“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”
~~Eleanor Roosevelt

Hi all,

I'm currently out of town so had to prepare this in advance.  Hopefully, this will be the last story excerpt before I finish the whole thing and can share it all!

God bless,

Yet another excerpt from "The Messiah" (working title), previous installment can be found here (http://www.newsletters.onthisside.net/jabb546.html and http://www.newsletters.onthisside.net/jabb549.html):


"Ah, Joshua, there you..."  Ibrahim cocked his head and looked curiously at the man kneeling beside Joshua, planting flowers around the mosque's sign. 

Joshua rose to his feet, pulled off his gloves, and motioned for Takoda to stand.

"Ibrahim, this is my friend, Takoda.  He asked to tag along today.  I figured I could use some help with the planting so... I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all!"  Ibrahim held his hand out to the newcomer.  "Welcome, Takoda!  Are you with Symphonia?"

Takoda shook the imam's hand and shrugged.

"Sort of, I guess.  I'm sort of a... professional volunteer.  I pop up where I'm needed."

"Well, we definitely need the extra help around here!  So... how is it that you manage to survive in the city as a 'professional volunteer,' if you don't mind my asking?  Manhattan isn't cheap!"

"My Father provides for my needs," Takoda replied, sneaking a smile at Joshua.

"Must be nice!  Well, I applaud you for doing something with your life instead of lounging around on a couch playing games on your phone... a very tempting fate, I must admit."

"I don't think my Father would allow for that."

"He would not," Joshua asserted with a grin.

The imam chuckled.  "Your father's a good man.  Well, I won't keep you fellows.  Just wanted to check the mail."  Ibrahim turned to a box and pulled the contents out.  "I'm expecting a wedding announcement from my brother and..."  He cocked his head and plucked an envelope out of the small stack.  "No return address on this one."

Takoda shot Joshua a worried look.

"Wonderful..." the imam muttered.  "Well, I'll be in my office if..."

"I'll go with you," Joshua offered.

Ibrahim forced a smile.

"If this is what I think it is, I don't think you'd approve of the language I'll be apt to use.  I've noticed you pound your thumb a time or two.  You never cuss."

"I can take it."  Joshua set a hand on the man's arm.  "I've been on the receiving end of hateful messages before.  My friends were with me, supporting me, through it all."

"When you played Isa, peace be upon him?  I think I recall Yakov mentioning that."

Joshua nodded.

"All right...  I wouldn't mind the company."

"I'll be right with you," Joshua promised before turning to Takoda.  He withdrew his wallet and handed the angel a couple of bills.  "Could you run and get lunch please?"

"Sure.  Where?  And what?"

Joshua seized the receipt from the plants and wrote on the back.

"This is the address for a halal restaurant.  I'm writing down what to order for Ibraham, Liyana, and me.  You can order whatever you..."

"I've never eaten halal.  I don't know what I'll like."

Joshua smiled and resumed writing.

"You'll like this.  Thank you.  They'll need some comfort food."

Takoda frowned and raised an eye brow.

"That bad?"

Joshua only nodded and patted the angel's arm.

"Thanks again.  I'm glad you're here, Takoda."

"Me... me too...  Joshua..."  Takoda's brow furrowed with worry.

"It's all right.  Everything's all right," Joshua soothed.  "I'll see you soon."


As Ibrahim escorted Joshua back towards the mosque, Takoda headed in the direction of the restaurant that Joshua had chosen.  Just before turning the corner, he looked back and prayed for the imam.  He didn't want to witness another community brought low by hatred.


Inside Ibrahim's office, Joshua took the typed letter from his shaking hands.

"I'm calling the police.  I could take it when they went after to me.  But to speak so vilely of my wife!" the imam spat out.

Joshua's eyes filled as he read the disgusting missive.  It was far worse than anything Beatrice or her brethren had sent to him before their conversion.  Invoking Christchurch... threatening to violate Liyana...  If it wasn't so horrible, it would be laughable that the letter writer referred to Ibrahim as a terrorist.  *This* was terrorism.

"I think you should.  If you don't have luck with 911, let me know.  I have some connections.  Actually..."  Joshua scribbled a phone number on a nearby piece of paper and handed it to Ibrahim.  "This is the direct line for a friend, detective Matthew Bratton.  He and another friend, a beat cop named Tyron Billings, responded when St. G's got tagged with graffiti while I was there.  I think you should start with them."

"Thanks, Joshua.  You are well connected!"

Joshua only smiled as the imam dialed. 

While Ibrahim spoke with Matthew, Joshua resumed studying the letter.  He tried to determine who had written it.  Certainly there was more than one Islamophobe in the city.  He lifted his gaze, asking his Father for more information.

Nothing came.

It wasn't time for him to confront the letter writer.

"Thank you... thank you so much...  I truly appreciate that.  Yes.  We'll be here.  Thank you, detect...  Matthew.  See you soon.  Good bye."  Ibrahim heaved a sigh of relief as he ended the call.  "Tyron isn't available but Matthew is on his way over.  Thank you.  I don't think I would have gotten anyone over here so soon if not for your help, Joshua."

"Matthew's a good guy.  He'll do whatever he can."  Joshua paused briefly to ask his Father to send word to Takoda... they'd need another lunch.

"How am I going to tell Liyana..." the imam mused aloud.

Joshua stared back down at the letter resting on the table.

"I think you need to let her read it."

Ibrahim snatched up the letter and gave an adamant shake of his head.

"Absolutely not!"

"You should at least ask her if she wants to," Joshua counseled.  "Liyana was standing next to you when you gave your statement after the Christchurch shooting, wasn't she?"

With a pained sigh, Ibrahim nodded.

"I didn't want her to be... but she insisted.  She wanted us to face whatever came together."

Joshua said nothing.

Ibrahim glanced at his phone.

"You're right... of course you're right.  She should be starting her lunch break soon.  I'll... ask her then."  After settling into his desk chair, the imam cradled his head in his hands.  "She's so good...  Better than me.  More faithful than me...  She encouraged me to become an imam but... it should have been her.  And so to have someone speak so cruelly...  Liyana would give this man... woman... whatever... her last penny if they needed it and this..."  He gestured angrily towards the letter and muttered curses under his breath.

Joshua approached and rested a hand on the man's shoulder.

"I know.  People like the letter's writer... they're so filled with hatred and fear that they're blinded to everything else, including the humanity of those they target with their vitriol and..."

"Violence..." Ibrahim interrupted, his tone icy.

Joshua gave a reluctant nod.

"The Jewish people are certainly no strangers to persecution.  Was that why they came after you at St. G's, Josh?"

"In part.  Also because I'm Middle-Eastern."

"I get that.  The irony is I'm as American as they come.  Born in Wisconsin, lived in Manhattan since my dad was transferred here when I was ten.  My grandparents were born in Iran but I've never been.  How about you... where were you born... if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well... I was actually born in Bethlehem."

Ibrahim balked.

"Like... Bethlehem, Bethlehem or Pennsylvania?"

Joshua laughed.

"Bethlehem, Bethlehem."

"No kidding!  And I suppose your parents are named Mary and Joseph?" the imam teased.

"Close.  Maryam and Yosef."  Joshua grinned.

Ibrahim cocked his head.

"You're joking..."

With a laugh, Joshua shook his head.

"I'm really not.  You can ask any of my friends.  They've met my folks."

"I believe you but... wow.  Your name is even...  Jesus, Yeshua, Isa... Joshua... same name."


"But your last name isn't Christ, at least."

"Nope.  Last name's definitely not Christ."  Joshua smiled, declining to point out that Christ was a title, not a surname.

Ibrahim sighed.

"Well...  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out Isa, peace be upon him, is very much like you, Josh.  You have such a calming presence about you.  I mean the fact that you got me laughing after... that."  He pointed to the letter.  "And yet..."

"And yet?" Joshua prompted.

"I have a feeling that I would not like to cross you....  It's not that I think you're some sort of rage-aholic under the surface or anything," Ibrahim hastily added.  "I just... I don't know."

"No one wants to imagine themselves at odds with their friends," Joshua offered.


The man jolted when his cell phone vibrated.  He steadied himself then checked it.

"Liyana is on her way over from the daycare."


"I don't want her to see..."

"I know..."

Joshua patted the imam's hand.

"I asked Takoda to bring us  some lunch.  We can all enjoy it together and support Liyana... and you."

Ibrahim's eyes welled.

"That's very kind of you, Joshua.  You didn't have to..."

"I wanted to."

"Thank you..."

"You're welcome, Ibrahim.  It's my pleasure.  Truly."

Ibrahim gazed into the handyman's gentle eyes and saw it was true.


"Well... now that I have a bit in my stomach... I want to read the letter," Liyana announced after enjoying half of her lunch.

"Dear...  It's very ugly...  I don't know if..."

Liyana thrust her hand out.

"Letter.  Now."

Ibrahim heaved a sigh.

"All right then..."

His hand shaking, the imam handed the missive to his wife.

Just as Liyana began to read, Ibrahim's phone buzzed, causing her to jump.

With an arm around his wife's shoulders, Ibrahim checked his text messages.

"Matthew.  He's at the front door."

"I'll go get it," Joshua offered.

"I could.  If you want to stay," Takoda countered.

Joshua smiled at the angel and shook his head.

"Thank you.  But I'd like to have a word with Matthew."  He rested a hand on Liyana's shoulder.  "I'm so sorry for that.  I'll be back as soon as I can."

Liyana set down the letter, patted Joshua's hand, and gave him a teary smile.

"Thank you, Joshua.  I'm glad you're here.  And your friends, too."

Joshua nodded in reply then left the room to retrieve Matthew.

The detective gaped when Joshua opened the door.


"Hey there!  Thanks for coming, Matthew." 

The two men embraced.

"Of course!  I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find you here.  Ibrahim mentioned that you'd given him my number but I didn't put together that you were actually here right now.  I'm glad you are!"

"I've been here since around 9:00.  Takoda and I were here when Ibrahim found the letter."

Matthew grunted.

"I don't suppose you could give me any leads on the sender?"

"Afraid not.  Dad hasn't told me and..."

"I imagine there are numerous possibilities."

Joshua looked down at his hands and nodded.

Matthew patted his back.

"I'm sorry, Josh.  I can't begin to imagine what that's like for you.  But we'll figure it out.  There... wasn't anything about you in the letter, was there?"

"No.  I'm a contracted employee, not listed on the mosque's web site so... I doubt they'd even know my name."

Matthew let out the breath he'd been holding.

"Good.  Well, let's go see to the Azizis.  How are they holding up?"

"As well as can be expected.  Liyana had only just started to read the letter when you arrived."

Matthew frowned.

"Poor lady."

"A very strong lady... but I know this will rattle her.  Much less rattled me."

"I remember..."  Matthew clasped Joshua's shoulder and shook his head as he recalled the graffiti at St. G's.

Joshua led the way to Ibrahim's office.  Once they'd stepped inside, they found a helpless looking Takoda playing with his food and Ibrahim swaying with Liyana in his arms, murmuring to her.

"Sit," Joshua whispered to Matthew, waving to an empty seat.

The detective's gaze traveled from the distraught couple to Joshua who handed him a plate of food.

"Oh, thanks.  I didn't expect..."

"You eat hotdogs in your car too often," Joshua gently chastised.

With a slight blush, Matthew smiled and squeezed Joshua's hand.


Liyana sighed and pulled away from her husband.  She brushed at her eyes and gave the newcomer a wan smile.

"Detective Bratton, I presume?"

Matthew rose and shook her hand.

"Matthew, please.  It's a pleasure to meet you.  I'm sorry for the circumstances, though."

"I am, as well."  Ibrahim held his hand out.  "Thank you, again, for taking my call, Matthew."

"It's my job, Ibrahim.  And, well, when Joshua gives out my number... I know it's important.  I trust his judgement.  So... could I see the letter?"

"Perhaps you should eat first," Liyana suggested. 

"I agree," Joshua added.

"All right.  Well..."  Matthew reclaimed his seat.  "Maybe you could tell me about the other incidents leading up to this.  And if you don't mind..."  He placed his phone on the table.  "Can I record this?"

"Of course.  As you can imagine, the mosque... like most... has always received random phone calls from crackpots.  We report them... but nothing ever comes of them... thank Allah."  Ibrahim bowed his head for a moment before continuing.  "But after I appeared on the news following the Christchurch tragedy... the threats amped up.  More calls... letters... emails...  And that..."  He waved to the letter.  "Is a new low."

"The lowest of lows," Takoda muttered. 

"Have you seen anyone suspicious around the mosque?"

Liyana laughed.

"This is Manhattan.  We see everything."

Matthew grinned.

"Good point.  But nothing in particular that got your attention?"

Ibrahim and Liyana both shook their heads.

"And Joshua and Takoda... you didn't see anyone approach the mailbox while you were working?"

"Just the delivery person," the angel replied.

"Same as usual," Joshua added.

"It can't be Murray... our mailman," Ibrahim hastened to defend.  "I've spoken to him many, many times.  He's a good, kind man.  He wrote me the kindest note after the shooting."

"It's not Murray," Joshua agreed, looking pointedly as Matthew.

"Good...  That's good.  And, of course, a non-postmarked letter couldn't have gotten into the bundle... unless someone at the sorting facility did it."

Liyana shrugged.

"I suppose.  But I think it's more likely that someone put it in the box... perhaps in the dead of night.  It could have been sitting there for hours, only noticed when Ibrahim collected the usual mail."

Matthew thoughtfully chewed some bread.

"I agree that's more likely.  There are some surveillance cameras nearby.  I could look at those.  Of course..."

"Unless the person is as stupid as they are hateful, they probably knew better than to make themselves conspicuous.  The footage likely won't show a clear face," the imam concluded.

"No... probably not.  But it's worth a shot."

"Of course," Liyana agreed.  "And we thank you in advance for looking into all options."

"It's no problem.  I want to find this guy... and it probably is a guy.  Although..."  Matthew drifted off, not wanting to bring up Beatrice. 

"Anything is possible," Joshua finished for him. 

Matthew took a few more bites of salad then looked to Joshua.

"Well, can I read the letter now?"

Joshua turned to Liyana who nodded and handed it over to the officer.

As he read, Matthew's face grew red with anger.

Joshua reached over to set a calming hand on the man's shoulder.

Seeing this, a thought crept into the imam's mind and a shiver went through his body.

Perhaps the sender of the letter was in the room with them...


Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Liyana sighed dramatically before sitting up in bed and turning on her lamp.

"Would you please either settle down or go into the other room and leave me in peace?" she pointedly asked her restless husband.

Ibrahim playfully bumped his wife's shoulder.

"I'm sorry.  It's just..."

"The letter.  I know.  But both of us losing sleep won't help anything!  In fact, it'll just makes things worse.  We need to be alert... not sleep-deprived."  Softening, Liyana wrapped her arms around her husband.  "I'm sorry that you can't sleep.  But please... try to put it out of your mind.  At least for a few hours.  We could pray?"

"Yes...  We should pray.  It's just... it is about the letter.  But less about the awful contents and more about... a thought that came to me.  About the sender."

"Oh?  Do you think you know who it is?"

"I hope not..." the imam muttered.

Liyana frowned.  She plumped up her pillow and sat up, knowing sleep wasn't going to be happening any time soon.

"Tell me."

"It's just...  Think about it.  Joshua showed up so soon after I gave my press conference."

"Because we only put out a call for a handyman a couple of days before."

"Yes...  But...  I was thinking...  It would have been very easy for him to have slipped the letter into the mailbox.  He and Takoda were working out there all morning."

Liyana glared at her husband.

"You had a shock today.  We both did.  And no wonder it's made you paranoid.  But to turn on a man who has been nothing but kind and insinuate he's... what?!  A terrorist and a would-be rapist?  Ibrahim!"

The man gripped his wife's arm when he feared she was going to flee their bed.

"No...  I mean...  Not exactly.  But what if... what if he's sick?  You read stories about that.  People who invent crises just so they can swoop in and offer comfort or garner attention.  I mean... he was right there when I received the letter.  He offered to come into the office with me when I read it.  Then he all but insisted that I let you read it."

"Because I'm your wife and the letter was about me!  Of course I needed to read it!  You actually think Joshua drew some sort of sick pleasure from seeing me weep today?" Liyana demanded.

"Yes... maybe... or not... probably not pleasure.  But..."

"This is insane, Ibrahim!"

"Maybe!  Maybe so.  But I would feel better if we had someone watching him."

"You've got to be kidding..."

"I thought I would ask Raheem.  The health fair is coming up.  There's lots to do.  We'll just tell Joshua that we thought he and Takoda could use some extra help.  And it'll keep Raheem busy.  You told me yourself that Hura said he's been depressed since the layoff.  This could keep his mind off..."

"Because nothing cures depression like telling someone to spy on a friend!  Raheem seems very fond of Joshua and I do not want you poisoning him against..."  Liyana noticed that her husband's head was bowed. 

She reached across him and snatched his phone, rifling through the text messages.

"You already said all this to him!  I can't believe..."

"I needed to tell someone, Yana.  I just..."

"So you could have told me first!  You could have told your wife first!"  Liyana stood up and angrily tied on her robe as she continued to berate her husband.  "So I could have told you that you were being ridiculous!  Because you are, Ibrahim!  You've said so yourself!  I have very good intuition and I know Joshua is a good man!  Do you think he's conned Rabbi Yakov?  Fr. Mike?  JenniAnn?  They've known him for years.  Matthew!  You think he would purposefully draw a detective into this if he had something to hide?"

Ibrahim bowed his head.  He should have thought of that...  But now it was too late.  He'd passed his suspicion onto Raheem.

"And now Raheem will tell Hura!  And you know how jaded she can be!  And she doesn't keep quiet, either!  Soon the whole mosque will turn against poor Joshua who has done nothing but..."

"I... I'm sorry, Yana," Ibrahim interrupted.  "I...  Where are you going?"

"To pray to Allah that my husband's good senses return.  And that he hasn't ruined a good man.  Don't follow me!" she hissed.

"But... but we've never spent a night apart in all our five years of..."

Liyana spun around.

"You've never been so careless in all our five years of marriage, Ibrahim."

With those words, the woman left.

Ibrahim collapsed onto their bed.

He was too distraught for prayers.  All he could do was clutch his wife's pillow and weep.


Liyana wept as she stumbled into the mosque.  Finding her usual spot, she knelt and began to pray.

"Allah...  help my husband...  Free him from the doubts and fears that... that have caused him to behave so rashly and... and so cruelly.  Please, Allah...  Please don't let Joshua suffer for what a cruel man has written or... or for what my foolish husband has insinuated.  Guard Raheem's heart..."

As the distraught woman pleaded, a figure settled beside her and set a gentle hand on Liyana's back.

"Peace be upon you, sweet girl... and upon your husband... and upon the baby in your womb," Maryam murmured with a soft smile.  "And do not fear for my own son.  What the Enemy meant for evil... the Father will use for good."

Feeling suddenly calmed, Liyana sat up and peered around her.  She felt as if she wasn't alone... but the feeling brought serenity, not fear.  She rested her hand on her still flat belly.

She'd intended to tell Ibrahim in the morning, over breakfast.  But, in spite of the sense of calm, anger still rankled in her heart.  She didn't want it wrapped up with her joyful news.

She would wait... and trust in Allah to guide her husband.


Hura smiled as she packed her lunch... and one for her husband, too.  For the first time in weeks, he was whistling as he trimmed his beard.  She had considered asking Ibrahim to find a job for Raheem... but she also knew her husband would feel ashamed if her cousin-in-law simply handed him a job.  A third-generation dock worker, Raheem's strong work ethic was rivaled by only two things: his faith and his love for his wife and children.  Still... somehow Ibrahim had found a way to get Raheem to accept a job and, for that, Hura was grateful. 

Inside the bathroom, Raheem tilted his head first one way and then the next.  He had, admittedly, let his beard grow scraggly since he'd been laid off.  But now... now he thought he looked rather good... respectable even. 

He would be the sane cousin, he thought ruefully. 

Poor Ibrahim...  The letter had done a number on him.  Raheem was sure that his cousin-in-law was now regretting his frantic texts.  He still couldn't believe that the usually stoic, peaceful imam had invented such a deranged theory about Joshua.  Raheem had only met the man three times... first at a dinner hosted by Liyana and Ibrahim shortly after they'd hired Joshua then when he had attended a service at the mosque and, most recently, on Monday when they had spoken following the man's visit with Liyana's mother.  Each time, Raheem's esteem for the handyman had only grown.  There was something about him... something that reminded Raheem of his long gone but much loved father.  A wisdom and dignity tied up with gentleness and compassion.  If trailing Joshua would get Ibrahim to lay off then Raheem would do it... happily.  And perhaps he would learn a thing or two.  Maybe his next job would involve landscaping or carpentry...  The era of Khalid men toiling on the docks seemed to be over.

It was time to make a new start.


"And here you go..."

JenniAnn handed a paper sack to Takoda and hugged him.

"And here you go..."

Joshua smiled as she kissed his cheek.

"Thank you, JenniAnn.  I'm sure whatever you've packed for us, it'll be delicious."

"Hope so!  No peeking."

Joshua chuckled.

"I promise we won't peek, eh, Takoda?"

The angel crossed his heart.

"Good!  Just make sure it gets in a fridge.  And let us know if you'll be any later than 5:30 or so.  We can delay Bible Study if..."

Joshua shook his head.

"I'm confident we'll be back in plenty of time to wash up and attend."

"Good.  And please give Liyana a hug for me.  I'll see her tomorrow at the sewing party but...  I just want her to know I'm thinking of her."

Joshua embraced JenniAnn.

"I'll do that.  Give my best to everyone in the Tunnels.  I'll make sure to come visit."

"They'll love that.  Thanks!"

"Have a good day, JenniAnn.  Thanks for lunch.  I, umm, maybe I'll attend tonight," Takoda suggested.

JenniAnn beamed.  It would be the first time the angel had attended Bible Study and not hid out with the kids.

"We'd love that, Takoda.  See you both this evening!  Love you."

"Love you this much!"  Joshua spread his arms out and grinned.


JenniAnn chased after the retreating men and hugged Joshua again while Takoda chuckled and shook his head.

"Save one of those for me, Laja?" Andrew teased as he entered the kitchen.

Joshua patted JenniAnn on the back and stepped away so he could embrace Andrew.

"Lots," he assured.  "She's very touchy feely.  Gets it from me."

JenniAnn giggled then wrapped her arms around Andrew's middle as they watched the two depart.

"I really do love having him here..."

Andrew kissed his anam cara's hair.

"I know.  Me too."

JenniAnn sighed.

"The kids?"

"Miraculously...  Still asleep."


"Uh huh..."  Andrew waggled his eyes brows then bowed deeply.  "Would the lady care for a pre-breakfast waltz around the ballroom?  I'm no Joshua but..."

"But you're pretty awesome, too."  JenniAnn stretched up to kiss him.  "And the lady accepts.  Gladly."

As JenniAnn shrieked happily, Andrew scooped her up and carried her to the ballroom so their dancing could commence.


"I'm sorry, Yana... for last night... for Joshua... for not coming to you first...  Please... come out so we can talk about it.  I... I missed you last night," Ibrahim's muffled voice pleaded through the door.

Liyana, leaning on the sink as the nausea passed, glanced into the mirror.

Poor Ibrahim thought she was hiding from him.  What a time for morning sickness to start...

"I'll be out soon," she replied.

Liyana could just make out a sigh of relief.

"Good...  I'm glad.  Meet me in the study?"

"Of course."

"Thank you, my love."


Liyana dampened a cloth and pressed it against her face.  In spite of her physical discomfort, she still felt something of the peace that had enveloped her during the night.  And she had missed her husband... 

After checking herself in the mirror, Liyana peered down at her belly.

"Shall we go hear your Daddy out?  See if Allah has knocked some sense into him?" she asked.

The mother-to-be smiled.  It would have been something if the baby had kicked just then.  Of course, maybe he or she had.  It was simply too soon to know.


When he heard the office door open, Ibrahim hastily finished his prayer then turned to his wife.

"I'm sorry," he reiterated.  "About last night... about Joshua... Raheem..."

"Good," Liyana replied.  "You should be sorry."

Ibrahim's face fell.

"But... I should be sorry, too," his wife added.  "I... I could have been more understanding.  The letter was a shock.  And, I suppose, your Joshua theory... terrible as it was... probably comforted you."

"It... it did.  Because I don't believe Joshua could ever actually do anything so vile... so hurtful...  So if it was him...  All we had to worry about was a deranged man with... well... maybe with a savior complex."

"A savior complex?"  Liyana crossed her arms over her chest.  "A bit on the nose, don't you think?  I mean he did play Isa.  I think his friends would have noticed if it was a cry for help."

Ibrahim chuckled. 

"Yes... of course."

"And don't you think... if Joshua were so mentally unstable... we would have seen some hint of it?"

"Probably so...  It is...  It's just odd.  Do you know he told me that his parents are named Yosef and Maryam and... he was born in Bethlehem."

Liyana cocked her head in interest.


"Uh huh.  I mean it could make a person a little... off."

"It could.  But it could also just make a person very good.  He has a lot to live up to.  I mean imagine all the jokes made at his expense.  Joshua of Bethlehem... son of Maryam.  His friends probably ask him to turn their water into wine on the regular."

Ibrahim laughed and nodded, grateful that Liyana was moving closer.

"I feel like if you were right... well, Joshua would be making more of a point of ingratiating himself with us," Liyana continued.  "But he's not.  He's very kind when he's here.  He was wonderful with Mom.  And I did appreciate having him here when... when I read the letter and his staying with us while Matthew interviewed us.  But then he went about his business and he and Takoda left."

"Another good point...  I regret everything.  I'm sure Joshua is completely innocent."

"Good.  I'm very, very glad, Ibrahim.  And all that being said... maybe I did overreact.  I've just...  I suppose I've been a little... hormonal of late."

"You don't need to make any excuses, love.  I was out of line and..."  Ibrahim moved to close the distance and held a hand out to his wife.

"I... I have reason.  To be hormonal, I mean."

Noting the tears in his wife's eyes, the imam felt a wave of panic.  But then she smiled.

"Ibrahim...  I... we..."  Liyana patted her belly.  "Pregnant," she choked out.

Ibrahim clasped her hand and gawked.

"A... a baby?"

Liyana laughed.

"I certainly hope so!  I don't know what else it could be!"

"A baby..." Ibrahim repeated as tears began to streak down his face.  "Yana...  My Yana..."

Embracing her husband, Liyana sighed as she nuzzled his shoulder.

"It's still very early.  Let's keep this to ourselves, okay?  At least for another month or so?  If we can...  I had some morning sickness today so... people may suspect, regardless."

"Yes... yes, of course.  Whatever you want.  Yana..."

Liyana beamed as her husband kissed her.  She was grateful for his sweet, excited reaction to her news... and that his good sense had been restored to him.  But there was still one more issue to be tackled.

"I... I'm so happy," she gushed before growing more serious.  "Truly.  But back to Joshua...  What you told Raheem...  You have to take it back.  But in a way that makes him still feel necessary.  Hura texted me to say how happy he seemed with a job to do.  We can't take that away... but you can't leave Joshua's reputation with him besmirched.  Raheem seems very fond of him."

"Of course...  I'll figure something out.  Maybe..."  Ibrahim looked around the room, desperate for a solution.  "Shelves!  Look at how many books are piled around!  I could use more shelves.  And since that wasn't in Joshua's initial work order, I'll just say that I thought I'd better provide more help.  Surely Raheem can help with some shelves?"

"I hope so.  Joshua's a good teacher from what I hear.  JenniAnn told me he trained Andrew."

"Then there we go.  Raheem has something to do, I'll tell him I was being ridiculous and to disregard everything, Joshua won't suspect anything, and I get some shelves!  And we could use another person to disperse health fair fliers on Friday."

Liyana smiled.

"Good thinking... this time."

Ibrahim smiled ruefully.

"Going forward, I should always consult my wife first, huh?"

"I think that's a wonderful idea."

"I'll remember that.  Can I..."

Liyana took Ibrahim's hand and rested it on her belly.

"It's too early to feel anything.  But I think he or she will know you're there."

"I hope so..."


When he reported to Ibrahim's office at 9 AM, Raheem was prepared to launch into a point-by-point take down of his cousin's horrid theory.

What he did not expect was to find the imam nearly giddy as he moved books.

"Raheem!  Glad you're here!  I wanted to talk to you before Joshua..."  Ibrahim raised his hand when the man opened his mouth.  "Please... just hear me out first.  I want to apologize for last night's texts... for the whole thing.  As Liyana helped me to see... I was very, very wrong.  I was speaking from a place of fear.  I suppose in some horrible way I wanted Joshua to have been the one to write the letter.  Because... I know him.  And a known problem is less scary than an unknown one.  But...  That still didn't give me a right to try to poison you against him... or suggest you spy on him.  I'm convinced he's completely innocent.  Forgive me?"

Surprised, Raheem nodded.

"Of course.  And I'm glad you've come to your senses, Ibrahim.  I was more worried for you than over Joshua.  I may have only met the man three times but... I couldn't believe he'd harm anyone."

"I never thought he'd harm us, either.  I just thought... you know, like, maybe he gets something out of creating drama and then comforting people."

"The fear you and Liyana... the wider community even... has been experiencing is still harm, Ibrahim.  No good man would cause such dread."

"Yes...  I know.  I see that now."

"Very good.  So..."  Raheem's face fell.  "I suppose I'm no longer needed then?"

"On the contrary, my friend!  Now you're truly needed... for a good purpose.  While there's no excuse for my behavior last night, it has occurred to me that maybe I'd be less rattled if my office... my oasis... wasn't such a pig sty.  So I'm going to ask Joshua to install some shelving and since it's additional work without necessarily additional time  and because he may have another job lined up after us, I thought it only fair that I provide additional help.  So if you're still willing...  It would really help me out, Raheem.  And... it might help in assuaging my guilt."

"You told Joshua about your suspicions?" Raheem asked, aghast.

"No!  Absolutely not!  The idea is... mortifying.  But I feel guilty even thinking about him coming here... facing him... knowing what I did.  He enjoys your company, Raheem.  He's told me as much and so... if I can make his experience here more pleasant... I would feel better."

"I get that.  And I'd certainly like to help Joshua out but... I don't know anything about installing shelving.  I almost had a stroke when Hura brought a table home from Ikea and asked me to put it together.  I fear I'd be more of a hindrance than a help."

Ibrahim shrugged.

"Only one way to find out.  Besides, one of Liyana's friends... JenniAnn, you may have seen her here on Monday... told her that Joshua taught her husband, Andrew, carpentry.  He's very successful now so, who knows, this could be a good opportunity for you."

"Well... then I won't turn it down.  You're absolutely sure, though, that this isn't a charity..."

"Positive.  You either take the job or I hire someone else."

"Then... I'll take the job."  Raheem smiled and shook his cousin's hand.  "And, for what it's worth, Joshua strikes me as an understanding guy.  I think he'd forgive you in a heartbeat, Ibrahim."

"I'm sure.  But..."  The imam shook his head.  "I just can't tell him."

"I won't say a word," Raheem vowed before embracing his cousin and offering a silent prayer of thanksgiving to Allah.


After a morning filled with learning new things and trying his hand at assorted tasks, Raheem was grateful when Joshua declared it was time for lunch.  It was a mild afternoon and so, after gathering their lunches from the refrigerator, Joshua, Raheem, and Takoda settled beneath a tree in the mosque's courtyard.  Once they'd said their blessings, Joshua reached into his lunch sack and pulled out a note from JenniAnn.

"Have fun today!  I'm sure whatever you do, it'll be beautiful!  It always is.  Love and hugs, JenniAnn"

Raheem looked curiously at the carpenter.

"Someone special pack your lunch?"

Joshua beamed and nodded.

"JenniAnn.  Takoda and I have been staying with her and Andrew and their kids."

"Andrew... the carpenter you trained?  JenniAnn's husband?"

"Yes and no.  I did train Andrew.  He's not JenniAnn's husband."

"Really!  That'd be news to Ibrahim.  I mean not that it's any of our business but...  I think both he and Liyana assumed they were married."

Joshua shook his head.

"But they're very much committed to each other and, I assure you, nothing untoward is going on."

"It's kind of more of a... spiritual union.  Kinda," Takoda tried.  "I just made it sound weirder, didn't I?  They're not weird."

Joshua laughed and patted the angel's back.

"It's okay.  And, no, they're not weird."

"Intriguing...  In any case, JenniAnn must care a lot about you.  Hura definitely doesn't write me lunch notes!"

"But I'm sure she shows her love in other ways, huh?" Joshua checked.

Raheem smiled and nodded.

"She does.  She's a bit of a... burnt marshmallow."

Takoda began to choke on his soda but a brush of Joshua's hand soothed him.

"Sorry...  Burnt marshmallow?" the angel inquired.

"Yeah.  Tough and crusty on the outside... gooey and warm on the inside.  Don't tell her I said that but... as gruff as she can be, she's a very sweet woman."  Raheem gazed down at his wedding ring.  "She's been very good to me since I was fired.  A lot of my buddies... their wives have been giving them a hard time for not finding something sooner.  And it's not for lack of trying.  I lost count of how many resumes I've submitted but our kind of jobs... they're drying up as more and more companies go overseas... or hire robots.  And Hura... she's been very patient.  She hasn't pushed.  It's just... hard.  My father worked so my mother could stay home with us kids.  And even though Hura has no interest in that... she loves her work... just knowing that I couldn't give her that if she wanted... putting all the pressure on her to provide for us..."

Raheem hastily batted at his eyes.

"I'm grateful Ibrahim asked me to help out here.  I only hope I'm not making things more difficult for you."

Joshua responded with an adamant shake of his head.

"Not at all!  You're doing great for your first day!  And you have a really steady hand, Raheem.  I think you'd make a great carpenter... builder... mason... any and all of the above if you put your mind to it."

"If you're willing to teach me... I'm eager to learn."

Takoda smiled proudly.

"Joshua's a great teacher.  Taught me everything I know and... and sometimes I forget that," the angel confessed.  "And I should tell you more often how grateful I am, Joshua."

Touched, Joshua squeezed Takoda's hand.

"I know, Takoda.  I do."

Raheem watched the exchange with growing warmth.  It made Ibrahim's hair-brained theory even more ridiculous.  Joshua was simply kind and attentive to everyone.  But there was no point in focusing on that debacle any more. 

"Now... let's see what this surprise lunch is JenniAnn packed for us," Joshua suggested as he again reached into his sack.  He smiled proudly when he removed the contents.  "She figured it out!  Look inside the wrap, Takoda.  It's falafel." 

Chuckling, Takoda admired his lunch.

"Our friend Emma gave JenniAnn my Ama's recipe for falafel and she's made several diligent attempts but... it takes some practice and this time she got it," Joshua explained before taking a bite. 

Takoda snapped a photo as Joshua grinned contentedly.

"I'll send it to her so she knows you appreciated the effort."


"So you met all of them... the Symphonia people... at their theatre, Joshua?" Raheem asked.

"Some.  Others I'd met long before."

"And you were playing Isa... Jesus?"

Joshua smiled.

"I was."

"And that wasn't weird for you?  I mean... aren't you Jewish?"

"Yep.  Born and raised."

"So then... you don't believe Isa was the messiah?"

"Most Jewish people don't... but I do."

"Ah...  Jews for Jesus then?"

Joshua shook his head.

"No...  I...  Well, I came to recognize the truth as I grew up."

"Do you believe that he's God?"

Joshua nodded.

Raheem frowned.

"And so...  Do you believe that those who don't believe as you do... that they're... we're... hellbound?"  He couldn't explain why but Raheem couldn't bear the idea that Joshua would be comfortable with his being damned.

Joshua gazed tenderly at the man.

"I believe that Isa... Jesus... Yeshua... died to redeem humanity and to open the gates of Heaven to them.  But I also believe he feels infinite love and compassion for all of humanity.  He knows that those who seek to follow him...  They don't always remember his admonishment not to judge.  They don't always consider that he wants people to come to him freely, not through fear or force.  They have persecuted those who don't believe as they do.  And who can blame those people when they don't become Christians?  Yeshua can't."

Takoda grabbed a napkin and blotted his eyes.  If only Raheem could know...

"I firmly believe that, at the end of your life if not before, you'll come face to face with Yeshua.  And he will hold his hand out to you."

Joshua held his hand out to Raheem who, caught up in the moment, clasped it.

"And he will say, 'Well done, Raheem, my good and faithful servant.  This is my kingdom... and I would love it if you would live with me here for all Eternity.  Will you?'  And you'll have a choice then, Raheem.  Look upon him with love and consent... and you'll be Home."

Joshua rested his other hand over Raheem's then released it.

"I... I don't know if you're right.  But... it's a beautiful idea."  Feeling wistful, Raheem sighed.

Joshua simply smiled.

"You are a very intriguing man, my friend.  I think I have a lot to learn from you," Raheem complimented.

"Thank you, my friend.  I think we'll have a very good time together.  The three of us."  Joshua beamed at Takoda and Raheem and then the conversation turned to much lighter topics as they finished their lunch break.


To be continued...

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for being the inspiration behind my first solo trip which, in turn, has led to several others.  

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)