Chapter 16 – At the Village

Emerging from the forest, they walked on between some fields. They could see how dry the earth was, cracked all over, badly needing rain. As the village came nearer, they were chatting among themselves – all except Tazzwit who was very quiet. She came beside Honey. “Do my brother and I really have to return to our village?” she said, “Can’t we go back and stay with you? All that awaits us here is trouble!” “Don’t worry, Tazzwit,” she replied, “With us is the one who is able to protect you from all that causes trouble.”

A little further on Tazzwit spoke to her again. “Poor thing!” she said, “I feel very sorry for the Old Woman. Her husband sent her away and her children are taken from her, and now she’s all alone in the forest with no one to look after her.” “We who are called the people of Peace,” said Honey, “divorce is not allowed among us. On the wedding day, the bridegroom and bride make a covenant promising always to be loyal to one another and patient with one another.” “That’s amazing!” said Tazzwit. “In the beginning,” continued Honey, “God created one man and gave him one woman – not two or four – so they could help one another through all the bad times and rejoice together in all the good times. As for the Old Woman, we don’t yet know what will come to pass for her or exactly how God will bless her, but it says in his word, ‘Those who love God, whom he has called as he planned, we know he does them good in all that happens to them.’ I believe this promise: there’s no doubt at all, he’ll do her good!”

As they continued, Amsiggel began to think about his enemy Igider, the one who had tormented him in the past. As these thoughts went through his head it began to rain; they took shelter under a terebinth tree. “What’s upsetting you, Amsiggel?” asked Faithful. “I’ve remembered an enemy I have in this place,” he said, “and I don’t know what to do about him.” They fell silent, watching the rain fall. Then Faithful said to him, “See these fields, how dry the soil is. The villagers are badly in need of water, and at this very moment God has sent relief to them, as though we ourselves had brought them blessing from heaven. This is what God does in his kindness, so what do you think, Amsiggel? Shouldn’t we also do good to those who’ve treated us badly? Our Saviour said, ‘Be kind to your enemies and ask God to have mercy on those who mistreat you – in this way, you’ll be like God who is in heaven.’” Faithful looked at him and said, “O Amsiggel, we don’t yet know what God’s going to do in your village!”

When the rain stopped, they set out again along the track. After walking about a half an hour, they reached the village: it was evening time. They were very surprised to find the whole village silent as though it were deserted – no one at all in the fields or in the shop doorway. When they got to the house of Amsiggel and Tazzwit they found some men standing at the door. Amsiggel asked them, “What’s going on?” “There’s sickness in the whole village,” they replied, “Some have died and some are close to death. Your grandfather, poor man, is inside and having a hard time of it.” Amsiggel asked them about his father: “Has he come back or is he still in town?” “His news is not at all what you want to hear,” they replied, “He’s in jail.”

Amsiggel and Tazzwit went in to see the old man. Opening his eyes he looked at them, and they went over to him. The old man whispered, “If only she’d come back for me to see her before I go! Every one of us pays the price for what he’s done!” “I don’t understand what you mean Grandad,” said Amsiggel. Tazzwit was crying. Then they heard a sound in the doorway of the room and the Old Woman came in carrying a glass. She gave it to Tazzwit saying, “Give him to drink.” Amsiggel and Tazzwit were very surprised; they gave it to the old man. He took the glass and drank the medicine, then closed his eyes and drifted off into sleep. They left the room then, all weeping and not knowing if he would live or die.

Then Faithful gathered them all together. “It’s getting late,” he said “Show us the way to a spring, because we won’t be drawing water from this well!” They went then and brought water from the spring, and after about an hour night fell. They all gathered in the courtyard of the house and prayed: “O God our Lord, you created the world and all that’s in it. We know you are able to heal the old man, and we ask you to reveal your wisdom and power and kindness to the people of this village and restore its health, in our Saviour’s name.” They all said, “Amen.”

An hour passed and everyone was overcome by sleep, apart from Faithful and Amsiggel who kept watch. About three hours later the old man woke up asking for something to drink; they gave it to him. Next morning, when they all awoke, the old man was still fast asleep. The neighbours came in with some porridge, and Faithful asked them, “Is it just this village that’s sick, or other villages too?” “Just us,” they replied, “It looks as though God is punishing us for our misdeeds, because the other villages are perfectly alright.” Then Faithful and Amsiggel went to look at the well. There was nothing particular to see, but it did have rather an unpleasant smell. Faithful climbed down till he reached the water, then came up and said to Amsiggel, “It’s full of fish!”

They went back to the house to call their companions. When they got there they found the old man sitting up in bed, his fever gone. Seeing them he said, “Come all of you: I want to tell you something!” They gathered round him, and he said, “I’ve done something I’m ashamed of. I paid attention to the malicious lies of some women who came between me and my wife.” Then he took the Old Woman by the hand and said, “This blessed woman has saved my life. I treated her very badly, and she has treated me very well. I drove her out of the house, and she has driven the fever out of me! Tell me now, all of you, what I must do.” They were silent, then Faithful spoke up. “Take her,” he said kindly, “as God wishes. She is your wife and it is written, ‘What God has united, let not man divide.’” This saying pleased them all, and then Amsiggel said, “We’ve seen today that God is able to bring together those who are separated.” The Woodcutter said, “He’s able to meet all our needs!” The Hermit said, “He’s able to rebuild whatever is ruined!” The Nomad said, “He’s able to rescue us from any difficulty!” Hamu the New said, “He’s able to change evil to good!” The Blacksmith said, “He’s able to free us from us all we’re ashamed of!” Then, looking round at them all, the old woman said, “He’s able to bring us into perfect security! In my dream he told me, ‘In the life of this world, you’ll see the goodness of God.’ And now I’ve clearly seen it.”

They were still talking when a man came in. Tazzwit let out a shriek. “Daddy!” she said. It was the father of Amsiggel and Tazzwit, the son of the old man and woman. They ran to him, all talking and asking questions at the same time and thanking God. He asked for quiet so he could tell them what had happened. “One day,” said, “I asked the boss to pay me. He refused, so I got into a fight with him, and they took me to jail. But I thank God for all that this, because in jail I met two men. I asked them what they’d done and they told me they’d done nothing wrong. Only one thing stood against them: they prayed to God in the name of Christ. I said to them, ‘It’s no offence to pray!’ Those who examined their case found they’d broken no law, and so released them straightaway. But they talked with me about Christ, saying that God had sent him to make a covenant of peace between himself and mankind. Their words impressed me. I asked them where they’d heard about these things, and they told me there are many in our country who believe as they do.”

When they all heard this, they were filled with joy and thanked God. Then Faithful stood up, seized the hand of the father of Amsiggel and Tazzwit and said to him, “We’ve seen today that our saviour spoke the truth when he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.’” Their father was amazed. Looking round at them, he asked, “Do you all believe in Christ too?” “The people of our village,” replied Faithful, “took the way of Christ long ago.” At this, he was even more astonished. “Did the people of olden days believe in Christ?” he asked. “Many of them were Christians,” replied Faithful, “and there were great scholars among them. They were people of our country and they are famous to this day all over the world.” “They left us an ancient book,” he added, “and in it is written a record of what Christ did and said.” Their father asked him, “Do you still have that book?” “Yes, we still have it,” replied Faithful, “And though it’s many years old, there’s not a single page missing.” “Do you all read it?” he asked. “Each of us takes from it what he needs,” replied Faithful, “and writes it down in order to memorize it and apply it to his life.” Hearing this, they were all very glad and amazed at what God had done.