SERIAL NOVEL: The Black Mennonite (Chapter 28) by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 28

The Black Community

Jacob finished off his day’s work at the hardware store and pulled up before the Things & Things store at exactly 5:00 pm to pick up his wife. She hurried out of the store as soon as he arrived. It was a quiet ride home as their thoughts were on Kezia. They arrived home to find Rebecca and Mamm Stoltzfus awaiting them.

“It’s so good to see you. Where’s Kezia? How is she doing?” Mamm Stoltzfus asked. “We’ve been praying for her.”

“We had to leave her at the hospital. We came home to freshen up, get some rest, and eat a filling meal before we return to the hospital. We plan on staying there overnight,” Jacob said matter-of-fact. “I’ll go get the horse fed and rested as he has to make another trip to town.” With that he strode out the front door.

“This must be more serious than I thought,” Mamm Stoltzfus said to Eva. “Come and have a seat while I get you some warm tea.”

“It is,” Eva said in a shaky voice.

Mamm Stoltzfus and Rebecca joined Eva at the table as she related to them all that had taken place since she and Jacob left for the hospital earlier that morning. “She looked so helpless, so frail,” Eva said.

“I can tell Jacob’s greatly shaken up by her sudden illness,” Mamm Stoltzfus said.

“Yes. She has found a special place in his heart,” Eva said. “I appreciate you both being here for us.”

“That’s what family is for. That’s what being Christian is about,” her mother-in-law said. “And don’t you worry, we have supper all ready. Just eat and rest and let Gott do the worrying, so to speak. By the way, someone dropped off a box of veggies and a beautiful dress for Kezia with a sun bonnet. Whoever did it wrote the word ‘thanks’ on a sheet of paper.”

Eva examined the workmanship on the dress and searched for the familiar embroidered cross design. “I’m sure her mother is the one who has been dropping the gifts off,” Eva said after sharing her thoughts with Rebecca and Mamm Stoltzfus.

“That sounds plausible to me,” Mamm Stoltzfus said as she examined the stitchery on the dress. “Whoever sewed this has a natural Gott-given gift. You know I’ve been thinking about this since Kezia first came to live with you both. There used to be a black community somewhere around here years ago. My mother would sometimes stop by there and drop off cooked food and fresh vegetables from our farm and baked goods. She even helped in the birthing process of a few of their babies. She and Daed had a special relationship with them. I don’t know if they are still around here.”

“You don’t know if who’s still around here?” Jacob asked upon entering the room.

“The black community that used to be around here somewhere when I was a little girl. My mother and father had befriended them, but I lost track of them after she died. They were some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “I remember their hauses being a little distance from our community and we had to travel among a forest of trees to get to where they lived. I remember Mamm and Daed talking one night. They said something about a group of men getting together to drive them off their land because they wanted the land for themselves so they could expand their farms. Daed said the blacks would be sure to fight back as they were not going to give up what was rightfully theirs.”

“What was the outcome?” Jacob asked as he sat down at the dinner table. “Mmm, this sure smells good. It’s sure to hit the spot after not eating all day.”

The women smiled as they took their places at the dinner table.

“I’m not sure what happened. I was six or seven years old then. But I do remember Daed saying this was one time he would lay aside his Mennonite beliefs and fight on the side of those dear black folks for the protection of their land. I remember Beatrice. Beatrice Armstrong. She and I would play together whenever we visited them. She treated me like I was one of them.” Mamm Stoltzfus giggled. “To think after all these years I still remember her. I wonder what’s become of her.”

After helping Eva clean up the kitchen, Mamm Stoltzfus and Rebecca returned to their home so Eva and Jacob could rest before returning to the hospital. After about three hours of sleep, Eva and Jacob left for the hospital and arrived to find Kezia no worse than they had left her but no better either. Both were allowed to visit her but only one could remain in the sick baby room with her. Eva anxiously took her seat in the rocking chair next to Kezia’s bed. Jacob nervously paced the floor in the waiting area.