Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Day's End (01/01/14)
TITLE: Finding Father
By Karen Milkiewicz
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“Little one, I must go. It’s the only hope for Tobah. I will return at day’s end.”
Mahala stepped aside and watched her father disappear over the ridge. She plodded back through the thick foliage to the village where her mother was fretting over baby Tobah. Mahala touched his forehead. It was hot, too hot. Trembling, she trudged to the stream. She watched the leaves tumbling, chasing one another in the water. She wished her troubles could drift away so easily. The village elders spoke of the gods. Could they help?
“Hello out there? My baby brother is dying and my papa went out to the land of war. Can you please help them?”
Mahala threw some pebbles into the stream for good measure and headed back to her chores. After the evening meal, she hurried to the edge of the jungle. With her eyes trained on the ridge, she awaited her father’s return. The sky’s swirls of pink darkened to streaks of red. The shadows of the trees grew longer and larger, until there was nothing but blackness. Still, she strained her eyes, looking for movement on the ridge. Her sister Sonjaya approached.
“Mahala, we must return to the village. It’s not safe out here at night.”
“But Papa will be here soon. He said he’d return by day’s end,” Mahala protested.
Sonjaya took her hand. “Papa won’t return tonight. He would want you to be safe. Come.”
Mahala reluctantly followed, but each evening, she returned. On the third day, Tobah breathed his last. Mahala clutched his tiny body in her arms until the tears no longer came. After the burying ceremony, she was back at her post, keeping watch for her father. For two weeks she kept this ritual, sure that one day she would be rewarded by his return.
One evening, while the skies were still painted pink, Mahala saw movement on the ridge. She made out three figures in the distance. Could one be her father? Her heart leapt in her chest but quickly sank as their faces became clearer. These men had skin the color of rice. She had never seen men like these before, but she had heard tales. These must be the missionaries who brought stories and medicines from a distant land. It was too late for Tobah, but perhaps they could help others. She ran to them and led them to the village.
Over the weeks to come, Mahala was a constant companion to the missionaries. Except for her nightly trip through the jungle, she could always be found in their presence. She had lost faith in the village gods, for they had not saved her brother nor brought her papa home. Perhaps this Jesus they spoke of could help.
She learned all she could of Jesus, and was soon as devoted to Him as the missionaries were. She told all the villagers of Him, and they marveled at her new-found joyfulness in spite of her troubles. Soon many of the villagers found this joy as well. Mahala still missed her brother and father terribly, but had found a new source of life.
Several weeks later, an illness ravaged the village, and Mahala fell prey. She lay shivering on her mat, beads of perspiration like pearls on her dark skin. She could not eat, and became too weak to go watch for her father. Sonjaya agreed to go, and Mahala was pacified for a time. On the third day, however, Mahala was adamant.
“I must leave the village at day’s end.”
Her mother and sister argued with her.
“You’re too weak.”
“Papa’s not coming back.”
Mahala sat up for the first time in days. “I must go tonight. I cannot explain it, but I must go.”
The oldest of the missionaries overheard, and told Mahala’s family “if it were not for Mahala, we would never have found your village. I will take her.”
That evening, as the shadows grew long, he effortlessly lifted her fragile frame and carried her down the jungle path. He sat with her as she scanned the horizon.
After several moments, her frail body relaxed. “Here he comes, do you see Him?”
The missionary looked, but saw nothing. “No, do you see your father?”
“My Father is coming for me.”
With those words, Mahala reached toward the sky. She closed her eyes for a moment, and reopened them in the presence of her heavenly Father, welcoming her home.
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