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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Kingdom of God (03/12/09)

TITLE: An Officer and a Gentle Man
By Coleene VanTilburg


I saw him for the first time at the Court House. I was twelve. I knew I had a grandfather but my Dad had told me that he was not a very happy person and that it was best that he did not have a part in our family. My Dad's face would fill with sadness when he spoke of this. Now, it seemed I would have to go live with this man who was a stranger, this man my father had protected me from. I was a minor, a court ward and because this man was a relative, legally it looked like he was going to get custody. I gazed up at this person and physically saw a resemblance to my father, but that hint of familiarity was darkened by storm clouds that seemed to pull at his expression and stiffen his jaw. My parents had been killed in a plane crash while returning from a missionís board meeting. I had been living with our Pastor's family and they were also petitioning the court for custody. It had been a year and a half since the plane crash. The gavel went down; a done deal. I would now to go and live with this grandfather in a town I had never heard of. Would God follow us there? I was not sure. It seemed God only lived in the Pastor's house because He definitely did not show up in the court room.

The arrangements were made, the paper work completed and within a week, I was riding in the car with this man to a home in that far off town. Our conversation was polite and to the point. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, conversations began to lengthen. He told me that in my room was a box with some of my Dad's things. It took me awhile before I got the courage to face my pain and open the box.

His baseball card collection, some school pictures and report cards were amongst a Children's Bible when I finally peered inside. Opening the Bible I would find a baptism card and my Father's "statement of faith," dated in his eleventh year. As I sat gazing at this find, my Grandfatherís voice startled me.

"You know, I would take your Dad to church sometimes, but I never went; not even to his baptism. Your grandmother and I were career officers in the Army and we traveled constantly. Your Dad had to endure all the moves. The U.S. Army was what I was, what I loved, what I knew. When your Grandmother was killed in the embassy bombing, my responsibilities were clear. Fatherhood was not among them."

My Dad had lived all over the world, but I had never heard this side of the story. I did not know what to say but as I held my Dad's Bible and looked at my Grandfather, I felt the longing for a return, a chance to right a wrong.

"Sam...Can we go to church this Sunday?" I surprised myself in asking.

"Yeah, I think that would be good," as he left the room.

That morning the Pastor spoke a simple message from the Gospel of Luke, something about becoming a kid again. Sam sat beside me. I felt his uneasiness as the message continued. I looked over at his face, expecting to see boredom but instead I saw that dark cloud I had always pictured bursting with real tears streaming down that now softened jaw line and his shoulders shuddering. I took his hand in mine and together we walked that aisle. My Grandfather Sam would become like a child that day. He began to release that which hindered his relationship to his own son and to God. Suddenly, I felt a peace again, a peace I had not felt in a long time. I understood why God had me return to my Grandfather. As an Army officer he had been in almost every kingdom across the globe representing the United States, yet he had skipped over the most important Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ would now represent him. Like a child, my Grandfather entered the Kingdom of God and we were baptized together. Grandfather Sam got a second chance and a family was restored.

Luke 18:16 But Jesus called for them saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

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This article has been read 559 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Genia Gilbert03/19/09
I Like this a lot! A picture of God's grace and the ways He works that are least expected. Good job!
Jan Ackerson 03/20/09
A very tender story!

The two longer paragraphs at the beginninng and at the end lost me a little...breaking them down into shorter, more digestible bites, perhaps including some dialogue or description of action would help.

This left me with a very warm feeling.
Diana Dart 03/20/09
The title drew me in. Great lines throughout - especially liked the "dark cloud" imagery.
Norma-Anne Hough03/21/09
You put the message across very beautifully. Well done.
Mildred Sheldon03/24/09
I truly enjoyed this story very much. I did not have any problem following this at all. I guess I am wired differently then some but it was right one point. Good job and keep on writing.