Harmony knocked on the final door. She’d been to each hut and gently called to the woman inside. Leaving a steaming mug of hot cocoa or coffee on the windowsill of each cabin was one way she enjoyed serving the community.
Some were nervously accepted and silently brought inside, others sat on the windowsill until they became cold. Only Eshe would come and sit with Harmony to drink. Together they would usually admire the birds and animals that could be seen in the trees surrounding the camp.
“Where are you from?” asked Eshe one morning as the sun drew the dew from the grass.
Harmony hadn’t thought about the Previous Age for a long time. She smiled wistfully.
“I’m from a country that was known as the United States of America. I grew up in a little town where everyone knew each other.”
“Were there animals there?” asked Eshe.
“Horses, lots of cows in the fields, and many people had dogs,” answered Harmony.
“How about you?”
“I come from a small village outside the big city. There were many animals in the land. Elephant, Giraffe, Rhino, Hippo. I loved them all, but the Elephant could be naughty and spoil the crops.”
Harmony knew that Eshe must have experienced great suffering at some time in her life. However, she had refrained from asking, preferring to wait for Eshe to talk if she wanted to.
“Did you ever have a pet dog?” asked Harmony.
“No, there were many chickens and goats in the village, but we did not have dogs. I don’t like dogs. Only the militia had them.”
“The militia?” repeated Harmony.
“There was a war between the tribes in my country. The militia would attack villages and take whatever they wanted.”
Eshe was speaking without emotion, but Harmony detected a sadness in her eyes.
“Did you ever see them?” she asked.
“Oh yes. They came to my village when I was only twelve and took me, my sisters, some other girls and some boys. They killed the elders and our parents with machete.”
Harmony turned herself completely towards Eshe to show she was listening. Sensing it was safe to speak, Eshe continued.
“We were taken away by the militia. If we tried to run, we were hunted and brought back. They would beat us. Rape us. Give us drugs. The boys were turned into soldiers and became militia like the bigger men. The girls had to do all the jobs and give our bodies to the men.”
Eshe looked down.
“They made me so dirty. I am so dirty. Not like you. You are clean and white.”
“Oh, Eshe! You are not dirty. And I am not clean because I have white skin! Your black skin is beautiful. None of us chose what colour our skin, or eyes, or hair would be! And those men, they did not take your value from you. You are loved and precious. Jesus has brought us here so we can recover from all we have experienced.”
“The things I saw. They are in my mind. I am so scared they will find me here.” Eshe’s voice trembled slightly.
“Let me show you something,” invited Harmony.
Harmony led Eshe through the trees until they came to a tree with a trunk five times thicker than the others. Around the trunk, steps had been built in, with a rope for use as a handrail. They ascended the steps until they came to a wooden platform which was supported as a deck by sturdy branches. There were some wooden chairs on the deck and dappled sunlight illuminated the space. Through a gap in the foliage, countless treetops spread out to the horizon where distant hills appeared in shades of purple.
“You can see out over the Woodlands to the hills beyond,” said Harmony. “All of this is protected by Seraphs like Cynthia, who brought us here to our camp. Jesus will never let anyone come here who should not be here. The New Earth is divided, for now, into different regions, each with a community. The people in each community are in a process of healing and restoration that is specific to their experiences and character.”
Eshe nodded. She pointed to smoke drifting over the treetops from the East. “What is this?” she asked.
“That is coming from Anne’s camp. She’s our friend. The women in her community are lovely like you. When you’re ready, you can get to know them. Everyone in this region of Beulah has been chosen to be here, not too far from Zion.”
The two women lingered in quietness until Harmony suggested it was time to head back.
Eshe loved her home. It felt so safe and quiet and the animal life visible around her was a joy to watch. She surveyed the camp happily, feeling more secure after talking to Harmony.
One evening Eshe approached Harmony, who was sweeping out her cabin. The crickets were playing in the night time orchestra, and a delicate mist was beginning to rise from the grass. Many animal sounds echoed from the trees and the sky-orbs rays were dimmed in their silent dance above the New Earth.
“I’d like to meet the other women where Anne is one day, maybe we could sing with them?” suggested Eshe.
“Like a choir? What a beautiful idea,” responded Harmony. “I will suggest it to Anne and see what she thinks? Maybe any who would like to sing could be invited to come and hear you and Adilah sing something for them, and you could teach them some songs?”
Eshe nodded as she pondered for a second, “Yes, I would like that very much,” she smiled.
“Do you feel you have everything you need?” asked Harmony, taking the opportunity while Eshe felt open to conversation.
“Oh yes, I am so happy with my home. I am so pleased to have so many things that I can use, but…”
“Go on?” encouraged Harmony.
“I would very much like to make myself more clothes and some for others? Do you think we can get some cloth, thread, and some needles?”
“I will talk to the angels,” answered Harmony, pleased that she had asked. “They can get things like that from the resources in Zion. The city is full of very inventive people making all sorts of things for use by others.”
“Really? I’d love to see this one day,” said Eshe.
Harmony was pleased to hear this, as Eshe could be so timid around other people.
“Do you think you can imagine being in a new place?” she asked.
“If there are angels to protect me, yes I can,” Eshe said.
“Well, there are many angels there doing all sorts of important things. In Zion, you won’t need protection from anyone or anything. Only people who live from Agape Love are allowed to go there.”
“Ok, not protection – but maybe I will need reassurance – new places are so scary for me!”
Harmony pondered on this distinction into the evening.
“Do you think people will feel daunted and overwhelmed by Zion when they first go there?” Harmony asked Anne when they met later that night.
“I think it will take some getting used to,” she replied.
“I guess so. Maybe one thousand years of learning how to live by Agape love ensured we had no fears when we finally got there?” suggested Harmony.
“When the time is right, it will not be unpleasant for her, or anyone else.”
The two friends bid each other a good night and retired to their respective camps. Each group were arranged the same way, a circle of cabins facing inwards. The women had a choice of entrance and exit through front and back doors. In the centre of the circle the communal campfire was often smouldering as it was used for cooking and heating water every day. There were benches made from logs to sit on and thick set tables where the women could make things, prepare food and play games.
A few weeks later Harmony placed a steaming mug of cocoa on Adilah’s windowsill and stepped back to continue to the next cabin. She heard the door open behind her and was delighted to be greeted by a smiling Adilah.
“Thank you, Harmony” she said quietly, and picked up the mug. Without saying anything more, she gracefully crossed the wooden porch and stood next to Harmony, still smiling.
“You’re welcome,” grinned back Harmony, slightly surprised by her company after weeks of watching the cocoa go cold.
“I’ll come with you?” offered Adilah.
Harmony nodded and continued towards the next cabin.
“That one is black coffee,” said Harmony, motioning with her head toward a mug on the far side of the tray. “Mind placing it on the windowsill for me?”
Adilah grasped the mug with one hand, whilst holding her own mug with the other, and approached the windowsill of the next cabin. Leaving the mug, she returned to Harmony.
“The last one is for Eshe, she usually joins me.”
Eshe saw them coming and skipped out of her cabin, her long colourful dress she’d made herself flowing behind her.
“Good morning, Adilah!” Eshe beamed, excited to see her sister. “Let’s go up to the tree house?”
“Come and see,” Harmony said warmly to Adilah.
The three women sipped periodically as they walked to the tree house. Each balanced their drinks impressively as they climbed the steps to the viewing platform.
Adilah was a little nervous but being with her sister helped her feel safe.
Settling into chairs, the women gazed out over the forest which was thriving with life. Birds looped and wheeled above the canopy and all sorts of animal noises could be heard in the trees below.
Adilah looked at Eshe and Harmony, content with their warm morning drinks. Inside she felt a wave of envy rise.
Noticing her stare, Eshe spoke up.
“Are you ok, Adilah?”
Harmony looked Adilah over.
“How are you feeling?”
Adilah looked at the wooden floor for a few moments and then looked up at Harmony.
“How have you this peace, Eshe? Each day I still feel fear and want to hide. You come from the same place as me, yet you just sit in peace and drink your coffee?”
Eshe was surprised by what felt like an accusation.
Harmony put her mug of cocoa down on the floor and folded her hands on her lap, which encouraged Adilah to continue.
“You are always happy!” said Adilah, looking directly at Harmony. “You have never suffered like me! Your American life was comfortable. You had money and food and never had to work.”
“I see why you think that,” she said gently. “I am from a rich and powerful nation in the Previous Age. I know this afforded me privilege.”
Adilah burned a little hotter inside.
“That’s right,” she snapped “The West never helped us. Our civil war was not something you whites cared about. We were forgotten. Left to suffer. Eshe, why are you not angry like me? Have you forgotten where you come from?”
The painful memories of those terrible times and seeing her sister in such distress made Eshe sad and brought tears to her eyes.
“Adilah, you know that Harmony left America to help people? Why are you angry with her?”
Adilah would not be pacified.
“Not just her, but all the so-called good people who left us to rot. No one came to help us! Remember how they raped us? How they killed so many of us? Made our brothers into soldiers and forced us from our homes?”
Eshe was becoming distraught and turned away, sobbing.
Harmony maintained eye contact with Adilah.
“Don’t look at me with such pity,” Adilah said indignantly to Harmony.
Harmony didn’t defend herself, and lowered her eyes.
Adilah began to pace the floor.
“I wish I could just be like you,” she said, hands on her hips. “You are both happy and peaceful and calm. I want to be like that! But inside I feel… so many things. All at once. I feel like a pot that is boiling over!”
Adilah’s face displayed the intensity of her feelings. The blocks had come loose, and the ship of emotion was accelerating down the slipway.
“I still dream they are on top of me,” she said with a trembling voice. “I still see the flames of the fire that burned me. All the hot cocoa in the world cannot make this better,”
Harmony sat still, but her eyes were beginning to sting.
“I know they will come to this place,” continued Adilah. “They will find us. If they are raised from the dead, they will find us and make us their property again. Jesus should keep them dead!” Her voice was now raised. “Or torture them like they tortured us! Is he not the judge? Are they not guilty?”
Eshe turned to Harmony, trauma beginning to etch her face. “Yes, he should keep them dead! If they stay dead, they will truly never find us!”
Harmony could sense panic was rising in Adilah and Eshe. She could see their reasoning and understood their anxiety.
“I am hearing you,” she said firmly.
Eshe stood up and came to Adilah’s side.
“Or maybe it’s better that we stayed dead?” she said, desperately. “Harmony, tell us. What can really stop the bad men finding us here?”
“What if the bad men were kept away until they were no longer bad men?” asked Harmony, careful to keep her voice calm and reassuring.
Adilah and Eshe looked at one another for a second and then turned back to Harmony.
“How can this be?” asked Eshe.
“Jesus determines who is in each community and prevents communities mixing. He is making everyone new. Every single person is going through a process designed to help them live in Agape Love. Think of it this way, those bad men you knew – in a way they won’t exist anymore, because what made them bad will be healed within them.”
Adilah and Eshe were listening.
“Let me tell you about a man called Saul. He was very aggressive in his religious beliefs. He hurt people who disagreed with him. He even looked on as they were killed by angry mobs. Jesus came to him one day and Saul’s heart began to change in a big way. So much so that his name was changed to Paul. So, in a way, Saul was destroyed, and Paul was the new and healed version of the man. The same divine essence lived in both, but the person after the encounter was very different to the original.”
“But will they be changed as quickly?” asked Adilah sincerely.
“Probably not, but they might! Saul was obviously ready to accept who Jesus wanted him to be. He changed a lot in a few years, and some who come into communities on the New Earth are able to do the same. However, most people take a long time to learn all they need to, and to let go of their harmful twisted desires. But everyone will get there eventually, Papa God’s Agape love never fails. Every person is important to Papa God, and he will know when they are ready for complete reconciliation.”
Adilah suddenly seemed tired. Looking deflated, she sat down cross-legged on the wooden deck.
After several minutes of reflective silence, Adilah spoke up again.
“I wish I could see Jesus again now. When we first met, he answered some of my questions. But I have many more questions now.”
“That’s ok, that’s normal,” encouraged Harmony. “Maybe you could write your questions down?”
Adilah look upset again. “See, there it is! We never learned to read or write! We were not educated like you in the West!”
Harmony was disappointed in herself for not thinking. She didn’t mean to hurt Adilah and quickly apologised. “Adilah, I am sorry. I should’ve thought before I spoke. I shouldn’t have assumed.”
Adilah looked at Harmony and for the first time in the conversation there was a look of dignity in her eyes.
“I am not ashamed that I am uneducated with reading and writing and the things they taught in school.” Adilah’s eyes sparked to life, and her mouth cracked a smile. “But I can cook, and I can sew, and I can dress any wound you show to me.”
Eshe nodded, feeling dignified by Adilah’s words.
Harmony internally noted the conversation and gave thanks that her faux par had led to Adilah affirming herself.
“Please forgive me. I want to learn more about your lives. I don’t want to presume anything.”
“It’s ok,” said Eshe. “You’re a good person, Harmony.”
Harmony was grateful for the reconciliation. The three women sat in silence, watching the birds above the treetops.