The Daring Escape From Mexican Drug Lords

Prologue:

I knew I might not make it out alive…or at all. I was starting to doubt myself and all my “good reasons” for coming in the first place. This was suppose to be a simple, in-and-out, food-dropping mission. The plan was to fly in, unload the food and medical supplies and get out in one piece. I had never anticipated the nightmare I now found myself in…

Chapter 1:

Six months ago, I was laying on my bed, browsing through our weekly church magazine. An article about a mission trip to Mexico grabbed my attention the same way dad gets my attention when he holds out the car keys. The article wasn’t like other mission trip articles. This one made my heart shatter as I read the report and the captions beneath the photos. Very few trips had been made to this one specific village and it was in a dire state. Drug lords controlled the area and the streets were never safe. The people lived in constant fear of death or capture. I realized that it wasn’t fair that they live in constant fear or capture while I sat comfortably, only reading about them. A love for these people gripped me and it wasn’t “just emotion,” it was the Spirit of God working in me ‘to will and to act.’ After reading the article three times over, I jumped up to search it on the internet. I found a lot more information on one site called, “Reach out!” which included fees and dates. Armed with a ton of facts, I marched into the lounge to talk to mom and dad about letting me go. The money was an obstacle for later. I could probably talk about it around town, announce it at church and have fund raisers. I knew from experience that if an idea was born in the heart of God, He’ll undoubtedly fund it.

Chapter 2:

I had gotten a thumbs-up from dad and a reluctant nod from mom. I understood her response. I probably would have reacted the same way if my only child, my 19-year old daughter wanted to go into one of the most dangerous places to do mission work. I knew it was hard for her but I had a divine calling from the Lord Jesus and I wasn’t going to fail Him—not after all that He did for me. I had been commanded to ‘forsake’ my family for the sake of the Gospel and, painful as it was, that’s what I was going to do.

I decided to start by arranging a few fund raisers. Thankfully, Christmas and New Year’s were just around the corner, making it a great time for holding family events to raise funds to cover my expenses. Many people always come to our town for the holiday season which meant money was going to be spent carelessly. I thought, “I might as well give them a good cause to spent their money on.”

I managed to get permission from our pastor to explain it to the congregation the following Sunday. He also suggested a bake sale straight after church. The weather forecast predicted a pleasant afternoon with plenty of sunshine so dad asked around town for everyone to bring a camping chair along and mom got her boss to donate eight steel tables from his factory while I baked and baked until I hated baking altogether!

It was a fun time-seeing everyone working together as one to serve God. Sure, I was the only one from our town that was going on the actual trip but it would have been impossible without all the other people working with me. Never, in all my 19 years, did I see God providing so much at a time in such mysterious ways.

Ladies from the town’s “gossip group” brought pies and pastries they baked to our bake sale, only to buy them back, one piece at a time!

Henry, the gas station manager who was known for his irritability and rudeness, declared that, for the next three months, 20% of his profit would go to support my work in Mexico.

The electronics’ store owner volunteered to supply us with 100 solar-powered audio Bible while the local book shop donated an abundant supply of 3,500 Spanish tracts! Everything was coming together and I was on cloud nine!

Chapter 3:

Having made all the money that I would need and carrying loads of Bibles and tracts, I boarded a flight to the base in America. From there, the entire group caught another flight into Mexico City. There, we made contact with the mission station and arrangements were made for a helicopter to fetch us in three days. We were to land, distribute the literature and do some first aiding for five days and fly back out, but, on day four, calamity overcame us…

We were gathered outside for the morning devotions and daily briefing, when we heard guns shots. The air was filled with the sound of dozens of ‘big guns’ going off. Women and children huddles together, in fear, wherever they could, knowing if they ran for their huts, they’d probably get shot. Some of the men tried to stand bravely but drug lords with machine guns were no match for them. Scared, I cowered in a huddle and prayed for deliverance. The leader of the drug lords, shouted what must have meant, “Silence!” because the air suddenly grew deathly quiet. As everyone held their breath, he spoke up in broken English, “Europeans know they not welcome here. But they not listen. They die with you!” He ended his sentence by pointing a finger at the villagers, which sent a cheer through his company. Many of the people had warned us of these local terrorists and the stories that were told of them were only of bloodshed and insane deeds. We knew we were messing with the wrong guys.

Chapter 4:

Eleven days ago, the drug lords burst into our village and carried all of the inhabitants off as prisoners. I still wasn’t sure  what they kept us for but from what I heard we were merely entertainment and the women especially…

Our men had been sedated to avoid any opposition but when women are trapped and kept locked away until the drug lords need ‘entertainment’, they can get just as vicious. We didn’t dare put up too much of a fight, fearing for our lives but when locked away and alone, we were constantly planning how to escape. Bitter words went around, women cursing the men who raped them after their ordeals. Children shuddered whenever the ‘prison’ doors opened. Young girls quivered, as a thin stem does in a terrible wind, at the thought of them being next to entertain. Young boys vowed to fight back and protect their mothers and sisters but, what was a boy against a machine gun-armed drug lord? I knew I had to make a plan before everyone suffered to their death.

I sat up countless nights, trying to figure out how to arrange our escape. Our cell phones had been taken, plus there was no reception anyway, so a call was out. We were permanently locked in a cabin. Our cabin was always guarded from the outside. We had no weapo-my knife! I had forgotten about the knife I always kept on my belt. I felt for it, it was still there. Having no clue how our captors hadn’t seen it, I set about re-thinking the plan. With a knife, it’ll be easier to escape. It won’t be much, but it’s more than we had before. After another week of planning, I had my women ready for action the next time a guard came in. Unfortunately, the next guard was a burly, barrel-chested man that didn’t go down as easily as we hoped. When the door opened, a heavy-set woman in her early fifties, knocked his head with a chair leg. After three blows he staggered back, giving me the chance to get into position. My job was to wait behind him with the knife and kill him as soon as he was nearly unconscious. I had never killed anyone before, much less stab a person to death so I was shivering and sweating so much that I wondered if I was going to be able to do it. But, we had to finish what we started–if we didn’t, the guard would tell the leader and we’d all be killed sooner. A shorter woman in her late twenties bashed a hard wood table leg against his chest, winding him momentarily. Three other women came at him with table and chair legs, hitting like I never expected, all of them fueled by the fury that had built up during the past weeks. He fell to the ground and the heavy-set woman brought her chair-leg weapon down on his forehead, knocking him unconscious. It was my turn. Already poised with my knife, I brought it down hard, stabbing a few times until I couldn’t anymore. I dropped the knife and fell to one side, sobbing uncontrollably. “I killed him! I’m a Christian and I killed my enemy!” The heavy-set woman came to my side and whispered in Spanish accented English, “I think Lord Jesus happy. We prayed for escape and this was the one He gave. Must leave before more guards come. Don’t want to do this again.” I wiped my face, looked up at the courageous women standing in front of me and said a silent prayer for guidance and protection.

I lead them through the open court yard, everyone careful not the make a sound. We managed to cross that safely and then we came close to the huge cabin the drug lords stayed in. I shuddered as I looked at the place, all those people in there are hard-core, serial murderers, rapers, addicts. We were so close to them, yet unnoticed. I signaled for everyone to head on to the open gate. It was in plain view of the cabin’s main windows so I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed that the guards will all be blind to us.

Having crossed the court yard and the gate without being stopped, we hiking through the dense, hot and sticky Mexican jungle for another two hours, getting as far from them as possible. Finally, everyone needed a rest and sat down to catch their breath. I spoke up first, “The Lord has been good to us. His protection over our escape was so evident and His guidance amazing. Let’s thank Him for it!” All fifty-two heads bowed in prayer as everyone thanked God for His help. After resting there for another thirty minutes, we continued our trek home.

Chapter 5:

When we finally reached the village, all the men were there and couldn’t believe their eyes. Later, they explained what had happened. They were told all the women had been raped, mutilated and brutally killed. Then the drug lords told them to go home and start replanting the crops—crops that the drug lords were going to come fetch at harvest for themselves. Not knowing it was all a big lie, they trudged back through the jungle and forced themselves to plant and water the crops. They labored in the sun for hours, perfecting the rows and rows of seeds. They watered the plants faithfully, knowing if they don’t get top notch crops, they were going to be killed on the spot. Then, when we showed up, seemingly from the dead, hope was restored to their heart and, upon hearing about our escape, they gained new courage to fight back. The husband of the heavy-set woman stroked her hair lovingly and said in Spanish, “I never thought my plump tortilla would hit a man, much less knock him unconscious!” She gently smacked his arm and joked, “You be careful the next time you want to argue with me!”

We had contacted our helicopter pilot to come and fetch us again. He had been there the day after we were captured but found the village deserted so he went back and reported the disappearance. Search parties were unwilling to  go into the dense jungle, aware of the drug lords that rule the area so we were left for dead. Our pilot, also a missionary, contacted a many people as he could, but no-one could or would do anything. Some were too scared to go and others didn’t know where to go anyway. We were just so grateful to be safe again. We could hop in the helicopter and fly off into the sunset and away from all this trouble but there will still be a whole village full of people in danger. The drug lords had made it clear that they were coming back. Everyone had to be evacuated–something the drug lords wouldn’t have imagined possible. So we called home base in Mexico City, asking for a plane large enough to fly a hundred and fifty people our of danger. A plane was found and send down. Everyone clambered in and the door was shut. It sort of reminded me of Noah’s ark and how God had provided and protected all along and eventually shut the door of the ark to keep them safe inside and the dangers out. I was more than happy to see the entire village being flown out to safety. They would be given temporary homes and materials to build permanent ones, food for as long as needed and land to build and plant on. The mission in Mexico was giving them a second chance to start their lives over in a safe environment. Of course, that would cost a whole lot of money, but the idea was God’s—He’ll provide…again.

I got on the plane that was taking me home, thankful that the flight would be quick…and safe. I had come to understand and value the meaning of God’s love during trying times. During times when you have nothing else to keep you going, you can feel his hand overshadow you and shield you from danger. I felt His hand and I know He was with us all the way.

Chapter 6:

I had landed several hours later and welcomed the fresh, cool air when I stepped out of the plane. Mexico was dusty, dry and hot, but here I was reveling in the cool breeze. After weeks of being away from home, enduring hardship and having a simple, week-long mission trip turn into a three week ordeal, I was ready to get home. It had been a very challenging time, spiritually and I felt as though it was a test meant specifically for me. The lesson, I believe, was meant for me was to trust God in every situation. His provision and protection never fails. From personal experience, He’s the only One Who’s 100% reliable and available.

The whole situation drew me closer to the Lord. I had learnt to trust in Him in a whole new way. I had learnt the deeper meaning of courage and I had learnt the power of prayer. I will never forget this past month…

 

©Copyrighted work of Shimei Botes. Do not use without permission from author.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Vision In Congo…

Prologue:

I looked around me. All I could see were the dirty little faces of dark-skinned children. Their sunken eye staring at my lavish clothes and curled hair. I knew my clothes were making me stand out like a sore thumb. It was time to buy some traditional clothing…

Chapter 1:

I had come to the Congo on a special mission: Win souls for God and help them improve their lifestyles. But…it was worse than I had imagined. The poverty, the filth, the degraded lifestyles. It pained me to look out at the streets or to go to the market. I wanted to help these people, but what I came to do would never be enough. I had a goal in mind since I was 5, I was going to do big things for God; change the world. But, this…this is reality. There’s a lot of poverty around me and what I do wouldn’t be enough but if it can improve the lives of 2 people, it’s worth it. So, my first step would be to buy simpler clothing and then head down to the local mission.

I’m dressed in a simple tee and a traditionally printed wrap-around skirt with flops, heading to the mission. The mission had been founded decades ago but was struggling as well. I was here to help them get back on their feet; to be fully equipped to reach out to the community, showing them Jesus’ love and providing 2 meals a day, along with necessary toiletries and non-perishable food to take home. We had brought with us a massive supply of everything we though they may need along with some “luxuries” which, is an everyday thing for us, like flushing toilets. We managed to bring about twenty portable toilets, knowing it wouldn’t be enough but at least a start.

Chapter 2:

Starting at the mission was hard, getting used to the sights, sounds and smells that you wouldn’t typically find in a South African mission – due to poverty. After adjusting to the three-senses’ experiences, I jumped right into any job that needed doing. Motivation to improve the appearance and efficiency of the mission drove me to do jobs I have never done in my life. Fixing roofs, building beds for the sick, cleaning out long-drop toilets for sterilization and cleaning sores on sick people. It was a full few days so far but even more rewarding! People flocked to come see us, they grabbed the opportunity to each take a shower in one of the twenty portable showers that we set up, amazed at the water flowing from the shower heads! Having to control such large crowds, we set up information desks and registering desks to make it more efficient. Then, of course, we also taught them skills. Skills that would bring in a descent income for them and their families. They easily took to farming – they needed the crops and they already knew how to work in the fields. Our contribution was merely to distribute 4,000+ seeds that would do well in the Congo weather. The other projects we took to them had to do with drilling boreholes, farming with cattle, pigs and chickens. Some of these trades were familiar to them but we brought some tools and tricks to help them improve their produce. The looks on their faces are priceless!

Chapter 3:

I’ve been in the Congo for two months and the time to return home is approaching fast. Besides dying of the heat, it’s been an extraordinary experience working for the Lord in this way. Providing humanitarian aid along with holding services and counselling sessions has proven to be very helpful and exactly what these people need. I have been to blessed to see how the Lord provides for us when we are in the center of His will. I have also drawn closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ whenever I’m in a situation that seems hopeless or whenever we need to pray for someone. Sometimes, out of desperation, I would lie in bed at night, which was basically a cow hide, and literally cry out to the Lord, asking Him why these people have to suffer so much when we, in SA have so much. These people are dying of heat stroke, food and water shortage, diseases and many other unknown causes. Why would He allow me to live such a luxurious lifestyle and let these people suffer. After weeks of crying and praying myself to sleep and acting brave during the day, I got my answer. I was crying and praying as usual, when out of the blue, I felt this surreal, light atmosphere around me. It was a sudden cool breeze that lingered for about five minutes, breaking the terrible heat, while the Lord spoke to me, giving me my long-sought-for answer. An audible voice said, “It is not me who has made these people suffer and you thrive. I have allowed you to prosper with the intention of you reaching out to them without allowing them to suffer such extreme poverty. My intention has never been that they suffer, it has always been that you reach out to them. Their poverty will remain on your head for the rest of your life if you don’t do something about it. Every little counts.” And with that, the breeze stopped and the atmosphere returned to being musty and the air thick. I was already sitting up in awe and said in a whisper, “I will do my part, Jesus!” I jumped up and ran outside to try and catch a glimpse of what I had just experienced. Seeing nothing, I ran back inside and woke up the entire household. It was only us missionaries staying there so I awoke everyone to tell them of my vision. They all stared in amazement as I recounted my encounter with the Lord. We agreed that more missionaries are needs more then twice a year and planning our next trip was all we wanted to do. But, since there was still work to do and having received confirmation that the Lord is pleased with our work, we got up to start a hectic, 18-hour long day, content that the Lord is using us in whichever way possible.

Chapter 4: 

We’ve been here for three months and our day of departure has come too suddenly. I had to change into my own clothes just before leaving and immediately noticed how dusty it became as I had worn only traditional clothes for three months! Getting back into my own clothes and packing my few belongings, I shed many a tear. When I wanted to give my traditional clothing to our host mother, she insisted I keep them as a reminder of God’s calling on my life. I had told her of my vision and, in her French accented English, she replied with joy and enthusiasm, “You are called by the Most High God!” I had come to respect her sound judgement and was astonished by her faith in a God who seemed to have forgotten about them. She had said to me, “He will never forget me. I have prayed for His help and you and your team came. He does answer prayer, but usually in ways we never expected!” As I said my goodbyes, I struggled to compose myself. Our host mother suggest we all pray together and afterwards, every single person in the village wanted to either shake our hands, hug us or kiss us on the cheek. And after getting used to the style of living, we felt completely as ease with hugging and kissing these poverty-stricken people. We had been able to make some changes. We set up twenty portable toilets and twenty camping showers, all of them easily accessible by everyone in the village. We had stocked up the food supply minutes ago and everyone had been provided with another necessities hamper that’ll last another two months. We had left Bibles, tracts and solar-powered, audio bibles for them and it was up to our host mother to keep the ablution facilities running smoothing and pass out the Bibles and tracts. We had done our part. For the moment being. I was coming back.

God has a calling on my life and I’m going to fulfill His plan for my life!

 

*Short story based on true accounts 

©Copyrighted work of Shimei Botes. Do not use without written permission from author.

 

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Mayhem in Ice’s Edge

There were posters on every wall, fence, lamp post and post box screaming to passer’s by not to forget the upcoming election. People were shuffling up and down the street, trying to get their shopping done before the snow came down even harder. Some people paused in their tracks to read the posters which had a picture of Mr. Petrilli and Mr. Patterson while others, most of the people, simply glanced up and hurried on. The whole town had gotten tired of their fighting…

Dick Blake Petrilli and Don Benson Patterson had been through primary, secondary and high school together. They were best friends right through college. They always prided themselves in the fact that they both had the same initials and the same interests. It had always been to their benefit to like the same things. Not today. Today, 11 years after graduating from college they are rivals, opponents. Both Dick and Don grew up in the Antarctic, in a little town the two of them renamed, “Ice’s Edge.” They were just young boys, around 15 when they brought their petition to the mayor to change the name of the town. Of course, it couldn’t be changed on the maps and, well, legally, but the mayor agreed that the new name be stated alongside of their old name on the sign posts. Since then, all the people had been calling it that. Now, when outsiders came, they usually weren’t sure of the town they’re entering but, the hospitality of the town kept them there long enough to learn the town’s ‘town folk’ name and the actual name. Every resident, every visitor, every drifter, anybody felt welcome and safe there. There was a peace and serenity the rest of the world couldn’t offer them. There was a brotherhood atmosphere and a genuine concern for others that the rest of the world ignored. Parents were obeyed and kids treated with likewise respect. The elderly weren’t put away in old age homes, for they agreed to never build one. Rather, as the kids grew older and moved out, they always had a room ready for their parents whenever they needed extra care.

There was a pastor, a young fellow of about 35, along with his wife and two children. They served the church well and the town folk loved them, too. Christianity was the dominant religion and people strove to live according to the ten commandments. They usually did. Except until a few days ago…

“Don, I still insist that I should become mayor! The things I have planned for this town exceeds everything we’ve done so far. We could become an industrialized nation-exporting our pro-” “I DON’T CARE if you have big plans. This town is happy the way it is. Our forefathers established it this way and we are going to keep it this way! Industrializing it would bring more people, filth and pollution to our community! Everyone is happy with the way things are now, why change it?” Things were heating up between Dick and Don as they bickered over the town’s future. An election! Don had gotten a brain wave and interrupted Dick once more, “What about an election? We can let the people choose. You know, it’s for the good of the whole town.” Don! Always trying to make peace! There was nothing Dick could do. Don was right; the people had the right to vote and voice their opinion. “Okay. I shall start my campaign immediately!” Dick hurried off in a huff with some of the people rushing out with him. Oh, Lord, help me! Don always knew that Dick had a short temper, but he never got into big fights with Don. Don didn’t want to run for office, but if he didn’t, Dick would use his power to change the town-for the worse. he could see where this was going but Dick didn’t. He was too preoccupied with getting his way. I’ll just have to win or change his mind!

The next day was Sunday. Don got ready for church and arrived before Dick did. Dick crept in just as the singing started. No doubt, he was ashamed of how he treated his best friend, but feeling he was right, couldn’t bring himself to apologize. At least, not BEFORE winning the election. The singing ended and Pastor Hilton Jackson went up to the pulpit. His face was shining, as usual when he went up to preach. Everyone sensed the presence of God as soon as he started praying. He turned the page of his well-worn leather Bible and announced the reference. “Please turn with me to Psalm 133 and we’ll be reading from verse one to verse three, the entire chapter.” A ripple of stifled laughter swept through the room as they sensed his humorous statement. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” The pastor’s words were ringing over and over in Dick’s head. Dwell together in unity…like precious oil…dew of Hermon…the Lord’s blessing…maybe I’m taking this election thing a bit too far. Don thought the scripture over intently. Looking down at his own Bible, he found the verse and highlighted it in a bright orange color. Here I am, all righteous and holy, while my brother has an issue with me. I wish I could change his thinking but only God could do that. Then it dawned on him. He can use me to bring peace between us! It doesn’t have to be God’s own hand reaching down and stopping this quarrel. He can use me! Excited and willing to give it another, Don listens intently to the rest of the sermon, drinking in every phrase. Every word spoken by the pastor was snatched up like honey dripping for the comb and eagerly taken to heart. The pastor said his amen and the lead singer came to the from and announced their closing song. It was none other than the famous hymn, Bind us together with love chords. It was enough confirmation for Don. He was not going to run for office, he’d rather try to change Dick’s mind. He was his best friend, after all.

“Dick? Dick, are you home?” Don hollered through the tightly shut front door of Dick’s impression house. All the doors and windows were locked and there seemed to be no-one at home. Don always walked right in, never having to knock on his friend’s door but today there was a strange feeling around the place. dick wasn’t answering but simply had to be there. He would probably be working on planning his campaign. The campaign! Don rapped one more time on the front door and turned to leave. “Don?” Dick called from the second story balcony. Looking up, Don saw a different person. Oh, it was Dick alright, but he looked different and the arrogant sting on his lips were gone. He motioned for Don to climb a ladder standing against the side of the house. Still the same Dick…too lazy to come down and unlock the door so he makes me climb a ladder! Don was glad Dick still wasted him around. He thought Dick would for sure send him sprawling on the ice, all the way back home. Clambering up an icy ladder to a second floor balcony was more than a piece of cake. When Don reached the top, Dick helped him over the rail and embraced him. Oookay. Freaky, unexpected moment! Dick let him go and Done stared hard at his friend. “Are you fine, Dick?” “No. I’m not fine. I argued with my best friend over a simple difference. I hated him for the good advice he gave me and I don’t know if ‘sorry’ would bring him back.” His eyes were teared up already and his face pale. Don looked him over, and seeing his anguish, realized he was sincere. “I actually came up here to talk to you about it. After this morning’s sermon, I knew I couldn’t let a friendship die down over a stupid fight. I just wasn’t su-” Another bear hug. Man, this guy is an emotional wreck! “So you forgive me? Please say yes.” Don laughed at his crying friend and shouted, “Of course I do! Now would you quite crying, you’re freaking me out!” Arm in arm, they marched inside for a hot drink. Their disagreements had been settled and the Word of God had penetrated their hearts. They were changed people after that, always making sure no-one had issues with them. And as far as possible lived in unity with the rest of the town. The town never did export any goods, but they were still a happy community and nothing could change that.

©Copyrighted work of Shimei Botes. Do not use without written permission from author.

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Nancy Seeks God’s Kingdom

The alarm went off. 5:30 already? Nancy was in a bad mood and didn’t feel like getting up. She pulled the covers over her head and went back to sleep. If only this could last forever…

“Come on honey, it’s time to get up. Breakfast is on the table.” Ten more minutes, mom! “If you don’t get out of bed in 30 seconds I’ll have Rodney pour ice water over you!” This is ridiculous. I spend all my waking hours studying and then I should think some sleep is in order! Oh, joy! I forgot about the Math tests today…bummer!

By the time Rodney came rushing into the room with a bottle of ice water, Nancy was up and dressed. Straightening her duvet covers, she went over which tests she’s got for the day. Algebra at 9:00….Geometry at 11:00 and English at 14:00. Tomorrow it’s Physics and Chemistry at 9:00…French at 13:00 and the rest of the day off for study time! This shouldn’t be too hard, I know my work and I usually get B’s…

Mom hollered one final time and Nancy came bounding down the stairs. Plopping into her seat, she poured more milk over her cereal. Mom always adds the milk too far ahead of time and then the crispy-ness disa- “Which subjects are you going to be tested on today, Nancy?” “Um, Algebra, Geometry and English. I think they figured one weekend was enough to study for three tests. They never think we might just have a life outside those horrid class rooms!” “Now, Nancy, your teachers are kind-hearted people and they only want to give you the best education possible. You need to bear with them and respect them.” Another lecture’s on its way! “Mom, I understand all that, but the amount of work they dump on us! It’s-” “At least you don’t have to do your nine times table!” Rodney was in third grade and thought nothing can be more challenging than the nine times table. “Rod, you always think you’ve got the hardest work, but time tables are a thing of the past. Now we’re facing bigger, um, things…” Nancy felt stupid, her words failed her at the most appropriate time to lash out at her naive brother. What am I thinking? He’s my brother. I should be nice to him. “Okay, come on kids, it’s nearly time to head out. Rodney! Don’t…throw your coco pops to the dog!” Champs their ever-faithful-and-furry cocker spaniel sat on its hind legs, ready for its next bit of cereal. Rodney looked at her apologetically. “Sorry, girl. Mom says the cereal’s too expensive to give to you. Guess she doesn’t understand your true worth…” Mom burst out laughing, breaking Rodney’s ‘lamenting spell.’ “Dear, if you have to buy your own cereal you’d understand what I mean. Besides, the vet said Champs needs real dog food to stay healthy. Don’t want her getting sick” Mom gave Champs a loving scratch behind the ears and started clearing the dishes. “I guess mom’s right, girl. ” And added in a British accent, “We wish you a very long and satisfying life!”

Mom stopped the car in front of the school entrance and looked over her shoulder at her two kids. Nancy had her head phones on-only when in a bad mood does she wear them the entire ride long. “Is something wrong, Nancy girl?” Nancy smirked and arrogantly replied, “NO. Why should it be?” Rodney looked amused and volunteered, “A lecture might be order, mother?” Mom stiffeled her laughter and gently laid a finger on Rodney’s perfectly curved, cute nose. “You be good today. I want to see all A’s. Make me proud, okay?” “Sure mom. Love you.” “Love you too, honey.” Rodney hopped out the car and hurried alongside his friends who had been waiting for him at the door. Nancy got ready to get out but mom stopped her. “Hey, hey, listen carefully Nancy. You’re gonna have a horrible day if yo-” “Thanks, real encouraging.” “Will you let me finish? I said, You’re gonna have a horrible day if you’re going to continue in this mood. What’s wrong? Wouldn’t you rather go into class on a cheery note?” Nancy’s face got red as tears welled up before she could stop them. “I woke up wrong. Rod’s a pest. Champs chewed through my tee-shirt and my tests are haunting me!” Just mentioning it all brought a wave of relief over her. Mom looked at her and thought a minute before replying, “You know you don’t have to go through the day in this mood, right?” “I don’t want to but it’s there. It’s got me and it’s keeping me!” “Your day started wrong because you didn’t seek the Lord before seeking anything else. The Bible tells us to ‘…seek first the Kingdom of God and THEN all these things shall be added…'” “I suppose God wants more from me than an occasional prayer.” Things were getting through! “Why don’t we ask God to be with you today and help you with your tests while He’s at it?”

“Thanks, mom. I feel so light already. My day might be a good one after all! See you at three.”

©Copyrighted work of Shimei Botes. Do not use without written permission from author.

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Fear Facer: It’s Going To Be Okay

Rebekah breathed in a big gulp of fresh air and watched a butterfly on a nearby flower. She was standing on Josie’s porch watching the sun rise when Josie came out to join her with two cups of coffee. She set it down on the table and silently watched Rebekah. “Is something wrong?” Without turning around, Rebekah replied, “I never knew people can actually be this kind-hearted to someone who’s never wanted to befriend any of them before.” Josie knew exactly what she meant.

Rebekah Hogan had always been the rich wife of the multi millionaire Nate Hogan and they were a highly respected because of their financial status. They never came into town to visit anyone, probably too concerned about their reputation, and when they came to the stores, they always bought the most expensive stuff-mainly to impressive the others. Josie had always felt inferior to the Hogan family, as did the rest of the town’s folk. Rebekah remembered those days and how she had always thought lower of them…now she was inferior to them!

“It was always only a matter of time, Rebekah. You were going to be convicted of your pride sooner or later. I suppose this was the Lord’s way of getting your attention.” Rebekah quickly noticed that she might have sounded rude. “I don’t mean anything bad by it, I just…I’m dumb-struck by how much this town reflects Jesus.” “This town used to be religious many years ago until a pastor came and explained to us that it doesn’t matter how religious we are or how often we do good deeds, but rather if they are saved by the Blood of the Lamb. Thankfully, our forefathers took that message to heart and changed the whole town around. Now, we strive to help those in need simply because it reflects our Christian natures-not because we need to meet our quota of good deeds for the day.” Rebekah’s eye caught the outdoor clock hanging on the wall and jumped, “Look at the time! Aren’t we supposed to be at Pastor Odis’ house right about now?” Josie looked at the time, nodded her head and ran for her car keys.

Agnes Odis had just finished feeding the baby and was starting to clear the table when Sarah came down the stairs. “Good morning, sleeping beauty. Thought we’d never see you again…” Agnes winked at her and handed Sarah her breakfast. Bacon, eggs, toast, grilled tomato and sausages…a good start! “Thank you, um, Mrs. Odis. It smells wonderful.” ‘Mrs. Odis’ decided to drop the formalities, “Call me Agnes. And this little fellow is Caleb. His just turned two months old and eats like crazy! ”

Sarah finished her breakfast and offered to wash the dishes. Agnes, looking surprised, accepted the offer and took Caleb for his morning bath. “I’ll just be a few minutes. Oh, and, your mom’s coming over any time now with Josie. You might want to set out the tea cups.” “She’s coming here?” Sarah washed faster and hurried between the cupboards searching for everything they might need for tea.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. Sarah jumped up and ran for the front door. “Mom!” Rebekah embraced her daughter as her tears flowed down her cheeks. “Sarah, I’m so sorry. I had no choice. It’s better for you to stay here while I get things sorted out. But, I’ll come get you as soon as things get better.”  “It’s okay, mom! It’s not so bad here-breakfast was awesome!” Agnes laughed, “I’m glad I made a good first impression!” Everyone laughed. It was going to be okay. Life was going to get back to normal again. They would be a family again.

©Copyrighted work of Shimei Botes. Do not use without written permission from author.

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Fear Facer: Getting Somewhere

The moment Rebekah Hogan stepped into the warm kitchen, the staff bounced on her like she’d known them from primary school. They were all so nice. “Why?” She wondered what was it that compelled these people to love her in this manner. She’d just have to wait to find that out.

Agnes Odis’ car door swung shut just as Shirley came through the gate. Sarah lagged behind a bit, unsure of the lady is she supposed to stay with. “Hey Shirley! So good to see you again. This is Sarah Hogan. Sarah, this is Mrs. Howick.” Sarah nodded to acknowledge her and suddenly felt she was being rude-after all, there’s only one opportunity for a good first impression. “Sorry, ma’am. I’m still a bit shaken up. You know, all the…stuff that’s been going on lately. I…didn’t mean to seem rude.” “It’s okay, child! You’re not at all what I expected…” Sarah cocked her head, trying to ‘ask’ without seeming too interested in Shirley’s teasing statement. Luckily for her Shirley caught the cue and replied, “I always thought you’d be a rebellious teen after all you went through, but, I’m pleasantly surprised! You seem quite kind-hearted and gentle and your blonde hair is stunning! And those eyes! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful sky-blue eyes in my life!” Sarah blushed a little. This might not be such a bad stay after all…

Josie was in the dining hall again taking down orders. Damien Sickle had just walked in and she seated him, asking about the crops and the, well, fields in general. “It’s been growing just fine, Josie. In fact, think we got a big crop coming in this harvest. Wheat seemed to have sprung up like crazy after this last rain we got…” And he just kept trailing off about his precious fields. Josie began to regret asking about it. She could have asked about his wife, Dorothy. They just found out she’s pregnant with their fourth child….The restaurant door shutting violently jerked her back to her senses. It was Doug Miller, the cop. He seemed to be on a mission and Josie knew this was her chance to escape Damien’s field talk before he got into asking her for a donation. “Hey, Damien. Won’t you excuse me a while, I’ll come get your order in a minute.” Damien nodded and mumbled on about how Shaun Baxter’s herd of cow’s had stamped his wheat into a sorry  pile some 20 years ago. Everybody had heard that story before and everybody knew Damien and Shaun still had a grudge over it, well, Damien did. As for Shaun, he was going on with his life and leaving Damien behind to catch up. But that wasn’t important right now, Josie had better things to do than worry about other people’s issues.

“Hey Doug. Can I get you something?” Doug had just seated himself and was taking a quick look at the menu. “Yeah, I guess I’ll take a cuppacino. Need five of those today.” “Oh?” Josie verbally probed him for more information. “I’ve actually come to talk to you about something that’s happened to Mrs. Hogan.” Now we’re talking. “Go on.” “I was at the divorce attorney’s office today and spoke to a Daniella Paige. I was going there as a favor for Mrs. Hogan. She asked me to find out, since I am a cop, if it was legal for Nate to leave with all the money and shunt them out into the streets. We thought, you know, we could find a way to get Nate to provide them with some of the money to at least get a house and some groceries.” “Listen Doug, they’re divorced, okay? Nate Hogan has nothing to do with Rebekah anymore, In fact, she’s back to being Ms. Jeffrey again, legally. As for Sarah, Nate has to pay for her well fare every month. You could take them on on that point.” That sank in a bit. Should I tell him I’ve got Rebekah in the kitchen? “I supposed you’re right on that.” “And if you want to talk to her now, she’s in my kitchen right now.” He gave Josie a ‘Huh?’ look and I explained how we had seen her outside and that I volunteered to let her sleep over at my place. “As a matter of fact, when I left the kitchen she was showing Karylyn a few baker’s tricks. Let me get you a table and you two can talk about it.” Josie called Rebekah from the kitchen and told her our cop friend, Doug Miller was here to talk to her about the grant Nate was supposed to pay for Sarah. That got her moving out of the kitchen in no time! Oh, my goodness! I forgot about Damien! Josie hurried out the kitchen to Damien’s table and took his order. Making her way out of Damien’s way, in case he’ll talk about you-know-what again, she scribbled down two more orders and floated into the kitchen. People with their problems. Just when you think you can help the whole world, there’s more! 

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Fear Facer: It’s Rebekah Hogan!

“Holy mother of Peter! Josie, listen to this!” The local restaurant owner, 25 year old Josie Carter, looked up to see the town gossiper, Claudine Skelters, running up to her, struggling through the crowd. “Well, whatever is the matter with you?!” Josie knew this could only mean one thing: A new gossip spreading through town. Claudine interrupted her thoughts. “I just saw Mrs. Hogan and Sarah leaving the divorce attorneys’ offices! She was carrying documents, probably signed, too!” “Nate Hogan divorced his wife?” Josie wondered aloud. “Yes! And we were all thinking he’s a good church-man. But, no. Just walked out on them. Took all the money and left too!” “You mean he sold their house and the property? And left with all the money himself?!” Claudine shook her head solemnly. “I’m afraid so and now rumor has it that Rebekah has been forced into the streets. Pastor Odis and his wife asked Nimrod and Shirley Howick to take Sarah in for a while-just ’til Mrs. Hogan can get themselves a house again. On top of that-” Josie interrupted her deliberately, “Claudine, this is none of your business! Why do you spend most of your time spying on these innocent folks?” Claudine smiled mischievously and replied, “Well, with no daily newspaper, I keep everyone up to date.” “Then I guess we better import a journalist soon!” With that Josie ended the conversation and whisked off back into the ever-so-busy kitchen.

“Watch those eggs, Fredric! Don’t want them to burn…Mary, please take this new dessert for testing. Karylyn, this pie is not thoroughly baked…Mmmm, Ann, this is the best veggie dish yet!” Josie quickly slipped back into the dining hall where her guests flooded all the tables. “Well, good morning, Joe! Good to see you again. How’s was your delivery up North?” Joe was the town delivery trucker. Joe smiled as he heard her greeting. “I’ve never been better, Jose! Though, some of those road can get pretty rough!” “What can I get for you today, Joe?” Joe looked at the feeble menu and said, “Well, since there’s nothing new in here, I’ll take my usual.” “I’ll have you know, my crew and I are working on an entire new menu. News has spread about my restaurant and I’ve been getting customers from all over!” Josie turned on her heels in disgust. “Nothing new in here…how dare he!” She dared not voice her anger.

“Um, Josie, could you come over here a sec?” Fredric stiffly called in his highly German accent. He was standing at the window and intently watching someone outside. “What is it, Fred?” Josie anxiously asked. “There’s a lady out there, by the lamppost. She looks cold and hungry. Do you think we could do something for her?” Josie stood stunned and slowly turned to Fredric. “Fred, that’s no homeless lady. That’s Mrs. Hogan out there!” Fredric looked at her in disbelief and turned to the window again. “You mean, the rich Mrs. Hogan? The one married to multi-millionaire Nate Hogan? That Mrs. Hogan?!” Josie slowly shook her head. “That’s the one. She suddenly fell on some hard times. Claudine told me most of it, as usual.” Josie scurried across the kitchen to get a container. She put a few boiled potatoes, still hot in. A small block of cheese and a large piece of meat filled the rest of the container. She grabbed another container and scooped some fresh mulva pudding, dumping a generous helping of syrup over it.

“Hey, Fred. Could you watch things while I go give this to her?” “Sure, Josie. Tell her I said hi.” Josie grabbed her coat and the container and rushed outside. “Rebekah! Is that you?” “Yeah, what’s left of me.” Rebekah quietly replied, ashamed of her appearance. “You must be freezing out here!” “Just a bit…” Josie knew that response all too well. “Here, take my coat. I brought you some dinner.” Tears filled Rebekah’s eyes as Josie helped her get the coat on. “You know, I had a coat like this, four in fact. But Nate sold all our valuable possessions to restart his life elsewhere. He just left Sarah and me on our own!” Josie hugged her tight. “It’ll be okay, Rebekah. Sarah will be fine and I’ll arrange a job for you. You are a great baker aren’t you?” Rebekah only shook her head. “Well, my sister owns a bakery a few streets up. She needs the extra help, anyway. What do you say?” “I don’t know what to say. In fact, I’m so embarrassed at my state that I don’t want to appear in public again! ” Josie understood her predicament. Rebekah wasn’t ungrateful, she was just devastated. Josie knew she had to do more. “Do you have a place to sleep tonight?” Tears running down her cheeks, the once esteemed Mrs. Hogan softly replied, “The gutters didn’t seem too inviting so I booked in under the bridge.” Josie laughed, Rebekah hadn’t lost her sense of humor! “Well, you can go book out because I’m taking you home after I close the restaurant. Meanwhile, come sit in the kitchen. You can even try teaching Karylyn a few things about baking. “I don’t know how to thank you! I definitely didn’t expect it!” Rebekah wiped her cheek dry and grabbed Josie’s hand. “Come on, let’s get inside. Oh, and before he asks if I told you, Fredric said hi!”

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