Chapter 24 Fran: Mixed Motives

Fran sat with her arms folded tight over her chest. Nothing about her posture was relaxed.

“There’s really no other way,” said Sylvia as gently as she could.

“Right. I see. Well, I must try harder then!”

With that, Fran stood and walked out of the room.

Sylvia turned to Carlos and said nothing, looking at him with her typically caring expression that needed no words.

“If that’s her approach, it will only set her back. She’ll be further from Zion than ever,” said Carlos. “You can’t try harder your way there.”

“Loving others is intentional, but if it’s merely a performance to tick boxes, it’s not a change of heart,” added Sylvia. “Let’s see what she does, as it may be that Ruach turns her mixed intentions around for her good.”

“Ruach does that a lot,” agreed Carlos. “We’ve consistently advised Fran that love is the only way to Zion, so let’s see how she interprets this.”


Fran stood with her hands on her hips. Feeling young again was still a delight, and she regularly took a moment to feel the power in her resurrected body. She mulled over the idea of ‘love’ in her mind as she surveyed her new village. In her mind’s eye she remembered the collections taken for the Salvation Army’s work with the homeless. Kindly folk in uniforms shaking a bucket in the local high street as the brass band played. That seemed to Fran like a great way to show love. She was pleased with the idea of starting a charity.

On returning to her cottage, Fran sat at her table and chewed on the end of a pencil, occasionally scribbling notes on a notepad. Her thoughts turned over ideas of what people might need. She thought of Chan, the Buddhist lady collecting fruit and how she might like some more equipment to help. Fran struggled to think of many needs on the New Earth, since there was no more death or disease, disability or depravation. Suddenly she pictured a wheelbarrow. What a perfect solution for the Buddhist! No more using an awkward basket to carry only a few fruits! Instead, she could fill a wheelbarrow and easily transport her foraging.

For the rest of the morning, Fran engrossed herself in making a large banner, with lots of bright colours. “Wheelbarrows for Buddhists’ it read. Gleefully, Fran imagined hanging the banner at the next market day, and how loved Chan would feel.

A few days later, Fran hung her banner at the market and stood under it, excited to drum up support for ‘Wheelbarrows for Buddhists’. It was only up for a few minutes before someone came up to Fran.

“What on the New Earth is this?” she laughed.

“It’s my new charity; some of us are more caring than others,” replied Fran, smugly.

“’Wheelbarrows for Buddhists’? That’s the worst cause I’ve ever heard of, in this Age and the Previous! Firstly, why do Buddhists need wheelbarrows? And secondly, why should you be the one to get it for them?”

“Well, firstly, because Chan only has a basket and secondly, because charity is loving, and I am loving. So there!”

“Ha!” scoffed the woman. “I’m going to enjoy watching this disaster unfold!”

“Why don’t you go away?” snapped Fran. “If you’re not helping me, just leave me alone, so I can become more loving!”

The woman shook her head and walked away. Fran cleared her throat self-consciously and moved back to stand under her banner. A notebook was ready to take details of anyone who would join her cause.

Chan was swapping fruit and vegetables at various stalls and other women were helping to find and pass the items used in the exchanges. At the nearest stall to Fran, Chan looked up and cocked her head to the side. She was bemused as she read Fran’s banner.

Calmly, Chan approached Fran, one eyebrow raised and smiling.

“Hello Fran. How are you?”

Fran grinned back. “Oh, I am just fine, thank you, Chan. I see you have noticed my new charity?”

“Er, yes I have,” said Chan. “I must ask, what is it about? I see you have mentioned Buddhists?”

“Well yes of course! This charity is to help you!” beamed Fran, excited to finally reveal her great loving gesture.

“Well, I am touched, and I am intrigued,” said Chan. “Tell me more about ‘Wheelbarrows for Buddhists’?”

“Well, you only have a basket, right? But imagine how much more fruit you could collect if you had a wheelbarrow? So, that’s when I knew I could help you. I will get you one, me and my charity are here to help you.”

Chan was caught by surprise.

“Ok,” she said, patiently. “Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re welcome. I know that some of our technology in the West might be new to you but…”

“No, it’s not new to us,” responded Chan.

“Well, we English tend to use simple tools like a wheelbarrow to…”

Chan couldn’t help but chuckle.

“What’s the matter? Why are you laughing?” said Fran, feeling affronted.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t need your help, thank you,” said Chan, trying not to openly laugh at Fran’s words. “I use a simple basket because I don’t want to take more than my fair share. Besides, I think my next-door neighbour already has a wheelbarrow in their garden. I’m sure I could borrow that if I really needed one?”

Fran suddenly felt like a fool.

“Well,” she spluttered. “That’s gone and done it then!”

Reaching round behind her, Fran tore down the banner, blushing an angry red on her cheeks as she began to rip it up.

“You should be grateful,” she muttered.

Chan heard and put a hand gently on Fran’s shoulder, feeling empathy for her efforts. Fran shrugged it off, threw the torn paper into the wind and stomped off.

“Ha!” shouted the woman who had watched the whole exchange. “Told you!”

Fran was crushed. Slamming her door behind her she cursed and slumped into a chair. “God! I hate it here!” she screamed.


Fran remained in an angry funk for months. Chan smiled and tried to make conversation with her whenever they met around the village. Fran avoided everyone, feeling embarrassed and resentful at the “Wheelbarrows for Buddhists” episode.

One afternoon Fran had come to Sylvia, knowing that she would always take the time to listen to Fran.

“Is there really no way out of here at all?” said Fran belligerently. “What if I just kept walking? Where would I get to?”

Sylvia walked thoughtfully beside Fran through a pretty avenue of silver trees.

“Every single person on the New Earth has a place for them in each Jubilee. There are no spare dwellings for you to move to. You will, however, be in a different community in the next Jubilee.”

Fran thought for a minute.

“The next Jubilee is years away. What if I found where one of my daughters is? Could I move in with her?”

“That’s a lovely thought, but firstly I don’t know if either of your daughters is raised yet, and even if one of them is, there is no way to know where on New Earth she is.”

“I’ll ask Jesus!” snapped Fran. “If he’s my personal Saviour, shouldn’t I be able to ask for an appointment with him?”

“I take your point,” said Sylvia. “But it doesn’t work quite like that. You see, Jesus has millions of raised people to tend to, and he is welcoming more to the New Earth every day. I am sure you will see him again at some point, but Jesus is just one man and can only be in one place at a time.”

“Pah! But he’s ‘God’ isn’t he?”

“He is not everywhere though, is he?” asked Sylvia gently. “You know you can always talk to Ruach?”

Fran seemed to have become suddenly still and deep in thought.

“Hang on,” she said, with trepidation in her voice. “What if… what if one of my daughters had a worse life than me? What if she has gone to proper hell? Is she… could she be in the ‘Lake of Fire’?”

Sylvia put a careful hand on Fran’s forearm.

“No one is in a literal lake of fire. You’re remembering language from the bible that was symbolic, not literal. Everyone is experiencing fiery trials as they are being matured outside Zion.”

“Oh yes,” sighed Fran, suddenly seeming to be weary and deflated. “I sometimes forget that this really is it. This is the afterlife! I am stuck here! There may not be actual flames roasting people, but ...”

“Those ideas and images have really stuck to many people’s imaginations,” said Sylvia. “What would you say are your fiery trials at the moment?”

 “My neighbour is such a bitch! Lording it over me, thinking that she is better off than me in every conceivable way. That bloody Buddhist! She is the most patronising, condescending person I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet! I hate the community. I am bored of the food. I am fed up generally.”

“Uh-huh,” said Sylvia.

Fran was annoyed by Sylvia’s seeming ambivalence.

“You don’t care!” she mumbled.

“I am listening,” said Sylvia. “I am here with you, and you can tell me anything.”

“Right, well, it’s alright for you, isn’t it? You love it here!”

“You’re right. I do! I love this village. I love being with everyone.”

“But you don’t have these trials!”

“I do,” said Sylvia, in such a firm tone that Fran was a little surprised.

“So why are you not as pissed off as me?”

“Honestly? I think it’s about attitude,” Sylvia responded. “I trust that all will be well. Everything that isn’t ok yet just hasn’t got there so far!”

Fran stopped walking and looked at Sylvia as if she was stupid.

“Oh, come on!” she groaned. “It cannot be that simple!”

“Well, I think it can. You see, I have seen what Agape Love can do. I’ve seen how it heals and transforms. Trust me, I suffered in the Previous Age. I was not always like this. But I have seen how Love can make everything beautiful.”

“Ok, but right now, I have all this stuff that is just such a pain in the neck!”

“So, what can you do?” asked Sylvia.

“What can I do?”

“Yes, what can you do?”

“What can I do?” retorted Fran. “What can I do?”

She continued to roll the question around as she began to walk again, placing the emphasis on each word in turn.

The two women soon parted company. Fran felt better for having talked it through with Sylvia but was also perplexed with the question.

Later that evening, as Fran sat in her living room, practicing some calligraphy, it dawned on her that she didn’t feel quite so resentful.

The next morning, she felt lighter inside than she had for a very long time. Fran realised she felt very much like having company.


Fran had spotted Chan’s bright orange sash on the other side of a nearby lake. She waved a few times to try and get her attention, but she was too engrossed in picking elderflowers to notice.

The water was cool and exhilarating. Fran felt a surge of joy thronging through her body as she swam, the thought of popping up on the far shore filled her with a child-like sense of mischief. After several minutes of strong swimming, her feet met with the shingle on the lakebed, and she began to stride out of the water.

Hearing the splashes, Chan turned to see a smiling, waving Fran wading out of the water, fully clothed and giggling.

Chan came towards Fran, meeting her in the shallows.

“You funny girl!” she said. “What are you doing?”

“Well, I saw you and wanted to say ‘hello’, but you didn’t see me on the other side of the lake. So… here I am!” Fran laughed.

Chan put a warm arm around Fran’s soaking shoulders. “It’s good to see you laugh and smile. Come and join me? I am going to make elderflower cordial today!”

“Thank you,” smiled Fran, feeling touched by being included. “I’d like that!”