Episode 13: The Salvation Festival

“Hey, Lee! Thanks for helping me with that, man! I appreciate it. Ok, I have to go now. Give my love to Avy, you guys have fun in Pipa, enjoy the festival, and give my greetings to Jose and his family, ok? Ok, ok. Love you too. Bye,” Levi said, turning off his brainwave enhancer communicator and continued. “Ok, guys. Are we ready? The next pod to Israel leaves in forty-five minutes,” Levi asked, standing in the hallway, double-checking his pockets for his Assignment Card.

“I’m ready,” said Jacob from the living room patiently waiting on the sofa while he rehearsed his lines.

“Us too,” said Rachel, gently rocking a sleepy Mathias in her arms.

“I’m coming,” yelled Anne. “I just needed to grab something for Mathias costume,” she said, coming down the stairs.

“Aww,” Rachel exclaimed. “He is going to be the cutest little actor in the whole festival this year,” she said. 

Anne replied with a grin from ear to ear. 

“Yes, he will if we leave now,” Levi said, turning the levitating hover-cases on and opening the door. Once everybody was out, he left the house, closing the door behind him.

~

The massive, city-sized, Brooklyn Central Station, would always become small and cramped around this time of the year. Thousands of people, from all corners of the world, would travel to attend the five-day-long Salvation Festivals. This global event celebrated the end of the Old World and remembered God’s acts of deliverance throughout humankind’s history.

Different regions from every continent, organized and hosted the Salvation Festivals every year. People could apply to attend the festival in other parts of the world. With their applications accepted, they could travel and enjoy the festivities in different continents as delegates, representing the region from where they came. This year, Levi and his family applied to attend the festival in Israel.

Hundreds of people came to the Station in Israel to welcome their guests. They were welcomed with music, dance, and many gifts. Every person was hugged and kissed, taking Levi and his family hours to get through the people and get to the arrivals’ main hall, where Marcel was waiting. 

~

“Levi! Anne! Over here!” Marcel yelled and waved when he finally spotted Levi and his family in the crowd.

“Babe, look! It’s Marcel,” Anne said.

“Can you see him?” Levi asked, still unable to locate his friend.

“Yes. Do you see the big ‘We Love You’ banner?”

“Yes?”

“Just below it.”

“Ah, there he is,” Levi said, smiling at the vision of Marcel in the middle of the people, jumping and waving frenetically. They cut through the crowd and eventually got to him. 

“Hey! So nice to see you, my friend,” Marcel said, hugging Levi. 

“It’s great to see you too, man! Where are the girls?” Levi asked.

“They are waiting for you at home. They can’t wait to see you guys,” Marcel said, kissing Anne and hugging Jacob until he got to Rachel. “Oh, man! Look at him. He got so big,” Marcel said, taking the happy toddler from Rachel’s arms.

“He grows by the minute,” Rachel said with a grin.

“I’m so happy that you guys are here. You have no idea.”

“We are happy to finally come visit you, brother,” Levi replied.

“Come on, guys! Let’s go home,” Marcel said.

~

They left the arrivals with their hover-cases flying close by, following them into one of the many large glass elevators in the center of the hall. Moving up slowly, they emerged from the ground in the middle of Jerusalem. The glass doors opened. The Adams stepped out of the elevator with mouths open and hearts racing. It was something about being there that made you feel spiritually connected. With the sun going down on the horizon, the various yellow and violet shades made the impressive sight of Jerusalem’s walls even more stunning. A green carpet of trees claimed the grounds of what used to be an overpopulated busy city, filled with arrays of cramped off-white and beige-colored buildings. Large and tall buildings were all together rare. The few edifices blended with the local flora in a way that made them almost invisible. The city walls and other historical icons stood out and amazed their visitors. That evening, the skies were cleansed from all clouds and covered with billions of twinkling lights. Marcel and Levi decided to catch up during a walk under the stars.

“I heard you were invited to attend the School For Lazarus Instructors. Congratulations my friend! I’m proud of you,” Marcel said.

“That was a huge surprise. I’m still processing it, to be honest. I had no idea I would be invited that fast.”

“Yes. It must be a new record or something. How long are you serving at Lazarus, anyway? Three years now?”

“Four years next month,” Levi responded.

“What? Wow. Really? We really don’t feel the time passing, do we?”

“Yes. I still remember my first day as if it was yesterday.”

“Me too. Do you still cry like a baby?” Marcel said, joking.

“No. It took a while, but I finally got used to it,” Levi replied. They both laughed.

“How does it feel to be a father?”

“I have learned that a perfect baby is still a baby. Loves to wake mom and dad up in the middle of the night. And takes his sweet time to learn how to control his bowel movements, all that is still the same,” Levi said, making Marcel laugh. “I’m joking, of course. It is hard to put into words how I feel to be a father. The little guy changed our already perfect lives for the better.”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

“He has even made my relationship with my Creator improve. Only now, I can better understand the feelings of my heavenly Father. It’s powerful, bro.”

“I know, right? It is extraordinary.” Marcel agreed.

“I’m learning so much with my son. I’m always learning and discovering every day. I can’t wait to explore this planet and beyond with him.”

“And we thought living forever, and perfection would be boring, remember that?”

“Don’t remind me.”

“What about your dad?” Marcel asked with a grin.

“He is awesome. The funny thing is that, after I lost him, I started to fantasize about him. Throughout my childhood, he was like an invisible friend to me. When I got to know that he would be resurrected…” Levi paused, getting emotional.

“Let me guess. You cried like a baby again?” Marcel said, trying to be funny.

“Like a baby without a mother, man! Seriously!” Levi confirmed, laughing with tears in his eyes. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was completely unexpected. I didn’t get to know my father growing up. I had no idea if he would qualify for resurrection, you know?”

“I can’t even begin to fathom how happy you might have felt, my friend. Shame I wasn’t there to witness it.”

“Yeah,” Levi agreed. “And, you know what?” He asked.

“What?” Marcel said.

“He turned out to be a much better dad than I have ever imagined him to be. He is great. Matthias loves him. You have to see how those two get along. It’s crazy.” Levi said, making Marcel smile. “Enough about me. How are you guys doing? How is the First Century Lazarus project going?”

~

Back in the house, June made sure her guest had plenty to do.

“Thanks for helping me with these little Festival gifts, guys,” June said.

“Of course! I love it,” Anne said. 

“These mini go-bags with dried fruits are the best idea ever, June.” Rachel said, making June and Anne laugh.

“Well, they were a very integral part of our lives in the last days of the Old World, weren’t they? I thought it would be a fun way to remember this year’s festival.”

“Genius!” Anne said. “You are helping in the Hospitality Committee, designing the costumes for the plays, and…what else are you doing? How do you find time for all of this?”

“Well, you know. The girls help. The project at Lazarus is going well, almost done with my part with the designs, and to be honest; I just love being part of it, you know. Like our conventions in the past, our festivals are the highlight of the year for me.”

“Organizing a global event in the Old World? I can’t understand how they managed to do that in that old system where ‘unexpected events’ could happen at any time.”

“In comparison with today, sure. You’re right,” June said, laughing. “Today, even the weather is controlled. There are no bad surprises. Only good ones.”

“Everything was more challenging, absolutely,” Rachel said. “Those convention days were the happiest days of the year for us as a people,” Rachel said. “The love and the unity of our brotherhood was a true miracle in the midst of that ungodly world.”

“Indeed,” June agreed.

“I didn’t experience the truth in the Old World, but I can imagine how faith-strengthening it must have been to witness God’s hand like that,” Anne said. 

“You’re completely right, Anne,” June said. “It was not easy, but that experience gave us the unique opportunity to know God in a way that children of the New Earth will never understand.”

“That is the only worry I have with Matthias,” Anne continued. “I lived in that terrible and cruel Old World. I can appreciate what Jehovah has given me. But, my son will only know peace, security, perfection. I worry about how he will make it in the Final Test.”

“That is one of the reasons we have our festivals, right?” Rachel said. “It helps us remember those days of deliverance, but it also helps us to impress in the minds of the ones born in the New Earth, how life without God leads to disaster. We don’t want to make the same mistakes as our parents Adam and Eve made ever again.”

“I know.” Anne agreed. “All that training surviving that old system, battling and winning the spiritual war fought every single day of your lives as Christians, that was priceless, wasn’t it?” Anne asked. “Would teaching my son about the past be enough to prepare him for the test?”

“The ultimate decision will be his,” Rachel replied. “As a mother, all you can do is help him to know and love his Creator and, with time, grow and develop a close friendship with Him.”

“Don’t worry too much, Anne,” June said. “You are a great mom for Matthias. And you don’t have to do all by yourself. It takes a village to raise a child, right? We will be there with you, and God will help you always.”

“And he already has a part to play in the drama?” Rachel asked. “An actor in the Salvation Festival at two years of age? I think we got off to a good start.” Rachel said, making June and Anne laugh. 

~

Every year the festival was held in a large open field in the middle of the forest. In the center of the encampment, a big-round platform would be the stage of plays, dramatizations, and talks prepared for the attendance’s delight. The thousands of people visiting the event would live in tents and booths for its entire duration. Each day of the festival commemorated a different act of deliverance from God. People would wear costumes and eat food from the period when the events took place. Each day’s program would always end with a closing talk from a representative of God’s Kingdom, and every evening, gatherings with plenty of food and good music would end the day’s festivities.

On the first day of the festival, people would remember the days of Noah and how God destroyed all wicked people by the flood but saved Noah and his family in the ark. On that day, parents would build models of the ark with their children, and they reenacted Noah’s story on the main stage.

On the second day of the festival, the theme was the exodus of God’s people out of Egypt. The Ten Plagues’ drama was one of the most anticipated. The live visual effects of the Dead Sea divided into two were more realistic every year. 

On the third day, it was time to remember how God freed his people from the Babylonian captivity. On the fourth day, the days before the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem were relived and how God’s people were spared was depicted. And on the fifth and final day, all present remembered how God saved his people in the Final War and celebrated the end of the Old World.

~

“June! You were amazing,” Anne said.

“Are you sure? Was it ok?” June asked, hugging Anne.

“Am I sure?” Anne said. “The scene where you guys playing yourselves crossing the woods, being chased by soldiers, and finally getting safe and sound to the camp with the angels’ protection, gives me goosebumps until now. Sarah and Naomi were incredible too.”

“The girls did well, didn’t they?” June asked.

“They were awesome,” Rachel replied, approaching from behind them.

“Rachel!” Anne exclaimed, surprised. “And you! I didn’t know you were so good.” Anne said, giving Rachel a warm hug.

“Yes, Rachel,” June said. “The music was just perfect. You are an excellent composer. And thank you for also agreeing to conduct the orchestra.”

“Did you write that!” Anne continued astonished. “Rachel? How come I didn’t know that?”

“It was meant to be a surprise,” Rachel said timidly and humbly as she always was when it came to her many gifts. “It was nothing, really,” she continued. “The musicians did the real work. And the girls were outstanding, June. You must be proud of them.”

“Oh, yeah!” Anne agreed. “Nathalie and Misja played the violins beautifully. Where are they, by the way?”

“They were taking pictures by the stage with the guys just now.”

~

“Girls, you did amazingly well today. Congratulations,” Levi said, catching little Matthias trying to escape.

“Thank you, Levi,” Replied Nathalie.

“Your grandmother’s music is a masterpiece. She is awesome,” Misja said.

“Wait! What?” Levi asked, confused.

“You know, the music theme for the play?” Misja asked. “That is Rachels.”

“Nooo!” Levi replied dumbfounded.

~

“What a great day,” Marcel said, hugging Jacob.

“I was so nervous. It was wonderful, but I’m glad it’s over now,” Jacob said with a big smile.

“You as a narrator, wow!” Marcel exclaimed. “I felt like I was truly living those moments again. Thank you for that, Jacob. Marvelous job.”

“Thank you, son,” Jacob replied. “But it was your family that brought us all back to those days with your outstanding acting. I’m very grateful for all the hard work you guys have put in the festival this year.” 

“Thank you, Jacob. Means a lot coming from you,” Marcel said.

“I mean,” Jacob continued. “June is a force of nature. I get tired just by looking at how much she works. It’s amazing.”

“She is exceptional, “Marcel confirmed proudly. “And she has always loved to be busy with the festivals. Even in the Old World, at our conventions. Remember that?”

“I do remember. June would have any and every job she could get,” Jacob said. “June was always so zealous. Jehovah was good to you.”

“Indeed,” Marcel replied. “You and Rachel had a great influence on what June and I have become. And for that, I’m truly grateful, my friend.”

~

“I can’t believe it is already the last day of the festival,” Anne said 

“Me neither,” said Rachel. “It all passed so fast.”

“Remember when we had our international conventions?” June asked. “That would pass even faster, wouldn’t it?”

“Only three days,” Rachel replied. “I don’t know how we made it with so little,” she said, joking.

Brothers and sisters!” said the voice coming from the loudspeakers. 

“It’s time,” said June, excited.

“The moment you have eagerly awaited has now arrived,” the voice said. “Please, give your attention to the message from The Word,” the voice continued, and the skies suddenly opened. “The Great Instructor,” it said while a loud sound like thunder echoed through the forest. “The Prince of Peace,” then the most bright, beautiful light came out from the heavens when it finally announced, “our Lord and King…Jesus Christ!”

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