I Love Him

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD” – Leviticus 19:28, NKJV

Cute-Wording-Tattoo-WT107-600x800

I never thought of getting a tattoo until I met and fell in love with Roger.  We met at a book fair four years ago.  We were book lovers and huge fans of Historical and Crime Fiction and Science Fantasy.  We were in the browsing and we reached for the same book.  He looked at me and said, “Sorry.  You first.” He had such a warm smile and incredible eyes that I was smitten.

After we bought the books we wanted, I ended up getting the one we were both reaching for but which I promised to lend him after I finished reading it, we went to a trendy restaurant nearby for lunch.  Over pasta and white wine, we got to know each other and by the end of lunch, we had made plans for our first date.

We began dating and there was talk of marriage.  One afternoon when we were hanging out in the city, he suggested that we go and get tattoos.  He said he always wanted to get one but just didn’t get around to it.  I was hesitant at first but he convinced me when he said, “I want to put right here on my wrist the words, I love you.  They are in my heart but I want them to be a part of me where they are visible for everyone to see.”

So, I agreed and we went to a tattoo parlor and had the tattoos done.  His said, “I love her” and mine said, “I love him.”  A week later, he popped the big question when we were at an amusement park.  He got down on one knee on the grass near the Ferris Wheel.  I was conscious of people watching us but he was oblivious to them.  I bawled but somehow managed to say, Yes!  He sprang to his feet, beside himself with excitement and planted a big one on my lips.  Then, holding hands, we sauntered off to the Roller-coaster.  It was a glorious afternoon–one I will never, ever forget.

Then, the worst day of my life since my father died happened.  I was getting ready to go to the beach with Roger when the doorbell rang.  Thinking it was him, I rushed to answer it and was surprised to see his friend, Larry standing there.  The expression on his face wiped the smile off mine.  My heart began to pound.  I invited him into the flat and closed the door.  I took him into the living-room where we both remained standing.  “What’s wrong, Larry?” I asked.  A heavy sense of dread settled over me like a dark cloud.

“It’s Roger,” he said.  I could tell that he was trying really hard to keep it together.  “This morning on his way to visit his parents, he was killed in a multi-vehicle crash.”

I don’t remember much of what happened after I heard the news which turned my world upside down.  The funeral and everything afterwards were all a blur to me.  I took time off work and lived like a hermit in my flat.  I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone.  There were times when I felt that I couldn’t go on without Roger.

One night, I came very close to committing suicide.  I had the bottle of sleeping pills in my hand but I heard someone on the radio, I think, say, “Regardless of how dark the future may appear to you right now, remember, God will never abandon you.” That got my attention and I listened to the entire program.  Looking back now, I know without a shadow of a doubt that God saved my life that night.

I had a friend who was a Christian and I turned to her for support.  She visited me regularly and prayed for me.  She invited me to spend time with her and her family because she felt that it would do me good.  She shared her faith with me.  I never knew that she and her husband had lost a child.  She told me how God had gotten her through those dark, painful moments.  And she encouraged me to talk to Him about anything that was on my mind.  “Be frank with Him.  Let Him know that you’re hurting, that you’re angry–whatever you’re feeling, lay it all out.  Cry, yell if you need to.  Don’t hold back.  God can take it.”

I followed her advice and I could feel God’s presence and His comfort.  I began to talk to Him regularly and found that it helped with the pain and sorrow.  My friend gave me a Bible which I began reading every night before I went to bed.  It was then that I learned that God doesn’t want us to mark our skins–that meant tattoos.  I felt badly that I had one but when I mentioned it to my friend, she said, “When you got it, you didn’t know.   Now that you know, you can do something about it.”

“What can I do?”

“You can remove your tattoo.”

I stared at her.  “I can?” I exclaimed.  “But I thought you couldn’t remove tattoos.”

“Yes.  They were once considered permanent but now it’s possible to remove them with treatments, fully or partially.  One of my co-workers had her tattoo removed.  I can give you her number and she could advise you on what to do.”

I thanked her for telling me this and I immediately contacted her co-worker, Anna who told me what to do and what to expect.  She told me to consult a doctor, that it would take months, perhaps a year or more to remove the tattoo, it’s expensive, all the ink can be taken out, get ready for needles, there’s pain afterwards, I’ll need ointment and bandages and to make sure that my clothing doesn’t rest on the area, I have a choice to lighten the ink rather than take it all off or take it all off but there might be white patches or scars and there’s a laser that can fix that problem.  I decided that I would completely remove my tattoo and not worry about the cost.  My friend went with me when I went to have the procedure done.  I was nervous but I felt good knowing that I was doing the right thing.  I didn’t have to have a tattoo to tell me that I loved Roger.

Years later, I’m tattoo free.  All that’s left is a scar on my wrist which you can barely see.  My reading tastes have changed.  Now, I read only Christian fiction and non-fiction, Devotions and Prophecy.  I’m a baptized member of my friend’s church and I’m teaching Sabbath school to the Juniors.  I love being a part of a family with God as my Father and Jesus as my Lord.  I think of Roger often and wish that he were still alive.  I sometimes, wonder, though if my life would be what it is now if he hadn’t died.

I have written the words, I love Him, at the front of my Bible.  I love Roger and will always love him but the Him I’m talking about is God.  I love Him because He first loved me.  I discovered that unfailing love of His on that night when He saved my life.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Glamour; Bible Info; CP24; Blue Letter Bible

Devastating News

240_F_43342280_9fhJmIlVeQ5Zo89BgyO4mMkrzhXYj3UjSo, dinner with Marcus was amazing.  I had such a great time.  As I do my work, my thoughts take me back to that Saturday evening.  He came and picked me up at my place at exactly seven.  He looked very handsome in his expensive looking tan colored jacket and white shirt.  His eyes traveled over me in my red dress with the cap sleeves and flare skirt.  I had washed my hair and it fell in wavy curls about my face.  I could see the admiration in his eyes and I was thrilled.  “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

I smiled.  “Thank you,” I replied as I preceded him into the hallway.  After I closed and locked the door, we walked to the elevator.  The Hispanic woman who lived opposite me was coming towards us.  After she greeted me, I saw her eyes shift to Marcus and the way she looked at him.  I glanced up at him but he was looking straight ahead.  He was probably was used to women admiring him.  I can just imagine that a lot of his female students had crushes on him.  It made me feel great that I was the one he was taking out for dinner.  Nervous excitement filled me and soon we were on our way to the restaurant.  He drove a Bentley.

On the way, we talked about all sorts of things.  I learned that he was a Seventh-day Adventist like me.  The rest of the family was Baptist.  “What made you switch?” I asked.

“When I started studying the Bible, I realized that there were some major doctrinal misunderstandings of the Baptist church such as the secret rapture of the church, immortality of the soul, eternal torment, Once saved always saved, Sunday sacredness and the law being done away with in Christ.  There were Bible texts which refuted all of these teachings.  An Adventist colleague of mine invited me to an evangelistic series which I attended.  My life changed after that.  I left the Baptist church and became an Adventist.  What about you?  Were you always an Adventist?”

“Yes and I’m thankful for that.”

We reached the restaurant which such a warm and friendly atmosphere.  I loved it and the food was out of this world.  I loved being with Marcus.  He was so much fun.  I felt as if we had known each other for ages.  I could tell that he enjoyed my company too.  I felt that I was on cloud nine and I didn’t want the evening to end.  As we were having our dessert, he said to me, “I once had someone ask me if God only saves vegans.  The person asked me that question because he was told by a vegan member that those who are still eating flesh food will never see Heaven.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I exclaimed.  “What did you say to the person?”

“I told him that we are saved by Christ’s grace and His righteousness and not by our own works. We can’t earn our way to heaven by being vegan or vegetarian, nor do we choose to not eat meat because we believe that by doing so we will be saved.  It’s like what Paul said when the Jewish Christians were saying that the non-Jewish Christians had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  Being circumcised or not doesn’t save anyone.  We are saved by faith alone and not by works so that none of us can boast about how good we are and how much we deserve to go to Heaven.  Salvation is for everyone once they accept Christ.”

“I can’t stand it when people have issues with me eating fish and poultry even though these are considered clean.  Jesus Himself wasn’t a vegetarian.  He ate fish.  When the Lord visited Abraham with the two angels, didn’t they eat Veal?”

Marcus nodded.  “Yes.  It’s a shame that diet is the bone of contention in the church.  Eating meat became part of the diet after the flood and unless God Himself tells me that I should become a vegetarian or vegan, I will continue to eat fish and white meat.”

“Amen to that.”  The rest of the evening we talked about other things and then it was time for him to take me home.

When we were standing outside of my door, he said, “I had a wonderful evening.”

“So did I,” I was quick to let him know.  I wanted to say that I wish it wouldn’t end.  I couldn’t invite him inside because of what could happen.  As Christians, we had to be mindful of how easily we can become tempted to do things we know we ought not to do.  If we didn’t believe in the Bible then, we would not have thought anything was wrong with him coming into my apartment for a nightcap or spending the night.

“When can I see you again?”

“Anytime you wish,” I was happy to tell him.  Every single day would suit me just fine.

“Tomorrow I would like to take you to Napa.  I can pick you up in the morning and take a scenic drive.  It takes about an hour and forty-one minutes to get San Jose to there.  Once we get there, there are several fun things we can do.  What do you say?”

“I say yes!”

“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow.  I will call you.”

I smiled up at him before I opened my door.  I turned to face him.  “Good night and thank you for a wonderful evening.”

327_16843_17“You’re welcome, Abi.  Good night.” He reached out and gently squeezed my arm.

I leaned against the door frame, watching as he walked away.  My heart leapt in my chest when he stopped and turned to look at me, a slight smile on his face before he continued down the hallway towards the elevators.  I waited until one came and I heard the doors close before I went into my apartment.  For the rest of the night and all morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about Marcus.

The next day, he took me to Napa and the first thing we did was go for a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.  It was an exhilarating experience.  Marcus told me that the next time we would go early in the morning when it’s even more spectacular.  Next, we went Olive Oil tasting, we had lunch a very nice Spanish restaurant called Zuzu.  Afterwards we went to Sterlings’s where we stomped grapes.  The grapes felt so yucky between my toes and my feet had turned purple but we got free tee shirts.

Before we went bowling, we wandered for a bit in downtown Napa with its shops, cafes and chocolatiers and visited the Oxbow Public Market where we treated ourselves to organic ice-cream.  It had been a long time since I had an ice-cream so it was a big treat for me.  After we finished our ice-creams, we headed to the bowling center where we spent the rest of the afternoon.  I never had so much fun in my life and I thanked God for bringing Marcus into my life.  As we drove back to San Jose, we made plans for our next date.  And we have been dating ever since.

The ringing of the phone brings me back to the present.  I stare at the display.  I don’t recognize the name.  I pick up the receiver.  “Hello?”

“Hello Abiyomi.  This is Philip Jennings.  We met at the barbecue.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you now.  You’re married to Bobby’s sister, Nicole.”

“Yes.  I called your mother and she gave me your work number.”

I could sense that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s about Bobby.”

My heart was pounding now.  “What’s happened to Bobby?”

“He died this morning.”

I began to tremble.  “Died?  But how?” As far as I knew Bobby physically fit.  He hardly got sick.

“He took his life.”

Source:  Perspectives-Adventist; Seed Time; A Passion and a Passport; SFbaytripper; California Dream Big

All Thorne Up

front-view-serious-female-office-worker_74855-2225I just got off the phone.  I sat there staring at it for several minutes.  I had just made a dinner reservation for two on New Year’s Eve.  Who was he taking this year, I wondered.  Was it Gabriela, the Italian supermodel, or Rosaline, the district attorney or Madeline, the CEO of GENTEC?  What did I expect?  That this year would be different?  Did I seriously think that I would be the one he would take to dinner on New Year’s Eve?  I shook my head at my foolish notions and got up from my desk.  I picked up the folders with the typed letters and forms he asked for.

I walked slowly, head down to his office.  Although the door was slightly ajar, I still knocked and when I got permission to enter, I pushed it open and went in.  He was sitting at the end of his desk.  I walked straight over to him, head held high, the folders clutched tightly in front of me.  “I called the restaurant and made the reservations,” I informed him in a brisk, professional manner.

“Thank you, Tia.”

I inclined my head, reached around and placed the folders on top of his desk.  “Do you need anything else?” I asked when I was standing in front of him.

“Not right now.”

“Fine.  I’m taking my lunch break now.”

His eyebrows arched and he straightened away from the desk, towering over me which was very unnerving to say the least.  “What’s the matter, Tia?” he asked, staring at me which made me uneasy, of course.  Did he have any idea of how crazy I am about him?  Would he care if he did?  I sincerely doubt it because I’m not his type.  He’s used to being with beautiful and glamorous women.  I’m just his run in the mill secretary of five years.

“Nothing’s the matter,” I lied.  “I’ll be back in about an hour.”

He looked unconvinced.  “Something’s wrong,” he insisted.  “And I’d like to know what it is.”

“I’m meeting a friend for lunch.  I don’t want to be late.” The lies were coming a little too easy now.  I needed to get out of there in a hurry.  I was about to turn and scurry away when he caught me by the arm.  The grip tightened when I tried to free myself.  My eyes were wary when I met his.  “Please, I have to go.”

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” I informed him tightly.

“You were in fine spirits this morning.  What happened between then and now?”

Nothing!”

He released my arm then and lifted his up as if he were surrendering.  “All right, all right, no need to bite my head off.  Go and have lunch with your friend.”

“Thank you!” I turned and hurried out of his office.  I pulled the door closed behind me and hurried over to my desk.  I grabbed my handbag and left.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there and cool my head.  Emotions were churning inside me.  I was furious with him for making me lie and for making me jealous.  When he was holding my arm, my heart was pounding like crazy and my stomach was flip-flopping.  I was afraid that my feelings would give me away.  The last thing I want him to know is that I’m in love with him.  If for some reason he were to ever find that out, I would resign immediately.  I couldn’t stand to be around him and have him feel sorry for me because he didn’t feel the same way about me.

I went to a nearby cafe and had lunch.  I didn’t have much of an appetite, though.  My mind was on Thorne.  No one knew how I felt about him except my best friend, Sheryl.  She encouraged me to tell him but I flatly refused.  I didn’t want to make a complete fool of myself.  She met him when I invited her to an office barbecue on summer and she had the crazy notion that he was attracted to me.  I didn’t believe her.  And the fact that he was there with a stunning brunette convinced me that I was right.

I wished that I could go straight home after leaving the cafe but, of course, I couldn’t.  I had a job to do.  The time seem to go very quickly and I was soon on my way back to the office.  As soon as I got back to my desk, my extension rang.  It was Thorne.  “Good, you’re back. I need to see you.”

“I’ll be right in,” I replied.  I sighed heavily after I hung up.  I really didn’t want to face him right now.  I was thankful that I had freshened up before coming to my desk.  I got up and went to his office.  The door was open this time.

1dc7a9a6b1d3877e0c6007ecb9769238He was standing beside the window.  “Close the door,” he said.

I did and then I walked over to him.  We stood facing each other and not saying a word for several minutes.  “You said you needed to see me,” I reminded him.

“Did you get to your lunch on time?”

“Yes.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes.”  Why all the questions?  Is that why he called me in here?

“Whom did you have lunch with?”

Oh oh.  “Does it matter?” I asked, stalling.  I really didn’t want to lie anymore but if he pressed me, I would have to come up with a name.  I had a few male friends.  I could easily get one of them to pretend to be my boyfriend if I needed to.  At the back of my mind, I was thinking that I needed to ask God to forgive me for my dishonesty.

“Yes, it does.”

“Why?”

“Please just answer my question, Tia.  Was it a man you had lunch with?”

“What if it were?” I asked and I saw his expression darken.  He looked upset but why would he be?

“Are you dating again?”

“Is this why you asked me to come and see you?”

Yes!

“I haven’t dated anyone since I broke up with Leon.”  That was the truth.  I broke up with Leon shortly after I started working for Thorne.

“So, you’re not dating the guy you had lunch with?”

“I didn’t have lunch with anyone, Thorne.  I went to the cafe at the corner of the street and ate alone.”

“Why did you have me believe that you were meeting someone?” he demanded.

“I–I don’t know,” I replied, getting flustered now.  “I was about to have my lunch break and you detained me, remember, so I had to come up with some excuse to leave.”

“And the best you came up with was that you were meeting someone for lunch?”

“Yes.  I hate lying but you didn’t give me any choice.”  That, of course, wasn’t true.  There’s always a choice.  As a self-professed Christian, I should not have resorted to lying just to get out of a sticky situation.

“All right.  So, you lied about meeting someone for lunch.  What about telling me now why you were acting so strangely?”

“If you must know, I was upset about having to book a dinner reservation for you another year.  I’ve been doing it for five years now and I’m sick of it.  The next time you want to make romantic plans, make them yourself.  Leave me out of it.  Now, unless you have something work related for me to do, I’m going back to my desk.”

“Not so fast,” he said, catching me by arm again.  “So, you’re saying that the reason you were upset is that you had to make a dinner reservation for me.”

“Yes.”

“Whom did you think the reservations were for?”

“You and one of the three women you’ve been juggling this year–the supermodel, the district attorney and the CEO.”

His lips twitched.  “I haven’t been juggling any of them.  They are very good friends of mine.”

My chin lifted a fraction and my eyes flashed at him.  “Is that what you call them now–good friends?”

“Yes, that’s all they are to me.  And for your information, all three of them are happily in love with three great guys.  I’ll be a guest to all three weddings.”

“So, if the reservations weren’t for you and one of them, then who are you taking to dinner?”

“I thought you would never ask.  I’m taking you to dinner.”

I gawked at him.  “Me?” I exclaimed.  “You’re taking me to dinner?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  We can celebrate our five years together as well as ringing in the New Year.”

My heart sank.  So, that was it.  He was just taking his secretary out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary.  “Thank you.  It’s nice that my boss wants to take me out for dinner.”

He grabbed me by the shoulders, startling me.  “This isn’t a boss taking out his secretary to celebrate but a man taking out a woman whom he has been extremely attracted to for five years.”

I stared at him, stunned.  “You’re attracted to me?” The whole idea seemed incredible but then I remembered that Sheryl had said he was.  How on earth could she have guessed?

“Yes.  I’ve wanted to take you out for a very long time but I wasn’t sure about how you would feel about dating me.”

“I never would have thought that you would be interested in me.  I’m not your type.”

“And what is my type?”

“Beautiful brunettes like the supermodel, the district attorney and the CEO.”

“I admit I had a thing for brunettes until I met you.  I have a weakness for you.  When I thought that you were dating again, I was jealous.”

“And when I booked the reservation for two, I was jealous.”

His eyes twinkled.  “So, that’s why you were acting so strange.”  He released my shoulders and put his arms around my waist, pulling me against him.  “You know you’re very sexy when you’re jealous…”

I smiled and wrapped my arms around his neck.  “Flattery will get you nowhere, Mister…”

Nothing else was said as we stood there kissing.  It felt surreal.  I was kissing Thorne after five years of wanting to be more than his secretary.  I couldn’t wait to tell Sheryl that she was right.

On New Year’s Eve, I was decked out in my new black cocktail dress and he was dressed in a black dinner suit which made him look elegant and sexy.  Dinner was at a swanky French restaurant and then we went to the Barbican Hall where we danced the night away to the sounds of The Johann Strauss Orchestra as it performed the music of the Strauss.  I had never been to a Viennese ball before.  It was such a classy and romantic way to usher in 2020.

As soon as we finished yelling, “Happy New Year!” Thorne pulled me into his arms and kissed me.  My head was spinning and I felt giddy but it wasn’t because of the champagne.  I put my arms around his neck and clung to him as we exchanged passionate kisses.  I’m not sure if people were staring at us.  I didn’t care.  I was deliriously happy.  2019 had ended with a very high note and now 2020 was here with a bang.

Source:  London List

Janco’s Story (Part One)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209680I’m a Literature Evangelist and youth leader in my church.  I’m on fire for the Lord so I leave tracts on buses, trains, taxis, the waiting rooms of doctors, dentists, on sidewalks, streets–yes, I drop them as I walk.  Sometimes I would stand on the sidewalk and hand them out to people as they walk by.

Just recently, I left a couple of tracts in the changing rooms of a few department stores.  I’ve left tracts on the table before leaving a restaurant and in public washrooms, believe it or not.  Every opportunity I get, I make sure I leave or hand out a tract.  I take being a Literature Evangelist very seriously because eight years ago, someone left a tract on the a park bench which turned my life around.  You see, I was heading in the wrong direction.

Eight years ago I was 17 and living with my mother.  My father was a deadbeat who abandoned us when I was seven.  I haven’t seen or heard from him since he left.  My older brother, Jacquan was arrested and convicted of dealing drugs.  He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  My mother was an alcoholic.  She had fallen on and off the wagon since she first started drinking after my father left.  I was going to school and working at the same time. It was tough.  I had no life.  I couldn’t hang out with my friends because after school, I had to show up for my job at the grocery store close to school.   I did different things such as bagging groceries, stocking shelves and working the cash register.  I worked for six hours and by the time I got home it was almost nine-thirty.

I was tired but I had either had to do my homework, work on a paper or study for an exam.  I had to fix myself something to eat because my mother was passed out on the couch.  An empty bottle of Vodka lay on the carpet.  The room reeked of alcohol so I opened the windows to let some fresh air in.  I took up the bottle and cleaned up the room before I had something to eat.  Then, I took a quick shower, went to my room and spent two hours doing my school work.  After I was done, I went back to the living-room to check on my mother.  She was still passed out.  So, I got a blanket and spread it over her, turned out the light and went to bed.

That was my life.  I was tired of my mother being drunk and having to clean up after her.  It was like I was the parent and she was the child.  I was the one who cleaned the house on the weekend, went to pick up groceries, did the laundry and the cooking.  By the time I was done, I was too wiped out to go anywhere.  And when I did, my buddies complained because I didn’t want to do much.  If we went bowling, I would sit it out or if we went to the mall, I would find a place to chill because I was too beat to walk aimlessly about the place.  I dated a few times but whenever the girl found out that my brother was in prison they would act all weird and I wouldn’t hear from them again.  So, my social and love lives were suffering because of my dysfunctional family.  I started to get angry and resentful.  Sometimes, I found myself wishing I could just get up and leave but I couldn’t do that to my mother.  She needed me.  So, I stuck it out.

My mother was sober on the day I graduated from high-school.  She threw a party and invited family and friends over to celebrate.  Later that night, she got wasted and while she was passed out on the couch, I cleaned up the place.  After I was done, I went for a long walk, trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I wanted so badly to run away.  I was tired of dealing with my mother and her drinking problem.  I had tried many times to get her to go for help but she always promised that she would stop.

I walked and walked until I got tired of walking.  I went to the park which was nearby and found a bench under the light post and sat down.  I sat there for a while, my mind spinning.  The resentment for my mother and the bitterness toward my father filled my throat like bile.  Dark thoughts filled my mind.  I wanted to lash out at them because they had ruined my life with their selfishness and self-destructive ways.  At that moment, I wanted run away and leave my mother to drink herself to death.  Yes, I thought, why should I continue taking care of a drunk?  I was young.  I had my own life to live.  Why shouldn’t I go somewhere else and start a new life.  I decided right then and there that I would pack up and leave this wretched place.

I started to get up when my eyes fell on something beside me.  It looked like a pamphlet.  I picked it up and looked at it.  It was titled, Talking With God.  I was interested in reading it.  I knew about God but I didn’t know Him.  My parents were never religious.  I was always curious about religion but never pursued it.  I got up from the bench and went home.   I went straight to my room and lay down on my bed to read the tract.  I just ate it up and I wanted more.  I got down on my knees that night and prayed to a God I didn’t know but wanted desperately to know more about.

The next day, I showed my Christian friend, Gidea the tract and he recognized it.  “That’s one of the GLOW tracts,” he told me.  “I can get you the rest of the tracts if you want.”

My eyes brightened.  “Please get them for me.”

He smiled and promised that he would.  A few days later, before we went to our classes, he gave the tracts to me.  I put them in my knapsack, anxious to read them that night after I got home from work.  “Thanks, Man.  I really appreciate this.”

He clapped me on the back.  “No problem, Bro.”

I finished reading the tracts in a few days.  When I saw Gidea again I asked him if I could go to his church.  He was delighted and I went on Saturday.  The people from his church were so warm and welcoming.  I couldn’t wait to go back the following Saturday.  I met the pastor and his wife and I was given Bible Study guides which I devoured.  I got baptized a couple months later.   Unfortunately, my mother was too drunk to be there.

I first learned about Literature Evangelism from Amiri, another church member and I told him that I was interested in handing out literature.  And he helped to make that possible and I’m indebted to him.  When my mother was sober, I gave her the Breaking Addictions and Steps to Health tracts to read.  I invited her to come to church when the guest speaker was a former alcoholic.  She came and afterwards she spoke to the speaker who prayed for her and gave her the name of a social worker at a Drug and Alcohol Rehab center in Cape Town.  After some persuasion, I convinced my mother to check it out.  I went with her and a week later, she moved into the guest house.  I visited her every weekend and she’s doing well.  She looked so much better.  It was strange and good seeing her sober all the time.

I know she has been reading the tracts I left with her and the Bible.  I can see the changes.  I encouraged her to pray and I prayed with her.  I can see God working in her life and transforming her.  And she started going to church every week and it was the greatest moment in my life when she was baptized.

I’m still living at home.  I got rid of all the alcohol.  In my spare time, I do things around the house such as repainting the walls, polishing the furniture and making repairs.  I want my mother to come back to a nicely fixed up home.

The last time I visited her she asked me if I had visited Jacquan in prison as yet.  When I said no, she urged me to, saying, “God loves him too.”  That got me.  I needed to humble myself, swallow my pride and go see my brother.  The following Sunday morning, I went to see him.  He looked terrible and he hardly said much.  I told him about Mama.  “That’s good she got help,” he said.  A pause then, “No word from Dad yet?”

I shook my head.  “I don’t expect to hear from him again.  How are you doing?”

He shrugged.  “Surviving.  How come you’re here?”

“Mama encouraged me to visit you.  She reminded me that God loves you too.”

He looked surprised.  “God?  Don’t tell me that Mama has gone all religious.  How did that happen?”

I told him and showed him the tracts.  “I will leave these with you.  It’s up to you if you want to read them.  I hope that you do.  Do you mind if I prayed for you?”

H shrugged.  “Suit yourself.”

I prayed with him and promised that I would visit again soon.  I saw him take up the tracts before he got up and left.  I left the prison hoping and praying that he would read them.

I was standing on the sidewalk one day handing out tracts when I saw Nata, a girl who attended the same high-school I did.  She was in grade 8 when I was in grade 12.  Just recently, I found out that after she graduated, she run away from home.  Gidea told me that he saw her on the streets.  african-girl-portrait-scarf_iphone_750x1334

She saw me and smiled.  I watched as she approached me.  “Hi,” she said when she reached me.  “What’s that you’re handing out?”

“Gospel tracts.  Would you like one?”

She shrugged.  “Sure.”

I handed her the one about Connecting With God.  She took it.  I hope she reads it.  “How are you doing, Nata?” I asked.

“Surviving,” she replied.  “I hate to ask you this but could you give me some money?  Someone the money in my bag while I was sleeping.”

“When and where did this happen?”

She hesitated.  “Last night on the street.”

“Are you living on the streets?”

She nodded.  “I have been since I left home.  Things got so bad at home that I had to leave.”

“Nata, do you know how dangerous it is for a girl to be living on the streets?  So far you’ve only been robbed but something worse can happen.  You can’t stay on the streets.  Isn’t there a relative you can stay with?”

She shook her head.  “No.  My relatives have their own problems.  They wouldn’t want me around.  What about you?  Can I stay with you until I can find a job?”

“I’m sorry but that wouldn’t be possible.  I’m a Christian and it wouldn’t look good for me to have a girl I’m not married to living with me.”

“All right.  Do you have money you can lend me?  When I get a job I will pay you back.”

“I have a better idea.  There’s this house for street children.  I know the woman who runs it.  She goes to my church.  I can take you there and she will help you.  You can stay there until you decide to return home or find a place.  While there you can continue going to school.”

She considered it for a moment.  “My parents wouldn’t find out that I’m there?”

I shook my head.  “No.  Not unless you want them to.”

“All right.  I will go to this place but if I don’t like it, I’ll leave.”

“Fair enough.  I will take you there right now.”  I stuffed the tracts in my satchel bag and we headed for the bus stop.  In half-hour we were walking into the shelter.  I introduced her to Amahle, the church member I told her about and waited until everything was sorted out.  “Thanks, Amahle.  Take care, Nata.”

She stared up at me.  “You will check up on me, right?”

“I will.  And don’t worry, you will be well taken care of here.”

The anxious expression on her face faded.  “Thanks for the tract.  I promise I will read it.”

“Good.  The next time I come, I will bring more.  I’ll see you soon.”

She didn’t answer.  I could feel her eyes on me as I turned and walked away.  I knew I had done the right thing bringing her here.

Sources:  Ixande; SA News; Kindernothilfe;

Mia’s Story

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Ours isn’t your typical love story.  I was a victim of human sex trafficking and he’s an FBI agent.  My name is Mia and I’m 28 years old.  I was 18 when I ran away from home.  I was having problems with my mother who always made me feel like I was no good and that she was sorry that she had me.  And my father who was hardly around and when he was, he fought with my mother and ignored me.

Life at home was hell and sometimes I just wished it was a nightmare and that I would wake up in a different house and with different parents–people who loved and cared about me.  It got to the point that I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself.  One night after my parents had gone to bed, I grabbed my knapsack and sneaked out of the house.  I had some money which I took from my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet.  I didn’t have time to count the amount but it looked like it would last me for a while.

It lasted for a couple of weeks and then I was broke.  I had no idea of what to do.  I had no where to go.  I refused to go back home.  I called other family members but they hung up when they knew that it was me.  I was too ashamed to call my friends.  So, I decided that may be I should find a job at McDonald’s or some other fast food place.  It was better than staying on the streets or going to a homeless shelter.

I stood there trying to figure out where the nearest MacDonald’s was when a really cute guy came up to me.  He had the most incredible blue eyes and an amazing smile.  “Hi,” he said.  “Are you lost?”

“I’m trying to find a McDonald’s,” I explained.  “I’m looking for a job.”

“I see.  It just so happens that I work at a restaurant just around the corner and the manager is looking to hire a cashier.  Are you interested?”

My expression brightened.  “Of course!  I’ve worked as a cashier before.”

“Good.  I’m heading there now so I can introduce you to the manager.”

“Okay.”

“What’s your name?”

“Mia.”

“I’m Joe.”  He held out his hand.

She smiled and shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Joe.”

We headed in the direction of the Space Needle.  I promised myself that one day I would visit it.  As we walked we talked.  He was so charming and easygoing.  I found myself hoping that he didn’t have a girlfriend.  About ten minutes later, we stopped in front of a restaurant.  It was packed.  He pushed the door open for me to enter.  The smell of fried food assailed me and reminded me that I was hungry.

As if he read my mind, he asked, “Are you hungry?”

I nodded.  “I haven’t eaten all day.”

He took me by the elbow and led me down a long corridor and into a room.  “Sit here while I go and get something for you to eat.”

I sat down, grateful for his kindness and to be able to sit down after being on my feet for so long.  Fading light streamed through the windows.  The sun would be setting soon.  I hoped that Joe was right about his manager and that he would hire me.  It would be so cool working there with Joe.  I was feeling a little hot so I removed my jacket.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.  I was about to get up and walk over to the window and look out when Joe came in carrying a tray with a burger, fries and a soft drink.  He set them down on the table.  My mouth was watering.  “Thanks, Joe.”

He smiled.  “No problem.  When you’re finished just come to the front where the cashier is and I’ll be there.”

“Thanks.”  I waited until he left before I wolfed down the burger and fries.  They were sooo good.  I drank the Ginger-ale.  It was nice and cold.  I was half-way through it when I started to feel dizzy.  The room started to spin and I squeezed my eyes shut.  When I opened them again, I was in another room and there was a strange man standing over me.  Was this the manager?  Had I passed out or something?  Did I eat too fast?  All sorts of questions whirled around in my mind.  My head was pounding but at least the room wasn’t spinning and the dizziness was gone.  I tried to sit up but the man pushed me down.  Panicking, I cried out but he put something over my nose and mouth and everything went black.res

When I regained consciousness I was alone and I realized that I was lying on a bed.  I managed to sit up and I screamed when I saw that I was wearing red lingerie.  How did I end up here?  Who removed my clothes?  Where are my clothes?  I looked wildly about the room for my clothes.  I tried to get out of the bed but the door opened and Joe came in.  He grabbed me and tried to force me to lie back down.  I struggled wildly and he struck me.  I was so shocked that I fell back against the pillows.  Joe looked like a different person.  His eyes were cold and his expression impassive.  “You’re not going anywhere,” he muttered.  “You’re going to be here for a long time.”

“Where am I?” I asked, tears streaming down my face.  “Who are you and why are you doing this to me?”

“I don’t have time to answer your questions.”

“What is this place?  Why have you brought me here?”

“You wanted a job, remember?  Well, here you are.”

I struggled to get up.  “You told me that it was a cashier’s job at your restaurant.”

“You’re far too pretty to be a cashier.  You will make more money on your back.”

Then, it hit me.  He was forcing me into prostitution.  I felt sick.  I clawed at him until he clamped his hand over my nose and mouth.  Everything went black again.  I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, I heard Joe say to someone, “She’s all yours.  I broke her in for you and she’s nicely cleaned up.  Remember to wear a rubber.  We practice safe sex here.  She’s no use to me if she gets pregnant and I’m not to spend my hard earned money on an abortion.”

I heard the door open and close.  Then silence.  I opened my eyes and I saw a man leaning over me.  I felt his hot breath on my face.  I struggled to get up but I couldn’t move.  Then, I realize that he was on top of me.  I pushed at him but it was no use.  I lay there helpless while he raped me.

When it was over, he got off me and I heard him moving about the room as he got dressed.  Then, I heard the door open and close.  I lay there for a long time, too terrified to move or make a sound.  Then, I pushed myself up and got up from the bed.  I put on the lingerie bottom which was lying on the floor and stumbled towards the closed door.  It was a washroom.  I felt for the switch and flicked it on.  I went over to the mirror and stared at my reflection.  I didn’t recognize myself.  My eyes were puffy, my jaw was bruised from where Joe struck me and my left shoulder had a bruise as well.  I turned on the tap and splashed water on my face.  I had to get out of there.  I went to the window and opened it.  I pushed my head out.  Outside was a fire escape.  I raised the window higher and climbed onto the ledge.  I reached out and pulled myself onto the fire escape.  I made my way down to the street below and ran as fast as I could.

When I was as far away from that place as possible, I flagged a cab down and when it stopped, I begged the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I got there I went straight to Emergency and told the triage person what happened to me.  I was ushered into a room where I was told to wait.  Minutes later a nurse came in and asked me “Did anyone you worked for or lived with trick or force you into doing anything you did not want to do?” and other questions.  Then, she left and returned.  She asked me to get undressed so that I could be examined and left.  After the examination, I was given a gown.  I sat at the edge of the bed and waited.

The nurse who examined me came in and told me that I was a victim of sex trafficking.  There was evidence of forced penetration and bruising on my wrists as if I were restrained.  She asked if there was anyone I needed to call or somewhere to stay.  I shook my head.  I was in a daze.  I still couldn’t believe what had happened to me.  I had fallen for a pair of blue eyes and a charming smile.  The nurse told me that the hospital would help me with housing, transportation and any necessities I may need.  That was a real load off my shoulders.  I spent the night in the hospital.  I had trouble falling asleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw either Joe’s or that strange man’s face.  And I was afraid that I would wake up and find myself back in that room.

The next day, I was visited by two FBI agents who wanted to question me.  One was an older man with sandy colored hair, sharp eyes and a portly gait.  The other was tall, dark and very handsome.  The older one asked most of the questions and was very quick and direct.  Then, the other one said, “You were lucky to get out of there alive.  You did the right thing coming here.”

“I hope you catch Joe,” I said.  “I wish I knew the other man’s name.”

“It would be very helpful if you can give their descriptions to our artist,” he replied.

“I can,” I assured them tightly.  “I will never forget their faces.”

“Thank you, Miss Bautista,” the older one said.  “We will be in touch.  Good-day.”  He left the room.

The other one lingered for a moment.  “Good-day, Miss Bautista.”

“Good-day, Agent Fowler.”  I watched him leave.

I left the hospital that afternoon and was placed in Catalyst at Straley House where I can stay for 18 months while I work with my case manager to get connected to school and employment, and transition into permanent housing.   It turned out to be a really nice place.  I met a lot of great people.  My case manager, Rita was a tremendous help and support for me.  Before leaving home, I had graduated from high-school with honors but I hadn’t applied to any university.  After my ordeal in Seattle, I decided that I would move to another city in Washington.  I googled the best cities there and chose Spokane.  I applied to Gonzaga University and was accepted.

Before I left to go to live on campus, I received a visit from Agent Fowler who informed me that thanks to my descriptions Joe Cartwright and his cohorts were arrested.   The man who raped me was a prominent businessman who was a regular client.  Joe was a pimp and his victims included under-aged girls.  It turned out that Mr. Murphy had no clue about Joe’s nefarious business dealings.  Joe had used Mr. Murphy’s job posting to gain my trust.  I was very grateful to Agents Fowler and Benson for investigating and catching those monsters.  I hope that they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  I told Agent Fowler that I was moving to Spokane.  He smiled and shook my hand.  “I wish you all the best, Miss Bautista.”

As I watched him leave, I found myself hoping that I would see him again.  Years later, I did.  I had graduated from Gonzaga University and was working as a Youth Program Assistant which I loved.  I was on my way to lunch when I saw someone walking in front of me.  From the back he looked very familiar and then I realized who it was.  I quickened my pace until I was right behind him and I called out, “Agent Fowler.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  I could see that he recognized me.  Smiling, he held out his hand.  “Miss Bautista.  It’s good to see you.”

“I didn’t think I would run into you.  What are you doing in Spokane?”

“I’m here for my nephew’s wedding which is tomorrow.”

“Did you fly or drive?”

“I flew.  I didn’t feel like spending over four hours behind the wheel. Are you heading somewhere?”

“I was on my way to lunch.”

“Do you mind if I tag along?”

“I could do with the company.  There’s a bistro right up the road.  They serve the best comfort food.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked to the bistro.  Over local beef and regional fresh fish, we talked.  When it was time for me to head back to the office, he came with me.  As we stood outside the building, he asked me to have dinner with him.  I gladly accepted.  After that first dinner, we made arrangements to see each other again.  He spent the week in Spokane before he flew back.  We had a long distance relationship and saw each other in the summer, at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  Then, one day when we were Riverfront Park, he told me that he was moving to the FBI office in Spokane.

I stared up at him.  “Why?” I asked.  I was thrilled, of course but taken aback.

He reached for my hands, his expression serious as his eyes met mine.  “I want to be where you are, Mia,” he said quietly.

I swallowed hard, my heart was racing now.  “Why?”

“Simple, I love you.”

“I love you too, Nathan.  And I’m happy that you’re moving to Spokane.”

He leaned over and kissed me.  I felt my head explode.  We drew apart several minutes later and holding hands, we continued our walk.  The following spring, he moved to Spokane and following a very short engagement, we got married in September.  The attendees were Rita, my case manager, my friends from Catalyst, my co-workers and his FBI friends and family.  My parents weren’t there because I didn’t invite them.  They are a painful part of my past which I want to forget.

Ten years have passed since my ordeal and what thing that I have learned from it is that “Our pain can be turned into purpose”  This March, I started a support group for former sex and human trafficking victims.

While Mia’s story is fiction, it is real for many.  Trafficking of any kind is an evil that must be wiped out and those responsible for it must be brought to justice.  Check out this video for a grim glimpse into the world of child sex trafficking and what is being done to save victims.

Here is a list of non-profit organizations fighting against Human Trafficking:

Let’s work together to stop trafficking and exploitation.  Let’s fight for freedom.

Sources:  FBI Video; Nurse.com; Nurse.org; FBI; YouthCare; Yelp

Cyclone Randy

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I’m sitting here in a restaurant on the coast, hungry but still not sure of what to order.  I was alone.  It’s not often that I have dinner alone but this time was different.  After dating on and off, I decided to end my relationship with Derek.  Emotions weren’t involved in my decision.  I exercised perspicacious judgment.  The relationship wasn’t going anywhere so why prolong it?  Now we are both free to move on with our lives.

Tonight, I’m celebrating my freedom.  It feels great to be single again.  I studied the menu for several more minutes and then I finally signaled to the waiter that I was ready to order.  After he left the table, I closed the menu and was about to reach for my cell when he walked in with a woman I’ve never seen before.  I tried not to let seeing them together bother me.  Why should it?  I asked myself.  I hoped that he wouldn’t notice me.  Unfortunately, he did.  I braced myself as he headed over to my table with his lady friend in tow.

Trying to act calmer than I felt, I glanced up and smiled politely.  When he reached the table and was towering over me, I couldn’t help but think how sexy he looked in that black shirt and black jeans.  The little black cross nestled against his chest.  Realizing that I was staring, alarmed, my eyes flew up to his face.  A slight smile tugged at his lips.  Perhaps, it was my imagination but he looked a little smug to me.

“Good evening,” he said, his eyes flickering over me, making me feel hot and bothered.  Why did he have such an effect on me?  It has always been that way since we met a couple of years ago.  Derek introduced us.  I wonder if he knows as yet that we broke up.

“Good evening,” I replied.

“Are you dining alone?” he asked.

I raised my chin perceptibly.  “Yes.”  I was almost tempted to add that there was nothing wrong with a woman having dinner alone when I saw his eyebrows arch in surprise.

“How come Derek isn’t with you?”

Why did he have to ask about Derek?  I might as well tell him.  “He and I broke up.”

His expression changed and he stared at me for several minutes.  “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said finally.

I shrugged.  “It’s for the best.”

He was about to say something else when his companion cleared her throat.  As if suddenly realizing that she was there.  He turned and drew her forward so that she was standing beside him.  “Bena, this is Angela.”

Bena looked at me.  She was very striking although I thought that the grey jersey dress she wore was too casual.  She looked me over before she held out her hand.  She didn’t look too pleased.  “Hello,” she said as we shook hands.

“Hello.”  After we shook hands, she placed her right hand on his shoulder and put her other arm around him.  I think she was letting me know in no uncertain terms that he was off limits.  My eyes shifted to him.  Again he had that smug smile on his face.  My fingers gripped the glass of water.  He was enjoying this.  Men.

Thankfully, just then the waiter came over with my order.  As he set the food down in front of me, Bena turned to me and said, “We will leave alone to enjoy your dinner.”  She turned to him and said, “Let’s go to our table now.”

He nodded before he said to me, “Good evening.”

“Good evening.”  We stared at each other for several minutes before he turned and walked away.

Their table was a couple of tables away from mine and by the window.  I tried to look everywhere except there as I tucked into my pan-fried Rainbow Trout dinner.  I wished they weren’t there.  I couldn’t really relax and enjoy my dinner.  I hardly tasted the Butternut Squash Pie which was one of my favorites.  As soon as I finished the last crumb, I signaled to the waiter.  After I paid the bill, I got up from my table.  I was tempted to walk out of the restaurant without saying goodbye but that would have been rude.  So, after adjusting my dress, I walked over to their table.

Of course, Bena wasn’t pleased at the intrusion but he stood up.  “I just wanted to say goodnight before I left,” I informed them.  I could feel him watching me and try as I did, I couldn’t resist looking at him.

“Goodnight, Angela,” he said.  “It was nice seeing you.”  His expression was serious this time and I wondered about that.

Bena didn’t answer.  She just inclined her head and as  I turned and walked away, I could feel her eyes digging into my back.  What was her problem?  Did she think I was after her man?  I shook my head at the idea.  Ridiculous.  I admit that I’m attracted to Randy Cloud but that doesn’t mean that I want to get involved with him.

Native Indian couple

I think about nothing else but him on the drive home.  I turn on the radio in the car to listen to some music but it doesn’t help.  Frustrated, I turn it off.  I roll down the window but soon roll it back up as the noise of traffic gets to me.

When I get home, I shower and fix myself a nightcap and relax on the sofa for a while.  As I sit there watching the television but not really paying much attention to it, I find myself wondering where Randy and Bena went after dinner.  Did he take her straight home or somewhere else first?  Were they going to spend the night together?  For Pete’s sake, why should what he does with Bena matter to me?

The phone rang.  I got up and answered it.  “Hello?”

“Hello, Angela.”

I nearly dropped the phone when I realized that it was Randy.  “Randy?”

“Yes.”

“Why are you calling me?”  I had to ask.

“Would you like to go out for drinks with me sometime when you’re not busy.”

“Are you asking me out on a date, Randy?”

“Yes.”

“What about Bena?”

“Bena’s just a friend, nothing more.”

“It’s obvious that she wants to be more than friends.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“All right.  I guess there’s no harm in going out for a couple of drinks.”

“How about tomorrow evening around six?”

“Sure.  Do you have somewhere particular in mind?”

He mentioned a bar I’ve never heard of.  As long as it wasn’t somewhere Derek and I have been, I’m fine with it.

“All right, I’ll meet you there.”

“Great.  Have a good night, Angela.”

“You too, Randy.”

I hung up.  Why do I feel as if I’ve thrown myself in the path of an oncoming cyclone?  If I’m not careful, I could get swept away.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for Saturday’s prompt, coast, Tuesday’s prompt, hungry, Wednesday’s prompt perspicacious and today’s prompt, cyclone. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

Intoxicated

It was spring and I was at a party.  I was bored out of my mind and then, she walked in, a vision of incomparable beauty.   Our eyes met across the room and then she was making her way over to me.

In a soft, lilted voice, she introduced herself.  “Nora.”  Her lips parted to reveal even white teeth as she smiled and extended her hand.

“Theo,” I replied after I recovered from my shock.  Her fingers felt soft against mine and unable to resist, I raise her hand so that I could brush my lips ever so lightly on the back before releasing it.  Her eyes flickered over me, taking in the pinstriped suit, silk shirt and new tie before returning to my face which felt like it was on fire.  It was my turn to look her over.

Short hair in a style reminiscent of the roaring twenties, her exquisite neck covered in a white beaded necklace, a low-cut black dress which fell to her ankles and a high slit, revealed a shapely right leg.  Her skin was rich and dark and smooth.  I longed to touch it.  My eyes darted back up to her face.  “You like what you see?” she asked coyly.

“Yes!” was my immediate and impassioned response.  I was high as a kite but not from the glass of wine in my hand, mind you.  She intoxicated me, making my mind soar with all sorts of delicious thoughts.  “May I get you a drink?”  To be quite honest, I would have preferred to take her somewhere else for a drink.

“Sure, I’ll have what you’re having.”

I promptly excused myself and five minutes later, returned with a glass of Chardonnay.  I was rewarded with a lovely smile which made my heart flutter and my knees weak.

“Thank you,” she said as she took the glass.  Our fingers touched.  Ethan Theodoros Theodoridis

“You’re welcome,” I replied, sounding a tad breathless.  No woman has ever had such an effect on me before.  It was thrilling and terrifying.

We spent the evening together, getting to know each other and then, after we finished our wine, I asked her if she wanted us to leave and go for dinner.  I hadn’t eaten since lunch and was starving.  The food at this shindig didn’t look at all appetizing.  Besides, I just wanted to get out of there.

She readily agreed and in a few minutes, we were in my car heading to my favorite restaurant by the pier.  Over linguine, large spicy meatballs and more wine, we talked and laughed and had a great time.  It was the beginning of what I know will turn out to be a beautiful and exciting relationship.

 

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for yesterday’s prompt, spring and today’s prompt, Kite. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.