Before the sun rose Father Edmund walked down to the lake. He said good morning to the statue of Goddess Purana, just as he had for nearly thirty-five years. He kneeled before her and then he said goodbye. He was going home next week ... he wished he wasn’t.
Home was here. He would be a stranger to everyone in Dresden when he got home.
His heart was here on the island of Batur, the place he came to as a young missionary Priest from Dresden. The natives didn’t need a Priest and hadn’t asked for one, but they were glad to see him. They enjoyed his Bible stories and in turn they told him tales from the legends of their own past; about how the island came to be – how it was nearly destroyed by the fire devil who lived in the mountain and how they were saved from fire and ash by the kiss of the goddess Purana.
Father Edmund cared for the sick, and when he was sick, they cared for him. The natives helped him build a small church with a steeple and a cross on top for him to live in. Every Sunday he held Mass for the natives in the little church and read the Judeo-Christian stories of Moses and Jonah and David. Sunday was known as story day and his tiny church was known as the story house.
As the years passed, Father Edmund lost track of the days. Sometimes he didn’t hold Mass on Sunday – Sunday was so much like every other day. But he tried his best to remember. If it rained, he would wait and hold Mass on the next sunny day. He even missed one or two Easters and Christmas times because they coincided with the dates of those decreed by the Goddess Purana.
...and now this morning he knelt by the side of the Goddess Purana. There were times he had to admit she listened to him with more understanding than the God he was taught to love and fear many years ago. She was a benevolent Goddess who appeared to the people of Batur centuries ago after the island was consumed by fire and ash. The island was desolate, and without water the people would die. The Goddess came down from the mountain top, and here at this very spot she knelt and kissed the earth. From her kiss sprang a fountain of cold clear water – it became a pond – it grew to a lake and from the far end of the lake a river flowed out to nourish the land back to health again.
The Goddess Purana was their savior and the people of Batur worshipped her as faithfully as Father Edmund and his people had worshipped their Savior in Dresden when he was young. He could not hope to convert these people to his faith. There were no gods in his faith so meaningful to them as the gods in their own.
And now ... that he was going home he wondered if he was leaving his greater faith behind him.