Chapter Twenty Three
“One of my clients at the office mentioned that he needed some things done around his farm so I mentioned it to Ben and he called them” Heidi said. “He has been up before daylight and worked until dark every day this week. You raised a hardworking son Robin.”
Robin enjoyed hearing the accolades from Heidi but still wished that Ben would call home. He had never acted like this before and this stubbornness was unusual for him. Robin could tell that not hearing from Ben bothered Sam too, but he never said anything about it. She noticed the hope in his eyes when either of the phones rang and more so the disappointment when it wasn’t Ben. It was taking a toll.
“I will meet you there at 4:00 p.m. in the foyer and we can find a table where we can all sit together” Robin said to Heidi.
“Sounds like a plan!” Heidi wondered how this weekend would go since Ben was choosing to stay at her place and she was going to the women’s conference with Robin. It was awkward and she had tried to relay some sort of neutrality to Robin. They had talked mid week on the phone and Robin had expressed her gratitude for Heidi taking Ben in. She had acknowledged that he was old enough to make his own decisions and live with those consequences. Robin knew she and Sam had made their point and any additional pressure from her or Sam would ultimately push Ben further away. Having Linda living there at the house with them and hearing her side of what happened when she left home gave them a renewed perspective of grace. Robin had come to the conclusion to lie this all before the Lord. She acknowledged that she was not in control and He was. It was a perplexing situation and she was thankful to at least know how Ben was doing and also knew that Heidi would keep an eye on him. He was physically safe; now time needed to do its work.
The conference was packed and there were more women there than Robin expected to see. She saw women from other churches that she had met over the years and it was exciting to catch up with them. Erica was taking Linda around introducing her to all of her friends. Many of the college girls from their weekly bible study signed up too. Many of them were curious about the transformation of the girl who had crashed their bible study and wanted to meet her.
The lead speaker called for attention and gave an introduction of this year’s “In the Trenches of Faith” women’s conference and opened in prayer. At the close of prayer, Monica and Seven Mile Church’s musicians led four worship songs with the last song that had been made popular and written by Meadow Song. The large group of women went wild on that one. Many of the women had their hands waving in the air, clapping and dancing together in the aisles. Heidi joined in and Robin looked over at Erica and Linda watching her in surprise and laughed. Afterwards they played an icebreaker game to help one another get to know each other. Linda did very well at that game and loved the activities and interaction with everyone. She had been alone on the street for so long and felt very happy with all of these women who were having fun and praising the Lord together.
Dinner was served as the first guest speaker, Carol Fontaine, opened with her testimony about her work in Iraq as a nurse. She had not known the Lord before she went to Iraq. After seeing the countless number of casualties come through in front of her, she had become numb to seeing death. Death had lost its sting and had become such a common daily occurrence until an Iraqi woman, about twenty eight years old, came through one night. Carol had learned enough of the language that she could carry on a conversation with her. Carol had just come in on duty for a long night shift. Most of the patients had taken their medication and were sleeping or in a medicated stupor. A patrol jeep pulled up to the hospital and a squad leader carried her in, placing her on a gurney in the hall. She had obviously been beaten to within an inch of her life and was barely coherent. It was a slow night; the doctors had just left to get something to eat and would be back within an hour. With the patient on a gurney, Carol held her hand and sat with her until the doctors returned, asking questions to prevent her from losing consciousness. What struck Carol was the peace that this woman had. The squad leader had told Carol that the word on the street was that her husband and three small children were killed in front of her, and she was raped, beaten and left for dead. The weak woman began to recount what had happened to Carol. They were all Christians in an underground church and were meeting that afternoon for prayer and worship. They had to sing quietly when they worshiped so no one outside would hear. She recalled that one of the other families had brought someone new to the group the previous week and the young lady said she knew he was not a Christian. Carol asked her how she knew and she told her that the God Yeshua from inside of her told her. That afternoon she noticed that man did not come back. They were in the midst of worship in the basement of a local store when they heard many loud footsteps above them. Everyone in the basement pushed the children into the corner and told them to be very quiet. They surrounded them with large boxes and clay jars and draped a large rug over them. She lay with the children to help keep them quiet. She could see what was happening from under the heavy rug. “I whispered to all of them how much Yeshua loved them, even unto death. I told them to stand firm no matter and that Yeshua would help all of us get through this. Those little ones had seen so much death they understood what I was saying” she told Carol.
The Muslim soldiers found the hidden door to the basement and discovered all of them hiding there. When they found the holy bible they became furious and killed the older men and women with a sword. They began raping the younger women in front of the men when one of the children began to cry. “I tried to keep him quiet by putting my hand over his mouth but he cried harder and he wouldn’t stop,” she said. “When they pulled the rug off of us, one of the men grabbed me and beat me then started to rape me. It made my husband furious and even though I told him not to he tried to stop them. They cut his head off with a sword. My poor small children were watching and I could not get to them to cover their eyes. They saw me looking at my children and one by one they put them on a large box and told each of them to renounce Yeshua and give homage to Allah. Proudly, she said, They refused and took their death honorably. One by one they killed each of the children in front of their parents. We all cried and held our breath praying. Our children now are in heaven with Yeshua! I praised Yeshua loudly when they killed the last one! That was the last thing I remember. They beat me angrily. I do not know if anyone else in the group is still alive or not. Maybe they are all with Yeshua, I do not know. I don’t understand why Yeshua did not take me too.”
Carol’s testimony was very powerful. Every woman in the building could put themselves in her place watching their children killed in front of them.
Carol’s closing statement was: “I do know why Yeshua kept that woman alive and it was just long enough to share those words with me that night. She died the next morning. With her testimony I saw how strong the power of Jesus was even in the face of death to a child and that is why I am here before you now! Each of us has a testimony that will impact some person somewhere significantly. For you to keep it to yourself is like keeping the precious gift of eternal life hidden from someone that desperately needs it. What is the worst that can happen to you in this world? You could get your head lopped off and be with Jesus. In the words of Queen Esther, ‘if I perish, I perish.’ Even those children understood that. I encourage any of you at any of the numerous breaks over the weekend to share your testimony with someone.”
Robin looked over at Linda who was whispering something to Erica. Erica looked back at her and then nodded. She wondered what that was all about.
The last speaker of the evening had spoken and the Lead Speaker came up to the microphone. “Before we close tonight I want to give anyone an opportunity to share their own testimony that would like to.”
Erica looked at Linda who nodded dramatically raising her hand. They worked their way up to the stage to the microphone and when they got up in front of the large crowd the shock hit Linda. Erica could sense Linda’s stage fright and began their story from her perspective.
“The day that I met my friend” as she put her hand on Linda’s shoulder “had been the worst day of college life. My best friend that I had been roommates since college started told me that she was moving in with her boyfriend and leaving me to pay for the apartment by myself. I did not want to ask my parents for more money because they worked very hard. On the way home from school I got a flat tire and no one would help me change it. I am so glad my dad taught me how.” The crowd laughed, some applauded and Erica continued. “The day was not going well and I was having a pitty party for myself, driving too fast and not paying attention where I was going and got a ticket for going 42 in a school zone. That was going to cost an extra two hundred and fifty dollars that would have paid for the extra rent. When I got home I sat and cried. I did not want to teach Bible Study that night, so I asked one of my friends to teach for me. She accepted and I had planned to stay home and sulk but the Lord would not have that. I was making toast for dinner and burnt it filling the apartment with smoke so bad the fire alarm went off. I opened all of the windows but the apartment smelled like burnt toast so bad that I decided to go to Bible Study anyways.
It was the strangest night. One of the guys wanted to use the new amplifier the church had just purchased but could not get it working properly. For half an hour we tried to get it to work. When we finally did, it was extremely loud and the more Jason tinkered with it, it began to work properly. By the time we had it dialed in, we started playing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” like three times.
Linda cut in at that moment. “That is the song I heard echoing down the street over and over. It was like Jesus was calling me as I walked down that alley searching for a warm place to sleep. When the music played the warmth of Jesus’ love intertwined with the memory of my grandmother singing it covered me. My Grandmother shared bible stories and sang with me before I went to sleep at her house. Each time the music stopped I began looking for a place to lie down and I would get so cold. Then the music would start up again pushing me on. That night I recalled hearing my grandmother tell me the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. As I walked down the alley, I looked to each side of me and there were giant red brick walls towering up on each side of me and the music was God’s voice calling me into the Promised Land.”
Linda shared her story of becoming an addict which led into prostitution and how God had healed her addiction to Meth that night when she prayed with Erica.
Sharing her best friend’s suicide was difficult and her tears flowed freely. It was also the first time she shared her story completely sober and it was like healing to her entire body. She sensed the power in sharing her testimony. When she was finished she told the audience that she was so thankful for Jesus and how He had used Erica, Robin and the nurse speaker that night. In closing she said, “Without Jesus I am not sure where I would be tonight. I owe everything in my life to Him and will follow Him where ever He asks me to go!”
Robin remembered the last speaker’s testimony at Broken Lives the day before and how he had given all of the credit for his success to Pastor Rob Landon and “the program” in comparison to Linda’s testimony. The perspective came clearly into view.