On Distant Shores – Episode 62


For the last few weeks Isabel had occupied herself helping Sarah Judson with her children, and occasionally entertaining local children who wandered by the house or came to the zayat Adoniram Judson had built for church services.

The air was sultry as she now stepped out into a hazy afternoon with John by her side. She tried to armour herself with an air of insouciance, but Isabel had never been one for affecting airs and she felt a pulse of relief when John smiled ruefully at her and said, “I confess, I am a bit nervous.”

“As am I,” Isabel answered. “Although I don’t know why.”

He took her elbow as he guided her towards the dusty street.

“We’ve been courting for the better part of a month. I am conscious, Miss Moore, of your timely concerns.”

Her age, Isabel thought, glancing away. A Burmese man was herding a donkey along, switching its tail as flies buzzed around it.

“Yes,” she murmured, moistening her lips, for despite the humidity her mouth suddenly felt remarkably dry.

“Not,” John continued, “that they are my concerns. But I hope I am sensitive to your own needs.”

“I’m sure you are.”

They walked towards the mission’s zayat, Isabel barely conscious of what she was saying. Her brain seemed to be filled with a sudden buzzing, her senses overwhelmed by a heightened awareness of John walking so solidly next to her, the serviceable cloth of his frock coat, the dark hair curling behind his ears and on his neck.

He didn’t speak for a moment, simply guided her through the busy press of donkeys and pushcarts, raggedy children following in their wake.

“I wonder, Miss Moore,” he finally inquired, “if you could see yourself in a place such as this for most nearly the rest of your life?”

“A place such as this?” Isabel repeated. She pulled the hem of her skirt away from a muddy puddle, her mind still buzzing.

“In Burma. Indeed, I don’t know what the Lord holds for my future, but I have felt called to serve here for as long as he allows me to do so.”

“I know that well,” Isabel murmured. John had made no secret of his devotion to the work in this country.

“And so I wonder,” John resumed, stopping to clear his throat, “if you could see yourself in a similar place? I know you did not come to Burma with the missionary calling that I experienced.”

“No, I did not,” Isabel said slowly.

Her mind still buzzed, but even so, a clearer picture of what John was asking had emerged from the confusion and nervousness. If she married him, she would stay in Burma perhaps for ever. She would never see her family again, or at least no more than once or twice. As for
children . . . the Judsons had buried three children already. Would her own children share such a terrible fate?

Marriage had been her only concern, her mind’s sole destination. But now that she knew John and loved him, she saw more clearly what marriage to him would entail.

To live and die among a people she did not know, nor even understand . . . to combat the heat, the disease, to sacrifice all she’d known and risk everything she stood to gain.

For the first time, Isabel truly wondered if she possessed the stamina and courage to live such a life, and that to the glory of God.

“Isabel?” John asked gently. He looked sad, as if he sensed the nature of her thoughts.

They’d come to stand in front of the Judsons’ zayat, with its bamboo walls and thatched roof. Isabel gave him a rather shaky smile.

“You are right to ask me,” she said quietly. “It is a fearsome thing to consider.”

“Indeed.”

“I had not considered the matter as properly as I should have.”

John nodded.

“Such a thing is understandable.”

“You are wise.” She reached for his hands, her own gloved ones cold despite the muggy heat. “And I confess my heart trembles at the thought of what might lie ahead, what suffering and hardship and even what unfamiliarity. I am a stranger here, more than you are, and perhaps more than you ever were or felt.”

“You could learn,” John said quietly, “if you desire it.”

Isabel gazed into his now-familiar face, his eyes dark but still glinting with that wry humour she so dearly loved. She squeezed his hands, her heart pounding and yet also feeling wonderfully full.

“I could learn,” she agreed, “and I will. That is, if you are asking me to. If you wish me to stay in Burma with you.”

“I do wish it,” John said and to Isabel’s surprised delight he sank to one knee, his hands still clasped in hers. “Isabel Moore, I have come to know you and love you. Will you do me the greatest honour and pleasure of becoming my wife?”

Isabel blinked back tears as she urged him to his feet.

“Yes,” she said, her voice choked with happiness. “Yes, I will.”

And smiling, his arms coming around her, John kissed his bride-to-be.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.