by Merikay McLeod
(The remarkable depicting of events during the Time of Trouble was written by a seventeen-year-old girl in an academy in Michigan.)
"UN troops are moving into Iraq. The new government which the UN set up there, collapsed today after a month of uprisings and riots. The troops are being sent in to re-establish the democratic government, bring peace to the small country and put down any further uprisings.
"The President, along with the government leaders of England, France, and Russia, signed a peace pact today at Paris, France. It is the first time in history that so many government leaders have agreed completely to a peace document. This is a big step to world-wide peace.
"The Supreme Court today finally passed the much debated National Sunday-Sabbath Bill. The bill declares Sunday to be the one and only day on which all are compelled to worship. The President expressed approval of the bill, and during his peace talks in France, encouraged the other world leaders to pursue similar courses in their countries.
"And now for a look at the local scene. In Kalamazoo this week. . ."
The dial felt very cold as my hot, damp hand turned it, stopping the TV announcer's voice. Walking over to the window, I stared out unconsciously, while the words of Elder Brown came back to me: "The National Sunday Law is the sign for the Christians to move out of the cities."
Back there in Bible Doctrines class I had heard a lot about Sunday laws and the end of time, but I must not have thought this would really come. I seemed in a collapsed balloon, with everything pressing in around me.
I could see all those charts Elder Brown had drawn, day after day on the board, showing the events of the end. There were two marks that were very close together, the National Sunday Law and the close of probation.
Doubt, fear, excitement whirled through my mind. What would happen? Where would we go? How soon would we leave?
Yet, it was so unreal like a dream. I just couldn't believe that it was here now.
"Alice, come to supper," Mother called.
In tense quietness I ate, wishing someone would mention the passage of the bill. But everything went like it always did.
In Bible Docs class I'd planned how I wanted things to work out when this time arrived. Father would be suddenly converted and as a united, Christian family, we'd move to some secluded place.
I waited, but no one seemed to know what he was supposed to do or say. They didn't act as if anything was out of the ordinary.
Finally, unable to keep still any longer, I said, "You know the Supreme Court okay'd that Sunday Law today."
"No!" Ron gasped. "Really?"
"The time of the end is near," Mother said, as she often did when something horrid happened. "We can see it all around us."
Dad didn't say anything.
Mother and Father really couldn't be that uninterested in something so vital and important.
I decided to try again.
"You know what Mrs. White says about the National Sunday Law."
Oh, no. There was that look on Mom's face. I knew now that she would criticize anything I said. Lately, every time I mentioned Mrs. White, or the Bible, Mother got mad.
"No, what does Mrs. White say?" she replied with a sigh of here-we-go-again.
Overlooking her disgust, I went on. "She says we should move out of the cities, for the close of probation is near."
"Where are we supposed to go?" Ron asked.
"Into the country or wilderness somewhere."
"Just tell me, little miss Holy-joe, exactly where are you going to find any 'wilderness' around here?"
Mother's cold words surprised me. Her reaction was completely different from that which I'd expected.
"Look up north," Ron said quickly. "There are huge forests where no one would find us for weeks."
Ron and I looked at each other. I never realized how interested in religious things he was. He had always seemed so careless and kiddish. But in that brief glance, I could see that he was interested.
The conversation stopped, for Mom and Dad's cold, indifferent silence gave us no wish to continue the discussion.
Things are all wrong, I thought later, as I lay on my bed. How can Mom and Dad be so apathetic? Nothing is happening like it's supposed to.
The week passed.
At church, Elder Jenkins had a stirring message on the Sunday Law and the Close of Probation. Everyone agreed with him. People cried and gave hearty "amens."
Now things were beginning to go the way I'd planned them.
But later as I walked out of church, I noticed people laughing and joking together like every other Sabbath. Some were talking of the new addition they were putting on their house, or the new piece of furniture they had purchased. Ladies were checking on what kind of cakes to bring to next week's church social.
I couldn't understand it. Can a person be moved by God, and forget so quickly?
As the days passed, tension grew. Finally Mother and Father consented to our leaving home. They gave us permission to live in our lake cottage.
After getting settled, time passed quickly. Sabbath we studied all day and prayed. Never before had I felt such a need to ask forgiveness. For literally hours Ron and I petitioned our heavenly Father for the forgiveness of all the sins we could remember. There was a heavy urgency pushing us.
Sunday, we went to our neighbors to give Bible Studies. Having never given a study before, we were nervous. But we decided that God would lead us to whom we were supposed to contact.
We met a very lovely family, the Cook's, who had heard of the Adventists' beliefs and were interested in them. They accepted the message and although were never baptized by water, became Seventh-day Adventists by the baptism of the Spirit.
I called home during the week. Mother was the same as usual no trace of anger or unhappiness. She thought we were going to come back and asked if we wanted Dad to come after us. I told her, "No" and urged her to join us, but she declined. She was not angry, only resigned to the fact that she couldn't leave home or Father.
I also phoned Elder Jenkins, hoping that he and his family would soon be moving. But, to my surprise, everything seemed to be the same as usual there too. Everyone was happy and friendly and no one was planning to do anything but go on just like they always had. Several times Elder Jenkins warned me to beware of becoming fanatical.
Oh, why did it have to happen? Why couldn't it wait till I died so I wouldn't have to be hurt by family and friends who rejected the call? Why must it happen . . . now?
One day while we were eating, Mrs. Cook came running into the house. "The Universal Sunday Law has just been passed," she cried. "Probation is closed!"
I looked at her. It couldn't be. Why, it was only the middle of July, just a few weeks after the National Sunday Law! The close of probation couldn't have come so soon . . . not now!
But then I saw those charts of Elder Brown's again. The line designating the Sunday Law and one showing the close of probation seemed to get closer and closer together until they blended into one. Yes, the time had come; the time was now.
After deciding on going to the Smokey Mountains, we prayed, and then took off.
I wanted so desperately to go back and see Mother, Father, and the Jenkins, but Cook's said it was too dangerous, we had to find a place of refuge. As we drove down the expressway, past the green and white sign that said, "Kalamazoo Next Exit," I felt strangely empty.
"There it goes," I thought. "My home town, my family, my minister, my church. There goes everything."
Then I looked over at Ron sitting on the other side of the back seat. No, not everything was gone. I had Ron, my precious brother. I slid over and gave him a kiss.
"It's just you and me now," I whispered. "Just us."
He looked at me. "Not quite," he smiled. "We've got God."
Mrs. Cook turned on the car radio. Every so often we caught a news broadcast. They were all the same: wars, tornadoes, fires, crime, and now the Sunday Law. The law, we learned, included a penalty of death for all those who failed to obey it. Within a week it would be permissible to kill us. Only one week!
Sitting in the back seat, staring out at the swiftly passing countryside, I had lots of time to think.
I thought about my childhood friends, and early grade school teachers. I wondered if they had received and accepted the truth. I wondered if they were driving, like we were, to some place to hide. And my heart ached as I thought of how very little I had done to show them the way.
I thought about my church school teachers, and wondered if they were running, or if they were going on just like they always had. I kept wondering, if, maybe, at the very last minute, Mom and Dad had left the city.
"Surely, they must have," I thought. "Elder Brown said that the saints would be the ones to flee." But maybe we weren't. Maybe we were just doing all this running to try to convince ourselves that we were good. Maybe we hadn't been saved, but, by running, were trying to prove to heaven that we deserved the seal of God. I knew that many would be deceived at the end. Maybe I had deceived myself into thinking I was saved, when I really wasn't. Maybe I was acting the way I knew the saints would act to convince myself that I was a saint. I'd heard of people lying so much, that they themselves, believed it. Maybe that was what I'd done.
The idea was terrifying, so I put it out of my mind, and thought only of God's promises: "To him who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that stand in the garden of God." "He who is victorious cannot be harmed by the second death."
The promises kept flashing through my mind as hope burned in my heart.
Ron was reading from Steps to Christ. He didn't seem worried. I thought then, how much he had grown up in the last two months, how Christ-like and mature he seemed.
"It says here," he said, "that we must accept the promises of Christ, not from feeling, but out of faith. He said He would keep us, and we must believe that He will."
"Strange," I thought, "that he should read that, just when I needed it."
The hours passed.
The news broadcasts were filled with wars, riots, mob actions in the big cities. Epidemics were breaking out in different parts of the country, and always there was news of the approaching date, on and after which, murder was condoned by law.
We finally reached the foothills of the Smokies, and to us they looked like heaven. Stopping for gas, we got out of the car to stretch. The attendant wiped off our windows. Then he asked to see our "Permission to Buy and Sell" card. When we told him we didn't have one, his face turned hard and gray. Quickly he walked into the station, picked up the phone and asked for the police.
We jumped into the car and took off.
Although the gas meter registered empty, the car ran perfectly.
Up one street and down another we drove. The radio was on, and breathless, we listened.
Suddenly we heard the license number and description of our car, and an alert that we were dangerous criminals. I couldn't believe that they were talking about us as I heard the list of crimes we had, supposedly, committed.
How could this be? How could something like this happen here, in the United States?
"Listen, kids," Mr. Cook said. "Grab what you can, and get out. Take off as fast as you dare, but don't look suspicious. It's not safe for you to be with us."
"But . . . "
"Do what I said . . . now!"
The car stopped and we jumped out.
For a moment we stood there, holding our Bibles and coats, and wondering what to do now.
And I had my roller bag. "How in the world did I get my roller bag?" I giggled nervously.
"I don't know, but we'd better get going." Ron grabbed my arm, and we started up the street.
It was a peaceful, quiet, ordinary residential city street. Little children were playing, people were washing their windows, or watering their lawns. For a moment, I felt safe. Everything was all right.
Then we heard the siren.
We dashed up a small street and between two brick buildings. Behind them it was dark, and within a small paved street were several boxes and barrels.
"Why would there be something like this in a residential district?" I whispered.
"Listen, Alice, will you stop trying to figure everything out, and hide." He pushed me under a box, and threw a pile of dirty, odor filled rags in on top of me. Hesitating a moment, he squeezed my hand. "I love you," he whispered. "Don't forget Romans 8:28."
The box came down. There was complete silence. The rags and dust created an unhealthy, almost unbearable stench in the small enclosure.
I prayed continually . . . Oh, if only I could know for sure that I was saved.
I listened to hear Ron say it was all right to come out. An eternity of suffocating silence passed!
Then the box moved, lifted, and cool, wonderfully fresh air flowed in.
"Come on, it's night." Ron helped me up.
After praying for God's continued protection, we cautiously started out of the alley-way.
We followed the highway, and as we got farther and farther from town our fears grew. Every time a car passed, we fell to the ground. Then we ran. Faster and faster we ran. Down we fell, grasping the ground, and hoping no one would see us. As the car sped down the highway we were on our feet again, running. My side ached and my legs hurt.
"Stop!" I cried.
"We can't. Hit the ground, here comes another car!"
Exhausted, I fell to the cold earth, and with fear watched the headlights speed past.
"So this is what it's like to be a criminal," I thought. "Now I know how it feels to be hunted."
I lay there, not wanting to rise.
"Get up, Alice," Ron pulled me to my feet.
"Ron, I can't, " I protested.
"Cut it out! You know we have to go while we can. What happens when the sun comes up if you're lying out here by the road? Now, we're almost to the hills." He pulled me into a trot. "We have to go now."
That's it. Everything was NOW. Now we had to run. Now we had to fall. Now we had to hide. Why couldn't it happen next year or the next? Why did everything have to happen now?
At last we were in the hills. We worked our way back into a wood. In the east the sky was growing pink. We kept walking. I didn't feel the hurt in my legs, or the pain in my side so much. My feet no longer felt blistered and hot, just kind of achingly numb. I wanted a drink of water. My throat was so dry, it hurt to swallow. Finally -- exhausted -- we fell on the ground and slept.
When we awoke, I opened my Bible to the Psalms. Several verses in Psalm 27 were underlined. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . . for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavillion; . . . When my father and my mother forske me, then the Lord will take me up."