From The Ashes
Fleeing a secret that changed her life forever, Judith Robertson decides she can live in the little cabin in the woods that she inherited from her grandfather. The big barn and the quaint little church just add to the allure of the four hundred acres of her new home. Within minutes of her decision, Reverend Washington asks to use her church building, and Jacob Fraser wants to cut a deal to timber the woods Judith now owns. But arsonists are burning African-American churches and threatening anyone who dares to intervene. Judith loans her church to the recently burned out members of the All Faith Community Church, which brings troubles beyond anything she ever imagined. And Jacob Fraser is everywhere, causing a heart she'd thought was stone cold dead to flutter with emotions she had lost a long time ago. But Jacob has secrets, too. Can two heartbroken people gain the courage to challenge the status quo and accept the Lord's blessings?
In the eastern curve of Texas, forests grow as thick as abandoned resolutions. Trees aspire to be mainmasts for schooners, and morning’s quicksilver light seeps through the canopy with dewdrop speed. In this wildwood, red eared sliders sunbathe and butterworts wait patiently for insect meals. This is the land of the Caddo, where runaway slaves and Confederate refugees hid. The people who live there call it treasure.
But amid the thickets and cane brakes, an old hatred festers. There are some who exploit deep-rooted fears and threaten those who dare to stand firm.
It is an intolerance that true Christians fight with determined love.
Piney Meadow, Texas
Jacob Fraser aimed the stream of high-pressure water towards the burning roof of All Saints Community Church. This was the fourth church fire he and the other volunteer firefighters had fought, and his heart sank lower with each blaze. Someone was intentionally destroying places of worship.
Familiar faces were in the huddled groups of onlookers. Arsonists liked to watch their handiwork. Was one of his neighbors the culprit? Maybe it was George Hampton, his old Boy Scout leader, or Marvin Simpson, his Little League baseball coach. Maybe he didn’t know the people of Piney Meadow as well as he thought.
Henry Washington, the pastor of the church, stood in front of a separate group of bystanders. His dark skin glowed in the firelight, but the brightness in his dark eyes was more than mere reflection. Was it anger, righteous indignation, or something more that ignited the fire inside the African-American pastor? Henry raised his Bible towards the flames and his congregation gathered around him.
Some embraced and others cried, but most stood in silence, their backs straight and their gazes fixed on their suffering church.
Above the roar of the fire, voices sang a familiar chorus.
Jacob’s heart swelled with admiration. The fire might destroy their building, but not their faith.
A second truck from a neighboring community arrived, but there was no saving the All Saints Community Church. Jacob and the other firefighters could contain the blaze, but the church was beyond rescue.
At last, Chief Dutton gave the order to turn off the hoses.
While Jacob’s team stowed the equipment, other volunteers raked through the charred ruins, putting out hotspots.
The county sheriff, Vince Miller, clapped Jacob on the shoulder. “Good job keeping the fire contained.”
“We were lucky there’s so little wind tonight.”
“Is Chief Dutton around?”
“I saw him just a few minutes ago.” Jacob scanned the area, and then pointed to a man talking into a radio. “There he is.”
The chief raised one hand in acknowledgement and strolled towards Jacob and the sheriff.
Sheriff Miller shook hands with the other man. “What do you think, Emmett?”
“Same as the others. It burned too fast to be anything other than an accelerant.” Chief Dutton removed his wire-rimmed glasses and wiped his sooty face with a bandana. “When are you going to call in the cavalry?”
“Already done it. The FBI is sending a special agent from the hate crime task force.”
Chief Dutton let out a low grunt. “Hate crimes in Piney Meadow. Didn’t think I’d ever see the day.”
The scents of smoke and sweat clung to Jacob’s skin as he removed his heavy firefighter’s jacket.
Four churches in three months, all belonging to African-American congregations, and now the FBI was coming. What was happening to his hometown? Piney Meadow had always been a place where neighbors could live and work without the threat of violence.
He’d needed just such a haven after his stint with the Houston Police Department.