Chapter 18 Johan: Enemies?

Johan’s eyelids flickered as the soft light of early morning illuminated the room. The pillow under his head felt pleasantly cool as he stretched his body beneath the bedcovers.

Opening his eyes, it took a few seconds for Johan to register that he was in a new environment. Gone were the familiar log walls, and instead he was surrounded by honey-coloured stone.

Now fully awake, he eased himself out of bed. New clothes were hung neatly in a wardrobe and he could see homely furniture in the next room.

Looking out of the window, he could see several stone buildings with wildflowers and tall grass growing around the base of their walls. There were no trees, and the ground appeared level, which confirmed that he was no longer in his mountainside village.

Despite all the changes, Johan felt peaceful. It was the same feeling as when he had first been raised and had met Jesus and Ruach all those years previously. He was thankful for the month of preparation everyone had been given when the angel had brought news of the jubilee transition.

Johan took his time to look around his new dwelling before making his way outside. The day was warm and the fragrance of the wildflowers filled the air. To Johan’s great joy, a familiar face came strolling around the corner of a nearby barn.

“Yan!” called Johan excitedly.

Yan came to him and the friends embraced.

“So, the next jubilee period has begun,” said Yan, smiling. “Here’s our new situation.”

“Many new people to meet and get to know,” said Johan quietly. “I must admit I am a little nervous.”

Yan nodded and smiled. “You’ll need to do some exploring, so I’ll see you again later.”

Johan did as Yan suggested and set out to get his bearings. As well as the stone cottages, there were other buildings that Johan presumed were for agricultural use and creative enterprises. A few other people were also walking around. There were polite exchanges of greetings, but nobody seemed ready for longer conversations.

Johan noticed large trees laden with fruit and an area of land marked out in a distinctive way. He guessed that was where they would be planting their crops.

The grassland that surrounded the settlement stretched out in all directions. After years of living enclosed on all sides by tall pine trees, Johan couldn’t help but feel exposed, but he also appreciated being able to see for miles around. On the horizon were purple mountains, some too far away to make out clearly, but in one direction they were closer and he could see hedgerows and clumps of trees in the undulating foothills. The sky felt vaster than before, encircling the whole scene with its multi-coloured display of light playing out on the clouds.

Johan stood for some time, taking in the new landscape. He wished that his sister, Gerty, was by his side and that he could share it with her.

Yan sought him out again after visiting some of the other new residents and placed a caring hand on his shoulder.

“How are you feeling? I know you will miss your sister greatly until you are able to see her again, but she needs to establish herself and her own independence. She will be safe and well in her new community, I can promise you that. In the fullness of time, everyone will be able to see one another whenever they please, but not until all of us have learned to fully live in agape love. Until then, we may have to live with some loss and heartache, but that will only make our joy more complete when the full reconciliation takes place.”

Johan stared toward the purple mountains. “We all went to sleep one night, and we’ve all woken up in new places. We knew it was coming, but it’s still hard. I don’t know how I’m going to manage without her.”

“I know it’s not easy.”

“Yan, you are always smiling, but I know you have a family too.”  

“Yes, I haven’t yet seen my family. I would love to see my Ma and Pa again and be reconciled with my brothers, my cousins and my friends. I have longings and miss them sometimes, but I know that Jesus will ensure that all will be well in the end. There will come a time on the New Earth when we will all be able to see those we love, and even those we hated, in the fullness and completeness of who we really are in the image of God. But first we must all go through the process so that we are ready for that day.”

“I’m sorry, Yan. I think sometimes we all forgot that both you and Yvonne were missing loved ones too. Of course, you want to see them again. Knowing it’s the same for you helps me trust what you say about the bigger picture.”

“We can all feel impatient sometimes, and that’s ok. Our longing and yearning are signs that love is alive and at work inside us. That love wants to flow out of us and embrace those who are dear to us.”

“Maybe we need to think about those feelings as a kind of hope then?” said Johan thoughtfully.

“Yes, that’s a good way to think of it. These feelings, although they aren’t comfortable, are a good thing. When we grieved and mourned in the Previous Age, it was because we thought our love could no longer reach those we loved. For many, death meant despair because it seemed like final and permanent separation. But now we know that death will not keep us from one another, so our grief can be turned into hope and longing – longing that will one day be fulfilled.”

Encouraged by his talk with Yan, Johan continued to explore the village, determined to make a positive start and to begin to get to know his new neighbours.


“I’m just saying, I wish all this was a lot less like the Previous Age. I mean, I’m all for things being familiar, but don’t you wish we could all fly, or become invisible or something like that?”

Johan turned to look at the man talking to him. He was fair-haired and had piercing blue eyes which disappeared when he smiled. The two were seated on the grassy hillside they had climbed to get a better idea of the geography of their new environment.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Johan, “my Previous Age was awful. I’m just glad I’m not hungry, crawling through mud, or being shot at.”

“Soldier?” said the man with interest. “When and where?”

Johan looked at his expression, trying to guess whether to open up or not.

“Apparently they called it World War Two,” he said reluctantly. “But I died before it ended.”

“Were you killed in battle?” the man asked.

“Yes, shelled in a dugout with my friends. Never knew a thing about it. What about you? What did you do?”

“I’m Chester by the way,” said the young man, offering him his hand. “Canadian Air Corps, also World War Two.”

“And I’m… Johan.“ He hesitated and glanced at his companion to gauge his reaction.

“Well,” said Chester, immediately withdrawing his hand and looking him up and down with obvious contempt, “I thought I recognised your accent. That makes us enemies.”

“So did you die in combat, too?” asked Johan, trying to find common ground.

“No, I never even saw action. I joined up in early ’45 and it was all over before we were deployed. So, no. I didn’t get the chance to kick your German ass.”

“So, what happened? Since being raised, I haven’t met any other servicemen, yet alone from the same time as me.”

“You don’t know?” Chester raised his eyebrows and let out a mocking laugh.

“No, I only know they called it World War Two” said Johan and then quickly raised his hands. “Actually stop. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. It won’t help either of us to dig all of that up. We are here and we’re not at war. That’s enough for me.”

“Well, I think you need to know that you lost and lost big time. You Nazi bastards got what was coming to you. You should be ashamed of…”

Johan interrupted with a scowl. “For fuck’s sake, I said I didn’t want to know!”

“Well, listen up, buddy. You need to know,” spat Chester. “You need to know that you caused a war that killed millions of people. And I guess you’re going to tell me that you thought those camps where all the Jews were murdered were just holiday camps? ”

Chester’s anger grew as he stood up and towered over Johan.

“You Nazi scum! You know what? I’m glad my friends bombed your cities and killed your friends and family. I’m glad you fucking died in that dugout. You deserved it.”

Chester spat on the ground next to Johan and headed off down the hill towards the village, only turning around to put up a middle finger.

Johan felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. He didn’t know if he should run after Chester and try and explain that he’d never been a member of the Nazi party and that he’d been conscripted into the army straight from school. There were so many questions racing through his mind about the war and about Hitler having lost and cities being bombed. And what had Chester meant about camps and Jews being murdered? Johan sat there and hung his head, feeling desperately alone.

Hours went by under the changing sky, and when Johan finally raised his head he saw smoke rising from the chimneys of his new settlement, which meant food was being prepared. He stood motionless for a while before turning and heading further into the hills and away from the village.


Yan plumped up his pillow and placed it on his bed, feeling a sense of satisfaction as he put the final touches to making his cottage feel like home. As he looked around, he felt a familiar stirring in his heart and Johan’s face came into his mind. Yan went outside and, finding Johan’s cottage empty, began looking for him.

“Have you seen the man who lives in that cottage over there?” he asked a group of men, who were standing together around a roaring fire. “He’s called Johan.”

“You mean the Nazi?” asked one of them.

“Oh come on, he’s better than a Nazi,” added another. “He’s a dead Nazi.”

The men laughed loudly.

“I left him in the foothills,” said Chester, who was whittling a stick. “If he’s got any sense, he’ll stay there.” 

Yan moved quickly, heading toward the hills. They were growing darker every minute as the daylight died away.