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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)

TITLE: As Simple as a Smile
By Patty Wysong


“This isn't open for discussion, Suze. It's decided. These people asked us to come and that's what we're here for, planting churches--even if it means climbing this mountain every week.” Bob glanced over at his daughter then shifted into granny-low for another steep grade as they wound up the mountain.

Susan huddled against the door, arms crossed tightly across her stomach. I hate being the odd-ball. Everyone stares at me and all the ladies touch my hair. Having blond hair is such a pain. I wish it was black like everyone else's here; then I wouldn't stick out so much... I wish...

Just then they rounded a curve and the village came into view. It was tucked into a fold of the mountain, clinging there, like gray ivy. Susan's arms tightened even more as her anxiety grew. I hope they don't make fun of me.

“You know, Suze, it's as simple as a smile.”

Susan turned her blue eyes to her mother. “It might be that simple in the States, Mom, but here I stick out like a sore thumb.”

Her mom gave her a squeeze. “Then let's pray you find a special friend here.”

That'd be nice, God. I could use a friend, and a special friend would be even better.

Bob maneuvered the truck through the narrow cobblestoned streets and parked beside a mud wall with broken glass shards embedded in its top. A stooped old man shuffled out the gate with an equally aged lady just a step behind him. Their faces radiated joy as tears trickled into the crevices on their faces. “We've prayed for this for almost 20 years. Welcome to our home. Please, come and join us.”

With shuffling steps they were escorted to a living room where people sat on vinyl furnishings. Susan nervously glanced around as she trailed after her parents. On the far side of the room a girl her age sat on a sofa, smiling at her, and she patted the space beside her when their eyes met. Maybe she'll ignore my hair. Susan followed her parents as they circled the room, greeting each person, as was customary, and she didn't even mind when an older lady pulled her down for a kiss on the cheek and a pat on her hair before allowing her to move on to the smiling girl.

“Buenos dias. Me llamo Susana,” Susan said with a smile for the girl, just as she'd said to everyone. Her heart was beating so fast it took her a moment to realize the eyes she was looking into were a deep blue.

“Buenos dias. I'm Marta. Sit here beside me.” Marta gently tugged Susan's hand, giggling. “I'm so glad you have blue eyes, too,” she whispered. “Abuelita assured me you wouldn't think I'm strange because of my eyes.”

“People think you're strange?” Susan whispered back, surprised.

“Si, because I'm a Christian and I have blue eyes they've even called me a witch.” Marta's eyes clouded briefly, but then cleared. “But I can tell that you don't think I'm strange. You understand.”

The girls shared a smile as the old man raised his hands, waiting. Marta leaned close once again. “My grandfather, Cristobal,” she said with a fond smile toward the old man.

“Gracias,” Cristobal said through tears. “My family has prayed for many years and today God has answered. Each week we will meet here, at this same hour, for a time of teaching and worship with our brothers and sisters. Bring your neighbors and friends; they are always welcome in my home.” Cristobal held out a hand to Bob. “Hermano Roberto, please, come and lead us.” The men clasped hands, then embraced, as they exchanged places.

Bob stepped forward with a smile. “In the days after Jesus ascended into heaven the Christians met in small groups, much like this one. Being here with you is an honor as well as an answer to our prayers--thank you for asking us to join you. Our God is a great God, answering the prayers of His children.”

Marta reached over and squeezed Susan's hand. Maybe Mom is right. Maybe it is as simple as a smile.

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This article has been read 895 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 12/06/07
Very vivid descriptions and wonderful characterization. Felt like I was right there.
Beth LaBuff 12/06/07
Your story is beautiful AND beautifully written. Good work on this!
Laury Hubrich 12/07/07
Very nice. How hard to be a teen in a foreign land. You did a nice job in your descriptions and I like your title.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/09/07
I like this story from a different cultural and age perspective. I like the title, and your writing is very good.
Dee Yoder 12/09/07
Wonderful and descriptive. Love the characters, too.
Jan Ackerson 12/10/07
It must be so hard to be the child of missionaries! I really felt as if I knew Susan by the time I'd read this very good story. she was not just a one-dimensional character--not easy to do in such a short story.
Yvonne Blake 12/10/07
RED PEN: I suggest beginning with the line. "It's as simple as a smile, Suzy." and her reply. Then go into the description of where they are. It will put the conflict right up front.
I like the ending.
Sara Harricharan 12/11/07
First off, I liked this story. I could feel for the teen trying to adjust and feeling like the odd one out.
RED PEN: The beginning was a little confusing for me, at first, I thought they were walking up the mountain, because the dad (Bob) says they will climb the mountain every morning if they have to. I assume they are walking and am thrown slightly off course when she(MC) folds her arms across her chest and leans on the door. I wanted to know where the door came from. Then the tagless dialouge for her mother, I didn't know her mother was there as well, I thought it was just her father and her, so I'm wondering where 'mom' came from. I liked the touch of Marta having blue eyes. Maybe you could play on this a little longer, by when their eyes meet, besides the smile, show a little surprise/comfort in seeing familiarly colored eyes. (That's just a thought for me there, though ^_^) The end was pretty good. Nice job!
Lynda Schultz 12/11/07
As a missionary in Latin America, I SOOOO identified with this story. Blond, blue-eyed M.K. kids always get patted on the head, pinched on the cheeks and stick out like sore thumbs (except perhaps, in Scandinavia!). Most of them survive to bless the Lord, sometimes long after, for the opportunity of being part of God's plan for the nations. Good work.
Brenda Welc12/12/07
So glad she found a friend! Good writing here, thanks for sharing this girls fears!
LauraLee Shaw12/12/07
Great title which really captures the heart of your piece. You showed and told this story so beautifully that I felt like I was a part of the scene. Excellent writing.
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/12/07
I loved the descriptions and the story line.
Kristen Hester12/12/07
This part gave me chills:
“Si, because I'm a Christian and I have blue eyes they've even called me a witch.” Marta's eyes clouded briefly, but then cleared. “But I can tell that you don't think I'm strange. You understand.”
That really touched me. I was so happy for your MC to find a friend.

I agree with Sue's comments. At at first I was really curious as to what country they were in. I wanted more clues (In many places the people all have dark hair). Then they started speaking in Spanish and I was sastisfied.

This is very, very well written. The descriptions, the dialogue, all of it. Good job!

Temple Miller12/12/07
I loved your descriptions of the setting and the authentic dialogue. I wondered about the story behind the latina's blue eyes. That word count gets in the way sometimes.
Terrific story!
Tim Pickl12/12/07
¡Magnifico! Excellent writing--it could be one chapter in a book!
Loren T. Lowery12/12/07
You did a good job of creating intrigue in your story and interest in your characters. I could very easily see this being expanded to a novella form.
Great job.
LaNaye Perkins12/12/07
Your story is very touching and beautifully written. Well done!
Catrina Bradley 12/13/07
Fabulous! My only Red Pen: "A stooped old man shuffled out the gate " I think "out of the gate" would sound better, but I don't know if yours is wrong. :) And I like Yvonne's suggestion too. Good job, my friend! :) Love, Cat