Joy in Joppa

by Deanna Barnes based on Acts 9:36-42

Ana tiptoed upstairs and pressed her ear to the closed door. She heard Peter praying for Aunt Tabitha. The neighbors waited downstairs, sobbing and chattering. Tears poured down Ana’s face.

Just a few weeks earlier, before Aunt Tabitha became sick, she had taught Ana to sew.

“OK, Ana, push the needle into the fabric here.”

At 7 years old, Ana struggled to stitch through the soft, thick wool for a child’s blanket.

“You’re doing a great job.” Aunt Tabitha patted her shoulder.

A breeze blew though the window, ruffling Ana’s dark hair. Outside she saw sparkles of sun on the nearby sea. It was late spring in Joppa. Children squealed and played, but Ana and Aunt Tabitha kept sewing for a poor family in town.

“It’s such hard work,” Ana said. She yanked at her needle as it stuck in the fabric. “I’d rather be playing at the beach.”

“We will have a play day soon,” Aunt Tabitha said. “Today we have important work to do. It is God’s work.”

“God’s work?” Ana asked.

“Yes, the Scriptures remind us to care for the poor.”

“Oh, I remember,” Ana said. “But no one pays you for your hard work, Aunt Tabitha.”

“No, I don’t receive money, but God rewards me.”

“How?” Ana asked.

“When I give clothes to needy families and see their grateful smiles, it makes me feel like skipping and laughing. And when I go to heaven, God will smile at me. That will be the best reward of all.”

Once again, the sea breeze blew through the window. Ana’s toes itched to be in the warm sand. With a sigh, she took another stitch.

Aunt Tabitha coughed. “I’m so tired today.” She shook with another harsh cough. “I’ve never had such a heavy feeling in my chest before.”

Over the next few weeks, Aunt Tabitha grew weaker every day. She had to stay upstairs on her sleeping mat, but she still tried to sew for the poor.

One day, Ana found Aunt Tabitha slumped over her sewing.

“Help! Help!” Ana screamed.

Neighbors ran in, crowding around Aunt Tabitha.

“Oh, no! No! No!” one woman cried. “She’s dead.”

Ana trembled. Voices spun around her.

“She’s been working too hard,” said the man from next door.

“Oh, our dear Tabitha,” Mrs. Tobias sobbed. “Hurry! Send someone for Peter! He’s preaching in Lydda."

“But that’s 11 miles away. It will take a long time for him to walk here.”

“What else can we do?”

Through the afternoon, moans and wails drifted through the house. Ana shivered. She tried to sew, but she could only make a few stitches.

Hours later, Peter rushed in and hurried upstairs. With tears pouring down their faces, several widows showed Peter the garments Tabitha had sewn for them.

“Please help our friend,” they begged Peter.

“I will ask God to help her,” Peter said. Then he sent them all downstairs.

The adults did not see Ana creep back upstairs to hear Peter pray. After a while, she tiptoed back down.

“Jesus,” she whispered, “please heal Aunt Tabitha.” A door opened upstairs.

“Come and see!” Peter called. “She’s alive!”

Footsteps made Ana look up. Aunt Tabitha walked down the stairs with a smile. Her skin was not pale. She was not coughing.

Women squealed and men shouted with joy, “Praise be to God!”

Ana jumped up and down. “Aunt Tabitha! Aunt Tabitha!” Ana ran into her aunt’s welcoming arms.

Word spread quickly through the streets of Joppa. “Our dear Tabitha was dead, but now she’s alive! God healed her.”

When the people heard how God had helped their friend Tabitha, many of them believed in the Lord.

Now Ana understood why Aunt Tabitha did God’s work. I will serve Him, too, she thought. Just like Aunt Tabitha.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Copyright © 2009 Deanna Barnes. Used by permission. Illustration © Valerie Sokolova.