Bruno heard the echo of a door closing and then footsteps of the men as they approached the dining room. Monty appeared at the door and gave Mr. Carver a little shove into the room. "Here's your prisoner, sir," he informed Bruno.
"Good, good. You may go now, Monty."
Monty saluted and left the doorway. Mr. Carver remained standing where he was as he awaited Bruno's command.
"Sit down, John, and make yourself comfortable." Bruno pointed to the chair opposite him at the table. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
A little surprised at Bruno's unusual kindness, Mr. Carver nodded. "Yes, sir, that would be nice."
Bruno stood up and took the pot off the small burner. After pouring a cup of the steaming liquid, he handed it to Mr. Carver. "Here ya go." He took his seat across from his prisoner.
"Thank you," Mr. Carver replied. He picked up the cup and took a small sip. He looked up into Bruno's bearded face and saw his eyes, black as flint, staring back at him.
"Do you intend to sing and pray your way out of my clutches? " Bruno bluntly asked him.
A little surprised at the question, Mr. Carver decided the only thing he could do was respond just as bluntly. "It says in Psalms 18:49, 'Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.'"
Bruno glared at Mr. Carver. "So, you're saying I'm a heathen? You're saying I don't know about God? Listen, Mr. Missionary Man, I was raised in a Christian home. I heard about God every day! I even said the sinner's prayer when I was ten years old. If anybody knows about God, it's me!" Bruno slammed his hand down on the table. The two coffee mugs danced a little jig and splashed coffee over the shiny metal surface.
Mr. Carver nodded, as if he understood exactly what Bruno was trying to say.
Bruno continued, "What do you know about it? Huh? Tell me, what do you know about my life? You, the perfect, ideal saint of God, prancing around with your Bible and great singing voice, thinking you're so great - tell me, why do you torment me so?!"
Mr. Carver prayed for the right words to help this hurting man. He could see that the Holy Spirit already had been working, stirring up Bruno's heart and making the soil fertile - he did not want to mess this one up and spoil the work of the Lord. Bruno was fuming, his eyes burning with hatred across the table. Mr. Carver sat up and clasped his hands in front of him. "My parents were saved at a tent meeting the year I turned five. I did not understand it all at first, but I was ready to ask the Lord to live in my heart when I was ten."
Bruno's eyes flashed surprise for a second, and then it disappeared as fast as it had appeared. Mr. Carver continued, "All my friends went up front so I felt pressured to go up with them. I did not want to be the only one left sitting. That would make me look bad! I said the sinner's prayer and felt I had done all I needed to do to be right with God. Well, it wasn't sincere, and the Lord worked on my heart for the next seven years. I didn't want to listen, to give in, or give up my fun, carefree lifestyle. Besides, God kept telling me I was supposed to be a missionary, but my father was a preacher so I figured that was what I was going to be too, when I was ready. My father, who was preaching at night when I was seventeen, became very sick. Since I had told him I was called to be a preacher, he asked me to take his place. It was awful! I embarrassed myself and my father's good name. And little did I know that my future wife was sitting in the congregation listening to me make a fool out of myself."
Mr. Carver paused to see if Bruno was still listening. Bruno was still staring at Mr. Carver, but the look in his eye had softened somewhat. "My father preached the next evening. His sermon was on God's call for the missionaries to go out into the world. His message hit me like a blow. I suddenly knew I needed to be saved, give my life over to Christ, and surrender my life to become a missionary for Him. I went up that night and my life was changed forever. You see, Bruno, the truth is it isn't me tormenting you. It's the Lord, Who's trying to break through the hardness of your heart." Mr. Carver stopped, letting his words sink into Bruno's head and heart.
Bruno leaned back in his chair. "Like I said, you're a goody-two-shoes. What have you done in your life that was so bad anyway? Your father was a preacher man! He wouldn't have let you get away with sin!"
"I lied, cussed, sassed my parents, beat up the neighbor's son, and stole the offering right out of the plate many times," Mr. Carver informed Bruno.
"Bah, that doesn't match anything I've done. I've looted, burned ships, taken lives, kidnapped, and even burned down the church, just so I wouldn't have to go anymore. Do you think God will forgive that?" Bruno sat back and crossed his arms as if daring Mr. Carver to find an answer to that one.
"1 John 1:9 says, 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' The law was given to man so that he might know that he could not work his way into heaven, and what he needed was a savior to heal man's relationship with God. We're all the same to God, whether we lie, covet, disobey, or kill someone. In God's eyes, we're all equal and we all need salvation. You may have said the words in the Sinner's Prayer, just like I did, but if you didn't really mean them in your heart then you are not saved. There is no difference between you and me, except the fact that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, where I will go when I die. Do you?"
Bruno stood up. "How dare you question me? You're my prisoner and I will not stand for your arrogance! You say you know where you will go when you die? Well, you might find out sooner than later! Do you want to see your beloved wife again? What about all those brats living in the medieval castle with you? Well, you better start saying your prayers, preacher man, because you will never see them again! I'm going to torment you just like you're tormenting me! I will fight tooth and nail to beat you and then you'll see who the winner is!" Bruno shouted.
"My life is in the Lord's hands," Mr. Carver said quietly.
Bruno's face turned scarlet. "What's wrong with you, man! I stole your treasure, I destroyed your boat, and I have the power to take your life, and you have the gall to say that your life is in God's hands? Your life is in my hands, not God's!" Bruno tightened his hands into fists. "Monty!"
The sailor entered the room and saluted. "Yes, sir?"
"Take this man back to his jail cell! I never want to set eyes on him again, got that?"
Mr. Carver stood up, but Bruno stopped him. "Here! You didn't finish your coffee!" He grabbed the mug and splashed the cooled liquid into Mr. Carver's face. "How's that for a start!" Bruno let out an evil laugh as Monty pushed Mr. Carver out the door and down the hall.
Days turned into weeks. The fifteen men were cramped and sore from being jammed in the small area. They were weak and faint from hunger - Bruno allowed them the bare minimum of food and water, just enough to keep them alive, though not enough to fill their stomachs. They slept, prayed, and lay quietly so they could retain some of their strength.....
One particular day, they sat around quietly, having just finished a prayer time. A memory played in Mr. Carver's foggy mind of the tent meeting he attended when he was ten years old. He had heard a song that night called "Ship Ahoy", a song that had greatly moved him. He had liked it so much he took the time to learn it by heart. The orphans always enjoyed hearing him sing it while sailing on the Haven. Feeling the Lord leading him to sing it now, Mr. Carver stood up with a surge of energy straight from the Lord, and belted out the words to the song like he had all the strength in the world. His clear, baritone voice rang out down the corridors of the submarine, rattling the low ceilings, and went straight to the core of their prison ship. It caused the men throughout the sub to stop what they were doing so they could listen to the clear words that Mr. Carver sang out:
What you have just read is a segment out of Chapter 25, from The Leviathan, second book in The Orphans of Mordecai's Castle series. The audio recording was done by a gentleman at our church, and he sings it the way I always imagined Mr. Carver would have sang it while in prison on the ship (without the piano, of course!). If you are interested in finding out how the story ends, please contact me or order the book from the store link. Thank you and God bless!