It was the year eighteen hundred and twenty near the Jeseniky Mountains in (what will be called) Czech Republic. Twelve-year-old William was walking his cow from one pasture to another. As usual, he was anxious to get her securely closed in, but as usual, she didn’t want to cooperate. William chose the route that would take him closest to his secret path up the mountain. Only deer and other forest animals used this path because it was very steep, but William liked it and claimed it as his own. At the top, he had a view of his entire village. Since the cow had settled on a patch of grass and refused to pick her head up, William had to be patient.
The quicker he could get to his mountain top, the better. From a fallen tree, he had made a bench. Many hours he had spent there daydreaming about his world travels. But they were just his secret dreams. Being poor farmers, his parents thought the best future for their son was in a herd of cattle and field of flax.
William had sat on that bench and watched the smoke rising from the chimneys last fall. Being alone didn’t stop him from talking. He chatted with God, as his father had taught him. He chatted with God about his desire to travel, but he knew that whatever God had prepared, he’d be satisfied.
The stubborn cow finally picked her head up and walked a few more steps. Now they were at the edge of the steep incline. He found a willow branch strong enough to hold her and tied her to it. Just in time, too, because she put her head down to sample the grass.
William climbed up the hill as fast as his legs could carry him. He had a special meeting. He was expecting his best friend Rudolf. Although the boys had been best friends since they were little kids, they could only meet in secret, since Rudolf was the son of Mr. Peroutka. Land owners simply wouldn’t tolerate their sons to be friends with the likes of poor farmers such as William’s family. Didn’t matter, strong friendships could overcome all obstacles.
William clawed his way the last few meters to the bench. Rudolf was there waiting, legs stretched out in front of him, and a smoldering pipe in his hand. “Check this out,” he held the pipe out for William to get a good look.
Still out of breath from his uphill sprint, William’s first thought was about getting air. The pipe was awesome but terribly expensive looking. “Where’d you get that?” he asked. “Is that real tobacco in there?” He went over to the bench and sat down beside Rudolf.
“You gotta learn to live,” said Rudolf. “Yesterday, my father met up with a trader from Brno and bought all kinds of things from him. Things you’ve never even seen before. Just take a look at these shoes.” Rudolf coughed up smoke and slung one leg closer to William, twisting his foot from side to side.
The bottoms were covered with dirt and mud, but the sides just had splashes from a puddle or something. But still, shoes were shoes and William wanted no part of it. He walked everywhere barefooted. Well, except for church. He had to wear shoes to church. They were hand-me-downs from his cousin, and he probably got them from somebody else. “I hate shoes,” grunted William. “They separate me from the ground, and I just don’t like that.”
Rudolf smirked and drew on his pipe like he was somebody important. Smoke blew straight up, like from a chimney when using wet wood. “You know William? You get used to whatever you’re allowed. If your parents bought you new shoes, you’d love ‚em.”
William stared down at his feet. Then a side glance at his friend. Rudolf’s fingers danced merrily around the pipe. William wasn’t jealous, in fact, he was grateful…after all, he still didn’t have to wear the shoes.
William stared down at his feet and thought about what his friend said. He couldn’t begrudge Rudolf, especially as his fingers danced merrily around his pipe. Rudolf was happy for what he had and William didn’t envy his friend’s shoes not one little bit. “Do you think people in heaven wear shoes?” asked William.
Although Rudolf went with his family to church, he wasn’t interested. He even managed to fall asleep during the sermon, more than a few times. He rolled his eyes. “You’re always going on and on about heaven and God.” Rudolf took a deep breath to get serious. “I think that in heaven there won’t be shoes, or tobacco, or….or even people.”
William’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
Rudolf looked down into his pipe, to see the ash and, following his dad’s example, tapped the bowl out onto the bench. “I think it’s possibly a farce, made up by a bunch of confused people. I mean, look at the poor people who pay their hard-earned money every week. They’re crazy! How does it even get to God, anyway?”
William knew that Ruldolf didn’t mean anything bad by what he was saying, but this had him baffled. It was okay for Ruldolf to be swayed to a different opinion, but he couldn’t believe Rudolf would dare question God’s word. William was starting to get angry, so he asked, “You mean everything the pastor preaches about, he just made it all up?”
Rudolf shrugged a shoulder. “Well, God is kinda old. How is it possible that a book that He wrote is still around in this modern time?”
Now was William’s turn. “I don’t think God wrote the Bible, exactly. I’m not sure about how it works, but I think he told people what to write. Besides, how do you explain the beauty of nature all around us? It’s all evidence of God’s creation. It’s all in the Bible. You should believe it.”
Rudolf said nothing for a short while. Almost like he was having a conversation with himself. Every so often, he’d nod his head, like he was agreeing with himself. “I know that God created everything,” he said, “but about what Father John said today? That if you have faith, you can tell a mountain to jump into the sea and it will? That’s nonsense! Have you ever heard of a mountain disappearing just because somebody had faith?”
William stood firm. “Not exactly, but I believe it’s possible. And why couldn’t it happen?”
Rudolf laughed. Then he jumped up like he got shot. “Hey…I have to get home before my dad finds out I borrowed his pipe.” He turned towards the hill side. He stopped just long enough to yell over his shoulder. “So, tell this mountain to disappear and we’ll see what happens.” He laughed and ran down into the tree line.
“Fine.” William puffed out his chest and yelled. “Mountain, I command you to scatter throughout the country, in the name of Jesus!” Then he slid sideways back down the mountain to find his cow.
Fifty years later, William and Rudolf were still good friends. On his own, Rudolf became a wealthy man and his herd of cows grazed numerous acres of meadows around the village. William, living in a cottage left to him by his parents, became a priest and devoted his life to the church.
William’s dream of traveling the world had faded with time and his new vision was to build a new church. After his old wooden church had been completely destroyed by fire, William preached as though his world had collapsed with the building. But, slowly a faith that had lived within him since childhood started to come alive again. A new dream started to emerge and settle in his heart. Now he just needed to organize a plan and stir up his people.
Just a few short years later, the power of his belief was proven in the majestic church which towered over all the roofs of all the neighboring houses. Even though William had no worldly possessions of his own, at least nothing worth anything, he lived for the Lord and was deeply enjoying every moment of his life. Pure joy is priceless. And William had found it.
One day, while William was preaching to his congregation, a boy ran into the church shouting, “Father, Father William, come quick! Mr. Rudolf sends for you. He says he’s dying.”
William stopped mid-sentence and didn’t even bother finishing it. He made apologies while running down the aisle to the double-doors at the back. He ran all the way to Rudolf’s house. Rudolf was in bed, gasping for breath and moaning. He was wrapped in blankets but the look on the doctor‘s face said all hope was lost.
When William walked over to the bed, Rudolf grabbed his sleeve and pulled him closer. “If God exists,” he wheezed, “then I’ll tell Him ‘hi‘ for you.“ Then Rudolf attempted to grin.
It wasn’t too funny to William. He knew that his friend hadn’t accepted Jesus, so he began to pray.
Rudolf nudged him. “It’s not worth it, my friend. That mountain didn’t go anywhere.” Then Rudolf breathed his last. His glassy eyes were fixed on William.
The year is 2017 and the mountain on which the two friends had once sat is long gone. They didn’t know that under their bench were huge deposits of limestone. More than 150 years of mining has literally sprayed that mountain across the country. There is no sign of Rudolf’s wealth. His farms and pastures have been divided up and sold off. William had commanded the mountain to spread throughout the country, and it did. Sadly, he didn’t see it because he didn’t put a time frame on it. William’s church…and the mountain that is only a face of limestone…they are there to remind us today that God’s word is true.