The Black Mennonite Chapter 7 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 7

An Unaccepted Gift Discovered

 

Jacob Stoltzfus hurried home in the evening, excited at the thought that came to him as he was returning from dropping off the side table he had been doing some design work on for Ant Maude Lapp. Ant Maude Lapp who was in her late fifties had been living in their community in Reading, Pennsylvania, for the past six years. It was because of her that Jacob bravely stepped forward and began exercising his God-given gift in skillfully handling a whittling knife to carve beautiful designs. Not only was he a natural at designing patterns on pieces of wood, but he could take any piece of wood and carve it into any shape he imagined. He was especially good at carving animals, having stumbled upon this gift at around thirteen years of age. 

 

* * * * * * *

 

“Daed, look at this animal I carved,” Jacob said excitedly as he rushed to show his father his carving. “I’ve been working on it all week long. Do you like it?” 

Bishop Stoltzfus took the carved elephant and carefully looked over its intricate design. “Who taught you how to do this?” he asked after what seemed like an eternity.. 

Jacob was too excited to note the brusqueness in his father’s voice.

“Nobody. I just pictured it in my mind and then I carved it out of a piece of wood,” Jacob said. “Do you like it?”

“Son, how could you conceive such a worldly thing? This is not of Gott. Apparently you have forgotten all that I’ve read to you from the Bible about making idols. Get into the haus.” He then threw his son’s work into the bushes. “Don’t you ever let me see you doing such a worldly thing any more,” his father said.

Jacob was stunned. After recovering from his initial shock, he ran to where his father had thrown his carved animal and falling on his knees he started searching for it. 

“Jacob, get in the haus now!” his father shouted after him.

Tears stung Jacob’s eyes. It took me a whole week to carve this. How could he be so mean! I have to find it. I have to find my elephant.

“Don’t you defy me. Get in the haus I say,” his father shouted again.

Mamm Stoltzfus, with Rebecca at her side, came hurrying outside the house. She tried to make sense out of what she saw. “What’s going on?”

“Your son is going the way of the world,” her husband answered. “He is carving images of idols.”

“Idols?”

“Yes. Remember Aaron made a golden calf when Moses was up the mountain talking with God. Well, your son has been hiding away carving animals. The Bible does say you shall have no image before me”

Mamm Stoltzfus hurried over to where Jacob was searching for his carved animal.

“He threw my elephant away! I have to find it! How could he be so mean,” Jacob kept saying over and over. “He threw it away before I even got to show it to you,” he said to his mother.

Despite her husband telling them to get in the house, Mamm Stoltzfus got on her knees to help her son find his carved elephant. 

After a few minutes of an unsuccessful search, she managed to talk Jacob into coming inside  the house for supper. With Rebecca helping, Mamm Stoltzfus hurriedly placed the supper on the table, and they sat down to eat. Bishop Stoltzfus said the blessing then began to devour his food. 

Silence ensued. 

“Eat up, Jacob,” his mother said after a while.

But Jacob only pushed the food around on his plate. 

“Well, if you’re not going to eat go ahead on to your room,” she eventually told him.

“Stay seated,” his father said as he opened his big black Bible which had been laying on the table. “What you did was displeasing to Gott and it will bring a curse on our family if you persist. In Exodus chapter twenty, it says, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ I forbid you to make unto you any more graven images as long as you are in my haus.”

Mamm Stoltzfus gasped. Rebecca’s eyes widened in disbelief. Jacob flew out of his seat and ran to his room. Slamming the door behind him, he threw himself upon his bed.

“Rebecca, go to your room,” her mother quietly instructed. “Daed, how could you crush that boy’s heart like that? And then conveniently use the Bible to back up your words? A little animal wood carving is no graven image,” she said to her husband once their daughter had left the room.” 

“I say it is and it is,” her husband said.

“It’s a graven image if you worship it,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “Joseph, he’s just a little boy who has found a hobby that he’s excited about and who wants to share it with his father. Can’t you be excited for him”

“Enough said!” her husband said, pushing himself away from the table. “I do not want that in my haus. And don’t you go searching for it either. You’re out-of-place when you question my authority.”

Mamm Stoltzfus fell silent.

 

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