Sarah calmed down a bit after her outburst, then she went on to explain how she had come to contact Mr. Hill. “Some time after that incident, I was reminded of our meeting and spoke with Manchu about it. Sure enough, he found Mr. Hill’s card and number still in his wallet. I called you, but could only get in a few words before our phone was strangely cut off.”
“Well, that solves that little mystery,” Mr. Hill said to Lilly. He laced his fingers together and looked satisfied. “So is the park still your place of meeting?”
“No. Not any more,” Manchu answered. “One of our congregants owns his own small restaurant and shop on the outskirts of town. We meet in the back of his building every Wednesday eve and Sunday morning. So far, so good.”
“Today’s Wednesday,” Lilly said coolly.
Manchu caught on. “Would you like to attend our service tonight?”
“Definitely,” Mr. Hill and Lilly said in unison.
Manchu was delighted. He scribbled down the directions on a sheet of paper and handed it to them. “Everyone’s to be there by 7:30. After that the doors are locked. But if you arrive later for whatever reason, just jiggle the door handles. Someone will come out and ask you for the password. It’s fish.”
Lilly quickly wrote fish on her arm with the blue marker she carried in her pocket.
“Mr. Hill,” Sarah began, “I just want to thank you and your daughter again for coming to see us. When I called you, I really wasn’t expecting a visit. I was only hoping you’d remember us and be willing to represent us from America if government officials continued to harass us and our congregants.”
“No matter,” Mr. Hill said with a wave of his hand. “Not only are we happy that we could make this trip, but I am thrilled to see you all again. Of course, I will do everything in my power to protect you from unjust attacks brought against you by anyone.”
After saying their farewells, Mr. Hill called Evan Sun to pick them up. Evan looked at them questioningly as they slid into their seats. “Everything go all right?” he asked.
“Quite well,” Mr. Hill replied. “Turns out some friends of mine may need my help.”
Sensing that he did not wish to elaborate, Evan switched the subject. “Is there any place else you wish for me to take you right now?”
“Yes, thank you,” Mr. Hill said. “I need to stop at a car rental and get a vehicle. Again, you have been very generous in offering to drive us around, but I don’t want to tie you up in case Lilly and I decide to do some sightseeing.”
After much protesting, Evan consented. Lilly helped Mr. Hill pick out a car. Afterwards, Mr. Hill and Lilly split ways with Evan Sun to do some gift shopping for Mrs. Hill, Marco, and their friends in the U.S. Lilly purchased an ornate music box for Mrs. Hill, a mirrored iPhone case for Adria, and a father-daughter robot paperweight for Mr. Hill, among other things. I already have a gift for Marco, she thought.
“Your mother is consistently baffled by how I am able to give gifts around Christmas time without going Christmas shopping,” Mr. Hill remarked as they exited the store. “I do all my holiday shopping January through October.” He chuckled good naturedly.
“Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me,” Lilly promised.
For a late lunch, Lilly and Mr. Hill stopped at a sushi bar. They discussed the plight of Christians in ‘foreign’ lands as they ate.
“I just don’t understand why some people feel the need to hurt those followers of Jesus and those who believe differently than they do,” Lilly sighed, pushing her tekka maki around in spicy soy sauce with a pair of chopsticks. “I mean they aren’t hurting anybody, and it’s only fair that Christians have the same freedom to believe what they want, in Who they want, and be able to share those beliefs with anybody they want. Of course, that ‘anybody’ has the freedom not to listen or accept their beliefs as his or her own. Another thing, why fight so hard against someone believing in God and His Son, when you don’t even believe they exist? It makes no sense to feel threatened by ‘fairy tales’ and ‘falsities’! Right, Dad? I mean, where’s the logic in that?” She threw her hands up, causing one of her chopsticks to back flip off her plate, bounce into the air, and prick her in the leg before falling on the tile floor. “Oww!” she exclaimed rubbing her thigh.
Mr. Hill retrieved the chopstick and handed it back to Lilly. “How I wish everyone saw things the way you do, Lilly,” Mr. Hill said. “Well, maybe not everything,” he quickly added, “or we’d all be dressed in pink, sipping cotton candy drinks—or something.”
Lilly narrowed her eyes.
Mr. Hill shuddered as if the very thought sent chills up his spine. “O.K., O.K. Maybe we wouldn’t all be doing that; perhaps something a bit more edifying,” he said before chuckling again. “Anyway, one thing’s for sure, I’d be out of a job if everyone saw things the way you and I do. Then there’d be no one to prosecute, make enemies with, roll in the mud with.” He whistled and shook his head solemnly. “The stuff of nightmares, my dear.”
“You mean the mud made up of suits, and thick books, and arm twisting? No, thank you.” Lilly wrinkled her nose. “I wonder, what would you be doing if you hadn’t decided to become a lawyer?”
“I have no idea, sweetie,” Mr. Hill replied. “I burnt my bridges. Didn’t formulate a plan B.”
It was Lilly’s turn to laugh.
“Oh, I know what you would be doing,” she said, a mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Let me hear it,” Mr. Hill said apprehensively.
“You would be doing gymnastics with me!”
Mr. Hill face-palmed trying to stop the thought from registering in his head. “Oh, no!” he groaned. “Please stop!”
Lilly refused to spare him. “Just listen,” she said breathlessly. “Daddy-daughter gymnastics is just like THE best idea ever! Am I right? I know I’m right!”
“No! No. Me in one of those shiny tight outfits…Never! This is much too painful.”
“I ought to shout it from the rooftops,” Lilly teased.
“In that case, I most definitely would have to gag you with one of these large napkins,” Mr. Hill said dangling one in front of her.
It took Lilly several minutes to recover from how hard she was laughing.
At last Mr. Hill continued, “Seriously though, it would be more than nice if every one sided with me and you on issues such as religious freedom. Some of the persecutors, especially those here in China, do not wish for other people to acknowledge the existence of God because they themselves desire to be worshiped. Whenever they hear the powerful name of Jesus being praised, they feel the need to stamp it out by means of violence. However, it is not wise for us to judge them. Let’s just pray for them along with the people who they are persecuting.”
“You’re right, Dad,” Lilly agreed finishing off her drink with one long sip. “That’s what I’ll do.”
Mr. Hill smiled.
By the time they returned to the Suns’ apartment, Lilly and Mr. Hill had about three hours to spare before they left for the Carrig’s church. Lilly decided to learn more about the reality of persecution using her phone as Emmy attempted to sketch a photo of her on her drawing pad. The “portrait” turned out to look more like a lioness or a wooly haired cyborg. Emmy called it “abstract,” but Echo called it zhengning, which translates in English to “hideous.” Other than an appreciative glance, Lilly didn’t comment for she was both startled and alarmed by what she was reading.
“Lilly,” Mr. Hill said entering the living room. “We’ve got thirty minutes till. Ready to go?” He tapped his watch.
“Just need my shoes,” Lilly answered jumping up from her upside-down position on the couch.
“Where are you going in such a hurry?” Emmy asked.
“Hold on,” Lilly said. She followed Mr. Hill into the hallway before asking, “Is it alright if I invite the Suns to church with us?”
Mr. Hill was unsure. “I don’t know, Lilly,” he answered running his fingers through his dark silky hair. “They might be hostile to Christianity, for all we know. Perhaps it is not wise for us to push it on them so soon.”
“But they aren’t,” Lilly said. “Emmy told me they all believe in God.”
“Wonderful! In that case, I don’t see why not. Tell them to hurry though.”