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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Repeat (01/24/13)

TITLE: I'm Going To Name Her Tonya
By Justin Atkin


She was jittery. Worse than I have ever seen her. She kept scratching at her forehead, messing with her elbow, twisting her hair; just doing weird stuff like that. Her pupils were dilated. It mustíve been a real good high this time, because she was crashing hard. She was standing next to the piano, staring up at the picture of Jesus that has hung on the wall for decades. I hesitated, drew a deep breath and closed my eyes for a moment before I walked in the sanctuary. It definitely wasnít my first time dealing with people in her situation. It wasnít even my first time dealing with her. It just seems that after twenty years of ministry, this wouldnít be so hard. But seventeen year old crack addicts are never easy ,no matter how many times youíve been there.

"My goodness, sheís wearing the same clothes she had on when she left here Sunday morning," I mumbled to myself.

Thatís all I could think of as she sat on the pew. I sat down beside her and rubbed the top of her hand. She still smelt like the crack house she had just left. Itís a pungent smell that you canít ignore. It smells like some strange concoction of burning plastic mixed with urine. I didnít have a clue what to say. No one ever bothered to teach us in seminary how to start one of these conversations. The sad part is, I have had two decades of practice and I havenít figured it out either. So like always I just asked, ďWhat you need honey?Ē

I knew what her answer would be. Tonya had set on this same pew, at least a dozen times. At least a dozen times I have rubbed the top of her hand and asked her that same old question. At least a dozen times I had heard the same old words. Like clockwork, she said the same words as always, but something sounded different in her voice. There was a deep sadness in her voice. A sadness that I had heard once before, but it had been a while.

ďI canít take it no more. I need help! I donít know what do this time.Ē

The words barely made it out of her mouth before she started shaking violently. Tears began to fall. I hugged her tight, committing the unpardonable sin. At least thatís what the guest speaker at last yearís pastor convention called a hug. Iím not knocking the guy, but he has obviously never been a preacher in inner city Atlanta; a place where it seems drug addicts outnumber saints four to one. The harder she shook, the tighter I held her. I shouldíve prayed, but I just found myself staring mindlessly at the same old picture of Jesus hanging by the piano. While I stared off she continued to shake, followed by cussing, then crying and finally hyperventilating.

ďCalm down, itís ok. Itís ok. Tonya, honey, itís going to be ok. Just calm down.Ē

It seemed liked it lasted forever. Then all of a sudden she just stopped and whispered something. I heard her say the words that most women say with joy, but not her. Her words were not filled with joy at all, but trembled with fear.

ďIím pregnant. I am pregnant. God help me! Iím pregnant.Ē

I was speechless. Those words took me back in time eighteen years. Back to a time early on in my ministry, when my biggest concern was Sunday School attendance and what color tie I should wear. Eighteen years before, I had sat on that same pew. That same picture of Jesus watching over us. I had heard those exact same words from a scared teenager who had stumbled in off the street late one night. I had never seen anyone like her. She was pitiful. Something was bad wrong with her. She was jittery. She kept scratching at her forehead, messing with her elbow, twisting her hair; just doing weird stuff like that. Her pupils were dilated. At the time, I didnít know a crack rock from a gem stone. The one thing I did know was that the poor child she was going to have didnít stand a chance. I remember, just before she left, I asked her what she planned to do with the child. As she walked out the sanctuary, she turned and said the words that haunt me today.

ďIím going to name her Tonya.Ē

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This article has been read 358 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Wilma Schlegel02/01/13
Wow! That was an unexpected ending. I loved it, it really makes a person think!
C D Swanson 02/02/13
Wow - This gave me chills! This had an authentic feel, so I'm wondering if this actually happened. Or if in fact, it was based on an actual event.

Great writing. God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/03/13
Wow what a powerful and wonderful--yet still so sad--story. The emotions you were able to pull out of me were so intense.

The only red ink I have is don't give away your ending with your title. Usually, I don't read titles but this time I did so it's hard for me to know if the ending would have been more powerful with a different title. I did find myself wishing that I hadn't read it.

You tackled a difficult subject and did it with dignity and grace. Your open ending allows the reader to take the story in the direction they need the most. Through your words, the Holy Spirit will touch many hearts.
Cheryl Harrison02/04/13
This one made me shiver. So sad how the captivity of addiction affects the children. Your story has such meaning. Keep writing.
Judith Gayle Smith02/05/13
Your descriptions are so poignant. You made me feel Tonya. What a blessing you have penned for the Tonyas' in this painful void we call Earth.
Alicia Renkema02/07/13
Thank God for pastor's that commit that "unpardonable sin" and give a big hug to someone that is hurting and in desperate need. Your story was so powerfully told and it made me want to comfort Tonya right along with you. I too, was unprepared for the ending. We do pass our sins down to our children just as the scriptures teach when their chains aren't broken with His healing redemption. Thank the Lord for grace though and the fact that it is never too late for His forgiveness to heal. I simply loved this. I think you will be moving up real soon, at least I hope so. This is very good writing indeed!
PamFord Davis 02/07/13
Congratulations Justin; Keep Winging His Words!
Sheldon Bass 02/07/13
Congrats on taking 1st place in level 2! The scenario in your story is all too familiar to my wife and I. We have an out reach Ministry to homeless men and women and we counsel many drug abusers. Maybe I should follow suit and write about some of our experiences for the challenge. Great job on this.
Myrna Noyes02/07/13
HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on your FIRST PLACE level win for this absorbing, sobering piece!! Your well-written first paragraph drew me right in, and your ending packed a surprise punch. You have story-telling talent for sure! :) WAY TO WRITE!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/07/13
Congratulations on your beautiful ribbon, also for ranking 24 overall! I knew this was a great piece and am excited that it did so well. I look forward to reading your work in level three!
Bea Edwards 02/10/13
ahhh my heart grieves at the enemies generational curses which you captured so poignantly and powerfully. Amazing piece, congratulations on your well deserved win.