SERIAL NOVEL: The Black Mennonite (Chapter 18) by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 18
You’ve been warned

The family enjoyed a quiet and relaxing Sunday evening. Eva spent the evening working on another quilt for Mrs. Rothchild. Kezia was asleep in her portable bed that Jacob had built for her. He had carved her name into the wood along with a carving of a baby figure. The bed was lined with thick blankets to make it comfortable. Jacob spent the evening reading the Gazette newspaper he had picked up in town.
The sound of a buggy roused Jacob from his chair. He opened the front door after taking a quick look through the window. Bishop Stoltzfus was climbing down from his black buggy.
“Hi, Daed. Come on in and have a seat. Would you like a cup of kaffe?” Jacob said as he swung the door open for his father to come inside.
Bishop Stoltzfus, without a word of greeting to his son or to Eva, stood just outside the door.
“I won’t be staying. I just stopped by to discuss your wife’s manner of dress today. As you know I like to nip things in the bud before they get out of hand, and if I don’t say something about it now, it will get out of hand as have other things. Jacob cringed knowing he was referring to him taking the job in town. “Her dress is a definite defiance against our dress code for the women. I forbid you as the head of your haus to allow her to wear it again out in public especially to the church services or any other community function we may have. It is also saying that you do not have control over your wife and she is doing as she pleases. She is out-rightly going against the church ordnungs and if I don’t put a stop to it, it will start a string of rebellion among the women of the church. That rebellion did not work for Vashti, and it will not work for your wife—at least not under my watch here as Bishop. This is your first warning.” Bishop Stoltzfus ended what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech.
“I gave her permission to wear it. In fact, I bought the material for her without her knowledge,” Jacob said.
If his father was surprised at this new revelation, he did not show it.
“How can you allow such abomination to come out of your haus especially after all the training I have put into you? It will bring Gott’s wrath down on your haus . . . not to mention His coming wrath from harboring those kind in your haus,” Bishop Stoltzfus said, throwing a glance in Eva’s and Kezia’s direction. “As head of your haus, you cannot continue to allow such things to defile your haus. You’ve given her all the help you can. It is now time for you to turn her over to her kind.”
“Daed, or should I say, Bishop,” Jacob said sarcastically. “I have held my tongue from responding to many things you have said down through the years, but I will not refrain from responding to anything negative you may say about my wife or about this innocent baby, which, by the way, Gott sent to us for safe-keeping. She has brought nothing but joy to me and Eva. This is my haus, and I will let enter in whomever I am pleased to let enter. In fact, you’re beginning to wear out your welcome here.”
A smile crossed Eva’s lips, but she kept her head down as if oblivious to the now uncomfortable conversation that was taking place.
Bishop Stoltzfus, seemingly unruffled by his son’s words, continued speaking. “You both disrupted the services today, and you have been disrupting the services and the peace of the community since you’ve taken her in and might I add against my disapproval. You know no one can take up residence here unless they meet our approval.”
“Don’t you mean your approval?” Jacob said. “And lest you have forgotten, the ‘her’ has a name; it’s Kezia. Kezia Stoltzfus.”
Eva’s heart jumped with joy at the words ‘Kezia Stoltzfus.’
The Bishop’s eyes became overcast.
“As I was saying,” he continued, “I won’t allow any son of mine to bring such damnation upon our community. Take this as your first warning.”
“Or else?” Jacob said.
“Or else? Have you forgotten I have the power to refuse you further entrance into the church even though you may still live here on the property? And it will be worse living in the community and unable to communicate with the others. Don’t move my hand to do this to you because you know I’ll do it whether you are a son of mine or not.”
Kezia started to stir. Eva picked her up, kissed her, and rocked her back to sleep. Bishop Stoltzfus followed this short interchange with his eyes. He was clearly displeased as they had ignored his previous advice to get rid of this black boppli by leaving her with one of the black families in the area. “She belongs with her people,” he had told them. Both men stood looking at each other. Bishop Stoltzfus flipped his black hat on top of his head and without mumbling a good bye, turned abruptly and strode off to his buggy. He firmly flicked the reins to get his horse going. Jacob watched until his father disappeared between the cluster of trees about five houses up.
Jacob closed the door, took his seat, and picked up the Gazette to continue his reading. Eva waited for him to speak.
“I was expecting him to stop by,” he eventually said. “And I must say, things went much better than I expected.”
“Is he threatening to put us out of the church?” Eva asked.
“Don’t be surprised if he does.” Looking up he said, “You aren’t afraid of that happening, are you?”
“It’s just that I don’t want to be the cause of any problems here.”
“Well, don’t you worry bout a thing. The Bible does say a two-fold cord cannot be easily broken. As long as you and I stick together then we’ll be a mighty force for him to contend with. Jesus Christ Himself said where two or three are gathered in His name He is in the midst. We have three here, meaning, if we get put out of the church, we’ll just have church here in our haus. He’s drilled the Bible so much into me, I can preach any sermon. Or, we can worship with the others in the next community,” Jacob said.
“That’s a good two hours ride from here—one-way,” Eva said. “Plus, I don’t put it far from Daed Stoltzfus to inform them of what happened.”
“If and when we get to that bridge, we’ll cross over it as best we can,” Jacob said.
“You know, while you both were talking I kept asking myself what is wrong with what we are doing? I looked at it from every angle that I could, and I could not come up with anything plausible. All I could come up with is, nothing is wrong with you seeking to change something as long as you have your heart right and your motives are pure because in the long run Gott looks at the heart,” Eva said.
“You’re right. Some people, like my father, are so steeped in their traditional way of doing things that anything that goes against their way of doing things is seen as sinful. I guess these people are normally opposed to change because of fear—fear of the unknown. They do not want to get out of their comfort zone. No one likes to feel alienated and out of control. But like I shared with you before, I hope you’re willing to lose some friends and family over this situation. But we’ll make it as long as we stick together.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. I’m with you to the end,” Eva assured him.

* * * * *

Jacob and Eva Stoltzfus with strong determination moved forward in standing by their convictions. Not everyone in their community stood with them. But there were some who rallied them onward. Kezia? Whatever would become of her? Maybe, just maybe, God had put things in motion as they happened so that they would be the change agents for their small Christian community to get out of their comfort zone and impact those around them. They did not know what God had in store for them. It would be a journey all of faith.