Faithful Remnant Series

A faithful remnant,

reserved through the ages,

by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

by Debra Dian

Carthage, North Africa of the Roman Empire – Third Century

Elder Caelius hovered near the front door of his cottage, like a shepherd watching over his sheep, expecting his small congregation to arrive for Sunday evening worship. Upon hearing a faint tap at the front door, he quickly ushered Horatius and his family inside, taking a quick look outside for anyone who had seen them, then quickly he shut the door. Twilight would soon turn to darkness providing cover for the others on the way. Then Caelius paused. Remembering, he and his flock were kept safe under the shadow of the almighty. God’s peace calmed his anxious thoughts.

Horatius and his wife took seats at a long table, warmly lit with oil lamps, while the children stayed with Caelius’ wife, Lydia, at a smaller table near the fireplace. Cozy around the hearth where embers still glowed from baking bread, they waited for the others to arrive, warming the chill away from the walk in the cool misty rain. Then they would hear a story about Jesus while having their bread and milk.

Since the Christian community of Carthage1 had faced persecution for several years, many had been quietly gathering for worship and prayer in the homes of the elders. So in 202 AD, when the Roman emperor, Septimius Severus, enacted a law restricting Christian activities, they had been prepared spiritually to remain steadfast. The emperor had feared Christian influence on society and considered such influence a danger to his military style of governance. With generals and legions of armies at his command everywhere in the Roman Empire, including the favored city of Carthage, Christians became easy prey for arrest, victims of false rumors promulgated by suspicion and envy. Many had been thrown into dungeons, tortured and then executed or even cast to wild beasts at public festivals.

Soon Marcus and Silvanus arrived with their wives and children, proudly bringing their tithes to God, a portion of their week’s prosperity, gifts to the elder and his wife.

Happy to see them safely arrive, Caelius greeted them with a hug, a holy kiss, a quick touching together of the cheeks. ” My dear brothers, thank you for olive oil, oil for the lamps, light for reading the scriptures. And wine, wine for communion. Bless you.”

Still smiling, he stooped down to see eye to eye with the little ones. Marcus and his wife Julia, the youngest couple had one daughter, Marianne, age three. Silvanus and his wife Porcia had two children, Timothy, age four and Tryphena, age six.  They would join Horatius and Sarah’s five-year-old twins, Michael and Gabriel, who were already waiting at the small table near the fireplace. “Now go along children, sit with the others. Ms. Lydia will read you a story. I’m sure she has a treat for you too.”

Marcus, Silvanus and their wives proceeded to seat themselves at the long table with Horatius and his wife. Elder Caelius took his place at the head of the table and began singing a song of praise to Christ the Lord. The others joined in singing acappella.

Then elder Caelius, privileged to have a copy of the Memoirs of the Apostles (the Gospels), began reading from the writings of Apostle Matthew concerning the Lord’s teaching to his disciples about how to pray, fast and give. After reading the scripture everyone said, “Amen.” Then Caelius gave a brief exhortation on the disciplines of praying, fasting and giving. At the elder’s prompting all stood, held hands and bowed their heads in agreement with the closing prayer.

After all were seated again, all eyes focused on the tray in front of elder Caelius. He poured a little wine into a silver chalice, reserved only for communion. Then he added water from a silver pitcher. Next to the silver chalice was a fresh baked loaf of bread. After the bishop said a special prayer of blessing on the Eucharist, everyone said Amen. Solemnly, the blessed cup of wine and bread were passed, each one taking a small portion from the cup and the bread. The remaining elements were saved to distribute to Horatius’ mother-in-law, who remained at home because she was unable to walk.

Then after singing another song of praise to Christ the Lord, they took up a small offering for the widows and orphans in the village since elder Caelius planned to visit them during the week.

Caelius rubbed his chin, stroked his beard, thinking of a topic to open up conversation with his congregation. “Thank you all for coming. I know you love our Lord Jesus when you risk your lives to come hear the scriptures and pray. We should remember our brothers and sisters in prison. Those who are in prison merely for sharing the wonderful news about Salvation.”

Everyone remained quiet, not knowing what to say, so Silvanus spoke up. “Thank you Brother Caelius for encouraging us. Teaching us. Teaching us what pleases God. To not fear. Trust Jesus. Never deny our faith in him. Even if we must suffer.”

Marcus nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, even our Lord suffered. For us! So that we can have life forever with him.”

Caelius’ eyes sparkled with joy. Joy for knowing his brothers understood. “Remember, the suffering of Jesus was temporary. Likewise, if any one of us should suffer, it’s only for a short time. Jesus is always with us to give us strength. Strength to do whatever he has already planned for us to do.”

Horatius’ wife, Sarah, looked at her husband with questioning eyes. Without her saying a word, he knew what was on her mind and turning to Caelius he asked on her behalf. “Caelius, do you know about the welfare of Avitus and Tulia’s children? Has anyone taken them into their home?”

Avitus and Tulia had been part of the congregation meeting at the elder’s home for Sunday worship. And the week prior they had been arrested by Roman guards and put into prison to await trial for “unlawful activity.”

Elder Caelius, although deeply saddened by the arrest, remained a steadfast pillar of strength. “Their children are very unhappy, but well. Taken good care of by their Aunt Prisca and her husband and family. Believers they are, but meeting with another elder in a village nearby.”

Horatius looked lovingly at his wife Sarah. “See, God has answered our prayers.” Then looking back at the elder he added. “We’ve been praying about whether to offer our home to the children after we heard of their parent’s arrest.”

“Very kind of you. Keep praying for Avitus and Tulia! Release from prison is quite possible. A friend of mine, also an elder, has written a letter of defense to the governor. He was educated and trained as a lawyer. Later became a Christian–a defender of the faith. He’s written a letter of commendation, upholding the integrity of Avitus and Tulia. Their only ‘crime’ was telling a neighbor about their personal faith in Jesus.”

Wide-eyed with wonder, Horatius and Sarah were encouraged. “Oh we hope for their quick release…of course we’ll keep praying!”

Sarah and the other wives excused themselves from the table to gather with Lydia and the children, chattering about sewing projects, while the men discussed business and events happening in Carthage.

Chapter Two

Caelius and his wife, Lydia had grown content in their role as shepherds of a small flock of God’s chosen within their small village in Carthage. Their small flock included many children which made up for lack of children of their own.  Lydia had been given the gift of midwifery, birthing babies and helping new mothers with their newborns. Like a grandmother, a maternal bond had developed between her and the babies she had helped bring into the world. As well as with the young mothers she had cared for, extending even as the children grew older. Hence, Caelius also inherited his role as head grandpapa to all the children of his flock. This he treasured just as much as being an elder.

Grandpapa treasured the time teaching children because he himself had been taught from a very young age by a Christian elder–educated in reading and writing Greek and Latin, as well as literature and math. Many of his childhood friends had not the privilege of education, instead they had worked along with their parents in the fields, vineyards and olive groves or with livestock or as merchants in the agora. When he became an adult he considered himself most fortunate for having learned to read Greek and study the holy scriptures. Thus he had been given the responsibility of leading and teaching his small congregation about Salvation and how to live a life that pleases God.

He also considered himself fortunate to have his good wife, Lydia. And now that they were older, sorrow from not having their own children had been replaced with celebration for children they had helped save out of the world.

Now it was Monday, the day Caelius routinely took a gift of food and clothing to widow Chloe, who had taken seven orphan children into her home–children she had rescued because their own parents had died or were in prison. Mother Chloe always wore a brown, knee length shawl that also covered the head like a hood. When asked why she, a widow, did not wear black, she had said, “brown is down to earth, like myself and close enough to black–not as obvious to would-be predators that I’m alone–besides, Jesus is always near–he takes good care of me.”

Elder Caelius took the money collected during evening worship and set out early in the morning, walking to the agora a few miles away. He had laced up his sandals, wrapped and tucked his brown toga over his robe and had pulled a small cart behind him. As usual the agora was already packed with people bargaining with the merchants for the best price. He gave a head nod of respect to the Roman guard watching over from a tower nearby. He bargained with the various merchants as expected while he purchased fruit, vegetables, flour, oil, honey and fresh fish, then placed them in a cart and headed toward Chloe’s cottage nearby.

Along the way, it occurred to him to change the day for this ministry to varied days in the event he was being watched by Roman authorities. He had already been careful not to appear to be holding a church service for the children. So when he arrived to deliver the items, widow Chloe greeted him as brother, which spiritually he was a brother. To the children, he was Uncle Caelius bringing a gift of food along with clothing from Aunt Lydia.  Most likely widow Chloe was being watched by Roman authorities too, especially on Sunday, so she refrained from bringing the children to Sunday worship at the elder’s home. Instead every day, morning and evening, she told them stories about Jesus along with other stories based on her own childhood memories.

Chloe and the children had prepared a special treat for Uncle Caelius, so when he arrived the children jumped up and down with excitement, looking at the cart full of goodies.

Chloe stood up from her special chair, cushioned with embroidered pillows, bowing her head in honor of an elder of the church. “Good day Brother Caelius! The children and I have anticipated your arrival with great joy.” Smiling from the heart, she motioned for Caelius to be seated at the table.

One of the children, the youngest one, Priscilla interrupted. “Ms. Chloe was telling us a story!”

Uncle Caelius turned toward little Priscilla and said. “Hope my arrival prevented not your hearing the entire story?”

Priscilla frowned a little, but then smiled. “We can hear the story another time.”

“Certainly not. We shall hear Ms. Chloe’s entire story.” At that, groaning from stiff knees, he lowered himself and sat on the stone floor along with the children. Then he instructed Ms. Chloe to return to her chair and finish the story, from beginning to end.

Ms. Chloe took her seat, grinning from ear to ear, while Priscilla, Jonathan, Clem, Phoebe, Arius, Fabia and Val smiled curiously at Uncle Caelius now seated cross-legged on the floor beside them. Arius relieved that he had just swept the floor where they were sitting.  

Ms. Chloe placed folded hands in her lap. She had the habit of using her arms, as well as her hands and facial expressions throughout storytelling. She stooped down and hugged little Priscilla who was next to her and then while scooting back into her chair she pointed and waved her hand over all the children.

“Our story today is called, Jesus Loves Children.”2

” Jesus is God with us. Immanuel! God came down from heaven, a baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem just as the prophets had foretold.” Ms. Chloe pretended to rock a baby in her arms while some of the children followed, pretending to rock a baby.

“Jesus grew to manhood having favor with God and man. He was a carpenter by trade, but his ministry was to proclaim the good news about Salvation. Heal the sick. Give sight to the blind.” Ms. Chloe pretended to hammer a nail. Then she covered her eyes with her hands. Upon removing her hands, her eyes popped wide open with surprise. Amazed that her eyes could see.

 “One particular day of his ministry, he went to be alone with his disciples on a hillside to pray.” Ms. Chloe folded her hands to pray.

“A great crowd followed him because they had seen him heal the sick. Jesus, filled with compassion, healed all those who were sick and when evening came he asked his disciples where they could buy bread to feed the crowd.”

“Perplexed, his disciples explained that even a year’s wages would not be enough to feed more than 5,000 people. Then Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples, presented a young boy who offered his five loaves of bread and two fish to help feed the people. Jesus instructed the people to sit down on the grass. He took the bread and fish which the young boy had given, said a prayer of thanksgiving and distributed them to the people. After everyone had enough to eat, his disciples gathered the leftover bread which filled twelve baskets.”

“At first, the need had seemed overwhelming. Yet, this young boy entrusted the little that he had to Jesus, who made his gift fit the need.”

“Another time people brought their children to Jesus to be blessed, but his disciples prevented them. Jesus rebuked them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

“Then one day when Jesus was in the temple at Jerusalem, children shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ God had caused praise to come forth from children. And this too fulfilled prophesy about the Messiah.”

“Another time Jesus’ disciples had asked Jesus, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he placed a child among them and said, ‘Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

“Jesus, God with us, was born to die, to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind.” Ms. Chloe made the sign of a cross with her arms.

Then to end the story, Ms. Chloe raised her eyes and hands heavenward and said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”3

She asked the children if they had any questions. When they shook their heads no, she invited everyone to take a seat at the table.

“Brother Caelius, the children and I have prepared raisin cake as a special treat to celebrate your visit!”

He had already taken a seat at the end of the table. “What a delight! Your raisin cake is always delicious!” He smiled at each of the children and then at Phoebe who was bringing the cake to the table.

Ms. Chloe stood at the other end of the table cutting the cake, placing a small piece on each plate and passing the first slice to the guest of honor. Then after the other plates were passed and everyone had a piece of cake, Uncle Caelius said a prayer of thanksgiving.

While everyone nibbled cake, Ms. Chloe poured fresh milk into each cup. Daily, neighbor Lucas brought them fresh milk and eggs, so she had made an extra raisin cake for him too.

Two of her orphans, Jonathan and Val were old enough to help neighbor Lucas at his farm. They helped him three days a week with cleaning the barn and other easy chores that they could do. And a few times they had gone early in the morning to observe the milking and gathering of eggs, then perhaps in time they could help with these chores too. The other children, Priscilla, Clem, Arius and Fabia attended Chloe in her daily routine, helping or observing the cleaning, cooking and sewing.

Without a doubt, widow Chloe had not taken the children into her home because she needed help with chores. No, she had rescued them from death. Priscilla, when just an infant, had been secretly ransomed from slavery or idol sacrifice. Jonathan and Clem had been found wandering in the streets looking for food after their parents had been put in prison for an unpaid debt. A Roman guard, a friend and a believer in Christ, had brought them to Ms. Chloe to take care of until their parents would be released. Then another Roman guard, aware of widow Chloe having already taken in three orphans, brought four more to her. Children in similar circumstances, destitute and needing someone to care for them.

No, she had no need for help with chores. She was considered elderly at age sixty, but she was strong, energetic and wise. Most of all, she loved these children as her own. And they knew it.  

Caelius, now refreshed, decided it was time to leave to get home in time to have his afternoon devotional and to help Lydia with the evening chores. He stood and to show respect, bowed his head, then smiled with his eyes. “Ms. Chloe, children, thank you very much for sharing this scrumptious cake with me. And thank you for the beautiful story. Both shall carry me home in good spirits.”

As Ms. Chloe and the children walked with Uncle Caelius to the end of the villa to bid him farewell, Chloe’s neighbor, Valeria passed by. She, also a widow, lived in the cottage on the other side of the villa and was returning from the agora with a basket full of fruit and cheese.

She smiled and waved, clutching her black shawl under her chin to prevent the breeze from uncovering her head. “Good day everyone! Hope your day has been a pleasant one!”

Everyone responded favorably, the children reporting their good fortune of having raisin cake and then Priscilla added, “…and Jesus loves children!”

Valeria raised her eyebrows and said, “Oh my!” Then to express not knowing what else to say she placed the tip of her hand over her lips and walked on. Then cautiously she looked back and waved goodbye.

Chloe waived goodbye to Valeria and then turned to waive goodbye again to elder Caelius. Both Chloe and Caelius sighed in their hearts. Their peaceful fellowship had ended on a tense note. With apprehension Valeria had turned away from them upon hearing the name of Jesus. Widow Valeria was not a believer and she lived with her son, his wife and children who were not believers. Valeria was also known to be a gossip. Would she talk about Priscilla’s comment about Jesus, implicating elder Caelius? Would she report it to the Roman authorities?

Chapter Three

The Elders of Carthage, chosen to lead their congregations, had kept the practice of meeting together at least once a month. They encouraged each other in teaching the commands of Christ and living a life of holiness at home and in their community. Each congregation also had several deacons, who had been selected to serve and assist the elders because they had proven to be leaders in love, faithfulness and purity.

This month the elders had planned to meet at the home of Caelius and his wife Lydia. They cleaned and baked as they prayed for the arrival of the elders on Wednesday morning. Caelius’ good friend, Quintus Tertullian,4 arrived first on horseback. Caelius, hearing the snorting horse, stepped outside the door with arms open wide. “Good morning my dear Brother Quintus!”

Lydia quickly wrapped her new blue shawl over her head and around her shoulders. She had made it to match her blue linen dress which was cinched about the waist with an embroidered sash. Stepping up behind Caelius, she thought he looked especially handsome today in the new brown robe and black cloak she had made. Respectfully, she bowed her head to greet elder Quintus.

Caelius guided Quintus to walk with him. “Lovely morning to walk over to Horatius’ stable. He will care of your horse while we meet.” He turned toward Lydia, “Dear, we will return shortly. If the other elders arrive before we return, direct them over to the stable.” She nodded then waved goodbye.

Caelius walked beside Quentis who led his horse by the reins toward the stable. His horse was lively and let it be known he would prefer to gallop than walk, kicking up dust over them. “My apologies Caelius! My horse is young. Needing more lessons.” Quentis laughed as he added. “Like me when I was young–rebellious–needing to learn obedience.”

Caelius chuckled. “No apology necessary. I always praise God for his marvelous work of–of redirecting your zeal…I remember when you argued with our instructor about Greek grammar, turning it into a philosophical discussion–yet now you defend the truth.”

Quintus chuckled along with Caelius as both pondered pleasant thoughts of the past, remembering when they were boys learning to read and write Greek and Latin–privileged to have a tutor to teach them every afternoon at Quintus’ home. Although, at the time, they had thought the privilege a drudgery. At the time, they could not foresee the great worth of reading and writing–only that working outside in the fields or vineyards as other friends, seemed more fun than being confined inside to study language and math.

But as time progressed, the treasure of education became apparent. Each one had gone their separate ways–Caelius becoming a Christian and studying the scriptures, while around the same time Quintus had gone to Rome to study law and philosophy. Later, however, after having become a believer in Christ, Quintus had found his way back home to Carthage.

When they arrived to the stable, Horatius was busy repairing a horseshoe. Blacksmithing, his family heritage, suited him well since he loved horses and working with tools. He looked up and smiled at the sight of the elders, greeting them heartily. He wiped his hands on a cloth and then taking the horse by the reins, he carefully led the horse to a stall. Soothingly, he stroked the horses mane. “Ah, here’s a grand prince.”

“My good man, Horatius, it’s very evident my horse will be in good hands. Thank you.” Quintus patted his horse’s side to say goodbye.

Caelius beamed a smile of satisfaction toward his deacon. “Thank you Horatius. The other elders should be coming along shortly.”

“Honored to be of service.” Horatius bowed halfway then waved goodbye as the elders walked back down the cobbled road.

As they walked, Caelius thought of his church members, Avitus and Tulia, imprisoned for their testimony of faith in Christ. “Quintus, have you received a response from the letter you wrote to the emperor on behalf of our young couple in prison?”

Quintus looked directly at Caelius, eyes sparkling, then seeing a tree stump on the side of the road, he walked over, stepped upon it, taking a stance as if to make a speech. Raising one hand to the sky he began speaking to his audience of one.

“In my letter to our most excellent Emperor Septimius Severus, I explained that Avitus and Tulia are outstanding, law-abiding citizens of Carthage. They have worked hard as merchants, selling pottery at the agora…They have paid their taxes…They pray regularly for the good welfare of Carthage, Rome and the Emperor…Further, I explained that our witnesses agree that Avitus and Tulia were merely responding to a question when asked about their faith in Christ. It would have been rude for them not to answer the question. They were not, as accused, teaching about Christ uninvited. I also quoted from a recent collection of my writings…

We conquer in dying; we go forth victorious at the very time we are subdued…As the divine and human are ever opposed to each other, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by the Highest. 6

Caelius stood amazed, caught up in the fervor of his friend’s speech, he jubilantly applauded. “Excellent! Excellent!”

As the two walked on in silence it occurred to Caelius that he had applauded his friends excellent skills of speaking and writing, his logic in disputing injustice and defending truth, but would this help Avitus and Tulia? Or make it worse for them? Time will tell. He marveled at his friend’s boldness at rebuking the emperor, yet he himself had not been arrested. This was an encouragement he held on to.

Elder Caelius and Lydia proved to be good hosts, making their guests feel as if they were angels visiting from heaven. The four elders from the four corners of Carthage achieved their desired goal–they were encouraged, refreshed and ready to press on in serving their congregations.

Lydia and Caelius proved to be good hosts, making their guests feel comfortable and at home. The four elders from the four corners of Carthage had achieved their objective. They had been encouraged–they had been refreshed–ready to press on in serving their congregations.

Over time, the four elders had learned to balance out the longtime friendship of Caelius and Quintus and the more recent friendships with Simeon and Justin by mentoring–Caelius with Simeon and Quintus with Justin. Simeon and Justin were younger and time mentoring with Caelius and Quintus separately before the four met monthly had helped to balance out their comradery.

Quintus had offered to mentor Justin assuming they had something in common. Justin had been born soon after his namesake, Justin Martyr, had been beheaded by Roman authorities. Justin Martyr had refused to renounce faith in Christ or to offer a sacrifice to a Roman idol. Like Quintus, Justin Martyr had been a philosopher, a defender of the faith.

Justin, however, although he admired his namesake, was content to be an ordinary elder, as he called himself. Quiet, but not timid. He made use of most opportunities to speak about Christ, but in a quiet manner. Most often in everyday conversations he found a way to speak about the God of creation or the teachings of the Lord Christ in a way that seemed natural and appealing. Quintus encouraged young Justin in his quiet, easy-going manner. In fact, it was Quintus who learned from Justin to temper the negative side of his zeal or outbursts of impatience.

And after time, Simeon had come to value Caelius’ guidance in their study of the scriptures. Understanding the Greek definitions, understanding context and finding complementary scriptures that gave confirmation to the meaning. And Caelius, in humility, learned to appreciate his young friend’s fresh insight.

Chapter Four

Thoughts of Marcus and Silvanus interrupted Caelius’ morning devotional time. He reread the scripture he had just read, but thoughts about Marcus and Silvanus returned.

He could hear Lydia moving about. She had just awakened, rising out of bed, she stretched and yawned, then twisted her long, silver hair with a long narrow strip of blue cloth wrapping the braid around her head like a wreath. Wrapping a shawl over her nightgown, she came out to the fireplace to add more kindling to heat water for washing, then quietly climbed the steps of the loft where Caelius’ desk was situated. It was his private place of study and prayer. She hugged him from behind his back while he sat at his desk, lightly kissing his bearded cheek. He embraced her hand resting on his shoulder and then blew a kiss after her because she had already quickly turned back down the steps.

Their cottage was small, only three rooms with an arched doorway separating each room. The front room had the larger table used for worship on Sundays, with his small study in a loft at one end. It was a simple study with a desk, chair and shelves of books, parchments and ink. The front room had been decorated with a woven wall hanging and the long rectangular table adorned with oil lamps and a silver tray holding the silver chalice and water pitcher.  The room on the other side had a smaller round table next to the fireplace used for cooking and baking. Beside the fireplace, was Lydia’s chair cushioned with an embroidered pillow. She had also embroidered the same floral design on the curtain covering a small window that looked out over a courtyard used for washing and hanging clothes to dry. Looking out from the window one could see a small garden of herbs and flowers. At the other end of the front room was the bedroom. There, he could see Lydia from the corner of his eye, down on her knees, kneeling at the foot of the bed, praying to God. This was her morning routine.

Yet again thoughts of Marcus and Silvanus returned. He let it be. Thinking of them and their wives and children. All had attended worship at his home the past Sunday. They had brought fresh grapes from their harvest work to give to Lydia. As harvest workers, they had always given to their pastor, a portion of their harvest from the wheat fields, olive groves, orchards, vineyards, and vegetable and herb gardens. They had been weary from the long day, but seemed refreshed after worship and communion. But they also seemed concerned about a quarrel that had erupted among the harvesters the past week. A dispute over religious practice.

He thanked God for them, asking God to give them strength, protection and peace. There! Now peace was his. He finished reading, then prayed for himself and Lydia. Strength, courage, protection, peace, and most of all, love. Love for God and love for others.

Caelius opened his eyes to see Lydia sitting quietly by the fireplace, smiling, patiently waiting for him to finish. He got up from his desk, stepped over and kissed her smiling face. “Since you look so perfectly content and comfortable sitting there, you rest while I serve you breakfast.”

Lydia grimaced, uncertain that he could manage.

Caelius ignored his wife’s doubtful look and proceeded to set the table with plates and utensils. A basket of fruit and small covered bowls of butter and honey were already on the table. Surprised with delight, Lydia watched as he roasted two servings of wheat kernels in a long-handled kettle on the fire.

He then added salt, olive oil and water to finish cooking the kernels. While the wheat berries cooked he warmed two slices of bread in the oven and placed them on each plate. “See, dear woman, I have watched you do this every morning. How did I do?”

Lydia laughed, then clasped her hands together to show approval. “Wonderful! So now I know if something happens to me, you can take care of yourself.”

Realizing his efforts were misunderstood, he shook his head no. “Oh, but dear, I did this to help you, not for you to know I can take care of myself. I wanted to serve you! Give you a rest!”

His kindness touched her heart. “Thank you. You know how weary I am after yesterday.”

She thought about the day before which had started just after midnight, running out into the night following Gloria’s husband who had frantically knocked on their door, taking her bag with her, her Birthing Bag, as she called it. Gloria’s birthing had been the most difficult ordeal in years, leading her to make a firm decision to train someone younger in the village to take over her midwifery duties. 

After returning home late last evening, she had relieved her burdened mind upon Caelius’ listening ear, sharing details of the most difficult moments. Moments when there was doubt that Gloria would survive. Moments when it appeared that one of the babies had died, but then began gasping for air.  At the time, she had not the energy to talk more about it. Now, perhaps would be a good time to talk about Gloria’s husband.

After Caelius said a prayer of thanksgiving for their meal, he asked Lydia what other chores she had planned for the day. She thought for a moment and then verbally listed things she had planned, but then added that they could wait till another day. “Except for the grapes…grapes drying in the sun need tending to…making bread…oh, and curds with the leftover milk.”  

Caelius had never made the bread before, but he had observed Lydia. “You rest!” He lovingly commanded. “Work on your mending or sewing while you give me instructions on making bread. I will check on the grapes. And I know you sweep the floor and wash clothes every morning…so I will do that too. And I think it would be a good for you to take a nap too.”

Lydia pleasantly, humbly accepted. “Thank you dear. Very well, after breakfast, I will take a nap while you sweep and do the washing. Then I’ll bring my sewing to the table while you make the bread.” Her face glowed with joy as she pondered how interesting the day should prove to be.

Lydia sweetly slept while Caelius quietly swept the floor, washed clothes and hung them to dry. Then he peeked in to see Lydia still sleeping so he started heating up milk to make a small brick of cheese. He was proud of his skill at making cheese for their household, something he had learned from his dad when he was a boy. While he waited for the milk mixture to cool and thicken he went out to check on the grapes.

Lydia awakened, washed her face and hands, changed into a floor length dress and cinched it at the waist with an embroidered sash to make it just the right length. Walking over to the table, she peeked into the bowl of milk mixture, sniffed and realized Caelius had made cheese and that he must have gone outside to tend to the grapes drying in the sun. She retrieved her basket of sewing, her embroidery work, making decorative sashes for dresses and sat down in her chair next to the fireplace. She sighed as she realized she had promised three more sashes to a merchant to sell in the agora.

As she was getting organized to begin embroidering, Caelius came inside smelling like grapes. Lydia smiled with amusement. “Are you feeling better?” Caelius asked as he wiped off his hands.

Lydia’s sparkling eyes answered his question. “Still a little sleepy, but rested. Thank you.”

“Good! Now, I have taken care of the grapes and waiting for the cheese mixture to set…I think we should make the bread dough now and then have dinner while we wait for it to rise. What should I do first to make the dough?”

“Oh, so organized you are!” Lydia chuckled with delight. “Alright then, first we need a little warm water, so maybe a little more kindling on the fire. Then get that big bowl over there…some flour, oil, salt and a little yeast.”

Between instructions to Caelius, Lydia embroidered a floral design of green vine with purple flowers, enjoying the rest, the warmth of the fireplace and Caelius’ joy in helping.

However, by the end of the day, Caelius was the one found napping in the chair by the fire while Lydia cleaned the dinner dishes.

Chapter Five

As a midwife, it was Lydia’s practice to visit the family after a new birth, checking on the mother’s recovery and baby’s health. And even though paid for her services she always brought a gift, an embroidered towel for baby’s bath. Usually a follow-up visit was expected within a week and since the birth of Gloria’s twins had been traumatic, Lydia agreed to check on them in three days, unless needed sooner.

True to her word, three days after the delivery of Gloria’s twin baby girls, she gathered her birthing bag and baby’s gift and set out to visit mother and twins. Enjoying the cool autumn day, although feeling somewhat weak, walking seemed to energize her. Caelius had seemed concerned about letting her go back again, offering to go along. And Lydia did not reveal her own apprehension. However, they had both agreed that Caelius’ sudden appearance may seem like a threat to Gloria’s husband. Now, as she was on the way, the uneasy feelings became more intense, remembering Gloria’s husband, Jerome, had clearly let it be known that he disapproved of Gloria’s new found faith in Jesus Christ.

Several weeks earlier during a visit, she had found Gloria in tears. She had poured out her heart to Lydia, a heart full of anguish over disagreements with her husband. Jerome had been away, working at the agora. He was a merchant who sold spices and various things. Lydia had used the time alone with Gloria to comfort and counsel her concerning marriage to an unbeliever. Their friendship had grown closer in this trial they shared, a new friendship that had begun during Gloria’s pregnancy.

Although their friendship began based on Gloria’s maternity, Gloria had been intrigued by Lydia’s faith in Christ. She had asked Lydia many questions about God and Messiah. Lydia graciously explained the way of Salvation and her own faith in Christ. Soon after, Gloria believed in Christ’s Salvation for herself. However, her overflowing joy soon turned to disappointment when Jerome refused to allow her to attend worship with Caelius and Lydia in their home. Gloria had cried for days.

Lydia had consoled and explained that God expected a woman to obey her husband and not quarrel. She encouraged her to win her husband to Christ with a gentle and quiet spirit. Lydia had agreed to meet with Gloria weekly while Jerome was away, to pray with her and teach her some of the scriptures she had memorized so that she could know how to live for Jesus. She had left that day with Gloria happy and encouraged.

Later, the night the twins were born, Gloria had experienced horrendous pain followed by exhaustion, and then it seemed as though she had become unconscious. The second baby still in the birth canal, struggled for life until Lydia helped bring the baby out. Then the child lay lifeless in her arms as she cried out from her heart, Oh God, breathe life into this little one.

Finally, after turning the baby over on her lap, rubbing her back with gentle pressure, then clearing baby’s throat and nostrils, gentle breathing began. At the same moment, Gloria recovered and cried out with joy upon seeing two babies–baby Noah cuddled in Jerome’s arms, while Lydia held baby Nellie who began crying out from her traumatic entry into life.

Jerome placed baby Noah in Gloria’s arms and sighed with great relief in seeing his wife recover. “Now we know why we could not decide on one name for a girl. Because we have two.”

Gloria kissed baby Noah’s cheek while lovingly watching Lydia wrap baby Nellie in a blanket. “Two sweet girls–Noah and Nellie.”

Later, Jerome prepared a late breakfast for everyone while Lydia took care of changing bedding and bathing babies. After breakfast, Lydia gave the new mother instructions on breast feeding baby Noah while she sat in a chair close by watching over baby Nellie in the cradle.

Lydia thanked God that day for his intervention. The long dark night before had been full of despair when death seemed so close. Yet he had blessed them, sparing them sorrow in death. Instead of losing mother and babies, all three were radiant with life.

However, later that afternoon, Jerome seemed to have forgotten his appreciation for Lydia’s help with the birthing. His sister had dropped off a tray of food for Gloria who was still in bed recovering. As Jerome placed the tray of food on Gloria’s lap, he explained that the meat was special. It had been sacrificed to an idol, and he especially wanted her to have this blessing, an offering to his god. Gloria became nervous, but remembering what Lydia had taught her, she gently said thank you. Gloria nibbled on the vegetables and the bread, but did not touch the meat.

Jerome, who had brought a chair into the room to sit beside her, noticed that she had not eaten any meat. He became visibly perturbed at Gloria. “You are ignoring the meat just because Lydia is here!”

Gloria pleaded no, it was her stomach that was upset. But, Jerome turned to Lydia and accused her of encouraging his wife’s poor eating habits, ruining her health and the babies.

Both Lydia and Gloria had remained quiet, not knowing what to say. Lydia silently prayed to God for wisdom and direction, what to do in that tense moment? She knew that the scriptures clearly teach not to eat meat sacrificed to idols, if the one offering the meat has plainly proclaimed that it is meat offered to an idol and they entice you to eat it. It is an unbeliever’s way of getting someone to worship their god and dishonor the one true God and Christ whom he sent.

Lydia in an effort to pursue peace offered advice. “Jerome, perhaps, since you and Gloria are one in the bond of marriage, perhaps this time, since Gloria’s stomach is upset, perhaps you could eat the meat in front of her, on her behalf. So the meat will not go to spoil.”

Jerome huffed, grudgingly taking Gloria’s plate and ate the meat with his fingers. Gloria and Lydia smiled hoping to lighten the moment, hoping the issued had been resolved.

Lydia took a chance and for Gloria’s sake offered more advice. After all, giving marital and parental advice to young couples had become common practice in the midst of her midwife duties.  She had hoped to bring peace to a situation that could occur again.

“In the future, Jerome, I think perhaps if when you have meat that has been sacrificed to an idol, if you keep that fact to yourself, if you offer the meat as food, nothing else, I think perhaps then Gloria’s stomach would not be upset.”

Gloria grimaced hoping Jerome would not be angry, but he had huffed out of the room and scarcely spoke to either of them the remainder of the day.

Now today, three days later, on the way to follow-up, Lydia had hoped that he would be away working at the agora during her visit. She hoped to have a peaceful, pleasant visit with Gloria and the precious baby girls.

As she approached the cottage where Gloria and Jerome lived, she could see from a distance, someone standing outside the door. As she got closer she realized it was a soldier, a guard. She walked slower, thinking about what to do. Should she turn back or keep going? Why is a guard standing outside their door? She tried not to let fear paralyze her and kept walking. Bravely, she came up to the door and introduced herself to the guard, asking if Gloria, Jerome and the babies were alright. He did not answer her, but gruffly commanded her to wait. Then the guard knocked on the door and when Jerome peeked out through a narrow opening the guard asked, “Is this the woman you spoke about?”

Jerome opened the door wider and with an angry face he accused Lydia before the guard. “Yes! This is the woman who has turned my wife against me and the gods of Carthage and of Rome! Because of this woman, my wife claims to be a Christian. And this woman has been teaching her Christian ways, ways that are against Rome!”

Lydia froze with fear–thinking of turning to run for her life, but unable to move. Quickly the guard called for another soldier on a horse nearby. In a matter of moments the guard at the door had tied Lydia’s hands behind her back, then tied a rope around her while gruffly muttering that she was arrested for treason against Rome. With hands bound and girded with a rope fastened securely to the soldier, she was forced to walk along beside as he rode the horse.

Chapter Six

Lydia stared out across the small dark room looking intently for any of glimmer of light. She hugged her own shoulders with her cold, damp hands then laid her head down on raised up knees as she sat on the cold stone floor. She could only smell the dirty floor filled with filth she could not see. Earlier she had been with other prisoners in a larger dungeon room until her trial before a judge. Now, she waited until morning to be executed for treason. She could not deny any of the charges. She had talked with Gloria about Jesus the Christ. She explained to Gloria the teachings of Christ and of the Apostles–that it was wrong to bow down to an idol, to worship it or to eat meat sacrificed to an idol. And she had advised her husband Jerome, all without his consent. For these things the judge had declared her guilty of treason against Rome and then sentenced her to death. Now she awaited execution, alone.

Everything had happened so quickly. She thought of the days before when she had felt so loved and secure at home, sitting by the fireplace with Caelius. Now today, sitting in the corner of a dark dungeon room–her last day on earth–a day for her faith in Jesus to shine. Light even in a dark dungeon. Lydia stood and raised her arms high as she looked heavenward.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, help me to be strong in the power of your love. Help Gloria to remain strong in her faith and remember the things I taught her…gentleness, quietness, forgiveness…I pray that Jerome may believe in you too, Lord Jesus…I forgive him for having me arrested. Please Lord, bless Gloria and Jerome with all spiritual blessings.

Lord, help Caelius…help him to forgive…to remain strong…steadfast…to carry on…

Lydia felt the presence of God, the warmth and light of Jesus covering her in the darkness. Fresh tears washed her face.Lord, here I am…coming to you soon. Grant peace. Strength. Faith. Love…

It was already late afternoon and soon it would be dark. Caelius became worried for Lydia had not yet returned home. He prayed for wisdom. Lydia had described to him directions to Gloria’s cottage and he would need daylight to see the markers, the specific details of trees, flowers, homes and roads as she had described. Wrapped in his cloak he set out to find her.

As he walked, he chided himself for letting Lydia return to Gloria’s home by herself. Remembering, however, her strength and courage, her tactfulness in relationships and hoping she had gracefully handled Jerome’s ire. Perhaps gratefulness to Lydia for saving Gloria’s life and baby’s too would have soothed his anger. Hoping perhaps Lydia had just gotten caught up in taking care of Gloria and the babies.

He was somewhat relieved when he found the cottage that fit Lydia’s description–a stone house with a light blue wooden door, a small window with a white curtain, situated in sort of a valley next to a larger stone house on a hill behind with a stream flowing between. A very peaceful scene. He wished he had felt as serene. He prayed for courage, then knocked on the door. He could hear babies crying. Again, sure that this must be the house, a young man, petite in size, opened the door to peek out. Gruffly he asked, “What do you want?”

“My name is Caelius, Lydia’s husband. I have come to check on her, since it is almost dark and she has not yet returned home.”

Jerome opened the door wider, then squinting his eyes in anger he yelled. “Lydia has been arrested for treason against Rome! And if you ever come here again the same will be for you!” Then he slammed the door shut. At that, Caelius could hear a woman crying too, along with the babies.

Dazed, Caelius turned around and slowly walked back home, his mind overwhelmed with thoughts and questions.

Lydia arrested for treason? Absurd! Lydia has worked hard to bring new lives into the world! Treason? Balderdash!

He cried out to God for help. He sat at his desk most of the night, praying, crying out to God for Lydia’s release–praying for Carthage and Roman authorities. After an hour of sleep he arose again to sit at his desk to read the scriptures and pray.

As soon as it was daylight, he set out for Horatius’ stable to borrow a horse. He had planned to ride over to a guard station to visit a friend who may be able to help find out about Lydia. The same friend of widow Chloe, a Christian soldier who had brought orphans to her.

Horatius was deeply disturbed to hear about Lydia and gladly loaned the horse, promising to pray for them as he sent Caelius on his way.

Caelius thanked God for finding Jason at the guard station. He explained the situation and after a few hours of waiting, his friend returned. Caelius examined Jason’s face for any sign of good news. His friend dismounted his horse and commanded the soldier who had relieved him to take a break and take care of the horse. Somberly, Jason stood close and spoke quietly so not to be heard by anyone passing by.

“Caelius, my dear friend. I do not know how to tell you…but Lydia…Lydia was scheduled to be executed this morning. Beheaded. However, I pleaded for time–and the execution has been postponed.”

With mournful pain, Caelius quietly screamed inside as he looked down trying to maintain composure.

With empathy Jason continued. “The report read to me stated that Lydia had been arrested yesterday for treason against Rome. A citizen who hired her to midwife reported her to the local authorities. She was arrested and then a trial was held. She confessed guilty to the charges of treason against Rome. And there was some other detail–she taught his wife not to eat meat sacrificed to an idol…she did not deny the charges…refused to recant.”

Jason maintained his composure as a soldier and held out hope. “I am very sorry my friend. At least the execution has been postponed. We have three days.”

Caelius gently shook his friend’s shoulder in unspoken appreciation. Choking back tears. “It happened so quickly…what can be done in three days?”

Jason looked down, embarrassed to say, “The judge agreed to postpone for three days to give her another chance to recant.”

Proudly and emphatically Caelius shook his head no as he upheld Lydia’s faithfulness. “Not likely to happen. However, we will pray for God’s intervention.”

Caelius inquired if it would be possible to visit her in prison, but Jason strongly advised against it. “You could be arrested too Caelius. Especially if you show up…announce that you are her husband and begin defending her. And if I go along with you…well…the same could happen to me too.”

Exhausted but determined, Caelius asked for directions on where to find Lydia.

Jason thought for a few moments and then reluctantly gave directions with instructions to see the judge first. “Humbly seek permission just to visit Lydia and ask for an escort. Otherwise the guards could arrest you before you even see her.”

Caelius, understanding the danger Jason faced for helping him, graciously released him from that burden and bid him a fond farewell with a thankful heart. “One other favor…would you return this horse to Horatius. Tell him to gather with the others in our congregation to pray. Pray for Lydia’s release…pray for the judge…pray for the leaders of Carthage and Rome.”

In the shadow of the Almighty, Caelius stood alone at the crossroads, arms limp at his side, almost numb with exhaustion. He had slowly made his way along the cobblestoned streets, passing by many other people. People busy with their daily routines. Shopping. Shoe repair. Talking. Laughing. Children playing games in the street. Frivolous it seemed to him. Do they not know that innocent people are being killed? Executed for not any good reason! He seethed with anger. Injustice. He paused. He would have to forgive.

He found the courthouse just as Jason had described. It was small, but supposedly adequate for Carthage. Caelius politely informed the guard at the door that he had an appointment with the judge to discuss a legal matter, to which the guard gave a head nod of approval.

The judge sat out in open view, a middle-aged man, balding, properly dressed with robe and cloak, sitting at a long desk. Next to him sat a court clerk at a smaller desk with parchments, ink and quill, busily writing to record the events of the day. Across from the judge, along the wall, a bench with people waiting. The judge looked up from a parchment he was reading, then with a grumpy voice he asked Caelius, “What do you want?”

Caelius stepped closer in order to speak quietly to the judge. He bowed his head to show respect. “Most humbly I have come to ask permission to see my wife, Lydia. It is my understanding she is scheduled for execution in three days. Please understand, I am only wanting to see her, if permission is granted.”

“You may visit her. Perhaps you can convince her to recant.”

“Thank you, honorable Apelles. May I have one of your guards escort me to her location?”

Judge Apelles turned to the clerk and ask him to arrange for a guard to escort Caelius. Again Caelius bowed his head in respect. “Very grateful. Thank you.”

Caelius was quickly escorted to the dungeon where Lydia sat alone with only one oil lamp near the entrance for the guard to see the way along the corridor. The guard advised Caelius he had only one hour to visit and must speak to her through the bars on the door. Again, Caelius humbly expressed gratitude to which the guard reminded that he would return in one hour to escort him out.

Lydia upon hearing voices outside the door, particularly Caelius’ voice, had awakened from dozing and gone to the door. “Is that you Caelius?” She grabbed the bars on the door peeking out through the middle. Rejoicing at the welcome sight of her husband standing in the shadows.

“Yes, dear. Are you alright?” Wanting to retract the words as soon as he had spoken them. Of course, she was not alright.  

“Overjoyed at the sight of you. How did you find me? Do you know what is happening?”

With tears Caelius reviewed the events from the past twenty-four hours. “I feel like I should be in there with you. I believe the same as you, Lydia.”

Caelius embraced Lydia’s hands on the bars inside his own hands. “We learned it together when reading the scriptures…We uphold the testimony of faith in the one true God and the Christ whom he has sent. No other gods…no obeisance…even when asked to eat meat sacrificed to an idol as a sacred act of worship.”

Lydia quietly sobbed in agreement, “I know…I know.”

Caelius then uttered in sobs, “How could we dishonor Jesus the Christ who gave his life so that we could live…how could we turn against him just for a few more hours in this evil world…”

Lydia sniffled and replied. “Not I! Never! It is an honor to live or die for faith in the one true God and Jesus the Christ whom he has sent.”

Caelius kissed Lydia through the bars on the door. Embraced her hands again. Then stood back, quietly thinking about what to do next.

“I wish I could trade places with you Lydia.”

Lydia was silent for a moment, then realized he was serious. “Caelius I know you would do that for me…but I will not let you. No! Let God have his way in this.”

Both were silent for several moments. Then Lydia continued. “I…I am ready to go. I have…I have peace. Confident about God…confident he has completed his work in me…otherwise…I…I would not be here.”

“Of course our lives are in God’s hands. No one goes to heaven…or hell…before the time…the time already determined by God. But I can try.”

“Try what?”

Caelius placed his two forefingers over her lips and softly said, “Peace.”

Lydia quietly surrendered. Anyway, she knew that once Caelius had set his mind to something there was no stopping him. Both continued to embrace hands through the bars on the door, looking at each other in the dark through tears–knowing that likely it was the last time, till heaven.

The guard kept his word and returned to escort Caelius out. However, Caelius stopped and asked if he could speak with the judge again, just briefly, before he left. The guard reluctantly, but graciously escorted him back to the courthouse where Caelius was granted a few moments to speak with the judge.

“Your honorable Apelles, thank you for granting me your audience one more time. I am asking–pleading–may I take the place of my wife–release her and execute me instead.”

The judge looked shocked. Then sat back in his chair with arms folded, then a smirk came across his face. “Why would you want to do that?”

“You see, your honorable Apelles–my Lord, Jesus the Christ, has done that for me. He died in my place. Paid the penalty for my sin so I could go free. So I want to do the same for my wife.”

Seething with anger, the judge squinted his eyes, his voice a crescendo of loud authority. “Oh, I see, this has to do with your religion. I do not care about that. Your wife was arrested for a crime. Found guilty. And she will pay the penalty.”

Then with tempered anger the judge turned to the guard at the door. “Take this man out of here before I have him arrested for contempt.”

Caelius hung his head in disappointment as he shuffled out of the courthouse and walked back down the cobblestoned path. Not able go on without rest and remembering a small courtyard he had seen along the way, he found his way back there, a pleasant grassy area under a tree. There he leaned back upon the trunk of the tree and silently cried himself to sleep.

Chapter Seven

Several days later, on a Saturday morning, he awakened to a knock at his cottage door and found his small congregation standing outside, including Avitus and Tulia, who had just been released from prison. And with them, they had brought his childhood friend, elder Quintus. Overjoyed to see them all, forgetting his disheveled appearance, he graciously welcomed everyone inside.

Horatius became a spokesman for everyone and explained that after he had informed Marcus and Silvanus about Lydia’s death, they had decided to gather and encourage the pastor instead of waiting for Sunday, expecting pastor to encourage them.

Silvanus added. “In other words, instead of you working to take care of us, we want you to enjoy our caring for you.”

Horatius included. “Even though it is Saturday, we wanted to go ahead and surprise you, before you made preparations for worship tomorrow.”

As Caelius stood surprised and speechless, Quintus explained further. “My dear friend, we came to comfort you–worship with you–have communion. Your congregation here asked me to come along–to lead the worship so that you could rest–amazingly the same day, the day Horatius came to me–I received a letter.” Elder Quintus stood next to Avitus, placing his arm around his shoulder. “Our dear Avitus and Tulia had been pardoned by the Governor–So I brought them along too.”

Caelius smiled for the first time in days. “I sincerely appreciate everyone–your presence here today. Come! Everyone make yourselves comfortable at the two tables here.”

He quickly hugged Avitus and Tulia, then patted their children Paul and Esther on the head. “Praise God–what a delight to see your faces again!”

“Everyone make yourselves at home. I will return shortly.” Quickly, he went to the bedroom, washed his face, changed his clothes and reappeared to a congregation patiently waiting.

Everyone hugged again, weeping tears of joy, even the children.

Marcus’ wife, Julia had put kindling in the fireplace to heat water. Silvanus’ wife, Porcia unwrapped the three loaves of bread she brought and placed them in the hearth oven to warm. Horatius’ wife, Sarah brought two loaves of bread as well, along with butter and honey. Marcus brought wine for communion and Julia a basket of fruit and cheese to go with their meal. And Quintus brought roasted fish for everyone.  

Caelius lit the oil lamps on the long table and then at the smaller table near the fireplace.

The women had gathered at the smaller table to comfort Tulia as she talked about being in the Carthage dungeon. With tears she explained their fear and doubt, trembling in damp, cold darkness. “But then, after a few days we began to thank God for at least letting us be together, Avitus and me…many times we stood and held our hands high in praise and worship…singing praise to Lord Jesus…praise for Salvation…we could feel His presence…like his hand was covering us…we knew you all were praying for us…then one day the guard came and walked us out…someone from Rome had intervened and pardoned us.”

Amazed, Caelius looked at his friend, Quintus, who had overheard the conversation too. Quintus’ eyes teared up for joy, knowing his letter to the Governor had helped win their pardon.

Caelius, beaming with appreciation, looked directly at Quintus, speaking softly for only Quintus to hear. “One person can make a difference!”

Quintus clasped Caelius’ hand in confirmation. “Ah, but everyone did their part–and God worked out his plan.”

The children had also gathered near the smaller table with the women, the same table where they usually heard a story from the Bible. The youngest child, Marianne, not fully understanding the situation, asked if Ms. Lydia would tell them a story about Jesus, like she had always done every Sunday.

Everyone quietly smiled. Marcus bent down next to his little daughter, Marianne and explained that Ms. Lydia had gone to heaven to be with Jesus.

“Oh, is she coming back?” Marianne asked.

Caelius stepped up to answer. “Dear one, Ms. Lydia will come back only when Jesus comes back. But when that time comes, everyone who has trusted Jesus will be with him.”

With joy, Caelius smiled upon seeing that his answer seemed to satisfy the little child’s heart. However, continuing to think of his wife, Lydia–missing her–tears came–with hope he comforted himself. Yes, Lydia will return one day, with Jesus and all the Saints.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!

This story is a fictionalization. Although, historical events, people and places are used fictitiously, details of the time period have been portrayed as accurately as possible for authenticity. All characters are fictional unless otherwise noted. If an actual historical person is mentioned an endnote with citation will be included.

End Notes:

  1. Ancient Carthage of the Roman Empire was a seaport city with wealthy markets of the Mediterranean, Middle East, Spain, France, Italy and North Africa. An agricultural city, particularly wheat, making it an important city to Rome. “Rome’s bread basket.”  Through the centuries Carthage, after many wars, was completely destroyed. In modern times the same land has become the country of Tunisia with a different culture and government. This story does not reflect in any way the current conditions in Tunisia.
  2. Children’s Story based on scriptures: Matthew 14:13-21; 18:1-5; 19:13-15; 21:12-17; John 3:16; 6:1-13
  3. Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. © Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  4. Quintus Tertullian: 150 – 220 A.D.; Schaff says Tertullian “is the father of Latin theology and church language and one of the greatest men of Christian antiquity.” From his research, Schaff provides a brief historical biography of Tertullian. He was a Montanist presbyter and author who had a Greco-Roman education, acquainted with philosophy, history, literature, juridical terminology and the arts. Although Tertullian wrote many books, he is most known for his book, “Apologeticus,” defending the Christian faith against Roman persecution in his day. Tertullian’s writings encouraged the church and helped bring about an end to Roman persecution.
  5. Schaff, Philip, “Tertullian and the African School.” History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, p. 818-828. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
  6. Schaff, Philip, “The Writings of Tertullian.” History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, p. 829. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.

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