The Cup Bearer
Before they left the grave, Juan handed Gypsy the trinket box which he had kept safe in his jacket pocket after Gypsy had fainted. "This is what you came for. My mother said you would know the importance of it." But before Gypsy could examine the contents of the box, Juan drew him towards his sombre faced family and introduced Gypsy to his aunts, uncles and many cousins. The others would make their acquaintance the next day. The introductions over, the whole camp formed a circle round Aida's home. A flaming brand was brought from the one of the cooking fires. Juan took it and handed it to Gypsy who walked forward with him. Juan indicated where he should place the brand, at the base of the door, under both sides and against the back of the wagon. Juan pulled him away to safety as flames began to envelop the tinder dry wagon. Someone in the watching crowd started to sing an old gypsy song, full of emotion and telling of a gypsy queen's long life. Soon everyone was singing and, although Gypsy knew exactly where his great grandmother had already gone, he was moved to listen to the song of mourning and farewell. He looked at his father and saw the look of compassion on his face for these people who did not understand as he and Gypsy did. Gypsy looked round at the singing crowd and knew where he would begin his ministry.
Later, using the light of Juan's campfire, Gypsy drew Aida's box out of his jeans pocket and opened it. First he took out the medallion and examined it. It was made of solid gold, roughly four centimetres in diameter on a fine gold chain. The face was engraved with a simple cross, surmounted by a crown. On the relief side was engraved some writing so fine he could hardly make it out, and he had to turn the medallion back and forth for the engraving to catch the firelight.
" For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, and the forgiveness of sins." Underneath this he read yet another scripture. "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me. Your righteous right hand will hold me fast."
Putting the medallion back in the box he unfolded the paper and saw it was covered on both sides with close writing, with no room for margins. He smoothed the paper out on his knee and after finding the start of the missive, he began to read it, slowly realising that this was the message Aida wanted him to receive from God.
"My dear child, this is what The Lord told me to tell you. He says, "I see thorns around you and more to come. I will give you a jewel, which others would wish to take from you. Another, born in your time, but with a blackened heart, and whom you already know, is keeping watch even now and searches for you. One day, when your eyes are shut to the world, he will strike. But fear not, I will uphold you. One who helps him is also someone you already know. He is Satan's messenger and unbeknown to you has already betrayed you, and will betray you again, once in the presence of others and once when you are alone. Beware of the hidden eye of evil, which has the power to make time stand still. Your second betrayer has already used this against you and others like you. And will do so again in the future. You were not his first victim nor will you be the last. There is a third accomplice known to you, one of eight. He wears the sign of the snake around his neck. Fighting against all these evil people will take courage such as you have never dreamed of, and at times you will want to surrender to their will. If you do, you will lose the jewel so dear to your heart for which you would give your own life. Learn to draw on My Power and I will hold you up before all as my chosen one. Someone with the sun as his crown will go away from you, but in your time of trouble he will return and will be a strength and a support. One with hair the colour of my Holy Flame will treasure your jewel as though it were her own. For that you will reward her in kind. But this is in the future and you will have time to prepare yourself before these things come to pass.
"There is one more person you must beware of - one who believes you have something which should be his. He would see you fall, and will conspire with your enemies to this end. Remember My Words, My child, and take care to be faithful to Me; your vigil against the evil ones must be constant. Just as I suffered at the hands of My own enemies for the salvation of mankind, so you must suffer at the hands of these evil people for the sake of children like you. Only then will the evil ones be revealed to the world and dealt with by both the Law of the Land and by My righteous right hand. I love them even as I love you, and they have the right to hear My Word, even from your own lips. Speak to them about me, and do not let anyone distract you from your task and you will sit where two others rule, in command of your own success, but only if you keep your head and obey Me. You made my servant, Aida, very happy and because of her, I will bless you and grant you future happiness in abundance. Be faithful to Me my child, and I will be faithful to you." This is what the Lord told me to tell you. I have written it down in case I died before I saw you.
Turning the paper over, Gypsy found that the rest of the letter was a personal message from Aida herself. "These are my own words to you my precious child. The Lord will test you, as he tested me many times, while you grow in your spiritual life, and it will be hard for you. I have been told to tell you things that you will not believe, but this revelation comes from our Father God, and no one else. Now I will tell you something about yourself you may not be aware of. Hidden inside you are mysteries many Christians yearn to know, untapped and burning like an unquenchable fire which only our Father God can unleash, for they are His to command. It is time you knew what you are, what you have been and what you will be. You have lived in a world of grey shadows with bitter memories locked inside you and eating away at you for many years. In life we have the choice to do things our own way and fail, or give all to Him who loves us, and let him direct us along the right path. Only by making the right choice will the world be yours, my child. Only then will you achieve your desires, as they come upon you as God's blessings. If you don't, you will become hardened by all that has happened to you. I know the pain you have suffered. I have felt it myself, and I have prayed for you ever since I knew you. You have the gentle nature of the crab and the moods of a moonchild to temper your dark feelings. You have mirth that giggles and bubbles within you, but you are easily hurt. When this happens you become the crab, and you creep into your protective shell; or you become the scorpion, stinging your enemies in your quest for vengeance but in so doing you sting yourself. You are capable of feeling joy one minute and extreme anger and pain the next but you must release all your bitter memories, and let forgiveness take their place, for vengeance belongs only to the Lord. Better for you to break free and become the eagle, rising above all adversity. Goodbye, my darling great grandson. Be faithful. Aida Diaz Lupino"
As he refolded the paper, Gypsy had a sense of great loss, and sat staring into the campfire, fighting to keep back hot tears. Over the last few months he had shed many tears after thinking strong people didn't cry, especially him. He didn't know why he cried so easily these days. It was so childish.
Manuel went looking for Gypsy and found him seated on a boulder with the much-handled piece of paper in his hands. He sat staring into the fire, a troubled expression on his face. "Gypsy?" The boy looked up, startled out of his thoughts at Manuel's voice. "You seem troubled about all this. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"I need to talk, Dad," Gypsy whispered shakily. Once Manuel was seated beside him, he said, "I don't know if you'll believe this but, at the moment of Aida's passing I was baptised with the Holy Spirit. I felt it. It was like an electric shock. Do you believe me?"
Manuel gazed at him with growing awareness. "Is that what happened when you fainted?"
"Yes. God lifted me off the earth and held me in the darkness," Gypsy's voice was full of wonder, "and we talked."
"Things that happened in the past, things that are happening now; and what will happen in the future and why. There were so many details, too many to remember except for one thing. He said there will be wars and rumours of wars, and many disasters, but these must come to pass before the victory of His Son on earth."
Manuel shook his head. "That is nothing new; the Bible has those words in it. Are you sure you weren't having a dream?"
"It wasn't a dream. He also told me He was going to use me, that I had been chosen to take the gospel to the many people I knew. I think he was talking about those who've hurt me in the past. He said my suffering wasn't over yet." Rising to his feet, he handed the paper to Manuel and let him read it while he paced restlessly, his face full of despair.
At that moment, Juan came up to them and Manuel passed the paper to him to read. His father's face slowly filled with a look of scorn on his face. "Aida was always scribbling. I wondered what she was writing but she wouldn't say." He took it to the fire to read it.
Gypsy didn't notice; he was so wrapped up in his own heartache. "Haven't I suffered enough? I don't think I could bear it again." Then he looked round, startled. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Manuel asked.
"The voice, telling me not to worry." Slowly he fell to his knees and bowed his head to the ground. "Please, Lord, I don't want this."
Juan came back with the paper and dropped it into Manuel's hands. He nodded that he understood a lot more now, about Aida, and about Gypsy, then he walked away to give them some privacy.
Kneeling beside his son, Manuel said quietly, "Listen to me, Gypsy, there was a time when Jesus did not want the burden His Father in Heaven placed upon him. He begged to be released from it, saying, 'if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as thou will.' He knew He was the only one innocent enough to be the living sacrifice for all sin. God won't let you suffer alone, and I'll be with you every step of the way as well. We will do this together. Shall we pray now? 'Father God, we thank you for accepting us as your children; we praise Your Holy Name. Let Your Will be our will. Help us to trust you in everything, especially this new burden You have placed on Gypsy's shoulders. At a time when he's desperately trying to be a child again, You are asking him to be an adult for Your sake. Dear Lord, I pray that you will let me share this burden, and that You will carry us when we stumble. We pray this in Jesu's Name, Amen." When at last Gypsy raised his head, Manuel asked, "Are you feeling better now?"
"Yes, Dad," was the weak reply.
"Good! Then I suggest we go and sample my sister, Charlotta's cooking. Do you realise we haven't eaten since breakfast."
"I'm not hungry," Gypsy sat up and held out his hand for the paper.
"Now you know what the doctor said about missing meals," Manuel cautioned him. "And you haven't taken a blood test either, have you?" Gypsy shook his head and Manuel added, "Go and do it now, and meet me at Juan's camp fire."
Gypsy got reluctantly to his feet and walked slowly toward the tent Juan had set up for them close to his own cave. "Dear Lord,' Manuel prayed, "if he has to suffer, so be it. You know what You are doing, even if we don't. Gypsy needs to be reassured, and my own father needs to believe that all is well. Please, Lord, let my son be unburdened, just for these next few hours." An idea came to him, and he knew God had answered him. Walking to his father campfire where he found his father eating his supper. Manuel told him of his idea and Juan agreed it would be good for everyone and not just for Gypsy.
After supper, having seen that Gypsy ate something, Juan called the camp together round his own campfire and several guitars were produced. At first Gypsy just sat and listened to Manuel and his family play and sing songs from Manuel's younger days. The younger members of the group got up to dance and urged Gypsy to join them, pulling him to his feet and pushing him into the ring of dancing people. At first his face was set like stone and Manuel wondered if his idea would work, then, as Gypsy learned the steps and the songs he slowly came out of his shell. To Manuel's surprise, Gypsy asked him to accompany him by playing 'The Bolero', and showed off his dancing talents to the full. Later, two of Manuel's brothers took him on one side and pulled his beloved 'Bolero' routine to pieces. He looked quite dismayed till they gave him a quick lesson on how to dance it as a Gitano would. They also invited him to join them in their impromptu ensemble and were suitably impressed with his prowess on the guitar, which had him smiling all the way to his bed. That night, Manuel went to sleep feeling pleased that his idea had worked, that Gypsy could never resist pleasing an audience. "Thank you God."
The following morning, as a parting gift Juan gave them a black soft brimmed hat each, similar to the ones most of the men of the camp wore; a sign that they were fully accepted as members of Juan's clan and welcome back any time. On the plane home, Gypsy thought about Aida and wished she had had time to help him decipher her message and the one from above. He was on his own now and he felt chilled at the thought of what the future might hold.
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