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"Do you think he'll make it?" asked Terry, his voice betraying a great deal of concern.

"I honestly don't know," sighed John. "But, from what I saw of him yesterday, it doesn't look very likely."

Terry was silent. He stared out the window thoughtfully. By the time they arrived back from the airport, it was nearing lunch. John took Terry's bags inside. Even though Terry had an apartment in Chaumont, he lived most of the time in the Johanneses' guest room-- a perpetually welcome and much loved member of the family.

Izumi went to prepare the noon meal, leaving Terry and Abby outside to talk.

"How's my little fishing buddy?" asked Terry, seeing that Abby still hadn't gotten over her father's lecture.

"Is there something wrong with me?" asked Abby, on the brink of frustration. "I'm trying to be compassionate, but Jake DID kill his father! I know Dad says it sounded like self defense, but how does Dad know? I mean, they don't put people in prison for simply defending themselves!"

"Abby, come here," said Terry, placing a caring hand on her shoulder. "I couldn't love you more if you were my own daughter-- I hope you know that. Aside from God sending us His only begotten Son, the greatest privilege of my life has been to be a part of your family. If I had never met your father when I was a boy, I might be the one living in the little yellow house right now-- fresh from prison, with not a living soul to call a friend. Jake must make it on the outside, or he'll be sent back to prison. He has to work toward a future, all the while fighting a past that must be very painful. Jake is going to need all the prayer and understanding that we can give him. If he is TRYING, and it sounds as though he is, then we should endeavor to have more compassion on him. It reminds me of a verse in Jude: 'And of some have compassion, making a difference.' Do you understand what I'm saying, Abby?"

"I think so," replied the young woman, her voice more subdued than before.

"That's my girl," said Terry, kissing the top of her head.

He went inside to unpack, leaving Abby to contemplate what he had just told her. The thought that her Uncle Terry could easily have been in Jake's position did help Abby relate to the newcomer-- even though she had yet to meet him. Though Abby felt a degree of guilt, she wasn't ready to throw out the welcome mat, just yet. To her, everyone seemed to be taking it for granted that Jake was a sincere Christian, and not someone who was just trying to get out of prison by making the claim. However, John and Terry had not spoken on deaf ears, for Abby was now willing to give Jake a chance to prove his character before passing judgment on his present integrity.

"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
~ Matthew 7:20 ~

After lunch, Abby went to her easel and resumed work on her painting.

"So, you're taking over the living room," remarked Terry, entering the room with a small ornately wrapped package in his hand. "Is this what you intend to do, instead of attending college?"

"You know I've always wanted to pursue art," reminded Abby, eyeing the package.

It was John and Terry's tradition to bring Abby a gift from abroad, and while she had quite outgrown the childish clamor associated with her "surprise," the expectation of a present upon a business trip homecoming was still there.

"You were more fun when you were little," sighed Terry, tossing her the parcel and sitting down on the couch. "I remember the days when the first thing out of your mouth was, 'What'd you get me?'"

"You don't have to get me anything, Uncle Terry. I'm a big girl now," laughed Abby, unwrapping the box. "The fact that you got home safely, is present enough!"

She opened the small box to find a delicate silver ring with a green, heart shaped stone, inset into the band.

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