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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)

TITLE: Hope in a Desert
By Holly Hoell


As the ground rapidly grew closer, Lt. Jeff Osborn knew he was not going to have a routine drop. The parachute cords were tangled. He couldn’t steer and he was falling faster than he should toward the Iraqi desert. He slammed into the sand whacking his knee on a rock. As he stood up, pain shot through his leg. With some effort, he collected his parachute; slowly limping away from the landing site. It was pitch black and very cold.

Jeff grabbed for his radio, to his shock, it was not in his bag. He frantically searched, but he had to face it, he was on his own. He used his compass to head northwest, the direction his unit would go to reach their target. Without landmarks, there was no frame of reference. Jeff limped along late into the night, with no sign of his team. They couldn’t look for him; the mission had to be executed on schedule.

He dug into the sand to hide as he drifted into sleep. He awoke, bruised and stiff, the sun was rising. Slowly sitting up, he looked for any reptiles that had used him as a heater during the night. Pain raged through his knee with every move. Fear and sadness joined him for his breakfast of crackers and water. He wondered if he would ever make it home.

Just two weeks ago on the tarmac, his wife, Melody clung to him desperately. Tears streamed down her face, dampening his uniform. His twins Nancy and Todd stood by not understanding their daddy was going far away, in danger’s reach.

He retrieved, from his pocket, the letter she had given him when he left. The lavender stationary smelled like her. He absorbed each word telling of her love for him. It was like soothing balm for his heart. A tear rolled down his cheek. He stuffed the letter back in his pocket and got to his feet.

He ventured onward. Often, pain and fatigue beckoned him to lie down and give up. That evening, when he could go no further, he found a spot to sleep. Sweat soaked and hungry, he raised the canteen to his parched lips, taking in the last of his water. From the letter, he read a scripture that said, “to them that love God all things work together for good.” He knew his wife loved God. He prayed silently till he fell asleep.

The next morning he awoke in greater pain. He managed to get himself up and moving once again, even though his knee was hugely swollen. In the distance, he saw two figures headed north. That was the description of the target! They gained distance from him due to his injuries, but he followed till he got to where they camped.

After they laid down, he crept up on them. He had memorized some Arabic, so he was able to communicate. He raised his rifle and shouted “don’t move or you’ll die!” Holding his weapon on them; he said, “get up!” One grabbed a rifle and Jeff shot him dead. “GET UP!” He yelled again. Jeff took a couple zip ties he had in his backpack and secured his enemy’s hands behind him. He was relieved to find they had food and water.

The next two days Jeff headed south, the direction of the extraction point. Progression was extremely slow, and he did not sleep much while guarding his prisoner. He was mentally and physically drained. His wife’s letter helped maintain his hope and kept him focused. The second scripture in the letter was about recognizing God and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

He prayed much of the time, asking God to lead him in the right direction. Finally on his 7th day in the desert, he heard a helicopter. He made his prisoner get down until he could determine if it was friendly. It was a U.S. Black hawk. He stood up waving excitedly. He lit up a couple flares. The helicopter was advancing toward them. Rescue was forthcoming.

When he was in the infirmary being interviewed; he told the press that the thing that kept him going was the letter from his wife and the bible verses she put in it. He explained that he hung onto every word; it was as if God Himself had meant him to have that letter as a guide to bring him home.

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This article has been read 434 times
Member Comments
Member Date
AnneRene' Capp05/13/10
Wow...very engaging with unexpected turns and a great message. Very well written in my book!
Maria Egilsson05/15/10
Not sure how on topic this story is (but I'm a newbie here) but found it interesting and would like to read more.
Mildred Sheldon05/16/10
What a sweet and engaging story.
Lisha Hunnicutt05/17/10
Very touching story, but I agree with a previous comment about the piece not fitting the topic.
Colin Swann05/18/10
Soldiering is dangerous work -got an email from a friend only yesterday informing me of her son just having been shot in Afganistan - fortunately not fatal. Thanks for reminding us in this very well written account.
Timothy Klingerman05/18/10
Your piece is not off topic when you condsider that Melody would hear Jeff's opinion of her letter in the news reports of his rescue. It would not work to add a sentence that says, "Melody heard what Jeff said about her letter and knew it was the highest praise her writing could possibly receive from any editor." It is understood from the story. We would never imagine someone returning a personal letter with red ink, but we still hope that the message is well written and effective, as Melody's letter to Jeff obviously was.
Karen Macor05/18/10
This was a very gripping story and well written. I wasn't sure about it being on topic until Timothy made his comment and I think he is right on.
Beth LaBuff 05/18/10
You put the reader right in the middle of the action. Nice work on this story!
Kate Oliver Webb 05/18/10
Very engaging story, and I'm glad its ending was uplifting and positive. The piece does have a few punctuation problems, but it is a well-written and dramatic story.
Catrina Bradley 05/18/10
Wow! Gripping action! You had my heart racing.