"It looks like a castle, Mama." Becky tugged on her mother's scarf, her eyes never leaving the structure. "Does a king live there?"
Rachel looked at the building's columns and turrets. "It's a cathedral, Sweetheart. A big church. Kings live in castles, not churches."
"Actually, a king did live there, but he hasn't been back for a while."
Becky turned toward the unfamiliar voice. A lad, perhaps twice Becky's age, smiled through a dirty face and torn clothes.
"Really?" Becky asked.
Rachel eyed the boy suspiciously, resting her hands on Becky's shoulders.
The boy nodded, smiling brightly. "In fact, I'm one of his subjects."
Becky looked him over. "He doesn't give you very nice clothes."
Rachel blushed. "Becky!" She turned toward the boy. "I'm sorry, young man. She didn't mean anything."
He grinned. "It's fine. She's right, of course. My king is very generous, but not necessarily in material ways. He always provides, though."
"You said he's gone." Becky scrunched up her face. "How does he give you stuff when he's gone?"
The boy laughed. "Oh, he's here. Just not in the cathedral."
Becky jumped up and down. "Can you show us where he is?" She turned toward Rachel. "Mom, can we please go see the king?"
Rachel looked down at her. "I'm sure this king doesn't meet with just anyone. We probably need an appointment."
The boy grinned, shaking his head. "No appointment necessary. We can go right now."
Becky left her mother's side and stood by the boy. Rachel raised her hand to call Becky back, but seeing her excitement, walked toward them instead.
"I'm Becky and I'm eight years old."
He grinned. "My name's Michael. Ready to go?"
Becky nodded eagerly. Michael looked back at Rachel, who also nodded.
"Okay then. Follow me."
Michael sauntered along the sidewalk. His guests followed. At the first intersection, he turned right, heading down an alley.
"Are you sure this is the way?" Rachel held her purse close to her chest.
About 500 yards down, they arrived at a dead end, strewn with garbage. Michael pointed into a corner of the alley, behind a beaten-up refrigerator box.
Before them were two women, both seated on the pavement. One, probably in her 60's, was ghostly pale and clearly sick. She was resting her head in the lap of the second woman, in her late teens, who was running her fingers through the ill woman's hair. Both ladies, to the shock of Rachel and Becky, were smiling.
Becky turned to Michael and glared at him. "Kings are boys. These are not boys."
"Kings are also wealthy: they don't live in alleys." Rachel grabbed her daughter's hand. "Let's go."
"My king has wealth beyond your wildest imagination, and he is here." Michael gently grasped Rachel's hand and led her back to the women. Becky followed.
"Look at them." Michael pointed toward the women and smiled. "Have you ever seen such happiness on the faces of women so sick and destitute? Only the greatest riches - the riches of Christ their King - can produce this joy, this peace.
"You know, it's been said that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there.*" Michael pointed up the alley, where the three had walked moments before. "That cathedral used to be filled with my King. But not any longer. The people who enter that building these days worship their egos, their possessions, themselves." He turned toward the women and knelt in front of them. "The real church is here. My King is here, with Sarah and young Teresa."
Rachel wept. She knelt beside Sarah. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Sarah smiled. "Your scarf would be lovely, if you don't mind? Prayers would also be a blessing."
Rachel removed her scarf and wrapped it around Sarah. "I would be honored to pray for you."
Becky removed her own scarf and gave it to Teresa. "Here you go."
"Thank you. God bless you, dear."
Becky bit her lip, then tapped her mother on the shoulder. "I have an idea, Mom."
All eyes turned to the girl. "Why don't we all go pray for them in that church? Then the King will go back there; right, Michael?"
"That he will, Becky. That he will." Michael looked to Sarah and Teresa. "Ladies?"
"God bless you, Michael, but we'll stay here."
Michael, Rachel, and Becky walked back to the cathedral hand in hand. And, for a sweet moment, the King was back in His castle.
* Matthew 18:20
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