Mark 4:14-20 – The Meaning of the First Parable

After explaining WHY He is now speaking to the people ONLY in parables*, Jesus explains the meaning of the Parable of the Sower (actually the Soils).  It is important that Jesus tells them because by understanding this first parable, the disciples will be able to understand ALL the parables. (Mark 4:13)

The SOWER is Jesus here, but also the Old Testament prophets, the disciples, the apostles, preachers, teachers, and all true believers.

The SEED is “the Word” (the Word of God, the truth of God, the Gospel of salvation, the Grace of God in truth, the Word of Christ, the Truth, the Good News, the imperishable Seed, the living and abiding Word of God, Truthful speech, and the “washing” detergent which the Holy Spirit uses when He regenerates believers.**) that the sowers scatter into the world (as per the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20, and Mark 16:15-16).

The SOILS are the hearts of the hearers of the Word.  All of them listen, but their responses differ.  Only a few will truly HEAR the message, receive it, accept it, believe it, obey it…. and ultimately become fruitful.

#1 Soil = No interest.

#2 Soil = Superficial commitment.

#3 Soil = Love of the world is too strong.

#4 Soil = Understanding, believing, are regenerated, and bear fruit.

Long afterwards, Jesus’ brother James, one of those true believers, writes a warning and a call to commitment for us in his book, “Be DOERS of the Word, and not HEARERS ONLY, deceiving yourselves.” James 1;22

 

Jesus gave the crowds ample opportunity to hear his direct teaching (see the previous post), and believe in Him. For those who did, He gives further understanding, to those who rejected Him, he now speaks in mysteries and secrets.  Those who are willing to HEAR, receive more. Those who REFUSE, lose what bit of understanding they had.

** See Romans 10:17, Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5, I Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:22-25, 

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Mark 4, Matthew 12 – The Disciples ask “Why?”

READ Mark 4:10-12 (with Matthew 12:10-17)

Yesterday was a look at the first parable of Jesus about the soils (the sower). I imagined how those listeners would have responded to this as they walked home. (See yesterday’s “long” post.)

When the crowd had gone, the disciples came to Him with a question. Mark 4:10.

By looking at Matthew’s fuller account of the disciples coming to Jesus afterwards, we see what they asked Him.

“Why do you speak in parables?” Good Question.

Jesus’s answer, “To YOU has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for THOSE OUTSIDE…everything is in parables.”

Huh? Doesn’t Jesus want everybody to know about the Kingdom of God, and how to get into it????

(Your assignment: Check out the following passages in Matthew and I’ll answer that question – if you still need it – afterwards.

1. Matthew 4:23 – What does this say about what Jesus was doing after He chose his disciples?

2. Matthew 5:1 – 7:29 – (with particular attention to 5:2 and 7:28/29) Okay, What do all these verses show in detail that Jesus was DOING all this time?

3. In the next chapters of Matthew, we see Jesus continuing to heal the sick and deliver the demon possessed (such compassion!) and to teach His OWN DISCIPLES some strong things about persecution and the end times, etc. WHY is He now mostly just teaching THEM??

The end of Matthew 11 shows the Jewish officials accusing him of having an unclean spirit, and his family wanting Him to come away and get some food and rest. (Wednesday’s post)

And THEN…………… he gets into a boat and teaches the crowd on the shore….. in a PARABLE. (Yesterday’s post)

Do you see why?

The crowds have been divided into 1) those who believe and follow Jesus, and 2) those only seeking healing or to hassle Him.

Jesus answers their WHY question here,

“To the one who HAS (belief in Him and understanding of who He is) more will be given and he will have an abundance. BUT from the one who HAS NOT (those who reject Him and his teaching), even what they have (clear teaching to this point) will be taken away.”

“THIS is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do NOT see (me as Savior) and hearing, they do NOT hear (my teaching) nor do they understand.”

Got it?

Then Jesus give a blessing to those who DO believe and follow Him,

“Blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears for they hear. For truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.

Then (Mark 4:14-20) Jesus goes on to tell them the meaning of the Parable of the (Sower and the) Soils, which – if they understand – will help to understand the rest of Jesus’ “kingdom” parables.

Mark 4 – Parable of the Sower and the Soil

Mark 4:1-9

Jesus, with crowds pressing from every side, makes slow progress down to the sea. He gets into one of the boats (Peter & Andrew”s, or the Zebedee family’s) and pushes a little way out.

Suddenly there is space between Him and the people. More can see Him and hear Him now and he begins to teach. Perhaps the people even sit down along the shore that gradually slopes up into the rolling farm land behind.

Jesus catches His breath, communes with His Father for a few seconds, then gazes beyond the people to the farm land, where perhaps barley is growing 8-10 inches high.

And He tells them a parable about growing a good harvest, that it all depends upon the soil. Would they HEAR?

1/  A hard beaten path does not receive the good seed. The seeds lie there briefly until birds spot them and fly down to eat them.

2/  Areas of thin soil with a hillock of rock just beneath, take in the good seed, sprout it, but there’s nothing to support growth and the seedling dies.

3/  Soil with healthy weeds growing receive a bit of the good seed between the stalks, but this seed fights a losing battle for moisture, nutrients, and sunshine. It can’t grow strong enough to produce grain, and dies barren.

4/  But good, cultivated, deep rich soil gets seed too. It is nourished, warmed, protected from birds and weeds. It sends down roots, grows up healthy and produces a harvest.

~~~ You’ve heard this parable many times, and know what it means, but what of that crowd along the shore?

As Jesus finishes speaking and the disciples row the boat out into the water, the crowd makes their way home. They walk on paths and roads through the growing barley… and wonder at this perplexing story Jesus told.

As they walked did they see where seed had been sown along the well-beaten path? Did they step on a few missed by the birds? And were there some seeds that had struggled up but been scorched, now lay brown against the thin soil? Did these folk spot a few spindly blades between thick weeds, trying to compete with their aggressive neighbors?

Why had Jesus told this story of failure and loss?

Then perhaps as the walked farther, and lifted their eyes and saw good plants heading out with grain and a promise of harvest.

Maybe some began to understand. ALL the SEED had life in it. It was WHERE it landed that mattered.

Jesus had said those strange words, “He who has ears, let them hear.” Did this good seed represent the things Jesus was teaching….scattered among many, many “ears” in the crowd? They’d all heard them, right?

Or…. maybe not.

1/  Some said, “Oh, I didn’t understand a thing He said. And my mind is on the good dinner my wife is preparing. Now there’s something to think about.”

2/  Others said, “Oh, His words sound good, but I don’t go along with what He teaches. I’m sticking with what the Pharisees teach. They know the law. I trust them.”

3/  Still others said, “Well, what Jesus says kind of makes sense. And his miracles are spectacular, but when He says His followers must leave everything behind to follow Him…. well, I’ve got a family, and a business. I have kids to plan the future for. I’ve just no time to follow Him. Besides… it sounds scary to just leave everything and walk away.”

4/  But…. some of their “ears” (hearts, understanding) were open to “hear” His teaching and the meaning of His words, and receive it like the good soil.

And there would be an abundant harvest in their lives.

Mark 3 – Concerned Moms & Rejecting Leaders

Mark 3:13-35.

Jesus has gone back “home” to Capernaum after being on the mountain with His disciples and appointing the twelve to be apostles.

In the city, He is immediately surrounded by great crowds of people wanting healing, deliverance, and to hear his teaching.

His family (mom and siblings) come to rescue Him, saying “He’s out of His mind.” They couldn’t understand Jesus’ total willingness to be accessible to the crowds; to have them impose on Him constantly.

(Who of us would be wiling for this?)

Officials from Jerusalem also batter Him with accusations (they will later batter him with slaps and fists and spitting before sending Him to Pilate to be tortured and killed), saying “He has an ‘unclean’ spirit! He does these miracles by the power of Satan!”

Yikes!!

Jesus rebukes them with severe judgement. Blasphemy against anyone – even Himself – can be forgiven, but NOT blasphemy against the Spirit of God. Jesus was indwelt by the HOLY spirit, and to call Him “a unclean spirit” (a demon) is truly unforgivable…for eternity. They knew what Jesus was claiming about Himself – to be their Messiah, the Son of God – and they rejected Him, saying He was empowered by Satan.

(It freaks me out to just type that!)

Again Jesus’ family calls to Him from the periphery of the crowd, concerned that He needs food and rest (a typical Jewish mother).

Jesus gently rebukes his natural family, knowing their hearts were unbelieving at this point, but not vicious against him like the Jewish officials. He reminds them (again) that He has to be about His (heavenly) Father’s business, and that those who are sitting around him, eagerly hearing His words and believing in Him (which is the will of God – see John 6:40) are his SPIRITUAL brothers, sisters and mother.

 

(PS: We know that later His mother, Mary, and His brothers James and Jude believe in Jesus, and maybe other siblings too.)

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#12) – APRIL’S AMAZING “NO” PLAY

mk-story-covers

This story is Twelfth in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children.  This one is from April, the middle girl, who wrote the Seventh story, “Just Pretending.”

I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences, such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi – BIG BLACK DOGS, the second story.  (By the way…. the main character in the first story, appears in this one too, and wait till you see what happens to him!!)

My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, for everyday life.

*** If you are new to the MK Stories, you can read this story first, if you  like, but then go back to the FIRST story and meet the kids in order.   http://bit.ly/2dnnrhD  

 

 

April’s Amazing “NO” Play

Hi Kids!

It’s April again.

Guess what? I wrote a play!

mk-stories-aprils-play4And no! I’m not going to be the star. I learned my lesson when I played Mary Magdalene in that Easter pageant!  I was such a show off back then!

I really wanted Daniel, who played the part of Jesus in the pageant, to be Peter in my play. The whole play is about Peter! I thought for sure he would do it. But he said he couldn’t because he had to get all his wisdom teeth pulled.

So I asked  my brother Marshall.

“No way, April. That’s kid’s stuff.  Besides, I’ve got a ton of homework to do before spring break”

I plopped down on the couch and took a big, long breath. What was I going to do? I need a boy to play the part.

“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.

“Gus? No way! He messes around and won’t be serious. And he’s always wanting to ride his bike or play soccer with Jacob.”  Actually, kids, ALL the boys I know just keep staring at that new soccer stadium at the end of our street and dreaming that they will play in it someday. Seriously?

So who was there left?  I couldn’t have a play about Peter without Peter.  Maybe Julie could dress up as a boy, or even Melody or June.  But I needed them for the girl parts.

“What about Kukana?” asked Melody out of the blue. (That means, I didn’t even ask her, she just said it.)

“What?” I said. “That dead mice eating boy?  No way.”

“Well, he probably wouldn’t want to be in your dumb old play anyway. He’d just say NO!” Melody stomped off to her room.

My head whipped around. “What did you say!!!”

My eyes were open wide and I started grinning. Because, kids, that’s when I knew it was SUPPOSED to be Kukana for the part of Peter. Peter was the disciple who was always saying “NO!” I would ask him that very next Sunday!

mk-stories-kukanaKukana started coming to Sunday School after Melody showed him up about eating m’bewa (that’s dead mice…eew!)  I think he kind of likes her, but she doesn’t see that at all. She is so…. so…. well, not interested in that kind of thing. Mom says that’s good, because she’s too young.

But it turns out, Kukana was only interested in the snacks Melody brought to class when it was her turn. Of course SHE didn’t make the brownies, Mom did. But Kukana thought it was Melody, so he was being really nice to her to get… thirds or fourths…if there was any left.  I guess he likes chocolate brownies even more than dead mice. Yuck.

Okay, so I asked Kukana if he wanted to star in my play.

“NO!” he said.

“Perfect!” I said.

“Huh?” he said.

“We’ll practice at our house,” I told him. “Mom will have cookies or something. She always does…..”

“Cookies?” he asked, raising his eyebrows way up high.

“Yep.”

“Hmmm,” he said and licked his lips. “What’s the play about?”

“It’s a Bible story about Peter’s no’s.”

“Peter’s NOSE?  What’s wrong with Peter’s nose?  Does it get longer and longer like Pinocchio’s when HE told lies, like in that cartoon video we saw at school? You know, the one during Inter-gritty week… or whatever.”

“Integrity Week,” I explained. “It means always being truthful. And no, the play’s not about Peter as Pinocchio.”

I paused for a minute right then, imagining Peter’s nose growing every time he denied knowing Jesus. That might be a cool angle…I could fix up a fake nose to….. But, NO! This was a Bible story play. It had to be all true.

“Peter isn’t going to be like Pinocchio in my play,” I told Kukana.”Sure, he did tell a lie three times when he was really scared. But he did something even worse!  He told Jesus “NO!”  That’s what my play is about.”

“Um…. I don’t know….”

“But you can say “NO” really well!  I heard you. And Melody said so too. You’d be great!”

“Well…”

“And there’ll be brownies…..”

“Yeah?”

I nodded.

“Okay, I’ll be in your play about Peter’s nose.”

“Not nose…no’s.”

“That’s what I said, nose. The nose knows! Hahaha!”  He laughed, stuck his two pointer fingers into his nose holes, and danced around.

I was already having second thoughts about him. But who else was there?

*****

We had the first “read-through” of my play the next Sunday afternoon.  (A read-through is when everybody in the play sits in a circle with a copy of the script, and reads their parts out loud. You can see where the whole play is going that way.)

First there was me (the script writer, producer, and director). I was going to be the narrator too (the  person who reads the Bible passage before each scene) but I decided to ask Julie. She’s a really good reader. I might have to tell her to read LOUDER, but that’s okay.

Then Kukana, of course, who was Peter. He came to the read-through with an old clothespin pinched on his nose. He yelped when Andrew pulled it off  and I thought it served him right. This was supposed to be a serious play!

I’d asked Andrew Kopp to play Jesus. He arrived in a long white “angel” robe left over from the Christmas play. He didn’t HAVE to be in costume, but he said he wanted to get used to walking in it.  Hey…you can’t say “no” to Jesus.

Oh wait!  That’s what my play’s about!

Caleb Ayres agreed to play the disciple John. I wasn’t going to have any other disciples in my play. It was too hard to get boys to be serious (THREE was enough).

Melody and June said they would play the maid and other person in the courtyard who asked Peter if he knew who Jesus was. So that was six in all. I might need someone to help with props….. if I had props.

We all sat down on the grass in our back yard, with the scripts on our laps. Andrew had to hike up his robe so he could sit cross legged.

“Okay, here’s what my play is about…” I started.

“Shouldn’t we pray first?” asked June.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” I said and bowed my head.  “Thank you, God for giving me the idea for this play. Help it to be good. Help everybody to learn their lines and be nice to each other. And help everyone who sees it want to know about Jesus as their Savior.”

“Amen-n-n-n-n-n-n-n!” yelled Gus, who had been hiding behind a tree next to our circle. “Can I watch?”

I wanted to say NO! (Gosh, I was beginning to sound like Peter!)  But I said, “Yes, but don’t interrupt the reading, okay?”

He ran around the tree trunk two times then plopped down in front and leaned back against it. “Okay, go.”

“Curtain up…” I said.

“There’s going to be a curtain?” asked Kukana?

“NO!” (there I go again!). “It’s just something you say when a play starts.” I cleared my throat, “Curtain up,” I said again and nodded to Julie.

She began reading the Bible passage like I’d written it in my script. It was from Matthew 16.

“Now Jesus asked his disciples……” read Julie.

mk-stories-andrew3“Oh, that’s me!” said Andrew and cleared his throat. “‘Who do people say I am?”

Caleb (disciple John): “Some say you are John the Baptizer, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”

Andrew (Jesus): “But who do YOU say I am?”
There was a minute of silence till Kukana found his place. I was beginning to wonder if he even could read!

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” he finally said in amazement. “Wow, is that true?” he asked, looking at me.

I nodded, put my finger against my lips, then pointed to the script.

Andrew (Jesus):  “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! My Father in heaven revealed that to you. And from now on you….”

“His name is Simon? I thought it was Peter?” said Kukana. “And who is this Barjonah guy?”

Gus was giggling now and Kukana gave him a nasty look. “Well, my dad isn’t a preacher, Gussy. I don’t know all the Bible stuff like you do!”

Gus was about to say something about that nick-name but I gave him a stern look and he shut his mouth. “Sorry,” he said under his breath.

“Jesus changed his name to Peter right then, Kukana,” said Andrew. “I was just about to read it.” He looked at his script and finished his line, “…from now on, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church so strong that even that bad place can’t win against it.”

Andrew looked at me. “‘…that bad place? You can say Hell when you are talking about the place where the devil lives. My dad said it was okay.”

I sighed and took out my pencil. I crossed out “that bad place” and wrote “H-e-l-l” over it, then passed around the pencil.

“I’m getting hungry,” said Kukana. “When do the brownies come?”

“I didn’t even tell him about the keys yet!” complained Andrew.

Julie flipped through the pages of the script. “There are still three pages left in this scene.”

“And Kukana…. I mean Peter…. hasn’t said NO yet,” Melody reminded me.

“Grrrrr! Is this what working with actors is like?” I complained through clenched teeth.

Gus got up then and sat down beside Kukana. “Let’s just finish this scene, then we can go in and get the brownies and milk. I’ll explain all this to you later. Just read your lines for now. Okay?”

The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.

Andrew (Jesus): “I’m going to give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and you can open the door to all the people I want to come in.”

I could see Kukana wanted to say something, but he glanced at Gus and kept quiet.

Julie went on, “From then on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer a lot of things from the Jewish leaders and be killed, and on the third day rise again. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying…..”

Gus elbowed Kukana and he said Peter’s line: “NO WAY, Lord!! This shall never happen to you if I can help it!!

Andrew (Jesus): “Get behind me, Satan!  Don’t try to stop me! You are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man!”

Kukana looked confused.  “Why did Jesus call Peter, Satan? That’s not nice. I don’t like that name!” He shivered, then added, “Besides, wasn’t Peter trying to protect Jesus from getting hurt?  Why was it bad for him to say “NO”?”

“Because Jesus HAD to die, Kukana,” Julie explained to him softly as we headed to the house. “God sent Jesus to earth for just that reason – to die.”

“But why?”

“Because otherwise WE would die and go to….Hell,” Gus broke in. “The Bible says we all sin and God can’t allow people who sin into His heaven because He’s holy. People who sin have to die. That’s the rules. So God sent Jesus, who never sinned, to die in our place. That way, when we believe on Him, and tell Him that we are sorry, our sin is all forgiven and we CAN go to Heaven to be with God forever.”

Kukana just stared at Gus. “Didn’t Peter know that?”

“Nope. Not then. And not for a long time,” Gus explained, opening the side door of our house. “None of the disciples really knew that till after Jesus rose up.”

Kukana was about to say something else, but just then, he caught the smell of brownies and his stomach growled. It actually growled loud enough for me to hear it!!!

We all made a bee-line into the kitchen where Mom’s warm brownie squares were sitting on the counter with glasses of cold milk.  Oh, yum!!

*****

mk-stories-aprils-play3Well, kids, that’s how the rest of the read-throughs went. There had to be several of them because Kukana kept asking questions and interrupting everything. I have to admit I got pretty impatient sometimes.

Gus stayed by him and tried to explain. And so did Julie. Actually, I was surprised at Gus. He didn’t want to be in my play because he had “other things to do, ” but he came to all the meetings. He was really nice to Kukana too.

The second scene in my play comes from John 13 and happens in the room where Jesus was going to eat the Passover meal with the disciples. They all had been arguing about who was the greatest and who would get the best jobs in Jesus’ kingdom.

(I was going to put their argument in my play, but I thought the boys would get side-tracked into REAL arguments about sports and who had the best bikes or could run the fastest, and stuff like that… and my play would be ruined. So I just had Julie read about it.)

Then she read how not one of the disciples offered to wash all their dirty feet before dinner.  I guess they did that in Bible days. We wash our hands, but…. well, that’s how it was then. No one volunteered, so Jesus got up to do it.

Julie: “Jesus poured water into a bowl and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with a towel. He came to Peter who said…..”

Kukana (Peter): “NO WAY, Lord, do you wash MY feet!!”  Then he whispered something to Gus and they both giggled, but got quiet again when I gave them a stern look.

Andrew (Jesus):  “If I don’t wash you, Peter, you have no part with me.”

Kukana (Peter): “Then Lord, wash ALL of me!”

This time he couldn’t help bursting out laughing. “That would be sooooo embarrassing!” he added, falling backward onto the grass. “I would NEVER ask Jesus to give me a bath in front of all the other guys!  That Peter was really stupid!”

“Let’s finish this,” said, and nodded to Andrew.

Andrew (Jesus), who had started laughing with Kukana, tried hard to get serious. He cleared his throat, snorted one last laugh through his nose, then said his line: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet. You are already clean, Simon Peter.”

Kukana looked amazed, “So then what was all the talk about washing and baths if they were already clean?  This is why I don ‘t read your Bible. It doesn’t make sense!”

“It was symbolic, Kukana!” I said, getting really impatient. “Jesus meant that Peter’s heart was already clean because he believed in Jesus. He just needed the everyday sins he committed to be washed away.  Sheesh, Kukana!  Don’t you know anything?”

“I’m not dumb April!” Kukana said, suddenly serious. “I know a lot of things!  I could say your whole play in Chichewa!  Could YOU?????”

He got up and threw down his script.

“April….” Julie said in a low voice, frowning at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I didn’t mean you were dumb, Kukana. I know you aren’t. Please forgive me.”

Kukana glared at me for a few minutes, then shrugged, picked up the script and sat down.

Julie said we should finish the scene because Jesus had one more line.

mk-stories-andrew4Andrew (Jesus) wiggling his eyebrows, looked slyly around at everyone and said slowly: “But…. not ALL of you are clean…….”

Julie finished the narration: “For Jesus knew who would betray him.”

“That’s me, right?” asked Kukana, sitting up straight.

“No,” Andrew said, “You’re going to deny me, not betray me.”

“What’s the difference?”

“C’mon, Kukana,” Gus said and helped his new friend get up. “I’ll explain when we go in the house. I think there are chocolate chip cookies today!”

I watched them run to the back door together.  I was beginning to think that Gus would have made a pretty good Jesus too.

*****

We finally got to the live rehearsals. I was surprised that Kukana memorized his lines so quickly.

“That’s not unusual,” Mom said. “In the villages, most of the stories are passed down orally – that means they are told from memory, not from reading them in a book. A lot of Kukana’s relatives still live in the village.”

Andrew did pretty well with his ‘Jesus’ lines too. He knew the Bible stories so well, that even if he changed a couple words here and there, it would still mean the same.

Melody and June had their few lines down perfectly, and Julie did hers by reading from a Bible.

The third “NO” scene went pretty good. Kukana understood that his character really loved Jesus a lot and didn’t want Him to die… and especially not to die all alone! So at the rehearsal (which we were doing in our carport now, pretending that there were people sitting in chairs in the driveway watching us), we didn’t expect Kukana to……..

Well, here’s how it happened

Julie, off to one side, said “After the meal they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”

When she said that, Andrew, Caleb, Gus (who was now playing Jesus’ other disciple, James), and Kukana walked slowly from the back door of the house to the middle of the carport “stage.” Nobody was carrying scripts now. Everyone knew their lines.

Andrew (Jesus), who was walking very well in his long robe now, said to the three disciples: “You will ALL fall away because of me this night. For the Bible says, ‘I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’.”

(We’d already explained to Kukana that Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for his sheep, and that His “sheep” were the disciples and  everyone who would ever believe in Him.)

Kukana (Peter), now in a dark green and brown striped robe said: “Not me! I will NEVER fall away even if these other guys do. Nope. No, No, NO!”  He strutted around looking pretty proud.

Andrew (Jesus): “Truly, I tell you Simon, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me THREE TIMES.”

Kukana (Peter): “NO, I will NOT!  Even if I have to die with You, I WON’T deny You!” Kukana stomped his foot.

Andrew (Jesus): “Simon, Simon, Satan wants to have you, to try to shake you up. But don’t worry, I have prayed for you that your faith doesn’t fail. And later on, you can help my other disciples.”

Kukana (Peter): “I’m ready to go with you to prison and to..” Suddenly Kukana’s face got very pale and he looked sick, “…to…death.”

I called “Curtain!” and they all knew by then what that meant. Everybody went inside for Mom’s lemon bars, except Kukana.

“April, I don’t want Jesus to say that last line,” he blurted out. “The one about…..about Satan.”

“It’s in the Bible, Kukana. It’s what Jesus says.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of other stuff in the Bible that isn’t in your play. I know! I borrowed Teacher Molenaar’s Bible. I read it while I wait for my dad to finish work.” He tugged at the belt of his robe, “I… I don’t like to talk about ‘him’. You know, the devil.” This last word was whispered.

“But…” I started.

“April, last night I had a bad dream. And when I woke up our house was shaking!  It was HIM, he was trying to shake me up!  April, I know about “bad medicine.” In the village, he… the Medicine Man does BAD stuff to people who go against him.  He scares me!  I don’t think he wants me to be in this play about Jesus.”

He gulped then finished, “So… if  you don’t take out that line… then… I’m going to quit the play. I will!”

Kids, I didn’t know what to say. I remembered the story that Maya told us about being trained by the Medicine Man, and the bad things he wanted Maya to do – even throw poison seeds into a family’s water pot. Maya had escaped – with the help of Jesus…and the Black Mamba.

I looked at Kukana. He was taking off his Peter costume.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” I said.  I was trying to think fast… about that scene. Could I take out that line?  Maybe….  Peter had already told Jesus his big “NO” so…  yes, it could work.

“Okay, I’ll strike that line, Kukana. I’ll take it out. Go inside now for some lemon bars and send Andrew outside. I’ll tell him about the change.”

Kukana looked much better then. He tied his robe belt again, grinned, and ran into the house. “Hey, save some for me, guys!”

*****

Later we rehearsed the scene where Peter denies Jesus three times. Melody and June finally got to say their lines. (They were getting pretty bored by then.)

Kukana said his denials very loud and strong.  He wanted to curse for real, but I wouldn’t let him. Gus gave a great rooster crow from the side, and Kukana looked wide-eyed at where the audience would be when he heard it.

At the last minute I decided to include that little half-scene where Jesus is being taken to another trial and He sees Peter’s last denial. Since I took the other line out, I quickly added it to all the scripts. It’s from Luke 22.  Here’s what I wrote….

Narrator: “ The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. And Peter remembered what Jesus  said, and he went out and cried bitterly.”

 Kukana did a good job running off crying.

We rehearsed the last “NO” scene too, but we had a lot of problems with the sheet and the stuffed animals.

You remember that story, right, kids?  It’s from Acts 10.  It was after Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came and Peter got really good at preaching. He even healed people in Jesus’ name and raised a young lady, named Tabitha, from the dead.

Then he had that dream where this huge sheet came down from heaven full of all kinds of creepy animals, and heard God tell him to kill them and eat them.

By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.

“Can I get some m’bewa and put in the sheet? How about some grasshoppers?  I’d eat them!! Just like THAT.” He pretended to put creatures into his mouth and chew them up.

“No, Kukana, the whole idea is that Peter would say NO!  It’s the fifth NO he says to God. Peter was a Jew and Jews would never eat things that their religion said not to.”

Then everybody thought the stuffed animals (including a rainbow Unicorn that came from somewhere) just looked dumb.  And we couldn’t figure out how to let the sheet down without spilling them.  In the end, I just cut the whole scene.  We would have FOUR of Peter’s NO’s.

But…. I didn’t like ending my play with Peter (Kukana) running off the stage crying loudly because he denied Jesus.

We all got together after the final rehearsal to talk about it.

mk-stories-andrew1Then Andrew came up with a great answer to the problem. “I learned in my home school Bible class that Jesus had a private meeting with Peter after he got resurrected. It’s at the end of Luke, I think.  Jesus forgives Peter and welcomes him back.  We could show that . This scene could be a “YES” scene when Peter asks for forgiveness and JESUS says “yes.”

We all sat there staring at Andrew.  It was perfect!

“Wow!” I said. “And with different costumes, Caleb and Gus could be the soldiers who take Jesus away.”

“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.

“Yeah, cool,” said Caleb raising two thumbs.

Melody and June told him they loved it too.

I looked it up in the Bible – Luke 24, and 1 Corinthians 15 – and wrote a few lines into my script that I thought Jesus and Peter would say. We went over it a couple of times. It was a PERFECT ending!

*****

The play was just one week later on Sunday afternoon.  All our parents, neighbors and friends were invited, although we wouldn’t have enough chairs if everybody came.

“Why don’t you have it in the church,” Dad suggested. “That way there would be plenty of seats.  IBF (International Bible Fellowship) doesn’t have anything planned for that afternoon.”

WOW!!  My play would be a real pageant, like at Christmas or Easter, and on a real stage!!!

Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).

 

“PETER’S NO’S”

A play by

April Grace Matthews

from the Bible.

 

Dad printed some half-page programs, naming the scenes and who would be in them. Everyone who came would get one.  I asked him to give a closing prayer after it was over and he agreed.

All our costumes were finished. We didn’t have very many props – just the bowl and towel in the “washing” scene, and the cardboard helmets and swords for the soldiers. Marshall helped Gus make those.

I was so excited, I couldn’t even sleep that night.

inside-ibc-copy-2The big afternoon came.  We all went to the church and got into our costumes.  We met in the back room (in a theater it is call the “Green Room” but this one was painted white). We looked at our scripts for the very last time. They were pretty ragged by then.

Kukana, Caleb and Gus were nervous and sort of danced around acting stupid. Julie cleared her throat ten times. She was nervous about being in front of an audience.

Andrew stood in his white robe in the middle of the room and grinned.

Our dad peeked in and said the church benches were full and it was about time.  He high-fived everyone, then went out to announce the play.

I led the troupe (that’s what you call a group of actors) out to the platform.  I took my place in a chair to the side, with a brand new copy of the script. I planned to follow along and if anyone forgot their lines, I would “prompt” them, so they wouldn’t die of embarrassment.

I looked at all the audience and my heart started beating double time.

I leaned toward my actors and whispered, “Talk loud!”

And then it began.

Julie started reading from her Bible softly, but then her voice got nice and loud, “Now when Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples……”

She looked up at Andrew, who stepped forward and said, “Who do people say that I am?”

Caleb and Gus gave their answers, then Kukana gave Peter’s wonderful statement. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

Next came his loud “NO” about Jesus dying, and Jesus’s hard scolding of him.

A lot of people clapped after scene one.  I wiggled in my seat so happy with my play and my … players.

Andrew and Kukana did a great job talking about washing feet and whole bodies.  This time my “Peter” didn’t giggle. It was really great!

I had Julie add a little part about how the washing that Jesus did was symbolic of washing away sin, in case there were other people who didn’t understand.

Next was the scene where Peter would say loudly that even if all the other disciples left Jesus, HE would NOT!   And Jesus told him that he WOULD… before the rooster crowed the next day.

Then suddenly… there was an awful sound from the back of the church! I jumped in my chair and almost dropped my script.

It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.

Only it wasn’t a real bird. It was a man!  A big, dark man with a necklace of chains hanging around his neck had made that horrible, scary noise.  And he made it again, only louder and scarier!

People turned around, saw the man, and started talking in fearful voices.  A few people in the back rows moved away from him.  I looked for Dad but he had already started to move around the side wall towards the back.

Then I looked at Kukana.  He was terrified and as white as any Malawi boy could look!

Then I knew.

This was the powerful and evil Medicine Man from the village.  How did he get inside IBF?  Who had told him about my play?

Kukana was shaking so badly I thought he was going to fall over. I started to get up to catch him.

Suddenly, Andrew yelled out in his loudest voice, “SIMON, SIMON…SATAN WANTS TO HAVE YOU.  HE WANTS TO TRY TO SHAKE YOU UP!!   BUT I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU THAT YOUR FAITH DOES… NOT… FAIL!”

I stared at Andrew. His eyes were fierce and his fists were clenched. HE wasn’t scared. He was mad.

Kukana looked at Andrew too. He stopped shaking and stood taller.

The dark man glared at Andrew over the people’s heads. He glared at him a long time, his lips curling in a snarl, but our “Jesus” never moved.

Then, before my dad could even get to him, the man whirled around and ran out.

There was absolute silence.

Then, in a clear voice, Kukana said, “Jesus, your prayer saved me! I was going to be killed by that man, but your words…. the words from the Bible scared him off.”

Kukana turned to me then and started crying. “April, I want to be a Christian too. I want the real Jesus to be my Savior!  I want to be washed all over clean, just like the real Peter.”

I smiled so big at him that I thought my face would split.  There were some people who said “Amen” in the congregation.  Some women all over the church started singing softly, then loudly, praising God.

Daddy came onto the platform and kneeled down beside Kukana. It got quiet again. He spoke in a normal voice, but people in the back row could hear him.

“Kukana, do you know that God is Holy and that nobody can ever be as perfect as He demands them to be?”

Kukana nodded.

“Do you understand that anyone who is not perfectly good cannot have eternal life in God’s heaven?”

He nodded.  A couple people said, “amen” softly.

“Kukana, did you learn John 3:16 since you’ve been coming to Sunday School?  Can you say it to me?”

Softly the dead mice eater said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only bebot…bebotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him…. shall NOT die…. but have eternal life. John 3:16”

“What does that mean to you?”

“That Jesus came and died for me, that I wouldn’t have to die for my own sins.  I could live with God in heaven forever.  And even though I did a lot of bad things – like Peter did when he denied Jesus and even cussed him – even  though I am like Peter, Jesus can forgive me.  He prays for me. He wants me as His friend. And I want to be His friend too!”

Then Kukana started crying. He put his hands tightly over his eyes and pressed hard.  “I’m sorry Jesus!  Will You forgive me?”

He looked up at dad , “Will He?”

Dad said, “YES!  He already has!”  He gave Kukana a big, long hug.

People in the congregation were standing up now and clapping and saying, “Praise God!” and “Thank You, Lord!”

Finally dad stood up and everybody quieted and sat down.  “We have seen a miracle here today.  There are angels singing in Heaven about this boy’s new birth.”

He looked at me and smiled. “April, it was all those Bible verses in your play that did it.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and it came to Kukana today. God blessed your play more than you could have wished.”

*****

Well kids, we never finished the last two scenes.  Melody and June didn’t get a chance to accuse Peter of denying Jesus.  I don’t think Kukana could have done that “denying scene” anyway.  He was totally believing in his new Savior now!

And the last scene, about Jesus restoring Peter…. well, THAT happened in real life right before our eyes!

 

After we changed out of our costumes and gathered up the props, we walked home feeling really good.  Kukana couldn’t stop asking Dad questions and getting answers that made him even happier.

“I’ve been reading the Bible a lot since I got into April’s play, Mr. Matthews,” Kukana said. “Now I want a Bible of my own so I can read the stories about Peter and Jesus to my friends in the village. I want them to know how Jesus loves them too!”

“We’ll get you a Bible at Sunday School next week,” said my Dad.

Kukana skipped ahead of  us and did a cartwheel right in the street!  We all laughed.

And then kids, I had this brilliant, over-the-top, fantastic, glorious, coolest-ever idea!!!!!

“Kukana,” I said. “Do you want to read my play to your friends too?  In Chichewa?  We can all come and act it out for them while you say the words. You SAID you could do it……CAN you?”

“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! ” he yelled, jumping as high as he could and flinging his arms up as tall as the sky!

*****

Kids, I’m so happy that Kukana got saved, aren’t you?

And we really DID go to the Village a couple weeks later and put on my play in Chichewa. This time, Jacob Kopp played the par of Peter, while Kukana translated the narration and all the actors’ lines.  he wasn’t even afraid of the Medicine man, who strangely would not come close to our little troupe.

 

Kukana and I are going to write another play for his village friends.  I think this one will be about PAUL and his first missionary journey.

Love until next time!  I don’t know who will be writing…maybe one of my brothers and sisters! Hahahaha.

Meanwhile, why don’t YOU use YOUR talents for God. See what happened when I wrote a play?

Love, April

 

“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.”  Psalm 34:11   The Good News Bible

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Parents note:  Witch Doctors, which I call “Medicine Men” in my stories, have a strong influence in village life in Malawi even today.  They use fear and “dark magic” to keep people in their power and in debt to them. EVEN Christian converts, when asked if they believe in the power of witchcraft, will say yes.   I have no wish to promote their craft in any way, other than to say, the devil and his minions have no chance against the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.     

(Read Bible passages like Luke 4:33-36, Luke 7:26-39 and Luke 9:38-43, that show Jesus’ power over the demonic world.  Also Paul’s experience with a magician in Acts 13:6-11.)

 

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#11) – DEEK’S WILD RIDE!

mk-story-coversThis story is Eleventh in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children.  NOTE: This story is told from multiple view points, and even… 3-year-old Deek!

I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences, such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi – BIG BLACK DOGS, the second story. They will also show how they face the same temptations, emotions, and problems that kids everywhere do. My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, for everyday life.

*** If you are new to the MK Stories, begin the with the FIRST story and meet the kids and their idiosyncrasies in order. Enjoy!    http://bit.ly/2dnnrhD  

 

“DEEK’S WILD RIDE!”

Hi Evvy-buddy!

(Yep… that’s a greeting from Deek!)

This is Melody writing, but the story is going to be about our baby brother this time.  (I bet THAT surprises you!!) Deek turned THREE years old on December 28, and Julie – she’s the one that takes care of him the most besides Mom – says that it’s HIS TURN to “write” to you.

Well, at 3-years-old, Deek can’t write yet. He can hardly talk!  But I know what she means. He’s had in a little part of most of our stories, so it’s fair that HE should have a story of his own.

I’ll start, but we will all “speak” for him.

Deek was born right after Christmas, like you learned in June’s story about gifts and names and what “charity” means. Deacon, which is his real name, is kind of like “December,” don’t you think?

His whole name is Deacon William Matthews, like you learned in Julie’s story about the happy face pin when Uncle Will visited us.  His middle name comes from the great missionary, William Carey, and NOT Uncle Will!

William Carey was a missionary to India. He is the one who told his friends that HE would go to that country and tell people about Jesus, if THEY would “hold the rope” for him.  Gus didn’t know what that meant in his “Black Dogs” story, but it means that the people who stayed home while William Carey risked his life to go to India, would pray for him every day and send him the money he needed to live.

It’s like someone going into a dark cave or a deep hole. He might tie a rope around his waist and have friends hold the other end. If things got too scary, he would feel them there and know he wasn’t alone. They could even pull him out if he was in REAL danger.  And they would have that “connection” with him and be helping to spread the Gospel in India by supporting him.

Get it?

Anyway, that’s how Deek got his name. Umm…. I wonder what YOUR middle name is? Were YOU named after someone? I wish you could tell me YOUR story. You can write to me, if you want….

Actually, Deacon is a funny NAME for a person. In the Bible and in churches it is a JOB TITLE for someone who serves people in need. Like Deacon Stephen, who we learned about in Sunday School last week.

But right now, everybody else in the Matthews family serves DEEK, because he’s the one who needs all the help.

Thank goodness he doesn’t wear diapers anymore! Pee-yewww!!

Deek can eat by himself, but he can’t make his own cereal or sandwiches. Last week at lunch time he pointed at me and said, “Mel-ty, I want mel-ty.” I laughed and picked him up, thinking that he wanted me to carry him, but he squirmed and wanted down. Turns out, he didn’t want ME (Melody), he wanted a “melted-cheese sandwich!”

Go figure!

He can walk and even run around now, but he still likes to be carried a lot – and he’s getting so heavy!  Julie is used to carrying him (she loves him a lot) and of course Marshall and Mom and Dad can do it pretty easily.

Deek (…if he could really talk):  I’m SUPPOSED to get bigger and bigger, right? I want to be as tall as Daddy and Marshall. I want to drive the Rover and go to work and other places. I think driving the Rover must be the most fun of all!

*****

Hey, Melodeeeeeee… it’s my turn to talk about Deek!

boys-playing2Hi kids, you remember me. I’m Deek’s next older brother, Gus, and we are buddeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. He likes when I play cars and trucks with him. He says, “vrooooomm,” and growls like the sound the Rover makes.

He likes when I push him high on the swing. He likes the bugs I show him – but sometimes he tries to eat them!!! (Well….. I guess I ate a fried grasshopper in the Village last time, so…..)

Anyway, he likes to play follow-the-leader with me too.  When I walk funny – he copies me. When I spin around – he does too. And when I crawl on my hands and knees so does he…. or sometimes, he climbs on my back and wants a “horsee-riii.”

Ugh, my back!

Deek (…if he could really talk): I like Gus. He plays with me and shows me cool things. Sometimes I sleep with him at night when I get afraid of the thunder and stuff. I want to be like Gus – except NOT when he does dumb things, like hiding in the Rover and getting left behind at the village.  I can say his name real good – Gusssssss.  But… I DON’T LIKE IT when he calls ME……

Hey, Deeky-Boy, wanna go play?  Why are you crying?  Really Julie, I didn’t hurt him!

*****

Hi, big boy! Why are you crying?  Let your big sister give you a hug and a squeeze. C’mon – oh! – you’re getting almost too heavy for ME to pick up!  Mmmm… let’s rub noses!

I’ve always loved taking care of Deek. He’s better than playing with dolls, because he is REAL.

I remember when Mom had him three years ago, just after Christmas. I was ten years old then and I’d gotten a very nice Journey Doll named Meredith for a present. She came with a suitcase and clothes for travelling. I liked her a lot and was playing with her when Mom brought Deek home from the clinic where he was born.

I took one look at his cute little face all scrunched up to cry and thought he was so much better than a doll. I gave Meredith to April and followed Mom around all the time just so I could hold him.

boys-playing4-2At first, she made me sit down with a pillow on my lap.

“Be very, very careful to support his head, Julie,” she said. “Babies don’t have very strong necks at first.”  I was very careful!  He was so warm and cuddly and had such big eyes!  I love him so much. I hope I have lots of babies just like him when I grow up and get married. Girl babies too!

And you know what?  Deek helped me to get over a bad habit. When I was younger, I was a real “scaredy-cat.”

Scarey-cat! In da hole! Lotta wain!!”

Oh  yes, you remember when we had that big storm, don’t you, Deek?  I was so nervous when the water started going into the back yard instead of out under the front gate.

Kids, when I got scared, I would chew on my lower lip. It was a habit. Sometimes my lip got really sore, but I kept doing it. I couldn’t help it.

BUT….. Deek here, would remind me by gently patting my mouth. Oh, I could kiss you right now, my little Deek!

Mmmmmm… smoooch!

Don’t wiggle! You love it too. And I think I will tickle you too!  What a precious sweetheart you are!

Deek (…if he could really talk): “I love my big sister so much – almost as much as I love Momma. She kisses me and hugs me and reads to me and lets me sit on her lap, and rocks me when I don’t feel good.  I can even say her name… Jooo-lee!”

*****

“My turn now! Up you go, Deek!”

Deek (…if he could really talk): “Whoooooooo-eeee!  I’m way up high now, sitting on my big brother’s shoulders. Hahahahahaha!  I love trying to touch the ceiling with my fingers. I almost can!  I also love to put my fingers into his thick brown hair and hold on tight when he spins around, like right now. Hahahahaha!  Hiccup. Hiccup!

“Marshall! Don’t make him dizzy or he will lose his lunch and YOU will have to clean it up!”

“Okay, Mom, but he loves it so much!”

Kids, I remember when Deek was born too. I was thirteen and I thought, “All this family needs is another baby!”  But hey, Gus and I DID need another brother, right Little Bro?  Us guys gotta stick together!  Give me five!

Well, I put Deek down so his lunch would settle, and said, “By the way Mom, Dad left the Rover home today and took your car to work. He told me to get the tank filled up.  You know how he HATES to wait in line at the gas station. But I don’t mind, and…. I get more practice driving. I think I’ll go now. Can I take Deek?”

“Oh, Marshall, I don’t know…”

“It’s only a mile away, and I’ll put his seat belt on. I’ll drive carefully!”

Go Wover! Get gas! Go!”

“See, Deek wants to go too!”

“Alright, you two. Did Dad give you money? Okay. Here, take my cell phone…just in case.”

“C’mon, big boy, let’s go!” I said, and picked him up again.

“Go!” Deek shouted and bounced in my arms.

Ngunda opened the gate for us and waved at Deek.  I turned into our street, drove to the corner and then out onto the road, doing a pretty good job at shifting, I thought. At the corner I turned left onto the main road.  We passed the African Bible College where Dad worked.

ABC!  Daddee!” Deek called and pointed. All the while he was making that growling sound that really did sound like the Rover’s engine.

At the gas station there were five two-sided pumps, but all of them had several cars waiting in line. The main problem was that the pumps were sooooo slow. It took forever to fill up a tank.  You also had to watch the gauge so you were sure you had enough money.  The prices changed every day, and it took so many Kwachas to buy even one gallon of gas. The stack of Kwachas on the seat, that Dad had left for me to buy 12 gallons, had a rubber band on it and was an inch thick!

I unbuckled Deek and let him stand up to see all the people and cars. He laughed and pointed and babbled.

Finally I pulled to the pump and told the man how much I wanted…. or rather, how much money I had.  As I was watching the pump’s gauge, a loud thump sounded on the roof.  Deek cried out and ran to me. What was that?  And then I saw.

“Maya! My old friend! What are you doing here? You scared us to death!”

Maya leaned in the left window (passenger side) and waved his fingers at Deek.

“Myyy!” my little brother cried and ran across the seat to him. Maya opened the door, took him in his arms, then slid into the seat.

“I have a job now,” my friend said in a deep voice that I still couldn’t get used too. “I drive the coffin truck for the coffin maker-man, Mr. Kapanda.”

“Whoa, really?”

He smiled a huge smile, and I noticed he was trying to grow a little beard on his chin.  It almost hid the “medicine man” scar.  I was glad.  Deek noticed it too, and started pulling the hairs with his stubby fingers.

“Hey, little man!” said Maya gently untangling his fingers.  “You want to come see a coffin?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Maya…. ” I said, sounding a lot like my Mom.

“Coffin!!!” said Deek.

About then the man came to the Rover window and held out his hand.  I looked at the gauge and fanned the Kwacha. I took out two and handed him the rest.  Wow, I thought, that went fast. It cost a lot to get around in Malawi. I nodded my head in a silent “Thanks!” to God for our faithful supporters.

When I turned back, Maya had slid out and was holding Deek. He bumped the door shut with his hip. “My truck is behind you. You pull up over there and park.  I’ll take your place.”

Some horns were honking, so I put the Rover into gear and moved to an open area off the cement onto the dirt. I turned the engine off, and the Rover lurched forward like it always does when I forget to ease out the clutch.  I grabbed the keys and trotted to the red truck with wood slats standing up around the bed and a sign on one side that read “Nice Coffins All You Need.”  The station man had already opened the gas tank lid and was putting in the nozzle.

Maya and Deek were in the bed of the truck, walking around three new wooden coffins – just rectangle boxes, really, and not even painted. Maya was showing Deek how they opened. Deek was trying to climb in one.

mk-coffin1

“Maya!” I called, suddenly a little worried.

“Deek’s okay,” said Maya. “He’s one curious boy!”

“Watch out!” I said. In just the time it took Maya to turn and talk to me, Deek had climbed into one of the boxes. Startled, Maya had let the lid drop with a bang.  I didn’t hear a yell, so hopefully none of Deek’s fingers or his head got smashed.

“Maya, get him out of there!” I cried, lifting my foot to the bumper to climb up.

But something was happening in the cab of the truck that neither of us had seen. A strange man had pushed the station man aside, pulled out the nozzle which was spewing gas on the cement under the truck, and had jumped into the driver’s seat. Maya barely had time to grab one of the slats of the truck before it lurched forward.  I lost my balance and fell, hands splayed into the pooling gasoline.

The truck, engine roaring, bumped over the curb and out to the main road. It gained speed – I could hear the gears grinding – in the direction away from our home.

“DEEEEKK!” I screamed, getting up and trying to run after the truck. My shoes slipped in the gasoline and I fell again.  The station man and others were yelling at me to watch out, but all I could think of was Deek. My brother. My baby brother Deek, in a stolen truck….. and in a coffin!

“God!  Oh, God, help him! Show me what to do!”

I felt the keys in my pocket and ran back to the Rover. I jerked open the door and climbed in, gasoline soaked jeans and all.

“C’mon, c’mon!” I said as the engine took it’s time starting. It finally caught. Then I popped the clutch too fast and it stalled.

“Please God, help me!”

Finally I got the Rover moving. I steered around the pumps and the yelling man, who had not gotten paid for the wasted gas, and out to the driveway. Cars and trucks lumbered by. A guy on a bicycle was peddling a woman on the back who was loaded with produce. I honked, then pulled out, right in front of another car, who honked louder.

Where was the truck?  I couldn’t see it with all the other traffic. Did it turn off?  Did it get to the round-a-bout yet? Which way would it go?  I shoved the gear stick into high and pushed down the peddle. I whipped around some walking people, then had a fright when I almost hit a kid who ran in front of me.

I slowed a little and watched in all directions…. but mostly ahead.  Deek!  Maya!  Where were they?

*****

Deek (…if he could really talk): “Weeeeee, this is fun!  See me roll back and forth. One side – boom. The other side – boom. Maya makes me have lots of fun in this long box.  Wooooooo… that was a BIG bump!  And now we are going round and round. Hahahahaha!  I wish Maya would come inside too!  Maya?  MAYA!!  Where is Maya??

*****

“STOP! DO YOU HEAR ME? STOP! STOP!!!” Maya screamed at the crazy man who was stealing the truck, stealing the coffins…. making him lose his job, and…. and…. worst of all…. maybe hurting his best friend’s baby brother!

He could see the man’s face in the mirror inside the cab. He was scowling. Soon the truck started to jerk back and forth and Maya was flying one way, then the other. Then the man made a fast jerking-right turn onto a narrow dirt road, and Maya’s hand slipped. He rolled over the tailgate and hit the ground hard, red dust choking him as he rolled to a stop.

He tried to catch his breath and felt a pain in his side. He got up on one knee and watched the truck bounce down the uneven road. The coffins were sliding from one side to the other and bouncing up and down like popcorn in hot oil.

“Deek!” he said weakly and coughed, managing to stand up.

*****

100_5315-copyI sat in traffic and pounded the steering wheel of the Rover. Why was everybody stopped?  Why wouldn’t they go?  How far ahead was the truck with Maya and Deek?  I have to find him!  I just HAVE to find him!  I swiped angrily at the stupid tears running down my cheeks. I honked the horn, knowing it wouldn’t do any good.

“Please God, help me find Deek. Oh, please let him be okay!”

Then  like a miracle the traffic started to move. I darted around a car loaded with people, their arms hanging out of all the windows, and just missed a donkey loaded with sticks.  I finally got some speed and then happened to see a red dust cloud to my right on a small road. Could that be where the truck turned?  No. But maybe….  Then I saw a black boy, hunched over, holding his side and limping as fast as he could down the road. Maya?

I jammed on the brakes and turned the steering wheel. The Rover slid sideways till I thought it was going to turn over. But then it straightened up. I pushed down hard on the gas pedal.

“Maya!” I called and bounced over the rutted road to where my friend was trying to run.

“That…way,” Maya gasped, pointing ahead as he crawled painfully into the Rover. The dirt road angled up into a steep hill and we could see the truck struggling to go the last few yards to the top. I stomped on the gas pedal and the Rover jumped forward.

As we got closer, we cried out at the same time, “DEEK!!” and “NOooo!”

The coffins were sliding slowly towards the open tailgate. One fell off and broke open. It was empty. Another one edged backward…. tipped… and tumbled to the road. Empty.

I got the Rover closer to the truck, which was almost to the top of the hill. The final coffin slipped back… further… further… A deep rut on one side of the road tipped the truck’s bed and made the coffin twist sideways, catching a corner in one of the slats of the truck.  We both held our breaths.

The truck was only a few feet from the top when a rear wheel hit a big rock and the lid to the third coffin sprung open. We watched in amazement as a little figure stood up….  and waved!

We couldn’t believe our eyes!  Words got stuck in our throats. We dared not breathe!

I got the Rover alongside the truck just as it topped the hill. Maya, already bruised and scraped from his fall and tumble on the road, leaned out the open door. He reached…. strained… and caught the last wooden slat on the side of the truck.  He swung clear of the Rover and banged against the truck’s fender. He almost lost his grip! His face screwed up in pain and I heard him cry out.

As he grabbed a second slat with his other hand, I whipped the Rover around and in front of the truck. It swerved to the left, and came to an abrupt stop, the front wheel in the ditch on the other side of the road. I jammed the Rover’s brake pedal, completely forgetting to push in the clutch. It hop-hopped to a stop, killing the engine.

The thief and I jumped out of our vehicles at the same time. He started off across the field as fast as he could.  I hesitated only a second, then ran to the back of the truck, my baby brother the only thing on my mind.

Maya had Deek crushed against his chest… inside the coffin… where they had fallen when the truck abruptly stopped. Maya was sobbing. Deek was laughing.

Deek (… if he could really talk):  “Wow! That was so much fun! I was bouncing and bumping and sliding all over the place! And now, Maya came into the box with me!  Let’s do it again! Maya! Why are you crying? Oh, you must be laughing. Hahahaha. Me too. Wasn’t it fun? Oh, there’s Marshall! Did you have fun chasing me? You were going soooo fast in the Rover!  Did you see Maya jump on the truck!!  Wooooweeeeee!”

*****

boys-playing6It took a long time to get the big coffin truck backed out of the ditch. I hooked a cable from the Rover to the back bumper and pulled and pulled. Deek, now inside the Rover with me, jumped up and down and shouted “YAAAYYY!” when it finally came unstuck.

Maya checked it over real well. It didn’t look damaged. He carefully turned it around and coasted down the hill to where the coffins had fallen off.  The second one wasn’t too bad, but the first one that had fallen – the biggest one – had a corner broken out.

“I can probably fix it,” he said, a dismayed look on his face. “I hope I’ll get the chance. Mr. Kapanda can be very stern when it came to spending money.  I’ll have to work for free…. maybe for a long, long time.”

He climbed up into the truck again and slid behind the wheel. Suddenly his sad face turned happy. “Hey, at least we got the truck back, right? And Deek! We got Deek back!”

*****

Once I’d helped Maya with the coffins, I started home.  I’d given Deek a hug so long and hard that the little guy complained and squirmed to get loose.

“Legggo, Marshall, legggo! Hug too tii.”

Soon after I’d buckled his seat belt, Deek fell asleep, his little body sagging toward me, a small smile on his face. I swallowed the lump in my throat and touched his cheek. I sure did love him!

“Thank you, God, for making him safe.”

As I turned onto the main road and drove through the round-a-bout, I glanced at the gas gauge. It was half empty! My watch told me that two hours had passed.

“Whoa-boy,” I gulped. “How am I going to explain all this to Mom and Dad?”

I drove through our gate and parked the Rover, easing out the clutch so the engine purred to a stop. Mom came outside, wiping her hands on her apron… the apron she wore when she baked cookies.

“What took you so long, Marshall?” she asked. “I was getting worried.” She scowled as she looked down. “Why is the Rover so dusty?  And… WHERE’S DEEK?”

Just then, the little boy sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Momma!” he said as she opened the door and picked him up. “See Myyy!  Go for riii in box. So fun!!”

Mrs. Matthews looked at me curiously, then lowered her chin, and raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll explain Mom,” I promised as I got out of the Rover and shut the door. Wow, it really was dirty!  I’d have to wash it before Dad got home. I also would have to think how to tell them about….about Deek’s “wild ride” so that they’d let me drive the Rover again… before I turned FORTY!

I ruffled Deek’s hair as we walked to the house. “But first, Mom, can I have a glass of milk? And…. maybe a cookie or two?”

“Cookieees, yay!” said Deek.

My buddy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTE: Kids & parents, there are a lot of Malawians who have coffin shops along the main roads. They make very simple wood boxes – and sometimes fancy painted ones too. Sadly, a lot of people in the villages die from Malaria and AIDS in this beautiful, friendly country because they can’t get to the clinics or don’t have money for medicine. They have to ask for small donations even to buy one of the wood boxes like in this story. Medical missionaries – like Uncle Will – help them, but the village people are very poor. (Malawi is now the poorest country in the world.)

 

“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.”  ~~~ Psalm 34:11   Good News Bible

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#10) – LOST IN CHINSAPO (part two)

mk-story-coversThis story is TENTH in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. It’s part two with the NINTH story , which left readers with quite a “cliff hanger!”

Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children, (but the baby can’t write yet!).

I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences (and similarities) such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi as in BIG BLACK DOGS (the second story). They will also show how they face the same temptations, emotions, and problems that all kids everywhere do. My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, as it pertains to their everyday lives.

So, here is the next story!  (Hint: It’s part two of the NINTH story, which left readers with quite a scary “cliff hanger!”)

(If you are new here, scroll down, or check the list on the side bar to begin the with the FIRST story and meet the kids and their idiosyncrasies in order.)

PS:Remember, Gus loves to add lots of letters to the ends of his words.

 

Hi kidsssssss,

Here’s where I left off last time with my story of being… LOST IN CHINSAPO!

……I sank down on my knees and started rocking back and forth. They had gone without me! How could they forget me?  Then I remembered. No one knew I had sneaked along. No one knew I was in the village. No one knew but the boys I’d played ball and eaten grasshoppers with. And this girl.

I started to cry and wiped the tears away with my arm. 

Mom HAD to be really worried now. I wasn’t home all day and she didn’t know where I’d gone to. Maybe she would eventually think I was with Dad and Marshall. She probably HOPED I was, But then, when Dad got home and I wasn’t with HIM….

I started crying harder, she would be so scared… because of me!

OH! And Dad didn’t know where I was either! He thought I was at HOME!  And even if he suspected I’d maybe tagged along secretly – like I did – he would be, oh, he would be soooooooo mad to have to come back for me.

I squeezed my eyes shut, knowing what discipline I was going to get.

But wait…. NOBODY could drive into Chinsapo in the dark!  And it WAS dark now.

Black-dark.

I could see a few tiny cooking fires, but that’s all.

I heard a rumble. Was that thunder? 

A mosquito buzzed around my head and I swatted at it frantically.  What if I got bitten?   What if I got malaria?  

“NO,” I cried into my hands. “Noooooooo!” 

Then I felt a tap on my arm…..

 *****

I looked up through my tears. It was the girl. She was still there! I could barely see her, even though she was so close. But she was there!  She was someone I knew, or at least knew about.  I wasn’t totally alone!!

I stood up. “What should I do, —-” I didn’t even know her name. “Will you help me?”

She smiled then and her white teeth were like a happy beacon in the dark! I reached out and she took my hand.  She nodded and began tugging me back up the path… towards her house.

“What’s your name?” I asked her. “I’m Gus.”  I pointed to my chest, but she probably couldn’t see me.

“Are you Mr. Chunga’s daughter?”

She glanced at me curiously then nodded.

“Chisomo,” she said softly. (chee-SO-mo)

“Zikomo?” I thought she said “thank you.”

She shook her head and smiled that “happy beacon” again.

“Chisomo!”** she said loudly, and pointed with the hand that was holding mine at her own chest.

Oh, that must be her name. I wondered what it meant. I would ask Mom or Dad when….. when I… got home. Suddenly I was scared again.

She tugged at my hand once more because I had stopped. I felt a few drops of rain on my arms. It thundered again, louder.  I walked faster after the girl.

The wind started blowing and then another flash and thunder. We were jogging now. I was so glad she knew the way because I couldn’t see a thing. I stumbled a few times on clumps of grass, but she – that little girl – held my hand tightly.

It started raining harder. We started running faster.

Finally I could see a small fire ahead of her, under a wood and thatch shelter. A lady was standing beside it, watching us run down the path.  She called out and waved. We ducked under the thatch and out of the rain.

Up close with the fire light, I could see the same baby in a sling around the lady’s back.  She slipped it under her arm to the front and out of the sling.  She handed it to the little girl… to Chisomo.  My friend glanced back at me and went into the house.

The lady, who must be Mrs. Chunga, looked at me with her hands on her hips.

She said “Moni. Dzina lana ndani?”** in Chichewa, but I didn’t understand. I hoped Chisomo had told her who I was; that I came in the Rover.

She repeated the question and pointed at me.

“Umm… Gus? My name is Gus.” I tapped my chest.  She smiled and nodded.

“N’Dali!”** she called and I flinched. (nnn-DAH-lee)

100_5254-copyA thin boy in shorts and an old plaid shirt came quickly out of the house, a big mischievous grin on his face.

(Here is a picture of him with his sisters and brothers and some other friends.)

Mrs. Chunga told him to do something in Chichewa and he nodded, looking at me.

“You! M’zunga.”** (mmm-ZOON-gah)  He pointed at me, “to come.”

He curled his hand and pointed to the house. I followed him, but at the door he stopped and pointed inside. I looked inside, then at him, and he nodded.

I stepped out and immediately fell down hard!  He had stuck out his foot and tripped me!  And now he was laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach!

I felt tears in my eyes again as I got up. I felt like punching him, but by the way he danced around, I knew I would just miss and look really dumb.

I brushed dirt off my hands and felt a sting on my elbow and one knee. I thought of Mom and how she would wipe a scrape clean, dab on some medicine, and maybe put on a Band-Aid. ‘There are a lot of germs in the soil in Malawi,” she would warn.

I swiped at my eyes again and turned my back on that mean N’Dali, if that was his name. The rain was coming down hard now, pounding on the metal roof like a million kettle drums.

I looked around the room and at once saw an old lantern sitting on a box in the middle of the room, its dim light making wavy shadows on the rough brick walls. It smelled awful, not like lanterns we use camping. What oil were they burning in it?

There were two wood chairs nearby that “had seen better days,” my Mom would say. Woven grass mats covered most of the floor except where I came in. Rolled piles of cloth – rags really – lay here and there against the walls. A narrow doorway covered by a torn cloth led into another room.

Chisomo was kneeling on one of the mats in the corner, wrapping the baby in some of the material. She laid it gently against the wall by the door way to the other room and came to me. She pointed to a mat and a roll of the material across the room.

She said, “Kama.”** (KAH-mah)

Huh?

Before I could say anything a tall girl, about Julie’s age, and another one about Melody’s age ducked out of the other room. They stared at me. I stared back. They went outside. Again Chisomo pointed at the place by the wall and smiled.

Was I supposed to go there? Why? I went to the mat, sat on it, and leaned against the wall. I felt something crawling on my bare leg and brushed it away. It crawled back and I slapped at it.

My stomach was really growling now. It was complaining that it had only ONE granola bar, a bite of another one, and a fried grasshopper to eat all day.  I pictured Mom serving up dinner on our long table. What would it be? My favorite chicken and spicy rice, with canned peaches? My mouth watered and my stomach cramped. “I want to go home!” I said softly. “Why, oh why, did I do such a dumb thing?”

My eyes stung, but there were no more tears. I was so thirsty. I needed a drink really bad. Some cold water from the fridge, or… or even a bottle of my favorite Orange Fanta soda that we got on special occasions. I licked at my lips, but my tongue was dry.

I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed back against the wall. Something fell into my hair and I jerked away and brushed out the little pieces of brick.

There were voices in Chichewa outside; Mrs. Chunga’s and the girls’, then some boys’ voices. Then they all filed inside, led by the dance-stepping mean boy, who came and sat by me.  I scooted sideways away from him and he grinned and made a rude noise.

nsima-womanMrs. Chunga sat on one of the chairs. She had a bowl with some steaming white stuff mounded in the middle. Everyone sat down and the bowl was passed around. Each person scooped out a portion with their cupped hand – about as much as one of my Mom’s big serving spoons would hold.

N’Dali, the mean boy, who had scooped out as much as his hand would hold, passed it to me. There wasn’t a lot left. I looked around and saw that Chisomo had not had a turn yet, plus another little boy about Deek’s age who had toddled in, naked and wet with rain.

I sniffed at the white stuff and recognized nsima (nnn-SEE-ma), the ground up, cooked kernels of maize. I mentally divided the portion that was left into three and reached in my hand. It was cold by then, sticky and gluey. I scooped out a walnut-sized portion and gave the bowl to my friend.  She took an even smaller amount and gave the rest to the toddler. He sat with the bowl between his legs, scooped and licked nsima off his fingers.

I stuffed most of mine into my mouth and almost spit it out. It didn’t have ANY salt in it like my mom put in when she cooked nsima.  It was …. it was…  I made a face and swallowed it, and then I licked my hand for what was stuck between my fingers. Ewwwwww. Then I noticed how dirty my hands were. I wiped them on my shorts.

Now I was really thirsty. That nsima made my tongue stick to the top of my mouth! I made a motion to Chisomo like I was drinking something.  She looked at her mom, and then went into the other room. She came out with a chipped mug and handed it to me.

I looked inside.

There was water alright, but it was as dirty as the girl’s wash water in the bucket that I saw earlier.

I looked at it, and… and… raised it to my mouth. But I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t drink it. All I could hear was my Mom’s voice, “Never, never, never drink any un-purified water! Don’t even brush your teeth with it. EVEN if it looks perfectly clean. You will get bad diarrhea or maybe even typhoid!”

 But I was soooooo thirsty!!  I groaned and handed the cup back to her.

Chisomo said something to her Mom. Her Mom answered back in Chichewa, shaking her head.

Chisomo said more, very quietly. It sounded like begging.  Her Mom shook her head.  The she sighed, looked at me, looked at the roof, and sighed again. She nodded to Chisomo who ran into the other room.

She was in there for a few minutes, and then she came out carrying something wrapped in a rag. She took the rag off and rubbed the dust off the object. It was….. an unopened bottle of FANTA!!!!!  Not orange, but yellow, maybe pineapple, but that was just as good.

Suddenly some of my saliva drooled into my mouth as I could almost taste the Fanta. Dare I hope?

fanta-pineapple2

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!

She walked over and handed me what looked like “golden treasure” for it truly was!  It was warm from her hands but I didn’t care.

N’Dali cried out in anger and complaint and tried to grab the bottle from me. I held it close to my chest with both hands and turned away from him.  He pulled harder and began to hit my head with his fist. “Give it me, give it me!” he cried.

I held on.

Finally his Mom called out sharply and he stopped. But his hand was still on the bottle and his eyes bored into mine. Gradually he took his hand off, but sat tensed right next to me.

I waited as long as I could, then twisted off the lid, cutting the palm of my hand a little bit because it wouldn’t turn.  I waited a minute longer, then with both hands locked around the bottle I raised it to my mouth and tipped it up.

Ohhhh… it was sooooo good… sooo sweet… so wet. The bubbles tumbled over my tongue and down my throat. It wasn’t icy cold, but I didn’t care. I drank half the bottle with my eyes closed, without taking a breath. Then I opened one eye. N’Dali was still staring at me; his eyes were huge and bright.

I stopped drinking, but held the bottle tightly in my mouth where it was. I looked at him again and in the dim light from the lantern, saw one tear run down to the corner of his nose.

He was crying. N’Dali was crying! That mean, trickster, grabbing, hitting boy was crying, and I was the cause. I lowered the bottle and licked my lips. I looked inside and saw there was about two inches left. I wanted those two inches in my mouth SO BAD!!!

I felt a tap on my arm and looked away from N’Dali to Chisomo. She was smiling that big ‘happy beacon’ smile. This girl had risked the anger of her mother and the jealousy of her brothers and sisters for me.  Her Mom had feltobligated to give me the soda – one they were probably saving for a very, very special occasion – just because my Dad had fixed their roof. I swallowed hard.

I looked back at N’Dali who had wiped the tears angrily away from his eyes and once again was glaring at me.  I slowly pulled my fingers from around the bottle – they wouldn’t come easily, and handed it to him.

His eyes got so wide and white that they looked like giant marbles in his dark face. He hesitated only for a second, then grabbed the bottle and chugged it all down, closing his eyes while he drank like I did.  I KNEW what he was feeling and tasting right then.  I swallowed too – I couldn’t help it. That sweetness, that prickly sweetness going over his tongue and down his throat. I knew just what it felt like, what it tasted like. And the soda could still have been mine, if I hadn’t… But no.

N’Dali finished with a small burp. Then he put the bottle back into his mouth, and leaned his head way back. He shook the bottle to get out the last drops. Then he snaked his tongue inside the opening and licked it. Finally he laid it down.  He looked at me with soft eyes now.

“Zikomo,” he whispered and held out his hand for one of those weird, complicated Malawian handshakes. “Pepani,”** he added and pointed to the outside doorway.

Pepani? Pepani…ummm.  I knew what that meant… Oh, yeah.  It meant “I’m sorry.”

Suddenly, everyone got up and either went outside or to a spot on the mats along the wall where the bundles of cloth waited to be unwound and wrapped around them as very, VERY thin blankets. The two biggest girls went through the inner doorway.

Mrs. Chunga carried the bowl outside and then returned. She rolled down a piece of material over the door opening. Next she picked up the baby who had never cried once, and tucked it under her dress top. She sat on one of the mats across from me, her back against the wall, her feet stretched out in front of her. Her shoes were old and ragged and had holes in the bottom.  The toddler went to her and plopped down on her lap. He patted the baby’s leg.

Soon the baby was slipped back out and handed to Chisomo for wrapping and laying down. The toddler took his position next under the other side of her dress top.

I felt a nudging and saw that N’Dali was holding up the unrolled material for me.  He had lain down on the mat against the wall, covered himself with half of it, and was beckoning me to come in beside him.

For a second I wondered what trick he had under there. A sharp stick? But a sudden gust of chilly wind blew through the doorway curtain and made my decision for me. I slid down on the hard, scratchy mat next to him and pulled my half over me. My shoulder stuck out of a large hole.

I felt creepy crawly things in my hair. The mat itched the bare parts of my skin.  My palm and my elbow and knee hurt. My stomach growled… but a sweet taste was still on my tongue.  Some warmth was coming from N’Dali, and just like with Deek when we sometimes slept in the same bed, I snuggled closer to him.

“Zikomo,” I said.

“Mugone bwino,”** N’Dali said. (mu-GO-nay BWEE-no)

I said the same back to him. I hoped it meant “good night.”

Good night?

How could this be a GOOD night? I was lost in Chinsapo. I was hungry and now a little sick from all that sugary soda. I was sleeping on dirt with only a bit of woven grass between me and it. There were bugs or … whatever, crawling on me and in my hair. (Hey, no wonder all the Malawi kids, boys and girls, had shaved heads!!) And I was in super bad trouble when my Dad came for me in the morning.

WOULD he come for me?  Maybe he thought I ran away or got kidnapped and had called Mr. Banda, the policeman. Maybe Dad and Marshall and Ugunda were out searching for me right now in the neighborhood.  Ohhhhhh, what a stupid thing I’d done.  Would Dad EVER forgive me?  Would Mom?

I missed them tucking me in and kissing my forehead. I missed the Bible reading in the living room, and the sometimes funny questions that we asked and Dad answered. I missed my soft bed and pillow and the Angels Baseball team blanket Uncle Will had brought me. I missed Deek and his funny little snoring across our room.

mosquito5I felt a tickle, then a sting on my cheek!  NO! I rubbed the spot and felt a round bump coming up. A mosquito bit me!! Did it have the malaria germ??

Oh, how I wanted the mosquito net around my bed at home!! I pulled the thin rag over my head.

I cried.  Then I prayed.

“Dear God. I love You, and I know You always will love me, no matter what I do or how I disobey. But You are holy and hate sin. Your Bible says so.”

I thought of some verses from the Bible, like Romans 3:23 and 6:23, and the verses in Proverbs 6 that tell seven things God hates. I couldn’t remember them all, but I DID remember, “a tongue that deceives; a heart that makes up wicked plans.” I guess I had done those….. Besides disobeying my parents, not respecting their feelings, being selfish… and a lot of other stuff!

“Dear God,” I prayed again, “I say to You that I have sinned sooooo many ways today. I did them on purpose to get my own way. I didn’t think about others, only myself.”

I wiped my eyes with my fingers under the sheet, sniffed and swallowed hard.

“Dear God, I’m sorry.” Then I said it in Chichewa too, “Pepani,” because… well just because I wanted to. N’Dali turned over and I felt his boney back against mine.

“Dear God, thank You for forgiving me and making my heart clean, like You promised if I confessed my sins and really meant it. Wow… You did it because Jesus already took my punishment for them.  Jesus…. I love you!”

I took a big breath which shook a little in my chest.  I sniffed and swallowed again. I felt much better.  Forgiveness will do that to you, like Dad always said.  But I knew I had to confess and tell my Mom and Dad how sorry I was for hurting them. That would be hard. But knowing that GOD had already forgiven me made it a little easier.

I knew I would get disciplined. God told parents that they needed to do that for their children because it showed how much they loved them, and because it helped the kids to know the ‘right’ way. And Dad… he was always fair and kind.

Oh, Daddy, I love you too!  I hope you will know how sorry I am.  And Momma…

I heard a little whimper from the baby across the room. The lantern had been blown out but I know it was Chisomo, sleeping next to it, that patted or rubbed it till it went back to sleep.

“Dear God, thank you for Chisomo.  She helped me all day to find the right way, first to where Dad and Marshall were working on her house, then coming to find me in the dark, and bringing me back here, and even getting that soda for me. She must believe in You too, from Mrs. Molenaar’s Thursday Bible teaching.

I had a thought then and chuckled softly. Chisomo was like Jesus in a way, like when He said he was the good Shepherd, going after a lost sheep.  I’m a dumb lost sheep.

“Baaaaaa,” I said a little too loudly and N’Dali turned back over and mumbled something.

N’Dali wasn’t so bad after all. He liked to have fun – so did I. Maybe I also had laughed at one of my brothers or sisters when I played a joke on them – one that they didn’t think was funny.

“Dear God, I say to You that I am sorry for those times too. Please help me to be kinder, always.”

And here was N’Dali sharing his “bed” and thin sheet. And they ALL had shared the nsima with me. There was so little in that bowl, and so many of them.  I was glad that we had hired Mr. Chunga to be our night guard. I wished we could give him even more money, but I know that was not the Malawi way.**

I promised myself that I would… well, that I would ask Mom and Dad first, but then send some bottles of Fanta to this family when their Dad came home. And some food – maybe canned peaches or granola bars!! But, how would Mr. Chunga carry all that? I didn’t remember seeing any men carrying boxes on their heads like the ladies do.

Oh!! We really need get a bicycle for Mr. Chunga!! With a rack! He wouldn’t have to walk two hours every day to our house, then back again. I would give my allowance, ALL of it, if it would help. I would ask Dad tomorrow.

Tomorrow….  A day of rescue, of being sorry and getting discipline, AND hugs from Mom. Oh, I loved my Mom’s hugs, and kisses in my hair…..

*****

During the night, we had a scary visitor. I thought I was dreaming or something when a white face was breathing its hot breath on me… something with horns and a long whisker on its chin. I thought of Maya’s medicine man!!

“AAAAH! Help!” I said, sitting up.

Mrs. Chunga called to N’Dali in Chichewa, and he caught the goat that had wondered in, its rope dragging behind, and pulled it outside. After he tied it up again he came back to “bed.”  He was a little wet. It must be still raining, but I’d gotten used to the drumming on the roof.

It was barely light when I woke up again. The rain on the metal roof had stopped, and I heard an unmistakable sound. Footsteps running and a voice calling,

“GUS!  Gus, are you here?  Oh, please, God, let him be here!  GUS!!”

“DADDY!” I cried, knocking N’Dali awake and throwing off the cover. I stumbled out the doorway, nearly ripping down the hanging cloth and ran to my father.

“Gus! We were so worried…” he said hugging me hard against his chest and ruffling my hair.

“Daddy, I’m sorry I hid in the Rover. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first, or even tell you I was here.  I am so sorry!”

We were both crying then, for happiness. Mr. Chunga walked to his house, leaving us alone, and met his wife coming out. They talked in Chichewa. N’Dali came out too and stared at us.  Chisomo peeked out behind him and smiled her happy beacon smile.

“Daddy, the Chunga’s were very good to me. Chisomo found me and brought me here when I was lost in the dark. They gave me nsima and soda and a place to sleep!  Oh, Daddy, couldn’t we do something for them? Please!”

He finally let me loose from the hug. He put his arm around me and we walked to where Mr. & Mrs. Chunga were standing.

“Medson, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to your wife and family for caring for my boy. Thank you. Zikomo!” And then to Mrs. Chunga, “Zikomo!”

I told Dad who Chisomo and N’Dali were and how they’d helped me. N’Dali puffed up like a balloon, his chest our and chin up, and showed his mischievous grin.  Chisomo ducked her head and blushed. I think. It was hard to tell with her dark skin.

The baby cried and Chisomo went to get it. The toddler toddled out, and the other two girls and two boys come outside too, but stayed further away.

Dad gave me one last shoulder hug, and then said, “Gus, let’s go. I’ve brought a few things for Mr. Chunga’s family.”

100_5258-copy-3I looked back as we were leaving and saw Chisomo with that baby on her back. “Muyende bwino!”**  (Moo-YEN-de BWEE-no) she called and gave her happy beacon smile.

We walked along the path towards where the Rover was parked. I was surprised to see that Dad knew the way pretty well now. Mr. Chunga had to remind him of only one turn. We unloaded a couple big bags of maize, a case of water bottles, and some apples.

In the last box, which was folded shut, I found a dozen granola bars and….. six bottles of Orange Fanta!!! I closed it back up again and yelled, “Hot dog!!”  All the kids who had been following us looked at me like I was crazy.  Well, I was crazy-happy.  Mr. Chunga’s two sons helped to carry the food away. Our guard was probably very tired now and would sleep all day.

“How will we find our way out in the Rover, Dad?” I asked when they were gone.

Dad waved to a couple village boys. They climbed in the back seat and pointed which way at each turn. Soon we were at that scary bridge. The boys ran ahead and directed Dad on how to turn his wheels to get across.  Dad thanked them, quickly handed them a couple granola bars, and we were off.

Well, you know the rest of the story.  I got squished by Mom’s hugs… Mom’s wonderful hugs. She cried and I cried and told her I was so sorry. She took me inside for a big, big breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, a bowl of strawberry yoghurt, and FIVE canned peach halves. Plus juice and milk. Wow…. my belly got so full.  And I think I drank three big glasses of clean cold water too.

My brothers and sisters crowded around and wanted to hear all about my adventure. I started to tell them – to brag about it – but then I remembered how worried and fearful I’d made Mom and Dad, and I just said. “I’ll tell you some later. It’s MUCH better to be home.”

Then I went to bed. But not before getting a shower, a comb through my hair to get out any bugs, medicine and Band-aids on my scrapes, lotion and a strong prayer about my mosquito bites (we found SIX in all!!)

There would be time enough later for the talk and the discipline. I was ready for it. I knew I deserved it, and I felt love from Mom and Dad, and my heavenly Father about it. I had learned a HUGE lesson. I hoped I wouldn’t ever forget.

That’s it, kids.  Have you ever disobeyed your parents in some big way and were very, very sorry later?  Did you tell God about it? He is so good to forgive! And your parents will forgive you too, because they love you. You will probably get some kind of discipline.  But that’s okay.

Love,

Gusssssssssssssssssssssss

  

PS: Here are the meanings of some of the Chichewa words in the story. Can you find what Chisomo’s and N’Dali’s names mean?

Chisomo – (the little girl’s name) “grace”

Moni. Dzina lana ndani? – Hello. What is your name?

N’Dali –  (her brother’s name) “trickster”

Mzunga – white person

Kama – bed

Pepani – I’m sorry.

Mugone bwino – Sleep well.

Muyende bwino! – Go well!

“the Malawai way” – There is a small set wage for all workers. You can’t pay them more or others would get jealous and there’d be fighting and stealing.

 

“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.”  ~~~ Psalm 34:11   Good News Bible