Sandra Hartwell woke at 5:30 am without an alarm. She gave thanks for the day, then for several minutes prayed for the strength to get up to face it.
At 5:39 she sat up and slowly crawled out from under the covers.
She ached. Even at 40 she would have jumped up, but after 50 her body had lost that energy.
This day was especially bad, though. She looked forward to a cup of coffee as soon as possible.
Not before the Word and her prayers.
Until 7:00 she read in the bible and prayed for the women in the shelter.
Antonia. Teresa. Martha and her daughter Tara. Loesha and her sons Jamal and Tony.
Forty more souls after them, not all of them present at the shelter every night.
And Cecilia, the poor girl who had been stranded outside the night before.
She prayed for their healing, for their protection, for their blessing, for their souls. That the children would grow up strong and healthy and that God would provide men to be loving fathers for them. That some of the women would find good men to provide for them and that others among the women would stop running after a man. Especially that each of the women and each of the children would know the love of Jesus and trust Him as their God.
That morning in particular, more than anything else, she prayed that all of them would still have a place to stay in a few days.
The water damage and the mold had been the final straw. Added to the other problems in the building, the city health commission had finally decided to shut the shelter down.
One of their supporters knew a contractor. He had looked at the damage and given Sandra an estimate for free, but the bill just to replace the drywall was more than any of her remaining supporters had.
And the city wanted more than just the drywall repaired before they would reissue approval.
Two weeks. That was how long the shelter had left.
Sandra prayed like the old woman before the judge, like a beggar knocking at the door.
She was soon distracted by a room full of women all talking and shouting at once.
She couldn’t pray like this. Whatever it was, it was probably important.
She checked the front door as she left her room to make sure it was still closed.
Sandra paused as she saw what didn’t at all look like the gate latch she had screwed on three weeks before. She was sure it hadn’t been a flat bar with a drop-latch when she put it on.
She turned and looked down the hall toward the commotion.
Antonia ran up to her babbling in Spanish. Sandra could usually understand her but this time all she could make out was “Miracle, miracle!”
Antonia grabbed her hand and led her down the hall, almost pulling her over in her hurry.
As Sandra entered the room she saw all the women gathered on the far side staring at something where the broken wall was. She couldn’t see it herself because of the women and the bunks. She did notice three track lights on the ceiling where there hadn’t been track lights before. They looked like the ones that had been in the kitchen.
Antonia pulled her through the bunks and pushed past women and children so Sandra could see. Sandra’s heart stopped.
The white painted wall was gone.
In its place was a murky landscape in deep blacks and silver grays, a dark Jerusalem crawling among the mountains on the right and an empty and lifeless desert to the left, both locked under a pitch black sky.
That wasn’t what the women were babbling about, though. Between the desert and Jerusalem was…
A man. A man of brilliant light with a burning heart of crimson blood and a body broken by nails and thorns.
He hung on a cross, a great black cross like an obsidian sword with a heart of smoldering fire, plunged into the mountainside.
He was bound onto the cross by…
Sandra stepped in for a closer look.
By a rose vine. An emerald rose vine, covered in blooming red roses as red as the blood flowing from the wounds.
That blood flowed down onto the dark ground, ran red beneath the feet of a crowd of shadowy people. Many of them were nothing but shadow…
But others had faces that shone in the light blazing from the man on the cross. At their feet fresh roses grew, covered in tiny red blooms, and deep in their chests glowed hearts of fire like that of the man on the cross.
Sandra felt dizzy and almost fell over. Women on either side caught her and held her up.
“Look at the words!” Teresa said, pointing above and then below the central cross.
Sandra looked up and saw written in words of burning gold,
“It is finished.”
She looked down and saw that the base of the mountain, and the floor as well, were covered with more words that blazed with light. She couldn’t take them all in, but one inscription, just below the great cross, stood out:
“He was forsaken by His Father, that all those who trust in Him might NEVER be forsaken by His Father.”
Tears filled Sandra’s eyes.
For several minutes she simply stared at the view on the wall. At one point it occurred to her that it was a relief done in various kinds of transparent and translucent crystal. She had heard that such a thing was possible, that there were people who could make things like that.
But who had done it?
Cecilia. The Italian girl.
Sandra looked around and spotted Cecilia coming down the hallway from the bathroom, her black hair still wet from a shower. Sandra almost didn’t recognize her.
Where was the broken woman she had seen the night before? That girl had slouched. That girl had looked thin and sickly.
This one stood tall and almost glowed with life.
Sandra walked over to her, leaving the rest of the women staring at the wall.
“Did you do that?” Sandra asked.
Cecilia blushed and lowered her eyes, mumbling something affirmative in Italian. Then she shook her head and looked Sandra in the eyes. “Not me. Christ.”
Cecilia fished in a pocket and held out a business card.
Sandra took it and saw the Federal Special Tasks Agency logo printed on it next to “Cecilia I. Bianchi, Crafter Technician, West Coast Pax Tower”. She looked back at Cecilia.
“I will come back until everything is fixed,” Cecilia said.
Sandra tried to say something, but couldn’t find any words.
“Thank you. For praying,” Cecilia said.
For a moment she held Sandra’s gaze, her eyes sparkling with emotion. Then she turned, walked up the hall to the exit, and was gone.