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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)

TITLE: Mildewed Forever
By Gary Sims


Mildewed Forever

They had arrived from all parts of the country; college kids on a summer break. They could have gone anywhere... there were amusement parks to visit, mountains to see, friends to search out, or foreign cities to explore. Instead, they chose to set aside their summer break in order to help those in need. They could have come to play but instead, they came to help.

A city had been destroyed and help was needed. Help was needed to tear down, search out, recover, and rebuild. Help was needed to feed, clothe, and house. Help was needed to provide a hug, some comfort, and love. They came to help those who had suffered but left themselves changed forever.

As they entered the neighborhood and houses that once were the homes of thousands of people, a hush and reverence filled their hearts. Good natured teasing and frolicking suddenly ceased. A sadness filled their hearts as they picked through the ruins in search of memorabilia and heirlooms. The laughter and love that had once filled these halls had been replaced by a stench of mildew and rot. The homeowners stood outside the house waiting patiently in their grief to see if any treasure from their past life would be recovered.

A teacup, a soiled picture of a child, and a water-soaked Bible was all that came through the once familiar threshold. Tears flowed down every check; helper and victim alike. The teacup brought memories of parties and birthdays; the picture a snapshot of a happier times; and the Bible? Well, the Bible, still dripping with the flood waters from its holy pages, represented hope for the future.

Stories were shared as they stood together as a group under the Magnolia tree in front of a home that had lost its familiarity. Memories flooded their eyes and sadness filled their hearts. Everyone suffered and felt the pain during this moment of final memorializing of a home, now dead and gone. Closure was achieved. Finality reached. There was nothing left to do but turn and leave.

Once the homeowners had left, the students returned to their job, a job of tearing down the remnants of the destroyed home. Walls were demolished. Sinks and toilets removed. Refrigerators filled with rotting food and washing machines with mildewed clothes were carried out and sent away for disposal. It was a hot and dirty job. Dust fell from the rafters into their hair. Bugs, termites, and spiders scurried under their feet. Mold and mildew permeated everything and the sweat pouring down their arms was filled with dirt and grime. They worked, feeling the pain and suffering of the life destroyed with each board removed. They worked knowing that joy would never again fill these halls and love was gone forever.

In the end, the students would leave and return to their own homes. They would never forget the destruction a storm had wrought and the suffering it had dealt. But they also would remember the hope in the eyes of the homeowners as they looked up from their grief and through their tears into the eyes of those who willingly came, setting aside their own lives, in order to suffer with them and to put closure to a wound that had festered for so long.

Everything had been destroyed and yet, there was a sense of growth and new beginnings. Christ was present as new life began. Souls were rekindled and spiritual growth reborn. It was a difficult path to walk but all who walked it knew they were on the pathway of righteousness that God had lain before them and that their souls were firmly entrenched in His arms because of their willingness to work and suffer for others.

As they live out the rest of their lives, they'll always remember the time when they took the step to help people in need. Eventually, when they enter the realm of God, they will understand that this was the time that the development of their souls began and a moment when God was greatly pleased with these saints that He had created.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 07/21/06
I like the narrative style here--you could have written it from the POV of one of the students, but this way, it was more like a slide show of the work they did. Nice.

Take a look at your third paragraph, where you use "filled their hearts" twice and "filled" in the next sentence. A tiny "tweak."

Very descriptive without falling into purple prose. Good job.
david grant07/21/06
Good report. Great reminder. More like a newspaper column. Cool!
william price07/22/06
A nice enjoyable entry. A little wordy at times. Some tightening up would have made it flow a lil better. I thought the last sentence of your lead paragraph might have made a better lead sentence. But, that's being real picky and only offer it because this is a good story. The message really touched my heart. Kids doing the right thing don't always get the recognition. Good job. God bless.
Marilyn Schnepp 07/22/06
A sad, true life story; however, for a "contest" (The challenge) - I would suggest dialogue, or something to keep the reader interested, and not allow the story to become bogged down and mundane. Just a suggestion, from a reader's standpoint.
Gregory Kane07/23/06
I didn’t understand the title until I came across the word ‘mildew’ halfway down. Kept wondering if it was a place name or an as yet unrevealed character.