Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: South America (02/05/09)
TITLE: Because of Great Love
By DiAnna Steele
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Neil glanced out the window to the rugged terrain below, tropical rain forest as far as the eye could see. Tears stung his cheeks as he recalled his reason for coming to Bolivia as he tried for the 100th time to focus on the words of a message he came to deliver. Forty minutes later, still deep in thought, he barely noticed the 8-seater touch down to a rough but safe and welcomed landing on dilapidated pavement that passed for a runway.
Once on the ground Neil quickly navigated his way through the makeshift terminal, nothing more than a tin cobertizo. A dark, heavyset man dressed in worn out khakis motioned toward him. Neil surmised this was his guide.
“Senor Baxter,” the man greeted Neil. “I am Manuel. Have you any bags?” Neil breathed a sigh of relief as he noted his guide spoke perfect English through his thick Hispanic accent. His message would be difficult enough without a good interpreter to overcome the language barrier. He shook his head, uttering the words, “no just this” as he gestured to a small backpack. His trip would be short. Though he had come with a heavy heart, he was traveling light.
The 33 mile journey into deep jungle was grueling. The battered jeep veered over heavily gutted dirt roads and the Gringo-passenger felt his stomach tighten with each slam into a rut. Having been warned of drug wars in Bolivia, the world's 3rd largest producer of cocaine, Neil was on edge with every shadow. Raging heat intensified his misery. Even in the shade of thick cover scorching heat waves pressed in on the two men traveling in silence. Sweat dripped over Neil’s eyebrows, blurring his vision. With shrill sounds of animals & wild birds screeching all around him, his head was pounding.
Neil wondered what he would find when they arrived at the remote village. He had never met his father-in-law. Donita, his precious bride of 12 years, had shown him tattered photographs of her father & mother and a letter she received from them when she graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine. They were so proud of their daughter. The first to escape the poverty of their South American squalor, she had mastered English and tirelessly supported herself through medical school.
She'd seen her parents only twice since then when she ventured back to the village on medical missions. It broke Donita’s heart when the missions were cancelled due to high levels of violence in the area. She intended to return but she never had.
Now because of great love they shared in common Neil was enduring this excruciating journey from the US to meet his father-in-law for the first time. He had come to personally break the news that his only daughter had died in a tragic drowning accident just 9 days earlier. Struggling to cope with the loss of the only woman he had ever loved and the unyielding sorrow of their two small children Neil’s own grief carved a deep wound on his heart. He begged God for the strength to make it through without breaking down.
After what seemed hours of eating trail dust Neil found himself in the midst of a tiny village steeped in filth and ravaging destitution. A short thin man stood before him, dark leather skin and toothless face told of years of tumultuous living on the harsher side of humanity. Neil recognized his father-in-law immediately from the photographs. His fingers fumbled in his backpack for the letter from Donita’s parents, one she had read countless times but never once without tears. Holding out the envelope to the frail man before him, with agony in his heart and a lump in his throat Neil began to speak.
“This was Donita’s most precious possession…”
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