Their Holiday Adventure
Toby Yoder promised to care for his orphaned little sister the rest of her life. After all, the tragedy that took their parents and left her injured was his fault. Now he must make a three-hundred-mile trip from the hospital to the Amish community where they'll settle down. But as they share a hired van with pretty Greta Barkman, an Amish woman with a similar harrowing past, Toby can't bear for the trip to end. Suddenly, there's joy, a rescued cat named Christmas and hope for their journey to continue together forever.
Brides of Amish Country: Finding true love in the land of the Plain People
About the Author
USA Today best-selling author Patricia Davids was born and raised in Kansas. After forty years as an NICU nurse, Pat switched careers to become an inspirational writer. She enjoys spending time with her daughter and grandchildren, traveling and playing with her dogs, who think fetch should be a twenty-four hour a day game. When not on the road or throwing a ball, Pat is happily dreaming up new stories.
Read an Excerpt
"I suppose we must do it." Greta Barkman almost choked on her words.
It was the right thing to say. The only decision her Amish faith would let her make, but she'd rather walk through the snow barefoot all winter than spend one hour with her uncle Morris. Bringing him home to stay with them for a few months would be unbearable. Surely God would not ask this of her and her sisters after all they had endured.
Betsy, the youngest at eighteen, slapped the letter facedown on the table. "It's not as if Onkel Morris can expect us to drop everything and rush to his side. We escaped his cruelness by the grace of God. Besides, it's almost Christmas. It will be our first happy Christmas together. I don't want him to spoil it."
He will spoil it. I know that as surely as I know it's cold outside.
Greta glanced at the kitchen window. The late-afternoon sun shone brightly beyond the frost-covered glass, but it added little warmth to the December day. The dusting of snow that had arrived in the night blew around, sparkling like glitter in the breeze. She shivered and looked back at the people seated around her grandfather's table. Her three sisters, her grandfather and his new wife, and two of her sisters' husbands were gathered for this family meeting.
Clara, the oldest sister, picked up the letter. "I agree with Greta. We have to do this. His bishop would not write asking us to take Morris in if our uncle's condition were not serious." She glanced at her husband seated beside her. "I will go, if you agree, Ethan."
He covered her hand with his own. "I won't pretend that I like the idea, but you must do what you think best. The children and I will manage without you for a few days."
"I can go." Lizzie, the second sister, looked as though she would rather eat dirt.
Carl, Lizzie's husband, laid his hand on her arm. "I won't agree to it. You have to think of the babe. Such a long car ride will not be good for you."
Naomi, their grandfather's wife, reached over to clasp Lizzie's hand. "You know the midwife cautioned against traveling with the problems you've had."
Lizzie nodded in resignation, but Greta detected a hint of relief in her eyes. Who could blame her?
Greta retrieved the letter and scanned it again. Their uncle lived near Fort Wayne, Indiana. She explained the contents for those that hadn't read it. "His bishop writes that the congregation is willing to arrange for a van and driver to take Morris from the hospital to our home. His doctors wouldn't allow him to travel by bus. A car or van is acceptable as long as the driver makes frequent stops. Morris must take brief walks every hour or two to prevent circulation problems with his legs."
And he must have someone travel with him. The five-hour car trip from Fort Wayne to Hope Springs would need to be broken into at least two days of travel. It would make a very long trip, breaks or no breaks.
Although the bishop hinted at some dissention among his flock over the matter, the fact that none of them were willing to take Morris in spoke of a serious rift in the church group. The Amish took care of their own within the community. Families were expected to look after aging or ailing members and normally did so gladly. His nieces were all the family Morris Barkman had left.
Lizzie crossed her arms over her chest. "I can't believe old man Rufus turned Morris out of the house and hired a new fellow to work the dairy farm. I thought our onkel and his landlord were friends."
"I can believe it," Clara said with a shiver. "Rufus Kuhns is an evil man. He's worse than our uncle."
Greta nodded in agreement. Rufus had tried to coerce Clara into marrying him by threatening all of them with eviction and physical violence. "Morris is out of a job and has nowhere to live. He is dependent on us, the very women he mistreated for years. It must be a bitter pill for him."
It was for her. For all of them.
Naomi sighed heavily. "Greta, you are the only logical choice to go and fetch him here."
She looked up startled. "Me? Why me?"
Naomi's gaze softened with sympathy. "Lizzie can't go. Betsy has a job and shouldn't miss work, besides she is too young to travel so far alone. Clara is a newlywed. She has a new husband and three stepchildren to think about. It would be cruel to part her from the children so soon. I'm not related to Morris. He might find it uncomfortable traveling with me."
"I don't care if he is comfortable or not!" Greta couldn't do it. She couldn't spend two days shut in a car with him.
"I don't know how I would manage without you for even a day, Naomi." Joseph reached to take his new wife's hand.
Greta saw the warm look he exchanged with Naomi. It seemed everyone in her family had found someone to love. Everyone but her. Betsy was being courted by a local Amish fellow that everyone liked. Lizzie had married Carl last fall, and they were expecting their first child. Clara had wed Ethan Gingerich only a few weeks ago.
Greta had refused the few men who had asked her out. Marriage wasn't in her future, certainly not marriage to an Amish man. She wanted to become a counselor and help abused women. To do that would require more education than the eight years the Amish allowed. Leaving the community she loved was a difficult decisionone she wasn't sure she was ready to make. She had only discussed it with Clara. No one else knew what she was thinking of doing.
Greta didn't begrudge any of her sisters their happiness. They deserved it and more. How many times had her actions and her words brought their uncle's wrath down on them? Far more that she cared to count. If only she had been stronger. If only she had stood up to him. If only she had told someone about the abuse, but she hadn't. They had all lived inside a circle of fear and shame until Lizzie found the courage to break out. It was because of Lizzie that they found a refuge of love and caring in their grandfather's home. God had rewarded Lizzie's selfless bravery.
Greta didn't possess such courage. The thought of spending time with Morris made her cringe. She couldn't do it. Panic hit her full in the face. She crumpled the letter and jumped to her feet. "Someone else will have to go."
She ran out of the room and up the stairs with her heart hammering wildly in her chest. She was staring out her bedroom window struggling to regain her composure when Naomi came in. Without turning around, Greta said, "I can't do it."
Naomi slipped an arm across Greta's shoulders. "Betsy has said she will go."
Greta flinched. Her little sister was no match for Morris. "Betsy is too young. He's too mean. You don't know how he is. He can make her feel worthless with nothing but words. He doesn't even need his stick to beat her down."
"I'm not saying it will be easy for her, but she's willing to do it to spare you."
Greta bit the corner of her lip. "I'm afraid, Naomi."
"Of what, child?"
"That I'll turn back into the groveling, miserable person I was when I lived with him. He called me Mouse because I was always scurrying out of his path. I existedI didn't live. I was dead inside."
She still was. In spite of all she had read about surviving abuse, she knew Morris still had a hold over her. "I don't have Lizzie's courage."
Naomi enfolded her in a fierce hug. "Courage is fear that has said its prayers. God will give you all you need if you depend on Him."
Drawing strength from the woman she had come to love and admire, Greta nodded. Now it was her turn to be brave. To prove to herself and to him that she wasn't worthless. "All right, I will go."
Naomi pulled away to look into Greta's eyes. "Are you sure?"
She would be coolly polite. She would ignore her uncle's hurtful ways, and she would never, ever let him make her feel like an inadequate person again. "Ja."
They returned to the kitchen, and both women took a seat at the table. Naomi said, "It's settled. Greta will go."
Afraid her sisters would read the fear in her eyes Greta kept her gaze on her hands clasped together on the table. "I'll take the bus there and accompany him in the van on his journey. I'll write to Morris and his bishop and tell them to expect me in four days. That should give them enough time to arrange everything."
"Gott willing, you will be home two days later," Naomi added.
Greta let out a deep sigh and looked around the table. "I really don't want to bring him into this house."
The sisters exchanged glances. Clara said, "We feel the same, but perhaps this is a test of our compassion. It is the Christmas season, after all. How can we abandon Onkel Morris, ill and alone, knowing that God sent His only Son into this world to teach us to care for one another, even those who hate us?"
"The right thing to do is not always the easy thing to do," Betsy added in resignation.
"Perhaps his illness has shown Morris the error of his ways, and he is ready to mend our family fences," Lizzie suggested in a falsely bright tone.
Greta wouldn't count on it. Of all the ways she had imagined spending her first Christmas at her new home, none of them included sharing it with mean old Morris.
"Joseph, you have very wise granddaughters," Naomi said with a tender smile.
He nodded. "That may be true, but I'm with Greta. I'll take him in, but I don't want the man here, either. Morris will find a way to ruin our Christmas. You mark my words."
They were going home at last.
Toby Yoder knelt in front of his ten-year-old sister's wheelchair inside the huge lobby of the Fort Wayne Medical Center. The soaring two-story tall glass windows let the light pour in around her. It reflected off the gleaming marble floors and the chrome legs of the chairs and tables near them. Swags of greenery and red bows adorned the front of the large curved cherrywood reception desk while a massive white Christmas tree with blue ornaments and a gleaming silver star dominated the center of the lobby. Every table had a potted poinsettia or an arrangement of cinnamon-scented pinecones in the center.
Signs of the holy season were everywhere, but they couldn't lighten his heart.
Marianne wouldn't look at the sunshine, or the Christmas decorationsor at him. She sat slumped into the corner of the chair as if hiding from the world in a donated black coat that was too big for her. She looked worn to the bone already and she had been up less than half an hour. She was still so weak. His funny, fun-loving and energetic little sister was a shell of her former self and it was his fault.
If it took the rest of his life, he would make it up to her. He forced a smile for her benefit. "We don't have to leave town today, Marianne. My old roommates won't mind if you want to stay at their apartment. It's not far from here. You can rest up for a few days before we travel to Pennsylvania. I'll make arrangements for another driver to take us then."
She shook her head slightly. "Nee. Take me home now," she whispered.
She hadn't spoken more than a few whispered words to him since the fire that took the lives of their parents and put her in the hospital. In spite of that, she managed to make it clear she wanted to go back to Pennsylvania. She didn't want to stay in Indiana.
A non-Amish family walked in through the hospital doors. Several of the children stared openly at Toby and Marianne. Dressed in traditional Amish clothing and wearing a black flat-topped felt hat, Toby knew he stood out from ordinary visitors to the hospital. Although there were large Amish settlements in the area, Amish folks rarely ventured into the heart of the city.
Marianne pulled her oversize black bonnet forward to cover the still raw-looking burns on the left side of her face and neck. She hated people staring at her. A stab of pity took the smile from Toby's face. He would give anything to undo the decisions that had led to her pain, but that wasn't possible. God should have put him in her place that night. She should have been the one left unscathed.
The elevator door across the lobby opened and a nurse came out pushing another wheelchair. In it sat an Amish elder wearing a heavy frown. His pale face was almost as gray as his long beard. A young man in scrubs followed them, pushing a cart laden with several suitcases. He left the cart parked near the door and joined the nurse. "Take care of yourself, Mr. Barkman. Merry Christmas." With a nod, a wink and a thumbs-up to the nurse, he went back to the elevators.
"I don't see why you're kicking me out in the cold. What kind of hospital is this?" Mr. Barkman grumbled.
"We aren't kicking you out, Mr. Barkman. Your driver is on his way. He has picked up your niece at the bus station, and they'll be here soon. You're going home with her."
"That's no comfort to me. My nieces are the cause of this, you know. Their disgraceful behavior shamed me and put all the work of the farm on my shoulders. It was too much for a man my age. You think I'll be better off living with them? Ha! You might as well call the undertaker and be done with it."
"That's no way to talk. Remember what your doctor told you. A positive attitude will help more than any medication." She parked his chair by a sofa in the waiting area.
"That doctor would sing a different tune if he'd had a heart attack and heart surgery. Where are my pain pills?"
"You will need to pick them up at the pharmacy. I have all the instructions on what you need to take and when. I will go over it with you and your niece. You have your nitroglycerin, don't you?"
He nodded and patted his vest pocket. "Pills, pills and more pills. What good have they done me? I'm still a sick man."
She said, "I see a van coming up the drive. I think they're here."
The relief in the nurse's voice brought back Toby's grin. He leaned close to his sister. "You are a much better patient." He hoped for a smile, but he was disappointed. She kept her head lowered.
A long white van pulled to a stop outside the doors. The driver, a portly man in his midforties with curly salt-and-pepper hair hopped out and came around to open the sliding door on the passenger's side. A young Amish woman got out.
"Is that your niece, Mr. Barkman?" the nurse asked.
"That's Greta. The ungrateful hussy. I'm amazed she has the courage to show her face to me."
The nurse rolled her eyes and muttered, "So am I."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An Amish Christmas Journey by Patricia Davids is one of my favorites. Her stories have meaning, happiness and forgiveness rolled all in one. She is one of my favorite authors and look forward to each book. This one has a cat named Christmas which you will enjoy. Thank you Patricia for this wholesome and wonderful book.