Elizabeth pushed the mop across the church’s kitchen floor. The tile was green, and reminded Elizabeth of grass. Oh how she wished she were on actual grass and not mopping a kitchen floor. Why did Mom always volunteer Elizabeth to clean the church’s kitchen?
Ever since Elizabeth turned fourteen, her mom had been insistent that she start helping out at the church. It’s not that Elizabeth didn’t want to help, but she wanted to make a real difference. The kind of difference that a missionary in Africa could make, or a singer who brought people to their knees in worship.
Holding the mop toward her mouth, she pretended it was a microphone. Swaying her hips, she closed her eyes and belted out a song she’d heard last Sunday at church.
A noise from the basement startled Elizabeth. She glanced around the kitchen. Who else could be here? She thought it was only her and Mom that got suckered into cleaning the church on a Saturday.
Mom must be still in the sanctuary.
She’d absolutely die a bazillion deaths if Jake, the pastor’s son, was here. He was way too cute to be witnessing her singing into a mop. An instant blush crept on her face. Resting the mop against the wall, she walked closer to the basement door.
“Anyone there?” She called down the dark basement stairs.
She shrugged. It was probably toxic fumes from the cleaning supplies just messing with her brain.
She started back toward the mop, when a loud clang came from the basement. Elizabeth jumped and her heart raced. Now that was not her imagination. She took slow steps toward the basement. If she’d learned anything from horror movies, she should be running the opposite direction of ominous noises coming from a dark, dingy basement
But this was a church. It was a holy place. It was safe. Right?
Please be Jake. So what if he heard her singing. Cute boy trumps serial killer any day.
Elizabeth took a deep breath. C’mon, Lizzy. Don’t let your imagination get away from you.
She stood at the top of the stairs. “Who’s down there?”
Shuffling, and then a crash caused Elizabeth to jump again. She held her hand to her chest. That’s it. I’m outta here!
She turned to run, but stopped when she heard a female voice floating up from the basement. “Hello?”
Elizabeth’s feet froze. “Who’s there?”
“I’m sorry to bother you.” The voice said, as footsteps clomped up the stairs.
Elizabeth stared, as a lady emerged from the basement. Her skirt was long and had dirt smudges all over its brown, burlap-type fabric. A bright fuchsia sweater hung loose on her small frame, and a tie-died bandana covered her hair.
She gave Elizabeth a shy smile, revealing a missing front tooth. “I figured my cover was blown, so I may as well come up and meet you. And um.” The lady stopped, looked down at the floor, then back up again. “And ask where I can find a broom. I broke a vase.”
Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, but all she could do was nod. Who was this strange lady?
Elizabeth opened the door to the supply closet, and finally found the ability to speak. “Here’s a broom.” Elizabeth grabbed a broom and dust pan.
The lady held out a dirt covered hand. “Thanks. I can clean it up.”
Elizabeth started to hand over the broom, but then pulled it back. “No, that’s okay. I’ll do it.”
“I can’t let you do that.” The lady tilted her head, studying Elizabeth.
“I don’t mind.” Elizabeth walked toward the basement. “What’s your name?” She flipped a switch, and light flooded the basement. It was amazing how a little light could erase all lurking monsters.
“I’m Ann.” The lady answered.
“Well, nice to meet you Ann. If you don’t mind me asking, why were you in the basement?” Elizabeth held the broom in front of her, careful not let the dust covered bristles touch her jeans as she descended the steep basement stairs.
“I kinda live here.” Ann’s voice was low, unsure.
“Oh I see.” Elizabeth no longer heard footsteps behind her, so she turned to see Ann standing still, staring at her worn, hole-ridden tennis shoes. Elizabeth glanced at her own pristine tennis shoes and felt a pang of guilt. She’d begged her mom for them, even though they cost way too much.
Elizabeth found the broken vase and started sweeping. Compassion for the strange lady consumed her. A blanket was crumbled in the corner of the room. Was that her bed? How long had she been living down here?
“Are you going to tell on me?” Ann’s voice sounded almost child-like.
“Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. We’ll figure something out. Pastor John is coming by later, maybe he’ll—“
Ann interrupted, wringing her hands. “I was planning on moving on. Finding a new place…maybe an old warehouse. I’ll be out of your hair. Don’t worry.”
Elizabeth stopped sweeping, and looked into Ann’s deep, brown eyes. “God has something better for you than an old warehouse. Just stay put until Pastor John gets here and we’ll figure something out.”
Ann bent down, picked up the dust pan, and held it for Elizabeth to sweep in the broken shards of glass. “I don’t know why, but I feel that I can trust you.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Thanks, but Jesus is who you really need to trust.”
“I heard you singing earlier. I wanted to come up, so I could hear more about your Jesus.” Ann stood and dumped the glass in a trash can. “But I was too afraid. Then I thought, a girl that can sing that pretty must be okay.”
“Thank you. I was just playing around, pretending my mop was a microphone.” Elizabeth’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.
“Well, a mop ain’t no microphone, but it doesn’t matter. It really touched me, deep in here.” Ann tapped her chest. “Tell me more about this Jesus of yours.”
“I’d love to.” Elizabeth’s heart soared.
Elizabeth didn’t need Africa, or a packed concert hall. This was her mission field. Her town. Her church. This dark, dingy basement. They were all her very own mission field. And she decided then and there that she’d serve God in any way that she could.
And maybe one day she could trade her mop for a microphone, but not today. Today she had to clean a kitchen floor, and help find a home for Ann.