Eden, c. 4004 BC
“This is delicious! Maybe Elohim really was keeping the best from us.”
Adam stared at the large spherical fruit his wife was cradling in her hands. “It does look good,” he thought.
“Here, you have to try it!”
Adam accepted the fruit but turned it around in his hands. “Ew. I’m definitely not going to eat from the side you bit off.”
The knot in Adam’s stomach forced him to hesitate. Elohim was quite emphatic. Also, where did the snake go? It disappeared.
“You know, I don’t feel so good all of a sudden.”
Adam looked at her. Something was missing from her expression. Something was gone. “Your hands look strange dripping with that red juice.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll go wash them in the river.”
Adam held the fruit up to his nose and sniffed. It seemed normal enough.
“Adam, I can’t seem to get the juice off! It’s so sticky! Do you think you could . . .”
He didn’t listen to the rest of her petition. “I wonder what will happen to me when I taste the fruit,” Adam thought. “It can’t be that big of a deal.”
“Adam, are you listening? I don’t think you should eat it! I have this awful feeling inside. It’s much worse than hunger. It’s strange. I’ve never felt it before. It’s like wishing you, well, hadn’t done something.”
Adam scratched his chin. “That’s interesting.”
“I just want to spit it out and put the fruit back on the tree.” Eve paused. “But I can’t! This was such a—what could we call it? There isn’t a word for . . .”
“Mistake.” Adam raised the fruit to his mouth and sank his teeth into its soft flesh.
Acre, Israel, 1272
“ . . . requests an audience, sire.”
“I was asleep a few seconds ago,” the prince thought. “I didn’t hear who he said it was.”
“Uh, send this person in,” he said aloud.
“Prince, I bring good news.”
“Oh, Ibrahim. Good to see you. Couldn’t it have waited until the morning?”
“This was the right time, majesty.”
“Why are you coming so close, Ibrahim?”
“I have something to give you, Prince.”
“I can’t see a thing in here. It’s as dark as Saladin’s tomb.”
Edward cried out in pain. Traitor. The wound was deep.
Ibrahim darted for the door, but Edward was faster. One solid blow to the face and the alleged Christian convert from Islam was on the floor. “Never trust a spy, Edward,” the prince thought.
Edward grabbed a dagger from the bedside table. “Always useful to have around.” He dispatched Ibrahim before the man could regain consciousness.
He lit a candle. Eleanor stirred.
“I almost got murdered, and you’re just now waking up?”
Eleanor leaped out of bed and ran to him. “You’re bleeding!”
Eleanor eyed the dead assailant’s blade distrustfully. “It was poisoned! I know it!”
A group of courtiers rushed in. “Rather late,” Edward thought.
“Poisoned?” the surgeon piped up. “Your Highness, I can cut away the flesh from around the wound, if you like.”
“Or I could try to suck out the poison,” Eleanor offered.
“It’s up to you, sire.”
Edward cleared his throat. “Wonderful.”
The prince survived. Two years later, he was crowned King Edward I of England.
Atlantic Ocean, 1620
A fourteen-year-old boy gingerly unclasped a large sea chest. Pulling back the lid, he eagerly rifled through the contents.
The search descended into a frenzy. Finally, he seized the object he was after. A dim lantern illumined his broad smile. “Father’s musket,” he whispered.
“Francis Billington, would you like to explain . . .”
Francis scampered in the opposite direction of the echo-distorted voice. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he found a mercifully unoccupied cabin. A barrel of gunpowder sat in the far left corner.
Francis checked to make sure the musket was ready to fire. He aimed for the far wall. Eagerly, he pulled the trigger. “That was loud,” he thought.
The musket ball stared back at him, now embedded in the far wall.
“That gave off a lot of sparks!” Francis thought. “Several near the barrel of gunpowder! Wait. The gunpowder. I just almost . . .”
“What was that?” someone shouted.
“Captain Standish!” called another.
If ever a seventeenth-century lad had need of a facepalm emoji, it was Mayflower troublemaker Francis Billington. And the Billington family’s adventures had only just begun.
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 1779
“You aren’t thinking about leaving the fort, are you?”
Asahel Buck looked at his wife. “That’s exactly what I’m thinking about.”
“How can we be certain they’re gone?”
“They’ve burned buildings, taken the supplies they wanted, and clearly left the valley for now.”
“But what if, well, I shouldn’t worry so much, but you’ve already lost . . .”
“A son and a brother. I know. We both know that’s the price we pay for settling this untamed frontier.”
Her tears were flowing freely now. “William was so young to be fighting in a battle against Tories and Indians. Fourteen.”
Asahel’s cadence slowed. “He was very brave, as was Aholiab. They were loyal, hard-working men.”
Three-year-old Pam flounced into the room. “Daddy, are you going somewhere? Will you take me with you? Will we see . . .” She paused and whispered melodramatically, “Indians?”
Asahel grabbed Pam and tossed her in the air. “Well, I think my Pam is a little small to go on such a big adventure!”
“Daddy, I’m not little!”
“You’re the baby of the family.”
“I am not a baby. You said I was your big girl.”
“I have to get going now.” Asahel pressed his lips against Pam’s forehead and set her down on the dirt floor of the cabin.
Asahel pulled on his coat and hurried toward the door. He waved to Mehitable. “She looks disappointed,” he thought. “I suppose she wanted a proper goodbye. I don’t have time right now.”
“See you soon, love,” he said.
Asahel stepped confidently out of Fort Wilkes-Barre, joined by three of the other men: Elihu, Stephen, and Fred. Wintery air scratched at their faces. Five-day-old snow crackled under their shoes. Thirty yards from the fort, Asahel stopped and listened intently. He turned around and saw Mehitable watching from inside the fort. He smiled and waved, then continued walking.
Suddenly, Asahel heard fast crunching.
Mehitable shrieked, “Asahel!”
“What?” Asahel thought, spinning around. “It can’t be.”
Spears raced toward the four colonists.
“Drop!” Asahel shouted.
A spear reached Elihu before Asahel’s warning. The other three had no time to mourn. They frantically readied their weapons.
“What can three do against twenty?” Asahel thought.
Fred fired a shot that knocked down an attacker. Moments later, Fred collapsed to the ground, pierced by two spears.
“Is Fred alive?” Asahel wondered. “They’re almost close enough to use their tomahawks now. What if they assault the fort? I can’t protect Mehitable and the children.”
Two of Asahel’s next three shots seemed to be successful. But then a cold dragon was gnawing his spinal cord, and his coat felt strangely moist. The snow was blurry and red, and his thoughts were slipping away from him.
“I hope Mehitable doesn’t watch what’s about to happen,” Asahel thought.
All four men were left for dead. Though speared seven times and scalped, Fred Follett survived.
Northern Pennsylvania, c. 1818
“Wheeler, promise you take care of her.”
“He’s been talking to the white trader for a long time,” Oneega thought, straining to hear the trader’s reply, but she couldn’t make it out.
Abgarijo strode into the longhouse. Oneega ran to greet him. Two braids bounced behind her, a tradition for unmarried Iroquois girls. Married women wore one braid.
“Father, what did the white trader say?”
“That is not for you to know, my daughter.” He looked down at her sternly. “Did you listen to our conversation?”
Oneega hesitated. “Yes, Father.”
“That is not the way of the Susquehannock. You must be true to the way of your people, beloved. You must remember what I have told you.”
Oneega thought she could see a tear in the corner of his eye. She hugged his leg affectionately, resting her head against him. “You are sad, Father.”
“Yes, daughter. You are right. I fear the worst for our village. The white man’s disease is spreading fast. I myself feel unwell today.”
“Let me take care of you, Father.”
Abgarijo smiled weakly and knelt in front of his daughter. “You have a pure heart, little one. I grieve the suffering you must soon face. Oneega, the people of our village are dying. I may not survive.”
“No, Father, you won’t get sick!”
“I already have the signs of the sickness on my body. Daughter, if I leave this world, you must go with the white trader. He and his wife have no child. He promised me they would love you as their own.”
“Father, no. I would not go with the strange man. I do not trust him.”
“Not all of the white men have mistreated the Susquehannock. Wheeler is a good man. And I have no choice, dear one. Our people grow smaller and smaller. Soon we will disappear from the earth.”
Oneega squeezed him tighter. “No.”
“You are strong, Oneega. You will survive. You will remember our people. You and your children will keep our memory alive for many generations.”
“I love you, Father. I want you to lie down and rest. I will bring you water. You will feel better soon. I know it.”
Oneega’s father died, leaving her an orphan. Joshua and Phoebe Wheeler adopted her, giving her the name Permelia. When she grew up, Permelia married her white neighbor and had five children. A black-and-white photograph of Permelia has been passed down to her descendants.
United States of America, c. 1865
“Why did I sign up for this?” the soldier thought. With sweaty palms, William Flower clutched his rifle and continued marching toward the enemy.
The young man on his left took a bullet to the chest.
“Dead. What was his name? James something?” William wondered.
Thick smoke obscured William’s view of the Confederate forces. Rifles crackled incessantly, drowning out sporadic screams and groans.
“The scavengers will be out soon,” William thought. “This battle is almost over.”
The row of soldiers in front of William knelt to fire. William’s row, still standing, quickly took aim and fired over their heads. Seven or eight Confederates dropped to the ground.
As William reloaded, he failed to notice a Minie ball whizzing directly toward him. At impact, he fell on his back, crying out in pain.
Gingerly, William felt around his abdomen. “Where’d it get me?” he wondered. Looking down, he couldn’t see any blood. He couldn’t feel the bullet anywhere. He unclasped his belt and held it up to the smoke-shrouded sunlight.
On his belt buckle, he noticed something between the letters U and S: a small crater, where the Minie ball had been moments before.
William, a teenager who signed up to fight in the Thirty-First Iowa Infantry, survived the war. He married, had six children, and in 1908 professed faith in Christ.
Walter Tobbe took a long, deep breath. “Sure is swell to be back on land.”
His friend Sean laughed. “You can say that again. I would happily go the rest of my life without seeing another ninety-foot wave.”
“I almost can’t believe we made it across the Pacific.”
“Have to agree with you there.”
Later that day, Walter was summoned by his commanding officer.
“Welcome to Japan, son. Your assignment is simple. You’ll be guarding this warehouse of military supplies every night for the foreseeable future. Here’s your standard-issue rifle. Any questions?”
“Sir, what will I have for ammunition?”
“That’s the fun part. It’s not exactly a priority for Washington right now. You don’t get any.”
“So then my duty is to look intimidating, sir?”
“That would be it.”
Drafted in April 1945, Walter served as occupation force in Japan until September 1947 when he was allowed to return home to his wife Maybelle and his two small boys who hardly remembered him.
Near Jerusalem, Israel, c. AD 33
Peter laughed out loud. “That’s ridiculous!”
“What do you mean?” Mary Magdalene protested.
“Why didn’t angels appear to us? We’re His disciples! And if Jesus were alive, He would come talk to us. This is nonsense.”
A few minutes later, Peter hurried toward the tomb. “I am pretty sure those women are crazy,” he mused, “but it wouldn’t hurt to check.”
The tomb was just coming into view on the horizon. Peter squinted into the morning sunlight. The stone really had been moved! He broke into a jog.
Reaching the tomb, he rushed inside. Nothing was there except the linen. “Strange how the wrappings are,” Peter thought. “As if the body had just disappeared from inside.”
Peter sneezed. The smell of spices was overpowering. He stepped outside the tomb and searched the landscape for any sign of Jesus.
A loon wailed in the distance. Another loon responded.
“What happened to the body?” Peter wondered. “He couldn’t really have risen, could He?”
The risen Jesus soon confronted his unfaithful disciple. Peter’s doubt and betrayal were transformed into boldness and a love for the Gospel that characterized his life until his martyrdom three decades later.
Genealogy is a fascinating hobby. In my years of family history research, I’ve learned that a myriad of tiny miracles made my life possible. A well-placed Civil War belt buckle. An unsuccessful medieval assassination attempt. A small Native American girl who was orphaned and then adopted by people from outside her culture. Sparks that mercifully failed to ignite the Mayflower (and with it, American history). The two most important choices, though, were Adam’s choice to eat and Christ’s choice to drink. Because of the Cross and the Resurrection, my survival is not temporary, but eternal.
Author’s Note: The key facts of each incident involving seven of my ancestors and Christ Himself are believed to be historically accurate. Significant creative liberties have been taken to fill in additional details as they might have occurred.