SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO RISK LOVE AND LEGACY TO ANSWER GOD'S CALL
Benjamin Fisher melds with quiet perfection into the tapestry of the Fisher family. The youngest of the three Fisher men, Ben is gifted with skills that keep machines running, crops efficiently harvested, farm structures sound and secure.
But there’s one person in the small village of Antioch, Indiana who has noticed and adored the man since her youth. Hailey Beth Thomas. Hailey Beth’s sister is marrying Ben’s brother in a spring wedding that promises to be the event of the season. Thrown together as the heady romance of an upcoming marriage takes place, love and revelation come to life.
Unknown to anyone else, Ben wants to answer a call to the mission fields of North America that will lead him far from the life he has always known. Ben longs to serve, but he wants a life with Hailey Beth as well. Hailey Beth can’t leave Antioch, but can’t bear the idea of losing Ben.
Are they meant to be together, or will God’s call pull them apart just as they’ve found a way to one another?
An early-spring daybreak spread across the flat farmlands of rural Indiana. This was the time of day Ben Fisher liked best. Peace and the kind of contemplative solitude his spirit always seemed to crave held sway at sunrise. Settling against the thick cushions of the front porch swing, releasing a chest-deep sigh of contentment, he set the seat into motion, pushing a booted heel gently against creaky floor boards. The porch’s wrap-around awning needed fresh shingles, but that was an issue he’d contend with later.
He considered the moniker held for generations now. The Fisher Farm. His lips curved automatically. This spot formed a legacy purchased through generations of sweat and toil. This place provided not just nourishment of the land, but of the community. His family had taken that fact to heart for close to two centuries as some of the first inhabitants of Antioch.
It’s not a coincidence our town is called Antioch, Dad had said time and again, pride swelling through his broad chest, lifting his wide shoulders as he walked the soybean fields. The founders—my great-great grandfather among them—were very deliberate. They looked to the Bible for a name and chose Antioch. Antioch is where the first-ever Christians gathered as a formalized community. I guess our ancestors figured we’d be keeping good company.
Nowadays, so many people would consider such sentimentality corny, or outdated. Ben’s take was different. He understood the vibrations of Antioch. It was home, and he valued the atmosphere of the small, tight-knit community where he had been born and raised.
An increasingly familiar itch, a yearning he hadn’t even recognized before, slipped beneath his skin as he stared out across dew-kissed fields of soybeans that rolled for hundreds of acres. Fog lifted slowly, like eerie wafts of steam. The itch had followed him ever since last week’s sermon at Antioch Christian church, when Reverend Maxwell Taylor had launched a spirited proclamation on missionary opportunities. Ben stretched his legs. Relaxed rather than anxious, he continued to mull things over.
A cardinal swept across the yard, drawing him back to the view. The vivid red bird flitted and chirped. Ben cradled a bistro mug of coffee between his hands. Warm, earthy fragrance tantalized his nose and he absorbed the subtle increase of bird song as he sipped. Against the eastern edge of the sky, translucent hues of pearlescent gray melded into pink. Hints of orange, buttery yellow swirled through wispy white clouds. Light shimmered, iridescent as the sun peeked and then rose. Low-lying crops shimmered and swayed against the soft caress of a breeze. That gentle ripple of air stirred freshness, a floral infused welcome to spring. Ben was surrounded by his father’s soybean crop and the scent of moist soil.
We’re entering the spring season, a time of regeneration. In life and in mission. Embrace the idea of taking on a challenge. Answer a call to help our brothers and sisters at our twin parish in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. If this call to service speaks to your heart, please don’t shy away or question God’s prompt. Explore the pathway and determine if there’s a fit. Because there certainly is a need, my friends. Reverend Taylor’s words to the church community played out for, oh, probably the hundredth time.
This time, disquiet wouldn’t be quelled, or ignored. Ben hummed a low, frustrated exclamation, his eyes narrowing until he refocused. What was going on? He wasn’t unhappy or dissatisfied with his life at the farm, so why did he ache all of a sudden? Why did he find himself Google-searching missions, and Arkansas these days?
Subtle pots-and-pans clamor sounded from the kitchen, through an open window just behind the spot where he sat. Mom was up, likely fixing breakfast for herself and Pop. Oatmeal spiced by cinnamon, a touch of brown sugar, along with a heap of fresh fruit made the menu most days. Toast, too, because heart condition or not, Pop insisted on the crunch and sweet of toast covered by a slather of homemade jam.
Reclaiming his typical sense of calm, Ben smiled. The jam came courtesy of the Thomas family. His brother Phillip’s fiancée, Mila, had dropped off a fresh jar when she came over for dinner the other night. They’d be getting married at the end of July, and Ben couldn’t wait to stand up for his oldest brother and celebrate a most unexpected love affair come to perfect fruition.
Thoughts of Mila Thomas led quite naturally to the image of Mila’s younger sister, Hailey Beth. A natural connection due to family ties…and nothing more. Sure, Hailey Beth was a person he’d known since he was old enough to walk. Sure, she was a petite, big-eyed dynamo who could go from butter soft to steel strong in the time it took to blink—a fascinating combination—but beyond that, she was simply a good friend. A familiar and appealing part of his life. Affection for her came as naturally as…
Ben’s gaze tracked to the ancient, massive barn that crowned a swell of land on their property. Studiously maintained, its hay-covered floors had been the spot he had shared his first kiss. At seven-years-old. With HB.
That coy and sweet little fireball.
His smile curved wide at the image he held of her perfectly shaped figure, the long waves of chocolate brown hair that tumbled around her shoulders, those full lips. Oh, man, did he need a distraction. Polishing off the last of his coffee, Ben stood, intending to join his mom. Maybe he could score a helping of food if he chipped in with preps.
Just as he turned toward the door, a rumble, steady and increasing, drifted across the now gold-burnished fields of the farm. In seconds, a train whistle echoed across the dips and flats, coming closer, with chattering wheels and a rhythmic pulse he could have sworn he felt vibrating through the wooden floorboards, the soles of his work boots.
The train wasn’t that close, though. The stirring of the air and his body was purely phantom. Psychological. A call to move. A call to action.
A call—mysterious and scary—urged him away from the only home he’d ever known.