Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CAT (11/08/18)
TITLE: When Staring Beat Skinning A Cat
By Mariane Holbrook
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Alice and her companion, Isabelle, had parked their mule-driven wagon at a clearing near the jungle in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India, hoping for opportunities to tell the village women about the only true God during their scheduled three-day visit.
The two single women were Baptist missionaries in one of the poorest sections of India. Their work had been varied but fruitful during their thirty year ministry there, from clinics where they administered antibiotics and delivered babies, to schools where they taught children who eagerly walked four miles each way to attend classes, to a leprosarium where they treated the ulcerous, disfigured bodies of the cast-aways.
Now, in 1936, their assignment was to help the used and abused Indian women and girls whose plight was known throughout the world. The missionaries had compiled a list of villages surrounding the mission compound where they could spend a few days ministering to needy women both physically and spiritually. This was their first stop on their busy itinerary.
Alice and Isabelle were both in deep sleep that night in their covered wagon when they first heard scratching on the canvas cover.
Bolting upright, the startled women looked at each other, wide-eyed but silent. Alice quietly slipped from her cot and tiptoed to the canvas opening which she slowly untied.
Instantly, she found herself looking straight into the bright yellow/green eyes of a 400-pound, man-eating, Bengal tiger, only three feet away. Above his left eye was a large, jagged scar, likely a souvenir from a recent fight with an angry opponent.
The menacing tiger Alice was facing was nine feet tall (including its tail) and with both front feet on the edge of the wagon, it was poised to pounce at any moment. The tiger bared its 3-inch upper canine teeth, emitted a short growl and stared at Alice.
Behind her, still on her cot, Isabelle was frozen in time and rendered speechless. She, too, had read of the horrific reputation and voracious appetite of Bengal tigers, one of the largest members of the cat family.
Still staring, Alice remembered a young girl who prayed for her before Alice's first trip to India so many years ago. "Dear Lord, please keep Miss Alice safe and don't let the tigers eat her up," the child had earnestly prayed.
Alice also remembered reading that staring down a wild animal would often cause them to retreat.
"Isabelle," Alice barely whispered, "You pray and I'll stare at the tiger. I'll explain later."
The scene inside the covered wagon was palpably intense. Isabelle was silently pouring her heart out to God, begging, pleading for His protective covering, repeating every Scripture verse that came to mind, although no sound escaped her quivering lips.
All the while, Alice continued to stare until her eyes ached and began to tear. Still trying not to blink, she felt wet droplets forge a crooked path down her cheeks and drip onto her night shirt. Her body ached, she felt faint and feared she might tumble forward onto the tiger's taut, muscular body.
Just when she thought she could not maintain her position for another moment, the fearsome tiger slowly lowered one massive paw to the ground, then the other. Still, the staring continued unabated until the tiger began backing away from the covered wagon. Then, quickly, he turned and disappeared into the dense, dark canopies of the jungle.
Exhausted, Alice returned to her cot for much-needed rest, thinking hours had gone by but in reality, it was less than thirty minutes. She and Isabelle stayed awake until dawn, weeping, praising God, reciting promise after promise from God's Word, and praying.
That morning, walking through the small village to introduce themselves to women, Alice and Isabelle discovered the village was a-buzz with startling news. A large Bengal tiger had killed and dismembered a man in the next village during the night and villagers were warned to be cautious and protective of each other. After the tiger was shot and killed, a large, recent, jagged scar was noticeable above its left eye.
Stunned but grateful, Alice and Isabelle were able to tell villagers of their riveting encounter with the same tiger and to give thanks to God who provides a strong, protective cover over those who trust in Him.
(Note: Non-fiction. Alice was a member of our church.)
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