(Christian Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy Adventure)
Philippi about 60 A.D.
Paul had come to Philippi a few years ago with his partner Silas. They had stayed with Lydia until they had been thrown in prison due to the unrest their preaching had caused.
But Paul being Paul, and the power of the Lord being what It was, they didn't stay in jail long. Greece has had its share of Earthquakes, but that one seemed designed to convince the jailer that Paul and Silas should not be locked up but instead be free to preach the Word and travel as the Spirit led them.
They planted what they called 'The Lord's Church' in town and then left for parts unknown. Carrying on the spreading of the Word.
We got messages that Paul was in prison again. This time in Rome. And it didn't look like an Earthquake was on order to free him.
The overseers got together some money and supplies for Paul then began looking to send it to him.
They talked about hiring a messenger or sending it as a package to him. But then old Arshardimus mentioned that some couriers can't be trusted, and a package shipped on a galley may never arrive.
"I'll go." I said.
They all looked at me and I felt like I was standing with them looking at me too. I hardly ever even spoke in the gathering. And never volunteered for anything.
The old man looked at me. "Are you sure, Epaphroditus?"
For moment I thought about shaking my head and looking at the floor. "Yes. I'll go. I'll take the offering to Paul."
Half of them blessed me for my offer, the others tried to talk me out of it.
I had spoken with my heart, not my head. I had never been further from home than a few trips through Thrace, I wasn't even sure which direction I'd be traveling to get to Rome. Or how I was going to get there.
Everything was made ready. My family collected money and wine for my journey. I put everything I thought I'd need in a bag. For all the trouble, the blankets and other items I was taking for Paul amounted to a small crate and a leather satchel. Even the money seemed only a pittance compared to the travails Paul had endured and what he was facing in the dungeons of the Emperor.
But, it was the best we could do.
I boarded a merchant ship that was bound for a port in Italy I had never heard of, and we sailed on the tide.
I knew the journey was going to take some time. But I thought that maybe a week or so and I'd be travelling along one of the famed highways toward Rome. But after a week the ship put into a small port that was still part of Macedonia. We were there for two days, then set off again.
A month later we fought through a storm and landed in Syracuse. The ship had taken damage and put in for repairs. It took me days to get over my seasickness.
Another week or more passed, but I got a transport to the mainland, but then I had to walk most of the way to Rome.
Finally. Finally after nearly three months on the road I saw the gates of Rome. I had forgotten about the mission. My goal had simply been to get myself and my precious cargo through the journey in one piece. Now I remembered that Paul the Traveller was awaiting me in prison.
He was a prisoner due to our common faith.
The Lord I had prayed to as our ship was tossed like a scrap of wood in a child's bath was the same Savior Paul prayed to as he wore Rome's chains. And if He did not deliver us in this life, He would in the next.
Rome was a great city, thousands upon thousands of people, buildings, animals. And hundreds of narrow streets that all looked the same. It took me two days just to find where Paul was being held, then another day to get there.
I collapsed into his arms in tears. Exhausted, I couldn't even tell him how glad I was to be there.
The fever had me lying in his cell as he cared for me instead of the other way around as had been planned.
Paul prayed over me, and laid his hands on me. I was anointed with oil and Believers all over Rome held me up before God. But as I lay burning with fever, I believed I would see the Lord before Paul did.
Paul had committed my spirit to Him. But the Lord had other ideas.
I recovered. But I was too weak to leave Paul's prison for many days.
Now I was sick of spirit and body. I felt that I had failed. I had been sent to strengthen Paul and see to his needs, and there I was, homesick for my family and friends, ill from my journey, penniless since all the monies I had brought had gone toward medicines for me. Even the blankets I had brought had been laid on me instead of Paul using them.
Finally, I walked out into the sun. It had been more than half a year since I had left for Rome.
Even though Paul was now prisoner in a house owned by a Roman believer, which was not nearly as bad as the dungeons and catacombs other prisoners were condemned to, he was still a prisoner.
"It was partially due to your illness we were moved here." Paul told me as I reveled in the feeling of the sun on my face.
I didn't understand.
"When you arrived, I was in the main prison. But one of the guards who believes in the Lord took pity on you. He asked the warden to allow me to be transferred to his family's compound so you could receive better care."
I thought about it. This wasn't the same place where I had first found him.
"Truly, all things work to the good of those that love the Lord." Paul said. "Even an illness."
Under house arrest instead of chained in a cavern under the city, Paul preached and taught to far more people. As they went around their business some stopped to listen, and a few even got into very spirited debates with him. There was always a crowd around. And when Timothy came back from wherever Paul had sent him, he too, preached constantly.
The days passed quickly into weeks, then I realized it had been almost a year since I had left home and my longing for my own home and people became acute.
I never mentioned it to Paul, but he had a sight beyond sight given by the Spirit. He looked at me and asked me if I wished to go home.
Torn, confused, and wondering deep inside if I had said or done something Paul disapproved of, I could not answer.
"My brother. You have been a great blessing to me and the Ministry of Christ Jesus. But not all of us are as I am, able to live here and there, to sleep in chains with joy and eat a crust of bread as a feast blessing the Name of the Lord. You belong at home in Phillippi. Your mission and your ministry is there. You have learned all you need from me to edify the church there." Paul nodded with eyes of love and a smile given by God. "I will have messages to send with you. Perhaps a letter or two as well."
His face and voice became as stern as when he was preaching against the false gods of Rome. "But just because you are going home does not mean your work is done my friend. Oh, no. No indeed. Your work. Your Service. Will just be beginning."
Once again it seemed a year before the ship put into port and I began the walk to my home just outside the city.
The mountains looked comfortingly familiar. After the city of Rome, the villages seemed almost too small to sustain their people. But here the people seemed happier and more at peace than they had in Rome.
Then I was home.
I fell into the arms of my family feeling like I had been called back from the dead.
I had hoped to rest and be at ease for awhile before I undertook the Work. I went to the gatherings of the saints as I had before my journey and thought I was no different than I had been.
In only a couple of weeks some of the elders remarked that I had changed. They said I spoke with authority, I stood and ended arguments with the Truth, and I suffered no foolishness about the Gospel and let no one in or out of the church mock the Lord or His People. Now I spoke in the market and in front of the temple of the false gods, I spoke boldly about Jesus the Living God to those that believed in the stone figures. When one from another town began teaching something that did not sound like what Paul had taught me I questioned him tightly and caught him in a lie, then I led the men as we escorted him out of town.
I wondered at these things, then I realized, just a little of what Paul was had rubbed off on me. Just a little. And that he was right when he pronounced my doom. "Your work, your service, is just beginning."
I hadn't changed. The Lord had changed Me.
End That Greek
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