Part of the reason I became a minister many years ago was that I had a heartfelt desire to help people. And as a minister, I’d always felt that I had been able to help my congregation members, or at least offer them some spiritually comforting words.
But all of that changed after the abduction of newborn Eva Fall. Eva was the only child of Thornton and Delilah Fall, a young couple who never missed a single service at the Baptist Church where I preached. When Eva was kidnapped, Delilah started drifting in and out of mental institutions, and the Falls showed up in church less and less. The few times they did make it, Delilah broke down crying in the middle of services, and Thornton had to escort her outside.
Almost a year after Eva’s abduction, Delilah came to me alone one Sunday afternoon between services for religious counseling. During the entire hour that I sat on the pew alongside Delilah, patting her thin, frail shoulder as she lamented about Eva between sobs into a ragged tissue, I tried to think of something comforting to do or say. But I found myself at a complete loss.
“We’re thinking of going to Luci Fergueson...Psychic Luci.”
Delilah’s words jolted me from my thoughts. They were the first she had uttered in ten minutes. While she had said them in her usual, soft-spoken way, they seemed to echo loudly—ominously—throughout the empty church. “Oh, no, Delilah...”
“Why not, Paul?” Delilah asked. “She’s helped in so many missing person’s cases…”
“Delilah, you know the Bible speaks against fortune tellers, psychics, all the likes of Psychic Luci.”
“But Paul, look at how many people like us whom psychics have helped. And many of those psychics are religious people who thank God…”
“Perhaps, but Luci’s not one of them,” I reminded her. “Luci is a self-proclaimed Darwinist and atheist who credits her powers to other sources.” Luci, a world-renowned psychic, had stated things of that sort on TV many a time, although she’d never revealed from what source she believed her own psychic powers to come. “I would hate to see devout Christians like Thornton and yourself resort to help from a person of such beliefs.” I paused for a moment, then offered a compromise. “Couldn’t you go to another psychic, perhaps one of the more…well…Christian ones?”
Delilah lowered the tissue from her eyes. Her voice strained, she said, “But Luci is the best. Remember, those other psychics haven’t been able to solve all of their cases, but Luci has. And we don’t have much money to pay to those so-called ‘Christian’ psychics, most of whom charge an arm and a leg. Luci charges next to nothing, sometimes nothing at all. She says…”
“Yes, yes, I know,” I interrupted. “‘The world’s belief in me is payment enough,’” I finished, quoting the line Luci had repeatedly used to the media.
“So how can a person who is so charitable and helps so many people be bad?”
I didn’t know how to answer her. All I knew was that everything in me, all that I’d ever believed or been taught religiously, told me it would go against God, would be like following a false prophet, to resort to Luci for help. “Please, Delilah. Remember your faith in God. Believe in Him, instead of earthly, pagan powers, to bring your daughter back to you.”
Delilah leapt to her feet, fire in her chocolate eyes. “We’ve believed in God, prayed to God, all year, and He hasn’t brought our daughter back!” she yelled. “Our case is different from these other kidnappings investigated by hit-and-miss psychics who are just looking for a dead body. The police have said that all evidence indicates our baby was taken by people who didn’t want to harm her, but just wanted her for themselves. That means our Eva is still out there somewhere alive, just waiting to be found. And Thornton and I will do whatever it takes to get her back, even if…” She paused, but only for a second before deciding to speak the rest of what she was thinking. “Even if we have to go to the Devil himself!” With that, she tossed her thinning dark hair over her shoulder, whirled around, and stormed out of the church.
That was the last time I saw either of the Falls for a very long time, at least in person. They became only faces in occasional photos and video clips as I followed their case within the media, and objects of rumor as I heard tidbits from the local gossips. Not surprisingly, the Falls ignored my advice and went to Luci for help. Luci led the police to the kidnappers and baby Eva, resulting in the kidnappers being locked up and the Falls getting their daughter back, safe and sound.
I hoped that the Falls would see that their reunion with Eva as a blessing from God and would thus return to church. But they never did. My congregation, who had always admired the Falls for their previous active participation in the church, was awestruck. Why wouldn’t such a devout couple blessed with this great miracle return to church to thank God?
A few weeks later, when I was channel surfing and spotted the Falls on a popular TV talk show, I got the answer to my question. The Falls sat in chairs on the stage, Delilah holding Eva on her lap. Delilah looked much better than when I’d seen her in church that last time, her formerly thinning dark hair now full, shiny, and growing, her body now tanned and appearing to have regained some of the nourishing pounds that stress had robbed it of before. I was, however, taken aback a bit by her quite heavy make-up as well as her short, tight skirt and low-cut blouse, not at all typical of her usual attire. Thornton looked better, too, having lost a great deal of the extra pounds he’d previously toted; it appeared the gossips were right about his having liposuction. Clearly, he’d also hit the tanning bands, begun bleaching and spiking his hair surfer-style, and had gone for a Bermuda-look in his clothing, complete with sunshades atop his head and a floral shirt.
Delilah and Thornton were telling the story of their reunion with their kidnapped baby. The host walked back and forth between the stage and the studio audience, every once in a while interjecting with a question. As the Falls concluded their story, and the audience responded with the typical smiles and applause, the host remarked, “They say it’s a miracle, that you should thank God for your reunion with your daughter. Do you agree?”
Thornton’s response floored me. “We stopped believing in God after the kidnapping.”
Delilah asked, “Where was God then? A psychic, not God, helped us. If there’s anyone to thank, it’s Psychic Luci.”
For a minute, the host gaped at them. Then she chuckled nervously and said, “Well, let’s call Luci out and see what she has to say about that.”
A moment later, Luci appeared on stage. She was a ghostly-colored creature in her mid-thirties, with closely-cropped dark hair, equally dark, narrow eyes, several earrings in both of her ears, and a tattoo of a bloody knife on her exposed, upper left arm.
“Luci,” said the host, “what do you think of them giving you all the credit?”
Her face deadpan serious, Luci replied, “They should.”
“You don’t think a higher power helped?”
“No, because there’s no God or Devil.” Her voice was monotone, hollow, dead.
“Wow,” murmured the host. “No good and evil, no Heaven and Hell, no Apocalypse?”
I cringed. Luci had been blatantly open with her blasphemy for a long time, and it was common knowledge. I felt that the host was bringing it up now simply to make a bigger spectacle of this whole thing—that is, if it could get bigger than it already was…
“No,” said Luci. “We just exist, period. If the world ends, it will end from natural disaster, not vengeance from any so-called ‘God.’”
An audience member raised his hand. “So you’re saying there will never be an Apocalypse?”
“Exactly,” Luci said.
“How do you know?”
She grinned. “Have I ever been wrong before?”
They all laughed. Trembling, I shut off the TV. What I’d heard had profoundly affected me, terrified me, in fact. The Falls were the last people I ever expected to lose their faith. And I knew millions of people watched that talk show every day. What if others took this seriously and began to believe as Luci did?
Inspired to try to turn a negative into a positive, I wrote a sermon on psychics and false prophets. I cited passages from the Bible that spoke against both. But the following Sunday, as I preached about the talk show and warned against psychics, a few churchgoers actually spoke out. And they were hostile.
“But Luci has done so much good!”
“What else could the Falls do?”
“They were good Christians, yet God let them down! Explain that!”
With each Sunday that followed, my congregation grew smaller and smaller. At first, I thought it was because my anti-psychic sermon had angered them. But I learned it wasn’t just me when I talked to Father Knowles, an elderly priest at a local Catholic church and a close friend of mine.
After listening to my story, Father Knowles said, “Membership’s dropping all over the place.”
“Why?” I asked
“That talk show affected people in a big way. Folks now believe in Psychic Luci.”
“But don’t they believe in God anymore?”
Father Knowles sighed. “They remind me very much of those Old Testament fools who insisted on a manmade, wooden idol because they could only believe in and worship what they could see with their naked eyes. Even today, many people believe only in things they can see. Luci’s giving them that.”
Father Knowles was right. More and more people began to follow Luci, and less and less worshipped God. Luci continued to solve cases, appear before the media, and publicize herself. To everyone else, she was a hero. To me, she was a selfish, nauseating gloat. But she forever charmed the world by repeatedly taking little or no money for her work and always uttering the explanation that had become her tag line: “The world’s belief in me is payment enough.”
One day, my wife Nora phoned me at work. As soon as I picked up the phone, I heard her screaming our only daughter’s name on the other end. “Faith! Faith!” she cried. “Oh God, Paul, it’s Faith!”
Several minutes later, I found myself at the hospital, staring at my daughter as she lay in ICU. She was hooked up to all kinds of tubes. Bandages covered most of her head and body, and what little skin that remained exposed was black and blue. Faith had been walking home from school when two guys jumped her and dragged her into an alley, where several more waited. Then she’d been gang-raped, beaten, and left for dead. She was only twelve years old.
Delilah came to the hospital a few days later. After Faith had fallen into a fitful sleep, Delilah motioned for me to follow her into outside the room. Delilah was no longer mad at me but sympathetic instead. “When it’s your kid, it hurts worse than anything, doesn’t it?”
I nodded as the tears rolled down my face.
"You know who can find out who did this.”
I shook my head and whispered, “I just can’t. I still believe that God…”
Delilah held up her hand. “Well, if you change your mind, you know how to reach me.”
Weeks dragged by. The police found nothing. The townspeople clamored for something to be done. “What if those thugs go after other little girls?” they asked. It pained me to see Faith suffer, to hear her crying every day, “Those mean guys hurt me bad. When will they be caught?”
While Faith had been through a lot, and we’d been prepared for an extended period of physical recovery, she was recuperating much more slowly than she should have. We really could tell no difference at all in her physical state. During the brief periods when she was awake, she wouldn’t talk to us at all other than to ask questions about the progress of the investigation, when the attackers would be caught.
Finally one day, Faith’s doctor called us out of the room. “As you know, our hospital counselor on staff has been evaluating Faith. We’ve determined that her psychological and emotional states are impeding her recovery.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“She’s not getting better because she has no sense of closure,” he explained. “Her emotional distress at her attackers going free is retarding her recovery.”
My wife Nora asked, “And if her attackers aren’t caught?”
The doctor shook his head. “The psyche, one’s emotions, are a powerful thing, more powerful than medical science can currently understand. With the emotional state Faith’s in, if her attackers aren’t caught, progress might be halted for years…or permanently.”
Nora began to cry. After the doctor had left, she gave me a hard look. “When Delilah was here, she told me she had talked to you, who she could get to help. And she told me what you said.” Her face contorted in rage and another oncoming fit of tears. “Surely you can’t still say no after what you just heard.”
I only hung my head in response.
“You have only two choices left, Paul.” Nora folded her arms. “Either you call Delilah and tell her to get in touch with Luci Fergueson, or I will.”
PAUL'S WIFE IS ASKING HIM TO CHOOSE BETWEEN HIS FAMILY AND HIS SPIRITUAL BELIEFS...WILL HE MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION? TO READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AND FIND OUT, PURCHASE A HARD COPY OR ELECTRONIC COPY FROM THE AUTHOR ON AUTHORS DEN.