Waiting for Hope

Winner of Christian Courier's Annual Short Story Contest

Introduction to the 2014 Children's Short Story Contest Winners

Christian Courier is delighted to announce the winners of the Fifth Annual Children's Short Story Contest. The finalists were judged by Angela Reitsma Bick, editor, Cathy Smith, features editor, and Bert Witvoet, contributing editor. We congratulate Renessa Visser, our Intermediate Category winner, and Sarah Williams, our Junior Category winner. Renessa was a winner last year as well! Both girls will receive a $50 Chapters Gift Card. We at CC were pleased with the number of excellent entries and commend our young writers for their creativity!

Renessa Visser's story “Waiting for Hope” prompted the following assessments from the judges. Reitsma Bick said, “This young author breathes life into a familiar story – one in which life and breath matter very much – by telling it from a new perspective. The writing shines in its believable detail, rising tension and stirring conclusion.” Smith commented, “Narrating the story in the first person point of view, by an author of a similar age as Jairus’ daughter, gives it appealing authenticity. There is a praiseworthy effort to ground the story in culturally appropriate details, such as the Hebrew names for mother and father and the fact that the dead were considered unclean. The story shows creativity and spiritual maturity.” Witvoet noted, “Although the story is well-known as a familiar Bible story, the writer manages to give it a fresh appeal by choosing to write from the girl's point of view. She offers us a realistic picture of suffering and doubt. Her style is mature and her knowledge of what makes a Jew unclean is a good example of good theological insight. The ending is almost a bit over the top in terms of spiritual maturity, but not enough to spoil the effect of a well-crafted story.”

The judges offered these remarks about Sarah Williams’ story “The Cool Reading Place.” Reitsma Bick commented, “In the richly imaginative world of this story, a tree is lonely and a girl needs a cool, quiet place to read. These simple but universal longings drive the narrative, which is enriched by its credible dialogue and plucky protagonist.” Smith said, “I like Sarah’s poetic vocabulary – phrases like ‘weary path’ and ‘droopy tree’ are nicely metaphorical – and her inclusion of a subplot. That’s quite sophisticated for a young writer.” Witvoet responded, “The Cool Reading Place” has a good plot and the writer cleverly solves the problem of having all willows cut down. She needs to be more careful with language, as in ‘blisters from the days that were so blistering.’ The simile of a ‘shelf as big as a tractor shed’ is not effective. The writer definitely shows good skills in telling a story.”

— Cathy Smith, Features Editor

Waiting for Hope

I had always known how sick I was, and that one day I would die early, but I never knew how awful it would be to die. Ever since I was little, I watched the doctors come, shake their heads, and turn away. They couldn't help me, they said. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. Abba (Daddy), Jairus, was well known in the synagogue, being a ruler there, but still, he could find no one to heal me, his only daughter. 

The year I turned 12 — as we all began to realize — would be my last. My strength was failing fast, and eating was very difficult. One day Abba burst into my hot little room, beaming with happiness.

“Ariella!” he cried. “There is hope! I have found a man who has miraculously healed many —merely by the touch of his hand! The people say he is a prophet from long ago.”

“The people will say anything,” I said, trying not to sound irritated. But seeing how disappointed Abba was at my reaction I said, “But maybe he can try to heal me.”

He clapped his hands. “Have hope, Ariella,” he said, “I will go and get this man tomorrow.” I wanted to say, do not bother, no one can heal me, but he was out the door and I was overcome with a spasm of pain so great I did not say anything.

That night the pain was unbearable. I would shiver uncontrollably, and then become exceedingly hot, all from the deathly fever. Ema (Mother) and her servants sat around me all night, trying to soothe me, but it was no use. At midnight I was vaguely aware of Abba coming into my room and whispering to Ema he was going to leave so he could get that great healer man as soon as possible.  Then he left.

I felt my breathing get tighter and tighter, and as dawn broke, Ema left, weeping silently. The door creaked and shut behind her, and everything went dark inside of me. 

I was in a place of peace. There was no pain anymore, only happiness. I felt like I was floating and dreaming some fantastic dream at the same time. Such happiness I had never known!

 “Get up!”  

I vaguely heard the words, yet it sent an electric shock that shivered through my very being, and without hesitation I knew he was speaking to me, calling me to leave the happy place and return to the painful, painful world.

I didn't want to travel the long road that led to the painful world I had come from. But the voice that called me was so kind, so wise, it was impossible to resist. I was going back.

I opened my eyes. No pain. My breath was light and easy. No fever. I blinked. I was in my bed.  The sun was shining through the window. Ema and Abba sat by my bed, crying and laughing at the same time. A strange man was holding my hand. I have found a man who has healed many miraculously. Abba's words sounded in my head. It was him! I hadn't believed that anyone could heal me.  I hadn't had any hope.

Tears filled my eyes. “I'm sorry,” I choked. “I didn't believe in you. But you led me back to a new life anyway!”

“Always have hope,” he told me. “Never turn away.”

It was the same voice who had called me back to the world. I looked at his hand, which still held mine. And yet it was unclean for a Jew to touch a dead person! I looked at him in wonder.

“Thank you!” I cried. “Thank you! You became unclean, to save me?” I asked in disbelief.

“Daughter,” he said, “I love you.”      

Love!  He loved me! It was not only life in the world he had given me, it was spiritual life.  He had called me out from my darkness, and brought me into the light. He had healed me — the one no one else could heal. What love! Only God could give me so much love. I swung my legs up out of the bed, smiling like I had never smiled before.

“Ema! Abba!” I cried. “I'm back!”

I never suffered like I had during those early years of my life again. I grew up like any other Hebrew girl. I could laugh and dance and talk. Wherever I went, I did what Jesus had told me to do. I had hope. I never had any reason to doubt my worth in him. He was always there for me.   It was up to me to have hope in him and believe.

Author

  • Renessa Visser is a 13-year-old homeschooled student living in Burlington, Ont.

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