Surprises comes in two shapes—good and bad. This one, though, felt indeterminate.
David Stoltzfus awoke in the middle of the night with a clear prompting in his heart: leave what was familiar and comfortable and go forth into the wilderness. He had developed a listening ear to God’s promptings over the years and knew not to ignore them. God who had spoken, David believed with his whole heart, still speaks.
But where was this wilderness?
A week passed. David searched Scripture, prayed, spoke to a few trusted friends, and still the prompting remained. Grew stronger. A month passed. David’s daily prayer was the same: Where is the wilderness, Lord? Where will you send me? Another month passed. Nothing.
And then David received a letter from a bishop—someone he had known over the years—in a little town in Lancaster County, inviting him to come alongside to serve the church. Go, came the prompting, loud and clear.
So David packed up his home, sold his bulk store business, and moved his family to the wilderness, which, for him, meant Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania.
As the first few months passed, it seemed puzzling to David to think that God would consider Stoney Ridge as a wilderness, albeit metaphorically. The bishop, Elmo Beiler, had welcomed him in as an additional minister, had encouraged him to preach the word of God from his heart. It was a charming town and he had been warmly embraced. A wilderness? Hardly that. More like the Garden of Eden. When he casually remarked as much to Elmo, the old bishop gave him an unreadable look. “There is no such thing, David.” Elmo didn’t expand on the thought, and David chalked it up to a warning of pride.
No place was perfect, he knew that, but the new life of the Stoltzfus family was taking shape. His children were starting to settle in . They were a family still adapting to the loss of Anna, David’s wife, but they weren’t stuck, not like they had been. It was a fresh start, and everything was going about as well as David could expect.
Then, during a church service, Elmo suffered a major heart attack. In a dramatic fashion for a man who was not at all dramatic, Elmo grabbed David’s shirt and whispered, “Beware, David. A snake is in the garden.”
Later that evening, Elmo passed away.
Two weeks later, Freeman Glick, the other minister who had served alongside David, drew the lot to become the new bishop, his brother Levi drew the lot to replace him as minister, and in the space of one month, the little Amish church of Stoney Ridge was an altogether different place.
Almost overnight, David sensed the wilderness had arrived.
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Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction, and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. The Search won a 2012 Carol Award. The Waiting was a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. The Choice was a finalist for a 2011 Carol Award. The Letters is a finalist for a Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award. Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research.
Suzanne’s latest release, The Imposter, is now available!
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