My ima’s heartrending screams filled my ears as the tall soldier dragged me away. I stumbled along beside him, unable to see through my tears, until he pushed me to the ground with a stern ‘Wait here.’
My best friend Deborah wailed next to me and I put my arm around her, ‘Surely Yahweh is still with us.’
When the army had finished ransacking our village for valuables, they roped the captives together and forced us to march. We walked for days. Deborah and I stayed together, helping each other as much as the ropes would allow.
The captain looked me over. He had already chosen the best of the male prisoners for himself. I stared at the ground, scared of what might happen.
‘You’ll do for my wife,’ he said.
His friend liked the look of Deborah and pulled her into his tent that night. I held my hands over my ears to block out the sound of her distress. I was terrified the captain would do the same to me but he left me alone.
The sun was setting when we finally arrived in the big city of Damascus. The soldiers untied the captives, and Deborah was led away by the man who had forced her into his tent each night. Tears made muddy tracks down my dirty cheeks when I saw my only friend being taken away. I knew no one.
Captain Naaman on his majestic black horse led the way to his house, we his slaves trying our best to keep up with him. I shivered with cold and fear, having been captured in my thin dress which was torn and dirty from the long journey.
A well dressed servant came out to greet his master.
Captain Naaman commanded that the male slaves be taken to the outside dwellings. Then he turned to me. ‘And this one is for my wife. You had better clean her up before she comes into the house.’
I was led to a room where I could wash, and a clean tunic was brought for me.
One of the household servants led me into a large and beautiful room. It was the richest place I had ever been in. Reclining couches were laid out here and there on the marble floor, and I could hear water tinkling in the background. I found out later it was a fountain.
‘Come here little girl,’ said a woman’s voice.
I raised my head and saw a dark-haired lady reclining on one of the couches. She held out her hand and I went and stood before her.
‘What is your name?’
‘Samuela.’ I whispered.
It was the first word I had said since comforting Deborah when we were first captured weeks ago.
Odd that my name should be the first word I said in this new, strange place. My abba and ima had given it to me because they thought they could not have children. They pleaded with God for many years. When He answered their prayers, they planned to call the baby Samuel which means ‘God hears’, but when I – a daughter – was born, they changed it to Samuela.
* * * * * * *
My mistress was kind, and though I had to work hard as her maid, I was never mistreated. Captain Naaman was a fair man and his servants had no need to be afraid of him unless they had done something wrong.
It was awful when the captain noticed the small discoloured patches on his arms. The doctor confirmed leprosy. We thought his army career was over but the king wanted Captain Naaman to stay in charge of his army because the captain was a formidable soldier who had led many victories.
But over time, he began to lose feeling in his limbs. It was dangerous for a soldier to go into battle unable to feel pain when he was wounded. We knew it was a matter of time before he lost a limb or went blind.
One morning, I stood behind his wife brushing out her beautiful long, dark hair. I heard a sniffling noise and quietly stepped across the bed chamber for a piece of linen which I handed to her.
‘Thank you Samuela,’ she said. ‘I am so worried about my husband. We have prayed and made sacrifices to our god Rimmon but his leprosy is getting worse.’
‘My God, Yahweh, could heal him.’
My mistress turned round so quickly I jumped.
‘What did you say, Samuela?’
I cleared my throat. ‘I wish my master would go to Yahweh’s prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of the leprosy.’
My mistress eagerly pressed me for details and I told her all I could remember about the prophet Elisha, and how Yahweh worked miracles through him.
I could hear them talking. Then the captain left the house. My mistress told me he had gone to see the king.
The captain returned with a letter from the king and made preparations immediately to travel to Samaria. There was an expectant air in the house. Could he really be cured of this horrible skin condition?
* * * * * * *
Less than a month later, Captain Naaman returned home. His skin was as clear as a baby’s.
My mistress told me the whole story, of how the master had caused panic in the king of Samaria’s palace when he turned up there asking to be healed. Thankfully, Elisha the prophet heard about it and sent a message with the instructions for the captain to wash seven times in the Jordan River.
My master was furious at first because he thought Elisha should chant incantations and wave his hands over the leprosy. But some of his trusted servants who had accompanied him convinced him to give it a try. The Jordan is nothing like the clean rushing waters of the rivers flowing through Damascus. But my master did as he was instructed and was completely healed of leprosy.
Now my master and my mistress worship the one true God. My God: the One who heals.