As David and Mary walked back to their home, they marveled at the miraculous change in Thomas. Although it was a slight change, they would take any change they could get. They were filled with hope, a pure hope for Thomas that they had not felt since Nara died.
After arriving home, David immediately wrote a short note to Sam, thanking him for sending the painting and requesting the name and whereabouts of the artist. He would like to have more paintings created by the artist.
After being left alone, Thomas stared at the painting awhile longer then put on his warm tunic, took his bow and arrow and knife, went outside, mounted his horse and headed to the waterfall trail. Pipi and Riporty, seeing Thomas mount his horse, excitedly followed along. There was some snow and ice on the ground, but not enough to be concerned about his horse slipping. They traveled to the rock where Nara was found. Thomas dismounted his horse, sat on the cold ground and wept—again. Pipi and Riporty nudged their noses into his lap, seeming to offer comfort.
After sitting on the ground for a short time, Pipi and Riporty began furiously barking down the trail. Thomas picked up his bow, nocked an arrow and commanded the dogs to stay by him. He listened carefully to a sound coming from a distance up the trail. Because the leaves had fallen, Thomas could easily see through the trees and eventually saw a rider on a horse. Relieved, he put away his bow and arrow, but kept a hand on his knife until he knew who it was.
The rider was Helki, a childhood friend of Thomas, not a close friend, but someone he knew and had competed against in many different shooting competitions. Thomas did not spend much time with him as he seemed to have a propensity to find trouble. He had not seen Helki in several years as he moved away from their city.
Helki has always been a very handsome child and grew to be an even more handsome man. He always had girls following him around. His eyes were deep blue, his hair was light colored, and had perfectly high cheekbones. His built was practically perfect as his well chiseled muscles were the envy of almost every young man and had the admiration of the young women. Not only was he physical handsome, but had a strong charismatic personality. He could entice just about anyone to follow him. So, not only did he find trouble, he led others into trouble. His parents were heartbroken that he used his God-given gifts to lead others away from Jesus, rather than to Jesus.
Upon seeing Thomas, Helki stopped his horse and dismounted. Thomas apprehensively greeted each Helki, as Helki enthusiastically greeted him. They began chatting, catching up on their lives since they last saw each other. Helki expressed his condolences for Nara; Thomas mentioned that it had been difficult for him since her passing.
Helki informed Thomas that he would be visiting with his parents for several days and they ought to get together and do some target practice or hunting. Thomas cautiously agreed, really not wanting to be involved too heavily with him.
Two days later, Helki stopped by Thomas’s wood shop and suggested that they do some target shooting when he was done. While there, he examined some of the impressive bows that Thomas made and purchased one. Now, he was anxious to try out his new bow. They decided that Thomas would ride to Helki’s house when he was done for an evening meal and then to a nearby field to target shoot.
Thomas ended his work early so he could enjoy a delicious meal with Helki’s family and have time to target shoot before the sun went down. He had always liked Helki’s parents and they were quite generous with him after Nara’s passing. He did not understand why Helki had created so much trouble and heartache for his parents. He perceived that they taught their children about Jesus Christ and taught them to be good people. So, what happened to Helki? What made him different and what made him want to rebel against his parents?
Right after eating, Thomas and Helki walked to the field which was a short distance from Helki’s house. They set up a couple of targets on some large hardwood deciduous trees and began to shoot. Helki loved his new bow as he discovered the workmanship of the bow greatly helped his accuracy. Helki was already a master shooter, but generally was unable to beat Thomas in the competitions they had when they were younger. He informed Thomas that he wanted to buy a couple more bows from him.
Thomas, still a master marksman, outshot Helki, but not by much. Soon, the sun went down and by moonlight, they walked back to Helki’s home.
On the walk back, Helki boldly questioned Thomas how he felt about God after not being able to have children and Nara’s death. Thomas, surprised at the question, was honest in his feelings, that he was still quite angry with God, wondered if there really was a God, yet because of the message of Sam’s painting, he still had hope that somehow, God was there and still loved him. Helki cautiously laughed at his assessment of God and then asked why he still wanted to believe in God. He questioned, since God could not be seen, how could anyone know that there was a God? Thomas suddenly looked at him incredulously and asked him with his parents and siblings having such a strong faith in God, why didn’t he share the same faith?
Helki laughed at Thomas. He reminded Thomas of the outstanding education that they were both given. He asked how with such knowledge how a person could believe in God. Thomas wondered out loud if they were taught the same things. He remembered learning about God and how God was involved in everything, in the earth, plants, stars, the moon, animals, and especially people.
Helki asked if a loving God would deny him children and take his beautiful wife away. Thomas responded that we all have challenges to overcome and it is part of our life’s journey. Helki laughed again and sarcastically congratulated Thomas for giving the answer his teachers and parents taught him and expected him to give. Thomas, feeling a bit sheepish, pondered Helki’s pronouncement and then responded that the most kind and loving people that he knows believe in God and trust Him to help them. There had to be something worth knowing about God.
Balking at his answer, Helki asked Thomas if he really believed all the nonsense about God, alleging that he thought Thomas was much more intelligent than to believe in God. At that point in their conversation, they arrived at Helki’s house. He told Thomas to consider his words and carefully examine his beliefs, trying to convince Thomas to doubt the existence of God.
Arriving at Helki’s house, his mother invited Thomas to come in, but Thomas politely declined, stating that he needed to get home to care for the animals.
On the way back to his house, Thomas stopped to visit with his parents. David and Mary eagerly let him in and offered him something to eat. Thomas explained that he was not hungry because he had eaten with Helki’s and his family, then did some target shooting with him. David immediately had a barely noticeable expression of worry on his face that Mary quickly picked up on. They knew the problems that Helki caused and especially the torment and grief that his parents suffered due to because of his open disbelief in God and his actions because of the open disbelief.
Even though Thomas said he was not hungry, Mary handed him a piece of sweet bread. Thomas’s face lit up! He loved his mother’s sweet bread.
Thomas spoke openly about his conversation with Helki, his concerns, his doubts, and his observations then expressed to his parents that even though Helki spoke to his thoughts and inner turmoil, he felt something was not right about his beliefs. Helki was very charismatic and easily attracted people to him, yet he did not have the light in him that others who believed in God and had faith in him had. David reminded Thomas that although he loved Helki’s parents, he had always cautioned him about Helki because of his behavior, even as a young boy. Thomas thanked his parents, gave each of them a hugged, then returned to his home and cared for the animals. Pipi and Riporty excitedly wagged their tails when they saw Thomas come home, eager for their evening meal.
When Thomas arrived at his woodshop the following morning, Helki was already there, anxious to buy more bows. With David listening, Helki excitedly informed Thomas that he could take the bows that he made to other cities to sell and make a large profit. Thomas smiled and inwardly laughed at how Helki’s heart was so set on money. He politely declined as he informed Helki that he already had buyers come from all over to purchase his bows; besides, he was more focused on wood carvings than bows. Helki thoughtfully examined some of the carvings and again told Thomas that he could take those to other cities and make a significant amount of money for him. Again, Thomas respectfully declined saying that he already had enough work to do and had plenty of money and really did not need more. Helki continued to persist, trying to convince Thomas into allowing him to sell his creations, imploring that he would make both of them a lot of money. Thomas, shaking his head, again declined the offer.
The ever-persistent Helki asked Thomas if he would like to target shoot again after his workday was complete. He was determined to beat Thomas and wanted another chance. Thomas laughingly agreed assuring him that there was no way he would be able to beat him, but he could always try. So, after work, they walked to the same field and began to shoot. Although Helki’s accuracy significantly improved with the bows Thomas made, he was still outshot by Thomas, though not by much.
Again, Helki subtly asked Thomas about what he thought of God. Thomas repeated the same answers as he did the previous day and determinedly, but politely, asked Helki to stop asking him about his relationship with God. Helki, a bit defensively informed Thomas about a community that he started for those who did not believe in God. He called it a support community because many of those who belonged to it came from families like his and Thomas’s families where they had strong beliefs. Thomas informed Helki that he was not interested in moving to his community and excused himself to go home and take care of his animals. Helki, not giving up, followed Thomas and told him where the group met and gave an open invitation to come if he changed his mind. Thomas thanked him and excused himself, again, then quickly left for his home.
(To be continued…)