly, a good friend. I need for you to pray for me and my family right now.”

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Chapter Twenty-Five “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?” AMOS 3:3 Sis. Montague was surprised, but not overly surprised at the turn of events. In fact, she told her husband that maybe God was telling him to take the job at the church which had been open for a while now. They had talked about it every now and then, but Bro. Montague did not want to work at the church. He did not feel “called” to work there. “Or,” his wife said, “you could begin your own business. You have the knowledge and the drive and I would be more than willing to be your bookkeeper and secretary.” Six months later he had landed a job; not quite what he wanted but it was less pressure. He repaired computers and programmed them for customers. His new boss, Richard, who owned his own business, never doubted him after he told him the reason he had to leave his 129


last job. The only set back was, he would have to work on Saturdays, and be on call to make deliveries. He was paid extra for each delivery he made. On one particular Saturday, one of the covers had come loose as Bro. Montague was preparing to place the computer in the box for delivery. He noticed one of the screws had fallen out and it seemed some plastic was sticking out from under the case. He removed the case completely to make sure everything was in place. The plastic turned out to be a small clear bag with some kind of powder in it. Thinking nothing of it, he removed the packet and placed it on the desk. Securing the cover back on to the computer, he went about delivering the computers. That night, he received a phone call from Richard. “Did you see a packet on my desk, per chance?” “Yes. I left it on your desk. It was falling out of the casing.” On Monday he asked about it. “Don’t worry about it. You left the package on the desk. It’s no problem,” Richard said. “Why would you have a package that looks like powdered sugar in the back of the computer?” After a few seconds, the light went on. “Richard, tell me I am wrong, but you don’t have me delivering drugs, do you?” Richard, who had always been up front with Bro. Montague and who respected him as a Christian, looking Bro. Montague squarely in the eyes said, “Terrence, I have never lied to you before and I won’t begin now. Yes, that package contained drugs, and yes, I’ve had you delivering drugs without your knowledge. We use the computer delivery as a cover up.” “Oh, man.” Bro. Montague shook his head from side to

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side. “How could you? I’m trying to make an honest living and this is what I get. I want out.” “I’m sorry, Terrence. Now that you know what’s going on, you can’t just jump out.” “How did you make your deliveries before you hired me?” “We had a young college fellow. He quit to go on to college in another state. He knew nothing about it. You would not have known either if the case had not come loose. I can’t figure out how that happened. I am sure I secured everything.” “Richard, I respect you, but I do not want to be a part of anything illegal. I am a Christian man and a family man. You’re single. You can do whatever you want.” “I know how you feel. Just pretend all of this did not happen and you’ll be safe.” Bro. Montague did not know what to say or do. He’d do just that, pretend nothing happened until he figured out what to do to get out. He had heard stories of people losing their lives because of getting caught up in drugs. Even innocent people had gotten killed because of it. Some had lost their lives because they wanted to get out. To tell the truth, he was a little scared. He had innocently stumbled into something he could not easily get out of. He could not go again another six months without a job, he reasoned against his better judgement. Oh, Lord, what have I gotten myself into. The job at the church sounds tempting now. I just don’t feel worthy to work at a church. ______________________

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After making the deliveries, he stopped off at Richard’s to get his pay for completing the job. He appreciated the extra money seeing he was saving up to buy a small car for Monica so she could drive herself back and forth to college. He wanted to pay cash for it. She was a good daughter and deserved it. In fact, he had already secured the car and would be picking it up on next Saturday. Bro. Montague tried again to talk Richard into relieving him of his duties with no strings attached and just to stick with working at the shop. But Richard stuck to his previous statements. “You’re a good worker, Terrence. If your wife is like most women, she is just happy you’re bringing in the dough.” (That’s it, my wife is not like other women, Bro. Montague was thinking as Richard spoke.) “It could be that you did not have a job. Just chill, brother, you’ll be safe. I’ll cover for you, if you keep quiet. Plus, I told the customers to look out for you.” Richard raised his hands as Bro. Montague started to protest. “I told them that you are different. They all tell me they like you because you are a Christian.” “How did they know I was a Christian? I don’t recall telling any of them,” Bro. Montague asked. To him that made it worse. A Christian dealing drugs. What a testimony. “They report to me every interaction they have with you. They all have told me that you gave them that little paper about Jesus on it. You know, the Gospel tracts you asked me permission to give to the customers who come in.” “Oh, yeah. The Gospel tracts. Oh, man. Now I’m really messed up. How can I be delivering drugs and Jesus at the same time?”

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“No, No. They see you as an honest man. I’ve told them to look out for you. They love you. You’re protected. Trust me,” Richard said. Bro. Montague shoved the envelope with his payment in his pocket. Somehow today, it felt like an unwanted load. “You can take Monday off and spend it with your family.” Yeah, right, thought Bro. Montague. Monica was pleased to have him home seeing this was her last week before beginning school. Sis. Montague requested an early leave from her job to spend some extra time with her family.

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Chapter Twenty-Six “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.” PROVERBS 2:6-7 The last Sunday of August, was a memorable one for everyone at New Mt. Zion. It was a kind of send-off Sunday for those entering college. Each student was given a leather briefcase with a check for $1000 along with other goodies, because as Sis. Richardson said, speaking on behalf of the church family: “We love you all. Go out there and make us proud.” There were nine visitors—all from the witnessing efforts of the members of the church. Tiffany and her Mom, Ron and Rebecca Campbell and others were present. All the visitors were invited to remain after church for some finger foods and just to 135


fellowship with the pastor and other members. “Seeing we don’t have evening services, I’m sure you all don’t mind staying a little bit longer,” Pastor Richardson said. Stacy and Monica sat with Mrs. Herron and Tiffany. She was so impressed at the natural outpouring of love from everyone for both her and Tiffany. Monica agreed to be her personal shepherd with the help of her mother. She decided to begin that Sunday by giving her a tour of the building. While they were exiting the Fellowship Hall, Jonathan stopped them with a greeting. “Hello, Monica. Are these members of your family?” “Yes and no: Yes, they are my sisters in Christ. Tiffany was in my tutoring class for the summer. Both her and her Mom, Mrs. Herron, got saved on last Friday. And they are here today,” Monica answered. “Man, that’s great!” Turning to Mrs. Herron he continued, “You’re not leaving us already, are you?” “Not yet. Monica was going to show us around the building.” “Do you mind if I come along?” he said to Tiffany. “Yes, I’d love for you to.” “How old are you anyway? Two? Six?” Tiffany started to giggle, “I’m a big nine. I may be small for my age, but I’m nine. And how old are you?” she directed the question back to Jonathan. “If I tell you, promise you won’t tell anyone?” “O.K., I won’t.” Jonathan bent down and whispered in Tiffany’s ear to which she broke out in all smiles. “Will you be my big brother? I’ve always wanted a big brother.” “O.K., little sister. Let’s go. After you ladies.”

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______________________ Stacy had stayed behind with her mother and father who were sitting at the same table with Mrs. Reynolds. She asked to be excused to go to the ladies’ room. While in the ladies’ room an attractive woman with her daughter who looked to be about ten years old walked in. They exchanged greetings while the girl went to use the restroom. As Stacy was preparing to exit, the woman addressed her. “Are you Stacy?” “Yes, I am.” “Is your Dad’s name Willie Wilmington?” “Yes, it is. In fact, he’s in the Fellowship Hall. Did you need to speak with him?” “Oh, no. I’ll give him a call later. By the way, my name is Rochelle. I called your home a while back. I believe you answered the phone.” Stacy thought for a few seconds before answering. “Yes, I remember. I thought that was a pretty name.” Rochelle’s daughter had rejoined her mother by then. “This is Lisa. I don’t know if you’ve heard of her before, but she’s your sister.” Stacy was stunned. “My sister?” she said pointing her thumb to her chest. “Yes. I came today so you could meet her.” “Ms. Rochelle, I really don’t know who you are. But I must inform you that I do not have a sister, nor do I have a brother. I have some cousins, but no siblings.” “Well, just ask your Dad and maybe your Mother. I’m surprised you didn’t know. Lisa, say ‘hello’ to your sister and let’s go.” She almost pulled her daughter out the door.

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Stacy recovering from the unexpected news, did not know what to think. Making her way back into the Fellowship Hall, she scanned the entire room looking for this Rochelle woman and her daughter. But apparently she had left. ______________________ Monica and Jonathan finished off the tour with Mrs. Herron and Tiffany in the parking lot. Mrs. Herron said, “Thank you, so much. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.” Giving her and Tiffany a hug, Monica promised to stop by on the next day, to check on them. Tiffany was starting school on Monday also. They made plans to meet at 5:00 after her mother came in from work. “Well, little sister, will I be seeing you again?” Jonathan asked, extending his right hand to Tiffany. “Sure, big brother,” Tiffany answered with a nod of the head as she returned his handshake. “And I promise I won’t tell anyone your age but only if you don’t tell mine.” “That’s a deal,” promised Jonathan to which Tiffany flashed an endearing smile. “It’s my pleasure to meet you,” Jonathan said turning his attention to Mrs. Herron and shaking her hand. “You give us a call if you need anything. Don’t worry, Sis. Monica will take good care of you.” Monica gave Mrs. Herron another hug while Jonathan opened her car door for her. After making sure they were safely on their way, he and Monica headed back inside the church building.

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______________________ “Oh, goodness!” said Sis. Bettie as she exited the bathroom stall for handicaps. “Lord, have mercy on us all,” she said as she washed her hands. She almost bumped into Stacy who was standing outside the ladies’ restroom door searching for Rochelle. Stacy sped upstairs quite unaware of Sis. Bettie’s exit from the restroom. She had to get an explanation. She stepped outside to survey the parking lot. She only saw Monica and Jonathan walking toward the building. “Stacy, you look like you just saw a ghost or something,” Monica exclaimed. “I may have. Did you all see an attractive woman in a red chiffon dress with a black jacket on and a little girl about ten years old?” “No, what’s up?” “Have I got something to tell you, Monica.” “I’d best leave you two alone then,” said Jonathan. “Aah, Jonathan, could you please let my parents know I am out here with Monica. They are sitting with your Mom,” Stacy asked. “I sure will.” “Well, what’s up?” Monica directed Stacy to the bench under the oak tree. “You won’t believe this. A lady named Rochelle called our house last week and asked for my Dad. I didn’t think anything about the call.” Monica nodded for her to go on. “Any way, a few minutes ago, I was in the ladies’ room and she came in with a ten year old by the name of Lisa. She told me without batting an

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eye that Lisa was my sister.” “Say what?” “That’s what I said too. I told her she must be mistaken because I did not have a sister and neither did I have any brothers.” “And what did she say to that?” “She told me to ask my father. She said my mother may know. How can such a great day end with news like this?” Monica shook her head not knowing what to say. “You know, as I think about it, I wonder if this is the ‘secret’ my parents have.” “The only thing I can tell you, is to tell your parents about what took place. If there is any truth to it, I’m sure they will tell you,” said Monica. The folks had started leaving the church for home by then. “I guess we had better head on down to our parents,” Monica said. “What were you and Jonathan doing out here all by yourselves?” asked Stacy. “Oh, nothing. He decided to come along while I gave Mrs. Herron and Tiffany a tour of the building.” “Monica, you had better open your eyes and realize that this guy really likes you.” Changing the subject, Monica asked, “Will you call me before you leave tomorrow?” “I’ll be pulling out at two in the morning with my aunt and uncle. I can’t have your phone ringing that early. I’d wake your whole family up. I’ll call you from my cell phone once I get on the road. I’m going to miss you.” “Me, too,” said Monica. Once home, Monica gave her parents a report of the tour she and Jonathan had with Mrs. Herron.

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“I sense something brewing,” Bro. Montague said. “He just seems to pop up out of nowhere,” Monica said. “Pop up! Girl, your mother and I are going to have a long, long talk with you about men who just ‘pop up’ as you say. Isn’t that right, Stella?” He glanced across at his wife. “Pop up is more than pop up. It’s intentional. Jonathan seems like a serious-minded fellow, but you must let us know every time he talks with you...I mean everytime he pops up,” said Bro. Montague. “See, Monica, just because he goes to church, you still have to be careful.” During their prayer time before bed, Monica shared with her parents what Stacy had told her. They all agreed not to say anything to anyone about it and just to pray for the Wilmington family.

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Chapter Twenty-Seven “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” JAMES 3:5-6 “Sis. Mills, you settled in yet?” Sis. Bettie asked after Sis. Mills picked up the phone. “Yes, Sis. Bettie. Wasn’t that some meeting today. Them college people sure looked pretty coming up for their gifts.” “They sure did. But I call to tell you something else.” “Shoot on, Sister.” “You know I don’t like talking badly of people, but I was in the bathroom in the Fellowship Hall. I was in the stall so 143


they did not know I was in there; I was in there the whole time, something affected my bladder and...” “Bettie, will you stop rambling and say what you have to say.” “If you stop interrupting, I’ll tell you. Well, anyway, as I was saying, I was in the bathroom stall, the one for handicaps, and the Wilmington girl came in and then some woman named Rachel or Rochall or something like that, come in behind her. I guess this Rachel or Rochall had a little girl with her and she proceeded to tell the Wilmington girl, (what’s her name again?) ... Yeah, Stacy. She went on to tell Stacy that this little girl was her sister.” “You say what?” Sis. Mills almost dropped the phone. “I lie not. I lie not.” “Who you talking to?” interrupted Bro. Harold who was reading his newspaper. “Oh, it’s Sis. Bettie.” “You mean, your gossipping partner,” he said. “Harold, we just talking about the church services and all that happened. Go on, Sis. Bettie.” “Well, as soon as I heard that, I got to thinking that somebody ought to know so’s we can pray for that messed up situation,” said Sis. Bettie. “Now, Bettie, how you know that’s true? There’s no facts.” “Stacy told this woman she did not have a sister or a brother and that she was mixing her up with someone else, and...” “More than likely that’s it,” said Sis. Mills. “I don’t think so. She called Stacy by name and asked her was Willie Wilmington her father.” “Oh, my goodness. You don’t say.”

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“You don’t say what?” Bro. Harold was peering over the newspaper at her. “I’m not talking to you. I’m still on the phone with Sis. Bettie.” “You not talking, you gossipping and that’s a shame right there. Your mouth is what is constantly getting your behind in trouble with me and if you do not watch it, lady, it is going to get your behind in trouble with the church and Pastor Richardson. Always got something negative to say after every church service,” sighed Bro. Harold. “Who says we is gossipping. We is just talking, getting ready to pray for the Wilmington family,” Sis. Mills said. “The Wilmington family again. Now I know you gossipping. Get off that phone right now!” Bro. Harold dropped his newspaper in his lap. “And you tell Sis. Bettie not to call back here tonight because we is going to sleep real early and she can pray with you all you want on Wednesday night at prayer meeting to cast them gossipping demons out of both of you.” “What your husband saying? I can hear him in the background,” said Sis. Bettie. “Oh, nothing important, Bettie. We getting ready for bed. I’ll pray for them then.” “You going to bed this early? I thought we was going to pray together.” “Harold says to hang up the phone, we is going to bed early. Good night, Sister. I’ll see you at prayer meeting.”

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Chapter Twenty-Eight “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” PROVERBS 28:13 Stacy was unusually quiet on the way home from church. A myriad of unanswered questions were passing through her mind: What if it were indeed true that she did have a sister? Who is Rochelle? Why did she disappear so quickly from the church? How come she never noticed her before now? Had she been coming to the church all along? Does Mom know anything about this? What if this was all a hoax, why would this woman do this to her? If it is all true, why did her parents not tell her ten years ago? She would have been eight then, and welcomed a little sister. But now? Why the deception? Sis. Wilmington noticed Stacy’s unusual silence. “For such a great church meeting and for a young lady who is going off 147


to college, you are certainly quiet. Anything on your mind?” “Just thinking.” Stacy managed a twisted smile. “Did I ever tell you about how your mother and I met?” asked Bro. Wilmington. “Mrs. Bumper was her college name.” “I told her about it a while back,” Sis. Wilmington said. “Aw, shucks. I wanted to tell her,” said Bro. Wilmington faking disappointment. “Just promise us one thing and that is that you will tell us about any young men who show some interest in you, and remember no hanky-panky.” Stacy sensed a change in her father’s jovial tone to a more serious one. “O.K., Dad,” she said but was thinking: You did your hanky-panky, didn’t you? Stacy felt a tinge of anger rising up in her. After her father unlocked the side door from the garage, she almost ran to her room. “I have a few things to get done before Uncle Eli and Auntie pick me up. I’ll be in my room.” “O.K. Pumpkin,” answered Bro. Wilmington. Sis. Wilmington was taken by surprise. Something did not seem right. As she and her husband changed into more relaxing clothes, she said to him, “Willie, don’t you think Stacy is acting strange. Normally she is in the kitchen by now ready to eat, and she is normally quite talkative on the ride home from church. I know she’s going off to college in a few hours, but I never expected her to take it this hard.” “She’ll get over it once she settles into college life. She’ll be smiling and talkative again.” “It’s funny. I’m the one who normally says that: ‘she’ll get over it.’ Have our roles changed?” smiled Sis. Wilmington. “I hope not,” said Bro. Wilmington pulling her close to him. “Seeing our roles have not changed and I am still the head,

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I demand a kiss right now.” “And seeing our roles have not changed, I’ll be an obedient wife and meet your demand.” “Mmm, who taught you how to do that?” said Bro. Wilmington with a wink. “The expert,” answered Sis. Wilmington. “Now, you go to the living room and I’ll check on Stacy.” “You be sweet like this and I’ll have something for you later on,” winked Bro. Wilmington walking out the door. Stacy was lying across the bed still in her church clothes when her mother entered the room. “Come on, leaving for college could not be hitting you this hard. Sit up and tell me what’s bothering you because you don’t need to take it down to Florida with you.” Sis. Wilmington plopped down on the bed beside her daughter. “Start talking.” Divulging everything, Stacy ended with, “Mom, tell me this is not true.” “I’m afraid it is all true. But why didn’t you come and get us right away?” “She disappeared. I could not find her in the Fellowship Hall and neither did I see her in the parking lot. What is going on?” “Stacy, I was hoping it would not come to this. I wanted to tell you about it, but your father insisted on my not telling you, and that he would tell you himself. I’ve waited patiently all these years for him to tell you. In fact, this has been the reason for most of our disagreements lately. I was running out of patience with him.” “How did you know about it?” asked Stacy. “Probably the same way you are finding out about it now—

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by accident. We were awakened by this strange phone call...” ______________________ “Willie, it’s two in the morning. Who could that be?” asked Sis. Wilmington checking the caller ID; it registered Spaulding Memorial Hospital. “I hope nothing’s wrong with our family.” “Hello, Wilmingtons.” “May I please speak with Willie Wilmington?” “He’s in bed. I’ll have to give him a message. Is anything wrong? The caller ID says Spaulding Memorial Hospital. This is his wife, you can tell me.” “You can just tell him the baby’s here.” Click. ______________________ “The caller hung up. You can probably imagine what took place after that,” said Sis. Wilmington. I woke your father up and asked him about it. He hee-hawed and tried to get out of answering the question. But he finally admitted that he had sex with this woman, apparently she got pregnant, and hey, the baby’s here.” “Did you ever see the baby?” asked Stacy. “No. Nor have I seen the little girl.” It was Stacy’s turn to feel sorry for her mother. “Don’t feel sorry for me. You are the one who needs healing now. But boy, was I angry—very angry. I tried to discuss it with him, but he would never go into any detail about it. I keep wondering, even to this day, what else he is hiding from

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me.” By this time, Sis. Wilmington had moved to the window. The sun was still high in the sky. The singing of the birds seemed somewhat dull. Joining her mother at the window, Stacy said to her, “Is this the secret you and Dad have been keeping from me? I overheard your conversation a while back.” “I should have told you. Can you please forgive me?” she said turning to face her daughter trying to hold back the tears that were beginning to form. They stood facing each other for a while. Stacy could not hold back her tears. Her mother continued. “I acted selfishly. I should have risked it and told you and cleared the air much earlier. Forgive me, Stacy. Please forgive me. Do you feel like talking to your father right now?”Stacy shook her head, no, to which her mother said, “I’ll hurry down and fix a snack. I don’t think anyone is really that hungry. Your father must have fallen off to sleep. Lie down and get some rest.” ______________________ Shortly after her mother left the room, Stacy called Monica. “Monica, everything is true. I do have a sister. Mom told me everything—well, all that she knows. You know, it’s not the havingan-unknown-sister part that hurts; it’s the not- telling-me-earlier part that hurts. Ten years, Monica. Ten years of not knowing.” Monica did not know what to say except to silently pray for the family. Silence followed for a few minutes. “Are you sniffling or am I?” asked Monica quietly. “It’s hard

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to tell.” “Oh, Monica, you are a wonderful friend and I thank you for always being there for me. Well, I guess I’ll go face my dad, and if you don’t hear from me on today, I’m on my way to Florida. Bye.”

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Chapter Twenty-Nine “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” I CORINTHIANS 11:31 “Willie, wake up. Something serious came up with Stacy.” It was about 7:30 p.m. Bro. Wilmington had fallen asleep in his LaZ-boy chair. Sis. Wilmington had joined him in the living room, but had left him sleeping for a while longer giving Stacy some time to pull herself together. She, herself, needed some time to digest it all. Somehow, she knew this day was bound to come. She wanted it to come but now that it was here, she was not sure if she was entirely ready for it. Sis. Wilmington had struggled with the fact that her husband had not been faithful to her. She never thought he would be unfaithful—but then life is full of surprises. As for what lay ahead, she was not quite sure. She felt this was not the perfect time for 153


this to happen—what with Stacy going off to college. She was deep in thought. Maybe the change of pace would help her to handle it. But on the other hand, why did this lady turn up after so many years and do such a thing as this? Why couldn’t she have faced her or her husband instead of her innocent daughter? Had her and Willie been in touch with each other? Why, that cheat? Now that she thought about it, Sis. Wilmington wondered why things did not click after all those calls on Saturdays and Fridays, and after Stacy said the lady’s name was Rochelle. Sis. Wilmington sat up erect from her reclining position. She distinctly remembered asking her husband who it was that was on the phone. He lied to her saying it was an old friend who had looked him up in the phone book. If he did not have anything to hide, why did he feel he had to take the call in the kitchen out of ear shot? Now that things were clicking, he sure had a lot of explaining to do. Come to think of it, maybe that was why he was so sensitive about it whenever she brought it up. “Willie, wake up!” she said shoving him harder. She could feel the anger rising up in her. He was still in touch with this woman. What a cheat! “Did you bring my lemonade?” asked a sleepy Bro. Wilmington. “Lemonade, my foot! You had better get up now because you have a daughter in her room who is really hurting and you have a lot of explaining to do to her.” Bro. Wilmington was wide awake by now. “Whoa! Slow down. What do you mean I have a lot of explaining to do?” “Get on upstairs and talk to her because you don’t want to

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get me started tonight. I am in for anything.” The tone of his wife’s voice told him to hold his tongue—at least until he had spoken with Stacy. On his way to her bedroom, with his wife close behind, he could not think of what he had done to upset his daughter. “Stacy, your mother said something’s bothering you and that I can help you with it. What’s going on?” He positioned himself at the edge of Stacy’s bed. He could tell she had been crying; her eyes were quite red. Stacy looked at her mother who, with a nod of her head, said, “I did not tell him anything. I figured it’s best for him to hear it from you.” After a moment’s silence, Stacy spoke, “Dad, why didn’t you tell me I had a sister? Why did I have to find out from some other person? Ten years?” Stacy took a deep breath before continuing. “This Rochelle lady who called you on last Saturday was in church today. She followed me to the ladies’ room with her daughter, Lisa, and after introducing herself told me that this Lisa was my sister. She knew my name and she knew your name and she said she was not sure Mom knew anything about her or Lisa.” Bro. Wilmington’s head began to swirl. He was at a loss for words. He hoped against all hope that this was just a dream and that he would soon awaken from it. He blinked in an attempt to remove it but Stacy was in the same position, looking deeply into his eyes for an answer. After what seemed like an eternity, he managed to stutter, “Oh, Stacy, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I am so sorry you had to find out from someone else. I...I...” “Dad, is that all you can say? I overheard Mom telling you, begging you, to tell me, but you didn’t. Why?” “I should have told you earlier—much earlier, but no

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time seemed like the right time. No words seemed like the right words,” said Bro. Wilmington shaking his head from side to side. He ran his fingers through his hair resting his head in the palm of his hands. “Did anyone overhear this conversation? I mean...was there anyone in the restroom?” Stacy popped up to a sitting position. “Is that all you’re concerned about—whether or not someone overheard? How much longer do you plan on covering it up?” Bro. Wilmington was shocked at the sharpness in his daughter’s voice. He knew he probably deserved that and more. “Dad, I could have handled it ten years ago. In fact, I’ve always wanted a little sister. It’s not so much that I have an unknown sister to pop up; it’s the years of deception, and that I had to hear about it from a complete stranger. How could you, Dad?” By now, Stacy had moved over to the window. The blinds were still open. She stared out into the dusky evening; the sun had already shed its final rays and the birds had settled down for the night. Sis. Wilmington moved over to her daughter to console her. For Stacy’s sake she was greatly restraining herself from giving Bro. Wilmington a piece of her mind. Bro.Wilmington struggled with what to say next. “Stacy, I made a mistake ten years ago, which, frankly, I did not quite know how to handle.” He looked at his wife hoping to get some support from her. But she was not even looking at him. Frankly, he had not been fully upfront with her either, but he did appreciate the fact that she had respected his wishes and not let on about what she knew. But now he wished she had insisted and gone against his wishes. Whatever he had coming, he deserved it. He knew, God, through his wife, had been giving him the way

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out—just to make his daughter aware of this, but he chose to hold on to his pride and not say anything. Now, he needed the support of his wife more than anything. He kept searching for the right words to patch up everything but all was in vain. Oh, what a tangled web he had weaved! “Dad, if you don’t mind, I am very tired. I’m leaving early in the morning and I need whatever hours of sleep I can get before taking off.” Sis. Wilmington sharply turned her head in the direction of the door as an indication to her husband to leave. In her mind, there was no point in continuing the conversation right now. It was clear that Stacy was highly disappointed and not in the mood to talk. She stayed behind to help Stacy get ready for bed and to sit with her, at least until she, hopefully, fell off to sleep. She talked to God for that was all that seemed appropriate right then. But the anger within her left her wondering if God had heard her prayer. “Thank you, Mom,” said Stacy before falling off to sleep. What a way to begin college, sighed Sis. Wilmington as she rehearsed some things in her mind. She felt a little disappointed in herself for not standing up against her husband’s wishes for the sake of her daughter. She had lost some trust in him ever since the night of the strange phone call from the hospital with the message ‘the baby’s here.’ It was from that point that disagreements increased between them. She did not know whether he was truly at work whenever he left the house or if he was ‘visiting’ this woman or some other woman. She would call the job just to check up on him and this often irritated him, but as she would remind him, ‘I’m not the one who was unfaithful.’

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“The baby’s here” would run in her mind ever so often like a broken record.

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Chapter Thirty “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.” NUMBERS 32:23 “The baby’s here.” “Baby? What baby? Willie, what baby is this lady talking about?” She was shaking him from his slumber. “Baby? I don’t know what baby.” “Look, Willie, don’t play games with me. You had better think long and hard and fast. A woman calls here at 2:00 in the morning, asks for you by name—Willie Wilmington—in case you have forgotten your name, and says to tell you the baby’s here, and you don’t know what baby! Either I am going insane or someone’s lying here.” Sis. Wilmington yanked the cover off of him to get his full attention. “I am not going back to bed and neither are 159


you until I get an explanation.” “Go to sleep. It’s two in the morning. I have to go to work,” said Bro. Wilmington nonchalantly. “No, Willie. Neither of us is going to sleep. What baby is this lady talking about?” Bro. Wilmington pulling the covers back on him said, “Look, Grace, we’ll talk about this after I come in from work. O.K.?” Sis. Wilmington stormed out of the room. “I’m going to get me some water.” She did get the water, but she also got the phone book and called the maternity ward at the Spaulding Memorial Hospital. Yes, a lady by the name of Rochelle Livingston just had a baby girl, and she did make a call to their residence. “What’s the baby’s name?” After checking, the nurse came back with a name—Lisa Wilmington. Wilmington! Storming upstairs she confronted her husband once again. “Willie, do you have a relative name Rochelle Livingston?” “I don’t know. Why?” “Rochelle Livingston was the person who called here around two a.m. from the Spaulding Memorial Hospital. She just gave birth to a girl whom she named Lisa Wilmington. I just got off the phone with them.” Bro. Wilmington was wide awake by now. He could not easily wiggle his way out of this one even though he tried. “Thinking about it, yes, I do know a Rochelle. She’s one of our customers. I had no idea she was having a baby. She’s real friendly; probably calling people she knows to tell them the news. You remember how excited you were when Stacy was born.” “Why would she call you and how would she have our home number? On top of that, this Rochelle’s last name is

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Livingston. Her baby’s name is Wilmington. Wilmington is your last name. Look me in the eye, Willie. Did you have an affair with this woman?” Bro. Wilmington tried to play the I’ve-got-to-get-up-earlyso-I-need-my-sleep stunt. But it was not going to work—not tonight. “Willie, I’ve never known you to lie to me, please don’t start now,” pleaded Sis. Wilmington. Bro. Wilmington turned his head away, but his wife only positioned herself in front of him and said, “Look me in the eye, Willie. Is that baby yours? Did you have sex with this Rochelle?” Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, Bro. Wilmington nonchalantly said, “Yes, I did have an affair with Rochelle about a year ago. Does that make you happy now?” “No, no, nine months to be exact. How long and how often, Willie?” “Only once, Grace, and it was nine months ago if you want to be so exact.” “So for nine months you’ve been keeping this a secret. I guess you thought this was some kind of dream that would go away. Why, you deceiver!” He motioned to her to sit on the bed. Folding her arms, Sis. Wilmington almost yelled, “Oh, don’t you even try that. How could you look me in the eye for nine months, sleep with me every night for nine months, kiss me goodbye every morning for nine months, knowing you have this on your conscience and never even attempting to say a word about it? Doesn’t this bother you at all? Have you no conscience? I thought I could trust you, but now I see I can’t.” “Look, Grace, I’m sorry. It all happened so fast. I just

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did not know how to tell you. I...” “Is that all you can say ‘I’m sorry’? I believe you’re sorry you are caught. You had no intentions on telling me about this and you know it. I mean, what have I done to deserve this?” “Believe me, you’ve done nothing. It should have never happened.” “It should have never happened,” mimicked Sis. Wilmington. “Well, it did happen. I guess this marriage and family is worth nothing to you. What are you going to tell your daughter who loves and adores you?” Bro. Wilmington was sitting up in the bed by now. “Grace, come sit beside me. I know I did you wrong. You have been a great wife. I just...” “Got caught up in the moment,” finished his wife. “Oh, cut the whining out. I’m going to curl up in bed with Stacy and spend the night with her because this may just be our last night together.” Slamming the door behind her, she yelled, “Sweet dreams to you, Mister!”

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Chapter Thirty-One “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.� GALATIANS 6:1 Bro. Wilmington went back to the living room. Everything seemed unusually dark. He turned on the television flipping through the channels not looking for anything in particular. He just wanted some noise to drown out the thoughts that kept coming to his mind. What are you going to tell your daughter who loves you and adores you? He had never forgotten those words said to him over ten years ago. Now, they had come to haunt him. Why he did not come clean with his wife and daughter, he did not know. Shame. Embarrassment. Ego. Guilt. Where was God when he needed Him? Because he certainly 163


needed God now. His wife had confronted him, often pleading with him, to tell Stacy, but he had refused with what was now a lame excuse: ‘waiting for the right time.’ Well, the right time had come and gone without him even realizing it. His wife kept telling him it was no longer about them; it was now about Stacy. What would possess Rochelle to call his home and to have the audacity to leave such a message with his wife was beyond him. He had made it plain to her not to call or track him down. She had stopped by his company’s office wanting some one to come by her place to repair her air conditioner. The company had sent Bro. Wilmington out. She had a nice home. He could not help but to notice how skimpily dressed she was, and she was awfully friendly and talkative. Rather than leaving him to do his job, she followed him around, from the inside to the outside where the central unit was located. It needed to be replaced, so he had returned in two days time after a couple of his co-workers had dropped off the new unit. She asked a lot of questions about his job, tossing in personal questions every now and then. Bro. Wilmington had to admit she was very attractive. About a month later, she had called saying she was having problems with the newly installed air conditioner; that it was not putting out enough cold air. She specifically requested for Bro.Wilmington to come by saying she was very pleased with his work performance. She had called a couple times thanking him for coming by. She had it all planned and he fell for it. To him, the air conditioner worked fine, but to please her, (after all, she was the customer), he disconnected and rewired some of the cords inside one of the rooms. They got to talking and he made the mistake of sitting down with her for a quick glass of pineapple punch. He really was in no hurry seeing she was the last customer for

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that day. Well, one thing led to another and before he knew it, he had done the unthinkable. He did not hear from Rochelle Livingston until two months later when she called his workplace to talk with him. It was then that she told him the news of her pregnancy. “Oh, come off it. Surely you are kidding.” He had laughed it off in unbelief. Her serious tone said differently. She wanted to know when he could come by to see her again. “Rochelle, I’m happily married. I made a mistake with you and I plan on staying with my wife and daughter.” “Oh, I’m not asking you to leave your wife. I’m telling you you are going to accept this baby who happens to be your child also. I can make this a difficult time for you.” “O.k., o.k., I had to take time to digest the unexpected. What do you want me to do?” “I just need for you to come over every now and then and support me in this great experience.” After a moment’s thought he went on, “I’ll see, but under one condition, that you do not tell anyone about it.” Rochelle called him almost every day either on the job or on his cell phone which was on his personal company card. Willie felt a little tinge of guilt each time he looked at Grace, but always convinced himself that whatever she did not know would not hurt her. This he thought knowing it was against his better judgement. Rochelle had promised him that she would never call his home, so he was very surprised when she had called his home that early Sunday morning. He had told Grace enough to keep her quiet, even though he felt the looks of distrust she often sent his way.

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It was a sleepless night, the night Rochelle called with the surprise news. Grace was up with Stacy having breakfast later that Sunday morning. They were already dressed for church. At least she agreed to speak with him. She was always a kind-hearted person and never one to stay angry for a long time. “Look, Grace, I’m sorry. Yes, I did have a one-time affair with Rochelle. She told me she was pregnant and I told her I was not leaving you to marry her and I also told her not to call here. In fact, I honestly do not know how she got our home number.” Bro. Wilmington felt as though he was talking to a brick wall but he braved it on. “I don’t blame you for being mad with me. And I don’t blame you if you do not want to talk with me. I’ll call Rochelle today and tell her not to call here any more.” Sis. Wilmington rolled her eyes, sighing and blowing at the same time, shifting her body weight from one foot to the other. “I’ll tell her I’ll send her some money and call it quits.” Sis. Wilmington walked out the room, got Stacy and left for church. Bro. Wilmington was not even invited to go along as they often did as a family. Flopping before the television he flipped from one TV preacher to another. He decided to call the hospital. “I knew you’d call,” said Rochelle. “I told you not to call my home. What possessed you to do that?” “I thought you would want to know the good news right away. Wifey is not mad is she?” Rochelle snickered. “That’s not important right now! Look, Rochelle, I’ll send you some extra money but you have to stay at bay,” said Bro. Wilmington.

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“Just like that? I stayed away from you throughout the nine months but the truth is we have to face reality and handle our responsibilities. This is your child and you are going to have to take care of her. Why don’t you come by and see her. I’m leaving in the morning to spend a few days with my sister.” “Good for you. I may stop by.” “Well, I must go. You are going to make a great father and I know your daughter will be thrilled to hear she has a sister. Bye, Dad,” she said softly. Bro. Wilmington was seriously contemplating making a quick trip to the hospital while Grace was at church. She would not have to know about it but he decided against it. He must have fallen off to sleep because he was awakened when Stacy jumped into his lap as she squealed, “Daddy, we’re home!” It was a rather tough week. Sis. Wilmington had his meals ready, and clothes prepared as normal, but the silence was overbearing at times. What took the cake was the following Wednesday when his wife got up a little earlier, dressed Stacy and herself, took her keys and on the way out the door said, “By the way, I got a job. I begin today. Don’t worry about Stacy. I’ll drop her off at school and I’ll pick her up on the way home.” That evening was not a quiet one. There was no way he was going to sit back and let her go against his wishes for her not to work. “You don’t even realize what you did, do you? You deceived me for nine months and you expect me to just forget it! Hell, no.” “No, I do not just expect you to forget it, but there is no way you are going to work. When did you have time to look for a job

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any way?” “Oh, so now you know how it feels to be deceived. When did you, Mr. Family Man, have time to fool around with another woman? You have your little secret and I have my little secret, so I guess we are even. And no, I am not going to quit because right now, I need some kind of diversion.” “Grace, I told you to find some kind of hobby, not a job. I do not want you going out to work.” “Believe me, I am going to need to work because I am sure you will need some help taking care of this new addition to our extended family.” With that the conversation closed. Their relationship was never the same. His wife’s anger did not last long, but he sensed the distance she kept between them. To make matters worse, Rochelle turned up at the job a month later so he could see the baby. She threatened in a sweet but conniving way for him to remember his side of the bargain: all’s silent as long as he sent the money every month. ______________________ Willie Wilmington must have fallen off to sleep. He was awakened by the beeping of a car horn. Stacy and her mother hurried into the living room with suitcases. He was instructed to get the door and he rose quickly to do as bidden. Uncle Eli was just about to ring the door bell. “Hey, brother. What’s up, man? Ready to turn your daughter over to me?” Uncle Eli who was Willie’s brother-in-law was more like a big brother to him. He and his family lived in Florida and ever so often his job would send him up that way. Bro. Wilmington was glad Eli would be close by in case Stacy needed

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anything or just a home-like setting to crash out on the weekends. “Hey, man,” returned Bro.Wilmington giving his brother-in-law a shoulder bump. “Come on in. Where’s Dee?” “She’s in the car. I told her I won’t be long.” “Uncle Eli!” said Stacy giving her favorite uncle a hug. “I hope this is not too early for you, college girl,” said her uncle taking a piece of her luggage. They each took one piece on out to the car. Stacy gave her Mom a hug. She gave her Dad a hug, but he did not sense the warmth he normally felt whenever they interacted like this. She was off to college at a critical time. Maybe he should let her sit out a semester until they resolved this issue. It was too late now, however. Only God could fix this. Without a word, Sis. Wilmington went on up to bed. Bro. Wilmington returned to his La-Z-boy.

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Chapter Thirty-Two “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” GALATIANS 5:16 Things were going well at New Mt. Zion. People were witnessing for Christ. New members were being added to the church. Visitors graced their services each time the church doors were opened. The Reynolds family had settled in. But the devil was still at work. Sis. Richardson who normally filled in for the secretary every Friday was at her desk when an anonymous phone call came in for Bro. Reynolds. The caller had called three more times before noon but refused to leave her name. By 3:00 when she was clearing her desk to prepare to leave, Sis. Richardson had called three more times. It was a Ms. Caroline Martin, a friend from Bro. Reynolds’ former church. “Just tell him I called,” was the content of the message she 171


finally left. Seeing that Bro. Reynolds had already left, Sis. Richardson called his home and left the message with Jonathan. Jonathan recognizing the name, purposely pushed the message to the back of his mind. He wondered if his father had any contact with her at all since they left their former church. That Sunday, Bro. Reynolds delivered the message. He preached on “Fleeing the Temptations of the Past.” Ironically, on Monday, he was reminded of his past temptation—one in particular. Filling in for Pastor Richardson, who normally took Mondays off, the secretary relayed the message to him that a caller was on line three seeking some counseling. It turned out to be Caroline Martin. At first he contemplated refusing to take the call, but not wanting to raise any suspicion in the secretary’s mind, he went ahead and accepted the call. “This is Pastor, how may I help you?” “Hello, Dwayne. This is Caroline. How are you?” Something stirred up inside of Bro. Reynolds at the sound of her voice. “It took a while to catch up with you, but the search was worth it.” “What do you want?” Bro. Reynolds was obviously irritated. “You,” said the caller. “Listen, Ms. Martin, what took place, or should I say almost took place, between us is over with. It’s a thing of the past and has been over with now for months.” “It may be over for you but not for me. You’re all I can think of these months. To retain my sanity I just had to call you. So how about we continue where we left off. No one will ever know especially now that you are in another city. And you can

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call me Caroline.” “Ms. Martin, you just don’t get it. My family was almost destroyed because of this. Where’s your husband, anyway?” “What husband? He left; says I’m too fast for him. The truth is, I think he has another woman friend, so to be even, I figured I’ll go get me another man.” “Well, look somewhere else because this man is not interested in you. You’re supposed to be a Christian. I know I am a Christian and...” “Mr. Holy, the Bible says, ‘be not unequally yoked with unbelievers.’ You’re a believer, I am a believer, so what’s to keep us from yoking together?” Caroline said. “Ms. Martin, there’s nothing between us. God has given me a fresh beginning away from you and I double dog dare you to mess this up. I don’t know exactly what you are hoping to get, but it won’t be me. Have a great day.” Bro. Reynolds prepared to hang up the phone. “I always get what I want,” yelled Caroline into the dead receiver. Bro. Reynolds stared at the phone expecting it to ring again. Nope. I can’t get tricked into going that route. He had almost lost his family and his testimony because Caroline, the assistant secretary from his former church, kept flirting with him. She would bring coffee and donuts to his office just about every day, sometimes leaving provocative notes with them. She was always cleaning up his office, always sharing personal things with him regarding her husband, and always sharing some of her deep personal thoughts. Bro. Reynolds was beginning to have strong feelings for her, but by the grace of God he managed to do the right thing. Jonathan stopped by one

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evening and overheard them in the office. Well, he heard more of her than of his father. He told his mother about it. This disrupted the family for a while. But Sis. Reynolds had always trusted her husband, so that held the family together. Somehow, a rumor got out among the church folk that he was fooling around with Mrs. Martin, and this was brought to the attention of the pastor. His pastor called a meeting with Bro. Reynolds, his wife, Mrs. Martin and the few others who had brought this matter to his attention. Bro. Reynolds denied the false accusation on Ms. Martin’s part that they had been involved with each other. In fact, she turned it all around, pointing the finger at him saying that it was Bro. Reynolds who was always inviting her into his office and asking her to pick up the donuts and coffee so they could eat together. The pastor did not know exactly who to believe. He trusted Bro. Reynolds and did not have any reason not to believe him. He had his questions about Ms. Martin who was always a little too friendly with the men of the church. She even tried to come on to him, but his wife cut her off before it took root. He offered them both a temporary leave of absence until the issue was fully resolved. During that time, to protect his integrity and his family, Bro. Reynolds decided to move on. His pastor, a friend of Pastor Richardson, highly recommended him and his family. After they discussed the matter, Bro. Reynolds was hired at New Mt. Zion. But his past had come to haunt him. On arriving home that evening, he shared with his wife about Caroline Martin calling him. “How did she find out where you were?� asked Sis.

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Reynolds. “I really don’t know, Jacqueline. All I know is, I smell trouble.” “She’s in another city. What trouble could she possibly cause?” “She is ruthless. Remember how she lied about what took place between us. All I know is I almost lost the best things in my life because of her. I thank God for giving me the wisdom not to fool with her or any woman for that matter,” Bro. Reynolds said. “Well, let’s go eat. The supper is getting cold,” Sis. Reynolds said.

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Chapter Thirty-Three “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” EPHESIANS 4:26-27 It was a very trying week for the Wilmingtons. Stacy made it safely to Florida and spent a couple of days with her aunt and uncle before moving on campus on Thursday, the day of orientation. “It’s wonderful down here, Mom,” was pretty much the content of her conversation. She was rather short with her father and he felt it. Sis. Wilmington was giving him the silent treatment, only saying what was necessary. Any verbal exchange was dry and bordered on one of them giving a snappy answer. Well, at least she took care of the household duties such as making sure his clothes were clean and having his supper ready. She left off fixing breakfast in the mornings with the excuse 177


that she had to go to work earlier. Bro. Wilmington hated to have sent Stacy off at a time like this. As much as he wanted to explain everything, it did not seem right to do so over the phone. He felt it would be better to do it in person. Christmas seemed so far away. Stacy was already going to spend Thanksgiving at his brother-in-law’s house seeing it would only be a four day holiday counting the weekend. On Thursday evening at the dinner table, Sis. Wilmington was more open. “Stacy called me on the job. She says to tell you ‘hello’ and that everything went well at orientation.” “Wonderful. Tell her to call here at the house or on my cell phone. I tried calling her a few times, but I guess she’s had her phone turned off.” Sis.Wilmington gave a half smile knowing that Stacy on purpose was not answering his calls to her. “Well, she told me she did not want to talk with you right now. Just to give her time to digest every thing. You know, I’m wondering if we did good by allowing her to leave at a time like this. We could have stopped her and let her sit out this semester or go to college here.” Bro. Wilmington nodded in agreement. After some silence Sis. Wilmington continued, “Willie, we have to talk—seriously talk. I don’t want to argue because I don’t like the strain that goes with it. But we have to talk for Stacy’s sake and for this marriage.” “Sure,” said Bro. Wilmington, glad for the open door. “I have this gnawing feeling that you have not told me everything, Willie. Please tell me everything about this affair with this woman and why she would turn up after ten years. Have you been talking with her behind my back? This is the only logical

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reason I can come up with for her to do what she did. You must have somehow presented that open door to her.” Pushing his plate away from him, Bro. Wilmington said, “Grace, I feel funny saying this, but if you do not mind, can we pray first.” “Why? You just need to spill it, and spill it all. There’s nothing to pray about here. You should have been praying all along.” “You’re right. I just need to spill it all. But I don’t want it to blow up to pieces while I am spilling it.” “All right, go ahead,” sighed Sis. Wilmington. Bro. Wilmington simply asked God to help him not to leave anything out. “Grace, as I told you before, my job sent me over to her house to install her air condition unit. She kept calling the job saying her unit kept going out and asking specifically for me to come by, that she liked how I worked. Well, you know our motto: make the customer happy.” “Yeah, Yeah. Are you sure you did not fix it so that it would keep shutting off ?” interrupted Sis. Wilmington. “Oh, goodness! No, Grace. As ironic as this may sound at a time like this, I am happy with you. I never dreamed of cheating on you.” “Right. Go on,” said Sis. Wilmington rolling her eyes and popping her feet underneath the table. Anyway, one evening I stopped by her house and we got to talking. I did not have to return to the job, so I guess I lingered longer than I should have. She was very friendly and each time I would go by her house she would share personal things with me. I felt like I knew her. She shared

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with me problems and struggles she was having personally as well as on her job and I started getting comfortable just listening to her...” “Is she married?” asked Sis. Wilmington. “No, she’s not. At least that’s what she told me. Anyway one thing led to another, and before I knew it we were in her bed. The next time I spoke with her she called me at the job to tell me she was pregnant.” Bro. Wilmington paused for a while looking down at his empty plate. Sis. Wilmington settled back in her seat at the other end of the table after taking a sip of her apple juice, waiting for her husband to continue. “She called me on the job to tell me she was pregnant. This caught me off guard. She would come by the job often which I told her not to do because I did not want to raise any suspicions and I also told her not to call my house because I did not want to cause a stir.” “I guess she could not contain herself,” said Sis. Wilmington with a sarcastic tone. Bro. Wilmington ignored her and continued. “To keep her quiet I told her I would send her some money every month.” “You what!” Sis. Wilmington was on the edge of her seat. “Grace, please let me finish.” “You’re gonna finish all right. I can’t believe you’ve been sending her money—our money—all this time—ten years.” “Grace, if you want the truth without a stir, you had better calm down and let me finish. Lisa is my daughter. It does not matter how she got here, she’s still my daughter. And I am obligated to help support her as long as Rochelle remains single.” “Single? What do you mean?” Sis. Wilmington had a

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quizzical look on her face. “Well, I told her I’ll support Lisa as long as she remains single. About a year after Lisa was born she told me she was engaged to be married. She invited me to the wedding which I did not go to. I stopped sending her money then.” Leaning her head to one side as if in thought, Sis. Wilmington asked, “How could you send her money and I not know about it?” “Easy. Remember that’s about when you decided to get a job and open up your own account.” “Oh, yeah. Dumb me,” smiled Sis.Wilmington as she recalled. “Well, not really. That was a help to me right there. I certainly did not want to have to explain missing money from our account.” “I’m curious. Was that Rochelle who called here about two Saturdays ago? You know, when you took the call in the kitchen, lowering your voice when I walked in?” asked Sis.Wilmington. “Yes. That was her. We’ve had no contact with each other for almost five years and I had just put her out of my mind. I thought I would never hear from her again until she called; she said got the phone number through information. She had called my job and looked up the company on the Internet, and found out I was still working there. She had been investigating.” “I thought she was married.” “She has been divorced for almost five years and unsuccessful in getting another man to marry her. So she decided to come back to me—the father of her child.” Bro.Wilmington

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shook his head in unbelief. “And what did you tell her—that you were available?” “Nope. I told her I was happily married and she was not going to come between us, and...” Bro. Wilmington stopped in mid sentence. “Why are you looking at me like that?” “Like what?” “Like that. Are you getting ready to have a good laugh? You don’t have to hide it. Go ahead and say it.” “Say what?” Sis. Wilmington was indeed trying not to laugh. “Say this—‘you certainly got yourself in steaming hot water.’” “I’m trying not to, but I think I will: You certainly got yourself in steaming hot water, and I mean, steaming hot water.” They both smiled shaking their heads. “Are you smiling at me or with me?” asked Bro.Wilmington. It felt good to genuinely smile again with his wife. “I don’t know. I really don’t know,” said his wife. Both sat quietly for a moment. “How do you think Stacy is really doing?” asked Bro. Wilmington. “I think she’s too busy settling in, making new friends, and adjusting to college life. We’ll just have to pray for her. Come on. Help me with the dishes.” Sis. Wilmington washed the dishes and Bro. Wilmington dried them. On the way out the kitchen, he took hold of his wife’s arm and swinging her toward him he said, “Grace, do you forgive me? I really need you to forgive me, if for nothing else, at least

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for Stacy’s sake.” “Hmm. I’ll think about it.” Taking two steps in the direction of the bedroom, she swung around suddenly, “O.k., I forgive you. I have to because we have a daughter who is hurting and we have to pull together for her.” “Tell me about it,” Bro. Wilmington said. “You’re not worried that Rochelle may cause trouble for you, for us? I mean, I put nothing past her considering what she did,” said Sis. Wilmington. “Not really. The worst she could do, I guess, is spread it around the church. But that won’t affect me because now you know the whole truth and your forgiveness is more important to me.” “Why don’t we go have devotions now and turn in early. We haven’t had a decent prayer time together since Stacy left and even before then,” said Sis. Wilmington taking his hand in hers. “How did we let that happen?” asked Bro. Wilmington giving her a hug. After the lights were out, Bro. Wilmington felt a great peace come over him; a peace he had not felt in months. He silently thanked God for giving him the grace to come completely clean and he asked the Lord to strengthen his relationship with his wife. He also asked the Lord to give him wisdom in dealing with Rochelle and in making things right with his daughter, Stacy.

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Chapter Thirty-Four “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” EPHESIANS 4:29 “God bless you, Sis. Mills,” greeted Sis. Bettie. “So glad you could make it out this fine Saturday.” “God bless you, too, Sis. Bettie. Sorry I missed you on Prayer Meeting night.What happened to you?” “I fell under the weather, Sister. Come on with me to the Fellowship Hall. We can clean up down there first.” Sis. Bettie pointed toward the door. “What happen to Bro. Harold?” she asked as they entered the building. “He decided to go visiting with the men today. I told him he too old to go out walking in all that sun. But his old stubborn 185


self decided to go anyway.” “He’s not still mad at me, is he?” asked Sis. Bettie. “Don’t you never mind him. He’s an old grouch sometimes. Have you heard anything else about the Wilmingtons?” asked Sis. Mills more out of curiosity than concern. “Nope. Was they in church on Wednesday?” asked Sis. Bettie. “The mother was but not the father or the daughter,” answered Sis. Mills. “Something is brewing big time, child. Now you know the daughter is gone off to college down in Florida.” “Oh, yes. I done forgot. Maybe best for her at a time like this. Well, anyways, when Pastor asked for any special prayer requests, Sis. Wilmington did not even raise her hand.” “Say what? Now, you know that ain’t Christian,” Sis. Bettie said. “The Bible says we ought to pray for each other. How can the church pray for healing for that situation if they don’t tell nobody?” “Come to think of it, it’s a mighty embarrassing thing having a sister for many years and don’t know nothing about it. Maybe that’s why she did not ask for special prayer,” Sis. Mills said. “Do you think Sis. Wilmington knows anything about it?” Sis. Bettie asked. “I don’t know. But we can go visit her. You know...kind of ease into it. You know how to do it.” “Not me,” said Sis. Bettie. “But I’m all for visiting. You know...let her know we thinking about her and the family. Can you pick me up on Monday?” “Sure. I don’t think Harold will be using the car.”

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______________________ The ladies arrived at the Wilmington’s house at five p.m.They were greeted with a cheery “hello” by Sis. Wilmington. “It’s so good for you to stop by. Thank you for thinking about us. Come on in.” She escorted them to the living room. After they were seated, she stuck her head in the hallway and shouted at Bro. Wilmington, “Willie, Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie from the church are here to visit.” Bro. Wilmington came in and chatted with the ladies for a while before excusing himself saying, “I’m sure you ladies want to fellowship and have some lady talk so I’ll excuse myself and get back to the computer.” After he closed the door to his computer room, Sis. Mills said hesitantly, “Sis. Wilmington, I don’t know how to tell you this, but something came up last Sunday at church and I just wanted to bring it to your attention...” “Go on,” said Sis. Wilmington as Sis. Mills looked across to Sis. Bettie. “First, I tell you we don’t believe it because you have a fine family and you have people out there just waiting for a scandal on your name. But we just wants you to be awares of it lest the devil takes it and run with it. Sis. Bettie here...Well, I’ll let her tell you. Go on, Bettie.” Clearing her throat, Sis. Bettie picked up the conversation. “Sis. Wilmington, I was in the bathroom last Sunday when I overheard this lady talking to your daughter. She told your daughter that the little girl she had with her was her sister.” Sis. Wilmington raised her eyebrows. She never really trusted these two ladies who seemed to always be whispering. “I want you to know,” continued Sis. Bettie raising a

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hand and cocking her head to the left, “I don’t believe a word of it.” “And,” piped in Sis. Mills with a firm nod of the head, “I don’t believe your daughter believed it either. By the way, how is she doing? You must miss her.” “She’s doing fine. She made it safely to Florida and has settled down quite nicely. And, yes, we do miss her.” After a few seconds’ silence Sis. Bettie went on. “I hope this news did not frighten your daughter. Did she tell you about it?” “Oh, yes, she did,” replied Sis. Wilmington. “Did you find out who the lady was?” asked Sis. Bettie who had a knack for getting to the bottom of a piece of gossip. “Yes, we did,” answered Sis. Wilmington. “You know, Sister, some ladies can be treacherous. You have to watch them.” “I know,” said Sis. Wilmington. “Does Bro. Wilmington know anything about this?” asked Sis. Bettie squinting. “Yes, he knows.” “You know, Sis. Wilmington, you ought to tell the church so that we can pray for your family because the devil can take a little something and make a molehill out of it,” said Sis. Mills. “I think the phrase is, ‘make a mountain out of it,’ Sister,” corrected Sis. Bettie. “Well, whatever. But I was telling Sis. Bettie we need to pray the devil out of that lady. It’s the devil in her trying to disturb your fine family,” continued Sis. Mills. “Sis, Mills, I really appreciate your concern for our family. You too, Sis. Bettie. But we know all about it and all is well. And,” stressed Sis. Wilmington, “there’s no need to tell the church. We

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don’t want to embarrass this lady should she decide to visit the church regularly. And Bro. Wilmington and I and Stacy would appreciate it even more if you did not tell anyone about it. After all, you ladies don’t have all the facts.” Sis. Wilmington gently raised her eyebrows at them both. “Yes, yes, you have a point there,” both ladies agreed. “Tell you what, we can pray right now.” “I’ll give you the honors,” said Sis. Wilmington. Sis. Bettie nodded to Sis. Mills giving her the go ahead. “Most gracious heavenly Father, we come before You the only way that we know how. Lord, we have a special prayer this evening. Have nothing to come out of this situation with the Wilmingtons. Stop this lady’s mouth if she is lying. Lord, if she’s not lying...” Sis. Bettie jabbed Sis. Mills in the side. “Yes, Lord, as I was saying, have nothing to come out of this matter. Thank You, that as Sis. Wilmington says, all is well. Bless the Wilmingtons. They are a lovely family. And bless Stacy down in Florida. Help her to do well in her studies. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.” “Amen and thank you, ladies,” said Sis. Wilmington signalling the end of their visit. Both ladies rose in unison. “Well, we had best be going. It’s getting late. Tell Bro. Wilmington we say ‘goodnight’.” “I sure will,” said Sis. Wilmington. “And you ladies have a great night.” As they pulled out of the drive way Sis. Bettie said rather abruptly, “Mills, you almost messed up.” Sis. Bettie always addressed her by her last name whenever she was upset with her. “What you mean, Bettie?” “You was getting ready to pray ‘Lord, if the lady’s not lying.’

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Sis. Wilmington did not say whether or not the lady was lying. All she said was they know about it and all was well.” “Makes no difference. I don’t see why the lady would make up such a lie. And ain’t nothing wrong with trying to get to the truth.” “Well, if it’s truth, we’ll hear more about it.”

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Chapter Thirty-Five “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” EPHESIANS 6:1-3 This was the first time, since Stacy and Monica knew each other, that a week had gone by without them talking to each other. So as not to mope, Monica threw herself into her books. Her parents had surprised her with a small car to take her back and forth to school and to run errands. If only Stacy were there to celebrate that small gift with her, Monica thought. She enjoyed her first week of classes. To top it off, Janice, Jonathan’s sister, was in her Introduction to Psychology class as well. Janice was going into education. On their way out the door after their first psychology class, Jonathan ran 191


into them. “Jon, guess what? Monica’s in my psychology class,” said Janice. “Great. Does this mean I can sleep in on Tuesdays?” he said playfully to his sister. Jonathan had to drive Janice to the college campus every Tuesday morning for her psychology class. “How are you, Monica?” “Great.” “Well, how do you like your first class?” he asked his sister. “It’s very interesting. We’re going to be doing some projects together. I think I’ll use you as my guinea pig and practice some psychology on you,” she joked. “Oh, yeah? We will see about that. How did you like your first class, Monica?” “Oh, I loved it. It seems like it’s going to be very interesting.” “College life is interesting. To win over some of the professors, come to class early, turn in assignments on time, and never argue with the professors.” “Listen to him, Monica. He thinks he’s an expert on college life,” said Janice. “Sure, I am,” he said winking at Monica. “But on the serious side, it’s a lot of fun. Say, do you need a ride home?” “No thanks. My Mom and Dad bought me a car; a little gift for entering college.” “I guess that means I won’t be able to drive you home at all. We’ll walk you to your car.” As they walked to the car, the conversation centered on courses being taken. Janice was also enrolled in English and History. Monica found out from the conversation that Sis.

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Reynolds used to be a teacher and that Janice was following in her footsteps. “Well, here’s my car,” said Monica pointing to her car. “Give me the honors,” Jonathan said reaching for her keys to unlock the car door. “Thank you,” said Monica as he waited for her to seat herself. “Bye, Monica. I’ll see you on campus tomorrow,” said Janice. “I’ll be here just about all day.” “I’ll be here also. If I miss you, I’ll see you on Wednesday night for prayer meeting,” said Jonathan. Handing her the keys, Jonathan shut the door. Monica rolled her window down to thank them once again. As they backed away from the car, she thought she overheard Janice say to her brother, “You like her, don’t you?” Jonathan punched her playfully on the upper arm as he took her books from her. Monica tooted her horn and headed on home with a song in her heart. College life was going to be fun. She was going to have a lot to share with Stacy whenever she heard from her, and Jonathan...well, she would just see what direction that was headed in.

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Chapter Thirty-Six “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” COLOSSIANS 3:1-2 Things were still on a spiritual high at New Mt. Zion church. New people were coming just about every Sunday. Pastor Richardson kept the soul-winning fire lit. Mrs. Herron and Tiffany had become close friends of the Montague family and were attending regularly. Ron and Rebecca Campbell, the mixed couple who had gotten saved through the Reynolds family were also regular attendees. The church was in the process of expanding its facilities and opening up its doors to children of school age— grades one through three. This new addition would take effect in January of the New Year. They were so busy that before they 195


knew it, Thanksgiving was upon them. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving one hundred food baskets were packed and delivered around town to needy families. ______________________ The Montague family spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day together. Leah, their oldest daughter, called the night before to let them know she would be coming with her friend, Xavier. Monica was excited. She did not get to see her sister much these days after she had moved out. On top of that, Leah’s job at the hospital kept her rather busy. Her and Xavier had known each other for a few months. The rest of the Montague family had met him once when he came to the New Mt. Zion Church. After greetings were exchanged, the ladies went to the kitchen to put the final touches on the food. Bro. Montague and Xavier made themselves comfortable in the living room to watch TV. The meal was tasty and the fellowship was pleasant. The time seemed to fly by too quickly and, before long, Leah and Xavier were saying their goodbyes with the promise to visit again soon. “What do you think about Xavier?” Bro. Montague asked. “I don’t know him well enough to pass judgement yet,” said Sis. Montague. “He seems like a nice person,” piped in Monica. “You women have no insight whatsoever,” replied Bro. Montague. “What do you mean, Dad?” asked Monica “I’ll tell you when you bring your first fiance around. Right now, I want you, young lady, to go to bed and get all the rest you need. It’s back to school on Monday.”

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Monica kissed both parents goodnight and was off to sleep in no time. “Terrence,” said Sis. Montague, “what do you think of Xavier?” “I don’t trust him,” was all Bro. Montague said. ______________________ The Wilmingtons spent a quiet day together. The house felt a little empty without Stacy who decided to remain in Florida with her Aunt and Uncle seeing that it was such a short holiday. Sis. Wilmington caught herself setting a place for Stacy at the table. “I can’t recall a Thanksgiving without her.” “I know,” said Bro.Wilmington. “Let’s call her. You know I am still chiding myself for letting her go off to college like that.” “We have to cut the apron strings at some point.” “Oh, I am not referring to that. I’m talking about the issue with her sister.” Stacy was much more cheerful. Maybe the spirit of Thanksgiving had taken hold of her heart. She was not short with her father and even ended the conversation with an ‘I love you, Daddy, and I miss you both.’ “Do you think she said anything to her aunt and uncle?” asked Bro. Wilmington after they got off the phone. “If I know Stacy, she has not said a word to them. And if she did, Eli would be knocking our front door down. Have you thought about when you’re going to have the talk with her?” “I want to, but she’s so abrupt on the phone not wanting to talk with me about it. I think she is still highly upset. But definitely when she comes home for Christmas. I’m thinking of talking with

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Pastor Richardson about it. Do you want to join me?” “Sure,” said Sis. Wilmington. “We’re in this together remember?” The ringing of the phone interrupted their conversation. Thinking it was Stacy, he reached for the phone. “Wait!” said Sis.Wilmington, “Check the Caller ID.” “Phew! That was close,” said Bro. Wilmington. “What does she want now?” “Every time I think about the whole situation, I get so...so... upset,” said Sis. Wilmington. “We’ll get through this. God will see us through.” ______________________ The Reynolds family spent a lovely day together. Janice wanted to have Monica and her family over, but Bro. Reynolds thought it best for the family just to spend some time together. “Mom, Monica is smart. She’s going to make a great nurse,” Janice said to her Mom over the dinner table to which Sis. Reynolds nodded in agreement. “And guess what? Jonathan likes her.” Jonathan’s fork stopped in mid air. His broccoli with cheese floated back on to his plate. He quickly swallowed what was in his mouth. “You don’t know that, Sis.” “Oh, yes, I do. You walk me to my psychology class and hang around just to talk with her and you, who is never on time, is right on time—before time—to pick me up. And you always walk her to her car.” “Enough, Sis,” said Jonathan. “Mom, this is good.” “Go on, Janice,” said Bro. Reynolds winking at his son.

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“All I can say, son, is you have good taste. She’s a wonderful young lady.” ______________________ Sis. Mills and Bro. Harold had the entire family over— most of the children and the grandchildren and a couple greatgrands. Sis. Bettie even came over. Her husband had died a couple years back and her children were all living out of town. One of her grandchildren lived with her, but had gone home with her parents for the holiday. A young lady stopped by ever so often to help her clean house and help her with her shopping. Sis. Mills’ children and grandchildren took care of all the cooking and the cleaning up. It was a grand time—a Thanksgiving family reunion with lots of laughter and merriment. ______________________ Pastor and Sis. Richardson went out of town to be with Sis. Richardson’s sister and husband and children. Everything was just lovely. The weather was perfect for travelling. Sis. Richardson, hugging her nieces and nephews, longed so much for a child of her own. How she loved them. The Richardsons enjoyed a great weekend. ______________________ Rochelle was in turmoil. She had gone to the store and bought a Thanksgiving platter—turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. She, somehow, got the notion to call Bro. Wilmington and to invite him over for Thanksgiving—after he got done

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celebrating with his family. Her sister had invited her over, but she had refused the invitation. “Mommy, are we taking that to Aunty’s?” Lisa had asked. “No, baby. This is for a special friend. You’re gonna go over to Aunty’s. I have to stay and talk with this friend about something regarding you; something very important. Promise me you’ll be good.” “I will.” Rochelle waited impatiently for the late afternoon. She picked up the phone a couple of times but decided it was too early. She busied herself putting up candles in the dining room and in her bedroom. She had no doubt that Willie Wilmington would come over. She was sure he and his wife were at odds with each other. Promptly at five o’clock she called Bro. Wilmington’s cell phone. He must have had it turned off. She called his home phone but no one picked up. The nerve of him. He should know I would be calling. I got something for him. He promised he would take care of his daughter and I’m going to make sure he does. I’m not married anymore, so the deal’s back on whether he likes it or not.

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Chapter Thirty-Seven “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” COLOSSIANS 3:13 It took Stacy a week to settle in, but once she had settled in, she and Monica spoke at least twice a week. They had so much to share with each other. Stacy, even though a little jealous, was thrilled that Jonathan was showing more interest in Monica even though Monica still insisted she was in no hurry to get serious with anyone; she wanted to finish school first. “On a serious note, though, good men are hard to find, so hang on to him,” said Stacy. “How about you, Stacy? Is anyone showing any interest in you or should I ask, are you showing interest in any one?” “There’s this one fellow, he’s in two of my classes and he 201


makes it a point to sit right next to me in both classes. He’s from New York, and girl, can he talk. I think he’s kind of lonely being so far away from home and not really knowing anyone. He’s an interesting guy and quite comical and he goes to church.” “Way to go.” Deciding to turn the conversation around, Monica asked, “Did you ever resolve the issue of your new sister with your parents?” “To tell you the truth, I try not to think about it. I know I should talk with my Dad about it. Mom keeps telling me to talk with him and to get it all cleared up. She says she is not going to tell me anything. She wants both of us to talk it out. Now I know I have to do the mature thing and give Dad a chance to give his side of the story. He’s been trying to talk with me about it, but I guess I’m too angry to talk with him. Mom says they have talked and aired everything out on their side and things have been resolved between them.” “Well, we’ve been praying for you all. And, Stacy, I think you should give your Dad a chance. He wants to make amends, but if you do not open up to him things will never be resolved.” “You’re right, Monica. But I have to do it when I am ready and right now, I am not ready to talk about it.” “If you say so. Are you coming home for Christmas?” “I’m thinking about it. But I am also thinking of getting a part time job. There are many openings down here during the Christmas season in retail stores.” “In other words, you plan on not coming home for Christmas because you do not want to face your Dad. You have to face it, Stacy.” “Monica, I know you’re my best friend. You know me like the back of your hand. You hit it right on the head. The truth is

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I am thinking of staying down here for Christmas. I just don’t think I can face my Dad yet.” “It’s that bad, huh?” “Yeah, all I can think about is this stranger popping up with my unknown sister. I’ve always wanted a sister but not like this.” “Can you reconsider? After all you really do not have to work. Like my Mom always says, ‘Let confrontation take place early and have true peace later on.’” The girls chatted late into the night ending with a promise to call each other later in the week.

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Chapter Thirty-Eight “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” II THESSALONIANS 3:3 Monica was out for two weeks during Christmas break. Leah and her friend, Xavier, came by for Christmas. The Christmas story play put on at the church went well. Pastor Richardson was all geared up for the New Year. He preached a message that impacted the lives of many titled: “The Pull and Power of Sin.” “I’m not going to preach the typical New Year’s sermon on making a New Year’s resolution because after about two weeks, one week for some of you, many of you are going to forget your resolutions and fall into the same old rut you resolved to get out of. But there are two things that I want you, including myself, to focus on all of this year, and those things are: (1) telling people about Jesus, and (2) stop sinning. The first 205


one is already in motion, but it can explode to higher heights if we take care of the second one. And that is, we have to get rid of the sin in our lives. Simply put: we have to stop sinning. But many of us cannot stop sinning because we don’t realize the stronghold of sin in our lives. “Like Samson, we foolishly believe we can dilly-dally in sin; and we believe we can play around with sin and not fall prey to its tentacles. I say tentacles because once a particular sin gets a hold of you, once sin wraps its tentacles around you, you are caught in a grip that you cannot easily break out of. “I’ve heard someone say sin is a bad somebody. You better believe it. Sin is a bad somebody; so bad you do not want to become its friend.” “Amen, Preacher!” “Romans 3:23 tells us ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ In verse ten it says, There is none righteous. Isaiah tells us, ‘we are all as filthy rags.’ Can you imagine that? None of us fully realize how wicked the heart is. And when we keep giving in to the pull of our sinful desires, keep giving in to the temptations of the devil, keep giving in to the world, we will never fully understand the deceptiveness and wickedness of our hearts. However, when we decide to go against the world, our flesh and the devil, it is then that we begin to realize the pull and power of sin. It is quite easy to follow our natural inclination to sin, however, it is a battle to fight against sin.” “You hit it right on the head,” Bro. Montague shouted along with a few others. Pastor Richardson continued, “We run around with our

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heads up in the air, with our proud selves thinking we are somebody, thinking we can never fall into sin. The devil’s got you duped. The truth of the matter is, if we pulled back the curtain on some of our lives, we’d be ashamed of the pile of mess that would come tumbling out. Some of you are living in sin and are trying to serve God at the same time. This will not work.” “It won’t work, Pastor,” yelled someone. Many others in the congregation nodded their heads in agreement. “It sure won’t,” responded Pastor Richardson. “Don’t you all look at me like I’m crazy. This is not a make-me-feelgood message. I want you to take this sin thing seriously because I don’t want any mess throughout this year. “Some of you are still looking at me crazy. Let me help you a bit: some of you men have a little lady on the side. Some of you women have a little man on the side.” “Tell it, preacher! Tell the truth!” Bro. Wilmington drew his wife closer to him with a firm squeeze on the arm. “Some of you are gossipers—digging into everybody’s business but your own. Gossiping is what caused Miriam to get leprosy.” “That’s the truth,” Bro. Harold yelled. “I know a few of them,” to which the church broke out in laughter. Sis. Mills could have kicked him in the rear. If Sis. Bettie’s skin was any lighter, her face would have been crimson red with humiliation. “Some of you are carrying on sinful practices—sneaking here and there thinking no one knows about it. But you have forgotten that God sees everything at all times. Don’t you know that?” Bro. Montague shifted his feet around a little, lowering his

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eyes to the ground. “Some of you teenagers have the nastiest attitudes known to mankind—snapping at your parents and rebelling at everything they tell you, and then you have the audacity to come to church grinning in my face. That’s phoniness. Young people, if you have issues with your parents, go to them respectfully and talk it over with them. Don’t go to your friend because they got issues with their parents also, so they can’t help you.” “Amen,” said Bro. Mitchell. Monica wished Stacy were there to hear the message. She would definitely be sending her the CD of the sermon. “You single mothers, don’t sit there crying your eyeballs out after you have run your husbands off talking them down. If you want him back so badly, try getting your act together—do some apologizing and praying and maybe your baby’s daddy will come back to you and make you his wife. Even Beyonce tells you that you ought to ‘put a ring on it.’” Sis. Herron drew Tiffany closer to her. She knew she was guilty of running off at the mouth and putting her husband down before he walked out. She never thought she would miss him but she did. The only connection they had was Tiffany. He was a great father and she appreciated that. “And many pastors today are afraid to bring this sin up because they are afraid to lose members and lose their money. But, we have some people in this church who are homosexuals, who are on the down-low. Don’t think we don’t know who you are and don’t think God doesn’t know who you are. Here is what you need to do: you need to repent of that wicked, evil and ungodly sin and turn away from it permanently or you need to

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get the hell out of this church! Don’t misunderstand me, we love you and we are praying for you. But this is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you are committing adultery, fornication, homosexuality, or any other sin, God has instructed me to bring you before the church so you can repent, and if you don’t repent, then God has instructed me to put you out of this church, because Jesus died for all of these sins. By the way, I have never seen what one ugly, stinking man sees in another ugly, stinking man anyway.” The church exploded in applause with a standing ovation. Pastor Richardson continued, “Some of you ought to sit down because you didn’t stand up when I was talking about adultery and fornication. You should applaud that as well. My point is, one sin is no greater than the other. It is all sin in the sight of God and we all need to repent if we want to see a new year, because there will be no new year without a new you.” The pastor continued, “Some of you are just hateful toward each other. How can you say you love God whom you have never seen and hate the people around you who you see everyday. Hypocrites!” Ron and Rebecca Campbell glanced at each other. Both had experienced deep hatred since they started talking with each other. The white churches did not accept them because Ron was black and the black churches did not accept them because Rebecca was white. People looked at them askance wherever they went. So far they had not felt any of that here at New Mt. Zion. They hoped it stayed that way. “Some of you may be thinking, ‘Pastor, why such a harsh

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message at a time like this. We’re still in the holiday mode.’ You just hit it on the head: you’re still in the holiday mindset but the devil never takes a vacation. He works twenty-four, seven, 365 days a year. Folks, what I’m saying is, in order for this church to move forward, we have to get rid of our ‘pet’ sins; we have to be on one accord with everybody. God will not bless us individually or as a church if there is sin in the camp. Some of you are in the mess that you are in because you refuse to give up that sin. Frankly, I have more important things to do than to be running back and forth to your houses putting out the fires you have set. I’ll give you one minute to think about any sin in your life and then come to the altar and leave it there.” As the music played softly, people from all over the congregation joined Pastor Richardson at the altar. Many were in tears as the Spirit moved. Monica saw Mrs. Herron at the altar and joined her. Bro. and Sis. Wilmington were there also, as was Bro. Montague. Sis. Richardson was there, and like Hannah, was crying out in her heart to God for a child. That message totally revolutionized New Mt. Zion and the personal lives of its members.


Chapter Thirty-Nine “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I PETER 5:7 “That was some preaching,” Bro. Wilmington said to his wife on the way home from the church. “It sure was.” “It felt good to fully confess what I did years ago to God. I completely felt His forgiveness today.” Turning to his wife he said as sincerely as he could, “Grace, honey, I believe you’ve forgiven me, I just don’t see how you could have stayed with me all these years.” “Willie, I love you and I always will. I made vows to God to stay with you for better or for worse. I thought about leaving, but it was not easy to do because of the vow I made and because of Stacy. I was upset, probably more disappointed, but I have not been perfect either. I forgive 211


you. Will you forgive me, too, for my... my...?” “For your cantankerous ways?” finished her husband with a grin. “Yes, you’re right, for my cantankerous ways,” Sis. Wilmington agreed with a firm nod of the head. “I’ll forgive you of anything. Man, I wish Stacy were here. God showed me today that I’m going to have to put my foot down and insist on her coming home for Easter so that we can talk things over. God wanted me to come clean first. He gave me chance after chance through your constantly bringing it up for me to get myself together but I would not, so He had to bring things to a head.” Sis. Wilmington nodded in agreement. ______________________ “Mom, that was a great sermon. I’m going to send the CD to Stacy.” “That would be nice. I know you miss her,” replied Sis. Montague. “I sure do. I hope she makes it home for Easter.” “By the way, what made you go up to the altar. I hope you’re not hiding any secret sin,” Sis. Montague asked with a smile. “Oh, no. I went up to pray with Sis. Herron. She didn’t go into any detail, but she told me she was praying for her and her husband to get back together.” “That would be nice. We ought to have them over one evening. What do you think, Terrence?” Bro. Montague had been quiet all this time.

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“That’s fine,” he answered. Sis. Montague could tell he hardly heard a word she said. He seemed engrossed in his own thoughts. “Terrence,” she said nudging him back into reality. “You’re mighty quiet. What’s on your mind?’ “Just thinking about the message, that’s all.” ______________________ “Tiffany, how would you like for your Dad to live with us again?” Mrs. Herron asked her daughter on the way home from church. “That would be fun. I really miss having him around. Do you miss him, Mommy?” she asked her mother. “Yes, I do. I really do. Maybe we can talk about it when he comes to get you on Saturday. Will you pray with me about it?” “Yes, Mommy. We can pray now.” Mrs. Herron smiled as Tiffany closed her eyes. “Dear God, this is Tiffany. I pray that You would have Mommy and Daddy to get back together. Have Daddy to come to church on Sunday so we can be a family again. And God, thank You for making Mommy smile and not cry any more and for being my friend. Amen.” Mrs. Herron smiled, and tousling her hair said, “How about some Captain D’s?” “Yes, Mommy, I love me some Captain D’s.” ______________________ After the Mills dropped Sis. Bettie off, Bro. Harold blurted out what he did not want to say in front of Sis. Bettie, “Now, 213


Gladys, you know you should have gone to the altar about that tongue of yours.” “Harold, don’t get me started.” “Get you started,” Bro. Harold said teasing her a little. “Can’t nobody get you started if you don’t want to get started, woman.” “Well, what you mean embarrassing me like that?” “Embarrassing you? What you mean by that?” Bro. Harold pretended not to know what she was talking about. “You know. Yelling out in church ‘I know a few of them’ when pastor hit on gossipping.” “Oh, that. You just mad ‘cause you guilty. Plus, the Bible says the woman must be quiet in the church and not the man, so as a man I can talk and yell all I want in church.” Bro. Harold could hardly contain himself. He broke out in laughter. “Some love you have for your wife,” muttered Sis. Mills. Pretending not to hear, Bro. Harold went on, “On a serious note though, Gladys, that was a great message. I know I don’t plan on sinning. You might as well make up your mind to stop your sin of gossipping because if you don’t, I’m going to tell Pastor and Mrs. Richardson on you,” to which he burst out laughing. Sis. Mills could not help but to smile. “Get on home so I can get my roast out the slow cooker. It should be well done by now.” “Whatever you say, Ma’am.” ______________________ The Reynolds family was quite talkative on the way home with the exception of Jonathan. “Everything all right, son?” 214


“Sure, Dad. Just thinking.” “Thinking about Monica, are you,” teased Janice. “Janice, be quiet,” said her mother. Bro. Reynolds dropped the family off to get the supper on the table while he and Jonathan took off to the store to pick up his favorite dessert—lemon meringue pie. “Son, you ought to try this one day. Your mother introduced me to it. This is the dessert we had the first time we went out together. Now that we are alone, what’s on your mind?” “Oh, nothing much, I guess.” “You guess? I’m your father. I know you. Get it off your chest.” “You know Monica Montague, Bro. and Sis. Montague’s daughter. I really like her. She’s just different from any other girl I have ever met. As you know, I see her almost every day on campus. I’m kind of drawn to her. Anyway, today I noticed she went to the altar when Pastor gave the invitation and I can’t help but to wonder what sin she might be involved in.” “I see. Are you sure she was confessing a sin?” asked his father. “I really don’t know. But considering the content of the message, I couldn’t help but to think that.” “I think you ought to ask her before jumping to conclusions, son. One thing I want you to be aware of and that is this: you cannot just jump to conclusions about any matter and especially in relationships. Give her the benefit of the doubt and ask her. Your mother and I have always been truthful with each other and that has held us together through some tough times. If we have a question about something we ask. If you are serious about Monica, then you have to be up front with her and if you have a question or concern in your mind about anything, just ask 215


her.” “You’re right, Dad. I should.” “She seems like a good catch,” Bro. Reynolds said as they pulled into the driveway. “By the way, you ought to try this lemon meringue pie today.” “I still do not like lemon, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.” “That’s my boy.” ______________________ “O.k., Sis. Richardson, what secret sin do you have that I don’t know anything about?” Pastor Richardson asked in a light tone. “Believe me, you know everything about me. I just want a child so badly it’s almost unbearable,” Sis. Richardson said in an almost pleading voice. “Honey, God has given us almost three hundred people to care for in the church. The look that Sis. Richardson gave him stopped him. “O.k., I admit I don’t fully know what you’re going through. And I also admit I have not been praying for this matter as often as I should. I promise I’ll be more faithful in praying about it.” Sis. Richardson replied playfully, “I appreciate your prayers, but you need to do more than pray.” After a little chuckle, Pastor Richardson added, “It would be fun having a little Richardson running around the house.” Sis. Richardson smiled. She was glad her husband was beginning to understand.

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Chapter Forty “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us.” I JOHN 4:18-19 Dinner that evening for the Montagues was a pleasant one. Monica retired to her room early for some extra studying. Bro. and Sis. Montague both retired to the family room: him to read his newspaper and her to flip through her Essence Magazine. “Terrence, what’s on your mind?” said Sis. Montague. “You said you were just thinking about the message in the car earlier.” “Yeah. That was a powerful one, if you ask me,” he replied. “I have something to tell you.” Laying the newspaper aside he 217


continued, “I am going to have to quit my job.” “Why?” asked Sis. Montague. “I found out a couple of months back that not only was I delivering computers, but I was also delivering drugs.” “What?” Bro. Montague certainly had her full attention then. “I lie not.” Bro. Montague told her how he stumbled upon this discovery. “Richard, my boss, told me that as long as I keep quiet about it, I’d be all right, meaning he would make sure I’m protected.” “Why didn’t you quit earlier?” “After I found out, I told Richard I wanted to quit but he said I can’t just quit like that—something about me being “in” now. The fellow who used to work before me returned to college; he knew nothing about what was going on.” “Couldn’t you quit and give him your word about not telling anyone about it. I mean, it would be none of your business.” “That’s what I thought, but he said some of the valued customers, (you know those who are dealing) would want to know why I left and whether or not I knew anything. He said that could spell trouble.” “That is crazy. You should be able to leave and mind your own business and they theirs.” “It’s not like that, Stella. They trust you and at the same time they do not trust you. They do not care about how innocent you are. My main reason for not quitting earlier is because I feared what may happen to you and Monica. I just don’t understand how a good man like Richard could get caught up in such a business.” “What do you mean ‘good’?” “He and I talk all the time about God and church and

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Christian living. He seems quite knowledgeable about the Bible.” “That’s weird.” “He told me he did not go to church anymore because God let him down. He did not go into any detail and I did not push him to. He did promise to come to church with me one day. Well, at least he is still open to that.” After a moment’s silence, Sis. Montague asked him what options he had open. She knew him to be a man who, in any situation, had more than one solution to put into action. “Well, apart from quitting, I thought of going straight to the police with the promise of protection from them. But they really cannot assure that. To be honest with you, I really do not want to get Richard in any trouble. He’s a good man. I believe he has some religion somewhere in his background.” “Terrence, sometimes you have to let friendships go to do what is right. I was thinking it may be good to talk with Pastor Richardson. He has contacts—lawyers and all that.” As an after thought she added with a smile, “As far as I know, the position at the church has not been filled yet. Maybe the Lord is allowing this to happen to slide you right on into the job at the church. You told me you would think about it.” “You’re not worried about me quitting, are you?” “Financially—no, because God has always taken care of us. Safety—yes. I hear these drug dealers can be pretty lowdown. I know the Bible says safety is of the Lord, but one can never be too careful.” “I’ve been praying about it but the only answer I seem to be getting is to quit. But you’re right. Maybe I should talk with Pastor Richardson about it. And don’t say anything to Monica

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about it. I do not want her to worry.” ______________________ Bro. Montague made an appointment with Pastor Richardson for that Thursday evening. After exchanging greetings he jumped right into it. “Pastor, I’m in a sticky situation and I do not quite know how to get out of it without possibly causing a stir.” After prayer, Bro. Montague told everything to Pastor Richardson who, being the strong man of faith that he was, saw it as a small matter. “It is not as messy as it seems right now. Things could get worse if we give the devil time to begin digging up some dirt. Let’s stop him while we can. I have a lawyer friend. Let me talk with him tomorrow morning and I’ll give you a call, if not Friday evening, Saturday morning.” Pastor Richardson stayed true to his word and after calling Bro. Montague early Saturday morning arranged with him to meet with him and the lawyer on Monday at 4:30 at the church. “Bro. Montague, it’s not as bad as it may seem. I can understand your treading carefully,” Mr. Pembleton, the lawyer, said after Bro. Montague divulged everything to him including mentioning some of the places he delivered the computers to. “The police have received a few phone calls from a couple saying that they believe something shifty is going on at one of the places you mentioned—nothing real suspicious yet in the police’s eyes. I work closely with the police as a court appointed lawyer. They usually notify me of calls like those in case someone needs a lawyer. Normally those dealing in drugs do not have a lawyer of their own.

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Do you think you could supply me with the addresses of the places you make deliveries especially within the past month?” “Sure,” said Bro. Montague. “Now your boss, Richard, how involved is he?” “All I know is that he puts the powder in the back of the computers. He normally does this in his office by himself. After he secures the cover on, he’ll ask me to help him box them off for delivery.” “I’ll tell you, that’s a very ingenious way to deliver the drugs. I would have never thought of looking in the back of a computer,” Mr. Pembleton said. “When do you normally make the deliveries?” Mr. Pembleton asked. “Sometimes on Fridays, other times on Saturdays and as late as twelve midnight,” said Bro. Montague. “I have a plan formulating in my mind. But first I have to speak with the Judge and the Chief of Police and if you can get those addresses, for me then I’ll let you in on it,” Mr. Pembleton said. “Mr. Pembleton, I’ll help you out in any way that I can, but you have to guarantee the safety of my wife and daughter,” said Bro. Montague with concern. “Sure, we’ll have a couple of police officers every now and then to swing by your place to make sure everything is on the up and up.” “Don’t worry, Bro. Montague. If you all have to move in with us for a while, Sis. Richardson would love the extra company,” piped in Pastor Richardson who had been quiet up to this point. “If not, you could move into the church apartment.”

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“Just stay put where you are for right now. I don’t think you will have to go anywhere. How about we meet here on next Monday same time?” said Mr. Pembleton. “In the meantime, go back to work and act normal. We don’t want to give your boss any room to get suspicious.” Bro. Montague nodded his head in the affirmative. “Well, gentlemen, if there’s nothing else, why don’t we pray and leave it all in God’s hands,” said Pastor Richardson. With that, the men departed, to meet again in seven days time.

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Chapter Forty-One “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgive any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” II CORINTHIANS 2:10-11 “O.k., gentlemen, thank you for coming. Do you have the addresses Bro. Montague?” asked Mr. Pembleton. Bro. Montague retrieved the addresses from his coat pocket. Mr. Pembleton looked them over before laying the paper on the table. “I’ve talked it over with the Chief of Police and the Judge and here’s our plan: This Saturday, three plain clothes policemen will come in at 2:00 p.m. pretending to buy a computer. They’ll haggle with you for a lower price. They’ll ask for Richard, you go and get him and then they’ll show their ID 223


saying it’s a drug bust. They’ll lock the doors, signal some other policemen to block the doors and search the place. One will say, ‘Open up the computers’ and, presto, we’ll have him. Are you game so far?” “Sounds good to me,” Bro. Montague said. “Now, we’ll have to handcuff both of you to throw your boss off. We’ll take you both down to the station in separate cars. We want him to actually see you go in to the station. He’ll think you are being arrested also. Now, don’t let on you know anything about this. You have to act surprised.” “This sounds better than the movies,” Bro. Montague said. Mr. Pembleton continued, “The plain clothes policemen will stop by on Friday pretending to be interested in buying a couple computers for their children. They’ll ask a lot of questions, but they will ask for your business card. All the time they will be surveying the place. Is there a back door?” “Yes, it’s kind of off to the side but in the back.” “One other thing, will you know ahead of time who you’ll be making the deliveries to?” “That I do not know until we package everything unless it’s quite a distance. But the addresses are normally on a computer printout. It may be on his desk.” “Our plan is this: while you and your boss are being driven down to the police station, our plain clothes policemen will make the deliveries and arrest them.” Bro. Montague shook his head from side to side. “It sounds so easy.” “Like I said, it’s not as big as you think it is,” said Pastor Richardson. “I’ll change men’s prayer meeting to 2:00, the same

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time the action is to take place and we’ll bathe the operation in prayer. Remember our God is able, and don’t worry, I’ll just tell the men you asked for special prayer.” “Thank you, Pastor, and thank you so much, Mr. Pembleton,” said Bro. Montague. “The pleasure is all mine,” said Mr. Pembleton. “Here’s my card again. If anything new comes up between now and Saturday, don’t hesitate to give me a call at the office or at home or on my cell phone.” “I sure will,” replied Bro. Montague. “By the way, Pembleton,” said Pastor Richardson, “since I am unsuccessful in getting you to visit our church, why don’t you and your wife join us on the Saturday of Valentine weekend. We’re having a Song of Solomon Love Banquet for all couples inside and outside the church. I’ll reserve a special table for you. Besides you’ll save some dinner money. We’re having it all catered at the church’s expense.” “I sure will take you up on your offer. My church just encouraged all husbands to prepare the family meal or to take the wife out for dinner and give her a break from the kitchen.” “That’s my man. If business is all complete, let’s close in prayer.” ______________________ Bro. Montague was all smiles as he stepped into his living room. “Stella, I’m home. The meeting took longer than I expected but everything is looking on the up and up.” “Great. Tell me all about it after supper. I’ll get Monica to help me. She’s been on the phone with Stacy and Janice. Monica,

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your Dad’s home,” she called out to Monica. “Hi, Dad. I just got off the phone with Stacy. She’s doing fine, loving Florida and hopes to be home for Easter.” “Great. I thank you both for waiting for me. Let me get into something more comfortable.” Sis. Montague and Monica hurried to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on the meal.

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Chapter Forty-Two “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” SONG OF SOLOMON 8:7 Over one hundred couples signed up for the Song of Solomon Love Banquet. Cathy’s Soul Food Restaurant and Catering Services put the meal together. All the ladies had a grand time decorating the Fellowship Hall. The color scheme was Rose Wine offset with pink. Some one hundred round tables were rented from the Party Shop store downtown. The tablecloths— burgundy with pink trimming and pink with burgundy trimming—were placed alternately on each table. The ladies of the church sewed those for special occasions. Burgundy and pink salt and pepper shakers graced the center of each table. Next to each was a single burgundy, pink, or white candle 227


sitting in the middle of three corsages of white, pink, and red and a corsage pin next to them. Rose Wine and pink curtains covered the windows. Three dimly lit lamps stood erect along each wall to keep the atmosphere soft, warm and inviting. The four corners of the room each had a floor lamp with the lights turned toward the ceiling. Everything came together to present a romantic evening. The families of the church were excited and eagerly looked forward to a night never to be forgotten. “After you, Mrs. Wilmington,” said Bro.Wilmington with a sweep of his hand and a slight bow at the waist. “You look marvelous tonight.” “Oh, wrong choice of words, Mr. Wilmington. I don’t look marvellous, I look absolutely stunning.” Sis. Wilmington walked like a model through the door and down the hallway. “You look mighty hot yourself in your tux and shiny bow tie.” “Considering all I’ve put you through, you deserve this night,” said Bro.Wilmington. “No, no, considering the hard time I give you, you deserve this night,” she said giving her husband a loving kiss on the cheek. “Come on. Let’s hurry on out to the church before all the best seats are taken.” ______________________ “Dad, Mom, you both look like you just stepped out of a modeling magazine,” Monica said to her parents. “I feel, how do they say it, debonair, tonight,” said Bro. Montague strutting around like a proud peacock. “You look lovely too,” he said to his daughter. “How does Jonathan feel

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about us giving you a ride to the church?” “He wanted to come pick me up, but he was all right with it. Says he respects your wishes.” “Well, let’s ride on out to the church then. I’m sure he’ll be waiting,” said Bro. Montague. Then looking at Monica with a gleam in his eyes he said, “Do you want your mother and me to sit next to you, you know in case Jonathan tries anything?” “Terrence,” cried Stella with a laugh, “you ought to stop.” “Well, I was kind of hoping you would sit a couple of tables away from us. I think I’ll be a little nervous with you sitting right next to me. This is my first time going on an official date with a rather nice young man. I’m already nervous as it is.” “I’m just kidding with you. I’ll be a couple of tables over so you can have some breathing room. Just ignore us and do your thing." Changing lanes he continued, “Let me give you some tips to help keep the peace ‘cause nobody messes with my baby girl and gets away with it,” he said to Monica once they were settled in the car. “Number one: do not let his leg touch yours so call accidentally under the table. Number two: sit directly opposite from each other and not side by side. Your mother and I can do that but not you two. Isn’t that right?” He looked across at his wife who nodded trying to hold a straight face. “Number three: Keep both your hands on the table where I can see them.” “Oh, Dad.” “Number four: you watch where he puts his hands, and don’t let him touch you because I’ll touch him back.”

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“Terrence, you ought to stop.” Sis. Montague was trying hard to stifle a laugh. “Number five: no kissing goodbye. And number six.” Bro. Montague put some emphasis on the word six. “Don’t let him take you outside for any walk under the moonlight because there ain’t no moon out tonight. Isn’t that right, Stella?” “That’s right, Terrence,” his wife nodded. “But, Monica, what your father is also trying to say is for you to have a great time because he’s afraid he’s losing his baby girl.” “Thank you, Mom. I love you, Dad, and I’ll remember your rules.” “Do you have your ring on?” asked Bro. Montague. “You make sure you flash that thing often.” “Terrence, that’s enough,” said Stella lovingly. “She’s nervous as it is already.” “We’re right on time. There’s Jonathan waiting for my little princess. Go ahead, make me proud of you,” said Bro. Montague waving to Jonathan. “Ah, Dad. Do I let him take my arm and escort me in, you know like I see you and Mom do?” “Rule number six I think it is: no touching of any kind until you are married. No...” “Bye Dad,” said Monica giving her Dad a hug. ______________________ “Gladys, we got to go. You the only woman I know who takes a whole hour to get dressed,” yelled Bro. Harold from the living room. “And you don’t come out looking any better.” “What you just say?” said Sis. Mills walking out of the 230


bedroom. “Oh, nothing. Where you get that dress from? It sure looks pretty.” “Does it look pretty or pretty on me?” “I can tell the truth: it looks pretty on you. Now, let’s go so we don’t be late. You know I have to drive slow.” “Harold, you look good yourself.” “Thank you, Gladys. Now, let’s act like we young teenagers and we really in love with each other.” Bro. Harold took her by the arm. “I’ll get the car door for you.” “O.k., Harold. I’ll be good tonight.” ______________________ Ron and Rebecca were about ten minutes early. They sat close to the front where a podium was set. Soft music was playing in the background. “You know, Ron, this is the first church I’ve felt comfortable in since we’ve been married. This is truly a Godsent church. Just what we’ve been praying for. I’ve been thinking, I really would like to look into teaching in the school they have started. There are still some positions open.” “With your Masters degree, you could apply for the Assistant Director position,” her husband said. “Do you really think so?” “Sure. But we’ll talk about it some more. Just enjoy yourself tonight. By the way, you look lovely.” “Thank you,” said Rebecca trying hard not to blush. ______________________ Pastor and Sis. Richardson were sitting at the head table 231


across from the guest speaker and his wife, Bro. and Sis. Nezbach. Mr. Pembleton was there with his wife. Plans for the evening were simple: there would be a prayer, song, and a special word from Pastor and Sis. Richardson. After that, there would be a special song and then a word from the guest speaker, Bro. Nezbach. The evening would end with dinner and fellowship. “For those of you men who are still figuring out why three corsages are sitting in the middle of your table, let me break the mystery: it is for you to pin on your fiancee’ or wife or whoever you are blessed to be with tonight. Choose the one you think will best match her outfit—use all three if you wish.” The ladies’ faces all lit up. “Don’t prick her now and upset the mood,” Pastor Richardson added jovially. Jonathan picked up the red corsage. “Do you mind?” he asked Monica. “I think you’ll look beautiful with this one.” Monica glanced over to her father, who nodded his head. “No, go right ahead,” she said a little nervously but with a smile. She noticed that Jonathan’s hands were slightly shaking. “I just hope I do not prick you,” he said in a low tone close to a whisper. Monica tried not to look directly at him but she could not help it. He was wearing a soft cologne. His skin was smooth and gave no indication of a person who shaved. He stood a half head above her. His hair was low cut as he normally wore it. His almond colored skin had a baby smoothness to it. He had the whitest teeth she could ever recall any one having. She had never really taken notice of his features before having known him for almost seven months now. Without any effort at all their eyes met as he stood back to examine his work of art. For a split second it seemed as though her world stopped. 232


Quickly lowering her eyes, she managed a sheepish smile. “Thank you,” she said. “You are quite welcome. If it feels a little crooked that’s because it is probably crooked. I have never had to do this before. No, I take that back. I chaperoned Janice to her graduation ball. She asked me to pin her corsage on and I stuck her with the pin.” “Really? I bet she let you have it real good.” “Did she ever. Any way, the red looks beautiful on you.” “Thank you, Jonathan. You look lovely yourself.” Monica glanced in her parents’ direction. Bro. Montague nudged his wife. “Did you see that?” “See what?” asked his wife. “How they just now looked at each other. I know that look.” “The look you gave me when we first met.” Sis. Montague smiled. “Yeah,” grinned Bro. Montague, “that kind of look.” “Terrence, let the children enjoy each other. Face it, she’s growing up and Jonathan’s no little boy. Just think about me tonight and when we first met and our first date and our first you-know-what. Can you?” “That I can certainly do,” he said putting on his bass voice and turning his attention to Sis. Richardson who was now standing beside her husband to speak. “Ladies, you all look beautiful tonight.” “So do you, Sis. Richardson,” interjected Pastor. “Doesn’t she look lovely tonight, folks? Give the Lord a hand clap of praise for Sis. Richardson.” The audience gave a hearty round of applause for this great woman of God who had labored with her husband 233


without any complaints in the work there at New Mt. Zion. “Let me hurry and say what I have to say before Pastor embarasses me any more. I thank each and every one of you for being a tremendous help to Pastor and myself down through the years. You have laughed with us; you have cried with us; and many times you are the reason for us going on. As you know the Lord has not blessed me and Pastor with our own children—not yet any way. But we do thank you all for allowing us to be a mother and father to you. We love you all, and this night is for you so enjoy yourselves.” “We love you too, Mom and Dad,” said some of the couples with smiles, laughter, and tears. Bro. Nezbach shared some encouraging words on men leading their homes in a loving way, and ladies having a meek and quiet spirit as they follow their husbands. He encouraged the husbands and wives to make a new commitment to each other. “I guess that’s not for us,” said Jonathan to Monica. “Yeah,” replied Monica. “Do you want to get married and have children some day?” asked Jonathan. “I’m open for it with lots of children.” “Hold on now,” interrupted Jonathan. “When you say ‘lots of children’ how many do you have in mind?” “At least four, five, seven—how ever many the Lord wishes for me...” Monica stopped in mid-sentence. “What are you staring at? Is there food on my chin?” She proceeded to wipe at her chin with the napkin. “Oh, forgive me. I didn’t mean to stare. You just look so beautiful tonight...as you always do.” Monica lowered her eyes to her plate. She could feel the blood flowing into her cheeks. She felt warm and fuzzy on the 234


inside. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” Jonathan straightened in his chair. “But you do look even more beautiful with your flushed cheeks.” After a moment’s silence he continued on. “I love this type of music. It just sets the right tone.” They talked just about everything under the sun. Monica found out they loved just about the same things except for lemon meringue pie. Both liked hymns and appreciated the hip-hop music as long as it was clearly Christian. Both liked a good movie that was true to life—Monica more family oriented; Jonathan more action packed. Both liked peace and quiet. The more they talked the more she felt comfortable being around him. After dinner was well under way and coming to a close, Pastor Richardson interrupted with a funny remark: “For those of us who used to grace the clubs on Valentine’s Day and on other holidays before we got saved, there won’t be any dancing in this House tonight. Now, if you want to boogie and get down tonight, once you get home behind closed doors, just as husband and wife, personally I do not see anything wrong with that. Notice, I said husband and wife. Those of you who are here with a boyfriend or girlfriend, after you leave here go to your separate place of abode. In other words, do not go to the same place for any reason whatsoever. Do not pull up in the park somewhere for an extension of this romantic night because ain’t no moon out tonight—only perverts and thieves.” Amens went out all across the Fellowship Hall. Monica could not help but laugh remembering her Dad had used the same phrase with her: “ain’t no moon out tonight.” “Just keeping it real folks. Just keeping it real. We might be 235


saved, but we’re still humans subject to passions. Isn’t that right?” “That’s right, Pastor,” came from the back. “We too old for passionate passions.” Bro. Harold said this to his wife but loud enough for many including Pastor to hear. “Never say ‘too old’,” answered Pastor. Some of the men high-fived each other. Jonathan and Monica could hardly contain themselves. He loved to see her smile not to mention seeing her get a good laugh. Her face had a radiance about it. “On a serious note, though,” Pastor Richardson continued, “I have to preach tomorrow so Sis. Richardson and myself will be heading on home in a few minutes. I need a couple of men to stay behind with Bro. Reynolds and make sure all the catering equipment is neatly put up, all the food put away and everything that needs to be trashed in the trash bags and to lock up. Ladies, don’t you worry about any full cleaning. We’ll get some volunteers in on tomorrow to do so. Just enjoy the remainder of your evening. Stay as long as you want, but I’ll be looking for you in church tomorrow.” After a while, the crowd began to dwindle. Bro. and Sis. Montague along with the Campbells and a few others stayed behind to lock up. “Well, Monica, I do thank you for a lovely evening. I tremendously enjoyed your company,” said Jonathan as he arose to slide her chair out from under her. “I’ll walk you to your parents.” “Thank you for a great evening,” said Monica with one of her winning smiles.

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Her mother gave her a hug. “Bro. and Sis. Montague, thank you for allowing me the priviledge of taking your daughter out,” he said giving them each a handshake. He shook Monica’s hand firmly with an “I’ll see you in church tomorrow, if you can wake up.” He went off to help his Dad and the men who were helping to clean the room. It was 12:30 a.m. before the last car pulled out of the parking lot. It had been a great evening, one that Monica would never forget.

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Chapter Forty-Three “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” PROVERBS 27:5-6 The drug bust had gone smoothly, maybe too smoothly. Bro. Montague was sent home the same evening but was told to stay put until the court date which was set for Tuesday, March 4th at 10:00. Richard and some of his ‘customers’ had been in jail for about three weeks now. Bro. Montague had to go in and testify against Richard, which he did not particularly care to do, but had to. Mr. Pembleton would be his lawyer. Richard did not refute anything Bro. Montague said in court. In fact, Bro. Montague was almost certain he saw a sign of relief on Richard’s face who gave him a quick nod of the head when their eyes met as though some mutual understanding was exchanged. Because 239


Richard had cooperated, he was given a light sentence—four months in jail and six months of community service. Bro. Montague and Richard had often talked about the Bible and God and the truths of Christianity. Richard, surprisingly, could quote just as much Scripture as Bro. Montague and quote them quite well. He often talked about having grown up in the church, taking part in youth activities, going on men’s retreats and even helping to teach the young boys group. But something happened that pulled him away from the church. He came close to sharing it with Bro. Montague a few times, but always changed his mind. He seemed a little bitter at times. Bro. Montague knew he still had an interest in the church because almost every Monday he would greet Bro. Montague with a “Well, what did the preacher have to say yesterday, Terrence?” Or “Got any good news from yesterday for me?” On Thursdays he would ask Bro. Montague, “Did you pray for me on last night, brother?” Bro. Montague prayed for him every day since he got the job. He hated to see him put away like this. Thank God it was only for ten months. Maybe he could continue his computer business (minus the drugs) after he was released. Richard is a good brother and maybe I could help him out by keeping the business open and run it clean until his ten months are up so he’ll have something to fall on once he’s released, Bro. Montague thought. Bro. Montague put the whole matter in God’s hands, thanking Him for delivering him out of that situation. He could begin his own business. He had the know-how and a small amount of cash to invest. He could, on the other hand, take the job at the church and would, in a sense, “run” the church through the computer. That would come quite easy to him.

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Pulling up into the parking lot of his old job, he wondered what direction God would have him to go in. Seeing it was 2:00 p.m., he decided to stop by to see Pastor Richardson and talk things over with him. As usual, Pastor was happy to see him. “What can I do for you, Bro. Montague?” “Well, Pastor, I want to thank you once again for coming through for me. But I wanted to ask your advice on a few things.” Bro. Montague shared with him his dilemma and the three options before him. Pastor was excited. “Brother, I believe with all my heart that God pulled you away from those two jobs to place you here. The position here is open, if you really want it. Right now, Bro. Reynolds, with the help of his son, is doing all the computer work for us. I have to pull him away to do other things, and especially with the church steadily growing as it is, I need him full-time in other areas. Don’t give up this opportunity. It’s still open. It pays well and you have other benefits that come along with it,” added Pastor with a smile. “Don’t I have to fill out any paper work?” asked Bro. Montague. “The job is yours. I’ll have the secretary to give you the paper work. You can fill that out and give it back to her. But consider the job yours,” assured Pastor. “Just like that?” Bro. Montague could not believe it. “Well, unless you want me to have them check your criminal record,” Pastor Richardson said jokingly. “Don’t worry about that. We only check criminal records for anyone who wants to work in the nursery, day care, or school.” Pastor Richardson paged his secretary to have the papers ready for Bro. Montague.

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“Since I know your situation, you don’t have to worry about that. My thing is, you came clean on your own. You can begin on Monday, and you’ll have your own personal office and any computer software or other equipment that you need. I trust your judgement. Just let me know and I’ll give the okay. I’m sure your wife and daughter will be glad to help you fix it up; you know, give it a feminine touch. If they are like Sis. Richardson, they’ll probably take over your office.” Both men agreed with a laugh. “Pastor, they will be glad to take it over. I can’t wait to let them know.” “You have already filled the requirements for working at this church: make sure you are saved and are attending services regularly and you will be required to pass out Gospel tracts in the neighborhood and give a report, and of course attend men’s prayer meeting on Saturdays.” “Pastor, you’re ringing my doorbell now. Ever since you got us back on track about telling people about Jesus, I feel bad if one day goes by and I don’t tell someone about Jesus. There is a joy I cannot explain when I tell someone about the Lord.” “Brother, you hit it right on the head. That is what I want the people of New Mt. Zion to experience. Right now, the soul winning fire is shining brightly and as long as I am pastor I’ll do everything I can to keep it burning. And I want a staff who loves telling people about Jesus.” “Amen, Pastor.” “That’s what it is all about. As for your other two options: Don’t you dare go near that job of yours. Right now, you can help your boss by praying for him. The police will have the place under surveillance for a while. I’ll be more than happy to

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help you begin your own computer business. We might even invest in it to help you get started when you decide to open shop. I know you already have a customer base right here at the church.” “You don’t have to, Pastor. Plus, it may be a while before I even get started.” “It’s no problem. As Christians we are supposed to help each other. The world is helping the world. Pembleton might be able to help you with whatever paperwork you may need or at least guide you in the right direction. He specializes in just about every aspect of the legal field. Or the Better Business Bureau should be able to help you. Keep me abreast of your decision. But whatever route you go, I still want you to remain on staff here.” “Well, I’ll not keep you any longer especially since I came on the spur of the moment.” After the men prayed, they shook hands and parted ways. Bro. Montague was at complete peace now, especially since he was in God’s will for him and his family.

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Chapter Forty-Four “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abideth notinher house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)� PROVERBS 7:10-12 Bro. Reynolds kissed his wife good bye with the promise to return to take her out to lunch at 12:30. Janice and Jonathan had already left for school. They would drop James off on their way to school. The secretary was already in place when he walked in the door. She had some phone calls for him to return. After prayer with Pastor Richardson, Bro. Montague, some of the teaching staff, the secretary and a few others who turned up voluntarily for prayer, and after going over a few preliminaries with Pastor Richardson, he started his day. Precisely at 10:22 he dialed a number that the secretary had 245


passed on to him. It had no name attached to it. “Hi, Dwayne. I’ve been waiting for you to call.” Bro. Reynolds’ first impulse was to hang up the phone, but he decided against it. “What do you want?” “Oh, you know. My husband’s finally out of my life. I filed for divorce two weeks ago. I decided to stay away from you until I got that solidified. So I am all yours.” “Such a pity. Such a pity. I take it you want some comfort and some counseling.” Bro. Reynolds decided to play along with her for a while. “Hey, you hit it right on the head. That’s what I like about you. You are so insightful. So would you be my counselor?” she asked with expectation. “Tell you what. Why don’t I call your pastor and set up an appointment for you. Or better yet, you could have a telephone counseling session with my wife who I know feels very sorry for you. Or...” “My pastor already knows about the divorce.” Caroline wanted to put a stop to whatever suggestions he had to offer. She wanted to be the one to tell him what to do. “Oh, really. Did he give you the o.k.?” asked Bro. Reynolds. Apparently Caroline had forgotten that he used to serve at her church and he knew quite well that the pastor did not approve of husbands and wives getting divorced, and would never give the okay on it unless it was for adultery. “I really do not want to go there.” She was rather abrupt. “Why not? It would let me know which way to go with our counseling session.” “All right. He was against it but he didn’t get the full

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picture. My husband just did not treat me right and tried to cover it up when we spoke with the pastor. He always wanted his own way.” “No, Caroline.” Apparently she had forgotten Bro. Reynolds knew her husband. “I believe he got the full picture. The truth is, you are a spoiled brat who always wants your own way. You throw a tantrum just like a little child when you can’t get what you want and I’m glad God delivered me from your grip.” Caroline was boiling underneath her skin. Bro. Reynolds was having fun. He was not going to show her any mercy. The gall of her trying to come back into his life to mess up his family. Any woman who would do that was not worth giving the time of the day. “Well,” said Caroline, obviously hurt, “you really do not know me. But anyway, I called because I have a surprise for you this Sunday.” “Right, and what might that be?” asked Bro. Reynolds with suspicion. “Keep your eyes and ears open on Sunday. Bye.” Bro. Reynolds shared the conversation with his wife over lunch. None of them could put a finger on what she meant by her last statement: ‘Keep your eyes and ears open on Sunday.’ “She may be planning on being in services on Sunday,” said Sis. Reynolds. “But whatever the case, I think you need to tell Pastor Richardson because I think that lady is losing her mind.” Back at the church, Bro. Reynolds shared the conversation with Pastor Richardson. “The devil is like a roaring lion and right now he is roaring real loud. He does not like what we are doing

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here, Brother. He does not like us pulling people out of his kingdom and placing them in God’s kingdom. He’s hitting on other families as well. We must be prepared for anything,” said Pastor Richardson. “Pastor, I hate to bring you into something that took place in my life months ago. You were gracious enough to give me the assistant pastor’s position, but I had no idea...” “Brother, you’re part of the family now and we look out for each other. None of us knew she would still be trying to chase after you. Some women are desperate. Anyway, let’s pray earnestly about this and not get diverted. I would keep this quiet if I were you. We don’t know if she has any contacts here at this church or not.” ______________________ Bro. Reynolds turned up for church early on Sunday morning. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Services were well under way, and no sooner had Pastor Richardson stood in the pulpit to begin the sermon than in strolled Caroline Martin—all fixed up. Her hair was up in a French bun; her lips were painted in bright red; her mascara was as thick as pencil lead; the earrings hanging from her ears were about two inches in diameter; she was skimpily clad in a red dress with spaghetti straps; the dress ended above the middle of her thighs. One could not tell whether or not she had on stockings and her slippers sported a three inch high heel. Pastor Richardson, the discerning man that he was, picked up immediately that this may just be Caroline Martin set out to give Bro. Reynolds the surprise of his life on Sunday

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morning. If attention is what she wants, then attention is what she will get.“Come on in. You’re right on time for the most important part of our services—the preaching of God’s Word. Amen, everyone?” He looked across to Bro. Reynolds who sometimes sat in the pulpit area with him. Their eyes met with a ‘that’s her’ look. Caroline purposely strolled up to the front pew, looking for a spot to sit down. Some kind gentleman gave up his seat in the second row at the end of the pew which she reluctantly took. Her eyes never shifted from off Bro. Reynolds. She crossed her legs with her foot sticking out into the aisle. Bro. Reynolds looked across to his wife. There were some snickerings from some in the congregation. Pastor Richardson nodded to one of the older ladies in the front row; it was the signal for her to discreetly give one of the neatly folded cloths she kept within reach to Caroline to place over her lap and over her knees. Caroline took the cloth, but refused to cover herself with it. Bro. Reynolds had a difficult time containing himself, so he went on down to sit with his wife and children while the Scripture passage was being read. He raised his eyebrows at his wife and shrugged his shoulders which was as much to say, “Don’t ask me.” Several of the men lowered their eyes and heads, some to hide the smile that was seeping out; others out of embarrassment. The ladies definitely were embarrassed. Sis. Montague could not help it as an “Oh, my goodness” escaped her lips. Sis. Bettie, who was sitting off to the side up front turned all the way around in an attempt to catch Sis. Mills’ eye. “Don’t move an inch,” Bro. Harold warned between gritted teeth, knowing her and Sis. Bettie all too well. In

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spite of this distraction, Pastor Richardson preached just as any other Sunday and managed to keep the attention of the crowd. Bro. and Sis. Reynolds left discreetly while the invitation was being given. They wanted nothing to do with this woman. Pastor Richardson positioned himself at the front exit as he normally did after each service with Sis. Richardson at his side. Both shook Caroline’s hand as she approached them. “Good to have you and thank you for visiting with us today,” Pastor Richardson said. “If we can be of help to you in any way, please let my wife know. Did you fill out a visitor’s card?” “As a matter of fact she can,” said Caroline, completely ignoring the question. Stepping off to the side with Sis. Richardson she continued, “I’m a good friend of Dwayne Reynolds and I was wondering, is he still here? I thought I saw him earlier.” “He had to leave early but I can give him a message.” “Well, could I get his home phone number or his address?” “We don’t give out the home numbers or addresses of staff members.” A disappointed look flooded Caroline’s face. She left in somewhat of a huff. Why, that negro skipped out on me like that. I drove three hours to get here and he runs out on me. Little does he know that next Sunday is another Sunday and I do not give up easily.

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Chapter Forty-Five “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.” PSALM 139:1-3 “She certainly made her statement,” Sis. Reynolds said once they were behind closed doors. “What’s going on in her mind?” “I wouldn’t know. You’re a woman,” Bro. Reynolds said with a smile. “You might know.” “Don’t you put me in that group. On a serious note though, she is desperate for you and I know why,” finished Sis. Reynolds in a sing-song way. “You’re tall, good-looking, caring, and everything a woman could hope for in a man.”

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“Tell me more,” said Bro. Reynolds. “I like what I am hearing.” Sis. Reynolds took his head between her hands and ended with, “Pride. I see pride swelling up.” They both fell over on the bed in fits of laughter. ______________________ “Monica, promise me you will never dress like that,” said Sis. Montague. “I do not know this woman, but I am embarrassed for her.” Bro. Montague nodded in agreement. “She’s just trying to catch a man,” Bro. Montague said. “Monica, I’m a man and I’m telling you, if you want a decent man, one who will respect you for you and love you for you, dress modestly. You keep yourself covered up. You can show him all he needs to see on your wedding night, but not before then.” “Yes, Sir.” “No decent man who is about anything wants a woman who shows everything she’s got. If he marries her, then he has nothing to look forward to. One thing I can say about your mother, she kept every part of her covered up. I only saw her face and hands before we got married. If she had ever showed her body like that woman I would never have married her. No, ma’am, I wouldn’t.” “Monica,” said Sis. Montague turning to look at her daughter. “Don’t you embarrass yourself and us like that.” After a moment’s silence Sis. Montague said, “Let’s just pray for her because we don’t know what’s going on in her life.”

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______________________ Sis. Mills and Sis. Bettie almost talked Bro. Harold’s ears off on the way home from the church. “That there woman is going to burn in hell,” said Sis. Bettie. “I know it. Where does she think she was going?” Sis. Mills said. “She made the wrong turn because this certainly was not the club.” “Did you see how bright that lipstick was! And that dress ought to go back to wherever she got it from. She didn’t even want to put the cloth over her lap,” said Sis. Bettie. “Over her lap. She need all the cloths to cover every part of her up. Whatever happen to the days of modesty for a young lady? I mean these young ladies now-a-days have no shame at all,” said Sis. Mills. “Will you two stop cackling about this woman in red. Maybe the Holy Spirit got a hold of her from wherever she was coming from and brought her to the church to give her a better life. But for the grace of God, you two and myself included, would still be out in the clubs and too drunken-tired to even think about coming to church.” Bro. Harold’s look told them not to even respond. “You ought to feel sorry for her.” ______________________ “What do you think about our new visitor?” asked Sis. Wilmington nudging her husband who was lost in his own thoughts. “Oh, her? She got me thinking.” “What about?” asked Sis. Wilmington.

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“About Stacy. I am beginning more and more to believe we made a mistake sending her off like that. I know Eli and Dee will watch over her as best they can, but they cannot do it like we can. I really do not know what she’s doing in Florida and, frankly, you don’t either. We’ve tried to train her right, but she was always strong willed.”Sis. Wilmington nodded in agreement as Bro. Wilmington continued.“She’s still not being open with me. I don’t believe she’s being completely open with you either. Eli told me he has not spoken to her in the past seven days and she was not in church this past Sunday.” “Well, the campus has a church. She may have gone there.” “I know the campus has a church that it recommends for its students, but I don’t know. Something just does not feel right. I’m going to talk with Monica to find out anything new. I’m sure they’ve been in touch with each other.” Bro. Wilmington cleared his throat. “I think we should go down and bring her on home.” Sis. Wilmington was beginning to see eye to eye with her husband. “Well, let her finish off this semester. The school year is almost over with.” “I agree. I just hope nothing happens between now and then. I guess we should just pray some more for her protection.” ______________________ “You handled that well, Wanda,” said Pastor to his wife. “The pleasure was all mine. Do you think she’ll visit us again?” “I believe she will. I could look at her and tell she does not give up without a fight. She actually drove three hours

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to get here for nothing,” said Pastor with a smile. “You should have seen the look of disappointment on her face when I told her Bro. Reynolds had to leave early and that I could not give her his address.” “Yeah, Bro. Reynolds made a smart move by leaving early. Remind me to give him a call when we get home.” At the stoplight, Pastor Richardson reached over for his wife’s hand. She smiled at him. “You know, your skin looks so light and it has a certain glow to it. What are you shining about underneath the skin?” “Life, I guess. I didn’t want to say anything--not yet, anyway. I missed my cycle this past month. I’m waiting to see if it will be the same this month. I may be pregnant. I didn’t want to say anything yet so keep it quiet until I see the doctor.”

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Chapter Forty-Six “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” PROVERBS 18:24 “Monica, phone call. It’s Jonathan,” said her mother sticking her head through the door. “Keep it short.” “Thank you, Mom. I will.” Placing her pen inside her Biology book she picked up the phone. “Hi, Jonathan.” “Hi, Monica, I know I just saw you earlier today, but I just wanted to chat with you a bit more—unless you are busy.” “Not really. I was just studying, but I need to take a break. How are you doing since we last spoke?” They spoke about the upcoming graduation and the possibility of going online over the next couple of years. Jonathan gave her the info on how the online school worked. “If I can 257


take you out to lunch tomorrow, we can stop off at the library and I can show you how this online thing works further. There’s nothing to it. Janice is thinking of going that route also. With that, you have better management of your time. And it certainly cuts back on the commute back and forth to campus. Most universities and colleges are going this route. Are we on for lunch tomorrow?” “Hold on, let me ask my Mom.” Monica was back in no time. “It’s fine with her if it’s fine with my Dad.” “I’m headed out to the church to pick my Dad up, I can ask your Dad then, unless you would rather ask him.” “You can ask him. I’ll await your call. I have to get back to the books. Give your family my love and if nothing happens I’ll see you tomorrow.” No sooner had Monica hung up the phone than it rang again. It was Stacy. “Stacy, it’s been a while. What have you been up to?” “Monica, forgive me for not keeping in touch as I told you I would but college life takes up so much time especially now that I’m getting ready for finals. So, how is everything going?” “Don’t I know all about it. I’m busy studying every waking moment. For the latest news update, Jonathan asked me out to eat. As you know, we’ve been talking regularly. We went out to the Valentine’s Banquet together. It was a night I will never forget.” “I’m very happy for you. I told you he would be a good catch.” “Did you get the sermon tape I sent you on the ‘Pull and Power of Sin’?” asked Monica. “Yes, I did. I just now listened to it a few days back. I wish I had listened to it earlier. It would have steered me away from

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some hard things.” “Like what?” Stacy was quiet. She did not know how to continue. “Come on, Stacy. This is Monica. You tell me everything. You’re not hiding anything from me, are you? What do you mean by ‘hard things’?” After a deep sigh, Stacy went on. “Monica, I’m pregnant.” It was Monica’s turn to be quiet. She sat up quickly on her bed where she had been lying down. After she pulled herself together she said, “Stacy, tell me you’re kidding. Are you really?” “Oh, Monica, I wish I could. I wish I could.” Stacy told her how it all happened trying to hold back the tears. “I don’t know how I let it happened. I just don’t know.” “Have you told anyone about it?” “No. You’re the only person I’ve told.” “What about Robert? Have you said anything to him? “No. Not yet. I really don’t know how he’ll take it...” “Well, as the father, he has to take it. I’m sure he knew what he was doing,” Monica said out of frustration, upset that this happened to Stacy. “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know. One side of me wants to have the baby, and the other side of me wants an abortion.” “Stacy, you know abortion is wrong!” “That’s what I am struggling with. I can’t handle a child and go to school at the same time—at least not way down here by myself. My plans for college did not include a baby.” Monica heard her voice starting to break. “It’s easy to stand against something when you’re not directly involved in it, but it’s a different story when you are involved in it. I don’t know how I

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am going to face my parents.” By this time Stacy was in tears again. “Stacy, I think you should have the baby and I also think you should tell your parents. You should tell Robert because you shouldn’t have to carry this all by yourself. I’ve known you to be a strong person who will eventually do the right thing.” “I can’t tell them especially with things the way they are between my Dad and me,” said Stacy. “What do you mean? You told me you were going to talk with him and get things right.” “I’m sorry, Monica. I had every intention on doing so, but when I got ready to I just felt so angry. I...I...” “Stacy, all I know is you need to get things right with your Dad and you’re going to have to tell them about the pregnancy.” Monica’s voice took on a more serious tone. “I think you should look up on the Internet about abortion and pray hard about it before you go that route. I’ll pray with you.” A knock on her door interrupted their conversation. It was Bro. Montague letting her know he was home and to come on down for supper. She said goodbye to Stacy making her promise to call or email her at least once a day. She gave her Dad a hug and after the blessing he said to her, “Jonathan asked me if he could take you out for lunch tomorrow. Now, I respect that. He respected me enough to get my permission and he came to me with confidence and humility. I like that. This is good eating, Stella.” “Thank you,” said his wife. Monica waited in anticipation for her Dad to tell her his decision but he kept on eating.“Aah, Terrence, I think Monica would like to know your decision,” said Sis. Montague.

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“Decision about what?” Bro. Montague placed a puzzled look on his face. “Stop messing around,” she said with a smile. “Oh, that. I thought you were on the phone with him when I came home. I figured he was so excited he couldn’t wait for me to tell you. I told Jonathan he could...he could...he could...take you out.” “Thank you, Dad,” said Monica beaming. “My rules still stand: no touching, no holding hands, and I want you back at the church by 3:00, young lady. I’ll take you to school and you both can leave from there to lunch and let him take you to the church after that and I’ll take you home. Do not stop by his house or come by here. And keep your cell phone on.” Monica shared with her parents all that Stacy had shared with her. The news was shocking to them.“This is why we want you home as you go through college. Away from home you can fall into the trap of some fast talking dude who can trick you into thinking he loves you and wants the best for you, and then after he takes advantage of you leaves you for another girl. This makes me so mad. The devil’s got one in.” Bro. Montague shook his head in disbelief. “Monica, you had better tell your mother and me everything you and Jonathan do and where you go before you even go there. It would break my heart if that were to happen to you.” At family devotions that night, each of them poured out their hearts to God for protection for Stacy and that she would make the right decision. They also prayed for Bro. and Sis. Wilmington that God would strengthen them and prepare them for this disturbing news.

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Chapter Forty-Seven “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” PSALM 139:14-16 Monica and Jonathan had a great time together. He had her back at the church by 2:44. Her father was very pleased. She spent the rest of the afternoon in his office telling him all that took place. As soon as she got home she checked her email to see whether or not Stacy had contacted her. She did. The message read: WENT TO THE CLINIC TODAY. Monica’s heart 263


dropped. She hoped and prayed that Stacy had not gone through with an abortion. Stacy was up all night after speaking with Monica. She was thinking about the conversation they both had had. She felt kind of bad about not telling Monica she had an appointment the next day at the clinic. She called Robert who agreed to meet her at the entrance to the library at 10:15 after her first class. He was a little late, but that just gave her more time to rehearse how she would break the news to him. “Hi, Babe,” he said giving her a kiss on the cheek. “We have to talk,” said Stacy, “and let me say all I have to say before you interrupt.” She pointed to a bench away from the front door. She took a deep breath as they sat down. “Robert, I’m pregnant, about two months, and you’re the father.” She raised her hands to silence him. “Think back to Valentine’s Day and all we did before you protest. And for the record, you are the first and only person I’ve had sex with, so it will be easier on both of us if you just accept it. You can talk now.” Stacy looked off into the parking lot. Robert kept shaking his head from side to side. He punched his fist into his book bag a couple times before saying anything. “Oh, man. Are you sure?” “Yes. Positive. I did the home test twice and both times it was positive.” “What am I going to do? Are you absolutely sure?” “What am I going to do?” asked Stacy. “How about, what are we going to do? I have a two o’clock appointment today at the clinic...” “Now you’re talking. You did the right thing by going to the clinic. They can abort it before you know it, and we can go

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on with our lives. Frankly, I can’t afford a baby right now— not with going to school and all that. Just tell them it was a mistake. None of our parents will have to know anything. I...” “I just need you to take me down there.” She could not believe he was saying what he was saying. “I can do that, but I cannot stay. I can come back and pick you up, though.” Promptly at 2:00, Robert dropped her off at the clinic. She was greeted by Ms. Jackson who, after filling out the necessary paperwork, led her to a waiting room. Only one other girl was there—a young girl about fifteen, maybe sixteen years of age. Stacy could see the fear in her eyes. On the wall were pictures with the different stages of pregnancy. Stacy studied each picture from her seat—too scared to get up. She could not believe how real, how human-like each picture of the developing baby was. She thumbed through a Christianity Today magazine that gave testimonials of young ladies of different ages who had had an abortion. Each said the same thing— they regretted the abortion and wished they could go back and undo it. She was escorted to another room where she and the other girl viewed two films. The first, an abortion film, was cut and dry. The second film was put together by a Christian organization. It showed the live baby in the mother’s womb as it developed. Stacy saw the lungs, the heart, the brain, the bones, the tiny fingers and toes. She heard the heart beating, saw the eyes blink, and actually saw the unborn baby place its thumb in its mouth. She saw one leg kick out in a reflex action. The film ended with the actual birth of the baby. “She’s so adorable,” whispered Stacy as the tears welled up in her eyes. She looked over at the other girl. Their eyes met in a knowing

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way. The other girl quickly looked away. Stacy sat in a daze. It was as though she was glued to the seat. She could not go through with it. She actually saw a real live unborn baby and she was more convinced than ever that she was carrying a live human being. What would she tell Robert? He was expecting her to go through with it. The other girl walked out the room abruptly, slamming the door as she left. Ms. Jackson walked in silently and turned off the film. She noticed the tears that were now flowing down Stacy’s cheeks. She put an arm around her shoulders and rocked her back and forth to comfort her. “I’ll pray with you, Stacy. God will bring you through this.” By the end of the prayer, Stacy was sobbing uncontrollably. She was glad Ms. Jackson was there. That was all she needed right then—a hug. Between tears, she managed to tell Ms. Jackson all that was on her heart including what was happening between her and her father. “I’m a Christian. How did I let this happen?” “Even Christians do wrong every now and then, but praise God He is a forgiving God. Have you spoken to God about it?” Stacy shook her head, no. “Why don’t you confess it all to Him right now. Tell Him you are sorry for the way you have been treating your Dad. Tell Him you are sorry for disrespecting and being rude toward your Dad. Tell Him you did wrong by having sex outside of marriage. Then ask Him to forgive you. Ask Him to help you make things right with your parents. Ask Him to bring you through this pregnancy, and to bless you with a healthy baby. God understands. He just wants you to tell it all to Him.” Stacy prayed as best she could and let it all out to God. She began to feel God’s presence in her life once again. She had, in

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just a few short months, put Him on the back shelf. She sat there for a few minutes wondering how she would tell Robert about her decision. Ms. Jackson gave her a small New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs. She randomly opened it and started reading in Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” She felt much better as she got her phone out to call Robert. She told him of her decision as they drove to the campus. Stacy braced herself as he swerved sharply to the right. “Are you trying to get us all killed?” “You said you were going to get the abortion!” “No, I did not say that. You told me to get it. I did not answer you.” Stacy was not in the mood for any arguing. “Right now, I want you to drop me off at my room. I am tired and would like to get some rest. I still have some more studying to do. And just for the record, we both say we are Christians. We should have never done what we did in the first place. We can’t make it right by trying to cover it up by murdering a baby. You can deny it all you want, but I am not. I am pregnant and you are the father.” “How do I know for sure that I am the father?” he muttered. “I don’t have time to argue with you. I have turned my back on God these past few months and it’s obvious that you have too. God spoke to me at the clinic and I can’t continue in the way that I was going. It’s making me miserable. I want my Christianity to go back to being real. If you are honest, you’ll tell God that you sinned as well and you want to make it right.” “Girl, I don’t need you preaching at me!” said Robert as they pulled in front of the dormitory.

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“You can call me if you want to,” said Stacy as she reached for the lock. “Don’t feel like you have to. My mind is made up and you can walk with me or away from me. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Bye.” Robert grabbed her arm as she pushed the door. “Please reconsider. It’s not too late.” Stacy sighed but said nothing. Once in her room she stretched out across her bed with phone in hand preparing to call Monica. “Thank you, Jesus,” she sighed. She thought back to the films she saw and rehearsed the conversation with Ms. Jackson. She fell off to a much needed peaceful sleep.

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Chapter Forty-Eight “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” PSALM 62:5 It was close to 8:30 when Stacy awakened. She laid there for a few minutes wondering whether or not to call Monica or just to email her. She decided to do both. The email read: Monica, in case you do not answer your cell phone tonight. I went to the clinic. Everything is O.K. I’m going to keep the baby. Thanks for your prayers. Will be home for easter. Please pray that I get it right with my parents. Thanks for your friendship. I love you. Monica had just finished supper and returned to her room when the beeper on her computer sounded letting her know she 269


had an email. After reading it, she almost shouted for joy. “Mom, Dad, God’s answered our prayers,” she yelled to them. “I just got an email from Stacy.” Her parents hurried to her room to read the e-mail. “Now, we have to pray that her and her parents will get things right between them. I’m going to email her and call her. I won’t stay long on the phone.” “We’ll be in our room if you need anything,” said her mother. Stacy, I just read your email and I am calling you right now. “I am so happy for you. I can’t wait to see you on Easter,” said Monica. “Thank you so much for your prayers,” said an overjoyed Stacy. She told her everything that took place at the clinic. Monica could sense the joy and peace within her friend that she had not sensed in a while. “Now, I have to face Mom and Dad,” said Stacy with some concern. “I can’t seem to find the right words to put together to tell them.” “I wouldn’t worry about that. Maybe God has already prepared their hearts. He’ll give you the right words to say. Maybe they are searching for the right words also. I could tell them for you to get everything going.” “I appreciate it, Monica, But I have to be the one to do it.” They chatted for a while before saying goodnight.

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Chapter Forty-Nine “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” PROVERBS 17:17 The next evening Bro. and Sis. Wilmington stopped by the Montagues for what they thought would be a short visit, but what turned out to be a long, worthwhile night. They originally wanted to speak with Monica to see whether or not she had spoken with Stacy. “I spoke with her on yesterday and she’s doing well. We spoke about some serious things that she’s going through. She asked me not to mention one of them to you, that it was something she had to tell you herself and I am trying to honor her request,” said Monica. “Monica, I understand her confiding in you but we are her parents and we have to know what’s going on. She hasn’t called 271


us over the past few days and she’s not answering her cell phone. I’m worried about her. Please tell us what you know.” Bro. Wilmington pleaded. Monica looked across to her parents. Her mother nodded at her giving her the go-ahead. Bro. Montague pitched in. “Bro. and Sis. Wilmington, Monica shared some things with us that Stacy confided in her. We have been praying for her and I believe God had you to come over for a reason.” Turning to Monica he said, “Monica, this one is on me.” He turned back to Bro. and Sis. Wilmington. “Stacy shared with Monica about an incident regarding a sister she did not know about until just before she went off to college. Apparently Stacy is still upset and angry about it. She felt as though you deceived her these many years.” Bro. Wilmington rested his chin in his hand. Sis. Wilmington clasped her hand in his free hand. “Don’t feel bad, brother. We all have our family issues. Just between us, I had to quit my job not too long ago. I was delivering drugs and did not even know about it. Thank God for Pastor Richardson guiding me out of that mess. If the police had busted us before I got out I would be in jail right now.” “I appreciate your understanding, Brother. I got caught up in a situation with this woman. My wife knows all about it now. The lady came to the church with her daughter, my daughter, and without my knowledge, told Stacy that her daughter was her sister. That’s when things started going downhill. As you can imagine, it was hard for Stacy to accept it. I tried to talk with her but she did not want to hear it. Whenever we’ve talked on the phone she’s always in a hurry.” “She talked with me a little,” said Sis. Wilmington. “But I can’t help to think that she’s not telling me everything that’s 272


going on there in Florida.” There was silence for a minute before Sis. Montague spoke up. “Bro. and Sis. Wilmington, I don’t know how to tell you this. Don’t get mad at me, Monica. Monica only knew about this a couple days back. I don’t know how else to tell you, but Stacy is two months pregnant.” “What!” exclaimed Bro. Wilmington springing from his seat. Sis. Wilmington threw herself back on the couch in a slouching position raising both her hands to her head. “Oh, goodness.” Bro. Wilmington walked across the room. Sis. Montague was now by Sis. Wilmington with a comforting arm around her shoulders. “It’s my fault. It’s my fault,” Bro. Wilmington said as he returned to the couch beside his wife. “Man, I should have followed my heart and put my foot down.” Monica blinked back the tears that were on the verge of spilling over. “Brother, I really did not want her to go that far away from home. But I fooled myself into believing that since my brotherin-law and his wife were not too far from the university that no harm would come to her, and hopefully she would do right seeing them as filling in for us. Man, I can’t believe I let her go!” “Brother, we’re with you on this. We’ll walk through it with you all the way,” said Bro. Montague. “I appreciate it, Brother. You know, Sunday after that lady in the red dress walked in late, I told my wife that an image of Stacy flashed across my mind. I don’t know why because I never raised her to dress like that or even think like that. I know now that God was telling me something,” said Bro. Wilmington. “You know,” added Sis. Wilmington, “I should have put my foot down and insisted on us resolving this issue before 273


she left as angry as she did.” Reaching out to hold her husband’s hand she continued. “It’s weird. I do social work with the county. I counsel mothers, fathers, and children and I failed to see my own child hurting as much as she was, and failed to counsel her as I should have. I guess I was caught up in my own feelings.” “I believe God brought you over here for this reason: to get to the bottom of it,” Sis. Montague said. “We’ve been praying too hard for her for God not to answer our prayers.” “Do you know how we can get in touch with her directly?” Bro. Wilmington turned to Monica who had been silent the whole time. “Yesterday I spoke with her on the phone and by email. We spoke for a long time. She was thinking of having an abortion because she wasn’t sure how you both would take the news. She called me and emailed me after she came back from the clinic. She’s going to keep the baby.” “Thank God,” sighed Sis. Wilmington. Everyone nodded. They went to Monica’s bedroom while Bro. Montague brought in two extra chairs which he set before the computer. Monica brought up the email and stepped back so the Wilmingtons could read it for themselves. She showed them other emails they had exchanged. “I have to speak with her tonight,” exclaimed Bro. Wilmington in earnest. “I believe she notices our number and does not answer her cell phone.” “Bro. Wilmington, she promised to call or email me every day until Easter. She said she would be home then. Maybe I could go ahead and beat her to it by sending her an email and then follow up with a phone call. It’s 9:30 there. She’s probably up studying or as she shared with me, she’ll take a few hours nap and then get up around ten or eleven to study.” 274


“We don’t want to impose on you,” said Sis. Wilmington. “You all have to get ready for work and school tomorrow. Plus we might be in for a long night.” “It’s no bother at all,” Bro. Montague quickly said. “Like I told you, we’re in this with you. Stacy is like a daughter to us. What we can do is have Monica to email her and then to call her. I believe she has a computer in her room. Then we’ll put you on the phone or computer whichever seems to be working out best. We’ll go to the living room, and you can take your time because this is most important right now. This is about you losing or keeping your daughter.” “We appreciate it. May God help us,” said Sis. Wilmington. Sis. Montague gave her a hug as Monica sent the email: Stacy, Monica here. Are you ready for finals? How are you feeling otherwise? It’s very important that I hear from you tonight. They waited for a few seconds but no response. Monica called but there was no answer. Bro. Montague suggested they pray and try calling again. As they were ending the prayer, Monica’s computer beeped—an email had come in. It was Stacy. Monica, I just stepped out the shower. Everything’s going well. About ready to put in 3 hours straight studying. What is so important? By the way, I have not spoken to Mom or Dad yet. I can’t seem to find the right words. Pray that God would work it all out. I spoke with Ms. Jackson at the clinic. She has a degree in Christian counseling. She’s a tough one and I believe God had our paths to cross. Anyway she told me that she believes if I 275


had made things right with my parents before I left this may not have happened. She shared with me verses on honoring your parents. She’s encouraged me to get it right with them if I want God’s blessings and their blessings. Monica read the email out loud so everyone could hear. There were sighs of relief from everyone. She picked up the phone to call Stacy. “Monica, I’m so glad you called. What is so important that it could not wait? Is everything well?” asked Stacy. “Yes. Everything is well. It’s getting late and I have someone I want you to talk with.” Before Stacy could ask who, Monica had handed the phone to Bro. Wilmington. “Stacy, don’t hang up. We need to talk. At least hear me out.” Bro. Montague had extended the other phone from their bedroom into Monica’s room and handed it to Sis. Wilmington. The Montagues left the room to give them some privacy. “Listen to your Dad, honey,” said Sis. Wilmington. “We love you, Stacy, and we want the best for you. I apologize for not telling you about your sister earlier. There is no excuse for my not doing so. And don’t blame your mother for not telling you either. She was just honoring my wishes. I made a huge mistake and foolishly believed that not saying anything about it would take care of it. But God would not let me forget it. I was ashamed of what I had done and, frankly, I could not find the right words to tell you either. The longer I waited, the easier it became not to tell you.” “Oh, Dad, you don’t have to tell me anymore. I..” “No, Stacy. I must tell you this even if it is just for my own peace of mind and to clear my conscience. I just have to face the consequences which are more severe now than they 276


would have been if I had confessed it years ago. It’s true, Lisa is your sister. I am asking you to forgive me for not telling you earlier. And I am asking you to also accept her as your sister, because I do not want her to suffer more than she has by us rejecting her.” “Dad, I forgive you,” said Stacy trying not to cry. “And I ask you to forgive me for my bad attitude and disrespect toward you and Mom about this. It just took me by surprise.” “I forgive you and your mother does too.” Bro.Wilmington placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “You know, Dad, I often secretly prayed for a sister. I guess God answers your prayers but not the way you expect Him to.” “He sure does.” “Stacy, we want you to come home,” piped in Sis. Wilmington. “Mom. I’ll be home for Easter. While we’re at it, there is something else I want to tell you and Dad.” “We already know and don’t you worry about a thing. We’re to be blamed for this happening..” “No, you can’t take any of the blame. I am totally at fault. I don’t know how I let it happen,” sobbed Stacy. “I guess I was so angry at you I did something I never wanted to do to get back at you.” “Don’t you worry about a thing. We look forward to being grandparents,” said Sis. Wilmington, “Our main concern now is you...” “And our grandbaby,” added Bro. Wilmington. After a few seconds of silence, Bro. Wilmington said, “You know, I was thinking, your mother and I will drive down to pick you up. We need a vacation anyway.” “Yes,” said Sis. Wilmington. “I’ve been thinking, I’ll just go 277


ahead and quit my job or at least work part time. I made a mistake in going to work to get back at your father over this situation. And I was wrong for doing so.” Bro. Wilmington was surprised to hear his wife say that. She had been so adamant in refusing to quit her job that he had given up asking her. After all if he had not done what he did, she would have no reason to go to work. Hugging his wife, he said to Stacy, probably more to his wife, “She’ll make a great grandmother.” “It sounds like you and Mom have made amends,” said Stacy. “Yes, God has really done a work in both our hearts,” answered Bro. Wilmington. “We had to do some apologizing and some genuine forgiving, but that’s one of God’s ways of healing. I certainly wish you were here tonight.” “I’m looking forward to being home soon,” said Stacy. “It’s funny how God works, but I feel better already. I feel as though a load has just been lifted. They chatted for a while. It was 2:00 in the morning before they said their goodbyes and the Wilmingtons headed on home praising God for friends like the Montagues. “You can’t put a price on friends like the Montagues, Grandma,” said Bro. Wilmington as they snuggled in bed. “You sure can’t, Gramps,” answered Sis. Wilmington. “Hey, that sure has a ring to it. Gramps. I like that.”

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Chapter Fifty “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.� JOB 1:22 Families were being blessed at the church. Monica was well into her second year having clepped a number of classes. Stacy returned home at Easter. Her parents were thrilled to have her back and insisted that she not go back to Florida and to attend TCU. They vowed to be more sober-minded and watchful, and to cease being selfish. Bro. Montague was enjoying his new job at the church. He was looking forward to going into business for himself on the side. Jonathan graduated, was pursuing his M.Div online and was working part time at a computer firm doing graphic design. He missed not seeing Monica almost daily. Sis. Richardson was with child and close to delivering. Pastor Richardson was beside himself with excitement, but he always had his spiritual antenna up for 279


the devil who was relentless in his efforts to render all ineffective in their service to God. It was 1:30 a.m. when the ambulance pulled up into the Richardson’s driveway. Sis. Richardson who was close to her delivery date was having complications. The pregnancy had gone well under close supervision from her doctor and she was counting down the days. She ate and had gone to bed feeling a little tired, but other than that, all was well. She awakened, feeling unusually hot and as though she was lying in a pool of warm water. She was sweating profusely and could hardly lift up from the bed. She felt an unusual pressure in her stomach and could barely talk to the doctor about it.“Call the ambulance right away,” Dr. Keaton insisted against Pastor Richardson’s insistence on taking her in himself. “I’ll meet you at the emergency room,” Pastor Richardson had said.“No, the EMTs can better monitor her on their way here.” After dressing with some help from her husband, she laid down on the couch awaiting the ambulance. They had just finished praying when the EMT banged on the door. Pastor followed as closely as he could. On the way, he called Bro. Reynolds to give him an update and to make arrangements with him for Sunday services. Pastor Richardson thanked God he had a faithful crew he could depend on in times like these. He remembered the good feeling he had when Sis. Richardson had shared with him the news of her pregnancy and how the church family had rejoiced with them. They had walked them through it all—maybe spoiled them a little. How could anything go wrong so close to the delivery date? The doctor had explained everything to them including the high risk of getting pregnant with a first baby this late in life. But they had simply trusted God through it all.

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Dear God, You answered our prayers and blessed Wanda to be with child. She was doing so well and we thank You for that. I don’t know what the situation is, but Lord, You do and I place my trust in You. Pastor Richardson said ‘Amen’ as he pulled into the hospital emergency parking lot. Slowing down, he was sure he saw the EMTs pushing Sis. Richardson through the doors used by hospital workers. He was certain he saw what looked like an IV bag being held up by one of the EMTs. Hurrying through the double doors, he checked in at the receptionist desk where he was directed to the 4th floor. He had to wait for about twenty minutes before he was summoned to the room where he was given a briefing by Dr. Keaton. “Pastor Richardson, it’s good to see you again. I’ll get to the point. Your wife’s blood pressure shot up unexpectedly. It’s still not quite back to normal. We have to keep her here for a couple days and monitor her closely. The baby was affected, but right now all seems well. You can visit with her, but do not take long and try not to let her talk a lot.” The doctor exited and closed the door softly behind him. “Wanda,” said Pastor Richardson kissing her on the forehead. “I’m awake.” Sis. Richardson opened her eyes. “Just thanking God for having us to make it here safely.” Patting her stomach, he asked, “How’s the little one doing?” “Much better.” "Dr. Keaton explained everything. You’re on bedrest. Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t feeling well? You could have spent all day resting.” “I was doing fine. Maybe a little tired, but nothing to worry about.” It was just like her to be always doing something.

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“Seems like a lot to worry about now,” Pastor cut in. “We don’t worry, remember? We cast all our cares upon Him,” said Sis. Richardson with a smile. “You just be quiet and let me do the preaching. Let’s pray and after the amen you have no more talking to do. You just go right to sleep.” Sis. Richardson just had to say one more thing after the Amen. “You don’t have to stay here. Go on home. I’m in good hands. Plus you have to preach tomorrow.” “I thought I told you not to say anything. I guess you won’t go to sleep as long as I am here so I’ll go on out. Bro. Reynolds has it all under control. I called him on the way over here.” Kissing her goodbye, he exited the room. Pastor Richardson strolled around the hospital stopping by the nursery first. His heart went out to the newborns, so tiny and so helpless. Dear God, I place our new baby in Your hands and I place my wife in Your hands. He continued his stroll around the hospital and ended up in one of the waiting rooms where he saw a distraught looking father and son. Here is the perfect opportunity to minister to some hurting soul, he thought to himself as he was always looking for every open door to share Jesus with others. After introducing himself, he chatted with them for a while. The man’s wife had been in a car accident and was in critical condition. They had been waiting for about thirty minutes as she was immediately wheeled into the operating room. She had lost a lot of blood. Pastor shared some Bible verses with them and prayed with them. “You know, Pastor, I stopped going to church and stopped praying some months back. My wife kept on going to church

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and she would pray with my son, encouraging me to do the same. But I just turned my back on God. God certainly has my attention now, and I believe He had you to come by. Thank you, Pastor. I feel so much better.” Pastor Richardson left one of the church’s tracts with him. “I’ll definitely stop by,” he said. “As soon as I can break away from my wife.” “I’ll be looking for you.” Pastor Richardson ended up in the coffee shop which for that time of the morning—2:30 on a Sunday—had quite a number of people. He passed out ten tracts before settling down with a newspaper and a cup of coffee. He returned to Sis. Richardson’s room to find her sound asleep. He sat beside her bed for about an hour, praying over her before heading on home to get some sleep. He turned up at the church just before Bro. Reynolds began to preach. He preached a powerful message too. After the message, Bro. Reynolds acknowledged him by asking him to come up front. “I decided to sneak away from Sis. Richardson, and sneak in here. I am pleased to see everything going well and orderly. I had to rush Sis. Richardson to the emergency room early this morning. Her blood pressure was a little high. It’s under control now. They are keeping her in on bedrest for a couple days. She’s on complete bedrest, so you ladies let her be. Just pray for her. I’m going to grab a bite to eat and head on back there.” No one noticed a young lady had stuck her head through the main door leading to the auditorium, took a quick survey, and left closing the door softly. This same young lady had randomly placed a sealed envelope on the windshield wipers

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of about thirty cars in the parking lot. She hung around in her car until people began to file out the church building. No one paid the car any attention. To them, she was just another worshipper on her way home.


Chapter Fifty-One “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” PROVERBS 15:4 Mrs. Herron pulled the envelope off her windshield wiper and placed it on the seat beside Tiffany. “Mama, I like Sis. Richardson. Can I make her a card when I get home?” Tiffany asked. “Sure, Tiff. She would love that.” “But we can’t take it to her now, so how will she get it?” asked Tiffany “We can get her address and mail it to her. I’ll call Monica as soon as we get home and get the address from her.” Tiffany started on her card as soon as they got to their apartment. Mrs. Herron opened the white envelope after kicking off her heels. “Oh, my goodness. What is this all 285


about.” She lowered herself to the couch without taking her eyes off the typed letter, almost missing her seat. Dear Mt. Zion church member, You don’t know me but I am a very close friend of your assistant pastor, Dwayne Reynolds. I am writing this letter to let you know that he will eventually cause problems for your church, so do not trust him. He and his family used to be members of the church I used to attend. The pastor had to ask him to leave because he used to hit on the women there. He made passes at me many times. In fact, one day he called me into his office and proceeded to make a move on me. Of course, he being stronger than me, there is no telling what would have happened if the church secretary had not knocked on his door with some mail. I left both of them there. No telling what happened between them. You ladies stay away from him and keep your daughters away from him. He’s a treacherous man. Give him time and his true colors will begin to show. I don’t see how a sweet lady like Mrs. Reynolds can stay with him. Maybe she does not know him like I do. I tell you this because I love you and I don’t want to see him destroy your lives and church. C.M. Mrs. Herron did not know quite what to make of the letter. She read it again trying to make sense of it. She had never felt threatened by Bro. Reynolds, nor his son, Jonathan, who had been like a big brother to Tiffany. She picked up the phone after deciding to call the Montagues. Sis. Montague answered the phone. “Sis. Montague, I am sorry to disturb your Sunday evening, but I called for two reasons. Do you have Sis. Richardson’s home address? Tiffany wanted to send her a get well card.” Sis. Montague was back in a short time with the address.

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“How have you been doing,” asked Sis. Montague. “We’ve been doing great. Tiffany is just crazy about Monica. She keeps asking can she spend the night.” “Well, we can arrange that. How about next Friday evening. She can spend the whole weekend and you can all eat with us after church before she goes home,” said Sis. Montague. “That would be great. The second reason I called is this.” Mrs. Herron divulged to her the contents of the letter to which Sis. Montague expressed strong disbelief. “You said it was left on your car? We didn’t get one. Hold on. Let me check with my husband to see if maybe he picked one up and forgot about it.” Sis. Montague came back with a negative answer. “I’ll let you read the note to him.” In disbelief, Bro. Montague said, “Wow! I don’t know who could have done that. I know we need to tell Pastor Richardson so he can put a stop to it. Is it okay if I come by and pick up the letter to show Pastor Richardson? Whoever placed it on your car overlooked mine somehow.” “Sure. I have no use for it. It’s probably all gossip. I’ll be home for the rest of the evening.” Bro. Montague and Monica picked up the letter and at the same time left some fruit and cookies that her mother sent. “My Daddy’s going to come to church with us on Sunday,” Tiffany said. “After Pastor Richardson preached on the ‘Push and Pull of Sin,’ I decided I can’t let the devil mess our family up—at least for Tiffany’s sake,” said Mrs. Herron. “I had to humble myself and do some apologizing. It’s amazing how Jesus can change a person’s heart. I know He changed mine. We’ve been talking and

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hopefully we’ll be back as a family.” “Praise the Lord, Sister. We’ll continue to pray for you all. Just continue to keep your eyes on Jesus because the devil is slowly hitting some of the families of the church. I believe this is an attack on Bro. Reynolds and his family.” Mrs. Herron nodded in agreement. After Sis. Montague read the letter they decided not to say anything to Pastor Richardson until the next day. And not to say anything to Bro. Reynolds either. They say bad news spreads like wild fire and what the Montagues thought would be a quiet Sunday evening turned out to be an evening of telephone calls far into the night. First Bro. Harold called: “Bro. Montague, I got this letter on my car about Bro. Reynolds being a womanizer. Is it true, my brother? ‘Cause I never heard any rumor about him. And he does not seem to carry himself that way. I figure you being on the staff would know about it.” “Just ignore it. The devil is just attacking. I don’t know Bro. Reynolds to be that kind of person. And don’t say anything to Pastor. He needs to concern himself with Sis. Richardson right now.” After Bro. Harold, Sis. Bettie called: “Bro. Montague, is it true about Bro. Reynolds? You know we don’t need no assistant pastor like that. Sis. Mills could not believe it either.” “Sister, don’t worry about it, and don’t discuss it with anyone, not even Sis. Mills. I’m sure Pastor will handle it.” Bro. Montague knew Sis. Bettie had a nose for gossip and her and Sister Mills were always whispering.

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Bro. Wilmington also called: “Bro. Montague, did you get a letter about Bro. Reynolds. Tell me it’s not true. I see nothing questionable in how that brother carries himself since he’s been here. If I recall, he came to us highly recommended. His children are well-behaved and his wife is just as sweet as can be. He must be doing something right.” After Bro. Montague assured him that Pastor would get to the bottom of this as he always did, Bro. Wilmington said goodbye. Ron Campbell called just before nightfall: “Bro. Montague, I don’t believe a word of this letter. That man led me to Jesus. If that is something in his past, we need to leave it alone. If he’s still chasing women, then we need to just forgive him. I did some chasing in my time. Who are we to judge another?” About ten other similar calls came in. No matter the tone of the conversation, Bro. Montague always put Bro. Reynolds in a good light. Pastor Richardson returned to the hospital to find Sis. Richardson sitting up in bed. She was all smiles. “I should be coming home on Tuesday.” “That’s what the doctor told me,” he replied giving her a kiss and a hug. “Service was great, I told everyone to leave you alone for the next few days, so don’t expect any calls or any visitors.”

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Chapter Fifty-Two “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.� JOHN 8:44 Pastor Richardson arrived in his office at 10:00 on Monday morning, which was quite unusual seeing Monday was his day off. He had decided to take Tuesday off to spend the day with Sis. Richardson who would be coming home that day. Sis. Montague and Sis. Reynolds took care of all meals for them for that week. After Pastor prayed with Bro. Montague, Bro. Reynolds and other members of the staff, Bro. Montague asked to meet with him where he disclosed the contents of the letter. Pastor almost 291


hit the roof. “Who could be so treacherous? That old devil never stops. Do you know how many people received this?” he asked Bro. Montague. “I received about fifteen phone calls about it. I told them not to believe any word of it. It was left under the windshield wipers apparently when we were all in church. My car was overlooked.” “Whoever did this is slick. My car was overlooked also. If you want to start something in the church, just overlook the pastor and go straight to the members.” “Even if there is some truth to this, who would have such bitterness in their heart to try to ruin someone else’s life and family?” Bro. Montague wondered out loud. “Does Bro. Reynolds know anything about this?” “I haven’t said anything to him about it. Judging from his spirit this morning, my best guess is he does not know anything about it,” said Bro. Montague. “If you don’t mind, since the church members called you about it and you brought it to me, I’d like for you to sit in on this. I’m going to call Bro. Reynolds in and get to the bottom of this.” Bro. Reynolds let out a sigh after reading the letter. He shook his head slowly, trying to hold back a smile. He said, “Pastor, I know who this C.M. is. It’s Caroline Martin. She’s the lady in red who visited here a few Sundays back, Bro. Montague. I have a history with her—not a good one though. I’ll tell you the whole story. Pastor Richardson already knows about it.” Bro. Reynolds gave Bro. Montague the scoop, in detail, of his history with C.M. “She came here that Sunday to cause problems for me, but Pastor and I outwitted her. I thought she

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was embarrassed enough and had given up, but I guess I was wrong. Pastor, we have to come up with another plan for her; she does not give up easily.” “Judge for yourself, Bro. Montague. He’s been here a year now. Let me call his former pastor and find out more about this C.M.—just where she now stands as far as her position in the church.” Pastor Richardson wasted no time in getting to the heart of the matter with Pastor Burch. He shared with him the contents of the letter, and also about her showing up on Sunday, and the phone calls she had made to Pastor Reynolds. After hanging up the phone, he said with maybe too much glee, “Just as I figured, gentlemen. Pastor Burch had to put her out of the church because she refused to leave the married and unmarried men alone. On top of that, whenever she was confronted she would make it seem as though they were the ones hitting on her. Frankly, she was causing a great stir among the members, especially the ladies. Her husband divorced her a while back because he could not say anything to quiet her down. She was embarrassing him everywhere and at anytime.” The men could not help smiling. They decided to pray about it and meet back at about 2:00 after Pastor Richardson checked on Sis. Richardson. Bro. Reynolds made a copy of the letter to share with his wife over lunch. She was shocked. “This lady never gets the message, does she?” “She’s a stubborn one. I’ll be sharing it with the children later this evening. We have to prepare them for anything lest some gossipping gets to them before we get to the bottom of this.” Bro. Montague had a pleasant lunch with Monica who was

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home by 1:00 on Mondays. She had not spoken with Jonathan, so as far as they knew, he knew nothing about the letter. “If you don’t mind, don’t say anything to him about it at all. This Caroline is making things up,” her father told her. ______________________ Promptly at 2:00, the men gathered in Pastor Richardson’s office. After prayer, they proceeded with the business at hand. “Any solutions, gentlemen?” he asked. “I plan on telling the children about it over supper this evening. I don’t want this lying letter getting to their ears by some other means,” said Bro. Reynolds. “I’m thinking we could probably call an emergency meeting after church on Sunday, if not Wednesday night, and briefly explain to those who received the letter to disregard it,” said Bro. Montague. “That’s a thought. I was thinking along those lines,” said Pastor Richardson. “Pastor,” Bro. Reynolds said. “I believe she’s going to turn up for church on Sunday to see what damage she thinks she has done.” “And to see if you’ll go running into her arms like a hurt little puppy wagging its tail.” Pastor and the brothers had a hearty laugh. “I’m sorry, Brother, I just had to let that out. Laughter is good medicine. I, many times, like to have a good laugh when I am in a bind.” “She’s a bad somebody if she returns to the scene of the crime,” said Bro. Montague. “On a serious note, though, I agree with you both, we need

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to nip it in the bud and she’s going to turn up on Sunday— probably in her red dress.” Pastor shook his head. “Oh, where are the days of modesty. I won’t say anything about it on Wednesday. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t either. Here is what I propose we do, and, Bro. Reynolds, you have to be up for it. I’ll bring it up after the preaching on Sunday and, Bro. Reynolds, you’ll have to stand before the church and, in a sense, confess before it gets worse. You don’t have to go into any deep detail but I’ll leave that up to you. Focus on the letter and add to it what you deem necessary. Of course, I’ll share with the church family what Pastor Burch told me about her. Does that sound like a winner?” Bro. Reynolds nodded. “You won’t have any problems sharing some of your personal life with the church family, will you?” asked Pastor Richardson. “Oh, no. I want this completely closed, boxed off and over with, so me and my family can go on with our lives. Besides, I’ve shared some of my failures from the pulpit, so I have no fear,” said Bro. Reynolds. “Wonderful. You know it’s an amazing thing how that when you confess your own failings, whether on your own or by telling the truth when asked, people will still love you.” “I say amen to that,” said Bro. Montague. “Let’s just pray about it daily. God will give us the victory. By the way, people are going to be whispering and giggling on Wednesday night. If I were you, I’d leave my wife and children at home. I wouldn’t want them to feel small in any way,” advised Pastor Richardson. “That’s good advice. I’ll share the letter with them and our

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plan to squelch it. I know James will be glad to spend the entire evening on the computer playing games.” “Seems like everything is set then.” All nodded as they rose from their seats to shake hands. “I almost forgot, Bro. Montague, do you think Monica would mind missing Bible study to spend some time with Sis. Richardson? I just need for someone to sit with her on Wednesday night while I’m here at the church.” “She would love to, Pastor,” said Bro. Montague. “I’ll drop her off myself.” “Thanks, Brother. Sis. Richardson does not understand bed rest. She’ll be up doing just about everything. Well, men, let’s come battle ready on Sunday.”

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Chapter Fifty-Three “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.” JOHN 7:24 Monica had a wonderful time with Sis. Richardson on Wednesday night. She had just as much fun with Tiffany starting Friday night with homemade hamburgers, French fries, and tall glasses of homemade strawberry milkshakes. They stayed up late watching movies. Tiffany ate so much popcorn she thought she would burst. Although there was a single hide- away bed in the bedroom that fitted neatly under Monica’s bed, Tiffany insisted on sleeping with Monica. “I’ve always wanted a big sister. Maybe I’ll be a big sister one day,” she said to Monica. On Saturday, after a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, fried plantains and baked beans followed by pineapple juice, Monica took Tiffany over to visit Stacy for a 297


while. Stacy was now eight months pregnant. Everyone had received her with open arms at the church, and as she shared with her parents, “I almost lost the two most precious gifts God gave me—my parents and a loving church family.” “I’ll babysit for you if you have a girl,” offered Tiffany. “What if it’s a boy?” asked Stacy. “Well, I guess I can help. But I don’t like boys. They can never sit still.” After leaving Stacy’s, they went to the public library planning on spending only a couple hours reading. Jonathan surprised them both when he turned up. This stretched their visit out to four hours. “Well, what brings you here?” asked Monica. “I called your home wanting to take you out for some ice cream sundae or a banana split and your Mom told me you were probably at the library with Tiffany, so I figured it would not do any harm to stop by, especially since I don’t see you as often as I was getting used to and would like to. I hope I did not mess up your plans.” “Oh, no. Tiffany’s spending the weekend with us. She’s everything you would want in a little sister.” Grinning, Tiffany asked, “Do you like her?” “Well, I’m thinking about liking her. What do you think? Should I like her or not?” asked Jonathan winking at her. “I think you should like her—a lot. I also think you should marry her because she’s nice,” said Tiffany with a firm nod of the head. “You look so cute when you say that. Why don’t you say it again so Ms. Monica can hear you.” Jonathan had a twinkle in his eyes. “I sure will. I think you should like Ms. Monica and you

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should marry her because she is nice.” Monica could not help but giggle as Jonathan said, “I think she heard you loud and clear, and Tiffany, I will take your advice.” They took turns reading to Tiffany while exchanging small talk. Monica was glad he came to the library since she missed seeing him daily herself. She wondered what was going through his mind regarding the letter against his father—if he knew anything about it. Before they departed, Jonathan escorted them to the ice cream shop for a treat. Tiffany had a chocolate sundae topped with cherries and mixed nuts. Monica and Jonathan each had a banana split smothered with chocolate fudge. Jonathan had Monica promise that she would be in church on Sunday, saying he missed seeing her on Wednesday night. “You’re going to be in for a real treat,” Jonathan said. “My Dad’s going to be in church tomorrow too,” said Tiffany quite pleased. ______________________ It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Sis. Montague had gotten up early and prepared one of her native dishes: curried chicken with red beans and rice, and cabbage. She also had a roast prepared with dinner rolls and potatoes in case her guests did not like the chicken. For dessert, she prepared apple pie and ice cream. Pastor Richardson met with the men of the church as usual for prayer. The Reynolds family was in their place as were the other members of the church. The singing was vibrant, the preaching was spirit-filled, and one could sense the godly love and concern among the congregants for each other. The lady in

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red visited again, turning up late as expected, and insisting on a seat close to the front. Pastor Richardson quickly wrapped up his preaching. Both he and Bro. Montague exchanged knowing looks. Pastor Richardson did not give his normal altar call, but went right into the situation that needed to be taken care of. “I’d like for everyone to remain in their seats. Something came up on last Sunday that I’d like to settle today. How many of you received a letter regarding Bro. Reynolds last Sunday?” About thirty hands went up. “How many of you did not receive a letter, but heard about the contents of the letter?” More hands went up. “You all are some gossipping people,” said Pastor Richardson with a chuckle. “Any way, I want you to disregard everything you read in that letter. It’s nothing but lies. In fact, the C.M. who wrote that letter has visited us before.” The lady in red slowly sat erect in her seat. “Bro. Reynolds, why don’t you come up and tell us the truth about this letter.” Bro. Reynolds took his position at the podium. The lady in red stared intently at him hoping to catch his eye in an attempt to throw him off; to dissuade him from saying anything against her. Her lips were curled up in a sly smile. “Ladies and gentlemen, this C.M. who signed this letter, and I used to attend the same church. I won’t disclose the name of the church and neither will I tell you what C.M. stands for.” He cleared his throat before continuing on. “Anyway, I was on staff there at the church as was C.M. She was always throwing herself at me as she would other men of the

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church. She was always bringing me coffee and donuts, even though I kept telling her I could bring my own coffee and donuts. My wife makes the best coffee anyway.” A few chuckles could be heard. “Well, it happened that this C.M. and I were the only ones at the church one morning. C.M. took it upon herself to come into my office with her normal cup of coffee under the pretense of cleaning up, which I did not ask her to do. She proceeded over to my desk, grabbed my arms and almost threw herself on me. Thank God, the secretary had returned then and knocked on my door to let me know she was back. C.M. then raised her voice, saying ‘Leave me alone.’ Her way of appearing to be innocent. The secretary brought in my mail and C.M. proceeded to leave. For the record, after C.M. left, the secretary said to me, ‘Is she causing you any problems, Bro. Reynolds? She is known to cause problems.’” The lady in red held a tight grip on the back of the pew. She was holding it with such force, her knuckles turned white. She tried little finger signs to get Bro. Reynolds’ attention. But all to no avail. “The secretary told me she would let C.M. go for the day. She later told me that C.M. told her I had called her into the office and tried to make her sit on my lap. Of course, that was a lie. Some of you may be wondering if I was attracted to C.M. She is an attractive lady, but what made her ugly was the loose way she carried herself. I did not even trust her to be around my two sons. Plus, I am very happy with my own wife. You know Sis. Reynolds for yourself. She’s a very loving person and I’d be a fool to leave her.” Many ‘Amens’ filled the room at this point.

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The lady in red kept crossing and uncrossing her legs. Pastor Richardson, glancing in her direction, could tell she was uncomfortable, not knowing what to expect. She kept glancing from side to side. “C.M. continued to tell others that I called her into the office and tried to get her to do ungodly things. My former pastor could not stop these rumors because it was her word against mine. He thought it best if I left in order to save the church and to protect my family. The Lord opened up the door and I ended up here. As you can tell, this C.M. has followed me here to cause more problems.” The lady in red eased back into her seat to a more relaxed position. Bro. Reynolds glanced at her; she lightly blew him a kiss. I got something for you, thought Bro. Reynolds. “After not hearing from C.M. for about nine months, she somehow found out where I was serving and she took it upon herself to try to get in touch with me. Of course, I ignored her and put her off. She turned up here on Sunday in a dress not befitting of a lady who claims to be a Christian. I guess she was still trying to entice me. But I took the Bible literally and veered neither to the left nor to the right and went on home.” “Amen!” shouted someone. “Leave them types alone!” The church broke out in laughter. The lady in red was on the edge of her seat. She was embarrassed, not knowing whether or not anyone knew this C.M. was her. She was obviously caught in her own trap and she could slowly feel its grip tightening around her. “C.M. called me that week to tell me she never gives up. And like a sly snake she lay low for a few days and struck again— in the form of this lying letter which some of you received. By

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the way, C.M. has returned to the scene of the crime. But because of the God in me, I won’t embarrass her by a direct exposure.” “She needs to be embarrassed,” said Bro. Harold. “Yes, Sir,” rippled across the crowd. It was clear that Bro. Reynolds was having fun. He felt relieved, and felt as if a burden had been lifted to truthfully squelch the lie that could destroy him and his family. He signalled for Pastor to take over. “I personally know Bro. Reynolds’ former pastor. I discussed this C.M. matter with him,” Pastor Richardson said. "He told me that she is spoiled and wants her own way; she is loose and hits on just about every man who comes her way. He also told me that he and his wife have had to talk with her a number of times. She did not change, and just this past week, he told me he had to let her go. Her husband had to divorce her because he could not control her. Folks, this is God’s church, and under my leadership, I will stop every devil who tries to come through here.” “Amens,” could be heard all over the building. “How do we know this C.M. lady is not telling the truth?” shouted someone. “Bro. Reynolds’ testimony speaks for itself,” answered Pastor Richardson. “Now for those of you who plan on spreading these lies, I invite you to leave right now and don’t come back. We’re going to vote right now. Those who say we keep the Reynolds family on board respond with a hearty ‘Amen, Preacher’.” “Amen, Preacher!” The lady in red could not restrain herself any longer, she

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snapped out of her seat and stomped out the building in anger and shame. “I refuse to take this anymore,” she kept muttering to herself. “Have a great day,” said Jonathan as she breezed past him at the door. “Humph!” was her response as she rolled her eyes. Jonathan tried his best not to laugh. He gave his Dad the thumbs up sign. Pastor and Bro. Reynolds high-fived each other. The Reynolds family was once again received with hugs and “We love you.”

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Chapter Fifty-Four “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” JOHN 11:25-26 “The devil sure got a whipping,” Bro. Montague said on the way home from church. “And I am so glad he did. He won’t be showing his face here for a while.” “I feel sorry for her.” Sis. Montague’s soft heart kicked in. “Me too,” Monica said. “What’s whipping the devil?” asked Tiffany. “That’s when the devil uses people to try to cause a problem for you and it backfires on them. And that’s what happened today,” Bro. Montague said. “Now, are you ready to eat, young lady? Because if you are, Sis. Montague has a 305


treat for you.” “I sure am. Church always makes me hungry.” Mrs. Herron and her ex-husband pulled up behind the Montagues in the driveway. “You have a beautiful home,” said Mrs. Herron to Sis. Montague. “Come, Mama. Let me show you my room.” Tiffany started to pull her mother in the direction of Monica’s bedroom once they entered the house. “Wait a minute, young lady,” Mr. Herron said. “Remember you’re a guest here and you don’t go running through the house. Why don’t you go with the ladies.” “Yes, Sir.” The ladies headed into the kitchen and in a short time they were calling the men to the table. After the blessing, Mr. Herron was the first to speak. “Sis. Montague, I want to thank you again for having me over on the spur of the moment. Everything looks delicious.” “My wife is from the islands—St. Kitts. This is one of their native dishes—curried chicken and rice and beans,” Bro. Montague said. “I thought I detected an accent. Don’t worry, all black people eat chicken, rice and beans no matter how it’s prepared,” said Mr. Herron. “Amen to that, Brother.” “Bro. Montague was apologizing to me for having to come on a Sunday like today. But I told him I’m glad I did because I believe how a church handles its problems says a lot about that church. Your pastor sure did get down.” Mr. Herron wiped his mouth with his napkin. “He’s a true man of God and he doesn’t take any mess,”

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agreed Bro. Montague. “I can tell. Tiffany has been begging me to come to your church and so has Gloria. I keep promising. Now, I am glad I did,” said Mr. Herron. “Do you go to church anywhere?” Bro. Montague asked after taking a sip of his iced tea. “We used to but it was the old traditional one—Grandma went, Mama went and so we all went. More out of habit than anything else. I stopped going a little before Gloria and I got separated. It didn’t seem that church could help us in our situation, not with all the shouting from the pulpit.” “I used to go to one of those churches. The musician controlled the service with his music. The pastor sings the sermon and I could not hear a word he would say. My wife was used to the straightforward preaching where you hear every word the pastor says. She walked me out of that confusion that I was in. You need to hear the Word if you’re going to obey it,” Bro. Montague said. The ladies nodded in agreement. “Now, that’s it. I have been trying to figure out what was so different about your church. Now I know. I could hear every word the pastor was saying. I can still hear his message ringing in my ears. That makes a difference,” said Mr. Herron. Mrs. Herron marvelled at how well Tiffany was eating. She was overjoyed that her husband, Charles, had come to the church with them. She saw a difference in his whole attitude and demeanor, and ever since that touching message of Pastor Richardson’s she felt she owed him an apology for her attitude and behavior throughout their marriage. She was often out with her girlfriends when she knew she should have been home with

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him and Tiffany. Of course, it’s oftentimes easier to see wrong in others but not in yourself. Ever since she apologized, things had gotten much better. She shared with him that she and Tiffany had started going to New Mt. Zion church and how it had made an impact on her life and she humbly shared with him her desire for them to get back to being a family again. “We’ll see,” was all he would say. At least when they spoke now, it was not tit-for-tat. She actually enjoyed speaking to him again. “This might not be any of my business,” said Bro. Montague, “but are you two still separated?” “Yes, we are. But we’ve been talking about getting back together. Gloria called me a few months back and told me she had started going to this church—your church—and how it’s making an impact on her life. By just talking to her since then, I can tell.” Mr. Herron glanced over at his wife. “That’s why I am still there after ten years. It has and is making a difference in my life and in my family’s life. Under Pastor Richardson’s teachings I am learning to be a better husband, my wife’s learning to be a better wife and Monica’s learning to be a better daughter, and all of us are striving to become more like Jesus. How do you like this food, brother? No offense if you do not like it.” “Sis. Montague, this is delicious. Gloria, you ought to get this recipe. I hope you don’t think badly of me if I get seconds of this chicken. The roast is great also,” said Mr. Herron. “Go right ahead. It makes me feel good that you want seconds,” said Mrs. Montague. “Ms. Tiffany here is just having a good time.” Mrs. Herron could not hold back a laugh.“What are you

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trying not to laugh about, Gloria?” asked Mr. Herron. He loved to see his wife smile. She looked beautiful to him today. He had been quite surprised the day she had called him and apologized for the damage she had caused in their marriage. She asked for his forgiveness. He knew she was sincere because she was a proud person who always thought she was right. He gave her a hard time, taunting her saying she was just doing all this apologizing because she wanted something from him even though he knew she had never really bothered him for anything even while they were separated. She just wanted him to spend time with Tiffany. Normally, she would strike back but she didn’t say a word— just listened and then pleasantly said goodbye. Another time, when he had picked Tiffany up to take her to a children’s movie, they talked for a while after he dropped her off. She was excited about her new faith and her new church, even Tiffany was unusually talkative about their new church and about Monica. He loved his “new” wife and he was seriously thinking about getting back with her—after all, neither of them had signed off on the divorce papers yet. Over the past few months though, he had being seeing other women and was beginning to have a special liking for one –Yvette. Well, he would wait and see. After the meal everyone took their dessert to the living room except for Monica and Tiffany, who went to their room to play games and watch a movie. “Bro. Montague,” said Mr. Herron after they had settled down in the living room, “Gloria was telling me that she asked Jesus to save her and now she knows for sure she is going to Heaven. I don’t understand that. I always thought

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you had to join the church and make sure you give your ten percent to the church.” “That’s what I used to believe too. But that is nowhere in the Bible. In fact, all throughout the Bible it tells you to simply believe: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ I didn’t know how powerful this other verse was that I learned in Sunday school until Pastor Richardson explained it to me. That verse is ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’” “Man, that’s it? That’s all I have to do?” asked Mr. Herron. “Yes, that’s all. I can show you some more verses if you aren’t in a hurry to go home,” offered Bro. Montague. “No man, I’m in no hurry. Are you, Gloria?” Mrs. Herron shook her head no. At Bro. Montague’s request, Sis. Montague brought him his Bible, then she and Sis. Herron joined Monica and Tiffany where both sets of eyes were glued to the computer screen watching a movie. They scooted over on the bed to make room for their mothers. “Sis. Herron, I hope you don’t think I’m being nosy, but how are things looking as far as you and your husband getting back together?” “I don’t think you are being nosy. If it were not for Monica, I would be living the same depressed life without God. Now, I have a future that’s secure with or without Charles. But to answer your question, things are looking up. For him to come to church today and to join us here for supper is God working. He has not given me a definite yes. He’s said ‘I’ll see’ which is how he always answers when he’s going to do what you

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ask him. So things are looking up.” “Well, he seems genuinely happy to be here with us. He’s certainly in no hurry to leave.” “You know, I felt something flutter in me as he was talking at the table. I couldn’t help but to think back to when we first met, and the early years of our marriage. As I think about it, we had a lot of good times. It felt good to see him genuinely laugh again and not have this serious ‘won’t smile’ disposition,” said Mrs. Herron. “Well, you’ve certainly made a positive impression. I believe he’s seen a definite change in you.” “I thank God for that,” replied Mrs. Herron. “Look at that.” Sis. Montague was pointing to Monica and Tiffany. Tiffany had her head on Monica’s arm and was curled up on the bed. Monica’s other arm was hugging her. “She must have had Monica running all weekend,” whispered Mrs. Herron. “Monica loved it. Tiffany is like a little sister. I heard them making plans to sleep over again. We can finish the movie. It’s one of those that you can watch over and over and never get tired.” “That is fine with me. I really like the serene atmosphere of your home. It makes me not want to leave.” “It’s all because of Jesus, Sister. You are all welcome here any time.” ______________________ Bro. Montague and Mr. Herron were intent on their Bible study. He had a lot of questions even though he was already

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convinced of the way of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ, and through the change he had already seen in his wife and Tiffany who was always happy now.“I’m convinced of all you have shared with me. What do I do now?” asked Mr. Herron sincerely. “Romans 10:13 says, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Call upon the Lord means to pray to Him and tell Him that you believe with all of your heart that Jesus Christ died for you, was buried, and rose again, and ask Him to come into your heart and save your soul.” “I’m ready. I won’t delay any longer.” Bro. Montague led Mr. Herron in prayer affirming his belief in Jesus Christ. "Dear God, I come before you just as I am. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. I believe that He is the only way to Heaven and eternity. I am sorry for all the sins I have done. Please forgive me and please come into my heart and save my soul. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen." “Amen and welcome to the church family. You’re no longer Mr. Herron. You’re now Bro. Herron,” exclaimed Bro. Montague rising to shake his hand. “You know, I feel like a load’s been lifted off of me. Thank you for taking the time to explain it all to me. Man, I feel good.” “No thanks needed. I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.” “I like that.” Bro. Herron looking at his watch exclaimed, “Where has the time gone? It’s 7:50 already. We best be headed home. I’ll be in church next Sunday for sure.” Bro. Montague called the ladies who were thrilled at the

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good news. Bro. Herron gave his wife a hug. “Thank you for not giving up on me, Gloria. We’ll work it out. Where’s my baby girl?” “Both her and Monica are sound asleep. I’ll go and get them,” Sis. Montague offered. It did not take much prodding to awaken the two. “The Herrons are leaving,” Sis. Montague said. “So soon?” asked Monica. “Come on, give me a hug. Thanks for a great weekend. We have to do this again real soon,” Monica said to Tiffany. Tiffany ran and jumped into her Daddy’s arm. “I have some good news for you. I just asked Jesus to save me,” he told her. “Yeah. Does this mean that you are going to Heaven with me and Mama?” “It sure does, baby. We all three are going together,” said Bro. Herron giving his daughter an affectionate squeeze. “Go ahead with your mother to the car. I have one question to ask Bro. Montague.” The ladies stepped outside. The sun was casting its last rays across the evening sky. As the ladies headed to the car exchanging hugs and goodbyes, Bro. Herron said to Bro. Montague in a low voice, “I’m going to get back with my wife for sure. I just have one concern. I’ve been seeing this other lady who’s under the impression that I had made a clean break from my wife. I don’t want to cause a stir. I am supposed to meet with her tonight but to tell you the truth, I’d rather be with my wife and daughter. What’s the best way to handle it?” “Just be truthful. I learned almost the hard way that it’s best to be up front. God honors that. I think you should call

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this woman and tell her you can’t see her any more and that you are getting back with your wife and daughter. Tell her you just got saved and you have to do right. You can use the phone inside to call her,” Bro. Montague said. Bro. Herron accepted the offer and made the phone call. “She’s mad, brother. Just pray for me.” “I sure will. God will work it out. You just stay true to Him.”

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Chapter Fifty-Five “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” I PETER 5:8-9 Just as the tempter left Jesus for a season and just as he tried to get Job to turn his back on God by bringing sickness and misfortune in his life, so the devil swung at the Montague and the Richardson families simultaneously. Pastor Richardson, Bro. Reynolds, Bro. Montague and the secretary were still rejoicing at how the Lord led them to handle the C.M. matter during their prayer time when an emergency phone call came in to the church for Bro. Montague. It was an EMT—they were headed to the hospital with Monica. She had been the victim 315


of a hit and run accident—probably a drunk driver. Bro. Montague immediately called his wife and headed for the hospital after Pastor prayed with him. “I’ll check on Sis. Richardson, then I’ll join you at the hospital,” Pastor said to him. The Montagues arrived at the hospital one behind each other, but had to remain in the waiting room. Monica was in one of the operating rooms. The EMT who had called Bro. Montague was in the waiting room apparently waiting for the Montagues to arrive. “Hi, I’m Anthony. Are you Mr. and Mrs. Montague? I’m the EMT who called you. I got the number from her purse. I am a Christian and I try to hang around to pray with the family of the patients I bring in. Do you mind if I pray with you?” “No, brother. We’re Christians also, and that is the main thing we need now—prayer.” After they prayed, Anthony gave them a report as to what happened. Monica was pulling off at the light when the driver in the other car apparently ran the red light at full speed and slammed into her on the driver’s side. “It was pretty bad. She’s unconscious and the car door had collapsed on her leg, applying enough pressure to cause some damage to her leg as well. Some of the glass splintered into her face. Apparently the driver had been drinking.” Sis. Montague, trying hard to hold back the tears, placed her hands up to her mouth and said, “Oh, my goodness!” Some of the blood drained from her face. Bro. Montague drew her close to him. “What’s the worse that can happen?” he asked the EMT. “The doctors can tell you better than I can,” said Anthony.

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“But they will try to remove the broken glass from her face. That shouldn’t leave too much of a scar, if any. It’s all on the surface. Her leg is not broken, just a deep wound. She was still unconscious when we brought her in. She should come out o.k. Just keep praying and God will take over.” They thanked Anthony for all he had done to help save their daughter. They continued to pray as they awaited the doctor. After finishing business at the church, which took a little longer than expected, Pastor Richardson headed home to check on Sis. Richardson who was still on bed rest seeing she was only a couple weeks away from delivering the baby. “Wanda, I’m home,” Pastor shouted on entering the front door. “Wanda!” He headed for the bedroom. Her quilt was laying on the couch where he had left her earlier that morning. He thought maybe she was in the rest room. Pushing the bedroom door open, he almost stopped in his tracks: Sis. Richardson was lying on the floor. He rushed over to her. Her body was extremely warm and clammy. Her clothes were a little damp. She was sweating profusely. He pulled out his cell phone to call the ambulance. How long she had been like this he did not know. The EMT crew quickly checked her out. Her blood pressure was extremely high. They quickly placed an IV on her. Soon they were speeding down the road heading toward the hospital. Pastor Richardson informed Bro. Reynolds and the secretary of the turn of events as he headed out the door toward the hospital. “Dear God, I believe all this is happening because the devil is mad at us for all the soul winning we have been doing, and for thwarting his plans on Sunday. Please protect the rest of the church family. It’s hard to pray ‘have Your will and way’ at a time like this, but Lord, have Your will and way. Please comfort the Montague

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family and restore Monica back to health. Be with my wife. We are so close to delivering the baby that we’ve prayed for for so long. Please let us not lose the baby. Amen.” The doctors and nurses worked hard to bring Sis. Richardson’s blood pressure down, but with very little success. She was on twenty-four hour watch with all kinds of machines hooked up to her. She was barely conscious. As Pastor paced the floor in the waiting room, he was greeted by Anthony, the EMT. “Do you mind if I pray with you, Sir” “Go right ahead. I’m Pastor Richardson. I believe you brought my wife here.” The two men prayed after which Pastor invited him to visit the church. After Anthony left, Pastor placed a call to Bro. Montague on his cell phone. “Pastor, we’re still here. We’re waiting to go in to her room. They just wheeled her out of the operating room.” Bro. Montague shared with him all that Anthony and the nurses at the desk had told him. “What floor are you on?” asked Pastor. “The second floor. We don’t know what room yet, but we’ll keep you posted.” “The devil has pulled out all the stops. I thought I would be able to come right away. However, it may take a few m inutes longer before I get there. I’m on the fourth floor with my wife.” Pastor gave him a brief update of what took place since they last spoke at the church—even about the EMT who prayed with him. “No kidding. Pastor, that’s the same EMT who brought Monica in and he prayed with us also. That blessed my heart

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tremendously.” “How’s Sis. Montague holding out?” “She’s a tough one. She’s doing better than me. I’m sure she’ll want to stop by and visit with Sis. Richardson for a few minutes.” “That will be fine. But tell her to stay put with Monica. Sis. Richardson will be out of it for a while. I’m going to call Bro. Reynolds and the secretary and have them email and call the church members and begin a twenty-four hour prayer chain for their recovery. We have to fight the devil with the strongest weapon that we have and that’s prayer. So let’s begin rounding up our forces.” “I’m with you, Pastor. The battle can be tough at times, but the victory is sweet. We love you, Pastor, and we thank God for you.” “I thank God for you and your family too. I’ll be talking with you soon.” ______________________ News got around fast. The church office was inundated with phone call after phone call. The secretary started filling up the prayer wheel with those who wanted to pray on the twenty-four hour prayer chain. The battle was on: it was the saints of New Mt. Zion Missionary Evangelical Church vs the dark forces of the devil. Stacy and her parents headed to the hospital after finishing their evening meal. Bro. Reynolds and his family joined the gathering after picking up James from school. Jonathan would join them there

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on his way home from his new job. Sis. Herron and Tiffany headed there also after Tiffany would not stop crying until they were heading in that direction. She left a message at Bro. Herron’s workplace for him to join them if he could. Just two days ago they were visiting with the Montagues. Bro. Harold and Sis. Mills drove on out to the hospital after picking Sis. Bettie up. For the first time, both ladies had nothing to say. All were lost in their own thoughts. Leah, Monica’s oldest sister, who no longer worked at the hospital, but at a doctor’s office, hurried on over to be with her sister as soon as her mother told her the news. She loved her sister dearly. A few others joined them that Tuesday evening for two very powerful prayer meetings in the waiting rooms on the second floor and the fourth floor of the hospital. Strangers were in the waiting rooms being blessed as well, as they asked for prayers for their loved ones. This was a critical and trying time for the New Mt. Zion Missionary church family. Pastor Richardson sensed it and said to the members of the church who were present, “Listen up everyone, the Lord has laid on my heart two verses that I want to share with you: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” and, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

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Will Monica recover from this accident? What will the future hold for her and Jonathan? Will Sis. Richardson and the baby survive this pregnancy? Why does Bro. Montague not trust Xavier, his older daughter’s boyfriend? Will Richard, Bro. Montague’s former employer, come after him once he gets out of jail? Why does Richard not want to ever again have anything to do with God? Will Yvette come between Bro. and Sis. Herron who now have a new life in Christ as a family?

For answers to these questions, read the next book in this 3-book series: All the Bishop’s Children, to be published in 2011.

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Notes for Spiritual Growth 1. Bro. Wilmington had sinned and kept that sin hidden from the two most important people in his life. Apparently he was calling upon God to deliver him from it. God dealt with his heart about the matter, giving him space to repent. Bro. Wilmington refused to, so God had to bring the hammer down. What, as Christians, should we learn from this regarding sin in our own lives? 2. Bro. Wilmington almost lost the two most important persons in his life—his wife and his daughter. Has anything like this ever happened to you or came close to happening to you? 3. We understand the biblical mandate for a wife to be obedient to her husband in everything. Should Sis. Wilmington have kept quiet this long about the situation, knowing that it may possibly affect her daughter? 4. As a daughter, was Stacy right in her response toward her Dad? How should a grown child respond to his or her parents when they have sinned and lied about it for so long? 5. Do you think Stacy’s negative response to this situation, especially toward her father, led to her getting pregnant out of wedlock? 323


6. Should the Wilmingtons have let her go off to college at a critical time like this? 7. Read again the chapter with the sermon on the ‘Pull and Power of Sin’. Think about any sin in your life that you are having a hard time getting rid of. Ask God to give you a true picture of just how destructive that sin is and can be in your life and to help you to get rid of any sin that is in your life. Study verses pertaining to that particular sin and quote them whenever you are tempted to commit that sin. 8. Monica and Jonathan seem to have the right perspective as far as a girl-guy relationship. Both seem to be taking it at a slow pace and not rushing into it. They show respect for each other, not crossing each other’s boundaries. What do you think of Monica and Jonathan’s relationship? Are they setting a great example for two young single people? 9. What do you think about the rules Bro. Montague laid out for his daughter, Monica, on the day of the Song of Solomon Love Banquet? 10. Can you identify with the unspeakable joy the members of New Mt. Zion are experiencing whenever they tell people about Jesus? 11. Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal

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Saviour? If you did not understand it from the book, here’s how you can be saved today: 1. Accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 2. Accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death...” 3. Accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Bible says in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” 4. Accept the fact that you cannot do anything to save yourself! The Bible states in Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace are ye saved

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through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” 5. Accept the fact that God loves you more than you love yourself, and that He wants to save you from hell. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 6. With these facts in mind, please repent of your sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and pray and ask Him to come into your heart and save you this very moment. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9 and 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 7. If you are willing to trust Christ as your Saviour please pray with me the following prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have sinned against you. For Jesus Christ’s sake, please forgive me of all of my

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sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for me. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart, save my soul, change my life, and fill me with your Holy Spirit today and forever. Amen.


For those families who are going through drama, one of the best books you will ever read is: God Is Greater than Family Mess, by Bishop Joey Johnson. Visit www.GodIsGreaterThanFamilyMess.com for more information Available wherever fine books are sold. Published by St. Paul Press


AndFamilyDramaJustWon'tStop  

AndFamilyDramaJustWon'tStop