The sound of running water lulled Alexis back into consciousness. “I guess I fell asleep,” she said aloud, to nobody in particular. Sitting up, she saw Vicky was still sleeping. It was getting dark. “Vicky,” Alexis said, shaking her gently.
“Hmm? What?” said Vicky sleepily.
“Vicky, wake up. It’s almost night,” said Alexis. Vicky sat up and stretched her arms into the air. She yawned.
“I’ve been asleep for that long?” she asked.
“Yes,” Alexis answered, nodding her head.
“I guess we should head back,” said Vicky, getting up. The two girls started walking back to camp. “I hope it’s not my night for dinner!” said Vicky. “I must have been really tired.”
“We’re pretty close, aren’t we?” Alexis asked her.
“Yeah,” Vicky said with a nod.
“You know, while you were sleeping, I started thinking how life is like a garden,” said Alexis.
“Hannah inspired you, huh?” Vicky laughed. “But you’re right. It even refers to that in the Bible.”
“Really?” Alexis was surprised. “What does it say?”
“Well, it’s a parable of the Lord, about a sower,” started Vicky.
“What’s a sower?” Alexis wanted to know.
“Someone who plants seeds,” said Vicky. “So this sower went to sow, plant, his seeds and some seeds fell to the side and the birds ate them; other seeds fell on the rocks and grew, but withered soon because there was no moisture or earth; and some seeds fell among the thorns, which grew and choked the seeds. But some seeds fell into the good ground and grew and produced a lot of fruit.” Vicky paused to look at Alexis.
“So how is that related to God?” asked Alexis.
“Well Lexy, the seed is the word of God. And the earth and other places it’s sowed are the hearts of the people. So the people hear the word, but are so filled with sin or rocks, that they won’t believe it and be saved. They may receive the word with joy and believe it for a while, but as soon as they are tempted, they stop believing because they have no root. Then, those on the thorns hear the word, but the cares of the world choke them and they don’t bear any fruit. And of course, those on the good earth are those who hear the word, believe it, and are honest and good. These people patiently do the will of God and bear fruit that nourishes others,” Vicky finished.
“Wow!” said Alexis. “The Bible seems to talk about all kinds of neat ideas. I’m definitely going to start reading it after dinner,” she said.
“There they are!” said Colette as Alexis and Victoria walked into the kitchen. “Hannah told me she left you two hours ago.”
“I fell asleep for a long time,” said Vicky. “Was it my turn tonight for dinner duty?”
“No. Daniel, Gregg and Ronnie volunteered to make a special meal tonight, so you’ll be tomorrow, ” Colette told her.
“Oh good,” said Vicky, relieved.
“But your mom would be happy to know you’re back,” added Colette.
“Okay, I’ll go tell her,” said Vicky. She turned to Alexis.
“I’m going to go wash my hands and face and change before dinner,” Alexis told her. “See you in a little while. And thanks for taking me to the River Side Cafe.”
“Anytime, Lexy, anytime,” Vicky told her, smiling.
“And then, before we knew it, we had lost our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and most of our other rights,” Allan was saying. Most of the group had finished eating the goat Ronnie and the boys had prepared and they were sitting together talking as everybody helped clean up the kitchen.
“But why didn’t people do anything?” Jazmin wanted to know.
“Like what?” Drew asked his daughter. “They were so distracted by making a living and earning enough money to survive and pay for all of the luxuries they needed, they didn’t have time to think about losing freedoms.”
“That was the idea,” said Will.
“But don’t forget, some people did act,” said Ken. “They were vigilant, but their friends called them paranoid and peculiar,” he said. “When things started coming down, they fled to the mountains. They prayed and were thankful they were shown the light,” explained Ken.
“They, and you know I’m talking about us, were led to a safe place away from the city which was getting ready to explode,” explained Colette, picking up her husband’s thought. “It was full of tension and uneasiness and dissatisfaction, causing crime and violence, fueled by drugs. It couldn’t go on forever.”
“But to some people, it looked like the evil had overtaken the good,” explained Kira. “But the Bible tells us, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ The reality is the good were removed from the tribulation of the city, and the dark turned black. But the light did not cease. It merely existed in a remote place. Set away out of the wind, to burn brightly, keeping the antichrist from destroying the world. What a garden to be in during a time when so much destruction also occurred, under the same sun,” Kira spoke quietly, almost as if she didn’t realize everybody was there.
Nobody said anything. Ronnie began blowing his flute. The high pitches danced in the air. Suzanne strummed her guitar, while others played their drums lightly. She started singing.
“He is the way the truth and the light,
He is the only way that is right.
He is the way, the truth and the light,
Of my life.”
People played instruments into the night, making beautiful music. J.J. stood up and declared, “Isaiah 42:10-12 tells us to ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song and his praises from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord and declare his praise in the islands,'” his voice rang out into the night, mixing with the music. People clapped.
“Hallelujah!” someone said.
“Praise God and Amen,” echoed into the night. Suzanne started playing again. Several people were standing and swaying to the music. Their voices rose in harmony and made Alexis tingle as they sang loudly.
“Holy, so Holy
There is no other so ho—ly
Jesus, oh Jesus,
Oh might God, you’re Jesus.
They lifted their voices, which Alexis thought sounded beautiful. She felt tears in her eyes and she hummed along with the melody of the soothing song. It was so intense. She fought to hold back sobs that wanted to break loose. The music and the singing were lifting her soul to a higher level where she felt a part of everyone and everything. Her body felt that now-familiar tingling sensation. The Holy Spirit, Karen had told her. She looked out to the sea. It’s so beautiful, marveled Alexis in her mind. A bright light caught her eye in time for her to see it shooting through the dark night sky. “Woah! Look!” she pointed.
Vicky grinned and nodded, swaying to the music. “A shooting star,” someone said.
Everybody was happy and smiling, feeling good. To Lexy, it all seemed a dream. She looked intently at the sky and was awed by the golden trail that followed the shooting star. It gleamed like the autograph of God. Somehow, she knew she believed. Her faith had grown strong in such a short time, but she was sure of a greater force to which she was connected.
“There is no denying the way I feel. This ball of love in my chest,” Alexis explained to Jazmin’s mom, Karen, “seems to grow every time we pray, or I read the Bible, or I hear, you know, like get a thought, from God, and especially when we sing.” Karen nodded at her and smiled. She looked into Alexis’ eyes, her black hair shining in the moonlight. Alexis thought she looked beautiful.
“The Bible says the truth will be revealed, Alexis. I’m glad you have understanding,” Karen said. “Eyes that see, ears that hear,” she added. Alexis nodded, recognizing the phrase from the Bible. They sat quietly together for a few minutes. “Maybe you’d like to get baptized,” Karen suggested.
Alexis tried to remember exactly what getting baptized was. Something to do with the water, she knew. “Baptism is an outward commitment of your faith. As Christ died, so does your former life of sin that was ruled by the flesh. Now that you’re walking in the Spirit, you become a new being, a light in the world. Getting baptized is a symbolic birth of this new life,” Karen explained to her without Alexis having to ask.
“That sounds okay,” said Alexis. “I’ll have to think about it.” Jazmin walked over and sat down next to them.
“It looks like you two are having an intense conversation,” Jazmin commented.
“Your mom was telling me about getting baptized,” Alexis said.
“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved,” Jazmin declared. “Are you going to do it?”
“I don’t know,” said Alexis.
“I could mention it to J.J.,” suggested Karen.
“I wouldn’t mind being baptized again with you,” said Jazmin. “Maybe a bunch of us could do it together?” Jazmin laughed.
“Have you all been baptized?” asked Alexis. Jazmin looked at her mom.
“I think everybody but the little kids, Aaron Farl and Aja Cyrene. They’re a little young,” said Karen.
“How old do you have to be?” asked Alexis.
“Just old enough to repent of your sins and believe in God,” answered Karen. Jazmin was leafing through her mom’s Bible.
“Jesus said in John 3:3, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,'” she read. “Then in John 3:5, He tells us ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; you must be born again,'” Jazmin read.
“Born again,” Alexis repeated. “It sounds kind of weird, being born again,” she said.
“It’s symbolic,” explained Karen. “You were born in the flesh, or body, and we all sin, make mistakes. But as we learn about the spiritual side of life, we learn that we have a choice to say we’re sorry about all the mistakes we made, the people we may have hurt, whatever it is. So in the spirit we can have a spiritual birth, with water, and become a new creation, pure and following God’s words, loving one another.”
“And the Bible talks about it too?” asked Alexis.
“It sure does. Again, God is telling us how we can be saved,” Karen told her.
“It’s like an instruction manual,” joked Alexis.
“You’re absolutely right,” agreed Karen. “That’s what it is.”
“What other instructions does it give us?” Alexis asked, intrigued.
“Oh, let’s see, there’s my favorite in Mark, Chapter 12, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,'” Karen said, turning to the chapter. “The next verse says, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ so that’s not too hard, right?” Karen said.
“Doesn’t seem like it,” said Alexis.
“I like this one,” said Jazmin. “‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,'” she read. “It says that the word must be preached everywhere before the end will come,” said Jazmin.
“The end?” asked Alexis.
“The end of this life, when we all join God in heaven and live in peace,” said Karen. “Don’t be scared of it, and don’t let today’s world scare you either,” she said. “Listen to what Jesus tells us in Mark 13:7: ‘And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be troubled, for such things must happen, but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles; these are the beginnings of sorrows,’ and we’re already seeing these things, aren’t we? ‘The Gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you will speak; for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost… he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved…. Flee to the mountains… For in those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Song of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.'” Karen stopped, looking at Alexis.
“That is going to happen, really? When?” asked Alexis.
“Well, we don’t know for sure. But let me read the next part. ‘Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you know not when the time is… And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch,'” Karen finished reading.
“Wow,” said Alexis. “Okay, so when can I get baptized?”
“I’ll talk to J.J. in the morning,” Karen promised her. The three women were surprised to see that everyone had gone to bed. They had been so involved with each other, they didn’t realize how late it was.
“We should get some sleep, girls,” said Karen.
“Okay, goodnight Jaz, goodnight Karen,” said Alexis. Both Karen and Jazmin hugged Alexis as they left her at the door of her camp. Alexis loved the bamboo structure covered in palm leaves. Judd and Kenny had built it for her in a couple of hours and even the hardest rain didn’t get her wet. Inside, she stretched out on her soft bed and fell asleep.