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

TITLE: Tamed by the Almighty!
By Valora Otis


One man looked back to the east with tears stinging his eyes, wondering how his dear sister would ever find him in the wilderness. Jonathan took comfort in prayer, realizing with renewed faith that she and her family would find their way across the sea to the land he sought for their future home.

Chosen to go ahead of the wagon train to ensure safe passage along the way; a handful of men had the task of building bridges, scouting trails and setting up camps. Many had left their families in the care of others as they went into the wilderness. They were strong and knew well the hardships that lay ahead. Even so, they prayed together before starting out that the Almighty would bless them as their horses carried them across the melting snow - driven with a sense of purpose to keep the wagon train headed west.

Jonathan looked across the ferry at the other men. Their bond was strong after only a few short hours together. Bound by prayer for a miracle that their families and the multitudes to follow could cross this mighty Mississippi safely, they placed the lives of their loved ones in the Almighty’s capable hands.

Jonathan clutched at his horses’ reins as the ferry pitched and rolled with every grinding chunk of ice. What could happen in the icy depths if the craft were to capsize chilled his mind. Inwardly he thought about the slow wagons filled to overflowing making their way, on the newly thawing river. He shivered from the thought. Without heavenly intervention many would perish.

He sent a prayer heavenward as the men made it to the other side. The looks from the others mirrored his relief and resolve to get the job done.

The wind howled as all steeds and riders leapt onto the shore uniformly. Arriving at the top of the riverbank, they paused looking back at their home. The mobs would be there soon. The safety of his wife and son left in the care of friends. They were leaving behind the last vestiges of the civilized world. Until they made a home for themselves in the west, they would cling to this one final image of what could have been.

Jonathan cleared his throat thinking about Hannah and his son Matthew. His boy was surely a gift from God. He had begged to come with him. At ten he carried the load of many grown men when it came to chores around the farm. Now he would have to help Hannah as they followed Jonathan alone across the miles. Faith would carry them through this. Shrugging down into his wool-lined cloak, he shivered. Why was it suddenly so cold?

Soon the men stopped for the night, picketing the horses in a low area sheltered by a stand of trees. A makeshift shelter was erected for the men out of branches and oilcloth before hunkering down for a long night. Jonathan could hardly feel his fingers. A freak blizzard had come from the North. This was an uncommon occurrence for this time of year. The bitter winds wailed through the night. Not one of them slept for fear of freezing to death.

In the morning, the men thanked God for keeping His protective hand upon them through the storm. All said a collective, “AMEN!”

The leader, Johan Puckett, spoke out. “I realize that last night was tough, but I have a request. As we prayed, I felt Father ask that one of you go back to help the others as they cross the river. All single men will continue on with me. You can join us later after everyone is safely across.”

Jonathan stepped forward, “Sir, I’ll go and return after the crossing.” He shook Johan’s hand and turned to gather his belongings.

“God speed, Jonathan." Tipping his hat in respect, he and his horse were heading back in no time.

Hours later, he rode his horse to the bottom of the river valley. The scene before him was miraculous. The blizzard was a blessing, not a curse. With plummeting temperatures, the river had frozen! Wagons were stretched to the far shore single file.

“Father!” His heart quickened at the sound of a familiar voice. His eyes widened at the sight of his wife Hannah smiling beside Matthew. Another gift from above, they were safe!

What inspiration this news would bring to the men when he returned! The mighty Mississippi tamed overnight by the Almighty.

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Edy T Johnson 09/08/06
Oh, this gives me chills, and I don't mean from the weather described, so articulately in your story, either! The blessing-in-disguise ending is just wonderful. You know how to involve your reader in the lives of your characters, for sure.

The only distraction for me (maybe for expanding later, without word limits) was introducing the unnamed sister at the beginning, then switching to the immediate families back beyond the river. But, I forgot about that when you pulled me into the rest of your story.

You have a jewel in the making, and I hope this is just the first of many chapters.
Laurie Glass 09/08/06
I love wagon train stories. I think you captured the reality of their experiences at that point in our history. Great surprise ending, too.
Ann FitzHenry09/08/06
I love wagon train and moving West stories. YOu described the hardships they faced very well. I was wondering where you were going with the spring blizzard and the river. I smiled when I read the ending. It was a twist I never expected. (The obvious was hidden right in front of my eyes! I love those kind of endings.) Great job! Is this another chapter for your book? :-)
Marilyn Schnepp 09/09/06
Tears of joy filled my eyes at the miraculous Icing of the Mississippi by the Almighty. But, I too, was wondering why the sister was thrown into the story in the beginning. A bit confusing, but I loved this story and especially the outcome. Good Job!
Donna Haug09/10/06
A great story of God's hand controling nature. Awesome! One point - "Chosen to go ahead of the wagon train to ensure safe passage along the way; a handful of men had the task of building bridges, scouting trails and setting up camps." The semi-colon implies you have two complete sentences joined together. A comma following way would have done the job. But maybe that was just a typo. ;) I loved your story. You captivated my interest.
Joanne Sher 09/11/06
What an inspiring, compelling, uplifting story! Great description, characterization, and message. I enjoyed every word of this!
Val Clark09/12/06
What a fast paced story of the provision of God! And what a lesson to us, the bitter cold had to be endured for the miracle to happen!
Donna Powers 09/13/06
What a wonderfully heartwarming story! So glad I read this! Excellent descriptions and very well told!