Early Access evangelism….

Vance was ridiculing Alice for her bold suggestion that she might have received divine wisdom for their situation; “Let me guess, something about seeking forgiveness and apologising to the family? Get real Alice. I don’t think they operate their business profits on forgiveness currency!” Alice was undeterred by his provocative remarks as she instructed him to follow her into the study room where Katrya’s PC was set up. Seeing the jar and the memory of her Dad had got her thinking, perhaps it was divine inspiration and perhaps it was her own memory, either way it was their only real option: Alice knew that it was possible to still gain remote access to the family’s accounting system. They may have discovered her but it was unlikely they had updated their Firewall, leaving the back door vulnerable to her hacking methods. She viewed the exact amount of money, that had been siphoned off the accounts, £301,982.76. Saying it aloud gave a heavy weight to the atmosphere around them. “Great job Alice if you were looking to depress us further. I can see exactly how that is going to help us with our current predicament,” scoffed Vance, his disdain for her ‘help’ igniting a further barrage of ridicule.

02-20-18_6-44-20 PM

Alice was undeterred, deeply focused on her task she was unbothered about Vance’s sarcasm, she’d remembered something that Vance had said to her years ago, when he was busy having one of his ranting-sessions about his latest endurance tests at Christian Summer Camp. She began tapping so furiously on the keys that it appeared she was prospecting for biscuit crumbs and cat hair – the eternal quandary as to how these things end up under the keys! Vance was not interested in what she was doing, he was busy tormenting himself wondering how things could get any worse. Alice commenced taking pictures with her new Samsung S8 phone of the ‘work’ she had been engaged in, she shuffled nervously back in her chair as she ‘hit’ the send button.

“Come on V, we’re going on a road trip, we need to find a safe access point that can’t be traced. I don’t want to risk doing it here,” Vance tried to protest but she pursuaded him of the opportunity for a Starbucks visit. As they descended the stairs she boldly announced; “Us nerds need a supply run”. Before grabbing the shiny black case of awesomeness, named Bogdana.  Alice had found this amusing as she was looking for a name online, she came across the Polish name.  It gave her visions of this burlesque woman, roaming the streets looking to sling cow-poo through the windows of unwitting students!

02-20-18_6-46-31 PM

“Alice I’ve known you for long enough to know that we aren’t heading out to purely satisfy our caffeine demands. What are evil schemes are you concoicting now?” Vance demanded, expecting to receive some insight into the true nature of this road trip. He had been suffering from a bad headache all day and was in no mood for Alice’s retail therapy.” You need to just trust me V, I’m working on something that will see your Dad safe. All of your family. Except maybe your Mum, she can get her own ‘fixer’, I’m sure,” Alice furrowed her eyebrows, allowing herself a brief moment of doubt before nodding to assure herself. She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her feet on the dashboard as they drove toward the motorway in search of a coffee establishment.

Vance stretched like a skulking Lion in his seat, having collected his hot beverage that sounded like it had undergone the same preparations as a steam engine. He tried to make shapes with the cappuccino’s froth but it merely ended up looking like something from the Necronomicon rather than the latte art he’d seen online. Alice fired up her laptop, refusing to make eye contact with Vance as she tried to stir her drink into sleepy submission. “So, the thing that I need to tell you,” Alice sniffed, “you need to look at this first so I can explain.” Her laptop was showing some information about a statement of account with a Bitcoin balance that could be traded-in.  What was a Bitcoin? “Those bottles that I mentioned to you, it reminded me of the things I did with my Dad before he died. We’d been arguing about Preppers and a zombie apocalypse, what we would do if it happened. The currency we use now would become redundant, Vance, so we decided to invest some money as a sort of bet. Dad thought you’d potential prosper more with smelted metals but I had found these,” Alice explained, nonchalantly. She turned the laptop to face him, showing the account balance. Vance challenged the cappuccino maker to a ‘steam-off’ with his high-pitched scream; “Alice there’s over three hundred and fifty grand in here. How did you even know the password details from all that time ago?” Alice sighed with an aggrieved look as she explained; “You take the piddle all the time, but I told you I had been given an idea from Jesus, I saw it in one of the bottles, a memory of the login details I always used with my Dad.” Vance merely rolled his eyes backward, not allowing himself to take this epiphany seriously.

02-20-18_7-09-30 PM

“Look, Vance, if you trade this in, it will be enough to set your Dad, Katrya and Anichka up for a few more years.” She continued typing in a focused manner as tears began to form in her eyes. He didn’t dare question what she was doing, Alice explaining it to him had resulted in a two day headache last time. What he could determine was that she was releasing a virus into the system, corrupting it and the information belonging to the family was starting to fragment. “You aswell, potentially,” Alice continued, “It was the only way V, I’m so sorry but I have to let me do this and you have to let me.” Alice sniffed as the tears cascaded down her face like a rejected X-Factor participant. Vance looked all-shades of confused as he solemnly said; “Fuzzygal what have you done?” Alice positioned herself for a closing statement; “You’ve always been there for me, your family saved me and treated me as one of their own and for that I am so grateful. I’m not scared anymore though Vance, I don’t need protection and I’m not scared of the family, of going to jail, of any of it. I’ll text you the logins, just do me a favour and get me a good lawyer, please. I’m going to need one”.
The coke-can fell to the bottom of the vending machine as Vance processed what she was saying. She’d destroyed the evidence of the family accounts and passed it on to the Police. She was handing herself in. Alice was going to be the scapegoat, she was going to sacrifice herself. He tried to grab her arm, pleading with her to reconsider as she walked away but he knew it was no good, he knew they hadn’t come up with a better plan and were rapidly running out of time. Vance had never before seen this level of valor or self-sacrifice and he made himself angry to fight back tears as he jeered; “You won’t get any anime there, ya’ nerd. I’ll have to send you the manga of Tokyo Ghoul finale instead. You better read it!” Alice nodded, waving herself away from the situation. Vance knew he had to let her go, he knew Katrya, Anichka and his Father’s lives depended on it. This was all for them now. The Police may have been made aware but they were still at risk and needed to disappear, fast.

02-20-18_7-18-08 PM

As he entered the house once more with tear-stained clothing Vance could barely form the words, and when they did escape from him they seemed to be meek mutterings; “Alice is gone. We need to phone….gather your things. We’re not safe here.” Anichka’s mother was familiar with this expression and had learnt not to question it, she simply obliged gathering a couple of small rucksacks, her daughter and some shopping, attempting to juggle all four things. Allen was not so complacent demanding; “Where is Alice?”….

 

Author’s Note – Alice has done an incredibly nobel, brave and loyal thing here and is perhaps illustrating some of the characteristics of Jesus in her willing sacrifice. She may not realise it but in simply talking about Jesus she is evangelising. She is also sacrificing her own selfish desires for this money in order to help someone else. Luke 16 speaks of the wise use of our money as stewards and how we should view money. It was a rather sober thought for me to realise I don’t treat money as if it belongs to God and I place too much value on it. It is a little thing to God yet it’s such a big thing to us. I used to believe that abundant life meant that God would always provide above and beyond what I needed (a supremely powerful PC) but if I’m honest with myself I know that what I value as a need, God perhaps doesn’t – not in the way I expect anyway. When I spoke with God about this recently I really felt that he was asking me: “If I were to give you 100k right now, how would it affect you? What would you do with it?” I had the maturity to realise that after perhaps buying a nice PC rig for myself and a few games, I’d be lost and the remainder would cause me a lot of stress, worry and anxiety. I recently saw a picture of someone who was really pleased with their new set-up (and it was a thing to behold) but I found myself thinking; that’s great, now how are you planning to use it to further the work of the Kingdom? As believers we should be using our money to invest in the financial success of the gospel. We cannot serve both money and God, one will rule us, there’s no middle-ground.

For those of us who perhaps are yet to believe in Christ Jesus as a personal saviour, it may present an opportunity to consider the finality of money; you can’t take it with you and even if you could, it wouldn’t mean anything. We can perhaps also ask ourselves about the value and worth we place on money. Does it define our identity? In a society that is so consumed with materialism, we must ask ourselves where are worth is to be found as a human-being. Are we just worth a few wads of cash? I used to believe that I had no worth, but that was a lie. I was looking for my worth in the wrong places. I now frequently tell people in a way that resonates with me as a gamer, that God views people as being worth more than all the DLC for every game ever made. I believe we need to understand not just how much Jesus loves us, but for this era, we need to understand our worth. In the online communities in which I operate I see so many youngsters struggling with low self-worth, low self-esteem and completely confused about what they want. And yet we live in times of such prosperity, so what’s going wrong for these youngsters that despite being raised in comfortable environments it seems they’ve never been more desperate in relation to their identities and security? If we choose to believe, we can know that we have been purchased with the blood of God’s own Son. The Bible speaks on the worth we have, the worth of our souls. Matthew 16:26(New International Version (NIV)); “26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

The Gospel according to Vance Zepeda (Part II)…

*Images from The Sims 4Staxel.  Thanks to Simoniona from the Sims Community for the amazing house and to Missesrock for the Jetty in the Summer II.

02-10-18_7-54-11 PM

Vance’s earlier cutting insult had really annoyed Alice, but then he’d known it would. Alice’s anxiety had begun to steadily get on his nerves and he needed to take action. When they went back indoors, she’d started wearing out the carpet, going up and down it more than DPD delivery vans go up and down the M40! “Sure rich-boy, V, you just tuck yourself neatly under Daddy’s financial gift entitlements, but some of us have to take the world on ourselves”, Alice snapped in retaliation. Vance wasn’t impressed, Alice knew that the family had always treated her as one of their own and would seek to protect her too, although he was starting to have doubts, after what he had learned earlier in the weekend.
Vance was trying to be preoccupied re-visiting his theology on how the universe works; it’d certainly stepped up it’s game of throwing him curve-balls recently. He didn’t dare allow himself to imagine what possible calamity might fall upon him next. He began to question whether he actually knew as much as he thought he did. He couldn’t come to terms with the idea that his Father had managed to keep this terrible secret from him. Furthermore, how exactly were they supposed to find over three hundred thousand pounds? Vance even considered that it wasn’t his problem, he hadn’t had any involvement in this. He immediately chastised himself for being so unloving. He began wondering how these events were going to interrupt his plans in life, blame must be attributed, it wasn’t his fault.

The previous night…

02-10-18_7-58-25 PM

“You don’t mess around with the ‘Mafia’ Vance, do you realise what they will do if I don’t pay back what they’re owed?” They weren’t the actual Mafia, you only messed with those guys if you were born into it and couldn’t escape, however this family were part of a large organised crime circle. Why and how his Father had become involved in their activities was unbeknownst to Vance, but he decided to not pursue that particular line of questioning. The family had been fairly hospitable in giving Vance’s Dad a solid week to come up with what he owed, with added interest.

Vance had demanded that his Father tell him everything, laying all his cards on the table. What transpired was something that Vance had been unable to comprehend. Vance knew about many things in his life, having spent many an evening surfing YouTube, which resulted on him watching a video about how the pedestrian crossings are designed to help blind people; how to forgive your betraying Father had not appeared on his search listings.

02-10-18_9-17-07 PM

Allen had been working for the family for years, although he wouldn’t elaborate on why. He’d been put in charge of managing a group of girls that were being illegally trafficked into the country to work as prostitutes. “No, I was not their pimp, my job was specifically to handle their finances and arrange for new workers. Vance, you have to understand that your Mother and I do not have a happy marriage, it is one that is for show to support her in her career. We fell out of love many many years ago”. He could see Vance was struggling to take this on board and so continued in a factual manner; “I met Katrya and she listened, she valued me and not what she could get from me. She was kind, caring and lovin-…look, I’m crazy about her but I’ve got obligations, it’s complicated. You and Ali were both still young and in school. Then Katrya told me she was expecting, but I’ve no regrets.” He moved to hold Katrya’s hand, his affection for her still evident despite the distance they endured. Alice shuffled nervously seeing this, prompting Vance into questioning her involvement in the history, why was she was in danger? Allen looked hesitant before offering; “Ali and I had spent a lot of time together, she’s far more intelligent than you give her credit for, Vance.” He sighed, continuing; “I knew Ali knew about hacking and I shamefully encouraged her, I could see she had talent. Well, she devised a program, it was able to find system weaknesses of the system they used and she was able to dial into it. Together we siphoned off profits from their accounts. I don’t understand it, but Black-hat over there, she’s a genius, Vance”. Alice had helped him traffic Katrya in a new way, taking her under her wing and moving her here in case the family ever realised she didn’t just simply run away. “They must have traced me through the dial-ins I made from your apartment and mine, no system is without fault, Vance, there’s always a backdoor”, Alice stated matter-of-factly and for once, Vance glimpsed a sign of her intelligence.

02-10-18_9-29-02 PM

Current day..

Their brainstorming session was not going well and Vance’s ideas on how to raise funds were getting more outrageous as the sun began to dip behind the treeline, they’d already wasted one day simply informing everyone what had happened. “So, as stands, current suggestions are as follows: Casinos (except none of us can actually play), rob the casino, sell drugs for a competitive family, set up a hustle and finally, my personal favourite, taking out the head of the family. No family, no debt! It’s not just me who sees how ludicrous these suggestions are, is it?”, Vance stated with a sarcastic tone. “Good then we can all begin to get comfortable with being dead men walking”, Vance’s sarcastic tones taking a large shot of anger.

Vance switched on the TV as a distraction and was greeted by a preacher talking about being joyful when suffering under trials. Vance could barely contain his barrage of choice phrases releasing his anger on the unsuspecting TV, shouting; “What a load of bugcrap, this guy is a total fraud, he’s only interested in leading people astray so he can get rich from their disillusioned belief about ‘sky people’…” He looked down and saw that Anichka was busy doing her Spirograph. With a voice that sounded like sprinkles being dropped on the floor, she chattered; “What’s bugcrap, Uncle Vance?” She giggled as Vance failed to pronounce her name correctly, unable to detect the undertones of the serious atmosphere in the house.

02-10-18_9-30-30 PM

Alice however, had not failed to notice, her anxiety getting steadily worse. Her thoughts were racing around her head at a hundred miles an hour. The walls felt like they were closing in on her as her heart started hammering in her chest. Clutching her chest, she gave Vance a look he would not forget. When she began to hyperventilate he grabbed the nearest paper bag, the one in Alice’s backpack, unwittingly shoving it at her as he firmly instructed, “Breathe! In this. You’re doing great Alice, keep going”. Vance had failed to notice, the bag had a large quantity of Ketamine in it and as Alice’s eyes started to look as glazed as the doughnuts at Crispy Cremes; she blinked and it was as if the shop lights were being turned off at closing time, Alice flopped helplessly to the floor! It was Allen’s turn to play hero today as he rushed to her, checking her pulse; “She’s just passed out, help me get her over to the sofa”.

02-10-18_9-31-01 PM

When Alice ‘awoke’ she was in a strange land, everything was so bright and colourful. She felt a sense of peace that she had never before experienced. It was like all through her life she’d been a leaking bucket but she suddenly felt like all the holes had been plugged up. Everything felt really strange, like she was walking on bouncy duvets and there was no weight to her form.

alicestaxel

She approached a lady who was holding a shovel; “Hi, Alice, we’re so pleased to see you. We’ve been longing to meet you. He is waiting for you in there, head over when you’re ready”.

ladystaxel

Alice didn’t feel confused about this lady knowing her name, she wandered confidently over to the Shop she’d been pointed towards and inside was a man, working on something; “Hi Alice. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m just making something for you, it’s almost finished. Give me a moment and take a look around the shop, if there’s anything you want just bring it to me”. His voice was familiar to her but she had no idea how. As she wandered around the shop, it wasn’t what she expected at all. There were bricks, glass panels and other building implements but they were labelled; Joy, Forgiveness, Kindness. As she moved further down the shelving racks, she clutched her hands over her mouth seeing a bottle that shimmered with bright-blue lightning as she looked closer she discerned it was animated. She viewed a scene from when she was a little girl – a very special memory of her Father teaching her how to build a radio transmitter. As she looked down the isles of the shop, she beheld that there were thousands of these bottles. She picked up the bottle, heading back over to the man demanding to know more. He smiled at her, offering her a small wooden signpost and all her anger suddenly got forgotten, what had she been wanting to ask him? “Come, I’ll show you your house. I’ve laid the foundations for you, but you need to finish it yourself but I will help you do that”, the man winked and Alice felt as though he was a familiar friend. She tenaciously asked; “Do, I know you? Your face is familiar but…” as she headed towards the plot for her house. It was the most beautiful sight she had ever witnessed, with the man standing next to her as his silken voice said words that penetrated her entire being, the scene before her fading but the words echoing in her heart as she awoke; “Not yet, Alice, but you will and I can’t wait!”

shopstaxel

Alice came-to sitting bolt upright suddenly and stared at Vance with an intensity that he had never seen in her before as she stuttered the words; “Vance, I-I-I think I’ve just met Jesus”. Vance scoffed at her; “Great just what we need, another deluded person, he didn’t happen to tell you how to get out of this mess we’re in did he?”. Vance’s comment had made him smug with delight as he looked at Alice, knowing she wouldn’t have a retort to offer him but she blinked several times, still half-asleep as she offered; “Well actually….”

 

Author’s Note – I’ve heard people say things such as; “oh, you have faith, that must mean you’re a weak-willed person because you can’t take responsibility for your own life choices, so you need this fictitious character to carry your burdens for you”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am plenty strong willed and I’ve done things in life that I’ve amazed myself at but I’ve also done some out-rightly stupid things and I know I’ve been in utter disobedience to God. I know, like Paul that I battle the flesh and to choose my own way (sin) and my own responsibility (self-righteous behaviour) is to plummet into eternity without a parachute. Thankfully, Jesus is my parachute. I don’t need him because I’m not strong enough, fast enough or secure enough, I need Him because He is the Way, the Truth and the Light. Without Him the consequences of my actions will lead me to death (Romans 6:23).

I read a book recently by Paul M Young entitled, Lies we believe about God and one of the lies it exposed was that we often believe that God loves us but doesn’t like us. This is simply untrue. It is written in scripture that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We don’t have to wait to be “likeable” before we come to Him. He accepts us just as we are. God is aware of the very worst parts of us and chooses to love us anyway because that is Who He is. He also likes the things we like, when we submit them to him so they are not more important than he is. One of my most happy times recently was a simple prayer of; “Let’s hang out Jesus” I went meme-surfing as I just thought about Him and I experienced such joy. There’s a beautiful song that’s sung at the church I go to and it’s entitled Good Good Father by Housefires II, in it the lyrics state; “You’re a good good father, it’s who you are….I’m loved by you, it’s who I am”. The love we receive through Christ is Who God is and our only job is to receive that love (1 John 4:19) and allow it to transform our lives, and renew our minds (Ephesians 4:23) should we choose to “Consider Christ”.