Run to Freedom chapter 2 – Finding the Light!

Finding the Light!
Chapter two

The tribulations and adventures of Josiah Henson

Peter van Gorder

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A few miles from our plantation, there lived a baker by the name of John McKenny. He was a living sample of what a Christian should be like. He spoke out against slavery often and insisted on only paying laborers an honest wage for an honest day of labor. He would not hire slaves, for if he did, the wages would go to their masters and perpetrate the evil system that he so detested. John had a high reputation as being an honest and upright man. He would often minister the gospel to the surrounding area as preachers were scarce.

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One upcoming Sunday he would be preaching only a few miles away from us. My mother suggested, “You should get permission to hear him.”

“Oh no,” I protested. “I have been beaten too many times to ask that again.”

“Now Josiah, what kind of Christian are you going to be if you let a few beatings get in your way of doing what God wants in your life. It’s part of what Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him.”

“I’m sorry, Mama, but I just can’t do it.”

She started to weep for me. That was something that I could not refuse. It hurt me more than any of Master Riley’s beatings.

“All right Mama, I will try again.”

Though I disliked the lash, I was always eager for adventure. Surprisingly, Mr. Riley agreed to my request. I had been a good worker and he knew that he owed me a lot. Such permission would seldom have been granted otherwise.

But to remind me who my master was he threatened, ”I will let you go Sie this time, but you had better come straight back or that will be the last time and I will beat you till you are blue!”

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Master Riley didn’t call me Josiah, he thought that was a name for white people only so he called me “Sie”.

I hurried off to the service, just in case Master Riley would think of some work for me to do or change his mind. I didn’t expect much from the meeting as I had never heard a sermon before except the ones my mother gave me.

When I arrived at the meeting place, John was just beginning to speak. He quoted Hebrews 2:9:
“That He, by the grace of God, should taste of death for every man.”

This was the first scripture I had ever heard from someone other than my mother that I knew was directly from the Bible. I never forgot that verse. It made its mark in my soul. In the book of Isaiah it is said that the Word of God never returns void, but rather it accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent. This verse surely worked powerfully in my life. From that day on, that verse from Hebrews echoed in my soul along with the sermon that was preached from it.

I learned what Jesus is really like. Not the cruel injustices of my master but of the tender love He has for all mankind. I learned of His forgiving spirit and His compassion for the outcast and the despised of society. I could understand that. The Holy Spirit powerfully revealed Christ’s cruel crucifixion and glorious ascension to me. Again and again, John McKenny repeated the words with great emphasis “for every man.”

For the first time, I learned that the good news of salvation was not just for a select few. They were for the slave as well as the master, the poor as well as the rich, for the persecuted, the distressed, the heavy-laden, the captive. He cared for me just as much as He cared for the rich. Imagine, He loved this poor, despised, abused creature; thought of by others as fit for nothing but endless toil and mental and physical cruelty. O, the wonder and joy I felt knowing that I was LOVED! I would have happily died that moment. My soul sang: “He loves me. He looks in compassion from heaven on me. He died to save my soul. He’ll welcome me to the skies,”

I kept repeating these thoughts to myself. I was transported with delicious joy into another realm where I envisioned a glorious being of light, in a cloud of splendor, smiling at me. What a sharp contrast this was with the experience of the hatred and brutality of my earthly master.

I basked in the sunshine of His love. I thought to myself, He’ll be my dear refuge. He’ll wipe away all tears from my eyes. Now I can bear all things; nothing will seem hard after this.

I felt sorry that Master Riley didn’t know Him, sorry he lived such a coarse, wicked, cruel life. I was so full of this Divine love that my whole perspective on life changed. I loved my enemies, and prayed for them that despitefully misused me.

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As I went home, I became so excited that I went off the road into the woods and prayed to God for light and for guidance. Although I knew so little of this new life I know the Lord honored my heartfelt prayer. The events that unfolded in my life over the years that followed bear witness that He not only heard my prayers but answered them marvelously beyond my wildest imagination. Though I bore immense pain and suffering, it all seems like nothing now that I am enjoying the splendors of Heaven.

From this moment of hearing John McKenny speak, I had a great hunger to learn more. He had shown me at last a chance to rise above my suffering. I could not hold it in, and I began to tell everyone I could of what I had experienced. I prayed with those who asked for it and shared the vision from the other world that I had seen.
In a few years I became a preacher and I believe I was useful to some.

The difference between what I learned from His Word of how men should treat each other in love and the hatred that I saw in daily reality was shown very clearly to me within a year of my conversion.

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Discussion point:
What was it that got through to Josiah? Why is it important that we be a good sample of what is right even though all around us is evil?

Prayer: Help us to be good samples of Your love to others so that they can come to the light. Help us to use and apply the Word that people need most to help them in their situations.

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Run to Freedom chapter 1 – the story of Josiah Henson

I just saw the movie 12 Years a Slave based on the memoirs of a free man who was kidnapped named Solomon. There is a wealth of first hand accounts from those who experienced that time. I wrote this about 12 years ago, and thought it would be such a good movie, so I was glad that this film was made.  I guess it is a bit like the sap of a tree; if it is hindered from flowing in one direction, it will flow in another. It is a story that needs to be told.

When we think that these slave owners were nominal professing Christians (many of them Baptists) and justified their actions from a skewered interpretation of Scripture such as the mistaken idea of the “cursed sons of Ham” – Gen.9:25,26 –  it should give us cause to examine our own beliefs and prejudices. If we would only follow Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbor as our selves, we could make a much better world for us and others to live in.

Its not always easy and often it means doing something that seems illogical or is against the norm and the prevalent view at the time. For example, when I was a teen the majority thought the Vietnam War was justified, now it was considered by a large number of people as a mistake. One of the few sermons I remember from my church was given at that time, “Are We Building Bigger Barns in Vietnam?” – many of the congregation stormed out and that pastor lost his job because he compared the US’s military intervention there to the story of the greedy rich man in the Bible who lost it all (see Luke 12).

Some may think that slavery is a thing of the past, but there are more slaves now than ever before. We should do all we can to stop modern slavery and deliver those who are in bondage. Movies, documentaries, and articles on the subject are plentiful. Some reveal slavery where you would least expect it.
http://www.policymic.com/articles/79235/you-ll-never-see-this-side-of-the-super-bowl-on-tv
There are many aspects of the problem – one of them being supply and demand. If there demand were dried up – then supply would cease.

I will put this out in chapters as it is quite long. At the end of each chapter I put something to think and pray about as a kind of application – it is what touched me at the time and is not meant to be all inclusive.

Run to Freedom!

Peter van Gorder

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The tribulations and adventures of Josiah Henson
(June 15, 1789 – May 5, 1883)

EXO.3:7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
EXO.3:8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey;

“Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt Land,
And tell old Pharaoh
To let my people go.”

– Sung by escaped slaves as they set foot on freedom’s shore in Canada.

“The Negro Business is a great object with us. It is to the Trade of the Country as the Soul to the Body.”

— Joseph Clay, slave owner

There is nothing sweeter than freedom and nothing more terrible than living in bondage. Though the slaves of the South were freed in my day, the scars still remain from this grave injustice.
Today some people are slaves of their own passions; some have forged chains stronger than any that our masters put upon us. Physical slavery continues today as well, with an estimated 25 million souls kept in some form of slavery in various parts of the world.
I dedicate my story to those who long for the breath of freedom from the devil’s servitude. When you know the truth it will set you free. If the Son shall set you free you will be free indeed. May you burst the chains of bondage that have enslaved your soul and your body!

Born into the Slave Trap
Chapter one

When I was 5 years old I watched my mother cry out to the Lord, over and over, “Lord, Lord, help me. Save me. Help me. Save my husband.” She cried and swayed and spoke in what sounded more like groaning than words.
Then she sang.

Nobody knows the trouble I see
Nobody knows but Jesus.
Nobody knows the trouble I see
Glory, hallelujah!
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, yes, Lord.
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground
Oh, yes, Lord.
Although you see me going ‘long so
Oh, yes, Lord,
I have my trials here below.
What make ole Satan hate me so?
O yes, Lord
Because he got me once and he let me go
O yes, Lord.

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I didn’t understand then what could cause her to groan so
“Mother, why are you crying?”
“Josiah, I have great sorrow. They sold your father. I won’t see him no more in this life.”
“Pray, with me,” she said.
“But, I don’t know how to.”
“I’ll teach you.”
“Our Father, which be in heaven, Holy is your name…,” I repeated each line after her.

Later, when I was old enough to understand, I learned what had happened to my father. Our master, a kind man named Dr. Josiah McPherson, hired out my mother and father to work at a nearby farm. There, my father was put out far into the field to work. As he was hoeing, he heard my mother in the distance screaming for help. He ran to find our overseer raping my mother.

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My father tried to stop her from getting hurt by hitting the man down. He was mad as a tiger and being a strot stopped him. The overseer knew he had done bad, and before he left, he promised that nothing would happen to my father. However, when the danger was over he forgot his word.

Knowing what a liar this man was, my father hid himself in the woods for as long as he could, to avoid the punishment he knew would befall him. He stayed there for several weeks until hunger got the better of him.
They grabbed my father and took him away. In their mind no matter how evil that man who hurt my mother was, or what he had done, my father was the one who had to be punished to be made an example of. For he had committed the worst sin of all– He had hit a white man. You see, the whites who held the reins of power, were afraid of the volcano of slave discontent erupting and destroying their whole way of life. Fear nurses terror and so in fear they destroyed this one who dared to raise a hand against them.
When they were finished with him he was never the same. He used to play a banjo and sing and be joyful in all night corn husking parties, but after he was beaten so badly, no more. He had no more joy in life and he was like a man sucked dry. They whipped the life out of him till he crawled into his shell, hoping never to be hurt like that again. They didn’t kill him but they might as well have.

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He was bleeding badly. My mother tried to nurse his wounds but some wounds of the soul are so deep that they just won’t heal. My father gave up on life and wouldn’t be comforted. No threats of punishments or the worst of all threats – to be sold to someone down South – would make him obey his masters. Less than a year after the incident, he was sold.
My mother and I were also sold at a local slave auction not long after that. One night our owner, Master McPherson, was drunk and fell off his horse as he returned from one of his parties. Even though the water was less than a foot deep he drowned in it. As we were his property we were sold off to the highest bidder. My mother had six children and loved each one dearly. The thought of being parted from them was more than she could bear.
The crowd examined us and the other slaves to be sold as we huddled together. The auction was announced and the sale began. As slaves were displayed, their muscles and teeth were examined. The strength of each slave was exhibited. This was one of the few times that whites had something good to say about us.
The auctioneers shouted, “Prime slaves: healthy, good character, genteel, strong worker, valuable, obedient!” and more of the same.
I wonder if the buyers paused to think or if they had a guilty conscience.
What did they think when the slaves began to sing:

When I was down in Egypt’s land,
Close by the river,
I heard one tell of the promised land,
Down by the river side.

Chorus. We’ll end this strife,
Down by the river,
We’ll end this strife,
Down by the river side.

I never shall forget this day,
Down by the river,
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Down by the river side.
Chorus.

‘Twas just before the break of day,
Down by the river,
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Down by the river side.
Chorus.

Cheer up, cheer up, we’re gaining ground
Down by the river.
Old Satan’s kingdom we’ll pull down,
Down by the river side.
Chorus.

Shout, dear children, for you are free,
Down by the river,
Christ has brought to you, liberty,
Down by the river side.
Chorus.

My two brothers and three sisters were sold first. My mother was sold to a man named Issac Riley. Then it was my turn. My mother was so overcome with grief with the thought of loosing all her children; she ran up to her new master and fell at his feet clinging to his knees begging with tears,
“Buy, one of my babies at least. I will do anything for you if you will just let me have one of my babies.”

He kicked her away and laughed. It is hard to imagine that a man can be so cruel, but his stone heart would not easily yield – even to a mother’s tears.

I heard her say as she crept away, “Oh, Lord Jesus, how long, how long shall I suffer this way!” Even though I was only six years old at the time this scene of my mother’s sorrow never left me.

I was bought by a mean man and was thrown in to a small hut with about twenty other slaves. The living conditions were so bad, I soon fell very ill with a high fever and I was sadly neglected. However, God worked my illness to His purpose, because I was so sick I could do no work, I was sold very cheaply again to Issac Riley, the master of my mother. So God worked it for good and reunited us. Under my mother’s tender care I was nursed back to health.

We were happy to be together again, but life was so hard. Many of us were living together in one cabin – Men, women, children all together without any privacy. The floor was just earth so it absorbed all the dampness. We had no beds, only the spare straw we could find. There were large cracks in the walls and a roof that let in the rain and wind.

contrabands-2 The food was simple and never enough, except at special occasions. Our breakfast was at noon after working all morning. Our dinner was at six and at harvest time we had another meal after the day’s work was completed. It consisted of cornbread with some salted herring. We had some land to work so were allowed to keep the vegetables that we could grow.
We were given a hat every two or three years. The children wore a rough shirt. In winter, we were given a coat. The men were given trousers and the women a dress once a year.
First, my work was bringing water to the workers, and then hoeing between the rows, holding the horse plough for weeding, and then I was a stable boy grooming horses.
I longed for a breath of freedom. If not my body then my mind. I wanted to read so badly. Just as a man who lives in a desert thirsts for water and seeks for it, so I sought some respite from my mental bondage.

Fact box: “Code of 1849.–Every assemblage of negroes for the purpose of instruction in reading or writing shall be an unlawful assembly. Any justice may issue his warrant to any officer or other person, requiring him to enter any place where such assemblage may be, and seize any negro therein, and he or any other justice may order such negro to be punished with stripes. If a white person assemble with negroes for the purpose of instructing them to read or write, he shall be confined to gaol (jail) not exceeding six months, and fined not exceeding one hundred dollars.”–(“Code of Virginia,” 747-48.)

When I went on deliveries of our butter to some of the wealthiest families in the nation’s capital of Washington D.C., I listened to how these educated people spoke and I tried to imitate them. By this method I spoke more correctly than most slaves and the poor whites of the district. I never used slang or slurred my words, saying things like: “go dar,” or “gib me,”

When I was thirteen, I almost lost my life trying to learn how to spell. A slave boy named William learned how to read and spell just by listening to his master’s boys talk as he drove them to and from school. I was so excited to hear him read that I made up my mind that I wanted to do the same. He told me that if I bought a Webster’s spelling book he would teach me. I had already made some ink out of charcoal, and had cut a goose quill so that it looked like my master’s pen, and I had begun to make scratches on odd bits of paper I had picked up in the market.

I had noticed that all the butter I sold was stamped with two letters, “I. R.,” and after awhile I learned that those letters stood for my master, Isaac Riley, and I tried and tried to imitate those marks. These were the first letters I ever wrote.
It seemed to me that if I took some of the apples that had fallen from the trees in our orchard and sold them I should be able to get the money for the spelling-book. I did this.

Early the next morning I was about to harness the horse for my master; the horse was frisky and ran, and I ran to catch up with him. When my hat fell off, the book inside it dropped onto the ground.

As I caught the horse and harnessed it again my master exclaimed, “What’s that?”
“A spelling-book.”
“Whose is it?”
“Mine.”
“Where did you get it?”
“Bought it, sir, when I went to market.”
“How much was it?”
“Eleven cents.”
“Where did you get the money?”
“I sold some apples out of our orchard.”
“Our orchard?” he exclaimed, in a passion.
“I’ll teach you to get apples from our orchard for such a vile purpose, so you’ll remember it. Give me that book.”
I stooped to pick it up, and as I saw his big cane coming down I dodged the incoming blow.
“Pick up that book,” he cried as he cussed at me in the worst language you can imagine.

When I reached down for the book again, he beat me across the head and back till my eyes were swollen and I became unconscious. My poor mother found me like this and wept for me and nursed me again back to health. It was some time before I was able to go about my work again.

When my master saw me after I recovered, he said, sneeringly, “So you want to be a fine gentleman? Remember if you meddle with a book again I’ll knock your brains out.”

I carried the rest of my life a scar my master made that day on my head. I knew he would make good on his promise so I did not open a book again until after I was forty-two years of age and out of the land of slavery.

When other masters heard that William was teaching me to read, a grand conspiracy was soon imagined that he would soon make all the slaves in the area literate. William was sent to Georgia to be sold, for the masters in our neighborhood said, “We will not have our niggers spoiled by that rascal.”

This was the life of a slave– one of total dependence on the mercy of their master. A slave had no rights and the master’s word was law. I once saw a man beaten by his master with five hundred strokes with a cane for not submitting to punishment willingly. Women could never be safe from attacks from whites. If a slave’s hand was raised in anyway against a white it was immediately rewarded with severe punishment as my father had experienced.

Our overseer blew a horn, which meant that all the slaves were supposed to gather immediately to begin their work. Anyone who did not appear on time was punished by “bucking.” This was done by tying the offender’s hands and feet together. A strong stick was shoved in the space between. The slave became helpless except to roll from side to side as he was whipped with a wooden paddle, which raised blisters with every blow.

Despite our hard lives, there were bright spots in our lives, especially at Christmas. We were given added meat and we sang and danced on the master’s porch. We all raced to be the first to get the eggnog drink. Our work duties were lessened. The overseers somewhat loosened their grip on their tight control over us during this time.

I had my own ways to escape the drudgeries of every day life. No amount of whipping and cruelty can truly defeat the spark of the Divine in the human spirit. I determined to be the best at whatever I did. I made it my goal to outrun, out jump, outwrestle, outwork, outdo, anyone. A small word of appreciation from my master for my extra labors would keep me happy for a week.
I greatly pitied the women, who had to endure so much. We seldom ate meat so our energy and health were often at low ebb. When I could, I led a sheep, chicken, or pig into the forest to slaughter it and prepare it for the mothers who needed the meat for extra strength and as a medicine. Sometimes I visited the apple orchard at midnight to gather its bounty for us. Fortunately, I was never found out. My master had enough worries and I knew how much to take without being greedy.

1sLike Joseph in the Bible, I prospered the hand of my master. Because of my diligence, I was able to inspire the other slaves to be more productive in their work. I doubled his crops. When I found out that the overseer was cheating my master I exposed his dishonesty and I was made a superintendent of all the work hands. They looked up to me for protection and better treatment, which I tried to procure for them.
Life continued in my routine of meager existence until the day that the Light shined into my life. I was 18 years old but I felt like I had just been born.

Discussion point: Even if we are born into a bad environment, can we still overcome these difficulties? How?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for my parents who have shown me such a good example of faith. Thank you for supplying all my needs and my wonderful godly heritage. Deliver those who are born into bondage. Give them freedom.

Last Frame – the Slab of Outcome

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The last shape is the rectangle. It is the outcome of our efforts or our fruit. It reminds us of a stage where we perform on. It is what the audience sees after all those days of practice and rehearsals. It is like a stand that we exhibit something of value on to show others.

I thinking of outcomes it is helpful to get the spiritual perspective as well. Jesus told us in John 15 that if we abide in Him we will bring forth good fruit. Abide means to continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry. In other words, if we ‘walk and talk’ with Jesus,  He will help us get good results. If we don’t, we won’t – at least not have much to show for it – no fruit that remains. (see Wolf of Wall Street for a dandy bad example)

loquat-biwa-wagashi-tease

When I lived in Japan, our neighbors had a fruit orchard of biwa (kind of apricot – actually a loquat). We offered to help him as he was elderly and had a hard time taking care of it himself. When the fruit was just beginning to appear, he had us take each branch and throw away 2 of the fruits and keep 1. In this way the final fruit would be much bigger and tasty as it had all the sap flowing into it. At first, it seemed that it was a waste to throw those 2 away, but if he didn’t this farmer knew from experience that there wouldn’t be any fruit worth selling – it would all be too small and sour.

That taught me a lot about getting rid of what seems like something good for the best final result. We can only do so much, so we have to concentrate our efforts to be most effective.

In today’s world where we use computer technology a lot, it good to remember that this technology also has its limitations. Learning how to think and process and bring clarity of purpose to our lives and work is a skill we all need to hone and upgrade.

Lord, help us to have the right vision, for without it we spin our wheels or perish. Seeing through the 6 frames of purpose, accuracy, point-of-view, interest, value, and outcome is a good start. If we would make a nice round ‘7’ of this idea, we could add the shape of rest – a line. God rested on the 7th day after all of his work and in all of our thinking and doing, it is important we remember to trust in the Lord to do what we can’t; that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Note: In coming posts, I will be sharing chapters of the exciting and insightful book “Run to Freedom”, the true story of a runaway slave – Josiah Henson.

Palace of Light – Skit

DSC_0126by Curtis Peter van Gorder
A legend retold

Characters:

Sultan: Peter
Jamshid – Sultan’s brother/sister or a vizier: Jone
Servants, Guard – executioner: 2 boys
Mahesdas – builder: Mark
Old Man – one of the boys
Courier (Messenger) – one of the boys

Props:
Trumpet
Rose petals
Large Fan
Vase and cup on tray
fruit bowl
book to show palaces
horse/ camel
bag of gold coins
plans on scroll
bed
rope/ chains
sword/s
diamond
robes
message

Sound Effects;
Trumpet
Cheering
Heavenly sounds
Background music

Visuals:
Gates of palace
Mansion
Heaven

Scene 1 – The Sultan’s Palace.
Servants
SFX: Trumpet sounding

Jamshid looks out the window and is startled. Clapping his/her hands, the servants are soon busy preparing for the sultan’s return. They are also somewhat apprehensive of not fulfilling their duties properly.

Jamshid:
Soon he will arrive. Make sure that we are ready for him!

Servants dust, unroll carpet, prepare fans, etc.

Jamshid
talking to the audience looking out the window:

Ahh, what a wonder to behold! Can you see the sultan’s caravan approaching? There in the distance. Behold the vast line of camels and elephants laden with riches and spices from distant exotic lands!… Now they are over the bridge that spans the moat. I must quickly go to the gates to greet him!
Jamshid goes to the gates and calls out to his servants:

Fling wide the gates that I may greet the magnificent sultan and his entourage!

Jamshid warmly yet respectfully greets the sultan

Welcome home, my sultan! We have eagerly waited to see your face.

Sultan:
And I yours, my dear vizier.

Sultan looks up.
SFX: cheering
Ah, I see the entire court has come out to greet us from the ramparts.

Servants shower the sultan with rose petals and spray him with perfume, fan him, and offer him drink.

Jamshid:
Please come this way. Your scented bath is prepared for you, then there will be a massage from the fair maidens followed by a light meal of fruit and delicacies that await you.

Some time elapses as the sultan is escorted out. Special music is being played during this interlude.
The sultan returns with another robe and his servants following him feeding him fruit or drink.

The sultan summons Jamshid and he/she enters bowing respectfully

Sultan
Jamshid, in my travels I have seen magnificent palaces that far outshine any building that I have ever imagined. These buildings inspire the respect of their people, and the fear of their enemies. I wish to build such a monument in stone that shall be known throughout the world for many generations to come. I want people to stop and marvel at this wonderful creation.

Jamshid
Surprised yet respectful
But, if I may say so, your highness, this palace is already fabulous in wealth and glory. Its splendor has dazzled the eyes of many travelers. It has…

Sultan
Raising his hand for silence

It must now be more magnificent yet! I will make my palace greater than any other. It must be greater than anything on Earth to house my great riches, for even now I have acquired in my travels one of the world’s most precious diamonds. Should it not also have the most exquisite palace to house it? Can you help me to build such a palace?

Jamshid
Your wish is my command, your majesty, but I have no knowledge in such affairs…
(he/she sees that this does not please the sultan and so offers a suggestion)
Yet, perhaps I could seek out a man who will be able to build such an edifice of glory.

Sultan
An excellent idea! Do so, Jamshid. Go at once. Remember, you must find a man who shall be able to build for me such a magnificent palace that all who see its splendor will marvel. It must last for all perpetuity*.

Jamshid
I shall do as you command, master.
Jamshid leaves the room with a bow after being dismissed from the sultan’s presence.

Scene 2 – Somewhere in India
Jamshid:
I will set out to find a man or a woman who will be skilled enough to build the palace of the sultan’s dreams. I will seek out all of the best builders in the realm.
Rides on his horse or camel and exits then returns soon after
I have searched for many days, yet none has been exceptional enough to fulfill the sultan’s grand expectations.
Something attracts his attention
Oh, look at that magnificent house. I wish to know the name of the builder. Perhaps this would be the man I have sought for.
Approaching the house and looking at it and describing what he sees..
Ah, what graceful alabaster domes and pillars in which are set semi-precious stones. Even though the sun is high in the sky, the fountains in the lush garden that surround the house cool the air. (could make joke – and it is environmentally friendly)
An old man dressed in fine clothes opens the gate of the house. Jamshid approaches him and asks him…
Jamshid
Good morrow to you sir. I have come to enquire whose house this is?

Old Man
It is ours, sir.

Jamshid
But why have not your slaves opened the gates for you?

Old Man
Chuckling a bit yet respectful
We have no slaves here, only our friends.

Jamshid
Where are they now then?

Old Man
Working in the fields. They should be returning soon. Would you like to wait for them?
May we offer you food and drink as you rest from your journey?

Jamshid
Yes, that would be kind of you. I would like to ask of you a few questions.

Old Man
Do so, sir. Sit down and take your ease.

Jamshid
Commenting as he eats fruit and meal served.
The interior of your house is even more amazing than the exterior! I have never seen anything like the geometric designs of the enamel and mirror mosaics, the rich tapestries that grace the walls and floors- the painted ceiling curving in delightful arches. And that waterfall flowing serenely into a pond with fish and scented by water lilies. It is all a wonder!

Tell me, who built this fine house? I wish to seek him out that he may labor for the sultan in beautifying his palace.

Old Man
His name is Mahesdas.

Jamshid
Tell me what you know of him.

Old Man
I worked for him for many years, building many of the finest palaces in India.
Showing him a book of the places he has built.
Like this one and this one and this.

Jamshid
And this house?

Old Man
Mahesdas rewarded me for my labors by building this house for me to grow old in.
He is from a merchant family, and was an architect.

Jamshid
Was?

Old Man
He is retired now, and has devoted himself to living a spiritual life and helping others.

Jamshid
Good! If he wishes to help others he can help his sultan.

Old Man
But…

Jamshid
ignoring his host’s hesitation.
Where can I find this man?

Old Man
It is easy enough to find him, as he lives in that mud hut atop that hill.

pointing out the window to the house

Jamshid excuses himself (exit old man) A curtain separates Mahesdas from the outside world. He is reading a large illustrated book.
Upon seeing his visitor, Mahesdas puts the book down and greets him. Mahesdas has a beard and long hair that has begun to turn white, which contrasted with his simple yet elegant blue garment.

Jamshid
Mahesdas I will waste no time explaining why I have come,
for the sultan’s business requires haste.
The sultan wishes for you to redesign and beautify his palace.

Mahesdas
Mahesdas remains silent for some minutes. He then answers thoughtfully:
It is true that I am a skilled architect and builder, and I could design and build such a palace for you, but there is something I must tell you …

Jamshid
What must you tell me?

Mahesdas
What I build for you may not please you.
Jamshid
Are you telling me that you are not skilled enough for the job?

Mahesdas
No, that is not what I am telling you.

Jamshid
Are you telling me that you will refuse the command of your sultan? For if it is, such impudence* will be rewarded by death!

Mahesdas
No, that is not what I am telling you.

Jamshid
Then what are you telling me?

Mahesdas
I am telling you that I may build something that pleases you not. For I now live only that I may help others.

Jamshid
If you are able to build anything like the house I saw, or the palaces I have heard that you have constructed, then I am sure that we will not be disappointed.

Mahesdas
Perhaps and perhaps not, (hesitating a moment) Yet, I will do my best for my ruler.
Mahesdas collects his few belongings, they both mount a horse or camel and exit.

Scene 3 The Sultan’s Palace
Enter sultan and Jamshid
The sultan instructs Jamshid

Jamshid
I have found the one who we have sought after to build a magnificent palace for us.
He is quite modest as well.

Sultan
To be humble is a virtue, that I value almost as much as I do my best jewels. Tell me more.

Jamshid
Well, he kept insisting that he was not the right man and that he might build something that would please you not.

Sultan
If he builds my palace with the skill that he has built others, I fear not for that. Yet, Jamshid. I want you to test the integrity of this Mahesdas. If he is to be entrusted with this task. He must be proven honest. Here is what I propose.
(whispers in the ears of Mahesdas)
Exit sultan and enter Mahesdas

Jamshid
Showing Mahesdas the plans and notes. He sets down a bag of gold coins on the table.

Now, here are the notes of what is required for this edifice of glory that you will build. Neglect not to fulfill each one and you will find our sultan most generous in his thanks.
Neglect them and you will feel his wrath.
I will leave you to look over them carefully and will return soon.

Jamshid exits as he glances at the bag of gold coins. Mahesdas looks over the plans and then discovers the bag of gold coins. Thinks for a moment. Then calls back to Jamshid.

Mahesdas
Oh, Jamshid. You forgot your bag of gold. Please take it.
Jamshid enters and takes the bag of gold and then tells Mahesdas

Jamshid
Well done Mahesdas, you have passed the test we gave you to prove your honesty. I have just received word from the sultan that he has been called away on very important business.

Mahesdas
When will he return?

Jamshid
We know not. But, when he returns he wishes to see progress.
I have been given the task of instructing you in this project.
Hands him a scroll with a royal seal on it.
This is a decree which puts in your command the storehouse of gold and precious stones to beautify the palace and to build a fitting resting place for the most resplendent diamond in the world known as “The Mountain of Light”.

Mahesdas takes the scroll and bows in appreciation.
The sultan says goodbye to Jamshid

Sultan
Goodbye, my vizier! When I return, I expect to see a grand palace to feast my eyes on.
The sultan departs with much fanfare and servants and music.

Jamshid
May you return soon in joy!

Exit Jamshid – musical interlude.
Enter Jamshid. A courier comes in severely wounded carrying a message, he collapses as he delivers the message.

Messenger
With great trouble sire, I have returned with this message from the sultan.

Jamshid
Has he received my messages?

Messenger
He has received no word from you, my Lord. You see soon after the sultan arrived, a fierce war broke out in the region and it has been very difficult to receive or send any messages. Several times he sent messengers but some were set upon by bandits and left wounded on the side of the road, others were waylaid by floods and storms, others were prevented by fighting armies from carrying the sultan’s messages. I and only I have made it through a thousand obstacles to deliver this message so that you may know his will upon reading it.

Jamshid
Well done courier. May God bestow a thousand blessings upon your head.
To the servant
See to it that this man is cared for with all the pleasures and riches our palace can offer.
Servant exits carrying the messenger around his arm.
Jamshid opens the message and reads it
Dear Jamshid
By now, after so many months, the work must be progressing on my dream palace exquisitely. I am sure under Mahesdas’ expert guidance, it will outshine any building that has ever been built.
Puts message down

I wonder how Mahesdas is coming along. I have seen him very busy building. He must be doing a great work. I will check on him.
Jamshid goes to look for Mahesdas and finds him busy carrying a bucket of water.
Mahesdas, Mahesdas there you are. I must know how the project is going.

Mahesdas
Good, very good. Here try some of this water. It is from the latest well we have dug for the villagers. They are truly rejoicing for it is the first time they have had pure water to drink from their own well. Previously, they have had to carry it many miles on their heads in the blazing sun– which, if you have ever tried it, will give you a headache for sure.

Jamshid
That is all very nice and good, but what I want to know is how is the work on the palace coming?

Mahesdas
That is what I have been trying to tell you. The work on the wells for the villagers has been going very well.

Jamshid
No, no. You are not getting it. I want to know what you have done on the sultan’s palace and encasement for the Mountain of Light diamond that he wishes for you to build.

Mahesdas
Oh, that. Well, I saw how needy the villagers were of water so I built them wells.

Jamshid
You did what?

Mahesdas
Wells, I built them. Lots of them, for lots of people. Water you see does wonders. If you have water you grow food. And if you grow food you can…

Jamshid
I know what water can do. I want to know what you have done with the sultan’s money.

Mahesdas
Wells, that is the long and the short of it. Lots and lots and lots of wells. It is amazing how wells you can dig with all that money in the treasury.

Jamshid
Oh, no. Oh no, this is not very good. Not very good at all. I am not feeling very well. I think I am going to… (faints)
Mahesdas carries him away. Exit both

Meanwhile the sultan is finally returning from afar.

Sultan
At last, I can return to my land. How wonderful my palace must be now! Even if it is not yet completed, it must be a wonder for all to behold.

But where is my vizier to greet me? And where are the cheering crowds that he usually arranges for this auspicious occasion?

Messenger approaches the sultan
Messenger
I am sorry, your Highness that the vizier was not here to greet you. You see, he is gravely ill with a …with a… with a… severe fever that will not be cured.

Sultan
That is most regrettable. Well, take me to my new palace.

Messenger
Well…sire, that is part of the reason that Jamshid is not well, the work has not been going according to…according to…plan. It has taken another a life of its own and…

Sultan
Is it something that will please me not?

Messenger
I think yes, sire.

Sultan
Yes, what?

Messenger
Fearfully with trembling
Yes, it will please thee not.

Sultan
Well, surely he has begun work?

Messenger
Not exactly.

Sultan
So what progress has been made?

Messenger
Not the least bitty bit, sire. Nothing had been made on your grand building project.

Sultan
Nothing? Not one stone has been laid upon another, not one beam hewn? And what of the money in my treasury which I have left to Mahesdas’ care to be spent in the palace’s construction?

Messenger
Gone, sire

Sultan
Gone – all gone?!

Messenger
Mahesdas has given it, down to the last copper coin, to the sick and the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the distressed. One of the many projects he undertook was to dig wells –lots and lots and lots of wells for the surrounding villages that had no water.
It may comfort you to know that many lives have been given a new start through Mahesdas’ projects.

Sultan
Guard arrest Mahesdas and bind him hand and foot and bring him here to me.

Guard brings back Mahesdas bound with rope and throw him at the feet of the sultan.

DSC_0134

Sultan
So this is how you repay my generosity. Is this how you carry out my commands, and how you repay my trust?

Mahesdas
Did I not tell you that I might build something that pleased you not?

Sultan
Yelling
That is the problem, you have built nothing for my palace!

Mahesdas
But I have carried out the behests* of my sultan, and even so do I fulfill his trust.
Let me explain.

Sultan
Explain it to the death angel tonight for tomorrow you die.
Guards, take this villain and throw him into the dungeon to await my wrath.

Exit guard/s dragging Mahesdas. One guardnwith a sword looks at it and sharpens the blade menacingly.

 

Scene 4 – Jamshid’s Bedroom
Sultan approaches Jamshid laying on the bed in a coma

Sultan
Ah, Jamshid. My vizier for so many years through the good and the bad. Over the years you have not disappointed me. Now, you have. You won’t be here to see my punishment on that miserable excuse of an architect. The one you brought me. Why did you pick him? If you were well, I might punish you as well. But your condition has worsened. You have fallen into a sleep so deep that no one can awaken you and I grieve for you. Oh, Jamshid, will we never ride together in the hunt again? Will you never be there to greet me when I return from my journeys?

Jamshid begins to stir and suddenly sits up.

Sultan
Jamshid! You are alive?”
The sultan kisses and embraces him.

Jamshid
Recovering his senses slowly.
Sultan! I am well!
Sultan
How is it that you have come back from the dead?

Jamshid
Looking off dreamily into the distance
I have seen strange things!

Sultan
What strange things? Tell me of them.

Jamshid
I will tell you all, but first call Mahesdas to my side. I wish to speak to him.

Sultan
I have locked that thief in the lowest dungeon. He will never see anyone again except on his execution day. He promised to build me a palace, but instead he has given my riches away to the poor!

Jamshid
Please, good sultan, don’t hurt him. He is a friend of God and to man and so to us.

Sultan
What foolishness is this? What has he told you? You are still recovering from your sickness. You need rest.

Jamshid
No, I tell you! Please, if you love me, release him. I am glad I awoke from my death sleep to plead for his life. For truly black would have been your sin if you had lifted your hand against him.

Sultan
And why are you so interested in this man? Has he enchanted you?

Jamshid
SFX – heavenly music
You may not believe it, but when I had died, winged creatures (angels) came to me and took me to Paradise (nirvana) There they showed me a palace more wonderful than any ever seen by mortal eyes. I approached it by a wide, crystal road bordered with gracious date palms. In its center stretched a sparkling waterway wherein floated lotus blossoms of many colors, and great white birds. Beside this pool wandered happy souls, singing heavenly songs, arrayed in delicate garments of the deep hues of flowers.

Sultan
And then?

Jamshid

can be acted out in dance
Next we climbed steps in a gentle gradual ascent to the palace. Its towering walls arose like rosy mist from a terrace flagged with precious tiles. Those walls were more dazzling than alabaster, yea, purer than the snow of the mountaintops illumined* by the first flush of dawn. And there were scores of windows-some were vast and open to the indescribable light of Heaven, and some windows were screened with climbing vines of flowers of every kind. The walls were crowned with domes glistening as bubbles that form upon the sea’s edge, and spires lifted themselves into the air, light and slender like darts. Within the floors was inlaid silver, reflecting all things as in a mirror. The walls were gold, wrought by artisans skilled beyond men of the earth. Everywhere gems burned with luster unspeakable, radiant yet subdued, and fountains flowed cool and sweet as music delighted the ear.
But enough of its beauty. What you must know, my sultan is even this … that the angels who showed me these wonders, said: ‘This is the palace built by Mahesdas for the sultan. The sultan is not worthy to inhabit it, so it shall be taken from him and given to another more worthy.’ Then it was that I awoke to find you embracing me.

Sultan
With determination in his voice
I will release him.

Jamshid
Let us go together, and free him then.
They both go to release Mahesdas. The sultan gives him drink and puts a fine robe on him.

DSC_0145

Sultan
Meekly
Mahesdas, I ask your forgiveness.

Mahesdas
I give it freely, my sultan.

Sultan
But tell me, why did you give my money away to the poor?

Mahesdas
I have learned not to lay up treasures on Earth, where thieves will break through and steal, but to lay up treasures in Paradise (nirvana) by helping others. I have learned that if you help the lowest person, you have helped him to become great. But may I also ask of you a question?

Sultan
Ask.

Mahesdas
Why did you change your mind and free me?

Jamshid
I have dreamed a dream that you had built a mansion in paradise (nirvana) by helping those in need.

Mahesdas
I think that in paradise (nirvana) there are many mansions such as the one you have seen being prepared for us. They that have faith and show love to others are helping to build it. These are the true riches, O Sultan, that shall never fade away.

Sultan
I will be found worthy to inhabit that mansion, you will see. But, Mahesdas, could you help me to build another such mansion in Heaven next door to mine for someone who deserves it more than me?

DSC_0144

Mahesdas
Smiling and bowing his head
As a servant, I can only do the bidding of my sultan.

Narrator:
And the sultan was true to his word, for with Mahesdas and Jamshid’s help he cared for his people like a father cares for his children. So beloved by his people was he that he became known as a sultan of kindness, benevolence*, and one who would help anyone in need.

DSC_0129

Palace of Light – A Legend Discovered

Untitled-1
By Curtis Peter van Gorder

While visiting my relatives in Hyderbad, India I beheld the wonder of the Golconda Fort and palace ruins. As I roamed through the echoing chambers where sultans once held court and hoarded vast treasures, I felt a strange sensation that it had a great story to tell beyond the mere rubble of stones that lay before me– but what was it?

Untitled-2

Throughout its history, this site has seen the rise and fall of empires through war and intrigue, but what was that to me – a 21st century man? I felt the tingle – a story was waiting to be discovered, and I like an archeologist, had but to unearth it. I studied its history but I felt there was more than names and dates. I searched for its soul.

The story came unexpectedly that Sunday, when the entire town turns into a used book store. I picked up a collection of short stories published in 1923. Though printed in England, one of the stories was of this very place.

It told of a mighty sultan named Abbanes who ruled his vast kingdom from this palace. His mines unearthed the fabulous Kohinoor diamond. Wishing to build a suitable edifice to house this treasure, he searched the land for a worthy craftsman that would be up to the task.

A man well-known for his building skill as well as a kind and generous nature named Mahesdas who had retired from his labors was found. After being asked to take on this project, he reluctantly agreed, yet warned the sultan, “I may build something that pleases you not. For I now live only that I may help others.”

Having reassured him, “If you are able to build anything like the palaces I have seen, then I am sure that we will not be disappointed.”

Having agreed to try, Mahesdhas began to plan. Unexpectedly, the sultan was called away to settle a dispute in a far away portion of is kingdom. But before he left, he left instructions with his royal treasurer that Mahesdas could have any money to complete his project.

Soon after the sultan’s departure, war broke out in the region, and it was very difficult to send or receive messages from his palace. He was curious as to how work was progressing on his dream palace that was to outshine any that had ever been built.

After almost two years, the sultan was able to return home. With each passing day on his journey to his palace, his heart soared in expectation. He thought to himself, How wonderful my palace must be now! Even if it is not yet completed, it must be a wonder for all to behold.

But his expectations turned to sadness then soon to anger, when he learned that nothing had been done on his grand building project. Not one stone had been laid upon another, not one beam hewn, yet the treasure which he had left in Mahesdas’ care to be spent in the palace’s construction was gone-all gone! For Mahesdas had given it, down to the last copper coin, to the sick and the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the distressed. One of the many projects he undertook was to dig wells for surrounding villages that had no water to slake their thirst in the days of the great drought.

Many lives had been given a new start in those two years. But that was not how the sultan viewed it.

Mahesdas was bound hand and foot and dragged into the sultan’s judgment hall, and thrown at the feet of the mighty ruler.

“Is this how you carry out my commands, and how you repay my trust?” questioned the sultan.

“Did I not tell you that I might build something that pleased you not?”

“You have built nothing! That is the problem!” the sultan yelled.

“But I have carried out the behests* of my sultan, and even so do I fulfill his trust. Let me explain,” said Mahesdas.

Before he could answer, the sultan called out to his guards, “Throw this villain into the dungeon to await my punishment.”

Now it so happened that at this time, the sultan’s brother named Jamshid fell severly ill that seemed to be unto death, as he fell into a sleep that he could not awaken from.

The sultan grieved, for his brother was most dear to him. He shut himself in Jamshid’s room and would not eat or drink or talk to anyone. He would only wail and talk to his sleeping brother: “Oh, my brother, will we never ride together in the hunt again? Will you never be there to greet me when I return from my journeys?”

On the fourth day, as the sultan sat mourning beside his brother, suddenly Jamshid sat up.

“Jamshid! You are better!” the sultan said joyously as he kissed and embraced him.

“Brother! I am feeling well!” Jamshid answered, still recovering his senses.

“How is it that you have come back from the dead?” the sultan asked.

At first, Jamshid could only say, “I have seen strange things!”

“What strange things? Tell me of them.”

“I will tell you all, but first call Mahesdas to my side. I wish to speak to him.”

“I have locked that thief in the lowest dungeon. He will never see anyone again except on his execution day. He promised to build me a palace, but instead he has given my riches away to the poor!”

“Please, brother, don’t hurt him. He is a friend of God, and the angels of God serve him.”

“What foolishness is this? What has he told you? You are still recovering from your sickness. You need rest.”

“No, I tell you! Please, brother, if you love me, release him. I am glad I awoke from my death sleep to plead for his life. For truly black would have been your sin if you had lifted your hand against him.”

“And why are you so interested in this man? Has he enchanted you?”

“You may not believe it, but when I had died, angels came to me and took me to Paradise. There they showed me a palace more wonderful than any ever seen by mortal eyes. I approached it by a wide, crystal road bordered with gracious date palms. In its center stretched a sparkling waterway wherein floated lotus blossoms of many colors, and great white birds. Beside this pool wandered happy souls, singing heavenly songs, arrayed in delicate garments of the deep hues of flowers.

“Next we climbed steps in a gentle gradual ascent to the palace. Its towering walls arose like rosy mist from a terrace flagged with precious tiles. Those walls were more dazzling than alabaster, yea, more pure than the snow of the mountaintops illumined by the first flush of dawn. And there were scores of windows-some were vast and open to the indescribable light of Heaven, and some windows were screened with climbing vines of flowers of every kind. The walls were crowned with domes glistening as bubbles that form upon the sea’s edge, and minarets lifted themselves into the air, light and slender like darts. Within the floors was inlaid silver, reflecting all things as in a mirror. The walls were gold, wrought by artisans skilled beyond men of the earth. Everywhere gems burned with luster unspeakable, radiant yet subdued, and fountains flowed cool and sweet as music delighted the ear.

“But enough of its beauty. What you must know, my brother, is even this … that the angels who showed me these wonders, said: ‘This is the palace built by Mahesdas for your brother, the sultan. He is not worthy to inhabit it, so it shall be taken from him and given to another more worthy.’ Then it was that I awoke to find you embracing me.”

“I will release him,” the sultan said with determination in his voice.

“Let us go together, and free him then,” Jamshid said joyfully.

Having spoken, the sultan and Jamshid walked quickly to the prison, released Mahesdas and Abbanes, and clad them in precious vestments.

The sultan then said meekly, “Mahesdas, I ask your forgiveness.”

“I give it freely, my sultan.”

“But tell me, why did you give my money away to the poor?”

“My Lord came to me and told me not to lay up treasures on Earth, where thieves will break through and steal, but to lay up treasures in Heaven by helping others. For He told me that as I have done it to the most needy, I have done it to the Lord. But may I also ask of you a question?”

“Ask.”

“Why did you change your mind and free me?”

Jamshid told Mahesdas of his dream. Mahesdas replied, “In Heaven there are many mansions such as the one you have seen. Jesus has said that in His Father’s house there are many mansions, He is even now preparing a place for us. They that have faith and show love to others are helping to build it. These are the true riches, O Sultan, that shall never fade away.”

The sultan humbly answered: “I will be found worthy to inhabit that mansion, you will see. But, Mahesdas, could you help me to build another such mansion in Heaven for my brother next door to mine?”

Mahesdas smiled as he bowed. “As a servant, I can only do the bidding of my king.”

The sultan was true to his word, for with Mahesdas and Jamshid’s help he cared for his people like a father cares for his children. So beloved by his people was he that he became known as a sultan of kindness, benevolence, and one who would help anyone in need.

As for the Kohinoor diamond, through war that ravaged the land, the priceless treasure was stolen and the palace laid to waste. It was cut in two and one piece rests in the crown jewels of England.Untitled-5

What does this story mean for the 21st century man, perhaps it would be that the treasures of this world pass away but kind deeds done in love to help others endure. Though the diamond was lost to this land, the wells that were dug by Mahesdas those many years ago, are still being drawn from and giving life to a thirsty land.

 

From Lump of Coal to Diamond

From Lump of Coal to Diamond

by Peter Van Gorder

raw diamond
“Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.”

Diamonds are only chunks of coal
That stuck to their jobs, you see;
If they’d petered out, as most of us do,
Where would the diamonds be?
– Virginian Call

Diamonds and coal are both made of carbon. So why are diamonds so prized while coal is merely thrown into the fire to burn? What makes the difference between the glistening gem that is a symbol of purity and strength, worn in the crowns of royalty, given as engagement gifts or to celebrate 75 years of marriage and its humble cousin, coal?
Coal is the fuel used to turn the turbines of electricity plants and burned for heating. Coal is burned to make coke, which is a purer form of carbon, to make steel.

What makes diamonds different from coal? It is the amount of heat and pressure it undergoes that makes all the difference.
Diamonds are crystals of pure carbon that have been subjected to tremendous heat and pressure in the bowels of the earth and brought to the surface by extraordinary volcanoes.

Diamond and graphite samples with their respective structures

Coal was formed when sedimentary layers of vegetation became compressed under many layers above it. It takes much more pressure and heat to make a diamond than it does coal.

Diamonds are truly extraordinary! They are the hardest natural substance known to man. Diamonds are transparent over a larger range of wavelengths (from the ultraviolet into the far infrared) and have a higher refraction index than any other substance. They conduct heat better than anything else- five times better than the second best element, silver. Diamonds have the highest melting point (3820 degrees Kelvin. note: I’m not sure what this is in centigrade.). The atoms of diamond are packed closer together than are the atoms of any other substance.

The trials and tribulations that we face in our lives are like the heat and pressure that is exerted on the carbon atoms to shape them into diamonds. If we are going through particularly hard times, it may be that the Lord is making something precious from us that will be of great value later in our lives.

Imagine if the diamond refused to go through the process of heat and pressure to become what it was destined to be. If it did, it would still remain a lump of coal.

Even after the diamond is formed in the earth and discovered by man, it must be cut and polished before it can be used. Diamonds are cut and polished by friction using other diamonds. Destiny often cuts and polishes us by using the friction of trials and adversities in our life. People who have gone through the polishing process already – other diamonds — can help make us better diamonds too if we let them.diamond_in_water_by_derpas-d586558

A sure way to tell if a diamond is an imitation or the real thing is by placing it in water. An imitation diamond totally loses its sparkle when it is submerged, while a real diamond continues to clearly glisten underwater. The contrast between the real and the imitation is apparent to any eye. Like genuine diamonds, we too will continue to shine with brilliance even if the waters of sorrow overwhelm us, if we have real faith.

In some lands, the lack of water brings sorrow. But in June of 2002, the monsoons had still not come and so the rivers in the area of Andhra Pradesh, India had dried up. A woman in the city of Paritala turned this difficulty into a blessing when she found and sold $14,580 worth of diamonds that she had discovered in the dry riverbeds.

Perhaps the most popular diamond story was told by Russell Conwell in the late1800’s. The story was a part of a speech that he delivered more than 6,000 times called “Acres of Diamonds”. The story went something like this:

A wealthy farmer by the name of Al Hafeed lived in India in the Indus River basin. His farm prospered with fruitful orchards, vast expanses of grain fields, and fertile vegetable gardens. He had much to be thankful for.

Being always hospitable to strangers, Al Hafeed one day welcomed a traveling priest that he met by chance to stay in his home. After the meal, Al Hafeed’s family and the priest sat around the fire. The priest proposed to tell a story to entertain his host. He asked, “What kind of story would you like to hear?”

“I have always been curious,” said Al Hafeed, “how this world of ours was formed. You see, all my wealth comes from the earth, yet I know so little about its origins.”

“Ahh, a creation story! So be it.” The priest gathered his thoughts for a moment before continuing.

“The Creator could have made this world perfect at first, but to give us hope, He chose to bring order out of chaos. This chaos was without form and void. It was confusion and emptiness — a very deep darkness.

“Then the Spirit of God fluttered on the face of the waters, and God said, ‘Let light be,’ and light was. The first born of all visible beings created was light, the great beauty and blessing of the universe! Being the first creation, it most resembles its great parent in purity and power, brightness and generous love. And God saw the light that it was good. It was exactly how he planned it! God separated the light and the darkness. You see He needed the darkness to give the light a background on which to shine.

Then God called to the light ‘You are ‘Day,’ and to the darkness, ‘You are ‘Night’;’ and there was an evening, and there was a morning – That was day one.

And God said, ‘Let an expanse,’ which was like a sheet that is spread, or a curtain that is drawn, ‘be in the midst of the waters. Let it separate waters and waters,’ and it happened just like He said it would.

And God called to the expanse ‘You are Heavens;’ and there was an evening, and there was a morning – day second.
Having finished the upper part of the visible world, He now descended to the lower part.

And God called to the dry land, ‘You are Earth,’ and to the collection of the waters He called, ‘You are Seas,’ and God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

The earth was clear of the waters, dried by the expanded air, hardened by the fiery light,

Al Hafeed interrupted, “What did the fiery light look like?”

“I imagine it looked like a diamond in its brilliance. And then God…”

“Have you ever seen a diamond?” Al Hafeed asked.

“In my travels, I once came upon such a wondrous stone and I have heard much about them.”

“Tell us what you know,” Al Hafeed said eagerly.

It is said, that a diamond is the last and highest of God’s mineral creations, as a woman is the last and highest of God’s animal ”
Everyone began to laugh at this remark.

When all were quiet, Al Hafeed pleaded, “Go on, tell us more about diamonds!”

“It has been said, that diamonds exhibit powerful effects of love. Diamonds are said to have magical powers. Diamonds are supposed to give to the person who wears them great virtues and long life. They are said to repel bad dreams and nocturnal spirits, solve disputes, cure insanity, dissipate poisons, defeat enemies, cure delirium, and banish all disturbances of the mind. But, I doubt if a stone, even a stone as beautiful as a diamond can do such things. Such power belongs only to God.

“But I do know, that if a man had a mere handful of diamonds he could purchase a whole country, and with a mine of diamonds, all of his children would become kings through the influence of the great wealth that diamonds bring.”

As the last embers of the fire were extinguished, everyone went to bed and slept soundly. All that is except for Al Hafeed. Sleep escaped him, for his mind was set on one thing, and one thing only – to find a mine of diamonds. He lay awake all night, making plans and very early in the morning sought out the priest.

Now I know from experience that a priest when awakened early in the morning can be very cross and so was this one. Al Hafeed shook him and asked, “Tell me where I can find diamonds?”

The priest mumbled half awake, “Diamonds? What do you want with diamonds?”

“I want to be immensely rich. If only a fraction of the things said about diamonds are true, they must be truly wonderful!”

The priest began to awake, “Instead of diamonds you should search for wisdom. Wisdom, my friend, is better than diamonds, and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”

“I would rather have diamonds! I must have diamonds!”

“I wish you all the best in your search, now please let me go back to sleep.”

“Not until you tell me where to go in my quest to find these treasures.”

“Well, if that is the only way I will get some sleep, I suppose I better tell you,” said the priest, “if you find a river that runs over white sand between high mountains, look in those sands and you will always see diamonds.”

“Do you really believe that there is such a river?”

“Plenty of them, plenty of them; all you have to do is just go and find them, then you will have the diamonds that you seek. Now please let me sleep!” the priest said impatiently as he pulled his blanket up over his head.

And so Al Hafeed went and sold his farm, left his family in charge of a neighbor, and traveled in search of diamonds, deaf to the loud protestations of his family and his friends who tried to reason with him to give up his mad plan.

After a long journey he began his search, at the Mountains of the Moon, in East Africa, yet found nothing. Afterwards, he searched all about Palestine – no diamonds, then he wandered all across Europe – nothing, and at last, when his money was spent, and he was in rags, wretchedness and poverty, he stood on the shore of a bay in Barcelona, Spain. When a tidal wave came rolling in through the Pillars of Hercules, instead of running away from it, this poor, afflicted, suffering man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.

About this time, Ali, the man who had bought Al Hafeed’s land, led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose down into the clear water of the garden brook Ali noticed a curious flash of light from the sands of the shallow stream, and reaching in he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light that reflected all the colors of the rainbow. Ali took that curious pebble into the house and left it on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, then went on his way and forgot all about it.

A few days after that, the same old priest who told Al Hafeed of the wonder of diamonds, was traveling again on the same route and decided to visit Al Hafeed. Ali welcomed the priest into his home, as is the custom in that region, and told how he had bought the farm from Al Hafeed. As they were talking the priest saw a flash of light from the mantelpiece. He rushed up to it and held it curiously in his hands and said, “This is a diamond! Has Al Hafeed returned?”

“No, no, Al Hafeed has not returned. That is not a diamond; that is nothing but a black stone; we found it right out here in our garden.”

The priest answered, “But I know a diamond when I see it, and that is a diamond! Show me where you found it.”
Together they rushed to the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers and found more beautiful, more valuable diamonds than the first, and thus were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond mines in all the history of mankind. The great Kohinoor diamond in England’s crown jewels and one of the largest diamonds that is now found in Russia’s crown jewels, came from that mine.

Had Al Hafeed remained at home, appreciated his blessings, and dug in his own garden, he would have had “acres of diamonds”. In every acre of that farm there was discovered gems, which have decorated the crowns of monarchs.
Thanking God for the blessings that He has given us is the way to true happiness. Being discontented with what we have and setting our heart on elusive riches will only bring depression and death. In all things let’s give thanks!

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

A modern day presentation of the story:

A Diamond in an Anthill

A Diamond in an Anthill

by Curtis Peter van Gorder
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“The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.”
-Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe)

Today, I just read that they discovered a 29.5 carat blue diamond at a South African mine near Pretoria worth tens of millions of dollars.

I am fascinated with diamonds and how they are found, cut, and polished – they teach much. As they are so valuable, they make me ponder, “Where is my treasure?” The process of finding and processing gems from raw to finished product speaks volumes.

I came across a gem of an article from a 1997 Reader’s Digest about the world’s largest producing diamond mine, which is found in Western Australia – the Argyle mine. It produces about 30% of the world’s diamonds and 90% of all pink diamonds. How did this mine come to be?

The story begins in 1969. Nine diamonds were found in the Leonard River. Those pioneers figured, if they found a few diamonds, there must be more – but where? Like all good mysteries, these early discoveries were only tantalizing clues, teasers given by the earth before yielding her real treasure trove. Like any good stripper, she didn’t show all her assets at first. They would have to wPicture3ork for it.

One of the first clues given was that after studying the structure of the earth in that area, it was found to be remarkably similar to other diamond fields in South Africa. We hear stories of sages, artists, and entrepreneurs who connected to a power source of inspiration with a human need and skyrocketed or plodded to success. We figure, if they could do it, so can we. There’s a pattern of what has worked, will work.

When we embark on a new venture, we usually start because something or someone tells us, “If you think this is great, just keep looking – greater things are in store.” We get indications, feelings, an inner voice, conviction – whatever you call it. We get excited about the potential – what we can’t see yet, but sense is there waiting for us to discover.

Heb_11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

It took a few more years for the Argyle diamond hunters to muster up the time and resources to begin exploring the area more. I am sure they had to invest a good amount that they earned from those first 9 diamonds found. They started working their way up the river and 7 years later they found 2 more diamonds. What if they had quit after looking for 6 years? It would have been left for someone else to discover, but no, they persisted and in that 7th year, they found another diamond in an anthill.

Like a game of hot and cold, they knew they were close. Each diamond found was shouting, “You are hot, hot, hot!” Isn’t that the way it is? Just about when we are about to give up, the Lord often encourages us with a sign to keep at it.

Now, they were so sure that they were on the threshold of a great discovery, that they bought up all the helicopters, 4-wheelers, and maps in the area to discourage any competition. If you believe in something, you have to put your faith into action – give the Lord some cooperation. The anthill pointed them to an ancient volcano, to the Argyle pipe – a jewel box just waiting to be plucked.

It wasn’t until 1983 – fourteen years after their first discovery, that they could start diamond mining production. In the next 14 years, this mine would produce 80 tons of diamonds. It took shifting through 22 million tons of rock to get those 400 million carats of diamonds. At latest count, they had found more than 750 million carats on an average of 35 million carats a year. Usually, we have to sort through a lot of failures to get a few successes. We have to find out where it ‘ain’t’ before finding where it ‘is’.

From all the diamonds discovered in Argyle, 50% are flawed and can only be used for industrial purposes, 45% are non-gems, and only 5% are gem quality. From the gem quality stones, 95% are brownish yellow, 4% are grey, and 1% are pink. The different colors are caused by the environment the diamonds were created in: yellow – nitrogen, blue – boron, and pink…no one knows. That tells me that regardless of what influences shaped our past, we can still shine in our own special way today.

After the ore is crushed 3 times, spun in a centrifuge, X-rayed, and blown by needle blasts of air, the diamonds begin to roll off the assembly line. To the untrained eye, they look very ordinary. It takes a skilled eye with the faith to believe what greatness each little grey ‘pebble’ can reach. There are 8 standard shapes that a diamond can be cut into. Only a master can know which shape will suit which rock. One slip at the cutting stage could cost tens of thousands of dollars in lost carats. Ever wonder what all the crushing and smashing and cutting in our life is all about? It must be to bring out our true potential to make us really shine.

You may wonder, if those who work with these gems get tempted to steal? A few have tried, but got caught because there are watchers, watching the watchers, who watch the diamond workers. Sometimes the devil tries to steal our treasures away like the birds who gobble up the seeds in the parable of the sower:

Mar_4:15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Thankfully, our guardian angels are looking after us, and if we keep strong in the faith we stay in the circle of their watchful protection.

Psa_34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps round about them that fear him, and delivers them.

Now, like every good dancer, whose performance must some time come to an end, the Argyle mine will soon be jwt hearshapefinished. They will have to dig deeper and shift through more rocks to get fewer diamonds. It is estimated that by the year 2018 the mine will be exhausted. Is that the end of the story? The mine is finding new ways to use all those stones that they have shifted through: to make fertilizer, building materials, and other byproducts. They are now planning for a sustainable future for the next generation when the diamonds have run out.

That makes me think, what legacy will I leave after my mine is played out? Whatever legacy that is – the ring sparkling on the finger, the heirloom that is passed from one generation to the next – will be the result of seeking for the real treasures of life, and once finding them, to make them shine. How? By putting my life in the hands of the Master to cut and shape me as He will to bring out my full potential.

(Mat 5:14) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

(Mat 5:15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it give li ght unto all that are in the house.

(Mat 5:16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.”
Mary McLeod Bethune