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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)

TITLE: My Hands-On Encounter with God
By Coleene VanTilburg


The year was 1954. After applying to numerous schools, I had finally decided to voice my field of study to my family. After much soul searching and prayer, I had chosen the fields of anthropology and archeology. This was not what my disappointed by supportive dad wanted to hear. I was confidant it was what I wanted to do. Was it what God wanted? I was praying it was.

I was awarded a full scholarship to an Ivy League school to study these sciences of ancient cultures and ancient man. With no mother to guide me, Jesus became my mother and Heavenly Father. I would “crawl into His lap” and feel His love whenever I would pray and He would speak to me and give me direction. The church ladies found me odd. I sort of scared them because I was so spiritual from a young age. I was always "prayed over."

They would say to my father, "That child has a gift." Or "She is very special to God."

In the summer before I was to start school, I decided to take advantage of a special trip to acquaint me with some of the professors I would be studying under. I would be working with an archeological team going down to South America, the Patagonia region of Argentina to be more specific. What I found most difficult for me was that I was now in the world, literally and I must remain strong in my faith. I was surrounded by the scientific Darwinian philosophy, and to my father's credit, this is what he feared; that I would get sucked in to a world view of exploding stars and monkeys standing erect, and not be able to stand my ground in my faith. I told him that he needed to think of me as a missionary and that my discoveries in archeology and science would only prove out intelligent design, not that we came from slime.

In my research about Patagonia, I would learn it was called the "land of giants,” discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. Patagonia is actually the Spanish word for "big feet." In an ironic twist, I would find that "little hands" were what would leave a lasting impression in more ways than one. Part of my father's fears would soon come true; my Christian faith was soon mocked and frequently challenged by fellow students. I did stand my ground though, (the church ladies would be proud), but while Magellan and his Spaniard crew encountered large men in their discoveries here in Patagonia, my "giant" that I would have to conquer was being a woman in a man's world and then on top of that, being a woman of faith in a scientific male profession.

After the second week had passed in Patagonia, our crew took a side trip out to the Valley of the Pinturas River. A very isolated spot, we still had to hike back several miles after arriving in our Land Rovers. It was a spectacular valley and here we would visit the "Cuevas de la Manos" (Spanish for Cave of the Hands). I knew there were cave paintings, but I had no idea the impact this sighting would have on me. There they were, "stenciled" prints of small child-like hands covering the cave walls. I was reminded immediately of my childhood days coming into my father's workshop, my hands coated with a reddish mud mixture I would concoct from who knows what, and like lines on a door jamb, I would place my handprint every year on the wall next to my dad's bench; a record of my growth. When my handprint had dried, I would etch the date.

I had left for college to pursue this dream, but before I had left, once again, my handprint went on the wall with the many others from my years of discovery. Now, teary-eyed, I fell to my knees as I viewed the multitude of adolescent hands, feeling God's affirming spirit that I had made the right choice. I felt God's strength to carry on this pursuit, bolstered by my faith. Patagonia became a place where I was taunted by my own giants, but uplifted by ancient hands of passage. These hands would empower me to continue to display my belief in God's amazing imprint, His character in all of creation.

I Samuel 17:47b ...for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane02/15/09
An enjoyable tale where you tied together well your main themes. As far as I am aware, the term 'intelligent design' (rather than creationism) is a relatively new term (some would argue a more politically astute term) and therefore might not sit comfortably in a story set in the 1950s. Nevertheless a satisfying story that affirms and builds faith in the reader
Benjamin Graber02/19/09
Congratulations on another highly commended, Coleene! Great job!