2nd place || 2016
5th through 6th grade
THE LONG JOURNEY
by Kaleigh Garrett
I was entrusted to deliver a package to the other side of the riverbanks when suddenly I was confronted with the dilemma of an alarming yet familiar sound coming from within the cardboard box. I put the package down and carefully opened the top to find a crying, dirt covered infant wrapped in a tattered pink cloth.
“It’s a baby!” I nearly fainted at the sight. “I need to get you to safety!”
I picked up the box and darted behind a tree, making sure no one was around with watching eyes. I took off my jacket and wrapped it around the baby girl. The warmth from my chest comforted her and she slowly fell asleep. As I watched the baby sleeping peacefully, I suddenly remembered my task. I looked around and spotted a large plank of wood. I jolted across the grass and snatched the wood, clutching the tiny human in my arms as if her life depended on it. I flew back into my hiding spot and looked around for another useful tool, but I was out of luck and ideas.
I heard gunshots and screams behind me and I quickly followed my gut. I gently put the baby back into her box, placed it on top of the dirty plank and entered the river.
“Thank you, Lord, for calming the banks today,” I said to myself gratefully. I started paddling with my bare feet, one hand on the plank and the other on the box. I felt like quitting but I managed to keep paddling for a voice inside of me told me to continue. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it to land. I climbed up the muddy ground and picked up the child. I sat up against an old oak tree trunk and slowly pieced together the whole story, starting from the very beginning.
Last year, I decided to go to South Africa to do missionary work. The reason I chose that country was that I had heard about violent gangs and people crying out for help from God. These terrifying gangs were very dangerous and were hurting many people. It was a scary decision, but I knew that it was the place God had called me to go.
When I first arrived, it was extremely hard to find a taxi or anyone to help me find my way around. I finally found another missionary who pointed me in the direction of the villages that were being terrorized. I had been living in South Africa for six months at that time.
One sunny day, I was outside handing out bibles and reading scripture aloud when suddenly screams of terror filled the air. It took me some time to figure out what was going on, but when I finally understood, I started yelling for people to get to safety. A group of men started shouting orders and pointing dangerous weapons at us. I sprinted behind a house and then saw my friend Sari—a local woman who I met a few months before when she began visiting me nearly every day to learn about Jesus—running up to me with a package in her arms. Sari was severely injured and with tears in her eyes, she handed me the package. “Take this across the river to safety and protect it with all of your strength! God be with you, my friend! Now go!” I shot into the woods and heard crying coming from the box.
With all these memories flooding my mind, I fell asleep against that old oak tree with the baby girl safely in my arms but then was awoken by the sound of a roaring engine. My eyes peeked to see a sign that read American Airlines Rescue Patrol.
“I must be dreaming!” I said aloud. I looked up and found a very thin woman with a navy blue dress on.
“Welcome!” she said.
“Where am I? Who are you?” I wondered if this was all a trick.
The lady smiled. “Oh, do not be afraid darling! I work for the American Rescue Patrol. We are bringing you and the baby back to America.”
I looked down at the baby girl in my arms. Then the lady said, “You were asleep for quite a long time, you must have been through a lot.”
“Do you know what happened to her parents?” I asked, with my heart nearly jumping out of my chest. “Her mother was sadly killed during the attack and her father had joined the gangs four months earlier.” There was a long pause before I broke the silence. I started to cry and the lady handed me some tissues.
“There is good news though!” she said cheerfully. “The African government gave you permission to adopt the baby girl. I’ll give you some time to think. It’s a lot of pressure on such a young lady like you.”
Slowly the woman walked to the front of the aircraft. I looked down at the baby who was still sleeping like an angel. “Your mother gave you to me. She trusted me to keep you safe.” I whispered softly.
A few hours later the plane landed. I stood up and walked toward the door, waving goodbye to the kind lady. Inside the airport I found a comfortable couch to sit and gather my thoughts. I opened my bag and pulled out my bible. “I came to Africa to help people and give them a hope. I expected many things, but never this. Thank you, Lord.”
Four years later, I adopted the child and named her Sari just like her mother. “We’ve already had a long journey together, but our journey with the Lord has just begun.”
Kaleigh is eleven years old and is the proud daughter of a U.S. Marine. She’s lived in five different states and enjoys playing softball, writing, and reading.