After the ban on religion, we had to meet in secret. Different arrangements were made to ensure we could worship together. Governments around the world seized all our organization’s properties everywhere. That meant no more study literature, no more website, no more library app, and our most beloved monthly broadcasting program was also gone. Everything was shut down and shut off. Posting religious content online was a felony. Getting caught with a Bible or any other religious literature was a serious offense punishable by imprisonment. The same applied to religious meetings. So, we had to be very careful. For a time, we met online using different conference sites and more discreet and anonymous chat rooms, but soon the authorities were able to find out about our meetings and track us down.
After that, we started meeting in small groups and various places – a different basement, attic, barn, or shed every week, but that didn’t last either. At one point, the government knew where we all lived and kept us under surveillance. It was then that we began meeting in the woods. Our meetings in the middle of the forest were very special for many. It made us think of how our brothers in Poland and other countries did the same when they were under a ban in the past, way before the Great Tribulation we lived through started. They were being trained. And we learned a lot from their experience. When holding small assemblies in the woods, we had a big tent for our meetings, and each family in the group would also set up their own little tent. We would all pretend we were camping together. One day, June, the girls and I were on our way to meet our congregation in the forest. While walking through the trees, we saw soldiers moving towards our congregation’s camp. We made it there first, but before I could warn the brothers, the soldiers closed in and had us all surrounded.
At that, a bright light coming from the heavens blinded everyone for a brief moment. Then, I saw coming through the clouds what seemed to be an army of angels. They were right behind who I am convinced was Jesus Christ himself. The soldiers pointed their guns at the clouds and started shooting. That was the last day of that old world. We were so thrilled to see prophecies being fulfilled.
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling out of heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” – Mark 13:24-26
I like this one. We had to memorize many scriptures like that since not all of us had access to the Bible. What this scripture describes is what I saw that day. I look forward to talking to Jacob about it. My friend and his wife are pushing ninety. Little Jaz grew new legs, and according to June, Tony got a brand new arm. I wonder which transformation Jacob and Rachel went through while we were asleep.
I see the Tent of Meeting, but I don’t see Jacob anywhere. Maybe he is inside, in a meeting with the other elders right now. I will stand here outside and wait for him.
I see a couple standing just a few meters from the tent. They have their back towards me. I know everyone in our congregation well, but I don’t recognize these two. Looking at their size and built, it could be Tony and his wife. They are cooking something in that pot over their little campfire. Well, I could eat something. I am actually starving. And you never know how long these elders’ meetings can take. I might as well have a bite. Let me talk to them.
“Hey Tony,” I say. “How are you doing, my brother?” The tall man turns around, facing me, and I gasp. It is not Tony. It is, “Jacob? Is that you?” I ask, amazed.
“Hey, Son,” Jacob says. “You finally decided to wake up, hey?” He asks with a big smile and open arms. We have a long hug.
“You look fantastic!” I exclaim.
“Well, look at you. You don’t look bad yourself,” the sister says, leaving the pot, turning around, and meeting me.
“Rachel!!” I exclaim, shocked. “You look amazing! Your back!”
“Yup. No more scoliosis for me,” she replies.
“And you, Jacob! Are you taller, now?” I ask.
“Yes. And stronger too,” he replies, flexing his biceps and radiating a big grin.
I laugh at the comic image and say: “You guys look so much younger already.”
“Well, I still have some of my wrinkles,” Rachel says.
“Same here,” Jacob agrees. “But, my knees don’t hurt. My back is straight.”
“And, my arthritis is gone. Look!” Rachel demands, showing her hands. “Not a nodule to be found.”
“We might not look like we did in our twenties yet,” Jacob continues, “but we certainly feel like it.”
“Which is a good thing, I must say. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have recognized you guys at all,” I confess, making them laugh.
“It’s so amazing; it is hard to believe,” Rachel says.
“You know what else is unbelievable?” I ask.
“What, Son?” Jacob replies, curious.
“Look! I also made it!” I proclaim.
Jacob and Rachel laugh. “Yes, Son. You did. Come here,” Jacob says, and the three of us hug again as we have never done before.
After a long hug, I finally say: “Jacob, were you looking for me?”
“Oh, yeah. I was, indeed. We are organizing a small team to go to the nearest town. We need to stock up some supplies for a few days until we can make contact with the new government. Before Armageddon, we received instructions regarding what to do right after it. One of them was to have supplies for a few days. The team will leave in a few minutes. Can I count on your help?”
“Yes, sure. Whatever you need.”
“Perfect. Come with me.”
We enter the Tent of Meeting. The brothers gathered here are elders and ministerial servants of my congregation. They turn around to greet us. The coordinator of the Body stands up and walks in my direction.
“Tony!” I say.
“Marcel! My brother,” Tony says, coming my way.
“It’s so nice to see you, brother,” I say while he gives me a tight squeeze.
I recover from Tony’s tight and firm embrace and say: “Tony, I just realized that we never hugged like this before.”
“True! That would have been very hard for me to do with only one arm. But, now, look! I have two!”
“Yes. I can see that,” I say, fascinated.
“Do you want to see something cool?” Tony asks. He stretches both his arms forward. “Look at this,” he says.
“Wow! Can I touch it?”
“Sure. Go ahead.” His right arm looks aged and worn down. You can see the cracks on the skin and the scars from Tony’s accident. But, the skin of his new arm looks and feels as fresh and smooth as the one of a baby.
“It’s a real miracle,” I say.
“Cool, huh?” Tony says.
“Amazing!” I reply.
“Marcel, thank you for joining us,” Tony says.
“No problem. My pleasure,” I reply.
“All right, brothers,” Tony says turning around facing the others. “Let us go over the assignment one more time. We have already checked. All the publishers of our congregation are accounted for. We have to provide for their needs for the next few days. The water supply is taken care of. We have a river running close by, and the water is good for consumption. A group gathers some of the overflowing fruits and other eatable plants in the woods. It would be good to have grains and some nonperishables too. We will also need some tools and other materials. Special items for our small celebration party this evening are also welcomed. All the items are on the list you received. We hope to find what we need in the nearest town, or what is left of it. Brother Jacob here will take the lead. Any questions?”
The ten of us shake our heads no.
“Great!” Tony says. “Let us say a prayer before You go.”