Dr. John Dreisbach was one of the “old school” missionaries, who spent his life serving as a career missionary doctor and evangelist in various places around the world. When he died, I was working on a children’s book about his adventures in western Africa. Perhaps the book will never be finished, but as a tribute, I am posting here the first chapter.
“Don’t know what to say, Mrs. Dreisbach. Sure am sorry.” Mr. Johnson stood at the kitchen table with his hat in his hand. “Don’t seem like enough to say that.”
Mrs. Johnson set her chicken casserole down on the table and came to wrap her arm around the shoulder of her friend. “Molly, words aren’t sufficient in our grief. But God knows, God knows.”
Mrs. Dreisbach sat at the kitchen table looking straight ahead and smiling slightly. Her brown bun rested loosely at her neck, as neat as ever, the wisps of hair gently touching her face like always. Her fist gripped her starched white apron, holding it to her mouth. But her eyes were dry.
Mrs. Kellerman came in from the other room. “Honey, the neighbors are gonna be comin’ in from all over, bringin’ you food. I know it’s not nothin’ compared to your loss, but it’s all . . .” she sat down heavily and began to sob.
Mr. Johnson shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “Mr. Dreisbach sure was a good man.”
Mrs. Dreisbach shook her head and spoke for the first time. “More than a good man,” she said. “He was a God man. He loved the Lord. He taught his family the Word.”
“And your son,” Mrs. Johnson went on, patting her friend’s shoulder. “What a fine strapping young fellow. Wanting to be a missionary doctor. Almost ready to go. Ohhh,” she almost groaned. “Well, God knows.”
Mrs. Dreisbach turned and looked at four-year-old Johnny, who was standing on his tiptoes gazing out the window. “The mantle has fallen to him,” she said.
Johnny pressed his nose against the window and watched his breath fog up the glass. He had been listening. He knew that yesterday a bolt of lightning had hit the door track of that shed, that one right out there, and in one stroke had killed both his father and older brother.
He didn’t turn his head at his mother’s words. But he knew, he knew. His big brother was like Elijah. He had gone to heaven. He, Johnny, was like Elisha.
“Poor little thing.” Mrs. Kellerman raised her head from the table and dabbed her bleary eyes with her apron. “Don’t even understand what happened.”
But he knew what had happened.
The mantle had fallen to him.