Chapter One: The Mysterious Article
The tiny bird in the brown cuckoo clock popped out the door of his home, loudly announcing to all that it was eight o'clock, yet the girl in the rocking chair nearby did not even notice. Anna Livingston had just spotted an article in the paper and it had her transfixed, as if she was frozen in time. With wide eyes, Anna forgot where she was for a moment. Her mother entered the room with a cup of tea in her hand.
"Here you are, Anna," she said as she set the steaming cup down on the table beside her. "I figured some hot tea would help that cold of yours." She paused and took a good look at Anna's face. "Anna, are you all right? You are as white as a sheet!"
Anna glanced up with a look of one just waking up and tried to focus on her mother. "I'm okay, Mom. It's just that something in the paper this morning took me by surprise."
"I haven't read the paper yet, but it must be something very interesting. You didn't even hear me come into the room!"
"Thank you for the tea, Mom, but I don't have time to drink it," Anna said. "I need to run to Philip's and see if he has seen the paper yet." She stood up and handed the newspaper to her mother. "You can read this while I'm gone."
Mrs. Livingston took the paper from Anna and watched her rush out of the room. "Don't forget to take your winter jacket! It's cold outside!" she hollered, but was not sure if Anna heard. With a little sigh, she sat down in her daughter's vacant chair and scanned the paper. It did not take her long to find the medium size article at the bottom corner of the front paper. The blood drained from her face as the truth of what it meant hit her. Mrs. Livingston closed her eyes and felt the tears well up behind her eyelids. "Oh dear, Lord," she prayed. "Will You take our dear Anna away too? Please be merciful and spare us any more grief!"
The Livingston family had two children, though Anna was the only one living at home. Michael, who was three years older than Anna, had vanished a year ago, shortly after Anna had become a Christian. They had not heard from him in all that time. They had suffered a great deal of worry and doubt when they discovered him missing, but their faith in the Lord had remained strong through it all and they believed they would see him again someday.
Anna ran up the Barry's front steops and knocked. Philip answered the door. "Good morning, Anna, did you run all the way over here? You're all out of breath! Come inside and get warm!" Philip held the door open so Anna could enter the cozy sitting room. Bright sunlight streamed through the windows and a cat sitting in the warm rays blinked sleepily at her. Anna pulled a tissue out of her pocket and blew her nose.
"What brings you here?" asked Philip. He motioned for Anna to sit as he sat down in another chair opposite her.
"Did you happen to read the paper today?" she asked.
Philip nodded. "Yes, I did."
"Well, did anything unusual catch your eye? Like, maybe the article about the new law that is going to be enforced?"
"I saw it." Philip said casually. He noticed the worried look in Anna's eye and the unusually pale look in her cheeks. "Anna," he tried to encourage her, "This is a small town! Nobody is going to pay attention to what we do here!"
"Philip, if our small town paper chose to publish the article, then it must be a huge thing! Plus, even small towns are on the map. They also have people who hate God! Not everybody agrees with our Bible studies after school. Principal Evans only allowed us to meet because we have such a large group. What if he turned us in?"
Philip frowned. "Are you suggesting we cancel our meetings? Some of the teens that attend are new Christians. If we stop meeting because of the 'what if's', what is that going to say to them? That it is okay to back out at the first sign of trouble?"
Anna closed her eyes and tried to swallow the panic that threatened to choke her. When she opened her eyes, she noticed the picture over the couch, one that she never grew tired of looking at. It was a painting of a little boy trying to cross a log over a raging river. He was looking at a little girl on the other side, who's arms were stretched out toward him. At the bottom were the words, "Perfect love casteth out fear." I John 4:18.
"No, Philip, as much as I am afraid to continue, I also know we must not cancel the meetings. That would be like denying our faith in a way. Besides, the Lord has been blessing our meetings lately and He will give us the strength to continue. Your picture reminds me that if we have perfect love in our God, He will take care of us."
The article that was causing such a stir that morning was about a new law that had been passed to stop young people from spreading the Gospel. Many companies in the state had been complaining that their business had dropped because so many young people were getting 'religion.' The state claimed that as of April 1st, all school religious meetings, and any other related meetings run by teens would have to stop. If anyone was caught carrying a Bible around at school, they would be reported to the police.
Philip nodded. "Yes, God will take care of us. The first of April is Tuesday so let's plan on meeting Monday, just like we always do. We can discuss it with the others then."
"That is if anyone else comes on Monday. We must pray for the Lord's wisdom."
Anna walked home slowly, her mind a jumble of thoughts. As she entered her house she wondered how many more Saturdays she would be able to spend at home with her family. She had made up her mind not to change in any way, no matter what might happen. The very thought made her feel strange inside. If she focused on that feeling then panic threatened to take over, but when she thought about God's promises, the peace of God overcame the unsettled feelings.
Anna went into the kitchen and found her mother making some bread. She leaned against the counter and watched her mother knead the dough. They were both silent for a few minutes, absorbed in their own toughts until the buzzer on the stove broke their silence.
"Could you pull the pie out of the oven?" Mrs. Livingston asked Anna. "My hands are all sticky."
Anna grabbed a potholder and pulled out a steaming apple pie. It was her favorite. Anna knew her mother had made it just for her. She set it on the top of the stove to cool, and then walked to her mother and gave her a big hug. "We need to keep on as we have been," she informed her mother. We are going to meet on Monday and hopefully the others will show up. We will discuss it with everyone then."
Mrs. Livingston gave Anna a tender look. "I'm proud of you dear, but I don't want to lose you too! What could they possibly do with a bunch of Christian teenagers?" A tear trickled down her cheek.
"I don't know, Mom, but God will take care of us. I keep reassurring myself of God's love for me and no matter what, He will always be in control. Only believe."
A deep voice boomed from the hallway, "Well, don't I get a hug from my lovely ladies too?" Mr. Livingston, a tall, handsome man with silver streaked hair stepped into the room. Anna rushed over to him and gave him a big squeeze.
"Oh, Daddy, of course you do!"
"You're home early," remarked Mrs. Livingston as she greeted her husband.
"We finished the work ahead of schedule so I figured I would come home and do some work around the house." He glanced at their faces and sensed something was wrong. "Is everything okay?"
Anna glanced at her mom. "I am going to go upstairs for a bit. You can show him the paper, Mom."
Anna went to her room and knelt down beside her bed. She poured out her worries to the Lord and asked for strength in the oncoming days. While she prayed a thought kept coming to her mind. When she found she could not push it away she wondered if it was the Lord trying to tell her something. "Get your waterproof pocket."
Anna pulled a box out from under her bed and took out a pretty brown bag that was lined inside with a thick plastic lining. It was a something her grandmother had made her when she was younger, but she had never had any reason to use it. She looked at it confused. "What now, Lord?"
"Get your small Bible, needle, thread, scissors, matches, and a comb. Put them inside. Tie it around your waist and keep it on you at all times."
Without a word, Anna gathered the items up and stuffed them into the brown bag and closed the seal on the top. She slipped it around her neck and tucked it underneath her skirt and then looked in the mirror. Even with those items inside the bag, it did not make much of a bulge, and peace filled her heart.
Chapter Two: The Arrest (coming soon!)