by Juliana McIrvin
First Place – Level A (3rd – 4th grade)
The women were sitting on the bench, praying for hours, waiting for someone to come and tell them what was happening back at their farm. These women were named Sofia and Ruth, mother and daughter, and they had just escaped a fire in their house. They were now at their friend’s house, having run from the fire, waiting for Simon, Sofia’s son and Ruth’s brother, to come up with news about the fire. Finally, when Simon showed up, he was exhausted from the sleepless night he had spent trying to stop the fire.
“It was bad,” Simon said. “The fire burned down the barn and all of this year’s crops stored in there. We managed to save the animals, though.”
“And the house?” asked Ruth.
“The house is fine,” replied Simon.
Soon after Simon arrived, Sofia and Ruth went back to their home to tidy things up, while the men went to find jobs helping other farmers sell their harvest, seeing as they had no grain to sell.
After the fire, the family had to find other ways to get money for the winter—the harvest money usually covered all the regular expenses like candles and salt. Simon had gone to school when he was smaller, and he managed to get a job as a clerk, while his father John went hunting in the fall, bringing back some meat for the winter. Ruth and Sofia had already put all of the vegetables in the cellar, and they made quilts to sell to make more money.
Throughout the winter, they all drew closer to each other and God. They learned to trust in God even more one day. That particular day, there was only a little bit of flour, and Ruth needed to go to the store, but they didn’t have enough money for the amount of flour needed. Ruth went anyway, hoping to buy as much flour as she could. Along the way, she was praying to God that He would somehow provide them with enough flour.
She met one of the women from a neighboring farm who said, “I have been looking for you! I need two new quilts, but I haven’t had time to make them. I heard that you were selling quilts. Do you have any for sale right now?”
Ruth had some quilts and sold them to this neighbor for a good price. She now had enough to pay for all the flour she needed as well as more material for the quilts, too. Ruth was amazed at how God had provided.
Another day, Sofia ran into a problem. She needed a new dress but didn’t have enough money to buy it. The next day, a different neighbor came by. “I have some cloth that I’m not going to use it. Would you like it?”
Sofia agreed and the next day, her neighbor brought her the cloth. When Sofia saw it, she thought, “How ugly! That will never do to make a Sunday dress!” Nevertheless, Sofia had to take it. She showed it to her daughter who said, “It is pretty ugly, but maybe if we put some lace on it, it won’t be so bad. You know that we have no money to buy other cloth. Be happy that God provided this much.”
Since Sofia needed a new Sunday dress, she had to start working on it. She took her daughter’s suggestion and added lace to it. Once it was completed, Sofia had to admit that it didn’t look as bad as she had thought.
When winter finally came to an end, and the men could farm again, they all thought that maybe the winter had helped them—they had, after all, learned to rely more on God than themselves.
One fine spring day, when the men were sowing the seed, horse hooves were heard on the dirt road. The man on the horse introduced himself, and he and Simon started talking. The man said, “I came to apologize. I was the one who started the fire. I guess I was envious of your big harvest; I didn’t get a big crop in last year. Then, I realized that what I had done was bad, and it didn’t help anything.”
Simon was about to yell and call the sheriff when he thought about it and said, “We forgive you. This winter was harder than most, but I guess we learned a lot. Maybe this year we could help each other to grow a good crop.”
The man was amazed, and he wanted to know why Simon wasn’t angry with him. Simon began to explain how God forgives everyone their sins so that neighbors should also forgive each other. The man wanted to learn more about this forgiveness, and soon he and his family decided to become Christians.