“Good morning, Martha,” I called out to the girl as I passed her in the hallway.
“Good morning, Elizabeth,” my friend answered. “How are you?”
“Doing well. And you?”
“Just fine, although we’re quite busy finishing everything before Master’s return.”
“I know how you feel,” I answered her with a smile just before I turned the corner. Master Naaman had been away for a while now, fighting for the king. As soon as Mistress received word that he was returning, she had sent the household into a flurry with all the work she wanted us to do. I wasn’t spared the extra work, as I had to follow her around all day as she went from place to place, making sure everything was ready, or I was sent on errands for her. In fact, I was just now returning to her room after being sent to remind the housekeeper to make sure they prepared the right meat in the right way. I was glad it was lamb. I hated it when they ate an unclean animal, and I thanked God I was Mistress’s servant and therefore didn’t have to help with any food God had forbidden me to eat. Though four years had passed since I had been kidnapped, and I was now eleven, I continued to obey the commands God had given to Israel. It was hard to do what was right in a land surrounded by people participating in another religion, but I tried my hardest.
The rest of the morning was filled with extra hurrying, cleaning, arranging, and running as Mistress checked everything one last time. Finally, she seemed satisfied, and settled down to wait for her husband’s return.
I waited patiently, hidden, listening for the horns and hoof beats that always accompanied Master Naaman’s return. He would come riding back on a chariot behind a large, beautiful black horse. The men beside him would play their horns to announce to the entire town that he was back, and the people would flood the streets to welcome him. Then, he would come to the house and stride up to greet his wife, his cape swooshing behind him and his armor clinking with each step. After his servant helped him clean up, there was a great feast for him and his men that kept the servants busy quite late. I knew by now how the evening would go, Master had fought and returned victorious so many times. It always left me with a heavy heart, though. I hated seeing him succeed when I was trapped. My enemy was victorious while I was his servant, doomed to a life of serving him. By now I had lost almost all hope of returning home. I was to stay here forever, serving my enemy, watching him gain riches and honor.
But whether I liked it or not, it was true. So now I waited for the evening to unfold, dutifully standing as quietly as possible.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” Mistress called.
A woman hurried into the room. Frightened and shocked, she looked reluctant to answer Mistress’s “What is it?”
“Ma’am, a boy just came to the gate with a message for you.”
“Let him in,” Mistress said.
“Yes, ma’am.” The lady turned and waved her hand. A young boy, who looked to be about eight, hurried into the room. His face was red and I could tell he had been running. He kept twisting his coat with his fingers, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“What is it?” Mistress asked.
“I—I was in town, ma’am, when the commander of the army came riding through.”
“Yes?” Mistress asked sharply. I could tell she was becoming nervous. Why was the boy so upset?
“He—he told me to come to you and give you a message.”
“What is it?” Mistress stood up.
“He—that is—after his last battle—”
“What is it?” the boy cringed at Mistress’s sharp, commanding voice. He took a step back and whispered in a trembling voice, “The commander has leprosy.”
The house was in an uproar as the news spread faster than any fire. Within minutes, nearly everyone knew Master Naaman had the dreaded disease.
Martha, another Jewish servant named Rachel, and I whispered together as I waited a little distance from Mistress, who was standing white-faced at the front of the house. What was going to happen now? Where would Master go? “If he comes home,” Martha whispered urgently, “he’ll expose the rest of us to it. We could all get it and die.”
“But if he doesn’t come home, where will he go?” I asked.
“Can he even keep serving as the king’s commander?” Martha wondered. “He’ll never be healed.”
“Serves him right,” Rachel said bluntly. “He’s getting just what he deserved.”
“Justice is being served.” Martha looked, well, a bit glad. It seemed wrong, yet…wasn’t this just what Naaman deserved?
“And if he dies…” Rachel’s voice suddenly had a note of excitement. “If he dies, then…then we’re free.”
Martha looked at Rachel, a smile lighting up her face. “We could go home!”
I stared in wonder at the girls, the meaning of Rachel’s words slowly sinking in. “Home,” I whispered. “I could go home again. I could see my family again.” Suddenly, hope and joy sprang up within me like they hadn’t in years. My bondage would be done soon! I would be free!
Master didn’t come to the house. He simply stopped his horse on the road. His wife stood in the gardens and sent a boy back in forth between them, carrying their messages. Then Naaman rode away with his men. They were going somewhere else to wait a few days while they asked Moab’s gods for wisdom about what to do, as the king was also doing.
That night, while Mistress ate supper, I tried to process the day. My master had leprosy. I was going to be freed. I was going to go home! I was going to see my family again! My smile was bigger than it had been since I left home. “Thank you, God,” I whispered. “This must be God’s doing. Like Joseph, I am going to see my family again.”