THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 1

THE PLAN – Roman Fort 2 miles east of Bethsaida, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The fort is busy with activity. At the stables, horses were being brushed down, saddles being rubbed down with oil, and horse’s hooves being shod by the troop’s farriers. Outside the walls, squads of troops are being drilled by boisterous optios marching them in full armor and heavy shield. In the fort, every available space is being used by soldiers practicing with swords. Just outside the commander’s quarters, a large group of soldiers were cheering and egging a young lad wearing armor one size larger than him, a padded helmet, a heavy rectangular shield and clumsily wielding a practice sword. Circling opposite him was Cornelius crouched low in just a sweaty red tunic, round shield and practice sword.

“Now, Trax. Keep your shield facing him. Tuck your sword arm in more. Do not let your sword slacken. Always be ready to hit,” instructed Cestus. “Come on boyo, I have 10 coppers on you. Don’t fail me, lad.”

Cornelius raised his sword high as if to strike. As he saw Trax raise his shield to fend it off, Cornelius then used his shield to knock Trax’s heavier shield on the side edge causing Trax to swing around exposing his back. He then used the flat side of his sword to aptly spank his bottom. Trax yelped and the audience broke out in laughter and jeers.

“Oh no, Trax! Don’t over reach yourself and keep your balance always.”

Trax, embarrassed by the laughter, snarled like a cat and went on the offensive and came at Cornelius swinging his sword aggressively. The men cheered as he would not relent his attack forcing him back against the wall. Laughing out loud, Cornelius raised both arms up in surrender shouting out, “I yield… the field is yours!”

The men cheered and gathered around a heaving but smiling Trax, patting his back in congratulation. Cestus was satisfied collecting coins from those who lost the wager. Cornelius came forward smiling.

“Good attack, lad. You came at me like a wild cat.”

“Wild cat!” A number of the men were calling it out with approval.

“He’ll make a good Legionary one day, sir.”

“Not just yet he won’t,” Cestus said as he came up behind Trax. “Our wild cat here still needs work on his sword play. Come on, lad. Let’s go to the practice course.”

Cornelius fondly watched them walk around the corner. Wiping the sweat from his brows, he went up to his quarters. Casting aside his shield and sword, he changed into a fresher tunic and went over to his work table. The table was literally covered with piles of scrolls and sheets of parchment papers. A leather bound codex was open at the end of the table. Cornelius went to it and leafed back a couple of pages and reviewed his notes of yesterday. He glanced at the open scroll of Isaiah which was about a quarter of the way unrolled. He glanced back at the codex he started some two weeks back. That was when Cornelius returned to the fort from his meeting with the Baptist. The first thing he did was sought out Jacob but he was still at the village with Trax. He sent a runner to seek him out. When Jacob finally walked into his quarters after a couple of hours, he found Cornelius already had the scroll of Isaiah opened and a had a blank codex next to it.

“I thought you were coming back tomorrow?”

“I would have but I met someone that might interest you,” Cornelius said. He then told him about his late night encounter with the Baptist. Jacob was flabbergasted. When he was told that the Messiah was already walking the hills of Galilee, his eyes went wide open and he was trembling. It took a while for him to calm down from the shock of the revelation. Cornelius brought him some water.

“Did he give you a name?”

“He called him the Lamb of God!”

“The Lamb of God?” Jacob asked in confusion. “I’m not sure I understand. Why the lamb? But it does sound right somehow. I just can’t put my finger on it. How are we to find him? …recognize him? Who is he? What is his purpose? And what will he ask us to do when we do find him?”

“I asked him those same questions. He told me to seek him out through the book of Isaiah and the other prophets.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Thank you

Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 9

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

God called out to them as they hid among the trees of the garden asking where they were. As they came out of hiding, Adam admitted that they both hid because of their fear and shame. When Adam was confronted whether he ate forbidden fruit, he said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Eve herself said that the serpent deceived her. Clearly, Cornelius have seen this typical behavior before. They did not want to get in trouble, so they passed the blame to another. In fact, Cornelius realized, Adam so wanted to be righteous that he actually blamed God more than Eve. But God could not be fooled. First, God cursed the Serpent for his action. To the woman, God would multiply her pain in childbirth and that she will ever be dependent on her husband. To the man, God cursed the ground and man will have to toil to eat all the days of their lives until they return to it as dust. Then, after God made them clothing from skins, he cast them out of the garden into the world so that they will not eat from the tree of life and live for ever.
“Hold on, John… Let me clarify this for a moment,” Cornelius said as he process the story in his head. “If this story is true, then all the problems of the world stems from this point. My search on why things are the way they are have its beginning here in the Garden of Eden. This is difficult to accept.”

The Baptist nods his head and said, “Cornelius, I know that you are from a much different religion as mine. I do not expect you to believe right away. However, you grew up learning about my people and my God. So, I will ask you to temporarily assume that it is true and hear out the rest.”

“Very well,” Cornelius agreed. “I’ll concede, for the moment, that the story of what happened to Adam & Eve is right. I still don’t understand the connection between what happened to them and why I need salvation? Salvation from what?”

“Eternal damnation,” whispered the Baptist.

There was silence for a while, then he went on. “You gleaned that in the beginning, mankind had a close relationship with God. Do you remember that God created us in His image? Having the image or likeness of God means, in the simplest terms, that we were made to resemble God. Of course, Adam did not look like God in the sense of God’s having flesh and blood. ‘God is Spirit’ as it is written and therefore exists without a body. Adam’s body, however, did reflect the life of God in so far as his body was created in perfect health and was not subject to death. In the beginning, we were meant to live eternally with God… for as long as humanity had direct access to the Tree of Life, which if you recall is found only in the Garden of Eden.”

“But… because Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise, we all eventually die,” Cornelius concluded. “Well, does not dying release us from pain and suffering?”

“Yes and no…”, the Baptist said. “Since, God is spirit, then as we are in His image, we too have spirits. The question is – where does our spirit go when our bodies die?”

“Well… we Romans, like the Greeks believe that the after-life is the under-world of Hades.”

“For us, we call it Sheol. The difference is that Sheol is devoid of love, hate, envy, work, thought, knowledge, and wisdom. Scriptures says that there is no light, no remembrance, no praise of God, in fact, no sound at all. All goes there and become weak, trembling shades who can never hope to escape from its gates.

“So, this place may seem to be to your liking thinking that you are forever free from pain and suffering. But I tell you, Sheol is temporary. Our time there would be like a blink of the eye. Then, we all face judgment where our sins will be accounted for. From there, the fiery pit of Hell where unimaginable suffering await us forever. Unless…” The Baptist stayed quiet and looked intently into Cornelius’ eyes.

“Unless… Unless God sends a Messiah!” Cornelius completed the sentence. “A savior to bring about a way for mankind to escape eternal damnation.”

“Yes… and that savior is walking here now. The time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” [Isaiah 9:1-2 NASB]

Cornelius recognized the words of Isaiah again.

“You have seen him, haven’t you? Who is he?”
The night was getting later. The guards and the two followers of the Baptist were asleep. Aroused by slight noise, one of the followers stirred and woke up. He looked around in the dimly lit chamber and heard that the sound was coming from the cell. He stood and peered through the door’s small portal. He could just make out his master sitting on the floor talking quietly to the strange Roman officer. He wondered what they were talking about. After awhile, he yawned and went back to where his companion was sound asleep. His last thought before he drifted away was what good will come about this encounter between the holiest and an unclean gentile.

End of Chapter 2

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 7

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Then he sat down. Cornelius was not exactly fond of prose, poetry or the songs of Scriptures. He preferred the historical aspects. And it showed on his face of which the Baptist picked up on.

“The word can be cryptic if you are only hearing but not really listening. Think about it closely and the right questions will come out.”

Cornelius wished he had parchment and quill. Instead, he gazed blankly at the far wall and mentally laid out the words in line segments the way it was sung. In his mind’s eye, the words jumped out at him and his analytical mind went to work.

Clearly, he knew that John the Baptist is a prophet… a messenger from God… a voice of God… in the ‘wilderness’? Herod’s chamberlain did tell him that the Baptist was preaching and baptizing in the wilderness region of the Jordan. He was thinking that part of Isaiah’s was literal enough, however the next lines were a little harder to take literally. If John is the prophesied messenger, then he will have the supernatural powers to smoothen desert dunes into highways, fill in sunken-in valleys into plains and even flatten both hills and mountains. That would be a sight to see. As a child, he fantasized of being there with Moses when the Red Sea miraculously parted. But somehow he felt that this prophecy had a much more deeper meaning.

So, he asked, “Have you completed your task?”

The Baptist smiled, “Almost.”

If that is so, Cornelius thought then, the making clear of deserts, valleys, hills and mountains for the LORD were metaphors. Like a hunting dog in hot pursuit, his analytical mind went back to work. A prophet’s work is to communicate… to be the mouth of God… ‘a voice calling in the wilderness’… So…

“So, the question is, ‘What is the message from God and to whom?’ ”

The Baptist looked at Cornelius with bright eyes, as if he was debating whether to reveal the message of God to him maybe because he was a Roman… A Gentile. Then he nodded.

“In your studies of the Scriptures, do you recall the coming of a Messiah?”

“My mentor and teacher, since I was a child, did tell me of a legend that God will send the Prophet and Redeemer to set Israel free.”

“For you I shall make the picture clear. What you heard is just partially true and incomplete. Do you wish to journey down the road which will significantly change your life?”

Cornelius hesitated for just a moment. Then he went to the door and called out to Cestus.

“Cestus… get us some food and drink. I will be here all night. You and the men enjoy yourselves in the city.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 024

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation through out his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his fingertips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

 

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. They were planning to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ ”

“We cannot even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

 

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 24th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS. We will take a pause on Simon the Leper’s story and visit him again some 20 years later. Our next story is about young Mary, daughter of Simon the Leper.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 4

City of Tiberius by the Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Tiberius was somewhat a surprise to Cornelius and his mounted men. As soon as they rode through the northern gate, it was like they entered into a Roman city in Italy. From the gate, they followed the traffic of wagons and a lot of pedestrians on a wide boulevard of cobblestone, lined with tall palm trees and in interval, statues of Greek gods in their divine poses. The city sat on a graded slope from a high rocky mount all the way to the shoreline of the lake. It was lined with a fortified wall with battlements with two main gates, north and south. On the lip of the mount, overlooking the city, is an amphitheater, the size of which can be seen from any part of the city. The population of it is close to eighty thousand people the majority of which… obviously observed by the Centurion… seem to be made up of non-Jews.

“It’s almost like home, sir,” commented Cestus who rode next to him. He and the cavalrymen had grins on their faces and were looking around everywhere.

Asking direction from the city guard, Herod’s palace was about midway down the wide boulevard, then turned left on another avenue which would take them close to the waterfront. Riding in two columns, they entered through the gates into a fairly impressive palace complex. They were greeted by Herod’s chamberlain. Cornelius and Cestus were led to an antechamber to wait on Herod who was having a heated discussion in the next chamber. His discussion were with two other men and a woman whom Cornelius surmised was Herodias, his wife. Originally, he stole her from his brother. The story goes that Herod Antipas divorced his Nabataean wife, the daughter of Aretas IV, king of the desert kingdom adjoining his own, to marry Herodias, formerly the wife of his half brother. The marriage, of course, offended his former father-in-law and alienated many Jewish subjects.

The discussion was loud and agitated, but Herod was probably not worried about the Romans overhearing their conversation because they were talking in the common tongue. However, Cornelius understood what was said for he grew up learning Aramaic. Jacob taught him the languages of the land. Hebrew is the exclusive language of the Jews; Greek is the trade language used among the foreigners; and then Aramaic, the most used language in the entire region.

“Why did you have to bring him with us? “You should have left him at Machaerus,” wailed the woman.

“Herodias, my dear,” Herod spoke melodiously, “He is a prophet like of old. The words that come out of his mouth are the very words of God himself.”

Cornelius picked up on it quickly. His ears were burning.

“Do you not hear what he says about us? …about ME?!” She was screeching.

“He cannot help saying it. He is the mouth of God after all.”

“I do not care! I want him DEAD!”

“NO!” He lifts his voice angrily. After a moment of silence, he goes to her sweetly and said, “I cannot kill him, my dear. He is the very messenger of God. If I had him killed, I’d hate what would happen to you. …to me. My father was a great king, but when he crossed God… he died a terrible death. Do not pout, my love. I promise you… as long as he is locked up, he cannot say another word against us.”

“You do not fool me, Antipas,” she said. “I know you send for him to your private chamber at night. I know you listen to him. You are a fool. He is even more dangerous now. This is not over.” She walked away still angry.

“My king, there is another matter that we must discuss.,” said one of the men with him. “There is another fanatic out there. We thought it was one of the Baptist’s followers but they seem to have dwindled and gone to this new one.”

“Who is he?”

“We don’t know. He seems to move from one place or another preaching. And the people are protecting him.”

“Is he arousing the populace?” He gave Cornelius a quick glance.

Cornelius had to maintain a straight face but his mind was racing. He has to talk to what he hope is a genuine prophet. He also have to investigate this elusive teacher and magician who may potentially move the people to revolt.

“He seem to only limit himself here in Galilee. Also, there are some reports of miraculous healings but nothing substantiating.”

“Really?! I must know more.” Herod glanced toward the Roman. “Are we set to leave for Perea tomorrow.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Make sure the Baptist travels with my caravan. Now, leave me while I meet with our guests.”

The two men bowed and left, while Herod gestured for Cornelius and Cestus to join him.

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 021

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

“You are the salt of the earth,” He said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 21th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 020

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennessaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were adressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were adressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 20th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

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