“Rhoda, will you offer the blessing on the food?” Mama asked.
Rhoda looked at the small potato on her plate. “But there is still so much plate showing around my dinner,” she wanted to say but didn’t. “Yes, Mama,” she said.
Bowing her head, she began, “Heavenly Father, thank Thee for the food, and please bless it. Watch over Daddy in England that he will find those who are looking for the truth. And please provide food and safety for us while he is away. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Rhoda opened her eyes and noticed her sister, Louisa, staring at Mama’s empty plate.
“Mama, where’s your food?” Louisa asked.
“Willard is out working in the fields,” Mama replied. “When he comes in, he’s going to want more than just water to drink.”
Rhoda could see worry lines around her sister’s eyes. “Are there no more potatoes?” Louisa asked.
Mama shook her head. “Those are the last ones. So eat up before they get cold.”
Rhoda stared at Mama. “But Mama, what will we do for breakfast in the morning?”
“Well, in your prayer you asked the Lord to provide for us while Daddy is away,” Mama replied. “I trust He will answer your prayer.”
“Mama!” Willard burst through the door. “Quick! The Judds have turned the canal water into their ditches!”
“Hurry, girls,” Mama said. “Buckets are outside!”
Rhoda jumped from the table, following Willard and Louisa outdoors. Each one grabbed a large, wooden bucket and raced down the dusty path to the canal.
Even though Rhoda was only eight years old, she understood about the canal. Like a man-made river, the canal was the source of water for all the homesteads in the area. The canal also provided water for irrigating crops. Farmers would turn some of the water from the canal into ditches lining their crops. Then the water would flow out of the ditches and flood the land. But once in a while, a farmer would turn all the canal water into his ditches, leaving the homesteads downstream without water until he finished irrigating his crops. And Rhoda knew that even one day without water in this scorching heat would be dangerous.
When the children arrived at the canal, the water flow had already stopped, leaving a still bed of water resting in the bottom. Rhoda filled her bucket with water, carried it back to the house, and poured it into the large rain barrel beside the front door. Back and forth the children ran, trying to fill the barrel before the water dried up.
“One more bucket each ought to do it,” Mama called.
Even though the sun hung low, almost touching the horizon, the dirt felt hot and gritty on the bottoms of Rhoda’s feet. Reaching the canal, they found that the stream was now dried up, leaving a muddy bed pocked with small, shallow pools. Rhoda jumped down into the damp streambed, mud spurting between her toes. Reaching the edge of one of the shallow pools, she leaned over to dip her bucket into the water. Suddenly she lost her balance and fell, splashing into the pool.
Willard and Louisa laughed as Rhoda stood up. Her dress clung to her back and belly, and warm water dripped down her arms and legs. When she reached down to grab her bucket, something slippery slithered past her ankles. “Snake!” Rhoda screeched, scrambling out of the pool.
Willard raced over, peering at the small pool.
“There!” Rhoda cried, pointing a finger at the water.
Willard’s eyes scanned the murky water. His hand circled the surface, then suddenly he thrust his arm into the water and grabbed at something.
“It’s a fish!” Willard shouted, holding a small, wriggling fish in his palm. “I caught a fish!”
“Look! There must be more in that pool over there!” Rhoda pointed.
“And over there,” Louisa shouted, pointing at another. All the small pools of water rippled with life.
“Let’s fill our buckets and take them to Mama,” Louisa suggested.
There was little water left in the pools and the fish swarmed in tight bunches, making it easy for the children to snatch them up. Soon their buckets were filled and the children carried them back to the cabin.
“Mama! Look what we found in the canal!” Rhoda called as they reached the cabin door.
“Fish? In the canal?” Mama looked confused. “There aren’t any fish in that canal.”
“There are tonight. The shallow pools are full of them,” Louisa said.
“But there have never been fish in that canal,” Mama said quietly, staring at the full buckets of fish. “Children, this is a miracle. Just as He sent manna to the hungry Israelites, the Lord has sent fish for us to eat.”
Reaching for Rhoda’s bucket, she continued, “And just like the children of Israel, we must gather all we can while there are fish to catch. Go and see if there are any more, and I will begin cleaning these and packing them in salt.”
The sun sank into the prairie grasses and a full moon lit the night as the children returned to search for more fish. As Rhoda knelt down in the mud, she closed her eyes and spoke softly. “Heavenly Father, thank Thee for answering my prayer and for taking care of us. Thank Thee for sending us the miracle of the fishes.”
“With … faith, we will be able to pray for what we want and appreciate whatever we get. Only with that faith will we pray with the diligence God requires.”
Elder Henry B. Eyring
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
From an October 2001 general conference address.