For the entire table of contents, and how to order, click here.
Easter Sunday was another beautiful day in Barlin. The church had put on its Easter production the previous three nights. Much to the distaste of the royal family, Dennis played the role of King Herod, and Andrea Pilate’s wife; the children had their roles too. Sunday morning was packed to overflowing; as in other places, people who didn’t attend church any other time went on Easter. This included the King and Queen and Prince William, although the prince had been seen in church on Palm Sunday also. Dennis and Andrea were anxious to be done, though; as soon as everything was done, they were to leave Barlin and join Princes George and Peter and Princesses Darlene and Julia at the Serelian royal hunting preserve. When they were done, they would return with the Aloxans for their Drahlan honeymoon.
One event they were determined to take in, however, was the baptismal service. The church had built a special dock in the lake for baptisms; baptismal fonts were still not well regarded in Drahla. The dock had a submerged portion so that the minister and the candidate could stand together in the water and the candidate be immersed. The insistence on baptism in the lake was a main motivation to institute the municipal septic tank and sanitation system that Barlin instituted during the cease-fire.
Pastor Calloway baptised several candidates, as did the youth pastor, but the baptism that everyone was waiting for was the one Terry was to perform. On the shore there was the entire royal family and a good portion of the town; they lined the lake to get a good look at what was about to transpire. From the church school building Terry brought out Cat Arnold; they walked together hand in hand to the dock and down the stairs to the baptismal platform. Terry stood facing the shore and church, with Cathy at her right, facing the palace. Once in position, Terry positioned the gooseneck with the wireless microphone near to her mouth and began to speak.
“This is Cathy Arnold. Cat and I grew up together in Point Collina, which was until two weeks ago part of Verecunda. As children we were friends; we played together and went to school together. Both of us were raised in church; we lived a life that many on this Island would envy. On the surface we had everything, but in our hearts we knew that something wasn’t right.
“Other people had the same doubts, but they did not want to do it God’s way. They wanted to throw away the past, to break whatever moral codes we had and to embrace a whole new way of life, which they claimed would set us free. The problem with their freedom was that those of us who would not—or could not—go along with their way of life were subject to intense pressure—or worse. I hope that, when Princess Julia comes here, she can share with you the story about how they made her and her brother orphans in their quest for freedom.
“Cat for her part stayed in Verecunda. She became a successful person, rising to a high position in the Central Bank of Verecunda. But her life was filled with emptiness—two unsuccessful marriages, abortions that left her unable to bear children, and a split family—her brother Jack is now living on the mainland, not for religious reasons but for economic ones, and she was viewed with suspicion because of that.
“When I came to Verecunda, we ran into each other. In the course of our time together, Cat told me the truth about what the Verecundans were doing with their ‘economic development packages,’ which would have in the long run enslaved the entire Island. She could have hedged on this, but in spite of years of indoctrination to the contrary, she still had that basic decency that Paul talks about in Romans 1.
“Her forthrightness cost her; she had to flee to Point Collina, where she lived in abandoned houses and ate whatever food she could. When the Collinans took the Point, she was able to come out of hiding, and asked me to bring her to Drahla, where she could be safe, which I did.
“While heading back to Alemara, I shared with her how I had gotten here, the way in which Jesus had come to me, and the blessings I have received since that time. I told her that I knew I was a sinner who could not get out of the state I was in without God’s own intervention, and that she was in the same state.
“Princess Darlene has an endearing habit; when she really wants your attention, she grabs both of your hands, left to right and vice versa”—she demonstrated with Cathy, who agreed—“and looks at you intently with those piercing blue eyes of hers when she speaks. I used that illustration, and said that that’s the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us; one where we can hold His hands, converse with Him and have His undivided attention. The way He did that was with His hands also”—she extended her arms—“but in that case He stretched out His arms on the Cross, and allowed nails to be driven through them and His feet, so that Cat and you and I would not have to experience the pain of the second death.
“Cat prayed the sinner’s prayer that day; since then she has been a new person in a new place. I want to thank you all for welcoming her into this church, into this community, into this country. There were many other spiritual results during the trip; some of which I hope to share in the coming weeks if Pastor Calloway dares lend me the pulpit, and some which I am not presently at liberty to speak of, but which will become obvious in the days ahead.
“For this voyage of ours was not just a voyage of national interest. Our Island has suffered from the effects of human sin. Many of those who we love are gone; the Aloxans and even the Verecundans are experiencing that now. But our task is now to be the light to this Island that God has called us to be. For ‘the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ When we are that light as Christ’s ambassadors, ‘then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.’ This is our challenge, and may God grant us the strength and the grace to carry it out.”
She turned to Cat and asked, “Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, to the forgiveness of your sins and for everlasting life?”
“Yes!” Cat shouted. Terry then put her right hand on Cat’s back, helped place Cat’s left hand on her nose with her left arm.
“On your profession of faith, I baptise you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Baptised into his death”—Terry lowered her into the water, then lifted her up—“and raised into the new life in Jesus Christ.”
The entire crowd let up an applause and cheer that could be heard across the swamp. Cat and Terry were oblivious to this as they lifted their hands to the sky in praise to reach for the unquenchable light of the Son.