One week after Mara’s death, I was with my four remaining children in our large garden, picking some of the beautiful flowers and herbs that grew there. I suddenly heard Gideon’s booming voice yelling and ordering someone to leave. I went to him and saw the same man that I saw at Mara’s death, the one who appeared sad and had tears in his eyes. The man was with two other men, telling Gideon and others who were with Gideon that they needed to repent or the Lord would send a famine to the people.
My heart jumped. He was a prophet! A true prophet, one that Mara told me to listen to. I rushed to Gideon and pleaded with him to listen to them. They came with an important message for us. Gideon immediately slapped me across the face, sending me to the ground, then warned me to never listen to them. Their God was nonsense and we worshipped the true gods. I arose, looked at the prophets with pleading tears in my eyes and ran back into the house.
I knew that I had to find a way to speak with the prophets; I wanted to learn more about what they taught. Later that day, Gideon left to visit a neighboring city. I could only guess he was traveling there to talk to the leader about what to do with the prophets.
After he left, I went to the marketplace to look for the prophets. I found them! They were talking to the people and telling us that they needed to turn to the one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by following the teachings of Jesus Christ would we find true happiness. My heart burned inside me as I listened to their message. What did that mean?
The prophets also warned us that if we did not repent and turn to Jesus Christ, our communities and villages would be afflicted with a severe famine and many would die. Several of the onlookers laughed and mocked at this statement. They told the prophets that we have had plenty of rain, we had a great amount of food in storage because of our bounteous harvest last year, and we had just made a sacrifice to our gods to assure our continued success. In fact, while they were talking, it started to rain! Some of our people again laughed at the prophets and bragged to them that the rain was a sign that our gods were taking care of us.
Because of the heavy downpour, most people went back to their homes. Not caring if I got wet, I walked over to the prophets, looking directly at the one that I saw at Mara’s sacrifice, and asked them about their God. I told them what Mara told me and that she came to me after her death.
Because I was Gideon’s wife, they cautioned me to be careful. They saw what Gideon did to me. I informed them that I did not fear Gideon; I feared their God. They briefly taught me about Jesus Christ, that He would come to the earth to save us from our sins. They taught me that by following His commandments, I could find true happiness and be with my Mara again. They told me that the burning of my heart was the Holy Ghost confirming to me that what I heard was true.
There was so much to learn! How could I be taught by these holy men without the wrath of Gideon coming upon me? They advised me to be patient; the time would soon come when I could be baptized. They also assured me that I would be protected during the famine, but they could not guarantee the protection of my children. They did say that if any of my children died during the famine, because of my faith, they would be taken to Heavenly Father’s arms, just like Mara. I felt so much peace from their words, a peace that I had never felt before. It brought joy and hope into my heart.
Two days after listening to the prophets, while secretly praying, Shule knocked on my door. I let him in. He desired to know more about the prophets. He heard them talking to the people and also felt Gideon’s anger toward them. He could not understand his father’s anger to men who actually seemed really pleasant. He confessed to me that he felt happy inside when he listened to the prophets and truly wanted to believe them. I gave him a big hug, right then and there! We hugged and we cried because of our newfound faith. I reminded Shule that we could not mention this to anyone, especially his father. We understood that we could not mention our faith to my other children, not knowing how they would react. We hoped that they would feel the peace that we felt and come to me. We decided then and there that we would secretly pray for them, and for Gideon.
Gideon and the other leaders in our city decided that the prophets needed to leave or die. They tried stoning them, but it was as if a giant shield was around them. They could not be hit by any of the stones. This infuriated Gideon. He ran after them with his sword, but was not able to catch up to them. Deep in my heart, I knew the true God protected them.
Our growing season seemed like we would have another bounteous harvest. Gideon and others laughed and laughed at the prophets and their prophecies about famines. It seemed as though we received the perfect amounts of rainfall, at exactly the right times to insure a productive and plentiful harvest.
About midway through our growing season, just as we were beginning to gather some of our harvest, the sky suddenly turned an eerie dark. It was almost as dark as night. We ran to our homes to take cover, understanding the potential intensity of the storm. The storm thundered upon us and it thundered hard. A whirlwind blew through destroying a neighboring city. Hail as big as apples, poured out the sky. The sound of the hail hitting the roof was deafening. Many pieces of hail broke through the roof and into the house. The howling wind was frightening! Trees and unsecured homes were blown over. One of our beautiful flowering trees fell onto our house!
After what seemed like several hours, but was probably only about one hour, the storm exited our area, heading to destroy neighboring cities. The bright sun shone after the encompassing darkness. We walked out of our house to complete chaos. The damage was devasting. All of the homes in our city were damaged or completely destroyed from the hail and wind. Many animals were injured or dead because of the hail. Some of our people died and were severely injured from the wind and the hail. All of our crops and fruit trees were completely destroyed.
As a community, we gathered together in the market area to make a plan. We needed to care for the injured, bury the dead, replant our crops soon, and rebuild our homes. We felt overwhelmed!
Gideon immediately blamed those who listened to the prophets for the storm. He told us that our gods were angry because some, including me, listened to the prophets. He threatened death to anyone who listened to the prophets. He said it was better for one person to die rather than our entire city to die. In fact, he sentenced the prophets to death. If they came back to our city, they were to be stoned.
Three days after the big storm, while we were cleaning up and repairing our city, and cleaning our fields so we could replant, the three prophets came back to us. They tried to remind us to repent and as we repented, our crops and herds would be safe. However, if we did not repent, a famine would soon come to our land. Because of Gideon’s threats and his death sentence, as the prophets were speaking, many threw stones at them. Some shot at them with their arrows. However, they could not be hit. I knew the power of the true God was protecting them. As I looked around, I saw others who knew the prophets were speaking truth but like me, were too afraid to listen to them.
After delivering their message, the prophets safely fled our city. I was awed by their protection. Shule came to me privately and told me that he knew they were true prophets and that we needed to repent and find Jesus Christ. I asked him how we did that. I knew repentance had to do with being sorry for the things that you did wrong, but how to pray and find Jesus. Shule suggested that we pray to the true God and tell him that we were sorry for what we have done wrong and ask for help from Jesus. It was simple yet straightforward. Not knowing exactly what to do, Shule prayed a very sweet and simple prayer. He said,
“God, the true God. Momma and I are sorry for what we did wrong. Please send Jesus to help us so we won’t die in the famine. That’s all. Thank you. Amen.”
After the prayer, Shule and I were overcome with feelings of peace, joy, and love that must have come from the true God. I had never felt anything like that before, especially from the gods that I claimed to have worshipped. I knew that there was a true God, a God who loved us and would help us. We also knew that the famine would indeed happen, but we would be protected. In my heart, I prayed for my other children. Unfortunately, they seemed to follow what Gideon and the other leaders were saying. I could only hope that I could find a way to bring the true God’s love to them.
(to be continued…)