A Song in the Wilderness
Veronika Löhans struggled to understand an Afro-Caribbean manspeaking to the crowd. Far back, under a palm thatch roof without walls,she watched the light of a lantern on his face. The man spoke eagerly, inshort syllables. He was tall and strong and moved his arms quickly.Veronika smiled to herself in the dark. Even though she did notunderstand everything he said, she did not fear him like she would haveas a child. She loved him, a brother in the Saviour’s
(churchcommunity), and to see how he spoke to the people filled her with happythoughts.Mosquitos moved about. Like the other women at the meeting,Veronika slapped her legs and waved them from her ears. She wonderedhow the men, mostly without shirts, could ignore them so well. But,glancing behind her, she saw that something of far greater urgency thannight-flying bugs held the attention of the crowd.Faces kept emerging from the darkness under low-hanging coconut palms. More and more—perhaps over five hundred faces—surroundedthe light and kept drawing closer to hear what was said. In spite of thehumidity and bugs, in spite of the ever tightening crowd, Veronika feltdeeply thankful for having come to St. Thomas in the West Indies. TheSaviour was here, and with the seekers around her, she found joy in becoming little, like a worm, before him.Veronika was young—only married a few months—but the road behind her was already long. A peasant girl from the backwoods of Moravia, she had lain a year in prison for having attended secretmeetings of believers. On her release she had escaped through themountains of Silesia to Germany. There she had joined the congregationof believers at Herrnhut in Upper Lusatia. Immediately after her marriageto Valentin Löhans in 1738, they had sent them overland to Rotterdamfrom where they sailed to the New World. Now she sat among believers on the Posaunenberg (Mountain of Trumpets) where on a twenty-seven acre lot the brothers had built housesamong flowering jasmine and lemon trees. In the crowd gathered there toworship she saw few white faces—until a sudden commotion turned allheads at once.