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Authors: Katie Crabapple

Bride of Paradise

BOOK: Bride of Paradise
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Bride of Paradise

Mail Order Ministers Book One

 

By Katie Crabapple

Copyright 2013 by Katie Crabapple

Kindle Edition

 

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Samuel, a lonely pastor in Paradise
, Texas, writes to the president of the seminary he recently graduated from expressing his need for companionship. Just weeks later he receives a letter from the president's wife and a woman he's never met, informing him a bride has been found.   Although uncertain whether he really wants to marry, he agrees, thinking she may be the one God has selected for him.  He is hopeful that the woman will be the help-meet God has chosen to lift his lonely heart.

 

When Kristen meets her future husband, Samuel, they both find the other lacking. Will they be able to get past their first impressions of one another and become an effective team serving God together?

 

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July, 1880

 

Chapter One

 

 

Samuel wandered into his empty parsonage and sat down at the small table in the kitchen.  He sighed, wondering what he was going to eat, since none of the ladies of the church had brought him a meal today.  It was hard to care what you ate when you were always alone, but Samuel was already too thin and needed to keep up his strength. 

Wandering over to the work table he found some leftover bread and a hunk of cheese from the previous night.  It would do.  He cut the cheese up and sliced the bread.  Carrying both on a plate over to the table, he got himself a glass of water and sat down, bowing his head to thank the Lord for his evening meal.  “Dear Lord, thank you for this day of life.  Thank you for my wonderful congregation who supports me and for this meal that will bring me sustenance.  Please Lord, I know this is where you want me to be, but I’m so terribly lonely.  If it is your will, please provide a woman to be my wife.  I’m not certain how much longer I can remain with this congregation and remain strong without someone by my side.  I pray all this in the name of your son, Christ Jesus, Amen.”

He put a slice of cheese between two pieces of bread and ate, frowning down at his sandwich.  The cheese was good, but the bread was already a day old, and hard.  It was food.  He would live.  He knew he was just being grumpy, but sometimes it was hard not to be.

When he was finished eating, he stood and washed his plate and the knife he’d used before going to the parlor and sitting at the small desk there.  He pulled out a pen and paper.  He spent his evenings writing letters to old friends and studying the Bible.  He’d write a couple of letters before he immersed himself in the Lord’s Word.

“Dear Albert and Sally, I can’t express how much I miss your smiling faces.  I hope things are going well for you at the seminary.  I know you’ll have a new class starting in September.  I sometimes wish I was still there, enjoying the teachings of the Lord and the wonderful cooking that came with being a student there.  I’m a great deal more homesick than I ever imagined I would be while doing the Lord’s work.  I need a companion.  I should have thought to find a bride before leaving Dallas, but I was certain there would be someone here in Paradise.  How can there be no women in Paradise?  Well, no women suitable to marry a pastor at least.  There are two unmarried women here and both have questionable morals.”  He stared down at the words he’d written wondering if he was being too negative.  He decided that was enough about his loneliness.  “The congregation here is extremely supportive.  The good women bring me meals at least five nights per week and I usually get invited to eat with families the other two nights.  I know I’m in the place God wants me to be.  Thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the years.  Yours in Christ, Samuel Benner.”

He sealed the letter and set it aside to take to the mercantile to be mailed the following morning as he walked to the church.  He pulled another piece of paper to him and wrote his roommate from seminary, a man he’d become incredibly close to over their years together.

“Dear Charles, I hope you’re enjoying your congregation as much as I enjoy mine.  This is the perfect place for me, and I see God’s hand in my placement here every day.  I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks.  Please write and tell me all the news there.  I miss your companionship.  Yours in Christ, Samuel.”

He put the short letter to his friend with the other and pulled his Bible to him.  He flipped to the twenty-third Psalm, which he was planning his sermon around for Sunday, and started making notes on what he wanted to say.  By the time he was ready for bed, he had his basic outline done and knew he could finish preparing the sermon in just a few more hours.  He smiled happily.  It was always good to be get it done so quickly.

 

*****

 

Sally Jenkins hurried home from the post office and set the letters addressed to her and Albert on the table.  She’d read them as soon as she finished fixing lunch for her hardworking husband.  Being the wife of the seminary president was hard work, but it was a life full of joy that she was called to live. 

She put the reheated chicken casserole on the table and poured them each a glass of milk.  Albert came into the house at twelve on the dot, just as he always did.  Sally thought his orderliness was one of the things she liked best about him.  She wasn’t orderly at all herself.  If Albert hadn’t been her husband, she didn’t know what would have become of her. But she knew every day at noon Albert would walk through the door wanting his lunch.  It was good to know your schedule would be adhered to exactly.

Albert sat across from her and gripped her hand, immediately bowing his head for their noon prayer.  When he’d finished he looked down at the letter on the corner of the table.  “From an old student?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Of course.  Who else ever writes to us?”  Their children lived so close that they had no need to write letters.
 
She tended to think of all the former seminary students as children too.  And all the children that had grown up in the congregation they’d pastored before moving on to the seminary as well.  “It’s from Samuel Benner.”

Albert nodded, never saying much, because it wasn’t in his nature.  “What does he have to say?”
  His eyes met hers as he ate the meal.

She shrugged.  “I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.  I will once I’ve finished the lunch dishes.”  She smiled at him.  “How’s everything shaping up?  Were you able to replace Pastor Crowley?”

“Finally.”  Pastor Crowley, a long time teacher at the seminary, had died of a heart attack just as the semester ended.  They needed someone else who could teach about the history of Christianity.

“Good.  Please tell me the new teacher has a wife.”  She hated that all the men who’d been hired in the past few years had been bachelors.  She wanted to be able to have small dinner parties for the other teachers and their wives.  She enjoyed hosting parties for his co-workers and always had.

“He does.  He’s a younger man, around thirty-five, I think.”  He ate his food methodically while they talked, because he only allowed himself thirty minutes for lunch every day.

Sally smiled happily.  She was thrilled there would be another woman around the seminary to show the ropes.  She loved mentoring young wives.  It was her favorite thing to do.  And if there were children involved?  Well that was even better.

Once Albert had left, she quickly washed the lunch dishes and started a stew for dinner.  As soon as the stew was on, she sat down at the table and read the letter from Samuel.  Her frown grew more and more as she read, wondering how she could help him.  This was the fourth letter in two weeks she’d gotten from one of their former students who complained of loneliness.  She needed to help them all.  But how?

 

*****

 

Kristen Walston hurried down the street.  She’d just come from the orphanage where she spent every afternoon working with the children.  She enjoyed her time with them, but she needed more in life.  She was getting restless. 

She was nineteen, and had finished her schooling the year before.  Her mother told her every day it was time for her to marry, but she just hadn’t found anyone she’d be interested in marrying.  She hated the long ritual of courtship, and felt that people were just too lenient with it these days.  Women would actually wander off alone with men to places that weren’t public.  It bothered her, and she refused to be that way.

And every time a man wanted to court her, they always felt it gave them license to touch her.  She felt differently.  She didn’t mind taking a man’s arm, when she needed to, but for the most part, she didn’t feel like touching should be part of courtship.  Of course, she didn’t much like to touch people anyway. 

She shuddered delicately.  Every time she even shook hands with someone she wanted to scrub hers with lye soap.  There were very few people she was willing to touch in this world.

She went into the mercantile to pick up a short list of things for her mother when she saw a note pinned to the bulletin board.  “Needed:  Single women of good moral standing willing to relocate for adventure.  Please report to the seminary at 3000 Allen St. at seven pm on Wednesday evening.  Refreshments will be served.”

She stared at it for a moment before jotting down the address.  That sounded like what she was looking for.  Adventure.  She was definitely of good moral standing, and had the reputation to prove it.  Her pastor would vouch for her, she knew, and so would her entire congregation.  Even the women at the orphanage would say she was who they were looking for.  Whatever the job was, she was curious enough to go and find out.

The merchant put the things on her mother’s list into a box for her to carry home.  The box was heavy, but she’d always been strong despite her slender build.

Kristen was five feet three inches tall, with brown hair and brown eyes.  She’d been born in Texas, but her mother had come from Norway and her father from Germany.   They’d met in New York
City and had decided life in the crowded city wasn’t for them.  Together they’d moved to Texas to start life fresh, and they’d both loved it there.  Kristen, their oldest child, had been born three years after they’d arrived.  She had a younger sister, Laura, who was still in school.

When she arrived home, she pushed open the front door and set her box on the floor.  “Mama!  I’m home!”
 

Ingrid hurried into the room.  “Kristen!  Did you get the things I need?”
 

Kristen had no idea why her mother always asked her that.  She never forgot to get the things her mother needed. 
“Yes, Mama.”  She pointed at the box she’d put down. 

“Take it into the kitchen for me.”  Ingrid hurried away, knowing her obedient daughter would do as she was told.

Kristen picked up the box and carried it into the kitchen setting it on the work table beside the basin.  “Here you go.”  She watched as her mother dug through the items and found the salt, adding a little to the meal she had simmering on the stove.  Quickly she washed her hands.  She hadn’t shaken any hands on the way home, but the storekeeper had touched the wooden box he’d put her mother’s items in, and then she’d had to touch the box.

“How was the orphanage today?”  Ingrid had blond hair and blue eyes, and was a typical Norwegian mother from what Kristen could tell.  She wished she’d gotten her mother’s looks, but she knew she was fine with her brown hair. 

“It was good.  The orphans are running wild, because it’s summer, but I’m glad they have a little extra play time.”  She sat at the table and watched her mother cook, knowing from past experience that if she tried to help, she’d only get in the way. 

Kristen was dressed in her July colors.  She preferred each month to have a theme for her dress as much as possible.  This month was a red, white and blue theme, due to it being the
Fourth of July month.  She wore a dark blue dress with short sleeves, a white sash over the dress as a belt, and a bright red bow in her hair.  She hadn’t decided on an August theme yet, but probably something with pastel colors, because they made her feel cooler in the hot Texas summer.

Ingrid nodded.  “It’s good for the children to play more.  Are they helping with the garden?”

Kristen nodded.  “Yes, I was in it with all of the older girls today.   We did a lot of watering and weeding.”  She sighed.  “I wish they hadn’t planted the garden so far from the well, because we spend half of our time hauling water.”  She didn’t mind getting her hands in dirt for some reason.  It was human touch that bothered her.

“Someone wasn’t thinking when they did that!”
  Ingrid clucked as she shook her head.

“We’ll have to start canning for them in a few weeks.  Could
Laura help me with that?  And would you be willing to come help again like you did last year?”  When it was canning time, they needed all the help they could get.  They set up temporary stoves outside and they all worked as quickly as they could.  It was hard to get volunteers, though, because canning time at the orphanage was the same as canning time all over the city. 

“Yes, of course, I’ll help.”  Ingrid smiled at her daughter.  “You look like you have something on your mind, Kristen.”  She put the last of the groceries away and walked to sit with Kristen at the table.  “What is it?”

Kristen shrugged.  “I don’t know, Mama.  I’m just feeling restless.  I want to get away for a while.  See what life in other places is like.”  She looked down at the table, drawing a pattern with her finger.  “I’m going to go to a women’s meeting at the seminary on Wednesday night.  Okay?”

Ingrid made a face.  “Why would they have a women’s meeting there?  Only men go to the seminary.”

“I know that, Mama.  There’s a meeting for women, though, and I’d like to go.”  Kristen held her breath as she waited for her mother’s answer.  She really wanted to go, but she wouldn’t disobey her mother.

Ingrid seemed to consider for a moment.  “That would be all right, I suppose.  Are any of your friends going?  Will you have someone to walk over with?”

The seminary was only three blocks away.  “Mama, it will still be light out, and the seminary is a ten minute walk.  I can go by myself.”  Kristen hated that her mother was so over-protective of her.  Sometimes she felt like she treated her as if she were still a small child.

BOOK: Bride of Paradise
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