Competition grows in HSLDA's second essay contest
In its second year, the Home School Legal Defense Association Essay Contest drew applicants from around the country, and several entries from overseas missionary families. Almost 450 students sent in essays this year, 180 more than last year. Narrowing the entries down to the top six in each category took over a month of careful scrutiny.
"I was very happy to see such an enthusiastic response this year," said HSLDA President Mike Smith. "The essays we received showed a lot of creativity."
This year, instead of simply awarding prizes to the top three entrants in each category, we offered six prizes, ranging from $400 to $25 for each age group.
Category I entrants-ages 12 to 15-wrote on the topic, "If you were given $50,000 today what would you do with it?" First place in this category goes to Grace Lichlyter for her essay on her pen pal in Sri Lanka, Sandarwani Gunasekara. In second place is Colin Nandeena Azariah-Kribbs, who would donate her money to the Iraqi man instrumental in saving Private Jessica Lynch.
Category II writers-ages 16 and 18-had to discuss, "If you could go one place in the world for two weeks, where would it be and why?" The first place prize goes to Claire Novak, who wants to visit Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a facility where many U.S. military personnel are treated prior to returning home. Second place was awarded to Abigail Celis, a student who wants to travel the world.
Proceeds from the contest will be given to the Home School Foundation Special Needs Fund.
If you could go one place in the world for two weeks, where would it be and why?
First place winner:
Claire Novak, 17, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, is a high school senior who works as a freelance writer and journalist. She also plays an active role in her family's ministry, The Gift of Family Writing.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
When most people think of the ideal vacation, they picture scenic mountains or beautiful oceans. So when I say that I would spend my time at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the reactions are all the same-a blank stare and the inevitable, "Why in the world would you want to go there?" It's a good question, especially since that's not where anyone would normally choose to spend a holiday. Still, I would rather spend two weeks there than a month-long vacation in Florida. Allow me to explain.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is one of three remaining Army hospitals in Germany. Built in 1951, it quickly became a key location in the European theatre. Today Landstuhl is home to a specialized medical staff composed of Military and Civilian personnel. They treat the men you hear so much about-soldiers from Middle East Operations such as Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Many Americans think the dangers to our troops are over because fighting in Iraq has come to a relative end. This is not true. According to Landstuhl Medical Center's commander, Col. David Rubenstein, ". . . a lessening of hostilities in Iraq . . . really does not translate to stoppage of the flow of patients from Iraq."
Landstuhl is the facility where U.S. Service Members are treated prior to returning stateside. The soldiers who are brought there gave up the personal rights and conveniences that civilians often take for granted. They pledged to protect the United States of America. Now they are paying the price for their bravery.
The patients at Landstuhl must learn to live life all over again. The young man who used to mow your grass will come home from this place with only one leg. The Marine who left a wife and baby will return to hold that child with his right arm as his left heals. The sergeant with a severely burned face, the army medic who saved a man's life but lost his own leg in the process, the tank commander who was run over by one of his own vehicles . . . these wounded soldiers lie alone at Landstuhl. Some are in deeper pain than others, but they all ask the same question, "Was it really worth it?" They look to their fellow Americans for an answer.
Although Landstuhl has a full staff of chaplains, social workers, and psychiatrists who work to repair the soldiers' mental health, the soldiers also have access to news from home, and that news is not very encouraging. Outspoken celebrities and negative journalists have combined to send a message to our troops-they had no business to fight in this war. No business? When their very pledge was to stand against evil? When their Commander-in-Chief sent them to fight and they did-this was wrong?
Most Americans would never want to add to the pain of our wounded soldiers, but people who criticize them so easily are doing just that. Our country remained free throughout history because of brave men and women, and today's soldiers are no exception. Because of their sacrifice, liberty will live on. Our wounded soldiers have paid the price. Their blood was spilled to preserve the rights of mankind.
The soldiers at Landstuhl bear the marks of true courage and honor, but they are left in doubt, wounded in body and spirit. Very few Americans are aware of their situation or come to support them. It is my utmost desire to let these suffering heroes know their sacrifice was not in vain. I long to walk among the wounded at Landstuhl, to tell them-not as a politician or journalist, not as a high ranking officer-but as a fellow citizen of the country they fought to defend, it was worth it!
The healing process is long. The wounds are deep, but the wounds of hatred and opposition go even deeper. The men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country deserve our greatest appreciation. Coming home while others are still in combat will not be easy for them. The least we can give them is a warm welcome and our sincere gratitude. They have definitely earned it!
If you were given $50,000 today what would you do with it?
First place winner:
Grace Lichlyter, 15, from Alabaster, Alabama, has won the HSLDA Category I competition for the second year in a row.
When words are not enough
I've never seen her. But that doesn't mean I don't know her as well as the friends I laugh and talk with nearly every day.
Sandarwani Gunasekara lives in Sri Lanka, a small island situated in the Indian Ocean-eleven time zones, hundreds of religions and a world away. We've written each other for almost three years now. We've talked about three-legged-horses, sarees and some of the deeper philosophies of life. Sometimes, though, words just don't seem to answer the difficult questions she is continually tossing at me in her simple English phrasing.
"What are you thinking about life?" she wrote me once. "Do you feel it is happy? I think it is a sorrow. But I always make it happy." I rest my pen on a clean white page. How do I explain to her that it is our own fault that life is so full of pain and suffering? How do I use ink and paper to show her that Christ is the only one who can make us truly happy? Maybe if she could watch my life, she would see what I was saying, or if I could look in her eyes and tell her about the One who loved her enough to die for her, perhaps she'd understand. If I had fifty thousand dollars . . .
"We worship Lord Buddha every day. Like your Jesus." Sanda only knows what she has read and heard about "Christian America." Through Hollywood, media outlets, and television, America's image is firmly established in the mind of foreigners, and any claims to our [title] of "Christian" is merely the rubble that is left from our once moral foundation. Even so, this is how our worship appears to foreigners: dead, hollow and imaginary.
I rest my head on my hand. How do I worship Jesus? Can Sanda see it through my letters, or do my words die somewhere between here and Sri Lanka? But if I could take her to church one Sunday, teach her some good gospel hymns, and maybe even show her a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, she would see what worshiping God really is-and what a great God we worship. If I had fifty thousand dollars . . .
"Even though I'm 17 years old, still I can't understand what this society is? Can you?" I stare down at her letter and then at the pages of my open Bible. Verse after verse jumps out at me that I have known since I was small but they would be just words to Sanda.
I push back from my desk in frustration. "I'm only fourteen years old! How should I know what this society is! How can I tell her, 'No, I have no earthly idea what this society is, but I know Someone who does.' How can I explain such things to a girl who is thousands of miles away?"
The words on my page form slowly and painfully but full of a love that Sanda may never understand. Still, sometimes I sit back and dream. I could give her tons of books and videos that tell her exactly the meaning and purpose of life. Better yet, I could tell her all about the beginning of America's society, no, the beginning of the world! We could swing on the porch and talk for hours and days. If I had fifty thousand dollars . . .
No amount of money can buy a soul. I realize that as I send the sealed envelope, AirMail, to Sri Lanka. There are a million prayers inside that envelope, pounds of love and a couple tears. But still . . .
. . . If I had fifty thousand dollars . . . An airplane ticket? Two airplane tickets? A trip to the movies together? Two ice cream Sundays? Time together? Yes . . . time . . . when words are not enough.