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Authors: Merrillee Whren

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BOOK: Hometown Promise
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“And Hebrews 3:13. ‘But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’”

Lukas closed his Bible. “When I moved to Kellerville you welcomed me, but I was afraid to let you know about my alcoholism. That was a mistake. I realize now that you need to know my problem so you can help carry my burden. And I want to help others like a dear friend helped me by showing me God’s grace and mercy. I thank God every day for him.

“My fight is a daily one. Please pray for me. I can’t do this by myself. I need God’s strength and your encouragement. Knowing that you are praying will help me. I also want you to hold me accountable. I don’t want to return to my old way of life. Recently, I almost slipped, but God gave me a way out of the temptation as He has promised. And please pray for this ministry and Melanie’s.”

As the elders prayed for Lukas’s ministry, Juliane felt as though a large stone sat on her chest, pressing all the air out of her lungs. After all her accusations, Lukas had shown more bravery than she’d ever possessed by openly acknowledging his problems and asking for help—the very things she had been unwilling to do. His example humbled her.

She’d hurt Lukas. Could he ever forgive her? She had to ask for his forgiveness and hope that he’d give her another chance. As the prayer ended, Juliane’s heart raced as her parents walked hand in hand down the aisle and up to the stage where Lukas stood.

Ray shook Lukas’s hand, then stepped to the pulpit. “My name is Ray, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Tears blurred Juliane’s vision as her father looked over the congregation. After all these years, her father had finally gotten help, no thanks to her. Now, because of Lukas, her dad would have a support group, and others in the community could find help here, too. She grabbed a tissue from her purse and wiped her eyes and nose. When her dad started to speak, a lump rose in her throat.

Ray gripped the edges of the pulpit. “I thank God today that this young man had the courage to tell me that I needed help. As you’ve learned, he knows from experience what it’s like to have an addiction. I believe God brought him here as the answer to a lot of prayers. I’ve learned that even though people were timid about telling me what I needed, they were praying for me.”

Juliane thought about her dad’s statement. She’d been praying for years that her father would quit drinking forever. Was Lukas part of the answer to those prayers?

As her dad finished speaking, she met Lukas’s gaze. When he didn’t look away, her heart filled with hope. Maybe he would give her another chance at love.

After the closing prayer, many in the congregation greeted Melanie, Lukas and Ray. Despite the positive indicator she’d read in Lukas’s look, Juliane wasn’t sure how to respond. But she gathered her courage as she made her way through the crowd to see her dad, knowing it might mean talking with Lukas, as well.

When she reached her dad, she went into his arms, and he held her tight. “Daddy, I’m so proud of you and happy for you.”

“Thanks for your prayers, Jules.”

As her dad released her, she blinked back more tears. Her heart swelled with love.

Elise pulled Juliane aside. “Now I understand what you’ve been going through. How are you feeling about it today?”

“I’m going to talk to him. I’m praying he’ll agree to a new start.” Juliane glanced at Lukas, who still had a crowd around him, including Ferd. “Looks like I’m going to have to wait my turn.”

“You go get ’im.” Elise gave Juliane a quick hug. “I’ll go ahead with Mom and Dad to the restaurant. I’ll be praying, too.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you in a little bit.”

Standing off to the side, Juliane wished the crowd would disperse, but several folks lingered as they continued to talk to Lukas. Finally, she decided to go to the parking lot to wait by his car.

As she left the building, the April sunshine put cheer in her heart. Daffodils in the church flower beds trumpeted the arrival of spring—a promise of new beginnings. Everything around her conveyed optimism.

Could she have a new beginning with Lukas?

Every time someone came out the side door that led to the parking lot, Juliane’s stomach churned. Each time that person wasn’t Lukas, her heart sank. She mentally rehearsed her speech while anticipation jumbled her insides, making her apprehensive. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. The fresh spring air had a calming effect until she opened her eyes and saw Lukas striding toward her.

Her breath caught in her throat as her pulse throbbed. She felt as though her heart were beating on the outside of her chest. Everything she’d rehearsed escaped her mind. She swallowed hard, but her tongue wouldn’t work.

Lukas smiled, but she still couldn’t speak.

“Are you okay?” Jingling his keys in his pocket, he stopped beside her. “You look a little peaked.”

Scared silly was more like it, not for the old reason but scared that he’ll say no.
She took another deep breath. “I’m fine, but I’d be a whole lot finer if you’d forgive me for the way I acted about my dad and let me start over with you. I was totally wrong, and you were so right and so brave about my dad. And I’m so proud of you and your ministry. And I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.”

He didn’t say anything, just stared at her while she fought against threatening tears. Dying inside, she started to turn away.

Lukas gently took her arm. “In that big long speech you forgot to say one thing.”

Turning back, she swallowed a big lump in her throat. “What?”

“I still love you.” He pulled her into his arms. “I still love you, Juliane, and I forgive you. Do you still love me?”

She held him tight. “I still love you, too, and I never want to let you go.”

He laughed. “I hope you let me go long enough for us to join your dad’s celebration.”

Relief washing over her, Juliane released her hold and laced her hands behind his neck. She gazed up at him. “I love you, Lukas. I never stopped loving you, but I had some lessons to learn. So does this mean you’re willing to start over?”

“You’re sure that’s what you want? You’re willing to put up with me and my faults?”

“As long as you’re willing to put up with mine.”

“We can try to understand each other, but let’s
not
start over—”

“But I thought you said—”

He put a finger to her lips. “Let me finish. I don’t want to go all the way back. Let’s start from here and go forward.”

“I like your plan.”

“One more thing before we go.” Lukas leaned over and brushed his lips against hers.

Juliane pulled him closer and kissed him back, her heart believing in a promise for the future.

Dear Reader,

Hometown Promise
is the first book in a three-book series set in my imaginary town of Kellerville, Ohio. The area of Ohio in and around Cincinnati is special to me because I met my husband in Cincinnati. We were married in Madeira and had our reception in Loveland. Could that be the reason we’ve been married for over thirty years? Our two daughters were born while we lived in this area. So I decided that my story should have two sisters, Juliane and Elise Keller. Although these sisters aren’t based on my daughters and have little resemblance to them, I wanted to explore Juliane and Elise’s relationship in light of the story of the prodigal son that we read about in Luke 15.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Juliane and Lukas. Their story shows us how we can rely on God to help us with the family dynamics that can impact our lives.

I love to hear from readers. I enjoy your letters and e-mails so much. You can write to me at P.O. Box 16461, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32035, or through my Web site: www.merrilleewhren.com.

May God bless you,

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
  1. At the beginning of the story Juliane has an unfavorable view of Lukas. Why? Do you think her view is justified? Do you think she handled the situation correctly? How would you have handled it?
  2. Lukas is worried about how he will be accepted in this new town. He worries that people will find out about his past. Do you think this is a legitimate fear? How would you feel if you were in his situation?
  3. Juliane is concerned about her sister’s return. Why? Compare what happens between Juliane and Elise and the story of the prodigal son found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke.
  4. What problem does Juliane’s father have? How does she deal with it? Do you think she did the right thing? Why or why not?
  5. What incident first gives Juliane a different view of Lukas? Why do you think this changed her mind about him? Have you ever known someone who did something that changes your opinion about them for better or worse? Explain.
  6. Juliane and Elise discover that they are envious of each other. Why do you think people look at others with envy? Have you or someone you know ever had this problem? How can this problem be handled?
  7. Lukas began drinking to fit in. Have you or someone you know ever done anything to fit in but found that it ultimately didn’t help and may have hurt? Explain.
  8. Lukas was glad to move to Kellerville, in part to be near his grandfather because he is dealing with numerous health issues. Do you or someone you know have an elderly relative who has health issues? How have you been able to help with these problems?
  9. Juliane has difficulty dealing with the envious thoughts she has regarding her sister. How do the following scriptures from Romans 12:9–10, Romans 13:8–9, James 3:13–18 and 1 John 4:19–21 relate to her problem?
  10. During the blizzard, Juliane’s parents lose electrical power. Have you ever been in a storm that caused the loss of electrical power or some other problem? What kind of storm was it? How did you deal with the problems? Did you pray? If so, how did the prayers help?
  11. When Tim Drake dies suddenly, Lukas is deeply affected. How does this complicate his life? Has someone close to you died unexpectedly? If so, how did this affect your life? How did you deal with it?
  12. After Lukas nearly succumbs to the temptation to have a drink, he realizes how God made a way of escape from the temptation. What temptations do you find most troublesome? Have you found God making a way of escape for you? Explain.
  13. Melanie and Lukas start ministries to help people in their church and community. How are they especially suited for the ministries they started? What kind of gifts do you have that lend themselves to a ministry? Why does sharing our problems with others help us? How is this a Biblical principle?
  14. When Lukas discovers Ray’s drinking problem, what does he realize about Juliane? Why does Lukas feel anger? Do you think he handled the situation correctly? How do you view Juliane’s reaction? Have you ever had a secret that you couldn’t share? Explain.
  15. What finally makes Juliane realize she has been wrong about the way she has been handling her relationship with Lukas and her father? Have you or someone you know ever found you have been wrong about the way you have dealt with a problem? Explain.

ISBN: 978-1-4268-4865-0

HOMETOWN PROMISE

Copyright © 2010 by Merrillee Whren

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the editorial office, Steeple Hill Books, 233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279 U.S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This edition published by arrangement with Steeple Hill Books.

® and TM are trademarks of Steeple Hill Books, used under license. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries.

www.SteepleHill.com

BOOK: Hometown Promise
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