image by Sarolta Ban
Back in the days of rotary phones and unlocked doors people were trusting and welcomed strangers inside their homes.
On a hot summer day with all the windows open and the screen door unlocked a teen aged girl prepared a picnic basket to take to the creek where the youth group would gather after church for fun and swimming.
Her parents had driven to church in the car earlier and she would walk there after she finished. It was but a short distance. She hummed Amazing Grace as she placed the last apple inside the basket and closed the lid.
A knock at the door surprised her. Every one she knew was at church and she would be late if she didn't hurry.
Picking up the picnic basket and her Bible she hurried to the door planning to walk quickly to church and arrive before the opening hymn.
A stranger stood on the other side of the screen and the young girl had an uncomfortable feeling. She dropped the hook latch into place as she greeted the man, asking how she could help. Looking at his feet, turning his hat in his hands, he spoke softly and asked for "Just a drink of cool water, Ma'am, if it's no trouble."
She smiled and said, "Of course, I'll be right back." Sitting her picnic basket and Bible by the door she went into the kitchen letting the water run a moment so the cool fresh water from the well would be what she gave him in the glass taken from the open shelf by the sink.
A strange sound made her turn. The man was pulling the screen door away from the latch. Dropping the glass, she ran to the phone on the kitchen wall, a rotary phone. The kind before push button, the kind before speed dial, the kind before 911...she dialed O for operator as he entered the kitchen.
He ripped the handset from the phone as she gripped it tightly, frantically trying to reach the operator. Wrapping the phone cord around her neck, he began to drag her out the door he had just forced open. She tried to scream but the cord was so tight a scream could not escape. Fighting and kicking as best she could he kept dragging her, saying not a word. As they got closer to the door, she became more frantic and her kicks turned over the picnic basket, apples rolling, with the Bible falling onto the floor.
Silently, he bent and put one apple in his pocket as he dragged her down the steps.
Frantic, her parents left church early because Grace never missed especially with the planned outing she had been looking forward to attending.
When they pulled up they knew something was wrong. The screen door was ajar and a little crooked on its hinges. The apples Grace has so carefully picked were strewn from the door way onto the porch. Her Bible lay open. No Grace anywhere.
After looking every where and no Grace, they went to church which was just being dismissed. The whole community was there so the Sheriff and his deputy organized search parties and they began to search.
The ladies making tea, coffee, lemonade and sandwiches for those searching in between tears and prayers they waited.
A lady picked up Grace's Bible and noticed the section it had fallen open to...Hebrews 13:2 seemed to stand out. It was read aloud. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
And somewhere in the deep woods, Grace lay with her eyes open and sightless as the stranger took his first bite of the apple.