Chapter Fifteen: Guerrilla evangelism
It was night, and they were on their way to a farmhouse when Lawrence abruptly called them over the radio and gave them new instructions. They drove east on highway nine for exactly seventeen miles, abandoned their van at the side of the road, and walked east through the nearby forest. After about one hour, they approached a huge circular clearing in the woods, where thousands were waiting to hear the gospel.
After hearing the good news, all were saved and delivered from demons. Jeff didn't know how the people got there, and it didn't matter. The main thing was new believers were added to God's Kingdom. But he didn't know how they were going to bring them all back to the complex.
Len closed his eyes and concentrated before opening them and staring at his companions. He looked behind to the thousands crowded into the circular clearing in the woods, fresh smell of pine filling the air. Everyone was quiet, only chirping crickets in the background breaking the silence, as they all expectantly waited for Len to lead them in what to do next.
"Well?" Jeff asked.
"Lawrence told me as long as we get them to the van everything will be OK," Len said.
Jeff would never understand how Len was able to telepathically communicate with Lawrence, but he didn't understand Lawrence's ability to hear God either. It didn't matter to Jeff whether communication came directly from God, through Lawrence, or from Len via Lawrence, as long as they received direct guidance. Granted, though, it took a lot of faith to obey some human being who claimed to be hearing from God. Jeff was extremely cautious because of his earlier cultic experiences, but God had given him an ability to discern which directives truly came from the Holy Spirit.
"What happens when we get to the van?" Sandy asked.
"I don't know," Len said. "But I know there'll be a way when we get there."
"We don't have to understand everything," Ellis added. "Just obey."
Everybody nodded their heads in agreement.
Len organized the huge crowd into horizontal lines of ten and had them march through the woods in the direction of the van. Len and Ellis led the way up front, while Jeff and Sandy followed behind to make sure nobody got lost. The people were excited and happy, talking together and singing praises as they marched, but Jeff could still hear the night sounds. The air was cool and breezy, causing rustling leaves and swaying trees to throw an eerie chill into Jeff's spirit. Or was it something else? The red moon's mild illumination was enhanced by the flashlights most had brought with them to the clearing.
After about fifteen minutes, the air become decidedly cooler, cold almost. The moon and flash-lights seemed to dim, as the night became darker. Something was wrong. The crowd sensed it too, for they slowly stopped talking and singing. They were new Christians and possibly didn't recognize the source of the disturbance, but Jeff did. It was evil. They were being stalked by something not human.
Ellis ran to the back. "Do you feel it?" he asked Jeff.
"I sense it is Methsaela," Sandy said.
Jeff's eyes widened. "Oh, great." They had tangled with Methsaela before. They knew what they had to do.
Jeff, Sandy, and Ellis knelt in the dirt and began praying fervently, while the new Christians silently marched onward.
"We need Len," Sandy said.
Jeff shook his head. "He can't afford to stop. It'll be upon us soon."
Ellis nodded his head in agreement.
They all joined hands. Jeff and Ellis poured out their hearts to God, praying for His power and protection, while Sandy quietly sang songs about faith and courage and praised the Lord for His love and care.
As the sounds of marching became fainter, Jeff could hear low snarling and growling over the rustling leaves, and what sounded like horses galloping. The sound became louder and louder. They were approaching, but from where Jeff couldn't tell, seemed to come from all different directions.
"There's more than one," Ellis said, and Jeff opened his eyes to see Sandy nodding her head. Jeff could sense it too, a whole legion of demons.
"Why?" Jeff asked. "What does it mean? They've never marshaled such force against one small preaching venture before."
"God has bestowed one of the new believers with a power they desperately want stopped," Ellis said. "But I don't know what it is."
Suddenly, Sandy fell back and started moaning. "Torment...power...the flames of hell they can evade no longer."
"Is she OK?" Ellis asked.
"She's fine," Jeff said. "She's receiving a message, but I don't know what it means."
Sandy stopped moving and lay in a coma-like state, occasionally twitching.
Jeff could feel evil approaching. The hoof beats grew louder. Then the sounds abruptly stopped. "They're here."
Ellis swallowed hard.
The sounds of rustling leaves became louder as the wind picked up force. Suddenly, it blew Jeff backwards until his spine smacked against the solid trunk of a towering tree. Immediately, long branches encircled his limbs and torso like a spider web, pinning him tightly.
"Jeff!" Ellis screamed, but he soon had problems of his own. The ground beneath Ellis's feet started pulling him in like quicksand. Ellis clutched at the loose dirt in front of him, but to no avail.
Jeff felt his chest shrink, as the branches squeezed tighter with every exhaling breath, like a python snake crushing its prey. Into Your hands I commit my spirit, he thought.
But Sandy suddenly shot up and shouted, "Release my friends or I will invoke his power by proxy!"
The branches gave one last defiant squeeze before they loosened. Ellis crawled out of his hole; the forces of darkness had pulled him chest level into the ground.
Jeff ran over to his friends' sides. "What happened?" he asked Sandy. "How did you do that?"
Sandy said, "God has given a person named Dan Schuster the gift of damnation, sending demons to hell before their time. This terrifies them. They want him dead."
"If you could invoke this person's power, why didn't you do it?"
"I wasn't sure if it would work. I was bluffing."
"Then try it now," Ellis said.
"I can't. They've gone ahead. You have to be in their presence."
"We have to warn them," Jeff said. Ellis and Sandy agreed. They started running, flashlights blazing a trail ahead, ducking tree limbs and leaping over rocks and other obstacles.
Jeff scratched his arms and chest on branches repeatedly but ignored the pain. He figured they were halfway to their destination when a tall dark figure suddenly blocked their path. Jeff was ahead of Ellis and Sandy, so he stopped and held out his hands to restrain them. Directly ahead was a black bear, standing on its hind legs, snarling. The eyes glinted red, and the snarl it made was unnatural.
Jeff could sense an evil presence again. "It's possessed," he said.
Sandy went around Jeff's outstretched arms and cautiously moved forward.
"Careful," Ellis said.
"I will invoke his power," Sandy threatened.
The bear snarled and moved ahead slightly.
"He's calling her bluff," Ellis whispered.
The bear came down on all fours and reared back, as if readying for a charge.
Sandy said, "In the name of Jesus I invoke the power of Dan Schuster to damn you to hell!"
The bear reared on its hind legs, frantically scratching its head with its forearms. It let out a wolfish howl and came down on all fours again.
Sandy backed up. "It didn't work."
She was right. Jeff could still feel the evil presence, see the red glowing eyes, and hear the inhuman snarl.
The bear started charging, scattering them in different directions.
Adrenaline pushed Jeff's body beyond its limits as he ran, hearing sounds of the lumbering bear just behind him. His heart raced as he bounded through branches, over rocks, shrubs, and fallen trees. The air whistled past his ears. He was about to leap up a tree when he was knocked down. He rolled over and saw the jaws of death. "Help, Lord!" he screamed.
The bear became stiff. Was it playing with him? Where's your faith, Jeff, he thought.
He didn't waste time trying to figure it out, but quickly scrambled from under the bear, and leapt up the tree he had targeted. Perched high above, he quietly watched the bear move again. It looked around as if puzzled. After a short time, the evil gleam left the animal's eyes, and it nonchalantly walked away, unconcerned with its whereabouts, content to go on with life as usual.
When Jeff was fully convinced it was safe, he climbed down and cautiously scouted out his immediate area. He called to Sandy and Ellis, but didn't hear any response.
He'd lost his direction in the chase, so he prayed for guidance before starting. When he felt sure, he set out in a brisk walk. Eventually, he broke into a run, hoping to reach Len and the others before it was too late, slowing down only to catch his breath. All the trees seemed the same and he wondered if he was running in circles, but the inner compass of God's Spirit kept leading him forward.
When he finally found the group, they were huddled in a tight ball. The wind was blowing dirt and debris into their eyes, blinding them. People were screaming as trees fell and crushed unsuspecting victims, or branches strangled the life out of them.
Jeff ran into the middle of the war zone. He found Len near the center, on his knees, praying, one eye open in case he had to leap out of the way of a falling tree.
Jeff had to yell over the sound of the wind and screams. "Len! Where's Dan Schuster?"
"Who?" Len yelled back.
"I don't know who that is."
"Help me find him. We must find him."
Jeff and Len ran through the crowd, shouting out Dan's name, as they leapt over dead bodies, and fallen trees. Jeff stopped to help as many injured as he could and asked them if they knew Dan. Eventually one person pointed and said, "Over there!"
Jeff saw a small boy being crushed by some branches. An older woman, presumably his mother, was trying to pry them off. A tree fell and Jeff jumped, narrowly evading it by a few inches.
"Len!" Jeff yelled over the wind's roar. "Come with me."
Len nodded and followed. They tried prying the branches off the boy's windpipe, while the mother concentrated on the ones crushing his chest.
Even with Jeff and Len struggling hard to break tree's hold, the best they could do was to loosen them a bit. The boy coughed and gasped for air.
"Damn them to hell, Dan!" Jeff said.
"What?" the boy said.
"Command the demons to go to hell!"
The boy's left eyebrow rose in puzzlement. "Demons go to hell," he said. Nothing happened.
"Say it again in Jesus' name," Jeff said.
Dan repeated his command in the name of the Lord.
The sound of blowing wind transformed into the sound of inhuman wailing. The branches loosened and the wind died down. Balls of white light appeared and moved through the crowd. As the lights flew into the distant horizon, the wailing became fainter and fainter. It was over.
Jeff surveyed the carnage. Trees and dead bodies were lying all around and the injured were moaning.
Sandy and Ellis came running out of the woods. They spotted Jeff immediately and approached him.
Sandy nodded at Jeff. "I can imagine what happened. Is he OK?"
"Yeah," Jeff said. "Dan saved the day, but I'd estimate we lost about a quarter of the new ones. Others are hurt. We'd better get them back to the complex."
Len sighed and set out to organize everybody. As he walked among the crowd, he said, "OK, we have to keep pressing on. I want horizontal rows again of ten..."
Len's voice became fainter.
"We tried finding you but didn't have any luck," Sandy said.
Jeff nodded. "Do you think we'll run into anymore surprises on the way home?"
Ellis and Sandy didn't say anything, but they knew as well as Jeff that where demons were, possessed humans were usually not far off. He tried to put the thought out of his mind.
Dead people had to be buried under lose dirt, shrubs and rocks. Jeff wanted to bring them to the complex for a better burial, but acquiesced when Len explained they didn't have the time or manpower; some family members were upset too, but likewise understood the difficulties of the situation. After Len organized everybody, they marched on again for about twenty minutes, with the physically fit helping to carry the injured.
They had almost made it out of the woods when Len suddenly stopped and sniffed the air, sensing danger. He yelled, "Get down!"
Ellis, Jeff, and Sandy immediately obeyed, for they trusted Len's instincts, but the others hesitated.
Seconds later machine gun fire rattled off high in the treetops. Possessed humans, seeming as wild-eyed and unkempt as vicious beasts, were aiming their guns at anything moving. The first several rows of people were cut down before the rest took cover behind trees, boulders, or anything else which afforded some protection.
From behind a sloping incline, Jeff watched Len crawl over and talk to Dan. The boy shouted something and shook his head. Then Len crawled over to Jeff, narrowly escaping several stray bullets.
"Can you start a quake, Jeff?" Len asked.
"It would be better if Dan could damn them."
"Tried that. Didn't work. Must only work on free roaming spirits, not those sheltered inside humans."
"Well, I have to be standing when I stomp on the ground."
"You're our only hope."
"He's right," Sandy said. She joined hands with Len and they both started praying aloud for Jeff's safety.
When Jeff felt led by the Spirit, he stood up and prayed for his special power to flow. After he stomped on the ground, he got down quickly.
The rumbling started, quaking, then huge hailstones fell from the sky.
"Move out," Len shouted as he led the way. "Leave the dead. There's no time."
The group scrambled through the remaining woods. They were close to the highway so it didn't take long. By the time they exited, the earthquake had stopped, and Len had organized everybody again. Jeff and Sandy were some of the last ones because they had stayed behind to help carry a man with a broken leg.
They came out to see a mass of organized people, but nobody moving.
Jeff and Sandy went to the front to see what the hold up was, and saw a circle of armed guards around their van. The guards were a fair distance away and hadn't spotted the group yet because it was still dark, but it was easy to see the guards because they had set up lanterns around the van's perimeter.
Jeff turned to Len. "Are you sure we have to get to the van," he whispered.
Len nodded. "Perhaps another quake would distract them."
Jeff shook his head. "Too dangerous. We'll be too close."
"What do we do then?"
Sandy said, "Let's all join hands in prayer. I mean everybody. Including the new Christians."
Jeff was the first to grab Sandy's hand, the beginning of a long chain of interconnecting hearts. Soon, Jeff felt energy flowing through him towards Len, who had a strong impression in his spirit and said, "I think God is saying we should walk right up to it. But that's ridiculous."
"Is it?" Jeff asked. "Sounds like something He would tell us to do. Do we have the faith, though?"
"I'm going to check with Lawrence first." Len paused and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, he opened them again. "OK. Let's do it."
Everybody moved forward cautiously. Closer. Closer. No reaction from the guards. They stepped into the light of the roadside lanterns and continued forward. Still no reaction. Len quietly opened the driver's door, while Jeff got in the passenger side, and Ellis and Sandy loaded as many into the back as possible. When it was full, Ellis went to the driver's window and tapped.
Len rolled it down. "Yes."
Len closed his eyes. "Have everybody touch the van." He opened his eyes and said, "or touch somebody who is touching the van."
Ellis nodded and disappeared. After a short time, the back door slammed shut and Ellis said they were ready.
"Whatever You're going to do, Lord," Len said, "we're waiting."
Jeff looked out the window. Several people stood beside his door, but most had instinctively crowded around the back, probably expecting the van to go forward. The guards still stood and stared into the woods, but the van started to rise. Jeff rolled down his window and peered out. Everybody in the group was rising into the air as well. The guards became smaller as they continued to rise, still no recognition the van was gone.
They glided through the dark sky, several hundred feet in the air, skimming the trees along highway nine. At one point, a fireball fell from heaven, nearly hitting the van. Jeff looked out his window and saw the fire devour a group of people who had been encircling another group below. Jeff guessed Scott Sheppard from complex seventy-three must be amongst the group in the center. Scott was a protector, like Jeff, able to supernaturally defend against attack.
Jeff began going over the day in his mind. They had started early that morning because Lawrence sent them to a small town about three hundred miles south of Star City. Once there, they preached and saw virtually the entire town come to Christ. The biggest miracle that impressed the townspeople was God had given Jeff's group and the town special immunity that day against the scorching heat of the sun.
It would have been too dangerous for the new Christians to follow them to Lawrence's complex though. Instead, Len mentally communicated with Lawrence, who said they should wait until dark, at which time a group of Christians from a complex in New Mexico would arrive and miraculously fly everybody back there. Jeff arrived home by late afternoon, rested for a bit, and then went to the clearing in the woods from which he was returning.
Jeff looked out the window again and saw they were approaching Star City. They flew over the town and touched down outside the complex. Lawrence immediately came to greet them, and Jeff rolled down his window.
"Welcome back," Lawrence said. "But don't get too comfortable. Do you remember the farmhouse I'd sent you to before there was a change of plans?"
"Yeah, I remember," Jeff said wearily.