Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DIARY (05/16/19)
- TITLE: Scorched Earth, Seared Soul
By Dave Walker
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His mind raged thinking about the stubborn Afrikaans farmers, turned guerrilla fighters who refused to admit defeat. They harassed and killed the British at every opportunity. Now Lord Kitchener had employed a Scorched Earth policy, capturing the women and children and burning the crops and houses to starve the menfolk into surrender.
James kicked aside a charred doll, a broken mirror, burnt dresses and bonnets. The woman and her children would have been dragged from the house and incarcerated in a concentration camp under appalling conditions of starvation, exposure and disease, such that 26,000 would die in two agonising years. Rummaging through the smouldering remains, he pocketed a necklace and rings, but found little else. He'd heard they hid their silver when the British were close.
He wandered over to the charred stable. Nothing here. Unless their silver's hidden here. What's this? ... A loose stone in the wall. He pulled it from its position, revealing a deep recess. His pulse beat at his temples. He reached inside, extracting --- not silver, but a small book. He felt again and pulled out a violin. Intrigued, he sat and read.
31st Jan 1901
"Petrus is no soldier, but what can you do when your livelihood is threatened? The poor, sensitive man. I know he'd prefer to be with me, Sarie and Hannah."
James felt a twinge of conscience. I'd rather think of him as the enemy, not a sensitive man.
He read on:
2nd Feb 1901
"Praise God, Petrus came home last night. He looked exhausted. My heart broke for my darling husband. To ease his mind, we reminisced about the happy days of farming, the thrill of my pregnancy; how he played his precious violin to the new baby."
3rd Feb 1901
"One all-too-brief day at home to be fed, washed and rested, before returning to fight. Poor, man. How he hates this war. Dear Lord, let it be over soon."
James thrust the book away. I didn't come to read this stuff. Lousy Afrikaners. Where have they hidden their silver? He rummaged through the stable, but his heart was not in it. Images filled his mind of Mary and Jonathan safely in England. He missed them, but at least they were safe, far from this vicious war. Like a magnet, the diary drew him.
9th Feb 2001
"I haven't seen Petrus for five days. The British are getting closer --- they're burning all the farmhouses and crops. What'll we do if they come here? Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. Almighty God, protect Petrus."
11th Feb 2001
"Still no word. The British are almost on us. We've nowhere to go. I fear for the children. Yet I know God is always with us. Whatever fire or flood we go through, He promises in Psalm 66, He'll bring us to rich fulfillment. Perhaps that will be when we see Him face to face, or perhaps we'll see it here on earth. Only He knows."
James' heart was bursting. In the smoking ruins, he saw the ruins of a devoted, loving family.
He turned the page. It was blank. He realised today was the 13th February. Idly, he turned the blank pages, eager for more. Five pages on, he found more.
"Dear British soldier
If you find this, it will mean we've been killed or captured. Please understand. I know you are far from home and from your own family. Perhaps you do not even want to fight this war, like my Petrus. I don't know how many Boers you have killed (perhaps even Petrus), but know that I forgive you. You see, I know what it's like to be forgiven much. I have a Saviour who has forgiven me."
James' knees shook. Memories flooded back of soaring choruses bursting from his village church and entering his heart. He pictured this devout little family kneeling in prayer --- and now ripped asunder. He wiped his eyes to read on.
"I urge you to see us, not as the enemy, but children of God, as you are. Ask God for forgiveness and come to Him. Live as the child He'd like you to be."
Sobs burst uncontrolled from James as he read.
"If you do that, I'll see you in heaven and introduce you to Petrus."
James knelt in the ashes and, in a stable, like the place where it all began 1900 years earlier, Jesus entered his world and his heart.
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