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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

TITLE: No Greater Love
By Joanne Sher


Sylvia Bennet's wrinkled, calloused fingers struggled with the envelope in her hand. Eager as she was to examine its contents, she could not get her arthritic fingers to open it. Sighing, she walked across the room for her letter opener.

She hadn't heard from Marcie Willingston in years. For two decades, they had been neighbors, but Marcie's husband's job had moved them away ten years ago. They had written and called each other for a while, but the friendship had tapered off over time. Sylvia had heard from mutual friends that Marcie was having some chronic back problems, but was getting by all right, by the grace of God. Now here, out of the blue, was a letter from her.

Dearest Sylvia,
It has been so long since I wrote to you, so please forgive me. I want you to know that I have not stopped praying for you, and have missed you terribly.

I really need to see you, dear friend - God has told me it is very important for both of us. Please use the enclosed check to purchase airplane tickets and anything else you may need to get to me, soon if possible. I promise you will not be disappointed if you do.

Your dear friend in Christ,


Sylvia exited the taxicab, surveying the huge assisted living center. So this was where her dear friend was living.

Sylvia's imagination was certainly in high gear. They had spoken on the telephone once final arrangements had been made for the trip, but Marcie had been very elusive about why she wanted to see Sylvia.

Following the directions Sylvia got over the phone, she quickly located the room. The door was open a crack, so Sylvia knocked gently.


"Is that you, Sylvia? Come right in, dear."

Entering the room, she found Marcie lying in bed, absolutely glowing.

"Oh, Marcie! So good to see you!"

The two grasped hands, Sylvia cringing slightly from her aching joints.

Marcie loosened the grip immediately, kissing her friend's hand lightly.

"Oh dear - I had nearly forgotten how painful that must be."

"It's all right, Marcie. I'm starting to get used to it."

Marcie smiled. "Oh, don't worry about that, dear. You won't need to be used to it for long. Have a seat."

Baffled by her friend's words, Sylvia found a chair just to the left of her friend's bed. Marcie closed her eyes briefly and smiled.

"I'm sure you are curious why I asked you here. Well, I have been talking with the Lord a lot lately, and we have decided that I need to do something for you."

"But you already have, Marcie! You paid for this trip here, and I am getting to see you. What else could you possibly do for me?"

Floundering about until she found Sylvia's arms, Marcie placed both of Sylvia's hands in her own.

"Have you been able to do your knitting?"

Sylvia's countenance dropped, and a tear ran down her cheek. "Not for a month or more. It's just too painful."

"Well, dear, God wants to do something about that."

Her brow furrowing, Sylvia sat up straighter, looking questioningly into Marcie's eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Your knitting is your heart's desire; your ministry. So many children have been saved from the cold because of it, and many have come to know Jesus because of those gifts you've made. God wants you to be without arthritis, and he wants me to do it. Sylvia, I want to take your arthritis from you."

"You want to what?"

"Sylvia, you know that my ministry is prayer, and that I have always been faithful to God that way. Yours is making things with your hands. I can pray with arthritis. You can't knit with it."

"Oh, Marcie! What a gift you are willing to offer me. But how can it be - even if I were willing to take it, which I'm not saying I am?"

Marcie smiled. "It can be, dear friend. My son is continuing to build homes in Nicaragua because I took his back pain, and my neighbor Allison has painted several paintings for Him because I took her blindness for her."

Sylvia fell to her knees before the bed and prayed aloud.

"Oh, Lord, what a gracious friend You have given me, given this world! What a heart! How can I thank her enough for all she has done for You?"

Take her up on the offer.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter11/30/06
Wow, what an intriguing thought. Really well written, and I like what it teaches about ministry. It leaves me considering the theological implications - do I believe that God makes that sort of bargain? You've definitely set me pondering!
Marilee Alvey12/04/06
Loved this entry! It really set my mind spinning. Often, I feel like, with my fertile imagination, I've thought everything...at least once. However, you've got me, here. This is the ultimate servant's heart. This is, "The Giving Tree" in action. You've given this gal an "Aha!" moment. Your writing is fresh, easy to follow, with a clear message. The word, "Volunteer" never came up in your story, but you showed the heart of a volunteer better than anyone ever could! Well done!
Pat Guy 12/04/06
Wow Joanne! What a creative approach!

If only we could do that for others ... *sigh*

You carried the reader very well with atmosphere and dialogue - Good Job!
Jan Ackerson 12/04/06
If only such a thing were possible--I'd take my daughter's disability in a heartbeat. Consequently, this brought a huge lump to my throat--you've written it beautifully.
Jen Davis12/04/06
A captivating read that causes one to pause and consider. In doing so, I am reminded of the ways that we are able to share in or take on the pain of others. A very touching and lovely story.
Marty Wellington 12/05/06
Wow--Christ's love in action (taking our pain and suffering upon Himself just like this dear woman). This was well written and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us. Blessings~
Donna Powers 12/05/06
Wow! What a concept! I also wish this were possible. I really loved the ideas this conjures up. Thanks so much for sharing this touching story.
william price12/06/06
Very thought provoking story. Was Marcie a “type” of Christ? Is. 53:5, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
Yes, it is out of the box. Excellently written. Very touching and moving. God bless.
Ruth Neilson12/06/06
Beautiful job! But, I'm a little confused about one thing with this peice is Marcie blind? there were a few things that hinted that she was blind--and then other items suggested that she wasn't. But overall, this was amazing at the levels that Marcie was willing to volunteer to take on--for her friend and for the Kingdom.
terri tiffany12/06/06
Nice writing - it flowed - good dialogue - good ending.:)
Shanti Singh12/06/06
This is a beautiful example of true intercession. What an amazing way to volunteer. Thanks for your creativity in this piece!
Cheri Hardaway 12/07/06
Wow! Left me thinking. What an awesome message and intriguing thought, that God would use someone like that. And what a selfless love, the love of a true volunteer. Good work! Blessings, Cheri
georgina simmons02/19/11
really nice story enjoyed reading it and i liked how the character portrays the symbolic love of Christ who takes everything upon himself and gives us eternal life :)