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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Don’t Look Back (04/19/12)

TITLE: No Bridge Over Troubled Waters
By Allen Povenmire
04/24/12


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More than 6,000 Hondurans perished when Hurricane Mitch devastated the Central American country with 140 MPH winds in October of 1998. I witnessed the destruction a few months later serving on a mission trip to help rebuild churches that had been destroyed by Mitch. The massive amount of water dumped on the country before, during, and after the storm had turned rivers into wild ferocities, seeking outlets that were already overflowing.

One afternoon during our week-long trip, a Honduran missionary took me on a short drive to witness firsthand some of the hurricane-impacted rural areas outside the small village where we’d been working. In his sure-footed vehicle, we crept and climbed our way to a tropical rain forest area on a mountainside. Getting out beside a roaring river, my guide explained it was once a serene setting, the river merely a peaceful stream. The sound of its furious surge forced us to shout to hear one another.

He pointed to an area where a wooden footbridge had been washed out by the storm. The bridge, he noted, was the only link to the outside world for those living on the opposite side. I looked to see dozens of run-down shacks dotting the mountainside across the river from me. The community would be cut off until another bridge could be erected, which wouldn't be anytime soon.

As I peered across at the isolated community, I spotted two barefoot girls walking toward the raging river. They were seventy-five yards or so upstream from me, headed for the river with purpose. They looked to be about twelve and eight years old. As the girls neared the water, I began to watch them intently. What they did next will stay with me for the rest of my life.

With determination, the older girl grabbed the younger one and together, they walked straight into the furious river.

“LOOK! What are they doing?”

The missionary turned and saw what I’d been watching.

“Oh no...they’ve been told not to do that.”

“Hey, get out of there!” I yelled, though the girls had no chance of hearing me, let alone understanding the English I spoke.

My guide just shook his head in silence. I sensed this was something he’d witnessed before. We watched helplessly as the older girl battled her way across the raging river, with the younger girl clinging to her, literally for her dear life. At times their little heads were about all we saw bobbing above the water.

The force of the river carried the girls downstream as they finally emerged at a point just below us. They scrambled up the hill toward where we were standing. Dripping wet, their dark eyes met ours and they smiled, continuing on to a small concrete block shanty where they ducked inside.

When they emerged moments later, the younger girl was carrying a cellophane bag. As the girls approached us again, I saw it was a bag of rice. Both girls squealed with joy at the peppermint sticks I’d fished out of my backpack for them.

“Gratias, senor!” And with that, they scurried back down the embankment to return to their side of the river. I was still perplexed by the whole scene.

"That rice is probably all their family will have to eat for next week or so,” my missionary guide shouted in my ear. “Families send children across the river to find food on this side. You see, they send their children, because they’re the most expendable...” His voice trailed off as we nervously watched the two girls fight their way back across the river.

“Ok, but why send both of the children?” I asked, as the little girls climbed out on their side of the river and raced back to their simple shanty with the rice.

“Well, believe or not, the younger one serves as an anchor to keep the older one from being swept away. But, it doesn’t always work. Ten or twelve children have been lost since the bridge washed out.” Looking down the violent river, my throat tightened as I thought of the precious lives that had been swept away by the perilous act that I’d just witnessed.

“Dear God, please remedy this situation,” I whispered under my breath as we climbed back into the missionary’s truck. I didn’t turn back toward the river again, but I didn’t have to. I could still hear its roar for days, months, and now, years after I’d left it.


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This article has been read 288 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marina Rojas04/26/12
Your words have left a powerful image burned into my thoughts. How many times are we forced to 'not look back' at situations that we have no control over, and pray that God will better those situations for those caught in their circumstance of that moment?

Good story, thank you for taking us there.
Susan Hourigan04/27/12
Wow I really loved reading this, it made goosebumps stand up on my arms. You did a fantastic job of capturing the reality of how many lives are lived and lost in places that many of us have never heard of. Great Writing.
Camille (C D) Swanson 04/27/12
I felt as if I was there experiencing this harrowing scenario. Thank you for this riveting story. My heart breaks each time I see, or hear about how so many people/children suffer in this world today. Thank you for sharing.

GOd bless~
Genia Gilbert04/27/12
This really touched me. It is well written and gripping. Thanks for sharing it.
Hiram Claudio04/30/12
Wow ... this was SOOOO moving and gripping. I too was in Honduras for a week back in 1996 (a two week missions trip - first week was in Guatemala). This brought back so many fond and vivid memories.

This was so beautifully written and brought you right to the edge of that river with you. Very well done!
Amanda Brogan04/30/12
This is so heartbreakingly powerful! To think that the parents were so selfish and heartless as to send their children to do what they were too afraid to do themselves. And yet it makes you wonder ... how many times do parents "sacrifice" their children in our own country? Maybe not by sending them across a river, but by forcing them into a raging culture with no guidance. Interesting thought.

I also loved the bravery of those sweet little girls. And how the younger one served as an anchor for the older. Reminds me that we all need a godly friend to anchor us when we're fighting against the current of this life-sucking world.

Beautiful story! Well done.
Lillian Rhoades 04/30/12
You couldn't have picked a better title! The article was well structured and flowed with ease from one paragraph to the next.

Good, solid writing. I was there with you.
Donna Wilcher04/30/12
Is this story true? If so, I can see why it would haunt you for years. If not, then you have an amazing ability to write stories that seem real.

Either way...Great Story!
Ada Nett05/01/12
I liked your title "No Bridge Over Troubled Waters". It's a clever title and it fits your story perfectly. Your descriptions were vivid and I felt as if I could actually hear the raging river.
Cathy
Leola Ogle 05/01/12
I love missionary stories and this one tugged at my heart. I found myself praying the little girls would make it safely across. Well done on this poignant story. Thanks so much for sharing. God bless!
Laura Manley05/02/12
Wow, what a story! What courageous little children; their persistance is beyond what any of us might do in the same situation. Excellent writing! I enjoyed this immensely.
Nancy Bucca05/02/12
Oh the sadness and desperation with which these children are treated! It makes one want to head right over there and build a bridge.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/03/12
Wow this is such a powerful story. It ripped at my heart, knowing that things like this go on all the time. Your story has reminded me to be grateful for what I have.

The only thing I might suggest would be to switch some of the paragraphs around. If you had started with seeing the girls it would grab so many more readers. Then you could put the facts in and conclude with your last paragraph. It's sad that some people may skim over this if they aren't grabbed immediately because this is a story that needs to be read!

You did an amazing job of painting a picture for me. I could see the girls and hear the roar. Excellent writing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/03/12
Congratulations for ranking 10th in level three!