The meeting began with the hymn sung in the usual monotone. Brother Michael addressed the group with half closed eyes “Repent and be saved. We will have a new life in the Temple. As we embark in this new life we must reach out and help our fellow men and women. The world is filled with evil, which lures the hearts and minds of men, as surely as prostitutes lures the body of a man. If we give up our worldly pleasures, we will be granted a peace that He called us to follow, unmatched by worldly pleasures and riches. We will achieve a peace which has no equal on this earth.”
Each time she heard him speak Magdala felt a new excitement. As other members were recruited she felt an accomplishment within herself. She saw the same response on the faces of others. Only the thought of becoming his assistant clouded her mind. Brother Michael prayed with uncommon emotion. He tore at his clothing, totally immersed in the moment. All who witnessed believed that his destiny was to be their leader, teacher and friend. They had no doubt they had come to the right place and at the right moment.
At the close of devotions Brother Michael exhibited such exhaustion he was led away by Dorcas. One of the male teachers took the pulpit and each recent Chosen was called upon to proclaim their faith. Magdala led the group with her glowing testimony.
It was late evening before they were permitted to lie on their cots. The lights were dim and the sound of prayer enveloped the room. Some of the regular workers fell into exhausted sleep at the end of their busy day. Magdala stared at the windows where the reflections of the city lights played across the ceiling. Finally, when she realized Dorcas was not coming to her bed, she drifted into a troubled sleep, hearing only the moans of the woman on a distant cot. Della slept fitfully and feverishly, while Magdala. suffered through a nightmare where Della had died. In the morning she forced herself awake well before the others.
She knelt by Della and panicked when she was unable to rouse her. The heat of fever radiated from her body. She sat by her cot and held her hand, not knowing what to do. Life went on around her as the women gathered soiled clothing to wash and hang about the halls on coarse ropes. Others had been assigned to cook oatmeal for breakfast or sweep floors before they would go out onto the streets. The recordings blared loudly to the sleepy women, constantly reminding them of the supreme joy of being gathered into the fold.
After receiving her pencils and incense sticks, Magdala hurried to Bother Michael’s office. She stood by the open doorway, hoping he would notice her.
In the center of the room he sat in lotus position, meditation stroking detachment across his face. Wearing the costume of a Chinese worker, he seemed almost Oriental, His dark hair curled in his neck and his closed eyes masked any expression. If he was aware of her presence, he didn’t show it. After a few moments his hooded eyes opened slowly, and, without turning his head, he said, “You may come in, my child.” He registered no surprise that it was Magdala who stood there.
She wrung her hands and stammered, feeling humbled by his presence. “I have been thinking.”
“There are two things on my mind.”
“I am here to share what’s on your mind, Magdala.” He kept his lotus position and it made her uncomfortable to look down at him. She joined him on the floor. At times his eyes closed and she wondered if she still had his attention.
“I am worried about Della. I’m afraid she is in…a coma. I think she’s going to die.” She cried and felt a light touch on her arm.
“You poor sparrow. Do no weep for Della. As we speak she is being taken to the hospital. The penicillin I gave her did not seem to work. She will soon be well and with us again.”
“I didn’t know she was given medicine. Thank you.”
“You are not to think of it again. You said there were two things on your mind.” His eyes narrowed, “What is the other, my dear?”
Her face brightened. “I have something that may help the brothers and sisters….and you. It is not much but it may help.”
“I was not aware that you owned property. You didn’t divulge it when you were questioned.”
“Oh” she laughed. “It is not a house or a car or anything like that. But I have something in a deposit box. I didn’t lie.” She suddenly felt defensive. “It is a deposit box in my home town. It is the only thing I can give to your work. I have to get the key from my friend.”