It was a sunny afternoon, but Pam was feeling blue. She had just come home, and as usual, it was empty. Of course, there was beautiful and expensive furniture, but the rooms looked just about as homey as a furniture store.
I’d like to find my family home once in a while, she complained to herself as she walked into the kitchen to get a drink of water. Mom’s usually at a card party. Helen’s always out with her friends, and Dad’s almost always drunk. We used to be a happy family. Now all we ever do when we’re together is fight.
A jingling telephone broke into her gloomy thoughts. Dad’s voice greeted her when she picked up the receiver. “Pam, is your mother there?”
“No. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Tell her that we’re having a dinner guest–Mr. Wentworth, an old friend of mine. We’ll be home at 6:00.”
Pam glanced at the clock.
It was almost 5:00. There’s no telling when Mom will get here, she thought. I’d better start dinner at once. Oh, this business of being alone, it’s terrible! I have no idea what Mom would prepare for a special guest!
The men arrived shortly before 6:00. Pam was putting finishing touches to pans of steaming potatoes, green beans, and carrots, and trying to set the table at the same time.
Mr. Wentworth followed Pam into the kitchen, sniffing the fragrant scents. “Evidently you are a fine cook,” he complimented.
“Well, I’m a substitute cook. I cook when nobody else is here–which is pretty often.” She hadn’t meant to say the last part. “I mean, I wish my family would stay home a bit more. It gets pretty lonely here.”
“I know how you feel.” There was understanding in Mr. Wentworth’s voice. “I used to feel the same way. Then I learned something that made me very happy. We are never really alone. Jesus is by our side, a real friend ready to help whenever we need Him.”
“Do you believe that?”
“Indeed I do. I know from experience.” He folded his arms and looked at her seriously. “Pam, do you pray?”
She shook her head. “I used to when I was little, but things are different now. Nobody in our family prays.”
If Pam had expected a lecture or a scolding, she was disappointed. A smile came to the man’s face. “Try it again. You’ll find new happiness,” he promised.
Dinner turned out to be a success. In fact, the whole evening was the most enjoyable one Pam could remember.
Before Mr. Wentworth left, he invited the family to go to church with him the next Saturday. He was so persuasive that Pam and her dad could not refuse.
• • •
When Pam entered the junior room that Sabbath, one of the boys greeted her politely and handed her a songbook.
A couple of girls motioned for her to sit with them. The program was interesting and the lesson inspiring.
“I’ll come back next week,” Pam promised her new friend Karen.
Karen seemed delighted. “Remember, if you don’t have a way to get here, my family and I will be glad to stop by. We don’t live far from you.”
Soon Pam noticed a great change in the whole family, especially Dad. For nearly a month she and Dad went to church and prayer meetings regularly with Mr. Wentworth. A couple of times her mom and sister went too.
Pam didn’t feel alone anymore. She knew that even when her family was not at home, she still had a Companion, the best in the world. She was so happy that she often knelt and thanked Jesus for His kindness.
People in the Seventh-day Adventist Church were friendly. Even Mom and Helen liked them. They started a series of Bible studies with Karen’s father. And Dad didn’t take a drink for almost two weeks.
Everything will be all right now, Pam thought happily. That was why she thanked Mr. Wentworth the next time they said goodbye.
“Keep praying,” he told her. “Remember, no matter what happens, Jesus is near to help you.”
What could happen? Pam wondered. She forgot his words until one night a few weeks later.
It was Bible study evening. Pam had just put the last dinner plate into the dishwasher when her dad unexpectedly staggered in and slammed the back door. He had been drinking heavily.
“Wo-would you like to eat now?” she asked, sad and frightened at the sight that reminded her of past unhappiness. “We’ve kept everything warm for you.”
He ignored her question. “Get your mother. Tell her to come here right away!”
Startled, Pam didn’t move fast enough to suit him. “I told you to bring your mother here. I don’t mean tomorrow. I mean right now!” His voice was angry, loud.
Pam fled from the kitchen. Instead of waiting, her dad followed her into the living room.
“Yes, I’m drunk,” he growled, “and this is it! There will be no more Bible studies in this house. Call the man. Phone him right away. No more Bible studies! He must never set foot in this house again!”
“Dad, how can you talk like that?” Pam’s voice was shaking. “Mr. Jones hasn’t done anything to offend you.”
“Keep still!” Dad glared fiercely. “Nobody in our family will ever go back to that church. That’s final!”
To Pam’s dismay, her mom said, “That suits me just fine. I’ll phone right now. I just went along to please you.”
“Nobody–no church–is going to change my way of life. I’ll do what I please, and I’ll drink if I want to.” Dad snatched up a bowl of roses from a table and sent it crashing to the floor in a splatter of flying glass.
Mom jumped up. “Remember, whatever you break tonight, you’ll have to replace tomorrow. You’ll have to pay for it.”
Pam had heard the same words before. They usually had a quieting effect on her father. But this time he became even more infuriated.
“You’re not telling me what to do. Don’t you dare!” An ashtray went sailing through the air, knocking over an expensive table lamp.
Pam ran to her room and fell on her knees beside her bed. “Everything was so happy for a while,” she sobbed. “Please make everything all right again. Jesus, please help us to be Christians. Help Dad not to drink anymore.”
Heavy footsteps came into the room. “Quit praying!” her dad bellowed. “Quit praying–now! I mean it! Pam, get up!”
It was then that she remembered Mr. Wentworth’s words, “Keep praying. Remember that no matter what happens, Jesus is always near to help you.”
Her sobs grew louder. “Jesus, help Dad right now. Help him to be a Christian. He doesn’t want to drink or be mean.”
Dad took a step closer, cursing. His hand reached out as if he were going to jerk her to her feet. Instead, he turned, cursed, and left the room.
A few minutes later he stomped back into the room. “Stop praying!” he commanded fiercely. “Stop it! Now!”
“Dear Jesus, please help Dad to be a Christian. Please help him!”
“Pray for yourself,” her dad scoffed. “He had better help you, because I’m going to give you the whipping of your life.” His strong hands grabbed Pam’s shoulders and jerked her to her feet.
“Dad,” she cried, looking up into his face, “Jesus loves you. He died to save you from a life of sin. You can’t go back now!”
The man raised his hand to slap her face. Then suddenly he stopped. “Pray for me,” he cried softly, dropping down on his knees in the center of the room. “Ask God to forgive me for trying to run away from His love.”
• • •
A few months later there was a baptism in the Adventist church. Pam, sitting beside her dad, watched Mom and Helen step down into the water. It reminded her of the day when she and Dad had been baptized together.
Now we’re all in God’s family, she thought happily. Someday we’ll share a heavenly home, something like this one perhaps, only sweeter.
She smiled as she thought about what kind of furniture her home in heaven might have. “Probably different from what we have now. But one thing’s for sure–there’ll be peace and love,” she told herself. “Jesus, the one who saved us, will be there.”
Reprinted from the May 3, 1986, issue of Guide.
Illustrated by Joel D. Springer