Whisper’s parents went to the church they’d heard about on Sunday morning. When they got home, they were cautiously optimistic. Maybe this was the right place for them. Maybe the Rains could finally fit in somewhere, and be a part of something that would be a good, godly influence on their family. Maybe some new friends would be good for the children, especially Whisper. It was drastic… but it seemed like it was time for something drastic.
When the next Sunday rolled around, Whisper’s parents were much more picky than usual about the kids’ clothes. Yes, the girls were wearing skirts but… they’d better take off their jewelry too. And the boys had better wear button up shirts and keep them tucked in. Whisper started getting worried. It was a long drive to this church, and before they got there, her parents turned around and gave everybody another nervous once over.
They pulled into the parking lot. The church building was very plain and immaculate white. Even the gravel in the parking lot was flawless… not a pothole to be seen. The parking lot was full of well-kept vehicles. There were a lot of maxi vans there. A few people were standing around talking while they made their way to the building, and at the sight of them, Whisper’s heart fell into her shoes. Beards. Carefully combed hair. White head coverings. Homemade dresses. Charity people. She could hardly breathe. No… she wouldn’t go in there.
They parked the van at the end of a row of other vans. Whisper was rooted to her seat. No. This couldn’t be happening. Her parents and brothers and sisters got out, and waited for her. NO. “Please,” her parents said, “give it a try. It couldn’t hurt to give it a try.” NO. “Please?”
She looked at her parents. She knew they were doing their best. She knew they loved her. They thought this was a good place. These people apparently knew something special about God. Her parents were trying to do what was right- and it couldn’t have been easy for them to walk in there either. Whisper got out of the van.
They walked into the building, past the stares. Even in their long denim skirts & button down shirts, which had seemed so conservative… they stood out in the crowd. People made a path to let them through… or was it to stay out of their way? Whisper couldn’t tell. Not many people smiled at them. A few men came to greet Dad, but their wives and children hung back and tried not to stare.
Whisper found out later that, to some of these people, this church represented more freedom of choice than they’d ever known. Families sat together, instead of men and women on separate sides of the building! Women were free to make their dresses according to whatever pattern they wanted! Some wore cape dresses, some jumpers, and some wore vest dresses! Some puffed their sleeves, and some didn’t, and that was okay! Some made narrow, shorter Mennonite type skirts, others made theirs ankle length and flowing! They had freedom and liberty and so many choices, compared to their former lives in Amish or Mennonite churches.
But as far as Whisper could tell, walking into that place for the first time, they all looked like carbon copies of each other. And it was terrifying. She followed her parents mechanically and sat down. They sang lots of hymns in four part harmony. Somebody got up and preached, but Whisper couldn’t recall a word of what he said. After the service, three girls came over and smiled and said hello to Whisper. A couple of fathers brought their families over and presented them to the Rains, children all standing at attention in a row, oldest to youngest. Whisper felt like she was on another planet.
They went again the next week. And the next, and the next. Sometimes people would invite them over for dinner after church. Most of them were every bit as formal at home as they were Sunday morning. Some people’s homes felt homey, but others kept their houses as sterile and undecorated as the church building. “Dinner” was often a huge, elaborate meal, and as the “guests,” Whisper’s family was singled out and made to get their food first, while everyone watched. It was all so uncomfortable and unnatural. Whisper hated it.
One day, the phone rang at the Rains’ house, and it was one of the Dietz girls, calling to invite Whisper over for the weekend. Whisper was thrilled at the chance to be gone over Sunday! In her heart she thanked the Dietz girls for rescuing her, even if only for a couple of days.
She had no idea that over that couple of days, everything would change.