“What the Jack Daniels was Mother Doreen thinking when she vouched for this woman to be the new leader of the New Day Single's Ministry?” Unique spoke in a loud whisper to the woman next to her who responded with a shrug, wondering the same thing herself. “Better yet, what was Pastor thinking to approve such a thing?” Rolling her eyes, she added, “Heck! For that matter, they could have named me leader, seeming just any ol' everybody can lead a ministry around here these days. Do you even have to be a member of the church to be a leader anymore?” Once again, the woman she was venting to shrugged.
The room was full of hushed whispers, teeth sucking, neck snapping, and eye rolling as Sister Lorain took the podium in front of the twenty-five members of the New Day Temple of Faith Single's Ministry. She appeared oblivious to all that was going on around her. Instead, she was delighting in the fact that she was doing God's kingdom work. She was a leader in a church; a place not too long ago she thought she'd never step foot in, let alone be operating a ministry. But here she stood, holding the torch, or as church folk would say, the mantel. It had been passed down to her from Mother Doreen, the former leader of the New Day Single's Ministry.
It was a new day all right. With this being only her second meeting since taking over as the new leader, several men had joined the ministry, which was something the past leader had been unable to achieve. Up until recently, the ministry had consisted of nothing but single women. Today, although the men remained out numbered, there were at least seven of them.
Lorain credited this now co-ed ministry to God for moving her to personally invite the single men of the congregation to join the ministry. But some of the other womenâmost of the other womenâokay, all of the other womenâcredited her short skirts, three-inch pumps, and low cut blouses for the sudden increase in male attendance. And those Mary Kay cosmetics she sold on the side and tried to push on the women at every church function was partly to blame as well.
Although all the women thought these things about Lorain, only Unique was bold enough to say it out loud, with the intent of Sister Lorain overhearing her. But Sister Lorain seemed completely unaware of all the negative energy and comments being made around her and about her. So Unique figured the next time she'd have to say it even louder.
The young twenty-two-year-old, Unique, was raised in project housing in Columbus, Ohio that was now called Rosewind Terrace, but would always be known as the former Windsor Terrace. A mother of three children with three different fathers, Unique was one of the less diplomatic members of the ministry. And it had nothing to do with the fact that she was raised in the projects, but had everything to do with the way she was raised by her single mother of five children with five different fathers.
It was only two years ago when Unique moved to Malvonia, Ohio with her sister, who was also a single mother of two children with two different fathers, that she began to change her ways for the better. Prior to moving in with her sister, Unique had been evicted from her apartment for nonpayment of rent, which had only been twenty-five dollars a month thanks to her Section 8 Housing voucher that paid the bulk of the rent. But between her drinking, smoking weed, and paying babysitters while she went out partying, Unique never even had twenty-five dollars left over from her welfare check to pay the rent.
Unique's sister took her and her kids in with opened arms the day the sheriff came with an order that allowed for all of her and her children's belongings to be placed on the sidewalk. Now, two years later, the seven of them were still making the best of the three bedroom finished basement house her sister was leasing.
Unique was still on welfare. She was no longer partying like she used to, although she'd hit the club every now and then if one of her girlfriends in Columbus called her up and talked her into doing so. These occasional nights out with the girls sometimes led to a little bit of smoking and a drink or two. But since getting saved, joining New Day, and getting baptized a year and a half ago, she'd made great strides toward giving up things of old. With her occasional backsliding she was nowhere near where she needed to be in Christ, but she was far from where she used to be. But no one judged her then, and no one judged her now. Nope, nobody at New Day judged anybody . . . with the exception of Sister Lorain that is. So it was probably safe to say that things were about to change up in New Day Temple of Faith.
As Sister Lorain opened up the meeting in prayer, invisible stones, shattering glass house after glass house, hurled through the room.
Yes, indeed. Judgment day was near.
“I don't know what I would have done had you not been by my side.”
“Them are words for Jesus only.” Mother Doreen entered her younger sister Bethany's hospital room just in time to hear her sister speak those words to the man that sat at her bedside.
With a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in hand that she'd just picked up at Floweroma on her way to the hospital, Mother Doreen continued speaking. “No man on earth is deserving to have those words spoken to him.” Mother Doreen looked the man at her sister's bedside up and down. “Not even a pastor.”
“Mother Doreen, it's a blessing to see you on this fine day that the Lord has made. It's even better to see you glad and rejoicing in it.”
Mother Doreen's eyes narrowed. Was the good pastor being sarcastic, she wondered?
Pastor Frey stood from the chair next to Bethany's bed he'd been sitting in for the past hour. He held in a smirk. He had to admit that his comment drooled with sarcasm. He silently repented to the Lord. He then offered the seat to Mother Doreen with a gesture of his hand.
“No thanks. I'll stand.” Mother Doreen rolled her eyes and proceeded to arrange the small flower bouquet she'd placed in the window sill. “I don't want to sit in that chair and get them spirits all over me,” she mumbled to herself.
Clearing his throat, Pastor Frey looked to Bethany and said, “I, uh, guess I better get going now that you have company. Besides, I have to teach Bible Study this week plus give the word on Sunday. I need to go get with God.”
“Well, thank you for stopping by.” Bethany extended her hand to Pastor Frey. “I know you're a busy man.”
Taking Bethany's hand into his and patting it, Pastor Frey replied, “A pastor's work is never done. But checking in on the sick and shut in members is part of it, so I don't mind at all.”
“Assistant pastor,” Mother Doreen chimed in as both Bethany and Pastor Frey looked over at her. “An assistant pastor's work is never done. And you are just the assistant pastor of Living Word, Living Waters; correct?”
Straightening his tie that was already straight, Pastor Frey uncomfortably replied with a, “Well, uh, yes. I'm just sitting in for Pastor Davidson while he's in consecration this week. ”
“But a pastor nonetheless,” Bethany said in the assistant pastor of her church's defense while cutting eyes at Mother Doreen. She then turned toward Pastor Frey. “And a fine pastor you are.” Pastor Frey returned the smile.
“Speaking of fine,” Mother Doreen chimed in, directing her attention to Bethany, “Child, that mighty fine husband of yours called the house this morning to talk to the kids before I got them off to school.”
“Did he?” Bethany asked, removing her hand from Pastor Frey's once she realized that it was still resting there.
“He did indeed. He says he hopes to finish his truck run a day early, which will put him back in town in two days instead of three.” Mother Doreen walked over to Bethany and stood by her side. “That's a good man you got, Bethany. God must really love you so to bless you with someone who spends days in and days out driving that big ol' semi truck across the country in order to provide for his family. It can't be easy for a man to be away from his wife and children for so long.” Mother Doreen directed her next comment to Pastor Frey. “Just as soon as God blesses you with a wife and family of your own, Pastor Frey, you'll know what I mean; spending all that time with God and doing God's work and all will trump the time you can spend with your family.”
Straightening his already straightened tie one more time, Pastor Frey excused himself without responding to Mother Doreen's comment. “Well, ladies, enjoy the rest of your day, and God bless.”
“Thanks again for stopping by to check on me,” Bethany called out to Pastor Frey as he exited the room nodding a
Bethany immediately turned her attention to her sister once Pastor Frey was out of sight. “What is wrong with you,
woman of God
?” Bethany spat.
“I'm just fine.” Mother Doreen proceeded to fluff up Bethany's pillows behind her head. “Is that comfortable enough for you? I can always ask the nurse for another pillow.”
“I'm fine, Reen,” Bethany said, calling Mother Doreen by her family nickname, “but I beg to differ the same about you.”
A confused look covered Mother Doreen's soft facial expression. She pat down her salt and pepper ear length hair that she wore in a roller set. Some of the curls fell on her olive colored forehead. Petite, calm, and passive was how Mother Doreen had once been described. But these days she had a holy boldness about her that seemed to have turned her into a ball of fire.
“How do you do that?” Bethany seemed agitated as her olive colored skin appeared tainted with a touch of red. She was the spittin' image of her older sister, minus the salt and pepper hair. Her hair was still its natural brown.
“Go from being as sweet as southern sweet tea to as sour as a box of Lemon Heads. This just isn't like you, sis. I mean, you are the kindest and most caring woman I know. You were always the peacemaker between Mama and Daddy's four daughters. Between everybody. Now all of a sudden you're a hell raiser.”
“Child, I don't know what you're talking about,” Mother Doreen said in the most genuine tone.
Bethany observed her sister's expression for a moment; the sincerity of it. It was at that moment that she knew her sister didn't realize how out of character she became whenever she was around Pastor Frey. “You really don't know what I'm talking about, do you?”
Mother Doreen was clueless as to what Bethany was talking about. A peacemaker she was, so her sister accusing her of raising hell baffled her. She'd always been a calm, passive person, the voice of reason, so she had no idea where Bethany was coming from.
“Every time you get around Wallace, you act like a totally different person,” Bethany said.
“The devil is a liar,” Mother Doreen spat and shooed her hand as if her sister was talking nonsense. “You know me. I've always been the same person. I don't put on a show for nobody. Not for the Lord, not for church folks, and certainly not for no
“See there,” Bethany pointed at Mother Doreen in an accusatory manner, “that's what I mean. Do you hear how you even say the man's name? As if his name is laced with rat poison, and you're gonna get poisoned and die just for allowing it to rest on your tongue.”
Mother Doreen just stood there, taking in Bethany's words and playing back her own words and actions toward Past Frey. She wanted to examine her ways and see if there was any truth to what her sister was accusing her of. Had she been anything but Christlike when it came to Pastor Frey?
“That man has never done anything to you or said anything outside of a godly kind word,” Bethany continued. “I wish I could say the same for you. I always talk you up to him and my church family about what an awesome woman of God you are, and this is how you act. I'm embarrassed.” Bethany rolled her eyes and positioned herself to a point where her back was almost to Mother Doreen. “Now I've let you get away with it for over a month now, ever since you've been here. But it's time for this nonsense to stop.”
There was silence while Bethany paused in order to allow her sister to digest her words. Bethany turned her head around slightly, only to see the regretful look that filled Mother Doreen's eyes.
“Reen, I know how much you love me. You being the oldest, you always felt the need to take care of me. So I know it must make you a tad jealous to see others taking care of me. But the spirit of jealousy is not of God, so you're going to have to let it go. Visiting and praying for the sick and the shut in is part of Pastor Frey's duties as assistant pastor. That man has such a big heart, he'd do it even if it weren't in the by-laws as part of his duties.” Bethany turned all the way back toward her sister. “I know you gave up your life in Ohio to come down here and take care of me, and I thank God for that. I need you, sis. No matter who else God sends to look out for me as well, I'll always need you. So don't ever think for one minute that your coming here was in vain.” Bethany extended her hand and smiled.
Mother Doreen rested her hand inside her sister's and returned the smile. It was at that moment that Mother Doreen began to question her own behavior. Because Bethany was her only living sibling left, the other two having lost the battle to diabetes and high blood pressure, was she being over protective? Had she allowed her flesh to rise up so much that it overshadowed her spirit man? She could have sworn she'd heard clearly from God; that He'd sent her there to Kentucky to intercede on behalf of her sister. But had she allowed some deep rooted seed of jealousy to interfere with her assignment from the Lord?
“I'm sorry,” Mother Doreen apologized. She shook her head, wondering if she ever would have known just how ugly she had been acting had Bethany not pointed out her behavior.
Even though it wasn't cause for her to be rude, she couldn't deny that there was still something about Pastor Frey that didn't sit well within her spirit. Bethany was right; the man had never been anything but kind to her, and his kindness toward her or anybody else she'd seen him interact with always appeared to be genuine. She'd seen him pray, praise, worship, exalt, teach, and preach God's Word. Nothing about Pastor Frey appeared to be staged, phony, or make believe.
Confusion began to set in with Mother Doreen because although she was convinced that Pastor Frey was a man after God's own heart, she was also convinced that he was after something else as well.