Abridged from Only a Servant, by Kristina Roy
“The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45)
Only a Servant
Sometimes week after week passes, month after month, and one hardly realizes where those days have gone. Thus it seemed to the Ondrasik family. It is true they had much work to do, yet at no previous year had they finished everything as easily as this year.
“Perhaps it may be,” thought Gazdina, “because we begin with the reading of the Word of God and prayer, and that we conclude the day the same way.”
Her health had improved so much that she could cook now: so Dorka did not have to stay away from the work in the fields. It seemed to Mrs. Ondrasik that she never had it so easy in the world.
Her husband had often been of an ugly, hard disposition, but she also had a hard head. When he had been drinking, though he was not a drunkard, he made a fuss around the house, and she scolded. After that they sometimes did not talk together for a whole week.
Their daughters married, the sons-in-law did not want to obey, the farm did not prosper. Today the farmer’s wife felt that there had not been God’s blessing on the whole house. Were they not all evil, completely fallen away from God? How could they expect Him to help them?
The woman realized that the first thing to do was to turn to God, and she turned with her whole heart. She felt that if anyone in the world needed a Savior, it was she. She opened her heart to the Son of God, and He accepted her.
Later in the evening, when she sat alone with her husband, she testified to him and asked his forgiveness, because she had not been as good a wife as she ought to have been. But now, since God had granted her a further lease on life, she wanted to live from now on, according to the will God, and be better towards those of her family.
Ondrasik felt ashamed; tears filled his eyes.
“Well, let us forgive each other,” he said. “You have been a better wife to me than I was a husband to you; but Method is correct, we cannot go thus till death, because what will be the result? We must begin to live differently.”
“Really, we have lived contrary to God. We had the Word of God, but did not read it the whole year long. We might as well admit that we lived worse than animals. Thus we raised our children. I don’t wonder now that they ran away into the world, since they had such an example at home.”
Thus talked the man with his wife.
It was that same day when Sammy Petrash and Dorka talked with each other in the orchard. She listened to him telling the nice story about how the swallows came home. In telling her this, he confessed that he already was on that way Home, beginning and ending each day with prayer, and that he was careful not to trespass the commandments of God. At the same time he related to her that he was learning from old David to write better and to figure, and that his father would open a store for him. The addition they were building just now was to be his dwelling.
The girl rejoiced sincerely with him. From her childhood she pitied him, and later, often thought about what would become of him. Now he would no longer just uselessly sit in front of the house or in the orchard. Dorka knew long ago, having heard from his sisters, what they were building, but she pretended not to know, in order not to spoil his joy.
Andrew joined them, and they started to discuss with each other what a beautiful and proper thing it would be if they would join together, just like the swallows, and also hold prayer meetings together.
“You know,” said Dorka, “that every day in our lives is just another bit of the way Home, and thus every day should be started that way. Those swallows prayed and sang together always before they flew farther.”
Later in the evening, the whole Ondrasik family came to supper, and when after supper Gazdina told Method to read the Bible, Dorka looked at Andrew, and he at her. Then she looked at the parents, and in her mind rose the thought, “I suppose that they also want to go with those swallows.”
While the world round about continued to sleep in their sins, the family of Ondrasik and their neighbors began to wake up. The Holy Spirit began to open their eyes also in understanding the Word. They began to seek God and to realize that they themselves were in their sins; but they also came to know Christ and started together with the swallows on their way Home—only, too bad, not all of them.
That fall there was a great harvest of prunes. So many hung on those beautiful trees till the branches were breaking under their weight.
Petrash said one afternoon to his son. “From those prunes we will make liquor. I will ask for a license and you can sell liquor.”
Those words cut the young fellow. He said nothing to his father, but when his father went to the barn, he started out to look for Method. He found him digging on his property. Not far away the Podhajskys were digging, also.
The comrades shook hands and Sammy began to tell what his father had said.
Method grew sad. Angry, his eyes flashed fire. Sammy had never seen him thus before.
“Look here, that is purely the Devil’s thought. Sammy, what would you say if your father would command you to take this pick and kill yonder neighbor Podhajsky?”
“But Method! I would never do a thing like that.”
“Oh, you will just open a dram shop; either a public or a secret one. You remember what a terrible drunkard Podhajsky used to be; how it ruined his body so that he was like an animal. Now the grace of God has changed him, so that he is among those swallows that are on the way Home. You may have noticed, that aside from coming to you and to us, he does not dare go anywhere, so that he will not be drawn to the dram shop again. He is still very weak against temptation. You know very well that as soon as you begin with that liquor, he will have it before his eyes in the nearest neighborhood, and when the stench fills his nose, do you suppose he will be able to resist? Let’s say that he will come to buy flour or salt; that he will have the best intentions not to let himself be tempted to sin. He will come just as the sheep comes to the slaughterhouse, and your father will drink his health, or you yourself will drink his health. From old friendship, he will just taste it, but it will arouse his old habit and awaken the desire in him. He will not be able to resist. First he may drink only one glass, but on the morrow two. But then, as if you had poured fire into him, he must drink again, and he will become a drunkard again, worse than before. He will become a beast. The light of God’s grace will die in him, the body will get sick, will be weakened, and he will perish somewhere like an animal. He will be like a swallow on the way home, but did not get there; perished, and whose fault will it be? Yours, Sammy, yours!”
“Stop, Method!” The young fellow clutched at his head. “I don’t want to be the cause, not I, not to him nor to anybody else; sooner let me be killed.”
Sammy went away. Method, very much saddened, continued his digging.
That day the Petrash home was a real hell. The farmer had it nicely figured out how they would sell liquor, and how his son would be getting ahead. And now the son did not want to hear about it. You could sooner move a mountain than him. He was so pale—like a whitened wall. His father’s raging made him tremble all over, but he could not yield a step.
His father called him all the terrible names he could think of. He threw it up at him that he was a beggar; that he would not keep him any longer, such a beggar, and if he did not want to obey, let him be gone quickly.
The words of the enraged father wounded the soul of the son unto death, as only human words can hurt.
The mother was also drawn into this dispute and tried to beg first the one, then the other. She might have moved her husband, but her son she could neither convince nor persuade; he just sat there like a rock, then she also got very angry at him.
His two sisters entered the room, also the bridegroom of the older one, who had come with his comrade to visit them; they were from the neighboring village. They began to confirm Petrash in his intention and put Sammy to scorn. “Since he does not want to,” said the future son-in-law, “You just get everything ready, Father, and I will gladly leave my trade. I will gladly invest a few hundred in it, and the balance of the expense you can cover from the dowry you promised to give Eva. Thus we shall all nicely stay together, and Sammy can go again into the orchard and lie around as before.”
By evening the matter was all arranged.
The following day, Petrash went to see Method. He was digging again, the Podhajskys also, and on the remaining grass and bushes, old David pastured his goats.
The anger of Petrash had passed, and now he was sorry he had done evil to his son without a cause, and wanted to take vengeance on the one whom he supposed to be the cause of Sammy’s obstinacy. “I could have been spared all of that,” he was thinking bitterly, “if it had not been for Ondrasik’s servant. But I will tell him a thing or two.”
The farmer grew more and more bitter as he went on his way, and when he came to the parcel of ground and beheld the one whom he blamed as being the cause of the hellish disturbance in his home, joyfully digging on the hillock, his anger was fully aroused.
“What did you put into the head of my son?” he began when they had barely exchanged greetings. “You come here and who knows what kind of a tramp you are or where you came from, and you start to make a quarrel and disturbance in the house. Is it any of your business if I want to have a dram shop in my house? Why do you incite my son to be disobedient?”
The Jew heard the yelling, looked around, rose, drew nearer, and watched the young Christian. He was anxious to see how this one would react when somebody wronged him. Now was his chance.
With amazement the Jew watched the face of the bitterly censured one. He stood calmly, leisurely resting on his spade, looking on the ground as if these words did not concern him at all.
The anger of the old Jew was being aroused. He would like to have jumped on that farmer and given him a good calling down; he would have shown him “where to get off,” but it was not his place to speak.
Finally, Petrash started at Method, their eyes met, and the farmer ceased.
“Well, then; have you told me all that the Devil commanded you to?” kindly, almost joyfully, spoke the young man. “He was owing me this in this valley. I already wondered that he had left me in peace so long. I almost feared that I was not serving my Lord Jesus Christ well. But now, all is well again. Now, when you have told me all that the Devil told you to, neighbor Petrash, speak for yourself. What kind of injustice has been done to you, or what evil have I ever done to your son?”
Joyfully the Jew rubbed his hands, and in his soul he blessed the young man. Podhajsky also had dropped his pick and stood nearby, stunned and surprised, not knowing what to think of this man, Petrash.
“Well, then, what do you really have against me?”
The farmer was taken back by the frank, yet kind question; nevertheless he did not want to give up. But the cruel words stuck in his throat and the explanation as to why he had to be angry, was given more mildly.
Finally, turning to the Jew, the farmer ended saying, “Sammy does not want to yield, just because yonder Podhajsky also might be coming to us, and might go back again to his old ways; as if a fellow would have to fill himself right away and could not drink with moderation. But Podhajsky must not come to us, I will not let him!”
The last words the farmer pronounced with a strong disdain. This aroused Podhajsky, who had been standing there as in a daze.
“You do not have to fear, Petrash,” he said, stepping nearer, “I shall not enter your house when you make a Devil’s trap out of it, in which you will catch the people, to strip them naked and kill them. You do not need to forbid me to come there; I shall not cross your threshold, even if you beg me. But I shall not forget that your son had so much mercy towards me that he wanted to save me from eternal damnation. I will bless his every step wherever he walks.”
The words choked in his throat as he threw himself on the ground, crying bitterly. Petrash stood there looking at the crying one, and he felt as if scalding water had been poured over him.
“Well then, neighbor, is it such a great injustice to you,” began Mrs. Podhajsky, “that you have such a good child? And is it an injustice to you that Method instructed him not to look indifferently on a perishing human being? I had only one son; he was a good son to me until he began to go about in the dram shops. You know what trouble I had with him after that. Many times you yourself have hid me and defended me, also his wife. Today, when the good God had mercy and sent us a good man here to save him, you are cursing that man and giving him ‘a calling down’? But remember the words of a mother, whose son the dram sellers ruined; remember what the Word of God says, ‘Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness.’ (Habbakuk 2:9)
“The curse of God will surely come upon you.
“Don’t cry, my son,” continued Mrs. Podhajsky, going to him, “God will help you. You are no longer under the displeasure of God. Don’t cry: let us go back to our work!”
The son obeyed and rose: they took up their picks and continued digging. Method also dug his spade deep into the ground.
What else could Petrash do, but leave? He knew well that what he had done now was not good, and these people had put him to shame, but he would not admit it.
He went to the mayor’s office for the permission to make liquor, but did not get it. “I don’t care,” he said to himself, “I will arrange it with somebody else, and we will make it together.”
He soon found a comrade, and they started making liquor. Thousands of the beautiful plums, created for good, were put into the boilers to make poison to be the curse of the people.
The Devil’s Soup
Winter came, and also the carnival. In the home of Petrash there were great preparations in progress for a grand wedding. The mother had her hands full of work; the father, his head full of troubles; Eva, her heart full of joy and hope.
Since autumn, nobody spoke to Sammy, just as if he were not there. They barely responded to his greeting. Only the youngest sister spoke to him once in a while, secretly.
She had her own individual sorrow. The one she cared for asked for her, but her parents were not pleased with him. He had gone and taken another. The girl felt forsaken, so it drew her to her brother who had been kicked aside. She often went to him in his little room where he spent most of his time now.
From Ondrasik he had learned to make wooden implements, and thus he kept busy whittling. What he earned, he gave to his mother to pay for salt and light.
He still continued to go to old David. “Just you keep on learning,” he said to him. “You will have a store yet, and then it will of some use to you.” Every evening he was at Ondrasik’s, and there he was able to forget that he was all alone in the world. It seemed to him like paradise to be in that house.
There they understood the Word of God better and better. Now they appreciated with what joy her heart burned, when Mary sang, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47) In their hearts, also, Christ was born.
That winter the wife of Podhajsky came back to him. He had asked her in a letter. She came; yes, she came! He was so glad he hardly knew what to do to please her in everything. She just cried and could hardly grasp it, that such happiness could exist for a wife on this earth.
She found her husband orderly, more so than he had ever been before, because he was already a drunkard when she married him. The mother-in-law was very kind, the children darling, healthy, the house clean, the pantry filled for the winter.
The Podhajskys had earned their bread. She brought a nice sum of money from her earnings. She gladly paid the few small debts they still owed. She bought some clothing for her mother-in-law, her husband and the children; for herself she had plenty. For the kitchen she bought some utensils. How cozy home was now!
And the main thing was that she came with a hungry heart. If anyone did, it was she who loved to hear the Word of God. She caught up with some and even exceeded others in her zeal to know the Word. Oh, how easy it was for her to believe God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who brought about such a change in her life. And once she had tasted the grace of God in her heart, she could not keep silent about it. She was concerned about her family, former friends, and cousins. Each Sunday their small room was full, and Method had to read to them. They began to call the young man into other homes also.
“Method, it seems to me that the swallows begin to gather!” said Sammy once. “Yonder in the grove, you said that the whole village should come together for a prayer meeting and that we should begin. I hope it will come to that yet.”
“Hardly, Sammy—‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ (Matthew 7:14) At least we will show people the way; and if none of them will follow the Lord Jesus, we will follow Him, for He said, ‘Follow thou me.’ (John 21:22)
“Yes, Method, follow Him, Him alone!”
During the winter, the Ondrasik’s hauled lumber for the house of Method. They wanted to start on the building in the spring. All that was possible was prepared now, so as to be able to finish it in a short time.
Suddenly, sad news came to the Ondrasik’s. Their daughter, Anna, wrote that her husband had sore eyes and the doctor told them he had better return home if he did not want to go blind. Therefore, they would start on the journey as soon as he returned from the hospital. That was sad news. Formerly it would have crushed them: today, they knew how to pray, and only said, “The will of the Lord be done: we have to bear what He has laid upon us.”
Just that week the Petrash’s were getting the wedding ready, and for the sake of appearance, they invited Ondrasik’s also, but that very week the sick son-in-law returned, and the daughter was so ill from the journey. Thus Dorka was unable to be Eva’s bridesmaid; they had plenty of work at home. If it had not been for Method and his help and advice, they could not have managed to get along.
Again it was Sunday. Old David sat by his warm tile oven, lost in thought. In spite of the closed doors and windows, the music and shouting at neighbor Petrash’s could be heard. They celebrated the wedding.
Suddenly, silently, the door was opened and Method entering, sat down beside the Jew.
“Welcome to you,” joyfully said the old man. “Are you coming nevertheless? Well how is it at your house?”
“Praise God, it is getting better. The doctor said the young farmer may recover by spring, and his wife has been up since this morning, but she is weak yet.”
“Listen, Method, while I have been sitting here without anything to do, I could not but think about what will become of you. Since Ondrasik has his children at home, and they will get well, he will no longer need both a servant and a cow boy.”
“That’s true, the three of them will be able to do the work,” responded the youth. “I shall be there only until the spring. Really they could spare me now; I could leave at once, if it were not for that house that I started and one more thing.”
It was as if a knife had been plunged into the old man’s heart.
“To go away, where to?” he asked sadly. “What shall we do here without you? Well, the others, but old David! What could he do without you?”
“Do you love me?” The youth drew the old man into his embrace, just the same way as that day when he had related to him about his misfortune.
“Don’t ask me. If you were of my own blood, my heart could not love you more!”
Silence reigned in the room.
“Do you remember what I promised you once in the fall?”
“That you would tell me something? Oh, yes, I remember!” nodded the aged man.
“Well, I want to tell you why I love you.”
“Me?” exclaimed the Jew surprised. “I thought that you loved me as you love all the people, since Christ commands you to do so.”
“Yes, because the Lord Jesus tells me so—He that said, ‘Salvation is of the Jews.’ (John 4:22) However, I love you not only as a man, but also as a Jew. Especially as a Jew, because it was a Jew to whom I owe most on this earth.”
“What, you don’t say!” said the old man amazed. “Well, then, say on!”
“For long years I lived without God, without Christ in the world. I did not know that I had an undying soul, nor where I would go after death. I lived just as you all here do, and it was a Jew who was the first to point the Truth out to me, to show me Christ. He taught me to love the Son of God; He lived on the earth just like Enoch, always walking with God, and today He is not seen any more with the people, because God took Him.
“You say,” said the aged man raising his bowed head, “that it was a Jew who taught you to know and love Christ?”
“He lived only to proclaim to his people that the Messiah had come and redeemed His people from their sins, that He lived, died, and rose again, and that He will come again.”
“Then he was not a Jew,” frowned the old man; “then he was a Christian.”
“He was a very happy man; he had only one sorrow, only one desire which he was not able to see fulfilled. It was hard for him to die because of that sorrow, and I was so happy to relieve him of it. I took upon myself a certain message and promised him that what he wanted to do, but was not able, having been stopped by death, I would try to fulfill, even though it would cost me my life. He believed me, and praise the Lord, I have not disappointed him, neither shall I.”
“And what kind of a message was it?” the aged man asked with profound interest, looking surprised at his young friend. Why, he was talking today as he never did before, as if he were not just the servant of Ondrasik, raised among the ignorant farmers and being one of them.
“ ‘What kind of a message was it,’ you ask me? He had someone very dear to him whom he loved very much, though he had never seen him, and to whom he wanted, but could not, bring the message of salvation, because he could not find him.”
“And you have found him?”
“Yes, I found him, and—”
At that moment a strange light flashed through the room, and a terrifying sound of a wild cry reached them. Both men jumped up.
“Something happened there,” said the Jew, pointing to the other house.
“Yes, it is burning inside; goodbye, I have to hurry.”
“Where to—in that fire?”
“Yes, surely they are all drunk. Perhaps they threw over a lamp, and Sammy is there.”
“Don’t go!” groaned the Jew, but in vain, for the young fellow, having torn his hand from the old man’s grasp, disappeared in the darkness.
Something terrible had happened in the house of Petrash. One of the best men, who had been doing all kinds of foolishness, cooked the liquor with sugar, and carried a large bowl full of burning liquor. He wanted to set it before the newlyweds on the table, but his feet slipped. He stumbled and poured out the burning contents over the table, and also over the bridegroom. In a moment the clothing of the unfortunate one burned like a torch and the tablecloth burned all over. The guests jumped about; a terrible cry arose. Some ran to the door; others jumped out of the window. The bridegroom, wild with pain, jumped desperately on the table and down again, rolled over on the ground, hoping to put out the fire enveloping him. The bridesmaids could barely hold back the young bride, who wanted to throw herself upon him and put out the fire with her hands. Some began to pour water on the table to put out the fire, and one of the drunken guests, supposing it was water poured out half a bottle of liquor, and then the fire broke out worse than ever with a real explosion.
It was at that moment that Method broke through the door. In his hand he carried an old wet cloth, which which he threw himself upon the poor burning fellow. He wrapped him up completely and thus put out that terrible fire. By that time flames spread everywhere, causing the people to run, crying. Stifling smoke and stench made breathing difficult. Barely all succeeded in getting away.
Some carried out the bride, who fainted, while Method carried out the groom. Outside he turned him over to the men. He, himself, went once more into the midst of that destruction. He jumped to the windows and closed them, pulled down the curtains and stamping on them, quenched the fire that was shooting up all around him and set him on fire, too. In spite of all, he succeeded in grabbing two large demijohns full of liquor and a third one half full, from the table and jumped out and slammed the door behind him.
Oh, that was a terrible wedding and a horrible time. Hardly a single one of the guests got home free from injury.
Though all that was in the room was either burned or ruined, the house at least was saved. It would not have been saved, all agreed to that, and even the groom would have burned to death, had it not been for the servant of Ondrasik. A long time they had been preparing for that wedding, but it will be remembered still longer.
They had invited the Devil, they had drunken guests; they cooked the Devil’s kind of soup, and it was hot.
Oh, through what torment the young groom had to pass. On account of the great pain, he cried day and night. The good that the doctor tried to do was ruined by the advice of the old women.
“I beg of you, ‘Gazda,’ ” said Method to his master the third day, “let me go for a few days. I’ll go to take care of him.”
“Go, yes, go; you will surely take better care of him. It is a pity to let such a young life perish.”
Methodius went. The whole Petrash family was glad when he said why he was coming. The doctor, whom he just found there, rejoiced above all. He realized that here was a sensible and practical young man. He forbade the family to do anything except what Method Ruzansky would let them do. From that hour on, all went better.
Even the sick one realized that some other hands were touching him now, and not only sought to relieve him, but also succeeded in doing so.
The few days that Method intended to stay at the Petrash home became weeks.
Sammy used to long for the opportunity of having Method at their house in order that they also might begin the day like the swallows, with a united prayer. Now he had that desire fulfilled. Method stayed with them, and they began each day like the swallows—but at what a price!
The spring had but begun when they started building. Method hired the bricklayers from the village, but he directed the building himself, like an experienced builder. Every bit of the space had to be well used. The timbers for the roof he had cut altogether different from that to which they were accustomed. In this way he made rooms in the attic, and there was plenty of room below. Though the building was erected from sun-dried bricks, it was as firm as if it had been of burnt bricks. Daily the people stopped, looking on, and many a one nodding his head said, “Verily, I will have mine also done that way.”
Mr. Petrash did not open a dram shop, nor will he open one, nor a store. For one reason, that terrible wedding cost them too much, then the very long illness of the son-in-law required much, and the front room had to be renewed completely. They were glad to have that money which they intended to use in the dram shop. In the room they had to put in new doors, windows, and floor. Then the neighbors found out that Petrash’s had made arrangement with Method to make a store and dwelling in his house for Sammy. This he did, and for two weeks they had been arranging the store that was to be opened next week.
It was as if old David was rejuvenated. He arranged and advised about everything; even for his own son he could not have done better. The people wondered also, because the Jew was completely changed. Formerly, except for a greeting, a “yes” or “no,” one could not get a word out of him, and he was frowning continually. Now he was even willing to enter into conversation, and had such a friendly face, just as if he had grown young, though his head was completely white.
The women attributed much of the change to the fact that now he had a clean shirt and clothing, whereas formerly he went about ragged and dirty. They could not understand how Mrs. Podhajsky would take the trouble to wash for a Jew, and how she did everything for him. A while ago she whitewashed his room and renovated his featherbed. He bought new covers. Now his room was quite nice. Thus the women gossiped and wondered! “Everyone who has aught to do with the servant of Ondrasik is being changed, only he remains his old self. Let us watch and see how he will turn out when he lives in his new house. Perhaps the Ondrasik’s will even give him their daughter since they think so much of him.”
“Oh, yes, even Petrash would be glad to give him one, but he does not seem to care for any of them.”
But young Mrs. Rasho let the cat out of the bag, saying that Method had spoken to Ondrasik on behalf of Sammy Petrash to give him Dorka. “Though he is lame, he is otherwise sound; and when he starts in business, with the help of God he will be able to take care of a wife. They both,” said he, “love God and will walk together on the pathway that leads to eternal glory.” Thus far spoke Method, Sammy said the balance himself, and with Dorka he surely was already of one mind. Dorka had not dreamt as she was helping to dig on that hillock, that some day she herself would be living there.
“Strange things happen in this world,” the woman said, surprised. And truly, thus it really is!
To be continued…