Tested

After Sunday school, Elijah and Danni walked into the Fellowship Hall to make sure that everything was in order for Sunday night’s Bible study.  It was their job to see what supplies were needed.  They always had coffee, doughnuts, and a few other goodies while studying.  It made for a more relaxing environment.

Elijah turned on the overhead lights.  There were five folding tables covered in white linens and plastic over that, all surrounded by metal chairs.  In the middle of the room was a counter where everyone usually placed the food.  To the right of it was a refrigerator and double sinks against the wall and a door that led to a hallway where the Sunday school rooms were.  The room was done in wood paneling walls and blue industrial carpet.  It wasn’t decorated by anything except candles on the table and a rug on the wall of the last supper.

Elijah walked to the table the coffee pot sat on and looked at the stashes of coffee, creamer, and sugar.

“We’re good on all of this,” he said.

She looked at the cups sitting on the counter and said, “Good on this too.  I guess all we’ll need to get is the food.”

“Looks like it,” he said.

He walked over to her and hugged her.  This wasn’t unusual.  They were best friends, and he always just hugged her for no reason or took a hold of her hand.  However, she wanted to be more than friends with him.  She just wasn’t sure how he felt about her.  At times like these, she thought he must like her as well.  She didn’t want to tell him how she felt for fear that it would ruin their relationship, but she couldn’t live the rest of her life just wondering.

“So,” he said, “we gonna go get it all after we have lunch?”

“We’re having lunch?”

“Yep.”

“Okay then.”

He laughed, and his clear brown eyes lit up.  He hugged her closer.  He smelled like deodorant and fresh laundry.  It was his smell, and she loved it so much.   She looked up at his unkempt brown hair and had the sudden urge to rub her hands through it like she did when she teased him about it.

He smiled at her, and she smiled back.  That’s when they heard a gunshot and people screaming.  Elijah grabbed her and pulled her under a table.  She couldn’t move.  Her dad was out there.  Her church family.  Everyone she loved.  She didn’t know if someone had been shot or if it was a warning.

Elijah pulled the chairs around them and the table cloth down enough where hopefully they couldn’t be seen if someone came in looking for others in the rooms.  When he was satisfied enough with hiding them, he wrapped his arms around her.  She wasn’t even aware that she was shaking until he whispered, “Danni, you have to be still.”

“Who are they?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m scared.”

“I know.”  He pulled her closer against his body.

The door creaked open.   They tensed.  She tried not to breathe.  She was afraid that whoever it was would hear her heartbeat which had accelerated and was loud in her own ears.  The heavy black boots walked their way, but luckily, whoever it was wasn’t smart enough to look under the tables.  They held their breath until he walked back out the door and shut it behind him.

“Thank God for answered prayers,” he said.

“Agreed.”

“We’ve got to come up with a plan,” he continued.

“To do what?”

“Save ourselves and keep anyone from getting hurt.”

He was quiet for a moment and was thinking.  He was staring ahead into nothing.  She knew that if anyone could get them out of this situation, it was him.

~~~

The love of his life was holding on to him tightly.  She was shaking and crying, and she had every reason to be scared.  He had to save her.  He had to save everyone.  He and Danni were their church family’s only hope of survival.  They had to do something.

The window was their only option.  The hallway into the Sunday school rooms only led to Sunday school rooms.  They didn’t have a back door, which could be a blessing or not depending on the situation.

He wondered how many intruders there were.  If there was more than one, they may have people posted outside around the church, making sure no one escapes.  If that was the case, then they couldn’t leave.  He couldn’t risk them just sitting there though.  Something had to be done.

“Okay,” he said.

“What?”

“You’re gonna crawl out the window, go down the road, stop anyone else from coming up here, and call the cops.”

“What’re you going to do?”

“I don’t know yet, but I have to stop them.”

“You can’t.  You’re just one man.”

“I can’t just leave them.”

“But you can come with me.  The cops can save them.”

“Your dad’s out there so is my mom, dad and little sister.  I can’t just leave them.”

He wanted to go with her.  She was right.  He was just one man.  What could he do against them?  He didn’t even have a weapon.

He kissed her on the forehead and said, “Come on.  We’ve got to get you out of here.”

“What if there are more out there?”

“There shouldn’t be.  There’s only one way out of the church building.  As far as they know, everyone’s congregated in there.”

She nodded, and a tear fell down her cheek.  He wiped it away with his thumb and took her face gently in his hands.  Her blue eyes swam in tears.  He brushed aside a copper curl that had fallen into her line of vision.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said, hoping he didn’t sound as unsure as he felt.  She nodded again.  He knew her enough to know that she would start crying if she spoke at all.

“Let’s say a quick prayer.”  Again, a nod.

He grabbed her hand and held tight to it.  He started praying, “Lord, thank you for keeping us safe so far.  Please Lord guide us and show us how to get out of this horrible situation.  We know You can and are putting our faith and trust in You.  Deliver us from this evil and protect us.  In Your Holy Name I pray.  Amen.”

Tears had fallen down her cheeks again.  She hurriedly wiped them away.

“It’s time to go,” he said.  It was an ominous statement.  He didn’t want them to separate, but he couldn’t see any other options.

“Be careful,” she whispered.

“I will; I promise.  You too.”

“I will.”

He kissed her on the cheek again and led the way out from under the table.  Seeing as how the door was left cracked open, they stayed low and behind the tables and chairs.  The crawled under the window.

He unlocked the window and pushed it up.  Luckily, it didn’t make a sound.  He took in a deep breath.  Danni stood up beside him.  They hugged quickly, and then she put one leg through the open window, ducked to get her upper body on the other side and pulled the other leg out.  She stood for a moment looking at him from the outside and walked out of his sight.  He quietly closed the window and prayed they’d all be safe.

~~~

She stood for a minute, leaning against the cold brick wall of the church.  The wintry wind blew around the corner, and she wrapped her arms around her.  Her jacket was lying on the back pew where she, Elijah, and Elijah’s family sat.  And in the pocket of her jacket was their hope of survival.  Her cell phone.

She cried.  She took a moment to collect herself and think about things.  The people who skipped out on Sunday school and only came for preaching would be arriving at the church soon.  She had to get to the road and stop them.  She took a right and walk alongside the building until she reached the first stained glass window in the sanctuary.  She got down on her hands and knees because she didn’t want to cast a shadow.  She crawled until she reached the front corner of the building.  Two men were talking.

She crouched as low to the ground as she possibly could.  She scooted up enough where she could peep under the bush.  There were two sets of feet in tennis shoes.

One of the men said, “There ain’t no one out here.  Let’s get back inside.”

They walked inside.  God was obviously listening to their prayers.  She sat up and leaned her back against the wall.  The cold January wind gusted around the building again.  She shivered.

She had to think about her plan of action.  Her main objective was to get to the road and stop anyone from getting to the church building.  There were two men standing guard at the front of the church.  She couldn’t go in front of the door.  She stared into the woods directly in front of her.  She could go into the woods and walk straight through them and to the road down the small hill their church was on.  That seemed like it was her only option.  If she went around the other way, she could still be spotted walking down the road.  It made sense.  That was what she would have to do.

~~~

Elijah crawled back under the table for a minute and silently prayed some more.  He needed guidance because he had no idea what to do, but he had to do something.  He couldn’t just sit there and hope everyone would end up all right.  He had sent Danni out there to do something.  He wouldn’t be the coward and huddle in the corner.

He crawled out from under the table and crawled using his elbows to the door.  He laid down flat and looked through the crack in the door.  The piano was in his way.  He couldn’t see very much, but he didn’t think there was much to see.  One man paced the front of the church.  The church members were all huddled together in the middle of the floor between the two sets of pews.  They were all holding each other crying.  Danni’s dad was praying.  His mom, dad and sister were holding each other close.  His little sister, Rose, was red eyed and her face was swollen.  She was only thirteen, ten years his junior.  She had her whole life ahead of her.

He pulled back but still listened closely.  The man had started speaking.

“You all rely on your God to save you.  Where is He now, preacher man?”

“He’s here with us,” Brother John said.  Elijah knew Danni’s dad was probably scared, but he also knew he’d do anything to save his congregation from the devil.

“I can’t see Him.”

“No, you can’t.  But I, I can feel Him.”

“Is that how it’s supposed to work?  You feel Him and know that He’s here with you?  That’s ridiculous.”

“ ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’”

“What’s that supposed to be?”

“Hebrews 11:1.”

“Now you’re quoting to me from your Bible.”

“Of course I am.  It’s the truth.”

“To you.”

“To everyone.  You just have to see that it is.”

“Your faith and your God can’t save you now.”

“Even if we die, we’re saved from the likes of you,” said Kevin, one of the younger boys of the church.

Elijah cringed.  He should’ve kept his mouth shut.  He heard what sounded like the butt of a gun hitting flesh.  Kevin’s mother cried out, “Stop, please.  Just stop.”

The man grunted and said, “Every one of you keep your mouths shut!”

More tears from the women.  Other than that, everyone was silent.  Even the captors.  He had to come up with a game plan.  He might be able to sneak up behind the main guy and incapacitate him somehow.  He, however, couldn’t take on more than one, and he wasn’t sure how many there were in the first place.

~~~

She stood and started her walk to the woods 200 yards in front of her.  The dead oak leaves on the ground crunched underneath her feet.  She tried to be quiet, but it proved difficult.  Every where she stepped, she stepped on leaves or twigs.

She felt slightly agoraphobic.  She was afraid that at any moment someone would come up behind her and grab her.  Finally, she walked past the big oak devoid of leaves, the only tree in the church yard.  She was almost in the woods.  A bird chirped in the trees in front of her and then flew away.  She ran the rest of the way into the woods and hid behind a large pine tree.  She slid to the floor of the woods and brown pine needles poked her legs.  She disregarded them and cried.  She didn’t know if she could save them.

She stood up and decided that she had to try.  She couldn’t leave them in there alone.  If she didn’t do this, they’d all die.  She couldn’t stand the thought of it.  She stood up and peeped around the tree.  There wasn’t anyone in sight, so she crouched low and walked as fast as possible.

She stopped at about halfway there and looked around.  One of the men was walking towards the woods.  She didn’t even know that they had come back outside.  She wasn’t being very careful.    He must’ve heard her and was coming to check it out.  She ducked behind some bushes and laid flat on her stomach.  She didn’t think that he could see her because she thought she had concealed herself from view fairly well.

The man was coming closer.  He was only a few yards away from her now.  Her heartbeat accelerated.  Automatically, she held her breath.  There was nothing short of selling her soul that she wouldn’t give to be invisible.  She tried to huddle lower to the ground, but she was as close as she was going to get.  There was nothing she could do now but pray he didn’t see her.

He was almost to the edge of the woods when she heard a car driving down the road.  They were slowing.  Tires crunched on the gravel of the parking lot.  She was too late.  She didn’t get to the road quick enough.  A champagne colored SUV parked beside her dad’s beat up Toyota 4-Runner.

The man turned around to see the newest additions.  They were the newlyweds her father had performed the wedding for.  Tears escaped her eyes.  She could’ve stopped them, but they also saved her life.  She was conflicted with different emotions.  She was grateful, scared, and worried.  She couldn’t let them get anyone else though.

The men were clad in jeans and heavy winter coats.  Each held a gun.  One had a pistol, the other a shotgun.  They pointed them at the newlyweds Kate and Landon.  Kate was crying, and Landon had his arms wrapped around her, talking to them.  She figured he was pleading for their lives.  She couldn’t hear them talking.  The two men forced them into the church.

When they were all inside, she took her window of opportunity and ran.

~~~

Elijah didn’t know what to do.  He was sitting with his back against the wall beside the door.  It was easier to hear what was going on from there.  He tried to calculate a plan, but nothing was coming to him.  He was worried about Danni.  He hoped that she was to the road and had called the cops by now, but he didn’t know what variables she was up against.  He prayed again.

He heard the doors to the church open and someone crying.  He laid down on his stomach and looked through the crack in the door.  Kate and Landon had been brought in.  He hated to see them brought in but was relieved that it wasn’t Danni who had been captured.

He couldn’t take it anymore.  He had to do something.  He crawled out of view and stood.  He quietly searched the room for some sort of weapon.  He opened a drawer beside the kitchen sink and found a steak knife.  It wasn’t much to work with, but it was something.  Deep down, he knew that he couldn’t stand a chance against three men with a knife, but he wasn’t going to sit back any longer and do nothing.  He would save them or die trying.  He hoped he could save them.

He walked back to the door and laid down again.  He would have to wait for the right moment.  Hopefully the two goons would go back outside and all he’d have to deal with would be the ring leader.  He waited for his opportunity.

The three men congregated together and discussed something in low whispers off to the side.  They talked for a moment, and the two other men walked back outside.  One of them kicked Mr. Davis, one of the deacons.  All three of them had a laugh, and the two walked out the door.

The main guy walked back to the middle of the room in front of his hostages, Elijah’s church family.  His back was to Elijah, and he had his opportunity.  He was about to push open the door when the guy said something, “So preacher, I’ve got two more of your people.”

“I see that.”

He laughed, “Your God hasn’t helped you yet.”

“Oh, but He will,” Brother John said, smiling.

Elijah sat back down.  It wasn’t the right time to go rushing into action.  He knew he had an amazing opportunity, but something was telling him to wait.  No.  It was Someone.  God was telling him to wait.  He leaned his head against the wall and listened to the conversation in the next room.

“Where is He then?”

“Right here with us.”  Elijah knew that well enough.

“Why can’t I see Him?”

“No one can.”

“Then how can you believe in something you can’t even see.”  He spat the words out angrily.

“Faith.”

“Faith.  You say it like it’s so easy.”

“Faith isn’t always easy.”

“But you have faith that He will save you.”

“Yes.  But even if He doesn’t, I’ll be in a much better place.”

A tear rolled down Elijah’s cheek.  He hadn’t had time to think about them dying.  It was there at the edge of his mind, but he refused to accept that as a way out.  It wasn’t that he was scared of dying, and he was ready to meet his Maker.  He just wasn’t ready to die yet.  There was so much that he wanted out of life before he left it.  He wanted a wife and kids.  He wanted to tell Danni he loved her, and not the way he usually told her as a friend, but that he loved her and couldn’t see anyone else in his life but her.  He didn’t want to think about losing her or him dying and not getting to tell her.  He prayed they’d all make it out alive and safe.

“So, you have faith that God will save you, and if He doesn’t save you, you have faith that you’ll be in a better place.  What if this God and this better place don’t exist?”

“They do.”

“But let’s say that they don’t.”

“If they don’t then who knows.  I may roam this world as a ghost.”

“So you admit there might not be a Heaven?”

“No.  I don’t admit that.  There is.  Just like there’s a hell.”

“So I’m gonna go to hell then?”

“For those who aren’t saved by the grace of God, yes.  But wouldn’t you like to be saved from the fiery pits of hell?”

“Well no one wants to burn,” he said sarcastically.

“Of course not, but that’s what’s going to happen, unfortunately, to those who don’t believe.”

He was quiet for a minute, like he was thinking about something.  Then laughed.  “How you people can believe this rubbish is beyond me.”

“What do you believe?”

~~~

The branches of small trees and bushes hit her face, legs, and arms.  Her lungs were burning from inhaling the cold air, yet she pushed on.  She wasn’t far from the road.  She could see it.  She slipped on the mud on the small hill and slid down most of it, but she made it.  She stood on the cold pavement.

She took a deep breath and ran down the road, hoping a car would drive up soon.  She had to call the cops.

Her hands were stinging from the cold, and her toes were numb in her dress shoes.  The sun was shining but not warming her.  An animal scurried in the bushes to her right.  The pavement was rough only like a back road could be.  It was lumpy with pots holes everywhere.  Her shoe kept snagging on it, and small pebbles kept getting in her shoes.  She didn’t know how it could all go so wrong so fast.  Tears rolled down her cheek.

She stopped and took a deep breath.  The cold burned her lungs, but she needed a minute to relax.  It was all so hard.  She needed Elijah.  She needed his comfort.  He’d know what to do.  Instead, he was putting himself in harm’s way.  He should’ve just come with her.

She continued walking down the road.  She listened hard for the sound of tires on the pavement and the running engines of any cars.  She didn’t hear anything.  No one was coming, yet she walked on.

~~~

“What do I believe?” he said, “I definitely don’t believe in your God.  And even if He did exist, we wouldn’t be havin’ any heart to hearts.”

“Why is that?”

He paused for a moment and then said, “It isn’t any of your concern.”

“Maybe not the whys, but He does exist.  And that is my concern.”

“I don’t know how you can sit there and say that when good people are dying all around you and the world is the way it is.  All you are are religious fanatics looking for salvation when there isn’t any.”

Elijah was fuming.  God was real, and he knew it.  He didn’t know why people didn’t chose to believe in God.  He had lived a life of sin.  It was a sad and pathetic life.  When he had finally come to know God, everything had seemed to fall perfectly into place.  He finally had something to live for and wasn’t alone anymore.  Not that life was always perfect.  It wasn’t.  He had lost people he loved, and sometimes nothing just seemed to be right.  But, he didn’t have to face the hard times alone, and that made all the difference.  God was there for him.  He watched over him all the time, and He always would.

Brother John was quiet.  He was probably trying to figure out what to say next.  How did you answer that?  Elijah wasn’t sure, but he was sure it was the right time to go out there.  He squatted and looked out the door.  The man had his back to him.  He slowly, and as quietly as possible, pushed open the door.  The man still didn’t look around, so he crawled out the door and shut it back the way it was.  He hurriedly crawled behind the piano.

Brother John said, “Well, in your eyes we may seem like religious fanatics, and yes, we are looking for salvation.  God is that salvation, and He does exist.”

“What proof do you have?  I mean proof.  Not faith.”

“We have the Bible.  It documents Christ’s time on earth, and that He was sent here to die for our sins.”

“That could just be lies.”

“Well, how’d the earth get here?”

“It has always been here.”

“So you’re saying that it just showed up here out of the blue?  Something had to create it.”

“A big bang,” he said, sarcastically.

“Who made the “big bang” happen if that’s the case.  See it’s like this building.  You can see it’s here, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Since it’s here, someone had to create it.”

“Well, yeah.”

“But you can’t see the people who built it.  You don’t even know who they are, yet you believe they built it.  You are standing in the evidence that they did.”

The man was silent.  Elijah was staring at the crowd from under the piano.  No one had spotted him, and if they did, they were good at hiding it.

Brother John continued, “It’s like with God.  We can see the wind blowing through the trees or the clouds up in the sky.  The trees, the grass, the rain, the sun.  We can see all the evidence that He is in this world.  That He created this world.   That’s how I know He’s real, how He exists.  He’s right here with us now.”

He still didn’t say anything.  He must’ve been thinking hard about what Brother John was saying.  Since the man was distracted, Elijah crouched into a halfway sitting position.  He prayed that God would protect him and his family and his church family, and then stood from behind the piano.

~~~

Danni had walked and ran at least a mile when she gave up and sat on the side of the road.  No one had come by, she didn’t have her cell, and she felt hopeless.  She rested her head in her hands and cried.  She was shocked that she had any tears left to cry.  It seemed like she hadn’t stopped crying since the men came into their church and ruined their lives.

She prayed that God would save them.  She prayed that He would send someone down this road who would stop and let her borrow their cell phone.

The was continuously blowing.  Her blue long sleeved shirt wasn’t enough to keep the wind from sending chills over her body.  She pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs.  She rested her forehead on top of her knees and cried some more.

She was running out of time.  She didn’t know who was alive or dead.  If they were fortunate to be alive, she didn’t know how long they would be.

She kept crying, and over her tears, she heard an engine in the distance coming closer.  She stood and wiped her eyes.  She could see it now.  It was a black truck.  She started jumping up and down and waving her arms.  She knew she must look like a crazy woman, but she had to get them to stop somehow.

They slowed down and finally stopped in front of her.  A man in his thirties stepped out.  He was wearing dirty jeans with his work books and a camouflage jacket.  He was wearing a bright orange cap.  He had been hunting.

“Ma’am, is everythin’ all right?” He had a heavy Southern drawl.

“No, I need to use your cell phone.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Please.  Just let me borrow your phone.”

“Okay,” he said, digging his phone out of his pocket.

“Thank you so much,” she said, walking towards the man.  He held the phone out to her, and she took it.  She dialed 911.

~~~

Elijah slowly walked towards the man.  By now, they had all seen him.  Most of them lowered their heads to keep from giving him away.  His mom watched him intently.  He refused to look at her.  Brother John was still talking to the man about salvation and God.

The man said, “It doesn’t matter what you say.  It isn’t going to change my mind.”

He knew that the guy was thinking it over though.  His words weren’t that convincing.

Brother John said, “I can’t force you to believe what I do.  I can only give you things to think about and let you know the truth.”

“The truth?  You mean the truth where your God let my wife die.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.  I really am, but everyone has to die.”

“She was so beautiful and loved life,” he started.  Elijah moved closer.  He looked at his dad who was wide eyed.  He knew that his dad was going to kill him for this, but he had to do something.

The man kept talking, Elijah walked closer.  “Then one day, He took her away from me.  A drunk driver hit her when she was coming to meet me for our ten year anniversary.”

“I’m so sorry,” Brother John said.

They were both silent for a moment.  He paused.  He wasn’t far from him now, but he didn’t know what to do.  He wasn’t going to kill him.  He didn’t have it in him.  It took him only a moment to decide he was just going to tackle him and hope for the best.  He ran and dove at him.  Their bodies hit with a thud, and they fell to the ground.

~~~

She watched the trees pass by her as she stared out the window.  She was grateful for the heat that rushed over her but was still cold on the inside.  She had no idea whether her family and friends were dead or not.

The cops were on the way.  Now all she could do was wait.  She didn’t know if she had it in her.  She felt like she should do something.  It was killing her not knowing.

“Don’t drive all the way up to the church,” she reminded the man.

“I wasn’t.  How far back do you want me to stop?”

“Far enough they can’t hear you stop and drop me off.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She was at least ten years this man’s junior.  That was the South for you.  You were called ma’am no matter your age.

When they were half a mile or so away she said, “Here’s good.”

“You sure?”

“They can’t know I’m here, or they’ll get me too.”

He nodded and said, “Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

She opened the door, and the cold air greeted her along with the smell of exhaust from the truck.  She was about to shut the door behind her when the man said, “Wait a second.”

She turned back around to face him.  He was holding out a black jacket.  “Please, take this.”

“Oh, no, I don’t think that I should.”

“You shouldn’t be out in the cold like this.  I wouldn’t feel right if you didn’t take it.”

“But…”

“Please.”

She stared at him for a moment and then took the jacket.  She was freezing anyway, and it would be nice to have a jacket while waiting for the police.  She put it on; it was way too big on her.  She was warm, and that was what counted.  Her eyes blurred with tears.

“Thank you so much,” she said.

“You’re welcome.”

“What’s your name?”

“David Wilson.”

“Thank you, David.”

“And yours, Miss?”

“Danni.”

“Good luck, Danni.  I hope everything turns out okay.”

“So do I.”

She shut the door and started walking towards the church.  He sat there in his vehicle with it still running.  She didn’t turn around and look at him.  There was the hope she had needed.  She wiped the tears from her eyes and kept on.  He finally drove away.  She watched his truck disappear around the corner, and too soon, she couldn’t even hear the engine of the truck that was carrying the man who had possibly saved all their lives.

The wind blew, and she wrapped herself inside the coat David let her borrow.  She sped up to a jog.  She had to get back to the church and see what was happening.

When she got to the place she had left the woods, she stopped.  She couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.  She wasn’t sure what she needed to do.  She wanted to run back to the church and get in there to see what was happening, but she thought she might need to wait for the cops.  She was torn, so she stood there contemplating what to do next.  Elijah hadn’t instructed her on what she needed to do now.  He hadn’t thought that far ahead.

She wondered what Elijah was doing and her father.  She was glad her mom was at home sick.  Not that she was happy she was sick, but it had saved her live.

She finally decided that she couldn’t just sit there and wait.  Waiting was too hard on her, so she ran back up the small hill and into the woods.  When she could see the church, she slowed down and looked out.  The two men were still standing guard.  She quietly made her way to the side of the church where she first entered.  She paused long enough to make sure that the men weren’t looking at her and ran to the side of the building.  She stopped and listened to her surroundings.

The men were quietly discussing something on the porch.  She couldn’t hear what they were saying exactly.  Then she heard an uproar inside.  The men took off, and she ran inside behind them.

~~~

There was so much going on around him.  The main leader wiggled underneath him.  Elijah was shocked he possessed enough strength to keep him held down.  Landon was helping him hold the guy.  He looked back towards the door to see Brother John and his dad standing at the door waiting for the other two to come in.

The other two came barreling in just as soon as his and Danni’s dad were at the door, ready to stop them.  As soon as they came through the door, they pointed their guns at Elijah and Landon.

Out of nowhere, Danni yelled, “NO!” from behind them.  They quickly turned to face her, and then Brother John and his dad jumped them from behind.  They had them in sleeper holds.  Danni pulled the guns out of their hands.

Elijah yelled, “Danni, get outside.”

She didn’t listen.  She was helping their dads fight these two giants.  She held a shotgun at them.  If they only knew she had no idea how to use it, she’d be dead.  He prayed that they believed she knew how to use one.

She said, “Give me the pistol.  Now!”

The man slowly handed her the gun.  She took it and put it in the pocket of the jacket she was wearing.  He wondered who gave her the jacket, but it didn’t matter at the time.

Landon said, “I’ve got his gun.”

“Hold it on him.”

He did as Elijah said.

~~~

Danni was shaking.   She hoped the gun wasn’t shaking noticeably as she trained it on the two.

“Don’t move,” she said, “Don’t you dare move.”

They were obviously shocked that they had been stopped.  She was scared.  This could go so many different ways.  She wanted to look towards the front of the church to see what was going on with Elijah, but she kept her eyes on the two men who knew far more about guns than she ever would.

Her dad was staring back at her.  He knew she was scared, but it had to be done.  She had to help save the people she loved until the police could get there.

Drake, who was five years younger than her age of twenty three, walked up to her and took the gun.  He whispered in her ear, “Thank you.”

He kept the gun trained on them.  She ran past the men and to her church family.  They were all huddled together in the middle of the church, holding each other and crying.  No one was hurt from what she could see.  She ran to Elijah and Landon who were holding down a man.

“Elijah,” she whispered through tears.

“Danni, did you call the cops?”

She nodded.  She was so happy to see him alive.  “I called them about five minutes ago.”

“So they should be here soon?”

“I hope so.”

“Get me the duct tape out of my truck.”

She nodded and ran back outside.  She ran to Elijah’s Ford Ranger and dug through the cab and finally found the duct tape in the glove compartment.  She ran back inside to him.

He and Landon taped the man’s arms together and then his legs.  Landon kept the gun on him while he helped tie the others up.  They sat them all together up front.  She handed her dad the pistol in her pocket, and he, Landon, and Drake kept a gun on each of them.

Elijah ran up to her and hugged her tight.

“I’m so glad that you’re okay,” he said.

“I was worried about you.”

“I’m fine.  You’re fine.  Everything’s good.”

“Yeah.”

He kissed her forehead.  “Where’d the jacket come from?”

She explained to him about meeting the man on the road who had leant her his cell phone to call the cops and his jacket.

“That was nice of him.”

“Yes it was.”

Her dad cleared his throat, and they turned to look at him.  He was still holding a gun on the men.

“I don’t want to do this,” he began, “I’m not a big fan of violence, but I have a lot of people to protect here.  So, why don’t you tell me how this all started?”

He was directing the question at the one in the middle.  He looked up at her dad with a cold stare through grey eyes.  He didn’t say anything.

Her dad said, “Okay.  You don’t have to talk.  Just listen.”

They stared back at him, and she knew exactly what he was about to say.  Something they desperately needed to hear.

He continued, “I know you blame God for the death of your wife, and I guess it’s only natural to blame someone.  I know she was in an accident caused by a drunk driver, and I’m sure you blame him too.  But you needed to blame someone else, and God is who you found.  It wasn’t His fault though.  I know it seems like it, but everything happens for a reason.  I know you can’t see why, and sometimes we never know exactly what the reason is.  But I think that her accident happened to bring you here today.”

The man shook his head, and Danni knew that what her dad was saying was true.  Elijah held her hand.

Her dad kept talking, “See, I think you came to our church to hear the gospel.  Even if that wasn’t what you intended.  I’m not going to preach to you.  All I want to tell you is that God loves you and forgives you.  All you have to do is seek His repentance and let Him in your heart.  He listens to everyone and cares about you.  Don’t let time get away from you because you never know how much time you have left on this earth.”

The sirens from the police cars announced their arrival.  Elijah and Danni ran outside to them.  One of the cops in uniform walked up to them and asked if everything was all right.  Elijah explained what had happened while she kept quiet.  They followed four cops inside.

Three of them took the men to the cars after unwrapping the duct tape that had restrained them and replacing it with handcuffs.  When they were walking out, her dad said, “I told you God would help us.”

One of the cops talked to us about what happened.  Elijah and Danni explained their parts in all that had conspired.

Her dad came up to her, hugged her and said, “I’m so proud of you two.”

“Thanks, daddy.”

He kissed her on the cheek.  Elijah was with his family, checking on them.  Her daddy left to talk to some of the other church members.  Elijah came back to her and wrapped his arms around her.

“You were brave today,” he said.

“So were you.  Stupid but brave.”

He smiled and leaned closer to her, and she did the same.  They kissed.

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