SERIAL NOVEL: The Black Mennonite (Chapter 15) by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 15

Rejoice with Me

“Daed! Mamm!” Jacob called excitedly as he and Eva stepped into his parents’ house. “I got me a new job; I’ll be working at the hardware store two days a week starting out. I’ll be helping to make a chest of drawers, cabinets, tables of all sizes and shapes, bedheads, and my main job will be to carve different designs on them at the customers’ request. Isn’t that great!”

Mamm Stoltzfus’ face lit up as she rejoiced with her son at the great news. But her joy was short-lived. Bishop Stoltzfus, having now mastered the art of not letting others see him get riled up whenever he was displeased with any situation, cleared his throat.

“Isn’t that great, Daed!”

Bishop Stoltzfus cleared his throat again. His eyebrows furrowed and he said in a cold voice, “Now why would you want to do something like that? Why would you want to go live among the Englischers?”

“Daed, I won’t be living among the Englischers. I’ll still be living here in the community among my people. And like Ant Maude said, I’d just be using my God-given gift to help bring a smile to someone’s face. Plus, I’ll be getting paid for it. Gott is blessing me to expand my business from here.”

“Don’t put Gott into it. Aren’t you satisfied staying among your people? Aren’t you already getting enough business from the farm to live comfortably? Remember the Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Why do you want to go mingle with the Englischers? Don’t you see the abominable lifestyle they are living? They are going the way of the world: fancy clothes, electricity, cars, saloons, alcohol, gambling—all kinds of stuff that has them on the broad road that’s leading to their destruction. And what about helping out on the farm? Are you going to leave it all behind? That’s for you when we retire. And what about training to take over as Bishop and overseer of this community? I’ve trained you for this.”

A dampened spirit sought to cloud the room, but Jacob was determined not to let his father’s lack of enthusiasm darken his spirit. His people had always lived in their self-contained communities, but the world around them was changing, and those who did not want to get left behind were moving out of the community to live in town utilizing some of the modern conveniences which left them no more worldly and no less spiritual than they were before they left.

“Daed, things are changing, and might I add, some of the changes will be beneficial to us if we don’t frown upon them. What’s wrong with fancy clothes or electricity or cars? Nothing as far as I can tell,” Jacob said as respectfully as he could. “And, yes, I am satisfied staying among my people, but there are just some things I cannot acclimate to—not when it seems others are moving forward and making things better for their family. The Englischers may be wrong on some things like the saloons, but they are also right on many things like cars that take you to your destination faster, and beautiful carved or glass cabinets to hold your things. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.” Jacob made no comment to his father’s mention of the bishopric. He had never been interested in taking it over.

“You’re going to bring a curse down upon us,” Bishop Stoltzfus said, “and that I will not allow any son of mine to do. I should have put my foot down with Ant Maude. She has negatively influenced you over these past four years. You think I haven’t noticed? You’re slowly becoming tainted by the world’s poisons.”

I can’t believe he’s still bitter after all these years, Jacob thought.

“You pursue this and you’ll be put out of the community,” his father muttered. “Shunned.”

“Yes, sir,” Jacob said respectfully. “While we’re at it, I just want to let you know I am not interested in becoming Bishop or overseer of this community or any other of our communities. Gott’s not leading me in that direction.”

Bishop Stoltzfus glared at his son. “I can’t believe what I am hearing. My son is breaking the generational calling Gott has on our family. Your great-great grossdaddi was a farmer and a bishop and that calling has been passed down for five generations now and you’re telling me you don’t want to carry on the blessing. Leave my haus now!”

Jacob started to protest but Mamm Stoltzfus nodded her consent for him to go. Eva placing a hand on his arm, applied some pressure, signaling him not to reply. Jacob gave his mother and sister a quick hug. He and Eva rode home in silence.

* * * * * * *

“Why is Daed so cold?” Jacob remembered asking his mother one evening when he was about sixteen years old. “He puts a damper on everything. Sometimes I do not know what to say to him. Sometimes I feel as though I do not know him as my father; he seems like a stranger to me.”

“He just has a hard time showing and expressing his true feelings,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “He thinks it makes him appear too soft. He has a hard time relating to people, thus, he feels more comfortable sticking to and abiding by rules and enforcing them in the lives of others having little or no regard to their feelings.”

“I think he needs to lighten up because we’re all humans,” Jacob said.

“Hush, child. While you’re here, you just submit to his wishes; after you leave and get married, you are free to do as you wish,” his mother said. “Just don’t forget Gott.”

“I won’t,” Jacob said. “Don’t you think he’s too strict, even on you?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. We’re married and I have to abide by the marriage rules,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “End of conversation.”