It's summer in Harmony, but not everything is as sunny as the weather. The good citizens of Harmony are back and stirring up trouble as usual, sometimes with disastrous results.
Pastor Sam Gardner must take a leave of absence from his post at Harmony Friends Meeting to take care of his ailing father.
But when spunky pastor Krista Riley comes to fill his position, the quirky Quakers seem to fall in love with her, and it begins to look like Sam's sabbatical may be permanent. Krista's resilience is put to the test when Dale Hinshaw and Fern Hampton begin to question whether a woman can faithfully lead their flock, and it looks like the resulting tiff might just be the undoing of Harmony Friends Meeting. Will Sam come to the rescue? Finding the answer to this question makes the trip back to Harmony worth turning every page.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister, writer, husband, and father. He is the bestselling author of Front Porch Tales, the acclaimed Harmony series, and is coauthor of If Grace Is True and If God Is Love. Gulley lives with his wife and two sons in Indiana, and is a frequent speaker at churches, colleges, and retreat centers across the country.
Read an Excerpt
Almost FriendsA Harmony Novel
By Philip Gulley
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Philip Gulley
All right reserved.
How It All Started
For a one-legged man, Brother Lester the Evangelist was remarkably nimble, pacing back and forth across the front of the meeting room, stopping occasionally to pick up his Bible and wave it in the air like a sword, as if he were decapitating the infidels.
"You could be hit by a truck on your way home tonight," he bellowed. "You could be lying in your bed just as pretty as you please, and the Lord could raise up a tornado and knock your house flat." He paused for a moment, letting those horrific visions sink in. "You could be ate up with cancer and not even know it. Gone in the blink of an eye." He snapped his fingers. The sound reverberated across the room like a gunshot, causing Miriam Hodge, seated in the fourth row, to flinch.
"And don't think for a moment that your pretty clothes and your fancy homes and your college educations and big bank accounts will help you on the Day of Judgment. No siree, bob."
Bob Miles, jolted from slumber by the mention of his name, looked wildly about as Brother Lester continued. "Now is the day of decision. Right now, while you're still able."
Pastor Sam Gardner sat behind the pulpit, gripping the armrests of his chair, his eyes closed, praying ferventlyfor Brother Lester to wind down. In lieu of that, he would settle for the meetinghouse to be flattened by a tornado; anything to bring Brother Lester's dreadful preachments to an end.
Sam's wife, Barbara, sat with their two sons in the fifth row, a glazed look on her face. This was the last night of the revival, and she'd begged to stay home. She'd only relented when Sam had reminded her that it was healing night, and Brother Lester had promised to make the lame walk and the blind see.
Regrettably, when a healing ser-vice is advertised in the newspaper, blind -people are left out of the loop. Brother Lester took a stab at healing Asa Peacock of his nearsightedness, but apparently Asa's heart wasn't in it, and he left the healing ser-vice still wearing his glasses. Brother Lester had modest success healing Bea Majors's bunion. She skipped up and down the aisle and pronounced herself cured, but -people had come expecting a more flamboyant miracle and were clearly disenchanted.
The revival concluded with a Sunday morning ser-vice. Brother Lester recounted the loss of his leg--a near escape involving cannibals in the heart of Africa. They'd gnawed his right calf down to the bone before he'd managed to get away. Gangrene had set in, and he'd lost his leg below his knee. His artificial leg was a bit short, causing him to list to the side.
Otherwise, Brother Lester was in fine form. He took a swipe at the Supreme Court, counseled the women to forsake pants, and said Hindus wouldn't be starving if they'd eat some of their cows. "The problem is, they think a cow might be their uncle in another life, and who wants to eat their uncle? Not me, that's for sure. So now they're starving, and their false religion is to blame."
Sam's head began to throb. What this had to do with the Chris-tian faith, he wasn't sure.
Brother Lester paused from his sermonizing and cocked his head, as if listening to a voice only he could hear. "The Lord wants to know how come this church has a Furnace Committee and a Chicken Noodle Committee, but doesn't have an Evangelism Committee."
Dale Hinshaw, who had invited Brother Lester to revive them over the objections of the church's elders, reddened, clearly embarrassed at being affiliated with such indifferent believers, and even though it was a rhetorical question, he blurted out from the front row, "Tell the Lord it's not my fault. I've been telling 'em for years we need an Evangelism Committee. I even offered to head it up myself."
Brother Lester turned to glare at Sam. "Woe to the church that's lost its heart for helping the lost."
Sam was genuinely fond of the lost. It was the folks who were found who taxed his patience. He sat in his chair, his head resting in his hands, willing Brother Lester's rant to come to an end. He prayed for a bolt of lightning to strike Brother Lester. It wouldn't kill him. A man with a wooden leg is safely grounded, after all, an overlooked benefit of amputation. And as long as the Lord was throwing down lightning bolts, maybe He could singe Dale's eyebrows. That would set the two men back a notch or two. Sam smiled at the thought.
Fortunately, after a few pointed warnings about the fast-approaching apocalypse, Brother Lester took his seat next to Sam. They sat in silence. Sam studied him with sideways glances. Brother Lester was dressed to the nines, sporting a gold ring big enough to gag a camel. He was the kind of guy who preached about the end times, then took up an offering, which he invested in twenty-year bonds.
Sam sat quietly, thinking of Brother Lester, trying not to resent him. This frantic, hyper man with his private demons driving him from one place to another. Sam felt blessed that his brokenness was not quite as visible, that he was able to hide his imperfections--his nagging fears of worthlessness--under a veneer of religious duty.
Sam heard a rustle of noise, then the clearing of a throat. He looked up just as Dale Hinshaw rose to his feet to speak in the Quaker silence.
"I want to thank Brother Lester for coming here all the way from the deep jungles of Africa to bring us the Word. I think the Lord's anointed him mightily. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this church needs an Evangelism Committee, and I'm volunteering right here and now to be in charge of it, even if I got to do all the work myself."
Excerpted from Almost Friends by Philip Gulley Copyright © 2006 by Philip Gulley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.