Preacher Isaac took his seat with Bishop Gideon and Bishop Joshua. The two guests had refused the tea Isaac’s wife Annie had offered. Typically, this meant they were on grim business. Knowing Samuel’s return was the talk of the last two days, Isaac figured he knew what the business would entail.
“Preacher,” began Gideon with some caution. “We are here to discuss Samuel Host.”
“So I figured,” Isaac replied.
“When one returns to the flock,” continued Joshua, “It is truly a time of celebration. Our Lord welcomes all prodigals as they come to realize the futility of a life separate from The Father. But even the soul who returns must forsake the world that once held sway.”
Gideon nodded. “You know The Hosts very well. Samuel’s insistence on leaving was a great heartache among the community. But this very headstrong attitude may cause difficulty in his return.”
Isaac sighed. “Truly, you tell me nothing I haven’t already considered. Samuel was always a difficult child. It was often difficult for his parents to dissuade him once an idea had taken hold. This one was no different. I plan on meeting with The Hosts tomorrow evening. I hope to spend some time talking with Samuel and discerning if he may be bringing any ideas which could disrupt our community.
Joshua smiled. “God has granted you much wisdom when he selected you as Preacher. You will, of course, keep us in your counsel on this matter.”
Isaac nodded. “Indeed. Moreover, I pray that it is unnecessary. His return alone suggests a dissatisfaction with what he found away from The People. Through this dissatisfaction, we can find how to meet his desires and I hope to welcome him back to the church soon.”
“May the Lord grant you sight and discernment, Preacher,” prayed Gideon.
As Katie hung the day’s laundry, she fought to keep her mind off Samuel. The advice of her mother was sound. Samuel’s rejection of the community, even for the short time he was gone, was a rejection of their ways. Indirectly, it was even a rejection of Katie. His return spoke volumes about what he found among The English. His return signified his hope to find meaning and peace among The People again. In her heart, Katie also hoped his return signified a longing for her. A foolish fancy, she admitted, but it didn’t keep her from sighing to herself and smiling. The day was warm and the breeze carried the sweet smell of wildflowers. The days hadn’t seemed this perfect for a long time.
“So the prodigal beau returns,” called out a voice.
Katie turned to see Sarah Miller approaching. Sarah was the daughter of Bishop Joshua Miller, and at times she seemed to radiate a deep satisfaction with this fact. Sarah took her time crossing the distance, hands behind her back and a glint of mischief in her eyes.
“I know you doubted he would return, but I could have told you otherwise,” Sarah proclaimed.
Katie tried to keep her opinion of Sarah from raising to her voice. Sarah was still two years Katie’s junior, and the rebelliousness of youth had not yet departed from her attitude.
“How did you know that, Sarah?”
“Because the outside world can’t give him anything he can’t have here. Everything out there is fleeting and foolish. What he finds among the People is real. It is truth. He will never find a relationship with an Englisher that will feel as meaningful as with one of The People.”
Katie bristled at the emphasis and tone Sarah used when she said “relationship.” The younger woman was intentionally baiting her. Katie had faith that Sarah would one day grow out of this particular attitude and find a truly humble heart. Until then, she viewed her occasional conversations with Sarah to be an act of supreme charity.
“What is important,” replied Katie, “is that Samuel be welcomed home so he can see that true community can be found here, not among The English. He is one of us, not one of them.”
“Well said, sister. Well said. I look forward to asking him if he found what he hoped to find among the English. We spent many hours speaking of his desire to leave.”
Katie couldn’t suppress the shock and hurt that came when she heard this.
“Did you not speak to Samuel of his departure?” asked Sarah.
“Oh. I’m sorry. But I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything.”
Sarah searched Katie’s face for a few moments more before she turned to leave. She glanced back at Katie. “Have fun welcoming Samuel back. I know I will.”
As Sarah departed, Katie prayed for the strength to forgive and reminded herself that vengeance belongs to The Lord.