Translation-Chapter 12

Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:42 PM By crosswaysnet , In


Chapter 12 (Sunday, 11:30AM - La Grange, TX)

Somewhere outside San Antonio, a meeting takes place between a powerful businessman and his lieutenants. He expresses his anger at a 'situation' that is getting out of hand.

Simultaneously, Mitch seeks out the pastor and elders of the Living Way Church, asking them to pray over him. After a Sunday dinner at the pastor's house, prophecy is spoken and words of knowledge affirm Mitch's prayers for clarity and guidance. Mitch is translated during prayer and laying on of hands.

Sylvia handed her husband his mug of coffee while he finished the crease on his sleeve. She kissed the back of his neck. He grunted his thanks. Neither felt very rested but they had already committed themselves to help with the hospitality table for the second service. A big church, growing bigger every week. Four weekend services and three full teams now required. At least they could pick up breakfast at the church cafe.
"Has he been gone all night?" Sylvia asked, vigorously scratching her scalp under the shoulder-length curls. That usually helped her wake up. She pulled her robe's belt a little tighter and sipped from her own mug.
"No sign of him. I don't know what we can do to help until we find out where he is."
"Well, we've prayed for him for months. No reason to stop now." Sylvia squeezed the back of C.R.'s arm and moved off to get ready for the day.
"I guess you're right," he said, frowning. They were both people of action, and praying about what they didn't know didn't seem much like 'action.' Still, God must know what was going on with the mysterious Mitch Blackman. Praying didn't make much sense if that wasn't the case, after all. C.R. pressed the iron along the crease and silently prayed for what he knew and what he didn't.


***


The heat of the day was beginning to make itself known to the otherwise distracted wanderer.
"Lagrande, Texas - Lively Living in a Lovely Land."
Mitch stopped for a moment and cocked his head to the side a little. The sign looked freshly painted, if the other dilapidated and closed storefronts behind it didn't. Rather ambitious statement, I'd say. He looked around for the lively living so cheerfully promised in primary colors. Not a soul... Not a creature moved. He expected at least the grasshoppers to kick into gear with the morning warmth. An American and POW/MIA pair of flags hung listless on a pole in front of an auto repair shop. Mitch feared he might be stepping into an episode of the Twilight Zone, where all the surroundings turn out to be props; the whole environment some artificial lab. The strange looks he had received from the locals at Walmart seemed to qualify them as inscrutable aliens. As if the past few days haven't already been episodes one through five... You're living the Twilight Zone, Mitch. Where's Rod Serling to explain what's going on, without explaining it?
Mitch sighed and continued his walk toward a tressle bridge. After hearing nothing more than the crunching of his now tattered trekkers on the pea gravel, he was relieved by the slowly approaching whine of a big rig, somewhere beyond the tree line to his left. Probably the bypass.
Mitch trundled on.
The bridge was a mixture of hot and breezy, as the air finally stirred from the water below and disturbed the heat rising from the metalwork. Mitch quickened his pace. Beyond the rise of the bridge's middle, he could see the rooftops of a multi-generational downtown. A mix of 19th century brick and 20th century concrete stood together, not blending. Mitch studied the river below him instead. It was more visually interesting. The color was slate green with whorls of reddish clay. Obviously, last night's storm had shared its bounty with this river system. Oaks and cypress - taller than those found in most of the Hill Country - hung heavy over the banks, many of the branches being swayed by the current. It was hotter, heavier, more humid here than in the parts of Texas Mitch knew best. It was also greener. Not quite the Piney Woods east of I-45, but demonstrating that more rain and thicker soil make for denser forest.
Finally there were signs of life, as Mitch watched a few cars lazily working their way through the grid of streets beyond the bridge, not in any particularly synchronized fashion. He caught the sound of something melodic as he stepped onto the gravel shoulder. A number of cars were parked next to a square metal building, painted a bright white. A tall but stooped black man pulled open the glass entry and stepped inside. A moment later the sound caught up with the light and Mitch heard what seemed to be an organ and some kind of orchestra, holding a sustained and intense chord. The door closed and the sound ceased. To the left of the building, near the road, was a twenty foot tall mock-up of a lighthouse, complete with a railing and paned windows. "Gospel Lighthouse" said the sign next to it. Intrigued, Mitch decided to make a port call.
He was sweating now, and his thirst had kicked in with a stubborn insistence. It would be nice to be out of the heat for a while. He took a shortcut across an empty lot and tentatively approached the front door. He looked around to make sure no one was coming his way and shuttled up the five rounded concrete steps. Simple steps, but Mitch could feel the extra effort on his battered knees. Before opening the door, Mitch instinctively wiped his hands on his trousers and cleared his throat. He reached for the aluminum handle of the glass door.
He could feel the hidden sound vibrating through to his hand. Pulling it open, the pulsating music of the organ leapt out, followed by a stream of cooled air. Mitch quickly pulled the door shut behind him and waited for his eyes to adjust to the indoor light.
The worship band was in practice for the morning service, apparently, and was correcting some problems with a key change. The same four bars roared to life a number of times, ending in a clash of notes surely unintended by the composer. Mitch saw the shiny steel of a drinking fountain off to the right, between the restrooms and next to a welcome table. No one was in the foyer. He headed straight-way toward liquid refreshment. He drank long and hard. Long enough for the chiller to wear out and the water to return to room temperature.
Mitch was still drinking when he heard two sets of footsteps coming down the hallway toward him, carrying along a lively conversation between two young men. Mitch looked up and the conversation ceased. Two black men, younger than Mitch, in similarly starched white shirts and skinny ties stood about twenty feet away. Their posture was strong and athletic. Mitch wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Good morning," he began hopefully. "I was just stopping by for a cool drink... Your band sounds really good." Mitch couldn't think of anything else to say. He was never good at small talk. He always counted on Sonja to rescue him in crowds. The two men exchanged a look of mixed surprise and mild confusion.
"Is... there anything we can help you with?" offered the man to the right. He advanced carefully.
"Umm, not that I can think of," Mitch replied, "unless you think I might be able to make a call back to New Kassel. I have some friends who... might can pick me up."
The first young man had closed the gap between them and was checking over Mitch from head to toe. He began to note the bruises and abrasions. His brow furrowed a bit. Mitch took it for hostility. He raised his hands a little defensively and took a step back.
"Sorry - I didn't mean to intrude or anything. I'll just be on my way." Mitch turned a little, preparing to leave the way he had come. The man reached out and seized him by the elbow.
I don't need another drubbing - not today, Mitch thought. He looked back at the man who had grabbed him. Surprisingly there seemed to be genuine concern in his coal-black eyes.
"No sir!" the young man answered. "You'll stay right here. It looks like you've been hurt. Let me get Miss Vidalia. She'll know what to do. Please, sit down." He led Mitch over to a velvet upholstered deacon's chair across the foyer from the drinking fountain. Mitch hesitated to sit down, afraid his trousers might stain the rich fabric.
"Please have a seat, mister. I'll be right back." The young man made his way to a side hallway and disappeared.
"Would you like something else to drink?" said the other man. We have a fresh pot of coffee, just finished."
Mitch took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes, that would be wonderful." The second man disappeared down the same hallway.
The choir now joined the band after their musical collision had been rectified. A powerful strain came booming down the hall, surrounding Mitch.
"He's Higher than the Highest, Greater than the Great. No one will ever take His crown away..."
The music so perfectly matched the majesty of the lyrics. Mitch was no musician, but the hair began to stand up on the back of his neck. This was no pop tune or cheesy love song. It was an anthem of authority. Mitch sat and savored it. A dozen strong voices belted out the lyrics. It seemed to enliven his weary bones, even as his weight seemed to increase as he sat there.
Mitch was very still, and very aware of his slow breathing. The music stopped and a few voices cheerfully discussed something Mitch couldn't hear. Papers shuffled. An elbow bumped into the organ keys. The bass player repeated a couple of bars and unplugged. Those noises faded away as Mitch relaxed. Eyes closed, he smelled the warmth of wood, carpet and the old velvet of his chair. It brought back a long-forgotten memory of another church...
Stiff collars and a necktie; Shelby and Mitchel in their Easter best; and Sonja. She was glowing. He watched his wife kneel to check their son's hair, and straighten the girl's bow. Endless, flowing curls, and a three year old's constant twirling. Sonja's back to him. Soft curves of shoulder, moving with a young mother's energy and grace. Fingertips dancing over each child's head until they were perfect. Would you lead your family this way, Mr. Blackman? The Child Dedication Service is about to begin...
Mitch woke to a hearty and deep feminine voice.
"Oh Lordy, Vandel! Where did you find this one?"
A large woman in a bright purple flowered dress knelt down next to Mitch, studying the bruises on his face, her strong hand clamping down on his chin to move his head around for better lighting. Mitch felt like a first-grader being inspected by the school nurse.
"My, my," continued the ample woman with gelled curls and enough wrinkles to write their own story. She pursed her bright pink lips and squinted one eye. "My, my." She tugged at Mitch's sleeve and took an inventory of his wardrobe.
"This one's got a story to tell, that's for sure! But it's his for the tellin'. Not for us to squeeze it outta him, now, is it?"
A hearty laugh - half wheeze - came out of the giant purple flower. She took Mitch's hand. He was too dumbfounded to protest.
"I'm Miss Vidalia. Miss Vidalia Williams, just like as in the onion, but only the very sweetest ones, of course." She laughed again. "And as sure as this is the Lord's day, we're gonna treat you the Lord's way. What is your name, dear son?"
"Uh, Mitch. Mitch Blackman."
"Ooh-wee! Isn't that a fancy name! Now you come with me, sir and let's us serve you. You look like you haven't eaten in a week. I suppose you like eggs and fried bacon. There's some with your name on it back here in the kitchen. The elders were just finishing up and there's a place for you."
The woman hadn't let go of Mitch's hand as she led him down the hall. The other young man arrived a moment later with his coffee. Mitch used his free hand to grab it with a nod.
"Miss Vidalia will take good care of you," he said with a chuckle, and disappeared down the hallway behind them.
Miss Vidalia swept him into a smallish, square kitchen with one eight foot folding table in the middle. A place setting was already laid out. A wiry, elderly gentleman was standing at the sink with his back to them. His jet skin set off by the brilliant starch white shirt rolled up to his elbows and the royal blue suspenders with gold pinstripe. The man looked over his shoulder, gave Mitch a quick once-over, and said "Have a seat, son."
Mitch looked at the table. "Was someone else expected? I don't want to intrude."
Miss Vidalia had finally released his hand and was waving hers dismissively at him. "Nonsense. Have a seat. The setting is for you." She moved to a still sizzling skillet and started to fill the plate.
"But... how did you know I was coming?" Mitch just stood there.
The old man answered. "The table is set every Sunday morning for the one the Lord sends us, son. Sit."
Mitch sat.
Soon the table was filling up again with a bowl of eggs, bacon, biscuits, molasses, coffee and orange juice. The old man stopped for a moment, put his hand on Mitch's shoulder and invoked a blessing. Miss Vidalia chattered on, allowing Mitch to get a head start on his meal before answering questions.
"So, where you from?" Vidalia continued. Mitch wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and cleared his throat.
"Oh, I'm from New Kassel, you could say - just back across I-35."
"And what brought you our way today, Mr. Mitch Blackman?"
Mitch put down his fork and frowned a moment. "I don't rightly know," he said, bowing his head a little.
"Well, never mind that now, then," Vidalia continued, refilling Mitch's coffee mug. "The Good Lord brought you to us for a reason, that's sure 'nough. I s'pect it ‘cuz-a church, today. Rev. Reynolds know a-how to preach it, that's fo' sure!"
The old man in royal blue suspenders nodded at the grand dame and smiled at Mitch. He had finished his kitchen chores and was rolling down his sleeves.
"If you don't mind, I'll be takin' my leave for some prayer time before the service starts."
Rev. Reynolds stepped out and Mitch was left alone with Vidalia Williams. She eyed him over again.
"If you don't mind me sayin' so, Mr. Blackman, you're a sight to see - but not so much in the Lord's house. Let us see what we've got in the clothes pantry, shall we?"
She didn't wait for an answer, seizing Mitch again by the elbow and leading him out of the kitchen and down the hall. Mitch had time to wipe his face and drop the napkin into the trash can by the door.
"Let's see, let's see..." began Miss Vidalia, looking through racks of men's clothing, set on racks in another room. "What size are you, now?"
Mitch had to think for a moment. "Uh, 42 regular, I suppose."
Miss Vidalia rummaged through a few racks and found nothing. "Well, that's no good," she decided. She whipped out a cell phone as bright pink as her lips. She punched one button. After a few rings someone answered. Miss Vidalia moved off to a corner to have a short and animated discussion. She approached Mitch again.
"Right, then... we'll have something appropriate for you in a few minutes. Would you like to clean up while we wait?" Miss Vidalia indicated a door to what seemed a large closet. As Mitch stepped inside, he found a stage-style dressing room with large mirrors and a small bath room.
"I'll get you some towels, Mr. Blackman - just make yo'self to home and take a hot shower if you'd like. I'll have some clothes waitin' fo' you when’s yo'r done."
Mitch closed the door behind him and shook his head, still holding the door knob. There would be no escaping Miss Vidalia, that was for sure. She was a gardener determined to nurse her little pot until there bloomed some flowers. He looked at his reflection in the dressing mirror in front of him. He was reminded again of what a sorry mess he was. This hedge needs some pruning, he thought, tugging at the mass of matted hair on top of his collection of bruises - what he used to call his face.
A deep sigh, and Mitch attempted to undress quickly. His belt had dried mud in the buckle and his zipper was stuck with grit. His shoes were crispy. After the tugging and a broken zipper he stepped into the shower, pulling both handles straight down. He stepped out of the way until the water was tolerably warm. He kept his face down as the spray hit like hot needles. He could see rivulets of mud and flecks of grass swirling down the drain. He turned around to rinse his back.
Big mistake.
He felt a scab tear loose and a knife of pain pierce his shoulder blade. Mitch flinched and slammed into the side of the shower, gasping. a single stream of red was following the mud down the drain. He tried to reach around to feel the damage. He couldn’t reach it. The thorn, Mitch reminded himself with a grunt. But it felt bigger than that, like an old wound reopened.
When Mitch had finished his shower, he was afraid to dry himself off completely, for fear of staining the crisp white hotel towel that sat on the counter. He folded up some toilet paper and hung it over his shoulder, leaning back against the wall. It smarted, but not as bad as the shower. When he leaned forward, two of the four layers stayed stuck to his back. He spun around to the mirror to see how big the stain was. About two inches, and not growing. Good.
Mitch repeated the process with some more tissue till he was satisfied the bleeding had stopped. A knock came at the door. Vidalia’s voice came through the door.
Mr. Mitch Blackman, I’m sending my son in with some clothes for you.”
Mitch looked at the door handle as it began to turn. He quickly reached for his towel before the boy entered the room.
It was not a boy.
A man as big as a linebacker entered, and stopped cold upon seeing Mitch. He was holding a hanger covered with a flimsy dry cleaners cover. Mitch glanced the man over. Near six foot six, dressed like a cop. Name tag read ‘Williams.’
The security guard from Walmart.
The man’s eyes narrowed to slits as his nostrils did the opposite.
You...” he said.
Mitch had nowhere to back away from the mountain of muscle in front of him.
He outta the shower, chile?” came Miss Vidalia’s voice. “Make sure he’s got what he needs and give’m some privacy, now.”
Security Officer Williams sighed heavily, placing the hanger on the towel rack. “Yes,... Ma’am,” he said, his eyes still on Mitch. He retreated from the room, firmly shutting the door.
Mitch breathed again. He quickly dressed in the off-the-rack khakis, blue broadcloth shirt and navy sportcoat. He wiped up his trekking shoes as best he could and stepped out of the restroom within four minutes. Officer Williams was speaking not a little angrily at Miss Vidalia - his mother.
I don’t care what he told you, this man’s a vagrant and is takin’ advantage of you. Let me get ‘im outta here before he causes you more trouble.”
Mister Williams’ mother cut him off - at the knees.
I don’t know who raised you, ‘cuz it certainly couldn’t have been me,” she began. “He hasn’t told us nuthin’ - just being polite and acceptin’ our hospitality. When the Good Lord brings us a guest we don’t send him packing like a criminal. We treat him like the Lord hisself, that’s what the Good Book says. Apparently yo momma fo’got tellin’ you such things, so let me be the first to relearn you the scriptures, such as “In as much as you do it to the least of these, you do it unto me.” Sound familiar? Hmmm? Perhaps that was the kind of question that deserves some answerin’.”
There was a silence from the hall that Mitch didn’t feel like entering yet. Mr. Williams was apparently shuffling his feet.
Yes,... ma’am,” came a sheepish reply.
I’s sorry, I don’t think I’s heard you quite clearly ‘nuff.”
Yes, ma’am,” came a stronger reply. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”
Security Officer Williams moved with strong steps off down the hall. Miss Vidalia muttered to herself as she moved in Mitch’s direction.
I ain’t nevuh, nohow gonna understand how such a boy should’s grow up to be so angry. I’ds think he’d have a better momma than that, I’d say. Well, Lordy, won’t you forgive me for my chillin’ actin’ up as if they own this whole place? I’ll do my best and pray for him all the mo’. You’s know I’s-a loves him almost as much as you does, and that’s somethin’ fierce. Please don’t hold it against’m Lord.”
Miss Vidalia was rounding the corner to the room outside the shower.
Oh, Mr. Blackman - aren’t you a sight for sore eyes - now!” She chuckled “Cuz you sho’ made ‘em sore befo’!” Her chuckle became a chortle. She seized him by the elbow... again. “It’s just ‘bout time for service and Pastor Reynolds has God’s Good Word in’im today, that’s fo’ sure! Don’t want to miss none-o-that. You’s be sits’n by me today, won’t you now?”
This was not a question to answer but to obey. Mitch got marched up the middle aisle like he was escorting the mother of the bride to the front pew. Only this mother was in a rush. The organ was getting warmed up. Mitch could hear a few murmurs and more than a couple of chuckles from the congregation as the great purple flower deposited her guest/captive on the front row. Mitch caught glimpses of several faces, some white, but mostly a sea of black.
Pastor Reynolds entered the stage from stage left and the organ swelled. The congregation stood out of respect and expectation. Mitch was dragged up by the purple pew queen. Pastor Reynolds was at the podium and leaning into the mic.
Dear children, are you glad to be in the house of the Lord, today?”
Dozens of voices acknowledged the question positively. The organ flourished lightly.
I say, my dear children, our Lord, He never slumbers and He always listens, but my hearing must not be what it used to be. I asked a question - are you glad to be in house of the Lord, on this the Lord’s day??"
This time there was an excited response and the band kicked in with a rhythm. There’s was sporatic clapping and amens around the sanctuary. Pastor Reynolds leaned into the microphone again.
Then if you are glad to be in His house, let Him hear how glad you are! Montel, won’t you come to help us usher in the King to His celebration today?”
A young man with a brilliant smile and impeccably pressed cobalt blue suit stepped to the podium and sang a sustained “LOOOORD, we welcome Your presence today.” Amens all around. “I say “LOOOOOOOOORRD, we welcome Your presence today - and we worship You.”
The band kicked in with one of the tunes Mitch had heard them rehearse earlier. He was enthralled by it all. He couldn’t seem to clap on the right beats, but there was too much joy in the room to be self-conscious. Mitch wasn’t sure when the worship became preaching, because the music seemed to tie all of it together, but eventually Pastor Reynolds was back at the mic and Brother Montel had found a place to sit on a deacons pew on stage. Every one in the congregation followed the example and were seated again. Pastor Reynolds wiped his brow with a brilliant white large handkerchief.
Oh my dear children, I can feel the Lord’s presence today, and I think you know what I mean when I say it.”
There was some laughter and applause around the room. The organist echoed their enthusiam.
I always find myself excited to see what the Lord will reveal to us through His living Word each week, and today is no exception.”
Pastor Reynolds wiped his brow again and shook His head solemnly with a loud “Hmm-mm-mmm...”
Oh, my dear children, the Lord... He is GOOD!!!”
And Pastor Reynolds began dancing backwards around the stage while the band kicked in double-time with another chorus. The congregation was on its feet again, singing and clapping their praise. There was no restraint, and none was needed. There was only one subject - only one focus. The room was electric. Mitch felt strangely calm and warm - tingly. Pastor Reynolds finished a whirl with his arms out-stretched. He seized the podium and began to pray. Mitch stared straight at him. He began to hear another voice as the pastor opened his mouth. It was the voice he’d heard over and over for the past two days. It was everything this pastor was saying, and so much more. It didn’t sync with the man’s lips. With it came a fragrance like gardenias and the sound of music - more than the band itself. Then suddenly it was just the voice. The world around him was in pantomime.
My Word is for you, today.
I’m listening,” whispered Mitch. “What do you want from me?”
Listen to everything that follows and understand, but do not make assumptions or hasty judgments. I need nothing from you - it is you that has the need. Ask and I hear. Ask from your need and I answer.
The silence lifted like a blanket and the music rushed back in. The pastor was shouting out a commanding “Hallelujah!” The congregation answered three times. “Amen, and amen...” The reverend reached for his bible and held it higher than his head with both hands. “A lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. Amen.” He placed the heavy flexible leather-bound volume back on the podium with care and respect. He lifted one of the ribbon bookmarks and laid the book open.
We have followed the steps of the disciples until they became the apostles. We have walked with them through triumph and tragedy. We have seen them grow from frightened children into mighty men and women of God. Today, we continue in the Book of Acts, Chapter Eight.”
There was a general rustling of pages around the room as the congregation followed their pastor to a new meeting place of living words. The old man pinched his eyes closed and the deep furrows of his forehead followed them. His nostrils flared as he drew in a deep breath. He clutched the pulpit. When the room grew silent, he began to pray. His voice sonorous and measured.
"Lord, our Mighty King, You know the many paths of this world and where they each lead. You know that all but one lead to nothing but death. Wide is the path that leads to destruction..."
Many mumured amens answered the pastor, as the 'wide' stretched as far as the imagination.
"Oh dear Lord... You have called all men to follow You down the straight and narrow path - the path that leads to Life itself. Thank you for these brave fathers and mothers of the faith that followed You and show us the way today."
More "amens" and "thank you, Lord"s.
"Today we hold up the life of Philip - a man who listened for Your Spirit. A man who trusted Your Word. A man who spoke the truth. A man who walked Your road. A man who knew what it was to have Your power flow through him!"
There was generous agreement and sporatic clapping around the room. Mitch looked up and around while the prayer continued. To his left ladies with white lace hankerchiefs tucked in their watchbands waved them. Others had their hands lifted up like they were expecting a gift to be placed in their palms. To his right Mitch saw the young deacons he'd met earlier, each in a different and unique posture of prayer - one holding the chair in front of him with both muscular fists, his head bobbing with the pastor's words. Another with his palms and fingers touching each other like a Rockwell painting. The fingertips bounced gently on the man's nose. All of these pray-ers had one thing in common - their heads were bowed and their eyes were clamped shut. Everyone in the room was deep inside themselves reaching out to the eternal. All except for Mitch Blackman. The pastor's prayer continued.
"Dear Lord, these men and women knew You in the flesh. They followed You day by day. They thought they knew You so well."
Slight chuckles and amens traveled the length of the auditorium.
"But they didn't see You so well... When You were arrested, they did not understand. When You were beaten and mocked they did not understand. When You were crucified they did not understand."
Amens and gasps, almost of pain, went up from the congregation.
"Even after You were resurrected, they did not understand. Not until Your Holy Spirit fell on them did they understand. Holy Spirit, we want to understand! Fall afresh upon us again!!"
Pastor Reynolds had reached a crescendo barely short of a shout. The organist gave a flourish and the congregation flew into a cacophony of praise. Mitch looked directly at the organist. Even her eyes were still closed.
Unbelievable...
Mitch looked back to the center of the stage where Pastor Reynolds stood, rocking on the balls of his polished patent shoes, arms outstretched, a smile on his face and two trails of tears rolling down both cheeks.
"We want to see You now, Lord. We want to know the path You have for us. We want to follow where You lead us. Come Holy Spirit, Come!"
Spontaneously, the congregation broke out in a hymn of praise and expectation. The musicians followed them. What had been anxious expectation moments ago was now simply awe. Every eye was still closed.
All except Mitch Blackman.
An atmosphere as heavy as a blanket returned and seemed to descend on the entire room. The fragrance of something Spring-like - floral - returned and wafted by Mitch. Instruments he didn't know were in the orchestra began to add simple, graceful notes to the arrangement. And still, not an eye was cracked open.
As they continued their worship, Mitch saw the back wall of the church, directly behind the choir, start to lift up like a curtain. Perhaps it is, Mitch thought. Sunshine flooded into the room and a scene of green hills came into view. A village of stone was to the left.
Something's not right, here.... Mitch's brain began. It was too vivid, too life-like to be a video. It was as if the whole back wall of the church had rolled up like a garage door and he was staring outside. Only it wasn't the dark green, leafy lowlands of La Grande, Texas. It was something from another place, another time.
"We want to follow Your servant Philip on the road to Gaza, Lord. We want to be the ones to share Your truth with the ones You have ordained. We want to walk with joy in our hearts and salvation on our lips!"
The worship continued while the movie/scene played out behind the choir. Mitch saw a lone figure walking down a worn path, dressed in simple cloak with a hood. Far below him where the path widened and leveled out, an entourage of exotic-looking people held high a carriage draped in rich silks. The man hurried down the trail to meet the convoy. He hailed them and climbed into the carriage as a jeweled hand reached out to beckon him in. The group continued for sometime along a streambed, where it stopped. The simply-dressed man emerged and led the tall, dignified black man down to the brook where a pool eddied. The proud man disrobed to his simple, white tunic and stepped into the water.
Mitch perceived it all like it was in slow-motion, even as it sped by, in the few moments the pastor prayed.
"Oh Lord," Pastor Reynolds continued, "by Your Spirit, help us to go anywhere, to do anything You call us to do. Take us where You want, however You want, so long as souls are saved. In Your name we pray, Amen."
As the pastor concluded his prayer Mitch watched the mystery man follow the taller man into the water, who was already kneeling in prayer. The visitor turned to the curious servants and courtiers, addressing them with wide gestures towards them and heaven. Mitch could not hear the words. They knelt down to the ground in fully-prostrated respect. The visitor stepped around the kneeling man and leaned him back against the water, submerging him. As the man came up out of the pool, a great light surrounded them all, drowning out even the sun. The baptizer raised his head at the same time. For a moment his face was perfectly clear. Mitch gasped. He was staring at himself. Then the man vanished with the light, leaving the group behind, who stood looking up at the sky. The curtain rolled down again and the back wall of the Gospel Lighthouse returned.
Before the pastor had finished his final "Amen," Mitch had fallen to his knees and planted his face on the tough, industrial carpet.
His eyes were clamped shut.

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