The shade of a cottonwood tree provided Junior welcome protection from the blazing summer sun as he sat with his teen boys' Bible study group and discussed the trials of Job. The five boys ranged in age from twelve to sixteen. Aaron, the twelve-year-old, was a little young to be in the group, but he was the only boy his age in the congregation since the large exodus of members over the whole Millennium thing. Junior had tried to tell Daddy the Bible said they wouldn't know the day or the hour, but Daddy ignored him like he always did. When the world didn't end like Daddy said it would, a lot of the parishioners who had joined in the couple of years before 2000 lost their faith and left.
It seemed like things had gone steadily downhill for the Church of Light since then. They were having their tribulations, just like Job.
When the lesson was over, he watched the boys walk past the church and down the road toward their homes. Then he turned toward the sound of water trickling through the rocks in the middle of the shallow stream. With little rain in July, the creek was low, and the stagnant pools along the bank made a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes—something else to plague him.
He thought about the Bible lesson, about Job and how all was finally restored to him. Job had gone through many trials. Junior wondered if that were his fate as well. Perhaps God was testing him now, seeing if he was fit for the television ministry he so badly wanted. Surely, there could be no harsher test than his loss of Sara, who had been the center of his life since the first day he met her. For half his life now, he had envisioned their future together and pictured himself taking over the church from Daddy with Sara by his side as his selfless and dedicated wife. When she'd gotten a teaching degree in real life, he'd dreamed of her using it to run a school for the church. With Sara as their teacher, the children of the Church of Light would no longer have to attend the public school where they were exposed to pagan influences.
Recently, the possibility of a television ministry had caused him to expand his dream. He prayed that Sara's imagination would catch fire when she saw him spreading the Word of God on television, at last out from under his father's shadow. But now his dreams were dammed up like the stagnant pools of water that edged the creek bank, stopped from their natural flow. Giving up seemed at once impossible and the only thing he could do.
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