Iowa Writes

"Missionaries in the Cornfields"

As a child of fundamentalist Christians, I prayed for the missionaries in the cornfields. I must have been six and didn't know the phrase "foreign fields" then — but I knew cornfields. We lived next to one.
          The cornfields of the '50s were not like those of today: rows so close nothing larger than a cat can move between them. In those days, rows were planted wider — wide enough for children to play hide-and-seek when the stalks had grown tall enough to conceal us in late summer.
          For the adults, it must have been charming to hear a six-year-old stand up in church and pray for the missionaries in the cornfields. This was long before I was sent to Vietnam as a soldier, where the rice paddies were more foreign than I ever could have dreamed, but where our chaplain assured us that God was on our side.
          I believed him, as I believed our leaders when they said that this was a righteous war. In those first few months, I prayed often. But I still believed in God then, too.
          You can't walk through cornfields today — except of course in winter, when broken stalks and stubble are all that remains and there's no place to hide.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Terry Hertzler has worked as a writer, editor, and teacher for more than thirty years. He has published numerous chapbooks as well as two books of poetry and short fiction: The Way of the Snake and Second Skin. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

"Missionaries in the Cornfields," along with four more stories by Hertzler, is included in the Spring 2013 issue of The Iowa Review.

This page was first displayed
on June 05, 2013

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