In the end, Maria Escalante had grown quite rich. Having spent most of her life without money she did not feel comfortable spending on herself and so she began to make donations. A lot of money went to the obvious charities most of it, she used to improve the various institutions she had worked for or been involved with throughout her life. For instance, a large chunk went to the school district where she had been a bus driver. There were new air conditioned busses, new desks, new chairs, musical instruments, and other things that perhaps would make going to school a little more exciting for the children.
She also donated, anonymously, to the Stirring Water Christian Fellowship enough money for them to get their own building with a sanctuary and a banquet hall, a nursery, sound system and overhead projectors. Even after that, enough funds were left over to pay for mission trips to the major gambling centers of the country and major starvation centers of the world.
While Stirring Water's official stance on their sudden financial abundance was that the Lord was rewarding the faithful, James McInnis, the church treasurer had seen the signed check and was suspicious as to why a woman famous for portraying the woman who invented prostitution was giving vast amounts of money to a small charismatic church. At the time, James was fairly young. He had married into the Stirring Water administrative structure two years after the donation had been received, and therefore had not been present when Maria used to attend church services,
The issue was never formally discussed, but the church had little trouble convincing itself that that the Maria Escalante who pretended to have the Holy Spirit so many years ago could not possibly be the same Maria Escalante who was the second Persephone. The one or two times someone mentioned that the famous Ms. Escalante seemed familiar, a Church elder would put his or her hand on the mentioner's shoulder, look him or her in the eye and say, "Yes, isn't that strange."
When the check first arrived in the mail, Mrs. Pole, the woman who sorted the mail, answered the phones, and vacuumed the worship area, was alarmed. She took the check right up to Pastor Ralph, who was laying hands on a young teenager who had shown up at a youth group basketball match the previous weekend. Mrs. Pole waited patiently in the doorway until the boy, his face wet with tears, was lead out into the hallway.
"See you on Sunday Moose," Pastor Ralph said to the boy. "And see if you can't get your mother to come along too."
Mrs. Pole shoved the young Pastor into the tiny prayer cubicle and held the check out in front of him. "Is someone playing a joke on us?" she asked.
"Huh," went Pastor Ralph. "Let's go find out."
Of course it was not a joke. An emergency elder's meeting was held that evening and the next morning the check was cashed. The following Sunday, after Moose and his mother demonstrated the power of the holy spirit, Pastor Ralph delivered a well organized and persuasive sermon, announcing the miracle of the mysterious church benefactor and outlining the plans for using the money with Christian responsibility.
It should be noted that a great deal of Christian responsibility was indeed exercised with Maria's donation. No one tried to use the money for frivolous personal gain. Mrs. Pole was given a much deserved raise. Some people in financial need were given appropriate assistance and of course the Church itself was improved in the ways already mentioned.
So for the two years before James McInnis found the photocopy of Maria's Check in the back of the file cabinet, no one had ever thought to question Stirring Water's miraculous windfall. James went on a secret investigation as to why Maria Escalante would give money to his church. She was known to be a philanthropist but she had a large foundation for such things and a personal check for such a large sum to such a specific little church could not have been given arbitrarily. James had heard rumors that Maria Escalante had lived in town for a brief period and upon further research was able to discover that fifteen years ago she had occupied a small house a few blocks from the church's original location and that the house had burned down.
Mrs. Pole said she remembered something about someone named Maria attending a few services in the early days but that she could not have been the Maria Escalante. It was Pastor Ralph who finally broke down and told the whole story to James. James was shocked at first, but Pastor Ralph was able to calm him down by explaining that the church's actions had been biblically supported and even pointed out the corresponding passages. "I see," James said, and then asked if he would be able to share about fiscal stewardship the forthcoming Sunday. "Not this Sunday, but the next," was Pastor Ralph's reply.
James McInnis' sermon two Sundays later was about a lot more than fiscal stewardship. In fact the focus was on hypocrisy and the terrible injustice that was done by the church to a then not-famous Maria Escalante. The sermon was quite long and went down unchallenged, thanks mostly to Pastor Ralph, who made a discreet peace sign to a furious elder.
At the end of the week a tape of the sermon and a long letter signed by Pastor Ralph and the Elders of Stirring Water Christian Church (that now included James McInnis, replacing one of the two elders who felt it best to find new congregations) apologizing, asking sincerely for Maria's forgiveness and an invitation to become and official member if she so desired.
Maria wrote back promptly, politely thanking the church for its concern and assuring them that she had never felt they had done her wrong. She also thanked them for the invitation but said she had grown quite fond of the services at the Anglican Cathedral, may God bless them all.