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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: The Missionary's Map
By terri tiffany


“The Amazon River.” She traced her finger along the blue line. The largest river in the world …rainforests …piranha … people. People … who needed Jesus.

She turned from the map and studied the wares on the table before her. Curious items – nothing like she saw in her small town. Nothing like she saw along the banks of the Susquehanna River that she and her family crossed each week to the grocery store or Wal-Mart.

She stepped back and sighed. What was it about this river that drew her? At eighteen, her life was mapped out. A different map than the one she now stood before. Her map included college, marriage to her steady boyfriend and later a job teaching in the school system just like her parents did.

“Come on, they are about to start. Let’s get a seat.” Her mother pulled her arm as they headed into the sanctuary. It was missions’ week and their tiny Baptist church had invited several missionary families, including the Cooks' from Peru.

Tara settled next to her parents and glanced around the auditorium. A sparse crowd as usual. Missions’ week usually generated poor attendance. She glanced to the front as the pastor opened the service with a prayer and then introduced their first speaker. Tara sat up straighter as Greg Cook stood behind the podium.


She wiped her tears and gripped the pew as her body rose with conviction. She felt the hand but shook it off. Her feet stepped out of the pew and joined two others at the altar. Tara’s pastor greeted her with a hug and whispered “God bless you” in her ear. She was one step closer to her river.

The door shook the picture hanging on the wall next to it. Her mother and father paced in front of the living room couch where she waited.

“What do you think you were doing tonight? Have you lost your mind?” Tara shook her head and watched her fingers cross and uncross in her lap.

“A missionary? Do you even understand what you did? You can’t make promises like that lightly. Your life is already planned. Let someone else go.” Her mother’s voice raised a notch. Her father slumped into the recliner.

“Mom, I have thought about this - ever since you started sending me to Sunday school - ever since I asked Jesus into my heart. Those people need to hear too.” She knew her words fell on deaf ears. The fear she read in her parents’ eyes were windows she had never before opened.

“But the Amazon. You could be killed. You would be living in squalid conditions. You have no idea. Please rethink what you did tonight. It isn’t too late.” Her mother grabbed Tara's clenched hands. “What would Mike say? You haven’t even talked it over with him yet.” All the stoppers. She pulled them all.

Tara fled the living room to the temporary sanctuary of her bedroom. She had felt the call. She knew it and she had finally acted on it. But her own doubts began to assault her almost as strongly as her parents’ had.

Lifting her worn Bible from her nightstand, she searched for the verse. Thumbing through the Old Testament, Tara found what she was looking for. ‘…peace to her like a river.’* That was what she felt tonight - the first peace she had experienced since she accepted Christ years ago. She was confident she was supposed to go into missions along the Amazon.

“Tara.” A soft knock on her door. “Can I come in?” Her mother pushed the door open and crossed the room. She stood in front of her. “Your father and I talked.” Her eyes flicked to Tara’s Bible. “We can’t let you do this. We called the pastor and told him you were confused and didn’t mean it.” She rubbed her toe in the plush carpet. “Maybe after you graduate from college you can reconsider it.”

Her heart sank as she stared at her mother in pain. “But Mom…I have to go. You don’t understand. I know I have to! They have places to train me. I’ll be fine!” Her mother shrugged and left the room.


“Friends, we gather here today to celebrate Tara’s life, cut short by the ravages of a drunk driver. Please join me in singing her favorite song - When Peace like a River.**

*Isaiah 66:12
** When Peace Like a River (It Is Well With My Soul) Horatio Spafford, 1873

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This article has been read 1180 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ed VanDeMark09/07/06
Outstanding, heartfelt. There may be a novel in this one. I know the look Tara endured...I quit a draft deferred job in 1966 and joined the Navy. Keep writing.
Donna Haug09/07/06
God's calling is so strong. As a missionary myself, I can't imagine not having my parents approval. But I know it does happen. One little picky note - you separated Tara's starting to listen to the message from her response, but you did not separate her response from the living room scene. I found that a little confusing for a second. Sobering ending. Makes you think ...
Ann FitzHenry09/10/06
You have such an outstanding ability to put your reader into the scene. I especially liked: She wiped her tears and gripped the pew as her body rose with conviction. She felt the hand but shook it off.

I loved your interpretation of the "river" topic. The ending gave me goosebumps. Great work!
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Joanne Sher 09/11/06
This was so compelling! I SO hoped her parents were coming into her room to say they'd reconsidered! The end took me by surprise, and was wonderful. Much to think about here!
Donna Powers 09/11/06
Wow! I felt a chill up my spine from the ending! Such a compelling story. I can understand her parents' concerns, but also her unshaken conviction. It really makes you think.
Mo 09/12/06
A thought provoking ending that is still with me days later.
Suzanne R09/14/06
'River' was woven all through this outstanding piece!

The ending was very sobering......

You highlighted an interesting point about the price parents pay ... and even more so when there are grandchildren involved.
Laurie Glass 09/15/06
Many good things going on in this piece. I like the way you wove river into it in different ways, surprises throughout, and it was realistic yet sobering. Good job.
Pat Guy 09/15/06
Wow! This is awesome! Strong and powerful - and a warning to parents. GREAT writing!