Blessed Childby Ted Dekker, Bill Bright
The young orphaned boy was abandoned and raised in an Ethiopian monastery. He has never seen outside its walls -- at least, not the way most people see. Now he must flee those walls or die.
But the world is hardly ready for a boy like Caleb.
When relief expert Jason Marker agrees to take Caleb from the monastery, he unwittingly opens humanity's doors/em>
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The young orphaned boy was abandoned and raised in an Ethiopian monastery. He has never seen outside its walls -- at least, not the way most people see. Now he must flee those walls or die.
But the world is hardly ready for a boy like Caleb.
When relief expert Jason Marker agrees to take Caleb from the monastery, he unwittingly opens humanity's doors to an incredible journey filled with intrigue and peril. Together with Leiah, the French Canadian nurse who escapes to America with them, Jason discovers Caleb's stunning power. But so do the boy's enemies, who will stop at nothing to destroy him. Jason and Leiah fight for the boy's survival while the world erupts into debate over the source of the boy's power.
In the end nothing can prepare them for what they will find.
Read an Excerpt
Three Months Later
Minus 3 Days
Jason brought the open-topped Peace Corps Jeep to a stop and turned off its ignition. The engine coughed once and died. He hauled himself up by the roll bar and studied the browned valley ahead. The Ethiopian Orthodox monastery known to locals as Debra Damarro loomed against the rolling hills, a square fortress hewn from solid rock. Why the ancients had built here, in such a remote corner of Tigre in northern Ethiopia, so far from the beaten track of worshipers, was beyond him, but then so was the tenor of Orthodoxy in general. And Christianity, for that matter.
Acacia trees swayed in the courtyard, serene in the afternoon heat. Jason kept his eyes fixed on the iron gate where Daal insisted he would be met and speedily serviced. The Eritrean invasion was only three days old, but already the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) had brought the border dispute as far south as Axum to the west; it was a wonder they had not overtaken these hills yet. But then Ethiopia wasn't taking the sudden invasion along its northern border lying down. They were obviously keeping the enemy forces occupied elsewhere, where more than a single remote monastery was at stake.
It was not the first time Eritrea had made this absurd claim to the land beyond its drawn borders. Absurd because even the pagans knew that Orthodox Ethiopians would defend their northern holy sites to the death. The queen of Sheba had first brought Solomons wisdom and, according to many, his child, here to her castle near Axum, fifty miles to the southwest. The Jewish religionhad swept through the hills, and several hundred years later, the Ark of the Covenant had followedalso to Axum, the priests insisted. A growing contingent of scholars at least agreed with the Ethiopian orthodox community that the Arks last known resting place was indeed somewhere in northern Ethiopia.
Christianity had first come to Africa here, along this northern border. And now for the second time in ten years, Eritrea was openly disputing that border. It was like trying to argue that Florida really belonged to Cuba.
Most of the relief workers in the surrounding towns had already fled south to the country's capital, Addis Ababa, with the first evacuation order.
Most. But not Jason Marker. Daal, his Irob interpreter, had begged him for this one favor. To deliver this one orphan stranded at this remote monastery to safety. And why would he risk his life to save a single child in a land where a hundred thousand would die in the next famine? Why would he head north, closer to the EPLF forces, instead of blazing a trail south as demanded by the Corps?
Perhaps because he was in the Corps: the kind of man who at least on occasion threw caution to the wind for a sense of greater purpose. Or maybe to appease the guilt he felt at having decided to leave Ethiopia for good.
But most likely because he wasn't really risking his life at all. The Eritreans would probably not harm an American. Daal had sworn nothing less before running off to see to his own family. So Jason would engage in this one last humanitarian mission and close this chapter in his life. And just as wellworking in Ethiopia had been like trying to extract water from a bag of flour.
Jason wiped the rolling sweat from his forehead, rubbed his hand on his khakis, and dropped back into the seat. The monastery seemed quiet enough. He reached for the key, and the faint rumble of an engine drifted through the air.
His hand froze. It wasn't the Jeep's engine, of course. He hadn't turned the key. Jason scanned the horizon quickly. The road ran past the monastery and climbed the hills to the right, disappearing into valleys and reappearing on the distant hills beyond like a tan snake.
He saw the trucks then, tiny dots slinking into a valley several miles off. A small grunt escaped his throat, and for a terrible moment he couldn't think. He snatched up his binoculars and peered at the trucks. EPLF! It was an EPLF column, headed toward the monastery, no more than ten minutes off. Which meant what?
That Daal had been wrong?
Jason's doctorate was in agriculture, not military maneuvers, but he hardly needed an education to tell him that this was not good. His heart was doing the job splendidly.
He spun around in a panic and grabbed for the old bolt action .30-06 he used for the occasional hunt. His sweaty palm slapped at the worn wood stalk and managed to claw it off the back seat before sending it clattering to the floorboards behind.
What was he thinking? Take on the Eritrean army with a thirty-ought-six?
Jason fired the Jeep's engine, shoved the stick forward, and dropped the clutch. The old World War II vehicle jerked forward. He tore for the gate, blinking against the simple thought that he was headed the wrong way. He should be leaving.
It wasn't terribly clear why he did continue for that closed iron gate. At any moment his arms would yank the steering wheel and whip the Jeep through a one-eighty. But they did not.
A figure in robes suddenly ran for the gate and threw it open. Jason roared through and braked the Jeep into a skidding stop, three meters from the monastery's foundation. Wide, sweeping steps cut from sandstone rose to an arching entry. Heavy wooden doors gaped open to a dark interior. Behind him the gatekeeper was yelling in Amharic.
Jason slid from the seat and bounded up the steps two at a time. He ran through an internal circuit and into the cavernous sanctuary. He slid to a stop on the polished stone floor. To say that the room was empty would have misstated the matter. Although Jason was indeed alone in the huge domed sanctum, an imposing silence filled the space, heavy enough to resonate through his skull with a distant ring. His blood pounded through his ears.
High above him a yellow face covering half the dome peered down unblinking, engaging his eyes.
The voice echoed across the sanctuary. "Sire, you are not permitted in this room. It is for priests"
"Where's Father Matthew? Do you have a Father Matthew here? I have to see him!"
The white-draped priest stared at Jason as if he'd just swallowed a small boulder. He held an ancient text in his arms, a huge book browned by time.
Jason lowered his voice. "Please, man. Forgive me, but I have to see Father Matthew immediately. Do you know that there are soldiers"
"It's quite all right, Phillip."
Jason turned to the new voice. An old priest wearing the same traditional white garb as the other priest shuffled with small steps from a doorway on his left.
"Come, come, come." He motioned for Jason to follow.
"Yes, of course. And you are the good man Daal promised, yes? Then come, come."
The priest pulled at a wiry white beard that hung a good foot off his chin. He smiled and his large oblong eyes flashed knowingly, as if the whole thing were a play and he held a secret part that he was now executing perfectly. Jason glanced at the first priest, who had bowed his head to Father Matthew.
"We don't have all day, young man. You have come for the boy, yes?"
Jason faced Father Matthew. "Yes." He headed for the old man, who nodded and shuffled hurriedly from the room.
They walked into a passageway cut from the same sandstone as the monastery's exterior. The whole structure was literally one large rock, carved and chipped away over many years, not so unusual in northern Ethiopia. Jason hurried after the priest, who moved very quickly considering his small steps. They descended a flight of steps by the light of a torch's flickering flame and then followed a tunnel farther into the earth. He'd never been so deep in a monastery. Stories of the secret underground caverns were common, but Jason had never suspected they were much more than small enclaves. Certainly not serviced by the well-worn passageways he was seeing now.
"Welcome to the mystery of our faith," the old man said with a hint of sarcasm.
"And it makes us priests feel rather special, crawling through the earth like moles while the flock wanders above."
This was no ordinary priest. A tad eccentric from his years below the surface perhaps.
"The mortals above are carrying guns now," Jason said. "You do realize that, Father. The EPLF is less than five minutes up the road."
"Precisely. Which is why we are hurrying. You think I walk with such haste every waking hour?"
"You knew they'd be coming? That's not what Daal told me. He said this would be a simple in-and-out trip to collect the orphan and take him to safety. Somehow it isn't feeling quite so simple."
"Ah, Daal. He was always a bit smooth with the tongue. Rather like a lot of priests I know. It's a case of humanity, I suspect; insisting on some brand of the truth altogether unclear, but made clearer with insistence." He shuffled on and held up a finger, half turning. "What you cannot establish with wit you can always further with a little volume, don't you think?"
Ordinarily Jason would have chuckled at the old man's own wit, but the image of those trucks plowing over the hills outside tempered his humor. The priest was muttering now, and his echoes sounded like a chuckle through the tunnel. They hurried deeper into the earth.
"Maybe you could just bring the child out to the Jeep," Jason said. He was having a hard time communicating his urgency to the old senile goat. "Maybe I should go back and"
"Do you believe in God?"
They broke into a torch-lit room furnished with a single wooden table and two chairs. The priest turned to face him. His long eyes sagged in the surreal orange light.
"Do I ... yes, of course"
"Or do you just say that you believe in God to appease me? I see doubt in your eyes, young man."
Jason blinked, stunned. Father Matthew was clearly out of touch. Outside a war was looming and he wasted time philosophizing about God in the bowels of some lost monastery. The old man spoke hurriedly now.
"Do you believe that Jesus Christ was a madman?"
"Do you believe that when he announced that his disciples would do greater things than he had, he was delusional?"
"What does this have to do with anything? We have to get out, man!"
"I thought not," the priest said. "You do not believe. And yes, we are short on time. But our lives are in God's hands."
"That's fine, but if you wouldn't mind I would like to get out of here before the bullets start flying. I'm not sure your God is quite so attentive to my interests."
"Yes, I can see that you're unsure."
"And why did you call me here in the first place, if you're so confident that God will save you?"
"You are here, aren't you? I will assume that he sent you. So then he is saving us. Or at least the child. Unless we are too late, of course."
Jason shoved the logic from his mind and tried to control his frustration. "Then please help your God along and get me the kid."
The priest studied Jason's face. "I want your word. You will die before allowing Caleb to come to harm."
Jason balked at the man's audacity.
It was an insane moment and he spoke quickly, to appease the man. "Of course, I promise you. Now get him please."
"We found him at the gate when he was a baby, you know. Abandoned here by a retreating Eritrean commander who had just killed his mother during the last war. She was a European nurse. The soldier left a scrawled note with the boy seeking absolution for his sins."
Father Matthew stared unblinking, as if the revelation should explain some things. But the tale sounded rather par for the course in this mad place.
"The boy is no ordinary child. I think you will see that soon enough. Did you know that he has never seen beyond the gate? You will only be the fourth man he has ever laid eyes on in his ten years of life. He has never seen a woman."
"He's been in this monastery his whole life?"
"I raised him as a son. Where I go he goes. Or in this case where I stay, he has stayed. Except now. Now God has sent you to deliver the boy and I am bound by a vow to remain here."
He reached inside his tunic and withdrew an envelope. He handed the brown packet out to Jason, who looked unsure. "These are his papers, granting him refugee status outside of Ethiopia."
"Outside? I was under the impression that I was taking him to Addis Ababa."
"As long as he is in this country, his life is in danger. You must deliver him to safety beyond our borders."
Jason was about to tell the old man that he was losing true north when a door suddenly burst open to their right. A boy ran into the room, grinning from ear to ear.
"Dadda!" He spoke in Amharic, but he didn't look Ethiopian. His skin was a creamy tan and his dark hair hung in loose curls to his shouldershe was clearly of mixed race. A simple cotton tunic similar to the priest's covered his small frame.
The boy ran up and threw his arms around the priest's waist, burying his face in the man's tunic. Father Matthew palmed the envelope, smiled, and dropped to his knees to hug the child. "Hello, Caleb." He kissed him on his forehead and looked into the boy's eyeseyes as brilliant blue-green as Jason had ever seen.
"Caleb, your time has come, my son." He smoothed the boy's hair lovingly.
Caleb faced Jason with those large, round, eyes. The priest had prepared the boy already, and Jason wondered what the boy knew.
A tremor shook the ground and Jason instinctively glanced up. It was a shell! A shell had detonated outside!
Father Matthew's hand grabbed Jason's and pressed the envelope into his palm. The old man's eyes were misted by the flame's light. "Promise me, my friend, I beg you! Take him beyond our borders."
"I will. I will. Get us out of here!"
The priest's eyes lingered for a brief moment, searching for truth. He whirled for the boy, who stared at the ceiling as another rumble shook the room. He snatched Caleb's hand. "Follow me! Run!"
The small shuffle steps Father Matthew had employed to lead Jason down gave way to long strides, and Jason raced to keep Father and son in sight. The priest was an enigma but certainly no idiot. His voice called back as they ran.
"They are firing on the village behind the monastery. We still have time. I have asked the others to distract them if necessary."
"We have a moat behind for water. It will be burning with oil."
The child ran silently, on the heels of his father. They burst into the same sanctuary Jason had been scolded for entering earlier. Now another figure stood at its center, spinning around to face them as they rushed in.
She wore a navy blue tunic not unlike you might see on any street corner throughout Ethiopia, but the woman was clearly not Ethiopian. A hood shrouded a deeply tanned face. She seemed to arrest even the old priest's attention for a moment.
"Oh yes, I'd nearly forgotten about you, dear," Father Matthew said. He turned to Jason. "This is the nurse Leiah. She came to us a few hours ago from a French Canadian Red Cross camp in Eritrea that was overrun."
"A woman," Jason said, not because the discovery was notable, but because everyone knew women were strictly prohibited past the gates of any Ethiopian Orthodox monastery. Yet here was most definitely a woman. A Frenchwoman.
The woman glanced at the door leading to the courtyard and then back to Jason. She approached him quickly. "Take me with you!" she said in perfect English. She turned to Father Matthew. "Father, tell him he must take me with him!"
Her blue eyes begged. She grabbed his shirt and tugged gently toward the door. "Hurry! We have to leave."
A loud detonation shook the sanctuary and Jason ducked with the sound.
"Take her," the priest said. He knelt and took Caleb in his arms again. He drew the boy close and whispered in his ear. When he pulled back, tears snaked from his eyes, wetting each cheek. "Remember what I have taught you, my son. Remember it well. Listen to your heart; the eyes will deceive. Remember." He spoke in Amharic.
"Let's go! Hurry," Jason urged them. For all the talk of delivering these to safety, they wouldn't make it past the front gate if they didn't leave now. Assuming the gate was not already overtaken.
"Dadda ..." the boy said.
"Go with God, Caleb. His love is better than life."
Jason grabbed the boy's arm and tugged him toward the arching entry. Leiah, the woman, was already at the door craning for a view on either side. She spun to them.
"Jason," the priest said. "What's soft and round and says more than it should?"
Jason spun back. "Wha?"
"The hem of a tunic." Father Matthew smiled. "An old Ethiopian riddle about modesty that will make sense to you one day. Remember it."
* * *
They ran from the monastery together, Leiah in the lead, with Jason and the boy following behind. The midday sun blinded Jason for an instant. He released the boy's hand and took the steps more by feel than by sight.
Behind him Father Matthew's voice urged a faltering boy. "Go! Run. Run to the truck and climb in. It will be all right. Remember my riddle, Jason."
There was no sign of soldiers on this side of the monastery, but the detonations of what Jason assumed to be mortar fire shook the ground behind them. Black smoke boiled into the sky. Father Matthew's burning moat. Oil.
Jason spun to see the boy picking his way down the broad steps on his tiptoes. His round eyes glanced around, petrified. Jason bounded up the steps, grabbed the boy around the waist, and ran for the Jeep.
"Give him to me!" the nurse demanded, her arms outstretched from the back seat. He shoved the boy toward her. She gathered Caleb and set him on the seat beside her. The boy immediately covered his eyes with his hands and buried his head in her lap.
"Get us out of here! Hurry, man!" Leiah said.
"I am. I am! Hold on!"
The engine roared to life with the first turn of the ignition. Jason rammed the shift stick forward and floored the accelerator. The Jeep spun in a circle, raising dust on all sides. He angled the vehicle for the gate and grabbed another gear.
Behind them an explosion shook the courtyard. They were lobbing the explosives to the front! Ahead the gate was closed. The gatekeeper ran out, pointing frantically to Jason's rear. He glanced back and saw the first truck emerging from a cloud of smoke beside the monasterya Land Rover painted in desert camouflage.
Jason didn't let up on the gas pedal. He had the engine wound out in third gear, screaming for the closed gate.
"Open it! Open the gate!" he screamed, motioning furiously with his hand.
The gatekeeper flew for the latch, like a ghost in his flowing white robes. He shoved the gates open and ran for the monastery, uttering sharp cries barely heard above the thumping explosions behind them.
The Jeep struck one of the gates with a clang and shot out onto the driveway. Jason shoved the gearbox into high gear, veered off the road in his haste, corrected with a jerk of the wheel, and centered the vehicle on the road leading from the valley.
"Stay on the road! Watch the potholes!"
Her warning came too late and their right wheel pounded through a hole the size of a Volkswagen. Jason cleared the seat a good foot before crashing back down. He glanced back to see Leiah's white face. The boy was still buried in her lap, oblivious to the world.
"Watch for the holes!" Leiah yelled.
Behind them a huge explosion ripped through the air, like a thunderclap rumbling across the sky. Jason's heart slammed against the walls of his chest, loud in his ears, spurred by a mixture of terror and euphoria. Machine guns stuttered in long bursts. This was no abstract attack on a village. They were destroying the monastery wholesale, an unspoken taboo, even during an invasion. The monasteries had survived a thousand years precisely because of the reverence they commanded. Slaughter of women and children was far more common in this land than the destruction of a shrine.
They had nearly reached the crest of the first hill when Jason looked back again. What he saw ran through his chest like a spike on the end of a sledgehammer. He caught his breath. The monastery was without ambiguity history, crumbled and smoking, a remnant of its former structure. No soul could possibly have lived through such a pounding. And if one or two did manage to find the sunlight alive, a ring of trucks with mounted machine guns awaited to make certain they did not savor it too long.
Jason saw the destruction in a glance. But he forgot it almost immediately in favor of another sight that nearly drove him from the road. It was the sight of a lone truck barreling down the road behind them.
Leiah must have seen the look on his face, because she spun to face the valley. Machine-gun fire cut through the air, a small popping sound, like popcorn in a microwave.
"Move it! They're catching us!" she screamed.
Something snapped in Jason's mind. The euphoria of their escape was smothered by horror. They were being pursued.
"Faster! Drive faster!"
"Shut up! I'm driving as fast as I can! Just shut up and let me drive!"
They crested the hill and roared into the next valley. For a few seconds, maybe ten, they were alone with the growling of their own engine. And then the larger Land Rover broke over the hill and screamed after them.
Jason felt panic wash over his spine. They were going to die. He knew that with dread certainty. His life would end this day.
Excerpted from Blessed Child by BILL BRIGHT AND TED DEKKER. Copyright © 2001 by Bill Bright and Ted Dekker. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
A NATURALIST MEETS LONG ISLAND SOUND
By MARY PARKER BUCKLES
North Point Press
Copyright © 1997 Mary Parker Buckles. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author
Prior to his death in 2003, Dr. Bill Bright put into book form what he regarded as the 10 most vital principles every Christian should know and live by. The result is The Joy of Knowing God, a "simply powerful" 10-book series of Bright's most dynamic messages on successful Christian living.
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A friend of mine gave me this book as a gift. I opened it a month later not really sure what to expect. My favorite books are the ones I'm not expecting to be very good that end up on my "favorites" list. It immediatly grabbed me and kept me on the edge of my seat till the last word. I absolutely loved it!
This book is amazing!!!! it most definitely is a love letter from GOD. It teaches us that we have power in Christ for he said we were to do greater things than he did.
this book is what christians today need to understand about walking into the kingdom of God. images in my mind from this book brought tears to my eyes. very touching. have to read this one
A must read!
I loved this book so much but I read it so fast the first time that I couldn't remember the authors name or the title of the book. I finally went on the hunt to figure it out and bought it for my nook. I'm so glad I did because I loved it just as much the second time around. Don't miss out on this one! It has a little mystery, intrigue, suspense and a lot of spiritual lessons about Gods power in your life.
Enjoyed the book from start to finish. Its fast paced and I love how vividly the writer explains the actions of the blessed child. If you enjoy Christian fiction this is a good one for you
After reading this book, I can now find peace in my heart. After the death of my Son in 2005. He was 23 yrs old and a Marine. My heart will always be broken but I can look at His death with hope. Thank you for the string of light T g
This book had me intrigued from the beginning. An absolute must read.