The Black Mennonite Chapter 11 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 11

Grooming to be a Bishop


Jacob burst through the front door to find his father, mother, and sister sitting around the dinner table with heads bowed.

“And Father Gott, strengthen our bodies with this food. And help this rebellious son of mine not to bring those worldly things into this haus and rain Your judgment upon us because I will not tolerate it. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

Jacob muttered an “Amen” along with his mother and sister as he quietly took his seat. Keeping his head bowed he refused to look his father in the eyes. He kept his head down even as his father reported to the rest of the family his “evil deed.” Mamm Stoltzfus quietly placed Jacob’s food on his plate after fixing her husband’s plate. She listened quietly until her husband finished talking. She did not comment and neither did Rebecca.

“What did you do with his carvings?” she eventually asked.

“What do you think? I smashed them and threw them away. I don’t want those idols in my haus or in this community,” Bishop Stoltzfus said.

They finished their meal in silence.

“I’m going to visit with Elder King,” he said, pushing away from the table after finishing his meal. He reached for his hat. “I expect to see you here when I return,” he said to Jacob.

“Yes, sir,” Jacob replied.

As soon as the sound of his father’s buggy became inaudible, Jacob blurted out, “Mamm, that was cruel of him! He threw away my tree carving and the little man I was carving. But I found my bird. He broke off one of its wings, threw it on the ground, and then stomped on it trying to bury it in the ground.” Jacob started to cry as he took his broken bird out of his pocket and handed it to his mother. “I hate him!”

“Now, now,” Mamm Stoltzfus said, getting up from her chair. She lovingly rubbed her son’s shoulders as she examined the bird. “This is beautiful work. Who taught you how to do this?”

“No one,” Jacob said.

“Someone did. Gott did. Seems like you have a natural talent for this,” Mamm Stoltzfus said.

Rebecca took the bird from her mother and examined it, turning it over and over in her hands. “It looks so real. May I please keep it?”

“Do you really think so?” Jacob asked.

Jah,” mother and daughter said.

“I’ll hide it among my things so Daed won’t find it,” Rebecca said.

“Mamm, why doesn’t Daed like it? It’s just something I love to do. I’ve been doing it for a while now, and I don’t see anything wrong with taking a piece of wood and carving it into a shape. Didn’t Gott make the wood and birds?” Jacob said.

“Don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll talk to your daed. You both go and take care of the chickens, wash up, and get ready for bed. We have another busy day tomorrow.”


When Jacob got to his room, he hid his knife as far under the mattress as his arm could stretch. He put on his nightclothes and stretched out on his bed thinking. When Mamm Stoltzfus checked in on him, he was sound asleep.

Gott is going to make a man out of you, she said whispering a breath prayer for him as she did every night. 


* * * * * * *


Gott, please give me the right words as I talk to my husband about Jacob’s gift. It’s apparent that this is a natural gift which You have given to him, it being that no one taught him how, Mamm Stoltzfus prayed as she walked to her bedroom. His father has or should I say had the same gift.

“Joseph, can’t you let him enjoy his childhood? He’s only fourteen. This may be just a passing thing. You know how these young people are: They develop an interest in one thing then something comes along and they drop the old and go running after the new until something else new comes along,” Mamm Stoltzfus said to her husband upon entering their bedroom to go to sleep for the night.

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I’m teaching him to be a man. Nothing makes you a man more than hard work like husking corn, baling hay, plowing the land, and milking cows before the sun comes up. Not sitting on your behind under a tree cutting at a piece of wood.”

“But what about his Gott-given gift?”

“His Gott-given gift is the same gift the familye has. Great-great grossdaddi was a farmer and an elder. Great grossdaddi was a farmer and a bishop. Grossdaddi was a bishop in his community. My daed was a farmer and a bishop. I am a farmer and a bishop. And if he gets rid of the foolishness that is in him he will find out he has a natural gift for farming and the makings of a bishop and not a wood carver. That has never been in my familye nor in your familye. I have seen some of that stuff in the Englischer shops in town. Soon he’ll be wanting to paint it.”

“That won’t take away from your spirituality,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “In fact, it may add to your spirituality.”

“And just how so?”

Remembering the smile on Rebecca’s face as she played with the little familye Jacob had carved for her, Mamm Stoltzfus said, “If it brings a smile to someone’s face and puts joy within their hearts then it’s worth doing.”

“It’s an idol. That’s what it is. Your son does not know this, but I’m grooming him to become a bishop. Carving a piece of wood won’t do it. Good night. Your son and I have another hard day of work tomorrow, and I want to hear no more about this.”