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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: Out of the Ashes
By Amy Michelle Wiley
05/26/08


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Due to war scenes, reader discretion is advised.



Smoke spiraled from the ruins, almost obscuring the sun as it slipped over the horizon, daring to lighten a new day. Daring to make real the nightmare of the darkness. The rays reached long fingers through the rubble, touching me with a hint of warmth, prodding me to struggle to my feet.

I groped my way onto firm ground, a shroud of shock still draped over my brain. Around me loomed shapes that had once formed homes, now tumbled and broken, shifting and swirling in the choking smoke. The world had been crushed, as if by a massive foot intent on annihilating the Darfur people.

And I, was I the only one who had escaped? All around me lay those I loved--my family, my neighbors. I did not look at them, did not want to see them so helpless, ripped in pieces by the anger of the Janjaweed. I was alone. So alone it scared me.

As I turned to look around, I noticed my left arm flop loosely against my side. The shoulder twisted out, a piece of flesh torn away. I felt no pain. Nothing but fear, aloneness. Drop by drop, my blood joined those around me. I sunk to my knees. This then, was how it would end.

Then I saw him. At first it was only a movement, a dark shadow somehow different than the churning smoke. Then he materialized--a little boy. A person! I stumbled toward him, toward that symbol of life, of hope. He cried out to me and I saw it was my cousin, little Bashir.

We held each other and wept. Two boys, two children that had become men in that moment, in that darkness that would last despite the sun’s steady rise in the eastern sky.

It was Bashir who thought to wrap my arm, stemming the flow of blood and securing my arm in a crude sling. The pain began then, wakening my senses and urging me to get out of there, to leave the place of death behind us.

“We must go to Grandfather, young cousin.” I put my good hand on his head. He stood so sturdy and strong, despite the cuts and bruises that marked his dark face. Despite the devastation that surrounded us. I pulled him close. “We must leave. Go to Grandfather in Chad where the Janjaweed do not come. We will be safe, Bashir, safe if only we can reach the Sudan-Chad border.”

Before we left we pulled canvas over those around us, straightening the dresses of the women and girls. We covered the evidence of rape and anger, giving the bodies the respect that had been wrenched from them in the waves of men who had preceded the bombs.

I did not let myself feel. Did not let myself remember. It was better that way. Better to only move forward, never look back.

I was trembling by the time we reached the dirt road. My lungs fought to find breath in the haze around us, and I wavered, struggling to steady my feet. Bashir reached warm hands to wrap around mine, whispering in a voice that was tiny, yet somehow strong. “We must pray, Turabi. We must pray to God to help us.”

I let him pull me to my knees, there in the middle of the dusty road. “Whom do we pray to, Bashir? Do we pray to our gods, or to the One the mission teaches of--the Western God whom they say will save us if we only ask?”

“They say He is not a western god.” Bashir looked at me, his dark eyes earnest in childish faith. “They say He is God of all. It is He we must pray to, cousin. Only He can reach us here.”

So our voices rose to Him, there in the middle of the African plains. He was new to us, yet I felt somehow we were not new to Him, that He had been waiting for this time, waiting for us.

A new kind of life began to stir in my heart and I knew I had been given a gift. Indeed, two gifts, for one was a small presence by my side, and the other a presence in my soul.


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This article has been read 1599 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shirley McClay 05/29/08
Wow... heartrending. Loved this paragraph... So our voices rose to Him, there in the middle of the African plains. He was new to us, yet I felt somehow we were not new to Him, that He had been waiting for this time, waiting for us.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/29/08
The story, the emotions, the descriptions are awesome in this piece. Masterfully done.
Carol Wiley05/30/08
your article is very good at placing your reader in the scene. Keep up the good work.
Joanne Sher 05/31/08
Absolutely masterfully written. Your descriptions are rich and disturbing, and the dialog is incredible. Just excellent.
Laury Hubrich 05/31/08
What a powerful entry. Wow! Its very thought- provoking. Lovely. Beautiful in spite of the devastation around them. Love this.
Laury
Marilee Alvey06/01/08
Your descriptions here put me in the midst of battle, even as I sat, safely at my computer. Such is the skill of a talented writer, to transpose us to another place, even when it's a place we don't prefer. You really strutted your stuff here. Great skills.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/01/08
Powerful story! I felt like I was thee, observing the horror. Your ending was excellent and hopeful.
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
Wonderful title! Very poignant piece. Gripping. Awesome job, Cheri
LauraLee Shaw06/01/08
Your descriptions are breath-taking and your story line is gripping. Wow. Your ending line was beautiful.
Peter Stone06/02/08
Such vivid, stiring descriptions of hate inspired madness let loose on a continent, and the damages it leaves in its wake. Great attention to the small details too.
Lyn Churchyard06/02/08
This reads like a news report by an on-the-spot war correspondent. Close up and personal. I especially loved the last two paragraphs which were so full of hope. Well done Amy, superb job.
Jan Ackerson 06/02/08
Beautiful, Amy, and your last sentence is fantastic!
Joshua Janoski06/03/08
I don't know how you do it, but every time you manage to pull me right into your stories. I was there at the scene of destruction, and I was escaping with the cousins.

I am glad that you gave the hope of God at the end. What more can I say? Masterful writing in every respect.
Beth LaBuff 06/03/08
Your war aftermath scenes are definitely heart-rending and your title is perfect for this coursins story. The cousins' relationship is beautiful.
Betty Castleberry06/04/08
Beautifully written, and a powerful message besides. Very well done.
Sara Harricharan 06/04/08
Wow, this was very intense, Amy. Excellent job. ^_^
Karen Wilber 06/05/08
You managed to convey both despair and hope. I loved this line and the message it conveys "He was new to us, yet I felt somehow we were not new to Him," Well done.
Cheri Hardaway 06/05/08
Congratulations on your EC! Nice job! Blessings, Cheri
Sharlyn Guthrie06/05/08
Congratulations on your EC, Amy!
Lollie Hofer 06/06/08
Congratulations on your well-served win. I enjoyed the flow of the words, several areas had a poetic feel to it in prose form.
Betsy Markman06/06/08
Beautifully written! Way to go!