Beth stepped off the airplane to a warm welcome that filled up most of their small-town airport. The rest of the missions team dispersed among the crowd to their own receptions. Beth hugged her parents, and gave her foster brother a tense smile. He just gazed indifferently back at her.
“Welcome home, honey,” Mrs. Kyle said, hugging her daughter again. “How was Hecar— erm, that is, Hicka— Oh, dear. Darling, how do you say it?”
Beth laughed. “Never mind, Mom. It was awesome and I can’t wait to go back.”
“You’re going again?” Luke said, surprise cracking his impartial mask. “Wasn’t two weeks long enough for you?”
“Never!” Beth exclaimed, eyes sparkling impishly. “There’s so much I could do there. And it’s amazing how passionate those people are for God—it’s absolutely infectious. Maybe I’ll become a missionary, and I don’t just mean on these summer trips.”
“The Lord only tells you what His plan for your life is,” Mrs. Kyle said gently. “Following His will is entirely up to you.”
Mr. Kyle didn’t say much of anything. He picked up his daughter’s bags and prodded his family toward the car. Beth curled up in the back seat, careful not to cross over the line that divided her side from Luke’s.
“What shall we have for dinner, Beth?” Mrs. Kyle said. “You can pick any place you want.”
“Anything—so long as it’s not chicken.”
Luke shot her an odd look. He was the same age but barely a junior. He had been living in the Kyle household for six months now. He was rough and tough and didn’t care that his foster family was God-fearing and church-going.
Beth, on the other hand, had just graduated from high school and was trying to decide how to use the gap year she had chosen to take. The missions trip had seemed like a good idea, and Beth had been thoroughly slanted toward the idea of becoming a missionary after college.
What bothered her was the fact that she felt no silent push toward doing anything of the sort. As a child, she had often felt that push, but since moving to Lauren during middle school, she had stopped feeling it so often.
Or is it that I’m so good at ignoring it now that I don’t feel it anymore?
Luke was silent most of the trip, simply watching her. Beth had forgotten how tiresome he was. She chattered easily with her parents, but inwardly seethed at his rude staring. When they got home, she made her way to the back yard.
“What, were you starving the whole time you were there?” Luke said, leaning against one of the beams of the back porch.
Beth just groaned. She was lying on one of the lawn chairs, so full her shirt showed a slit of her tanned stomach.
“You didn’t really mean the stuff you said.”
“In the car—all through dinner—to your parents? You don’t really want to become a missionary.”
“I do so!”
Luke shrugged and settled in the chair beside hers. “So why do you get that guilty look every time you say anything about what you’re gonna do with your life?”
Beth looked away. “Of all the . . .”
He didn’t say anything.
“You were quiet tonight,” Beth said, as much to change the subject as out of curiosity. “Didn’t you do anything while I was gone?”
“We went skiing. Or they did. I went snowboarding.”
“I guess you’d be good at it.”
Luke didn’t answer. The air was heavy. Beth eased herself onto her feet in the cold grass and stared upward at the blossoming stars. Luke leaned over the rail as though he wanted to join her, but was too proud to follow.
“All the people I met are looking at these exact same stars,” Beth commented. “All the people who have never heard the name of Jesus see them too.”
Luke muttered something, and she turned to look at him.
“What did you say?”
Beth shrugged. “I’m going to bed.” She stopped in the kitchen to tell her parents good night before heading upstairs. She dug her Bible from her duffel bag and walked over to her desk. She found the last passage the team had focused on their personal Bible studies.
“ ‘For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ”
“Talking to yourself again, dork?’
Blushing slightly, Beth glared at the door. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“I was up here first. I just wanted to know if you’re going to take a shower or a bath or something tonight.”
Beth paused. “A bath would be nice—I haven’t had one since before I left.” She smirked at Luke, easing back into their suspicious co-habitation of the second floor. “Are you going to draw one for me?”
Luke scoffed and disappeared again. When he had finished brushing his teeth or whatever it was that he did before bed, she undressed and climbed into the bathtub. She turned the water on and the shower opened up on her, eliciting a squeal of surprise. She switched the flow to the spout and leaned back.
Am I still hearing Your voice, Lord? I can’t remember that last time You spoke to me. I can’t remember You speaking to me much at all. As much as I hate to admit it, Luke is kind of right. I do feel guilty because I haven’t entrusted my future to You. I want to trust You, but . . . Beth sighed and closed her eyes. How am I supposed to trust Someone I’m not really sure I believe in? No, I believe You with all my heart. So why don’t I trust You?
She squeaked again as Luke banged on the door.
“Beth? I forgot my retainer in there.”
Beth buried her face in her knees with a groan as she realized that the missions trip had pushed something very important from her mind. “It’s not locked.” She closed the curtain again and pulled her knees to her chest.
Luke kept his eyes on the blank wall as he leaned in to grab the plastic case and quickly leaned out again. But he left the door slightly open. “Hey, Beth?”
“Yeah?” she asked, lifting her head.
“Would you really do anything God said, if He told you?”
“He wouldn’t ask me to do something I couldn’t.”
“Does that make it an issue of whether or not you’ll do what He says?”
“Can’t you ask my dad this stuff?”
“I have. He said I would understand you better because you’re my age.”
Beth fought the urge to growl as he settled against the bathroom wall in the hallway.
“You said it earlier—you said He sent His Son for everyone. So why didn’t anyone ever tell me?”
“Mom and Dad have been trying ever since you got here.”
“Like you would listen to me if I tried to take you to youth group.”
Luke hesitated. “I might.”
Beth buried her face in her knees. Oh, Lord . . .
That last verse of the missions team’s Bible study hit her. In particular, the words that whosoever believeth in Him etched themselves across her mind. She gasped at the intensity of the revelation.
Luke was still in the hallway. “You don’t want me there, do you.”
“Maybe I don’t, but if you want to go, I’ll take you. After all, you’re one of them.”
“One of who?” Luke said in a puzzled tone.
Beth smiled and looked at the ceiling, tears gathering in her eyes. “One of the whosoever God gave His Son for.”