By JD Rockel
Friday, June 12, 2026
Rosa and John were spending time at their favorite burger and ice cream place. School was over for the summer and John was packed to leave for Chicago in the morning. Rosa was very quiet. The thought of John leaving for a week was troubling her.
“I can tell you’re troubled, Rosa. Is there anything other than my leaving tomorrow that’s going on?”
Rosa was mindlessly dipping a french fry in catchup. She looked up and out the window next to their booth. Rosa always looked forward to summers. The past week, she and John spent a lot of time at Homestead Hollow Park. Everything was green after the long winter. And flowers were blooming all around the neighborhood homes. She didn’t want the joy of her first summer with John to be interrupted by anything.
“No, John. I’m glad we took time to talk and pray about this trip. I believe God is calling you there. But my human heart is scared for you. For us. I don’t think I’m ready for anything bad to happen. All the Bible verses we read over the past week have helped a lot, but I’m like the father of the demon-possessed boy. Lord, I believe; help me with my unbelief.”
“No shame in that. I admire your honesty. And frankly, the unknowns keep me up at night a bit.”
John reached over and took Rosa’s hand in his. “Let’s both try to trust God more than we trust the world. God has shown his power in Ella and Jerry’s lives. Let’s be expectant that he will do the same in our lives. Besides, God knows I need to return unharmed so I can get to work on my basketball training. I must be ready when the college scouts come around next year.”
“I wish I understood your deep desire to play college basketball better. Maybe I can watch what you do to train this summer. I haven’t seen you all sweaty yet.”
“I will call you at the end of each day. They said in the orientation that we will have time each night to reflect on the day, write in our journals, and call home. I would miss hearing your voice if I couldn’t call.”
“Aww, that’s sweet. I’ll be fine, John. Have a wonderful time on your adventure. I look forward to your return next Saturday.”
Friday, June 19, 2026
John kept his word. Each night Rosa received his call at about 9:00. He always had some new and exciting events to tell her about. Mostly, his team spent the day just as he had expected from the orientation. Most of the time was spent helping refurbish churches in the community. There was also a shelter that served meals during the day and provided beds at night. They needed new beds set up in a room that had been recently painted.
Rosa was grateful God was caring for John. Her enjoyment of the early summer weather wasn’t clouded by any unpleasant news. John would share his day and Rosa would share hers. She was glad to be working at the Cucina. It was a welcome diversion. Rosa arranged to be on break when the calls arrived.
Last night, John called as usual. “It’s amazing to see what God is doing here, Rosa. The people in the community have all been very friendly and we have been well-received. I will remember this week for a long time.”
“It’s so exciting to hear the answers to my prayers for you and your team is week. I’m so glad that everything has gone as you expected.”
“Even better than expected. I was able to play basketball with a group of guys today. There’s a schoolyard with hoops and three of us from the ministry team asked if we could join in. It was quite the challenge.”
“That’s awesome, John. So, you are going to call tomorrow night once you’re packed for the morning, right?”
“Of course. Nine o’clock sharp. I can’t wait to be back home and talk face-to-face with my love. I miss you, Rosa.”
“And I miss you. Kissy, kissy. I love you.”
Rosa replayed the calls from the week repeatedly in her head as she dressed for work. Some days she was surprised at how much John meant to her. It’s not like they were married and living together. During school, there were days she wouldn’t see him at all. But this was very different. He seemed so far away.
Working at the Cucina was going well. She learned the routine quickly and was able to try a couple of different positions. She had shadowed the wait staff, helped seat patrons, and even took food to a couple of tables. Tonight, she would go solo on waiting tables. She wasn’t too concerned. All was going well.
Renata dropped her off at four. She was scheduled to work until one. Walking in the back door to the kitchen, she clocked in and then went to search for Stephanie. Rosa found her at the front door podium.
“Hello, Stephanie. How’s business tonight?”
“Hi, Rosa. A bit light so far, but it should pick up. So, you are going solo on tables tonight. Right?”
“That’s the plan. I feel like I’m ready.”
“No worries if you need help. We are all here for you.”
“One thing, Stephanie. This will be the last night I need my break at 9:00. It’s John’s last night in Chicago. He’s coming home tomorrow. Yay!”
“I’m so happy for you. Has it gone well for him?”
“Oh, yes. The time has been a true blessing for him. I will be so glad when he’s home, though. I miss him.”
“I understand. Separation makes the heart grow fonder, they say. I’ll make sure you are covered at 9:00.”
“Thanks, Stephanie. I appreciate the environment here and everyone’s care. Time to get to work.”
They both chuckled as Rosa left the seating podium. Thank you for this wonderful job, Lord. And thank you for the protection you have given John. I can’t wait to hear all his stories in person.
The evening went well. Rosa had kept up with her orders and didn’t even come close to dropping anything. She checked her watch again. It was only 7:30. Another hour and a half before John would call.
She finished her rounds and stopped in the kitchen to have a quick drink of iced tea. Stephanie came up to her from behind and touched her shoulder.
Rosa turned around. Stephanie looked concerned. “Hi, Stephanie. Is everything OK? You look as though somethings wrong.”
“Rosa, your mom is coming to take you home. I don’t have any details, but she said Harold Weston was driving to your house.”
“Mr. Weston? That’s John’s dad. What did mom say was going on?”
“I’m sorry but that’s all I know. She just said it was very important for you to come home.”
Rosa was speechless. Eyes wide and jaw slack, her mind raced. Scenarios began to flash through her mind. Jerry, Ella, John.
“Rosa, I will be praying for both of your families. I have already reassigned your tables and clocked you out. Your mom will pick you up at the kitchen door.”
Rosa still couldn’t respond. She mindlessly put her tea in a busing tray and walked outside to wait. The night seemed cold though it was warm when she arrived. There was no need to look up into the night sky, there couldn’t possibly be stars there at a time like this. While it didn’t take long for Renata to arrive, Rosa had no sense of time. Everything happened in a timeless now.
Rosa opened the door and got into the car next to her mom. She closed the door and reached for the seat belt. “What’s going on Mom? I’m scared. Who’s hurt?”
Renata put the car into drive and took off. “John’s been hurt, Rosa, but I don’t know any details.”
“What do you mean? How can you not know? What did Mr. Weston say?”
“Harold called your dad. He only said that he got a phone call that John was hurt. Dad said he was very emotional and couldn’t complete a sentence. Dad insisted that Harold come over so we could help him. As soon as he got off the phone, he told me to get in the car and bring you home.”
Tears streamed down Rosa’s face. She did her best to speak clearly. “That’s all you know, Mom? You don’t know how badly he’s hurt?”
“No, I don’t, dear. We will both have to hear from Harold once we get home.”
Rosa continued her timeless daze as her mom drove. She had no idea where she was until they pulled into the driveway. Mr. Weston’s car was parked there as well. Rosa opened her door are ran to the house before Renata turned the engine off.
Once inside, she saw everyone standing together in the living room. Ella was hugging Jerry. Her head was on his shoulder, and she was shaking. Tony stood with his hand on Harold’s shoulder, talking to him quietly. Liam and the twins were sitting on a sofa looking lost.
When everyone realized Rosa had entered the house, all eyes turned to her. Ella let go of Jerry and rushed over to her sister.
“It’s John, right?” Rosa asked through her tears. “Tell me he’s all right.”
Tony walked over and gently held Rosa as Renata entered. With a slight quiver in his voice, he said, “John’s in the hospital in Chicago. He’s been shot.”