Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the BIOGRAPHICAL Genre (12/04/14)
TITLE: Margaret Shumley's Letter
By Jennifer Rubino Champion
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The letter was only one page long, single spaced and in the same neat cursive writing. It was addressed to one Brother C. Thomaston at First Baptist Church in Hickory, AL. The first paragraph was one of gratitude to the many years he served as the preacher in the tiny rural church. Miss Shumley went on to compliment how his style of delivering sermons had improved over the past twenty years but it was the second paragraph that captured the essence of the letter.
...Two years after I joined First Baptist, you had told the congregation about a mission trip you wanted to take to Indonesia. You said that if five other people wanted to go and could pay the $1000 a piece traveling money then the trip could be scheduled. Then, that night you showed a film you had obtained from another church. The film showed the poverty and hopelessness in Indonesia. It broke my heart and I really wanted to go but having only recently lost my husband and only child in a car accident felt it would not be the right time. A few weeks later you solemnly announced that you were one person shy of having enough to go on the trip. I’ll never forget the look on your face as you told everyone that morning. It was so obvious that you were heartbroken about it. It was as though all of Indonesia was doomed to hell because we could not take the mission trip to spread the gospel. If you look in my brown leather handbag next to the rocking chair, you will find a check written to the church. There should be enough to send at least ten people every year on a mission trip for the next one hundred years…
Miss Shumley included in her letter the details of how she saved up almost one millions dollars to donate to the church. She said she had found a recipe at the public library for an Indonesian soup called Temphu and realized it sounded like good old fashioned chicken noodle soup. She said that she had eaten chicken noodle soup every day for the past fifteen years. Her cabinets were full of cans of soup and bottled water. She included instructions to Brother Thomaston to take it all and donate it to the local food bank in the church’s name.
Her tiny duplex apartment on the outskirts of town was humble; the furnishings sparse but of good quality. Her closet was full of beautifully made women’s dresses. She stated in her letter that only a young woman could probably wear them due to the petite size and suggested the preacher donate them along with all her purses, shoes and jewelry to the local high school drama department. As her letter was coming to a close, she paused in her writing. It was evident that she had held the pen in the same spot for a while as though in deep thought about what to write next. Then it must have struck her.
…Dear Brother, please tell the church this money came from an anonymous donor. Before you fold this back up and ponder on things, I want you to know that I loved life and I knew that God had a plan for me just as he did for my husband and child. It won’t be long that I will be with them in heaven. I know this because my old body is telling me that it is time to go. Goodbye and God Bless…
The letter was returned tucked away inside the hymn book and locked in the pastor’s desk drawer. Miss Margaret Shumley’s letter was a perfect illustration of how she lived her life on this earth and how she looked forward to the future and eternity. She did it with an open heart.
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