Monday morning arrived. Nothing was said among the students at the school, though Anna noticed puzzled and unsure looks written all over her friends' faces.
After classes were over, Anna and Philip met in the library just like normal. Fifteen minutes passed and nobody showed up. Anna was beginning to wonder if everyone had been frightened away by the newspaper announcement. She glanced at Philip. "Do you think we should head out?"
Philip glanced at his watch. "No, let's wait a few minutes longer. The others might be on their way."
Right at that moment, Andy, Philip's best friend, walked in. Without a word, he sat down and set his Bible on the table. Slowly, one after the other entered the room and took a seat. Philip gave Anna a smile and stood up. It was his turn to lead the study so he had everyone turn to I John 4:18.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
Everyone remained silent as they meditated on the words before them, and then Philip continued. "We are all scared right now because of Saturday's article, but I believe what I just read is God speaking directly to us. He wants us to rejoice when we are persecuted. This is a time to test our faith and see where we stand! Count it all joy, my friends. The end times are closer now than ever before. Are you ready for Christ's return? He could come any day now, any minute!" Philip was getting excited and it spilled over onto the others. For fifteen minutes he encouraged his friends, until the door burst open and Mr. Wilkens, the school principal, ran into the room.
"What do you think you're doing?" he shouted. "I heard rumors that you were still meeting here, but did not think it was true! Are you crazy? Are you trying to get me into trouble? The papers clearly stated what will happen if you continued your foolish meetings. Get out, all of you! Right now!"
Philip nodded. "Yes, sir, we will go. There is no need to worry about us any longer." He turned to the others and motioned them outside. "We can meet elsewhere for now. Let's go outside."
Everyone stood up and filed out of the library. As they approached the exit door that led outside, Anna did a quick headcount and was surprised to count fifteen heads instead of the usual twelve. She wondered who the three extra people were that had joined their group.
Philip held the door open and everyone went out into the cold March air. It had begun to lightly snow and the snow was perfect for making snowballs. Andy threw the first one and hit Philip just as he closed the door of the school. The wet blob hit his neck and cold water dripped down his back.
"Yeow!" he hollered as the cold penetrated his skin. He set his books down, gathered a handful of snow, and formed a perfectly, round snowball. When the snow was packed good and hard, he sent the ball through the air towards Andy, who was busy making another snowball. It smacked him in the back. The game was on! Everyone joined in and did not notice the police cars as they pulled up next to them.
A whistle blew angrily. Anna stopped, expecting to see the principal again. She swallowed hard when she saw five policemen standing near the group, covered with snow. She let her snowball fall to the ground and prayed for strength. What was going to happen to them now?
"Who is the leader of this group?" demaned one of the policemen.
Philip stepped forward. "I am."
"I didn't realize you Christians ever had this much fun," he said in a cold voice, as he brushed the wet snow from his uniform. "I do hope you had your fill because I must inform you all that you are under arrest. Mr. Wilkens reported that a religious meeting was going on within his school. He ordered you to leave, but you did not fully leave his property. You knew about the new law, I assume?"
Philip nodded, "Yes, sir, but it said the law went into effect as of the first of April, not today."
"Are you questioning me? What difference does one day make? Knowing how you Christians think, you would be meeting tomorrow too, so we might as well get this over with. Men, arrest these teens!"
Anna felt someone roughly jerk her hands behind her back and felt the cold, metal of handcuffs snaps around her wrists.
"Sir, we will go without a fight. There is no need for handcuffs," she heard Philip say.
"We are not going to take any chances," the police officer said. "Cuff them all!"
Anna was shoved into the back of a police car, along with two other girls. They drove to the nearby police station. Once inside, their handcuffs were taken off and they were paired up into different jail cells. Anna found herself with a frail looking girl she did not recoginize. The girl sat down on the cot and began sobbing after the guard left them alone.
"I wanted to join your group today, but I arrived late with my brother Chris and our friend Mark. What is going on here? Why are they doing this to us?"
Anna sat down next to her and put her arm around the girl's shoulders. "It has to do with the new law. Christians are not to meet together at school, publicly, or even carry a Bible with them. No matter what happens, we must trust God. We are safe in Him, no matter where we go and what happens to us. He promised He will never leave us or forsake us."
"But how can I trust God when I don't even know Him? If there really is a God, how come He allowed us to get caught?"
"There are many things we don't understand, but there are times when He does it to test our faith, to see where we stand. He wants to see if we truly love Him. Remember, perfect love casts out fear, and God IS Love."
"You keep saying that. What if I can't trust Him?"
"All you need to do is believe in Him, ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and ask Him to come live in your heart."
"I...can't. At least not right now." She raised her tear-stained face and looked at Anna. "I don't feel very well. I need to lay down for a little while." Anna helped her lie down and put the thin blanket over her frail body.
"Sleep well, my friend," Anna said. "I will be praying for you."
The next morning, a guard hollered for them to get up, startling Anna from her sleep. She brushed her hair out of her face and stood up. The other girl was still fast asleep, but another shout from the guard brought her to her feet in a flash, eyes wide and scared.
"Time to get moving!" he commanded. He unlocked their door and handcuffed them as they came out. He led them down the bleak hallway and out the back door, where a truck was waiting. The bright sunlight blinded their eyes and Anna tripped on a rock in the alleyway. With a rough jerk, the guard caught her before she fell into the other girl. With another rough jerk, she was pulled into the back of the truck, where she found the rest of her friends already waiting. When everyone was in and the door was shut, the truck started up and took the group away.