The Black Mennonite Chapter 4 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 4

‘For Kezia. Thank you.’


When Jacob and Eva returned home later that evening there was a box of vegetables by the door alongside a small package with a note that read: ‘For Kezia. Thank you.’ Eva opened the package to reveal two beautiful dresses: one was of a rich white silky material with layers of lace and a matching cap; the other was a royal blue with burgundy striped inlays patterned after the Mennonite dress style. Another note fell out. It read: ‘For Kezia’s dedication to the Lord.’

Eva studied the intricate stitches on both dresses. “Whoever made these is quite skilled with the needle and thread. There’s not a stitch out of place. It must have cost them quite a bit of money; this material looks expensive. Not to mention the time put into sewing it.”

“That may be one clue to finding out who her mama may be,” Jacob said. “Somebody rich.”

“What do you think your mamm was trying to tell us before your daed cut her off?” Eva asked.

“I can’t say for sure,” Jacob said.

“He did not seem too pleased to meet Kezia. I wondered why neither of them stopped by to see Kezia as others in the community did. Do you think it’s because she’s black? I mean, no black person has ever visited our community, and I have never interacted with them before except to say ‘hi’ whenever we walk by each other in town,” Eva said. “I must say they are very friendly and very helpful.”

“You know, I never did pay this much attention back then, but as we were talking, I remember as a little boy when I would ride with Daed into town whenever we’d ride by the fields where the black folks would be working, they would wave to us and shout ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ or whatever and with broad smiles, but Daed would never wave back nor respond in any way. I used to wonder why. I concluded that he had his mind on things,” Jacob said. “But his response to Kezia got me rethinking.”

“Mmm,” Eva said thoughtfully.

“As you already know, Daed has a problem with just about everything especially if he does not have a say in the matter. He’s always ruled with an iron fist—not bending the rules for anyone. Remember how afraid you were of him when he drilled you after I told him I was interested in marrying you?”

Eva chuckled. “I really was not afraid of him; I just could not figure him out. I still can’t, and I don’t like being around people I can’t figure out. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t see why he has to be so harsh with Mamm Stoltzfus. She is so sweet and is always giving in.”

“Did I tell you about the time I skipped school and she covered for me? He found out and for a whole week he had Mamm eat at the small table in the corner of the room away from the rest of the family. Rebecca had to serve her her food in silence as Daed had commanded me and Rebecca not to utter one word to her that whole week. He himself did not say any extra words to her except to command her to do this or do that. As you can imagine, that was hard for Rebecca and myself to do. I’m sure Rebecca whispered some words to her when Daed was away from the house. I whispered things to her in his presence and got in trouble and was severely chastised for breaking his command. It really broke my heart to see her suffer for my disobedience. But she had a great spirit about it. I was a model student after that,” Jacob said with a chuckle. “I get upset whenever I think about it—even to this day. I asked her once why doesn’t she let him know what she does and does not like. She said sometimes it’s best to just leave things as they are.”

“And remain miserable in the process,” Eva said. “I remember she used to sing and hum a lot; she doesn’t do that anymore—at least not as much. He’s slowly killing the song bird within her.”

“Oh, he won’t. Mamm has an inner strength that she taps into,” Jacob said. “Has had it ever since I can remember.”

“I hope I can be as strong as she is,” Eva said.

“With the cold weather hopefully behind us, you can stop by more often and encourage her and Rebecca as well. Right now, I’m going to check on the animals, then I’m going down for a long nap. Little boppli here has been keeping me up all hours of the night.”

“That reminds me: I asked Rebecca to ride with me into town to drop off the quilt and pillow set to Mrs. Rothchild. I’ll need for her to help me with Kezia. Will you be needing the small buggy?”

“No, you can use it. Take as long as you need to. The longer you stay out the more sleep I’ll get. Just be careful.”

“She should be paying me well for this work as she always does,” Eva said. She sighed then said softly, “I wish I could have a colorful quilt like those I’ve been sewing for her. The cloth is so pretty,  so soft. Why does our stuff have to be so drab? The furniture is drab. Our dresses are drab. Even my vegetable patch looks drab.”

Jacob laughed. “Awe, come on now. The vegetables are nice and bright: bright red tomatoes, bright orange carrots, bright green broccoli, bright brown potatoes.” 

Eva giggled. “You know what I’m referring to. I read about Dorcas and how she sewed coats and garments for the widows. I just don’t think she sewed drab-looking clothes for them. And Lydia—the Bible says she was a seller of purple. Purple is a bright, royal color. Both these were godly women. In the Psalms, David talks about how glorious the king’s daughter is all dressed in gold. A woman can have beautiful things without it affecting her spirituality and thus her relationship with Gott and others.”

“Like the Bishop said many times, ‘Our clothing is an expression of our faith; it encourages humility and separation from the world’,” Jacob said, imitating his father’s rustic voice. “Who says you can’t have a colorful quilt like that,” he said. “And who says you can’t dress in gold like the king’s daughter.”

“I’d be the talk of the community. I can just imagine your daed storming over here, demanding the quilt and the gold and bringing them before the men of the church who do not have an eye for beauty,” Eva chuckled.

“I tell you what, you have my permission to buy you some colorful material and sew Kezia her own colorful quilt. No one can argue with that. And after that, you have my permission to sew you a colorful quilt and even one or two colorful dresses to your liking. You deserve it.” Jacob kissed his wife and headed out to do his chores.