Beulah, North Dakota, 1904

Below is  a flash fiction piece I wrote for Christian Flash Weekly Event 4.  If you are interested in writing jump over there and take a look.  This week’s challenge was to write 500-1000 words of original fiction based on 1 Thessalonians 3:11. 

Beulah, North Dakota, 1904

The parishioners of Beulah Baptist Church in Beulah, North Dakota had endured the worst growing season to have been recorded in the town’s short history. During planting, the rains were so frequent and heavy, much of the seed washed away. Then as the crops should have been nearing harvest the rains stopped all together and the majority of the remaining plants dried up.

Most families had gleaned a little bit to set aside for winter. Unless the season was unusually mild they didn’t have enough. Not enough food, not enough wood, thatch or dung to burn. Many discussed abandoning the town. Before any serious decision was made, an early cold snap settled the matter. No one could expect to survive traveling in cold weather, in North Dakota.

They decided they would conserve some fuel and enable cooperation among neighbors by moving everyone into the church building together. It had the biggest barn for livestock, and it had ample room to hold their meager combined supplies. They moved all the produce and stock animals there, and promised to gather at the first sign of snow.

For the next few days the weather was pleasant, Indian summer had arrived making the coming cold seem distant. Then unexpectedly in the middle of the night, the families awoke to hear a gale blustering outside. They saddled up and gathered according to plan. The pastor and some of the other men strung the necessary guide rope from the door of the barn to the door of the church. Without it one would get lost and perish even in this short span, so severe was the storm.

A census was taken and only one family was still absent. The Sorenson family had not arrived. Even though visibility was slight, they felt they must do something. Hans Borger, a strapping young man who intended to marry the Sorenson’s daughter was going to lead the group. Four other men, including the pastor, prepared to go with him.

They would string a rope from the door to the neighbor’s fence, about 200 yards away. This fence would guide them for several furlongs, then they would use a second rope to tie from the fence to the Sorenson home, another 200 yards out. The Sorenson place was due north of the church.

The men set out and the twenty or so people staying behind alternated between worrying and praying. After a prolonged wait the door burst open and the men stumbled in. They were utterly exhausted and thoroughly beaten. Upon questioning it was discovered they had failed to even make the first leg of the journey to the neighbor’s fence. Once defeated by the blinding storm, they followed the rope back.

When the pastor got his energy back, he took to organizing the people for what would likely be a long stay together. His planning was interrupted when a little girl named Emily pulled him aside.

“We need to pray. Now.”

The pastor stared at the child for a few silent minutes. Time passed as he mustered his courage. Then he called everyone together and asked their indulgence if they would pray some more for the Sorenson family.

“Dear Lord, we ask for your help. There is something we need, and we have already proven it is beyond our ability to do it. We ask if you could deliver the Sorenson family to us here at the church. I remember several times Paul prayed for the privilege of being able to see his brother’s and sister’s in Christ again. That is what we ask today.”

Right then the wind outside changed direction. Storms in North Dakota come from the north. But a big gust of wind from the south shook the building. As the wind hit, it entered straight into the open side of the bell tower swinging the big brass bell, causing it to ring once.

The event was so loud everyone hesitated, to look up. A moment later the wind returned to its normal blustering path. The pastor picked up the prayer where he had left off, and the same wind came again, again ringing the bell. This pattern of winds ringing the bell as they prayed continued for a half hour or more. When the pastor was prayed out, everyone returned to their administrations. After a short time the door swung open and the Sorenson family collapsed inside.

When they were thawed out, they explained the wind carried the sound of the bell allowing them to know which direction to move. This gave them the courage to start away from the house. From there they found the fence. At the end of the fence they found the rope. Tied across the gap, leading them to the front door of the church.

Astounded the pastor reminded everyone the group of men had failed. They had never tied the rope across that last gap.

Bold little Emily reminded the pastor, and everyone else, God answers prayer.

The tiny town, and the little church survived the winter. Despite shortages of food, multiple storms and other hardships there was a general agreement God would bring them through. If anyone began to doubt or fear, they would have a chat with Emily.

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