Despite a warm spring, the morning breeze was much colder than Elijah expected. It cut through his t-shirt and sent a cold chill down his back. He quickly rolled up the car window and sunk back in the cold brown plether seat. The sun was starting to come up earlier now and it was just beginning to peek over the distant hills. An array of colors splashed the sky. He wished he were up in Gram’s pine tree where he could see the sunrise in its full glory and not blocked by houses.
Regardless of the morning’s beauty, Elijah was sad. He and Becca had spent several hours after church helping Dad get ready to return to the city. They told jokes, reminisced, and talked about what they wanted to do when Dad returned. Now, as Dad drove them to school, everyone was silent. The reality that he could be gone for several months to complete his current contract began to set in. Elijah knew it was tough on everyone, but it was necessary for now.
He was somewhat uplifted that the press wasn’t following him to school. Several reporters still hung around outside the house, but the school had requested that they not follow Elijah onto school grounds. At this point he couldn’t do more than repeat the vision to them anyway. He wished he had more to tell them, but it was increasingly clear to him that he still had more to learn about the vision. He had started to learn some things from the Internet about restorations and prophets in the last days, mostly from the “Young Prophet’s” forums.
Still, he hadn’t learned as much about the vision as he felt he needed to know. He still couldn’t answer many of the questions people were asking. The rapture, for example. When the man yelled out about it in church, he wasn’t even sure what the word meant. He looked it up on the computer when he got home in hopes he would not be blind-sided by it again. He didn’t know everything about it, but he at least knew what the rapture was about.
It seemed that there was quite a bit of controversy over the rapture. It was a popular belief that during the troubled times he had witnessed in the vision, the followers of Jesus would be taken from the Earth. Others argued that the belief was not based on the Bible’s teachings and had no support from the scriptures. While both sides gave strong arguments, Elijah could only go by what he had seen in the vision and that didn’t include a rapture.
As they made the final turn down Cassidy Avenue, Elijah’s heart started to beat a little faster. It had only been a few days since last time he was at school, but it felt like an eternity had passed. He was different now. A week ago his only thoughts were making it through the rest of the school year. Now he wondered if he would be able to fulfill the mission that the Lord had given him.
Faith, that’s what Pastor Mike said he needed. Elijah had felt the Spirit guide him several times over the past week. He had to have faith that it would guide him now.
As the car pulled into the circle in front of the school, Elijah wondered if he would be treated differently? “That’s a dumb question,” he thought. Of course he would. If his best friend Ben would have come to school last week saying an angel had visited him, whether Elijah believed him or not, things would have been different. Fortunately, Ben was still talking to him, even if it was only on the computer.
The car slowed to a stop in front of the main entrance. It was odd to see the front of the school void of any students. It was still a good 30 minutes before the buses would start to arrive. At least the walkway to the main entrance looked less foreboding without a mass of people awaiting his arrival. He was anxious enough without having to face another crowd.
Elijah’s eyes fell on the wall where he and Mark stood the week before. He imagined what it must have looked like standing from the crowd. Mark, the broad shouldered football player, was several inches taller than Elijah and from this angle must have appeared as Goliath standing next to David on the wall.
A movement from the front doors caught Elijah’s attention. It was Jonathan. He was waiting to see if Elijah would make it to the before school prayer meeting.
Becca quickly pulled down the sun visor and checked herself over in the small mirror before getting out of the car. She ran her fingers through her hair and folded the visor back up. Leaning over, she kissed Dad on the cheek.
“Be safe and hurry home,” she implored as her eyes began to redden.
“Keep an eye on your brother for me,” Dad replied, trying to appear stronger on the outside than he was feeling inside. “I’ll be in the city before it gets too late back here. I’ll give a call when I get settled in. I want to hear all about how school goes today.”
Turning to look over the seat, Dad spoke to Elijah. “I know you won’t lay low, but at least try to stay out of trouble today.”
Elijah smiled and opened the car door. “Now come on, Dad. You know me,” Elijah said with a mischievous grin.
“Like I said, stay out of trouble!”
Elijah and Becca stood on the curb for a moment and watched their dad drive away. They looked at each other and gave halfhearted smiles. “Well, here goes nothing,” said Elijah and he started walking towards the main entrance.
As Elijah and Becca reached the top step, Jonathan swung open the door for them. Jonathan, tall, blond hair, and hazel eyes, looked more like his mother; but his smile and demeanor was an exact copy of his father, Pastor Mike. With a warm smile, he welcomed them and began to quickly lead them down the main hall.
The hallway was almost empty this early. The silhouette of a teacher entering a classroom at the other end of the building was the only other movement, his footsteps echoed through the otherwise silent corridors. Loudly colored, handmade posters for upcoming events shouted at their still groggy eyes as they passed.
Elijah was excited to come to the meeting and also a little nervous. The chance to be around other believers his age was thrilling, but he feared that he knew so little about the gospel and the vision that there would be more questions he couldn’t answer. At least this would be a group setting, instead of just him standing in front of a crowd. Maybe Jonathan could answer some of the questions. Perhaps the group could be more of a class where he could learn along with everyone else.
“Elijah, Rebecca, I can’t tell you how great it is that you made it this morning. When I told the group you might be here I couldn’t hear myself think over all the talking. They’re waiting for us to start.”
“So, what happens during the meeting?” Elijah inquired.
“Well, first there’s time for anyone who wants to take a moment and tell the group how God has blessed them in their lives or just say how they feel about God’s love, then someone offers a prayer to help us make it through another day of classes,” Jonathan answered, quickening his pace down the hall. “And don’t worry, you won’t have to do any impromptu speaking if you don’t want to.”
Elijah faked a sigh of relief.
The prayer group meeting was held in the music room at far end of the building. Jonathan led the way through the door into the main classroom. The seats were arranged in a semi-circle on top of riser platforms cascading toward the center of the room, allowing the students in the band to easily see the teacher. Large windows ran along the side and back walls, allowing the morning sun to light up the room while the smell of tarnished brass filled the air.
As Jonathan walked to the center of the room to start the meeting, Elijah looked around for the first open seats he could find for Becca and himself. Fortunately, there were several seats just inside the door. A little nervous, Elijah kept his eyes on Jonathan so he didn’t have to see if everyone was staring at him. He noticed several large drums lined up along the wall behind Jonathan. Despite the drum’s heavily used and beaten exterior, the brass knobs that decorated the band around the top of the drum reflected the sun, shooting beams of colored light in all directions. Jonathan cleared his throat and began the meeting by welcoming everyone and hoping that everybody had a good weekend.
Watching Jonathan leading the group, Elijah wondered why he was chosen to have the vision and not the young man standing at the front of the room. Although they were the same age, Jonathan looked more mature. He certainly looked more like a prophet should look; tall, blond, and athletically built. The sun through the old school windows cast a golden glow around him, giving him an angelic hue. He was clearly a much better speaker too. And, with a pastor for a father, Elijah was sure Jonathan knew more about God than he ever would.
Elijah listened as Jonathan exclaimed how exciting it was to have his father’s church over flowing with believers the day before. “This is an exciting time to be alive,” Jonathan declared. “The Lord’s promise of restitution before His coming is in full swing and we are alive to witness it. More importantly, we can be part of it.”
Jonathan’s words sent a strange sensation through Elijah’s body. It reminded him of getting a case of the nerves while speaking in front of a class or the way he felt the weekend before the vision, when Dad, on his regularly scheduled visit home, let him drive the car back and forth in the driveway. But this was different. It wasn’t a bad or scary feeling; it was more like finding something important that had been lost or tearing the wrapping off a gift.
He hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that had been hiding in the back of his mind since the morning of the vision when Becca didn’t believe him. Elijah wanted acceptance. Jonathan said “we” could be part of this, him and the other students, too. This group truly was what he was searching for, he wanted to be with those that believed him and who wanted to find out what the vision all meant. Gram was a great help at home and the Young Prophet’s Society web site was great for meeting with others online, but the members of this group were more tangible. Hearing Jonathan’s words gave him a feeling like this was the right place; the proverbial open door that he and Gram had talked about was finally in front of him.
Elijah began to realize that he was lost in thought. As Jonathan’s voice came into focus again he could tell that things were coming to a close. “There are only a few minutes before first bell rings. Does anyone want take a moment to share anything?” Jonathan petitioned as his eyes moved across the room looking for any takers.
Without thinking Elijah’s eye wondered around the room as if to follow Jonathan’s search for volunteers. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the morning light still breaking through the window, he could make out most of the faces. Even those that had been silhouetted by the sunlight initially were now mostly discernible. Faces are easily discerned when they are looking directly at you, as he quickly realize most of them were.
The first person that he recognized was Debbie Bowley. Surrounded by several girl friends, she stood out as the prettiest. Even being surrounded by a room full of equipment in ill repair from years of heavy use and neglect, she made everything look perfect. She smiled as their eyes met. Elijah shot back a quick grin and looked away, like he had just been caught checking her out.
The other girls were unfamiliar to him. Perhaps Becca knew them. Becca had also seemed nervous about coming this morning. Most of her friends were curious about the “prophet” that used to be her dorky little brother, but how would they react once she started spending time with the “Bible beaters” and “Jesus freaks?” Elijah knew the feeling, fear of being treated differently by those you are closest to. He was glad she came though and hoped that she would find new friends here, as well as keep her old ones.
Next over were several boys sitting together. Like the girls, he didn’t know any of them by name and assumed that they had gone to the Christian elementary school with Jonathan. Like the girls most were staring at him. Elijah was quickly giving up hope that someone else was going to volunteer to say something and the task would fall on him. Well, he was told to share the vision and was getting used to being uncomfortable in front of a crowd.
As he prepared to speak, his eyes trailed across the final part of the room. There was one teacher sitting in the room. He hadn’t noticed when entering the meeting that in the corner sat Miss Freed, his history teacher. She was probably there to officially moderate the group. There was something about her that made it seem like she was a perfect fit to the group. She blended with the others like a den mother or camp counselor, as if she was a matching piece of a puzzle. She gave a broad smile, but before he could smile in return a movement caught both of their attentions.
Instinctively, Elijah’s head whipped around toward the movement. A hand rose from the other side of the room. It was Debbie. She held up her hand toward Jonathan, but her eyes never left Elijah. “I don’t really have anything to say, but I have a question, if it’s O.K.?”
It was obvious by the sound of her voice that she was nervous. Whatever her question, she was reluctant to ask it. His mind went back to church the day before. “Oh boy, here they come. More questions that I don’t know the answers to,” he thought to himself, suddenly wishing he had avoided the situation by speaking up sooner.
Of course he knew questions were coming, he just hoped that the others wouldn’t think he was a loser for not knowing the answers. After church, he couldn’t stop thinking about the questions people started shouting and how clueless he felt then. The vision had shown him a lot of events, but hadn’t given him many of the answers; answers that he knew he would have to search out. He hoped that coming to the prayer group would help him find some of the answers. Elijah knew before he came that Jonathan and the others would know more about God than he did and that the group could be a place for him to learn. Hopefully the other kids would see it that way also!
Debbie continued cautiously, “I was at church Sunday, too. My father wanted to see where the ‘local boy prophet’ was going. He’s hardly slept since the morning of the visions. He said he’d spent his whole life believing and waiting for something like this, but now that it’s happened he’s not sure that he’s ready.
“He was the one who asked about the rapture. My father always taught us that we wouldn’t have to go through the tribulation. When the rapture didn’t come out in any of the visions he starting questioning what else he’d been taught that might not happen.” Debbie paused and with a quiver in her voice she hesitantly asked, “What about the rapture? I’m not ready to go through the tribulation. I get nauseous every time I think about it.”
Debbie’s question caught him completely off guard. It wasn’t the rapture that threw him, he had done some research and knew enough to get by, but it was her expression. She was sincerely afraid of what he had seen in the vision. He remembered being frightened during the vision, but that all changed when the Savior appeared.
“I have to admit that during the vision I was afraid too, at least until I saw the Savior,” Elijah replied trying to comfort her. “Now that I think about it, nothing in the vision has scared me since. I wish I could express in words the feeling that seeing Jesus descending from Heaven brought me. Peace and joy beyond comprehension. Trying to describe it makes me think of one of my gram’s expressions, ‘It’s like trying to describe the color blue to some who’s been blind from birth.’“
He looked back to Debbie. “As for the rapture, I don’t know why I didn’t see it. Up until your father asked the question, I’d never even heard of the rapture. I tried looking it up last night on a forum I joined and others have been asking the same question as your father.” Before Elijah could finish his thought the morning bell rang through the room. It seemed to go on forever. Elijah knew that his time was short. He wanted to answer Debbie’s question, but he didn’t know what else to say. Again he wished the group were more like a class where everyone learned from each other, instead of waiting for some divine answer from him.
Once the bell stopped ringing, Elijah spoke, “Look everyone; I don’t know why God chose to give me this vision. Any one of you knows more about religion than I do. Since last week my main goal has been to share the vision with others, but one thing that it’s shown me is how little I know about the gospel. One of my hopes in coming here was to find others that could help me understand.”
There was a moment of silence while everyone absorbed what Elijah had said. Perhaps now they would see that he was just one of them. That he needed them as much as they felt they needed him.
Jonathan’s voice finally broke the silence. Everyone’s attention turned toward him. He stood at the front of the room looking across the faces that surrounded him. He reminded Elijah again of his father, Pastor Mike, standing in front of his congregation the day before. “The late bell is about to ring, but what Elijah just said is the same thing I’ve been feeling for a long time, even before the visions. Jesus said, ‘learn of me’ for He has set the pattern for how we should live. I want to learn more about the Savior and His life so I can follow his example. I have been thinking that perhaps we could expand our meeting with a short lesson or discussion. Think about it and let’s discuss it tomorrow. Now let’s have a prayer and get to class before the late bell rings. With Elijah’s return, the school is being very cautious about our time and keeping things ‘normal’.”
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