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The shrill of the telephone interrupted his thoughts. With Monique gone home for the day, he reached for the phone, punching the speaker button.
"Hey, guy, I'm surprised I caught you."
"Lafayette, what's up, man?" Dwayne asked flatly.
"I was calling to see how you're doing. We haven't heard from you."
"I'm fine." Dwayne slumped into his chair. "You don't have to keep checking on me ..."
"I'm not checking on you," Lafayette objected softly. "I need to talk to you about something. Do you have some time tomorrow?"
Though he already knew his calendar, Dwayne glanced at the leather book in the center of his desk. "I've got a full day," he said as his eyes washed over the Thursday appointments that were set for every hour beginning at 8:00 A.M. He hadn't even scheduled time for lunch.
"Hmm. This is really important." Lafayette paused. "What are you doing now? The kids have really missed their Uncle Dwayne, and you know how Robbie and I always love to see you. Why don't you come on by?"
Dwayne hesitated, gathering his thoughts.
"I wouldn't be calling if this wasn't important," Lafayette pressed, looking for the answer he wanted. "It won't take long and I think you'll like what I have to say. Or if it's more convenient, I can come to you."
Knowing there was no escape, Dwayne gave in. "That's okay, I'll come there. I'll see you in about thirty minutes."
He put the phone down. Seeing Lafayette, Roberta, and their four children was not something he relished. The house was always so full of love and he felt so empty. It was hard for him to be there, thinking always what could have been had things been different.
In a gesture of resignation, he closed his calendar and dropped it into his briefcase. He walked slowly through the massive office and then stepped into the anteroom, decorated like a living room with the velvet scarlet plush couch and matching chairs. Though they didn't have much money when they'd opened this office, Yvette worked with an interior designer, insisting it was a professional necessity.
Yvette had carefully planned every aspect of their lives. Unfortunately, there was no backup-no strategy for spending the rest of his life alone. He ran his hand over his face, trying to wipe away the fatigue that seemed to envelop him constantly. He stepped into the hallway and, like a robot, took the elevator down to the parking garage.
Dwayne turned his car into the long driveway and pulled behind a metallic blue Escalade. He peered for a moment at the darkened front of the two-story, three-year-old custom-built home and then set the car into reverse. A second later the porch light was on. Sighing, he parked his car and turned off the ignition. The front door opened before he could slam the door of his Jaguar.
"I was about to come to you," Lafayette said as he extended a hearty hug to his younger brother.
"Uncle Dwayne!" Nicole, the youngest of Lafayette's children, rushed through the hall toward the front door.
Dwayne grinned and lifted the six-year-old into his arms. "How's my favorite girl?"
Nicole giggled as Dwayne kissed her cheek and Roberta sauntered into the foyer to greet her brother-in-law. Dressed in a gray jogging suit and white Keds, and with her long reddish-brown hair pulled into a ponytail, Robbie, as everyone fondly called her, didn't look much older than her fifteen-year-old son.
"Hey there. How are you making out?"
Dwayne nodded okay as he lowered Nicole to the floor and then gingerly pulled her pigtail. "Where is everybody else?"
"In their rooms watching TV, no doubt," she said as she took Nicole's hand and headed toward the kitchen, calling behind her, "Dwayne, come for dinner on Sunday. We've been missing you."
Dwayne settled into the full-cushioned chair and let his eyes wander around the living room as Lafayette sat facing him on the adjacent sofa.
"So how's it going?" Lafayette peered into his brother's eyes. His elbows rested on his knees and his hands were folded just below his chin, as if he were about to pray.
"Hard at work, trying to keep moving forward." Dwayne looked up into his brother's eyes, knowing full well that Lafayette was scanning his face for signs of distress.
"So what's this about?" Dwayne asked, shifting the attention to whatever was so important it couldn't wait.
"I need your help." Lafayette glanced over a yellow pad Dwayne hadn't noticed until just then. "We're expanding the counseling ministry at New Covenant."
Dwayne sat up straight in his seat. "And ..."
"Well, I need a little of your time and a lot of your expertise. We brought a new director on staff about a year ago," he continued, hoping to give Dwayne the full scope of what he was planning before Dwayne would object. "You know her-Nina Jordan."
Dwayne frowned "The name sounds familiar."
"She grew up in church with us, though she was a few grades behind you, but you remember her from TV. You know, that series-Everyday People."
Dwayne thought back, trying to remember. "Oh, yeah. She's not acting anymore?"
"Don't you remember ... she was caught with drugs, lost her money? It was in the tabloids."
"She's in charge of your counseling ministry?"
"Well, who better than someone who's been there-married early, divorce, drugs, fame, partying. She's determined to use her experience to help people avoid what she's been through. Last year she got her master's in psychology from Marymount and graduated with honors. She's worked hard to turn her life around. Remember our women's program?"
Dwayne nodded slightly.
"Well, Nina came in, expanded the project, changed the name to Sister 2 Sister, and it's going well."
"What can I do?"
Lafayette handed Dwayne a thin folder before he continued. "The other day Nina brought me this proposal to beef up the men's program you once led. It will be called Man-to-Man, and like Sister 2 Sister, it will be a support system and provide mentoring as well."
Dwayne opened the folder and glanced at the first page of the proposal.
"We want to do the same for the men as we've done with the women-group counseling, one-on-one sessions, and mentoring. Like Promise Keepers or Jakes's Manpower, a strong men's fellowship."
"So it's really working with the women?"
"Man, you wouldn't believe the inroads Nina has made. Our women's fellowship has tripled in size, and these women have gotten serious. So many of them have turned their lives around. Nina doesn't play, and the women seem to respect her for that. I've sat in on a few of the sessions.
"Problem is, the program's out of balance without us doing the same for the men. Since you left, our men's ministry has stalled and I can't seem to find the person with the dynamics it takes to get and keep the men motivated."
"But aren't you overseeing that?"
"In name, yes, but in practice ... Man, my hands are full. I need someone to really develop this thing hands-on. Borrowing from Jakes and Promise Keepers, Nina's outlined a strategy."
"Well, Nina's going to need some help and I thought, who better than you?"
"Man, it sounds great and I'd love to do it, but you know how busy I am and what I just came through. I don't know that I'm ready for this."
In truth, Dwayne had been looking for anything to fill his time and didn't know why he was so hesitant. As if Lafayette was reading his mind, the elder brother replied, "What are you talking about? For the last year, all you've done is work and go home.
"Not only do we need your help," Lafayette continued, "but I thought this would be a great way for you to get into some form of ministry, like you've always wanted. You could have your practice and just give New Covenant a bit of your time. It's the best of both worlds.
"You could make such a difference in the lives of these men and the church. Besides, Mom was the one who suggested you. She thinks it's what you need and was going to make the call herself."
With the mention of their mother, Dwayne's eyes wandered to the silver-framed picture on the desk. Their mother, Bernice Grandison, was standing stoically and stylishly (as was her custom) behind their father, one hand placed squarely on the shoulder of the man who had been her husband for nearly half a century. It was the last picture ever taken of Bishop John Paul Grandison, or Bishop, as everyone called him.
"At least give it some thought," Lafayette persisted.
This was the opportunity he'd been seeking a year ago. It had caused dissension between him and Yvette. Suddenly, Dwayne stood, still holding the folder in his hand. "I'll get back to you."
"You're not leaving already? We haven't talked about what's going on with you."
Dwayne opened his mouth but stopped when Lafayette held up his hands. "I know. You've been busy."
"Tell you what. I'll be by for Sunday dinner. I'll let you know for sure then."
"Now you're talking." Lafayette smiled widely before tugging gently at the folder that Dwayne tucked under his arm. "I really need you, man."
As they walked silently toward the front door, Dwayne contemplated the idea of working with his brother at New Covenant. Maybe this was what he needed. At the door, the brothers hugged.
"See you Sunday. Take care of yourself."
"I will," Dwayne said. He walked toward the car knowing that Lafayette had the best intentions, but he also had Robbie and the kids. His heart sank with the aching reality that he had no one.
It was the final night of the Dallas crusade. The overflow crowd nearly came to a complete hush as a giant screen was lowered to the middle of the huge arena, a drumroll marking its descent.
The blank screen suddenly filled with a close-up of Beverlyn Boudreaux in profile; she was leaning against a brick building.
"I grew up on these streets ... New Orleans ..."
Beverlyn turned toward the camera and began walking. She pulled her leather jacket tighter, and as the camera followed her, Jackson Square came into view.
"On these streets and in that park, I did things I am not proud of-I stole, I drank, I did drugs. I was only a few weeks away from selling my body for money." She paused, taking a deep breath. "There are lots of reasons why my life went that way, but there's only one reason why it turned around." She turned back to the park, but this time, when she returned to the camera, her eyes were watering, then gave way to a glow that lit up her face while seeming to radiate through the screen.
"Who I am today is only through the power of God. He revealed Himself and His plan, and my life was transformed."
The camera zoomed in on Beverlyn's face. "God wants you too. We'll share with you stories of victory, of tribulations overcome, of souls redeemed. We're the Jubilee Network. If you're in a place where you have more questions than answers, give us a call. We have a direct line to the man who knows. Tune in this spring."
An 800 number appeared on the screen and then the picture slowly faded. Once again, the Jubilee Network came into view. Thunderous applause arose from the crowd.
Then a roving spotlight scanned the crowd before settling on Beverlyn, who stepped from a haze of smoke in a copper Donna Karan gown, her hair pulled off her face into soft curls, accented by a pearl and diamond headband. A booming baritone voice offstage announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a visionary woman of God, Evangelist Beverlyn Boudreaux." As Beverlyn strode confidently toward center stage, the overhead lights slowly brightened.
"Extend your arms toward this stage and believe for a miracle," she proclaimed. The audience roared their approval. On cue, another Beverlyn Boudreax Empowerment Crusade was under way. Every service was a carefully orchestrated progression of music and ministry in finely tuned synchronization, building toward a dramatic climax and calculated to spur huge product sales out in the lobby.
"I feel the power of angels ..." Beverlyn shushed the crowd, raising her hand as a glow rose over the crowd now caught up in a wave of euphoria.
In that instant, the anointing-God's living spirit-moved through her to touch the throngs who had come to hear her minister to their sorrows, hopes, dreams, and pain. Something was happening in the heat of the moment. While no two people responded the same, all were feeling as if a hugely significant event was taking place, that they were experiencing a divine presence-as real to them as their own dreams. Onstage and off, people were breaking through pain barriers.
"God is here all around us. Ah ... this is holy ground."
Shouts of "Hallelujah" reverberated throughout the hall.
Beverlyn stretched forth her hands. "Your people are hurting, Father. Heal them right now in Jesus' name." Suddenly, a ceaseless flow of men, women, and children with heightened expectations moved to the front of the stage, which had become a makeshift altar.
One woman's entire body went numb, and as though someone had plugged her into electricity, she fell back into the arms of another, setting off a chain reaction, confirming and reconfirming the expectations culminating from widely felt sensations of ecstasy.
"The power of God is working its way through this crowd tonight," Beverlyn shouted. "Embrace it."
It was at moments like this that Beverlyn Boudreaux was most at home. Awe-inspiring, her five-octave vocal range thrilled audiences. Her powerful oratories and sermons were even more moving, and the presentation was both electrifying and seemingly flawless, transforming the thousands who flocked to see her into active participants. All of which were a big part of the reason why she was the most sought-after black female evangelist in the country.
Like her idols Benny Hinn, a Palestinian who'd fled with his family to Canada after the Six-Day War, and T. D. Jakes, who while being raised in a one-room shack in West Virginia watched his father slowly die of a debilitating disease, Beverlyn had experienced a childhood filled with pain. Because of the overwhelming circumstances she had overcome, she was convinced that God had chosen her, like Esther in the Old Testament, for such a time as this.
Excerpted from Mercy, Mercy Me by Ronn Elmore Copyright ©2003 by Ronn Elmore and Victoria Christopher Murray. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 27, 2003
Deeply devoted to his religion and using the Words of God to help his patients, psychologist Dr. Dwayne Grandison becomes a big success in the Los Angeles area. However, with his achievements Dwayne¿s marriage hits a rocky road, but before he and his spouse Yvette resolve anything, she and their unborn child die in a car crash. A stunned Dwayne reacts as if the earth left from beneath his feet as his faith becomes shaky.<P> While Dwayne still reels from the tragedy and his feelings of guilt and doubt, Nina Jordan persuades him to accept the position to head a men¿s ministry. Not long afterward, glitz evangelist Beverlyn Boudreaux convinces Dwayne to host a show on her network. Dwayne becomes a huge TV success, but lacks time and focus to perform his men¿s ministry position. Also Beverlyn and Nina compete for his affections as each wants to forge a more personal relationship with Dwayne. When scandal hits him who will stand by him and who will deny him?<P> MERCY, MERCY ME is a powerful inspirational romance centering on the concept that even when one makes bad choices, God is still there if the individual will reach out. The story line starts, as author Dr. Ronn Elmore sets the stage for Dwayne¿s bouts of conscience and disbelief, but that feels choppy and unnecessary as shown later in the plot. However, once the new women enter Dwayne¿s life, fans receive a deep tale on mortal temptations, human love, and true belief in the Word. Sub-genre fans that remain patient will peruse a delightfully entertaining novel that never preaches but encourages through a wonderful cast.<P> Harriet Klausner
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