Serial The Anointed: 16. No Phone Calls For John

Serial The Anointed: 16. No Phone Calls For John February 24, 2024

A silhouette of a man lifting his hands in worship against a backdrop of an evening sky. Next to this man are the words: "The Anointed - a faith-based serial."
Follow along with this thrilling serial about the highs and lows of Pastor John.


John has told me that he wants to give away a total of 1.2 million dollars to people he financially manipulated over the years. But there’s something else bothering him…

When we get up in the morning, our tents are frozen, and deer sleeping around them quickly run away as I stick my head out of the tent. A few minutes later, John steps out of his tent. It’s dawn, but it promises to be a clear day on Rum. Today we’re going to climb the mountain.

It’s quite a climb, especially for two men nearing fifty and both slightly overweight. Fortunately, we can leave our luggage and backpacks in the tent. No one will pass by here today. The mountains on Rum are about a kilometer high, but since you start at sea level, it’s still quite a climb. We miss the sunrise at the top. Halfway up the mountain, the sun rises over the island of Mull. By about eight in the morning, we are on the first peak.

This is the only place on the island where there’s mobile reception from the mainland. I take the opportunity to talk extensively with Jessie, while John quietly enjoys the view. After Jessie, I call my daughter Anne, who recently married and now lives in California. After Anne, it’s my son Ben’s turn, who lives near Chicago for his studies. John just sits there while I finish all my calls. When I finally hang up, I also receive a dozen text messages from my friends, colleagues, and parents.

“John’s mobile remains silent. I’m shocked by the contrast. That’s what it means to have lost everything.”

John’s mobile remains silent. I’m shocked by the contrast. That’s what it means to have lost everything. I sit next to him. He offers me half a Snickers bar. “That was a lot of texts.” “Yeah, even my parents wanted to say hello.” “Did you know I haven’t had contact with my parents for 24 years? It’s not that they haven’t tried, but I, partly under Abigail’s influence, refused all contact with them. Oh, I shouldn’t hide behind Abigail. You know that I ousted my father as pastor.”

View from the isle of Rum (image courtesy of Canva)

I nod while taking another bite of my Snickers. “My father was never there when I was a child. He was always busy with the church, always busy with other people. And when he was there, what I did was never enough. He always wanted me to try harder, perform better. I’ve been angry with him all my life. When I got the chance to oust him as pastor and take over the congregation myself, I did it. Mainly to take revenge on him and show him I was better than he was.

All those years, I’ve done my best to prove to him that I was better. To show him I’m not a loser, that I can do something, that I don’t constantly fail. My father wrote me so many letters. He called me, even came by several times, but I rejected everything. I threw away his letters; I didn’t even read them. I never spoke to him again. Do you know, Matt, how much I regret that now?”

I listen and know that I don’t need to say anything…

“My father died last year, and I didn’t even attend his funeral. I haven’t spoken to my mother since.”

“He died last year, and I never took the chance to make things right with him, to tell him that I loved him. I wanted to punish him, you know. I wanted him to feel what I had felt all those years. But uh, how stupid can a person be. Do you think he ever knew how much I loved him?” John starts to cry, and I put my hand on his shoulder. “Now my father died last year. I didn’t attend the funeral. I haven’t spoken to my mother. I’m an only child, man. I’m the only thing they had, and I wasn’t there. I don’t even know how my mother is…” John sobs.

We sit like this for a while. I notice it’s getting colder. From the sea, I see a fog bank slowly creeping up the mountain. And yes, ten minutes later, we’re surrounded by an ice-cold fog. Our view of Mull, the mainland, and all the other islands has shrunk to my toes. I can’t see further than two meters away. I stand up and pull John by his arm. “We have to go. Soon we won’t be able to see anything. Let’s see if we can descend a bit to go to the next peak.”

‘My father always wanted me to try harder, perform better. I’ve been angry with him all my life.’

John wipes his eyes and nose with his sleeve and climbs up. We carefully descend a bit and then climb along a narrow ledge to the next peak. We carefully maneuver along the ledge, which is only two meters wide with steep cliffs on both sides. If you slip and fall here, it’s over. Luckily, the fog lifts a bit, and the entire island stretches out before us. The peak we’re now climbing is the highest on the island. It seems a lot steeper than our first ascent.

An hour later, we sit on the cairn, a pile of stones at the top, catching our breath. “I thought running with our backpacks to catch the train was tiring, but this beats everything. I haven’t been this exhausted in a long time, and we still have to go back. Well, back… It’s a round trip, right?” We check the map and see that we’re halfway.

‘”My children don’t want any contact with me anymore.” It’s like history repeating itself.’

“Hey Matt, when I’m back in the Netherlands, I want to visit my mother. I really want to make things right, but…” John pauses. “I don’t know if she’ll even want to see me. It’s not nothing what I’ve done to them all these years.” “Is there a chance she will?” I ask. John shrugs. “I really don’t know. Maybe a dumb question, but would you come with me when I go to see her for the first time?” The question catches me off guard. Of course, I’ll go with John. I think it will be an awkward first visit for everyone, but so be it. If it makes it easier for him, I’ll go.

We rest a bit before descending to reach the next peak along a different ridge. “And how are your children?” I ask him. John has two sons and a daughter. Like my children, they’ve all left home. John tells me that during the divorce, all three chose their mother. “They don’t want any contact with me anymore. It’s like history repeating itself.

Looking out on the isle of Eigg with it’s ‘Nose’ that John and I climbed. (image courtesy of Canva)

By late afternoon, we return completely exhausted to our tents. We left at four in the morning, and now it’s five in the afternoon. We both retreat to our tents. Two hours later, I emerge stiff from muscle pain from my sleeping bag. This was one of the toughest trips in years. John seems not to want to come out of his tent at all. Probably he went straight to sleep. After a quick warm meal, I also retreat to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

‘This time, there’s no flirting with the stewardess. I get the impression she’s even avoiding us. Maybe we smell too bad.’

The next day we sleep in. By late morning, we trudge back to Rhum’s harbor for five hours. We’ve concluded that we’re both too old for this kind of nonsense. We set up our tent near the landing place and take the boat to the island of Eigg the next morning, where we’ll spend the last days of our trip. Onboard, we both order a full English breakfast in the restaurant. After a few days of only dried meals, it’s wonderful to eat ‘real’ food again. We also camp wild on Eigg. We climb the ‘Nose,’ a large lava rock, visit a former Celtic monastery, and walk around the entire island. During the walk, we talk a lot. We tell each other our life stories and get to know the other person.

Three days later, we’re on the plane back to Baltimore. All our clothes are dirty, our shoes are muddy, and we stink. This time, there’s no flirting with the stewardess. I get the impression she’s even avoiding us. Maybe we smell too bad. I’m glad I took John on this trip. I not only gained a friend. I met Jesus anew. I’ve learned his grace again. This trip has done me so much good!

At the airport, we say goodbye. I go to Jessie, and John goes back to his apartment in Baltimore. He’ll call me next week when he’s made an appointment with his mother. On the train back home, I suddenly realize that during our entire trip in Scotland, I never asked him about Selina again…





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Matt Vlaardingerbroek, a former seasoned church planter and pastor in Holland’s inner cities, brings Bible stories to life through ventriloquism and magic. He’s authored three books, and founded, providing over 1,500 innovative Sunday school activities worldwide.


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