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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Two Oxen and a Plow
By Ruth Hayes


“Paw-Paw and I are saving up to buy two oxen and a plow.”

This announcement by my deep in the heart of Dixie, peaches and cream mother-in-law, Bonnie, was completely unexpected. I struggle to align the mental image of Bonnie, who exemplifies gracious southern living and sweet tea hospitality, walking behind a pair of buff, brawn, bring-it-on oxen. Don’t get me wrong, the little lady packs a lot of grit (as in true grit not grits ‘n gravy) behind all that femininity. However, two tons of powerful muscles with horns just don’t jell well with my magnolia blossoms and pastels mother-in-law.

“Really,” I said. Meanwhile, my agile brain arrives at a logical conclusion as to why an elderly couple yearn for two oxen and a plow to grace their winter years. Obviously, they had simultaneously succumbed to senility! A whole family intervention was going to need to be organized. Quickly!

“Yes, we purchased chickens two years ago and a cow last year,” Bonnie responds.

Oh, no! The dementia is worse than I originally thought as there are absolutely no chickens or cows on their property. I decide to investigate this further to see just how bad their cognitive abilities have failed.

“Does Paw-Paw really need oxen and a plow? I know his garden is large, but wouldn’t a ro-to-till-er be a better option,” I queried in a succinct and slowly enunciated manner so she wouldn’t be befuddled.

Bonnie’s laughter was my answer. Yup, she was definitely losing it! Her brain had slipped, and mirth was the output. It could be worse. Happy and giggling is better than dimwitted and drooling.

“You’ve misunderstood me, Ruth,” Bonnie said.


“Paw-Paw and I donate money for the purchase of animals to be sent by World Vision to places like Africa, China and the Philippines. We want to donate enough money to cover the cost of two oxen and a plow next. World Vision is a Christian organization that we have supported for years.”

“Ahhh…I see. So you aren’t losing your minds?”

“Not yet, Sugar.”

“You’re going to tell the whole family about this aren’t you?”

“Of course, dear. The story of the oxen will be told many times. It will bring happiness and laughter to the family.”


Tumelo stood with his family and extended relatives in his small village. They watched and waited until a pair of oxen appeared in the distant savannah landscape. The handler was allowing the slow, sure-footed animals to pick their pace. The oxen’s unhurried gait allowed Tumelo’s mind to wander back and remember…

The sense of hopelessness and despair that the drought had heaped on his already, barely surviving family was achingly familiar. The crops failed and hunger descended. Then World Vision came to set up feeding clinics to provide food until the next harvest came in. The villagers had worked hard to lay tree branches and logs across dry riverbeds so that the large transport trucks could traverse the sandy beds and reach their area to unload the life sustaining food.

The help did not end there. World Vision sent people to teach Tumelo and the other villagers that the earth was hungry too and needed fed so that it could grow better crops. They were told how to rotate the crops and keep the ground from getting tired and worn out again. Tools and seeds were provided. As the seeds went into the ground, hope was planted in their hearts.

Tumelo had asked “why?” Why did World Vision care? Why did they come? They explained their belief in the one true God who is Master and Ruler of all creation. God sent them to be His hands and feet in a hurting world. Tumelo was intrigued by the idea of a God who showed care by sending relief from the suffering and heartache.

The bleat of a goat that World Vision had provided, brought Tumelo’s mind back to the present just as the oxen team stopped in front of the gathered villagers. A cheer went up from the people at the arrival of this latest gift.

It is a good day – a day of continued rebuilding and renewing hope. The story of the oxen will be told many times. It will bring happiness and laughter to the family.

For more information regarding World Vision, please visit www.worldvision.org.

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This article has been read 569 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christina Banks 03/12/09
I enjoyed your MC's confussion, and the wonderful message of hope in your story. Thank you for sharing.
Dee Yoder 03/12/09
Many agencies also support this kind of "sensible" and practical missions! It's wonderful to think of how the families must feel when they see these additions to their villages and families come in.
Mary McLeary03/13/09
I enjoyed the last part of your story more because you set up the beginning so well. Good job!
Ruth Ann Moore03/14/09
I enjoyed your story. It is a practical way to help needy families and villages. The two parts of your story seemed to transition well.
Gregory Kane03/14/09
What a clever way to write about an animal sponsorship programme. Witty and thought provoking. I particularly liked the way that you changed tone and scene right at the end.
We serve in Mozambique and can attest to the excellent work of organisations such as World Vision, especially in terms of agricultural development. I actually have some reservations about providing goats for people here as most families seem to have a number of chickens and goats already. But an oxen and plough scheme can make an enormous difference, especially where the donor is required to lend out his animals to others in his community. Bless you.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/20/09
This is excellent writing--character, plot, and thought with humor to flavor it.
Congratulations of a well-deserved first place in beginners. You're well suited to move up to intermediate. I've an idea you'll move up quickly beyond that.
Deborah Porter 03/25/09
Hi Ruth. Just a quick note to congratulate you on your 1st Place win this week, and also to let you know you made it into the Top 30 overall as well. "Two Oxen and a Plow" ranked 11th in the highest rankings, so you were just one off placing in the Editor's Choice. Well done!

If you'd like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can find them here:

The highest rankings are posted every Thursday evening on the Message Boards.

If you haven't already moved up to Level 2, now's the time to do it. :-)

Congratulations again. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)