Publish Novellas 12 January 2022
EPISODE 3 – SANCTUARY
Neglected children learn the value of prayer as they seek out a spiritual advisor.
Partly hoping it will provide ancillary redemption, the abusive father has no objection to Mattie, Leland, and Bettye going to Church.
“Have the pastor pray to forgive this house of sins—so that we might receive entry through the pearly gates when the time comes,” he says.
On Sunday, after Leland hitches up the horse, the three eldest children pile into the wagon.
Pastor discussion with three children…
Following the religious sermon, Pastor Franklin commends the children for attendance and asks about the welfare of their parents.
"Pastor Franklin, please pray fer our family. We goin’ through many trials,” Mattie reveals.
“Certainly, children. Is there anything specific you want to share?” he asks.
“It’s kind of tough to talk about…. Our father is very abusive to us…, especially the older chil’ren,” Mattie responds.
“Dear child, I am so sorry to hear that. It takes courage to speak up as you have. Is he abusive physically… or in other ways?” asks the Pastor.
“Abusive in every way! He breaks the Lord’s seventh Commandment,” replies Mattie while her brother and sister look down with tears running from their faces onto the floor. Mattie continues, “Mother says, we obeyin’ the Commandment to honor him.”
Leland looks upward and confirms, “It’s true. Can ya provide sanctuary fer all four of us?”
"Let us pray together again….” Afterwards, Pastor Franklin asks, “This is no way to honor your father according to the Bible. Have you phoned the police?”
Mattie reveals, “When he first started wit’ me, I did ring the sheriff. Two officers come to the farm and talked to father on the porch before drivin’ away. He come back inside and threatened if I call again, he and the sheriff would take turns on me.
“He then dragged me in the bedroom and took a belt to my bare behind before havin’ me… honor him. It was painful after the whoopin. Our older brotha, Malcolm, tried his best to protect us. But he ran away months ago to get a job in the city.”
“My heart goes out to you all, for what you have endured. The town is small. Most men work farms, mine coal, or enlist in the army. There aren’t ways for children to earn a living.
“Your brother may be far away from the city. If I provide sanctuary here, it would be some cots in front of the pews. There is no protection from your father if he comes looking for you.”
“I understand. Perhaps there’s another family that can take us in. My younger sista, Joann, is gonna have a baby in a couple of months,” Leland adds.
The saddened pastor promises, “I will discreetly inquire among some of the widowed parishioners. When can you get away?”
“We wanna leave next Sunday wit’ Joann. If not here, we’ll go anywhere that will accept us together. We willin’ to do chores to earn our keep,” Mattie promises.
“Come here an hour before services begin next Sunday. I will arrange for somebody to care for you privately and not reveal your location to others. The only truth I will share is that you were not present for the services as you were the prior week.”
For the first time in the conversation, all three children raise their heads together and look the pastor in the eyes, thanking him. “We’ll be here,” they all respond in unison.
“Keep praying, children. I will do the same till I see you next Sunday.”
“Now we have somethin’ to thank God fer. Thanks fer helpin’ us,” Mattie reacts with optimism.
As they climb back on the wagon, Pastor Franklin encourages, “I will pray for you to have a safe journey home today, and see you here next Sunday.” He waves to them before going back into the church to pray and consider which families are the best candidates to offer assistance.
One widow has teenage boys. That could make the three girls uncomfortable. Another widow is courting a potential husband. This may not be the best time to divert her attention to many children.
Recently widowed Emily Jackson has no one to take care of her farm. The pastor prays all night over the options. The next morning, he gets on his buggy and heads to Emily.
Pastor and widow conversation…
Emily comes outside on the front porch when she hears the horse. After the pastor steps off his carriage, she greets him with a smile, “Good morning, Pastor Franklin. Can I fix ya some breakfast?”
“Good morning, Sister Jackson, perhaps just coffee. How are you today?”
“Come on in. I am gettin’ by as best I can. Hopefully, ya ain’t comin’ to collect my tithe,” Emily says while putting a coffee pot on the stove.
“I am not here to collect anything. Your hospitality touches my heart. Like our Lord, I have offered prayers all night in your behalf and that of others.”
“Thanks, so much. Fer that, ya hafta accept some fresh baked biscuits and let me fry ya some eggs wit’ yer coffee,” Emily insists.
“Indeed, like Lydia in the scriptures, you make an offer I can’t refuse. In fact, if your heart is agreeable, the Lord has led me here to offer you a blessing.”
“Please, tell me what it is!” she says while setting a cup of coffee on the dusty table.
“Four orphaned children, ranging in ages from about 11 to 17 need a place to stay. They can help with chores and provide companionship if you take them in.”
“I’ve always wanted to have chil’ren of my own. Is they boys or girls? Tell me more. Is they God-fearin’?” Emily inquires with excitement.
”The oldest and two youngest are girls. They were regular parishioners until problems in their family life became a hinderance. They also got some home schooling, so they read and write a little.”
“How can I turn down this blessin’. I need help wit’ the farm, and I get to fill my quiver wit’ chil’ren.”
“I am very happy that you are agreeable. But there is something else I must reveal in confidence…,” pausing as he sips coffee.
“Please do,” Emily responds while leaning toward him across the table.
“Though not in the same manner, like Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior, a young one is with child through no fault of her own.”
“Dear Lord! They need some protectin’,” she gasps.
The pastor cautions, “This could be a source of gossip. I understand if you decline. But know that if you accept, I will not expect you to bring them to church. I could visit as much as possible and offer prayers in their behalf.”
“Thank ya fer that. My heart is racin’. The Good Book tells us to take care of the fatherless chil’ren,” Emily reasons as she stands to grab a towel and wipe the table.
“That it does, at James chapter 1 and verse 27,” says the pastor.
“I wanna do it. I can teach the girls to cook and fix their hair, and… welcome them all wit’ love.”
“For that, you will be blessed. Come to the church an hour before services this Sunday. They will be waiting.”
“Certainly, now let me finish fixin’ the breakfast I promised to ya.”