Cynthia could hear the sound of car doors slamming and the chirp of vehicles as they were locked. She followed the sound of feet shuffling up the stone stairs as she made her way to the door. Within the first knock, Cynthia opened the door and greeted her guests with a smile.
Her visitors don't give a second thought to the temperature of her flat, Cynthia’s idea of a literal warm welcome. They simply filed in and took their preferred seats in the sitting room.
Cynthia, a woman in her late 60s, had been the churches’ favourite Sunday school teacher until her recent retirement. She had taught most of the members of the church and even some of their children. Therefore, she held a place of prominence in their hearts. This group, of a dozen or so fervent Christians, gathered weekly in her flat on the housing estate. Charles, the church’s small group leader, had felt directed by God to use Cynthia's place as a mission hub. Several years previously, he had shared a vision he had of pricks of light shining from every home. Charles and Cynthia worked together to encourage the group in the Word, sing songs celebrating Christ's victory over sin, and pray with conviction for the depraved nation, not to mention, eat Cynthia's delicious homemade fruitcake.
A couple of months back, a new family moved in to the flat next door. People usually minded their own business within the complex, yet when Cynthia witnessed the neighbour’s son, an overweight 13 year old sobbing in the stairwell, she couldn't ignore him. Cynthia had lost her husband to cancer soon after they had emigrated from Jamaica 40 years ago. She never remarried but she became a sort of surrogate mother and grandmother to those around her. She asked the parents of the young boy if he could join her Bible study group. Their only response was a disinterested, “if he wants to go, we won’t try to stop him.
His name was Shaun. He was a self-possessed young man and, initially, preferred to watch the group from the edge of the room. Cynthia steadily won a bit of Shaun's trust with each passing week. She sat beside him and answered all the questions he had about the group and the man they all discussed, Jesus.
During the last meeting she had witnessed a breakthrough; Shaun had spoken up during prayer requests. He expressed worries he had about his parents’ marriage. Cynthia was delighted at his courage. The group looked to Charles to hear his response. He patiently listened before encouraging Shaun to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savour and pray the sinners’ prayer, which Shaun attempted. Tears welled in Cynthia’s eyes as she smiled at Shaun. Charles then began to pray a comforting prayer in which he said, “God will work all things together for good to those who believe.” Shaun was saved.
Tonight, as the weekly session was drawing to a close, the group began to sing their final worship song. As they sang, the sound of a muffled argument came from the walls of the flat next door. It was only a mild distraction at first, but as the voices rose louder it was obvious that Shaun’s parents were having a serious row. The music stopped and Cynthia put her arm around Shaun. His body was stiff with shame and growing rage. The force of the argument intensified and Shaun's mother could be heard screaming. A series of thuds were followed by silence. Everyone in the room felt as if the walls had disintegrated.
All eyes were on Shaun. Charles held a beatific smile and signalled for the music to begin again. Within seconds, the entire group, including Shaun, sang loudly over the screams, which had begun again.