“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!” Simon stood beside Tony on the hillside. Below them spread the rich, fertile Jordan Valley, filled with fields of ripening crops and orchards straining under the burden of lush fruits. “Come on, Tony, you’re pulling my leg. They’re not really going to do it, are they?”
Sitting in the very center of the valley, beside the peaceful Jordan River, the city of Jericho lifted its tall stone walls toward the sky. Soldiers could be seen walking along the tops of the thick, solid ramparts while a steady stream of people flowed in and out of the huge gates below. Donkeys, camels, sheep, and cattle mingled with the human tide cresting in the shadows of the mighty metropolis.
“God told them to.” Tony walked over and closed the door of Voyager, making sure the solar recharge switch had been activated. “Doesn’t make any sense to me, either, but God hasn’t been wrong yet.”
Tie Li sat nearby, chin in hands. “You think they do it?”
“I guess we’ll find out soon enough.” Tony motioned toward the valley. “Here they come.”
From the direction of the river, the children saw a multitude of people marching in orderly procession along the road leading to Jericho. Brightly colored flags fluttered in the breeze, each one emblazoned with the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Joshua walked in the lead. The former slaves of Egypt were about to enter their Promised Land.
As the column drew closer, the crowds at the base of the city hurriedly began to retreat through the gates, seeking security behind the mammoth walls. In a matter of minutes the great doors swung shut, leaving the valley empty except for the approaching army.
A solid line of swords and helmets formed along the top of each fortification as marksmen took aim with their arrows. The city waited in the morning sun.
“It’s not going to work, you know,” Simon insisted, shaking his head from side to side. “Boy, are they going to be embarrassed!”
When the procession reached the city, it turned and began circling like an enormous snake curling around its intended victim. In a slow, hypnotic movement they continued their march around the walls, never stopping, never changing direction, in total, deafening silence. Only the sound of leather boots on solid ground echoed against the stones. Above them, the soldiers on the walls seemed mesmerized by their steady plodding.
Simon kept repeating to himself, “This isn’t going to work. This isn’t going to work.”
Suddenly the marchers stopped. The men on the walls stood motionless, waiting. For a long moment the two armies faced each other, separated by the mighty bastions of Jericho. Even the birds and other animals refused to disturb the awful hush that fell like a thick, dry blanket around the city.
Then a trumpet tone pierced the silence, a single high note that hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. One by one other trumpets joined in, not in harmony, but filling the air with an uneven pulsating sound as different players vied for prominence. Soldiers on the walls pressed their hands against their ears as the pitch increased, growing more irritating, more shrill.
Tie Li grabbed her head tightly and pressed against Tony. She tried to speak, but her voiced sounded thin and metallic in the building crush of noise.
Suddenly a new sound rose from the base of the city. It was low, like the roar of a thousand lions. Tony yelled over at his companions. “Here it comes! Here it comes!”
Every voice, every mouth, every person in the multitude gave a loud, long shout. In horror the children watched as cracks appeared in the stones supporting the ramparts. The men on top ran in confusion, slamming into each other; some stepped out into space and fell end over end to the ground far below. The walls began to sway. Huge stones ripped away and tumbled with a thunderous roar toward the base of the city. Choking clouds of dust swirled high into the air, almost obscuring the scene. The city quaked and rolled like a drunken person. Towers toppled into crumpled heaps. Gates torn from their hinges twisted outward, splitting from top to bottom, sending great planks of wood spinning into the shifting rubble.
Then with a final resounding crash, all remnants of the walls folded on themselves and vanished into the dust. As the wind carried the clouds of destruction away, the city sat naked, its protection now in heaps on the ground.
Another shout rose from the encircling multitude as they rushed across the rubble and entered the devastated city.
Simon, Tony, and Tie Li sat silently on the hillside, each trying to understand what they had just witnessed. After a long moment, Tony spoke. “There is nothing God can’t do. Nothing.”
Tie Li shook her head slowly, looking down on the scene. She could hear the noise of battle, the clank of swords, the screams. “Why it have to be like this? Why always violence, always noise and fighting? Why people not learn another way? God would help them. It not have to be like this.”
Simon nodded. “Only one problem. Some people insist on doing things their own way, not God’s.” He realized that his words held meaning for him. “They all lose, really. I know what it’s like.” He paused. A thoughtful frown creased his brow. “We all lose. Nobody wins.”
Slowly Tony stood to his feet. “We gotta go. Our time’s up.”
The three entered Voyager. As Tony was closing the door, he glanced once more toward the city. “I think God is sad, even in victory. He created all those people, no matter which side of the wall they stood on.”
Voyager disappeared from view. From the valley, sounds of battle carried in the wind.
The next day Mrs. Parks was sitting in the kitchen cutting recipes from a magazine when the phone rang. Lifting the receiver, she was surprised to hear a voice she hadn’t heard since last summer. Mr. Parks poked his head in through the door leading to the living room. “For me?” he asked.
Mrs. Parks shook her head, but motioned for him to join her. “Yes, I understand,” she was saying. “No, no, please put her on.” She cupped her hand over the mouthpiece and whispered excitedly to her husband, “It’s Sister Martinez, long-distance. She wants— Yes, yes, Sister Martinez! It’s so nice of you to call. How are you?”
Mr. Parks smiled and sat down at the kitchen table to listen.
“Oh, that’s wonderful! Yes, everything’s just fine here. How are things at the hospital? Have you had any more children come through? . . . Really? In December? . . . Yes, of course! It will be nice to see you again! . . . I’ll tell her this afternoon when she comes home from school. OK. John says hello too. Yes . . . All right . . . Goodbye, Sister Martinez.”
Mrs. Parks let out a squeal of delight. “She’s coming through in December with another group of children. She wants us to meet her at International Airport during their layover so she can see Tie Li and Tie Li can see some of her old friends from the hospital. Won’t that be exciting?”
“Hey, slow down!” Mr. Parks got up and put his arms around his wife’s waist. “I don’t know who’ll be more excited—you or Tie Li.”
“Oh, she’ll be so happy to see her old friends again! I know she misses being around kids from her own country. And you know how she adores Sister Martinez.”
“She adores you, too.”
“Well, maybe a little.”
“A little?” Mr. Parks looked down at the woman. “Who’s the most important person in her life?”
Mrs. Parks grinned. “Tony.”
“Well, besides Tony?”
“Maybe me, I guess.”
“Such confidence you have. Of course, you. I’ve been watching Tie Li lately. She studies your every move. She jumps at any chance to help you clean the house, sew on a dress, cook supper, go shopping. I think she wishes she were two people so she could be with you and Tony at the same time.”
Mrs. Parks rested her head on her husband’s shoulder. “She does like being with me, doesn’t she?”
The man bent down and looked into her eyes, his nose touching hers. “That’s because she loves you. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, I know.” Mrs. Parks smiled. “And I love her, too. I love her very much.”
Several weeks later an airmail letter arrived from overseas, outlining the details of the planned visit. Mrs. Parks read the letter out loud to Tie Li at the kitchen table.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parks,
This is to confirm our stopover date as December 24. We’ll be on Global Flight 311, arriving at 3:00 in the afternoon.
According to the schedule, we’ll be able to spend only an hour with you, but I just couldn’t be so close without saying hello to you and Tie Li.
During the last couple months the war has moved south again. Government forces have managed to keep our city protected, but it is uncertain how long they can keep the enemy at bay. All we can do is hope and pray.
Tie Li, several of your old friends will be on the flight too. We’ve managed to find homes for them in Boston. That’s where we’ll be heading after our visit with you.
We may have another passenger, a boy to drop off at our medical center in Chicago. I’ve been in contact with a Dr. Whittaker who works at one of our jungle clinics. He says this case needs special treatment. I hope we’ll be able to work something out.
I look forward to seeing you in December. God bless!
Love, Sister Martinez
Tie Li sat very still, remembering the kind face of the lady who arranged for her new home in America with the Parkses. She thought also of the sad faces of her friends whom she’d had to leave behind. Now some of them were going to have new homes too. She wished they all could be on that flight, heading for loving arms in this big, beautiful country.
After everyone had gone to bed, Tie Li slipped out of her room and quietly made her way downstairs. She put on her coat and walked through the frigid night air to Tony’s workshop.
Once inside, she pulled the airmail letter from her pocket and attached it to the wall with some tape. Stepping back, she drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes, and with all her might let out a long, loud shout in the direction of the letter.
In her mind she saw tanks and guns, all weapons of war, crumble into powdery piles in every country of the world. She saw hospital walls tumble down, and children, no longer sick and hurt, running out into the sunshine to play.
She stood enjoying the dream, smiling and laughing with her friends and her family once more.
Then in silence she carried the letter back to the house, placed it gently on her dresser, and curled up beneath the warm covers of her bed. She sighed. If only all walls would fall.
(To be continued)
1. What were the people of Jericho depending on to protect them from the children of Israel?
2. As the children of Israel marched, what were the only things they could see when they looked toward the city?
3. Was it only the sound of the trumpets and the shouting that brought the walls crashing down? What else made them crumble?
4. Tony said God loved the people no matter which side of the wall they stood on. Is it the same in today’s world? Name some situations in which God loves the people on both sides of a conflict.
5. When you become angry at someone, does God become angry at them too? When someone is angry at you, is God angry at you too?