My eyebrows furrowed as we entered Pennsylvania and took in the expanse of her rolling hills, farmlands and forests. Puzzled, I wondered, Where are the sky-scrapers? Upstate New York was more bewildering.

Any Oklahoman knew that most Yankee states were blanketed throughout by asphalt and concrete. Our ever-expanding world as we motored northward from South Texas, alerted me repeatedly to my wonderful ignorance about the lay of the land. An ignorance of the kind New Yorkers employ when doubting whether Okies own automobiles.

I eased our car to a halt before an aged, multi-story brick structure perched atop a hill. The month was January and a frigid drizzle had begun descending in slow motion. Although it wasn’t yet 10 p.m. darkness had fallen several hours earlier. No one was in sight. I turned to my wife, now in the early months of her first pregnancy.
“Seems we’re here, darlin’. . . the sign out front says, Elim.”

Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, one of the first coed schools in the U.S., had opened its’ doors on this hill in 1831 and Elim’s training center now occupied some of those ornate structures from the past.

Our cold, dreary reception, climate-wise, was countered by friendly greetings of mission-agency staff next morning.
“Oklahoma? . . that’s where you’re from?” The office manager’s eyes brightened. “Then you’ll have to meet Ron and Jerry.” Noting our quizzical response, he went on. “Ron Childs is from Philly. He and his wife, Jerry are also here as missionary candidates. Jerry comes from down your way. Oklahoma.”

Another day passed before we formally met the couple who, as ourselves, felt destined for Africa. The first phrase passing through Jerry Childs’s lips betrayed her origins. This is no New Yorker, I thought to myself with a grin, registering the familiar drawl of my home state.

“Happy to meet you,” replied my wife. Then, drawn to the small bundle her new friend cradled in her arms, “What a sweet little one you have there. . . a girl?”

Jerry Childs smiled and nodded. “Thank you. Yes, a girl. Like to hold her?”

My wife drew near, her own mother-instincts already much alive.

She took up little Sarah and brought her close, little dreaming what lay ahead between the two in another time and place.
©2017 Jerry Lout



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