This story is the FOURTH 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, (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 such 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. I hope to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them truths from the Bible, God’s Word, as it pertains to their everyday lives.
So, here is the next story! (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.)
What’s In A Name?
It’s my turn to tell you a story. You already know from Melody that I am her twin sister. She is older than me by fifteen minutes, but we were born in two different months, May and June.
That’s how we got our names. Hers is Melody May and mine is Charity June. Being twins, we look alike, but we don’t act alike. She is friendly and daring and thinks of other people’s feelings. I’m not like that. Sometimes I get jealous and even mean.
Everyone calls her by her first name, but they call me by my second name.
I always wondered why.
One day, I complained to Mom, “Kids in Sunday School sing about my sister’s name, Making Melody in my Heart, to the King of Kings, why can’t they sing Making Charity in my Heart instead?”
(Charity means giving some of your old things to poor people who really need it. That’s a good thing, right?)
Mom looked off over my head, with a small smile on her mouth as if she was remembering something good, and then answered, “You’ll grow into it one day, June.”
What?? How do you grow into your name? Don’t you grow into it when you are born?
The story Julie Joy wants me to tell you started way back in December when it was Christmas time here in Malawi. It was also Deek’s second birthday.
Our Grandpa and Grandma Matthews came to visit us. Maybe because it was Christmas and Deek’s birthday or maybe they wanted to see how we were doing in Malawi. They were very tired at first. I takes thirty-five HOURS to travel here from America!
One thing I noticed right away was that they brought four extra suitcases of stuff for us – like clothes and school books and special shampoos for mom, and vitamins and first aid stuff, and a new computer battery for Dad’s laptop. There were also presents for Deek’s birthday, AND Christmas presents for all of us!
On Christmas morning we all had hot oatmeal with the toppings we each like best – three flavors of yogurt, raisins, granola, nuts, chocolate chips, and brown sugar (which Mom makes by mixing white sugar and molasses together because there is no such thing as brown sugar in Malawi! Weird, huh?).
We had a special Christmas service at our church, but this time Dad didn’t have a part. We sang Christmas carols, and then our regular pastor read the Christmas story from the Bible. He invited my Grandpa to pray, which kind of surprised me, until I found out that Grandpa and Grandma used to be a missionaries too, in some other place called Borneo.
(Do you know where that is?)
Some of the ladies at church gave us waxed paper wrapped packages of cookies and pumpkin bread. Mom gave them little baggies of her very special brownies.
We had a big Christmas lunch, with six small roasted chickens called “baby chickens” at the Chipiku (Ch’-PEE-koo) market in Lilongwe, our town. (They are actually Cornish Hens, my mom says.) We also had roasted potatoes, slices of red, red tomatoes, and canned peach halves. We had Jell-O that Grandma made in layers of red and green, and for dessert Mom made three apple pies. We ate all of them!!
Anyway…. we FINALLY got to the opening of presents. We sat in chairs in a big circle in our main room. The windows and doors were all open because it was hot and a cool wind was coming in because a storm was brewing.
(By the way, mosquito screens cover every opening in the house because those tiny flying bugs like to come inside and bite us and sometimes make us sick with malaria!)
It was darker than usual in the house with the storm clouds covering the sun, even though it wasn’t raining yet, so mom turned on the lights. We had a tiny little plastic Christmas tree that Grandpa and Grandma also brought. It had a flashlight battery inside, making the colored lights shine out.
After we opened our presents from Mom and Dad, Dad passed out all the ones from Grandpa and Grandma. We each got two. Marshall got a pocket camera and a really cool knife with lots of things that open up. Julie got a soft fuzzy blue bathrobe and slippers and a matching Disney “Frozen” hairbrush.
Melody got a new board game and a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle. April got a set of twelve kid’s books and a pen with her name on it. Gus got a miniature train set in two boxes. And Deek got a little tricycle, two coloring books, and a big box of “washable” markers. (Mom made sure they were washable.)
I got a plastic jar of Jelly Belly jelly beans! All flavors! My favorite candy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then I started to open the flat box on my lap. I was so excited. Was it a scrapbook or a giant book of crossword and word search puzzles? Was it game that took batteries and made noise?
Nope. It was none of those.
It was a picture in a frame with glass on the front. The frame didn’t even look new, but was worn and scratched in a lot of places. And, worse yet, the picture wasn’t even a picture. It was a bunch of words and designs in sewing, AND the glass looked foggy. It looked like something that someone didn’t want any more and gave to us “poor” missionary kids. It was like… like charity…. given to ME!
I dumped the old sewing picture on the floor and picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candies. I hugged them, looking around at my sisters and brothers. They were all “wow-ing” about their presents and trying them out, thanking Grandpa and Grandma, even giving them hugs.
Mom came over quietly and picked up the framed picture. She sat by me, holding it so I had to look at it. I did, for a minute, and then turned away.
“It’s a sampler,” she said. “People long ago made these to remember important sayings, often from the Bible. They did their very best stitchery on them, sometimes taking months to finish. This one was made by your –.”
“It’s ugly, and I don’t want it,” I cried in a mad whisper. I slapped it away, and it fell to the floor with a clunk.
Just then a huge, loud thunder sounded and the lights went out. Mom and Dad and Marshall stumbled around through all the furniture and wrapping paper to light the candles.
In Malawi, we are used to the electricity going out, especially in storms. Mom keeps a bunch of white candles with matches all over the house on high shelves for when this happens.
Once they were all lit, we could see again, but not as well as before. The light was dim and yellowish and the flames wiggled back and forth from the wind.
It started to rain so Dad got up and closed a couple of the windows. Then it got more warm and humid. I noticed that the old picture on the floor got covered up by some torn wrapping paper. I was glad.
“How lovely!” said Grandma. “Perfect light and sound effects for singing some joyful Christmas songs!”
I didn’t feel like singing songs. I didn’t feel joyful. I felt mad. Why didn’t I get fun presents like everybody else? I went over to where Melody and April were setting up the new game.
“Come play too,” said April, making room in all the wrapping paper on the floor for me to sit.
“I don’t want to play your stupid game. I pushed the game board with my foot and scattered all the pieces.
“Ju-une, why did you do that?” wailed Melody. I can’t find the other dice now in all these ribbons and papers. Mom, make June help us find the pieces.”
“It’s right there,” I said and kicked the little square with my toe. Are you blind or something!”
When I backed up, I tripped over an empty box and lost my balance. I fell with a thud on one of Gus’s little train engines.
“Owwww!” I yelled!
“Mo-om-m,” Gus yelled back. “She messed up my train!
Dad came over then and helped me up. But he didn’t let loose of my arm. Instead he marched me out to the kitchen.
“June, what’s the matter with you? Why are you being so mean?” he asked.
“Everybody got good presents, but I didn’t!” I cried back.
“What about the Jelly Belly candy? I thought those were your favorites.”
“They are,” I said in a small voice, my head bent over. When I looked up I was crying. Not sad tears but mad tears. “I wanted some puzzle books, or a new hair brush, or markers. I wanted a computer game or something, and all I got was an old picture! I hate it.”
“June,” said my dad. “You need to go to your room until you can come out with a happy face.”
That would be NEVER, I thought and stomped into the main room.
When I picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candy, I stepped on something under the wrapping paper. I heard a crack, but with so much noise, no one heard. I hoped it was a game piece or a toy train car.
In my room, I slammed the door shut, but everyone was singing, “Hark, The Herald Angles Sing” as loud as they could and didn’t hear me. It was raining hard now and thundering. I felt like that inside, like the storm.
I opened the Jelly Belly jar and ate a few green ones. I ate some red and red-spotted ones next. Then I poured a whole handful and popped them all into my mouth all at once and chewed.
They sang “The First Noel” and I ate white jelly beans. They sang “Angels We have Heard on High” and I ate yellow and orange jelly beans.
I was starting to feel sick when I heard a knock on my door. Everyone was singing “Silent Night” now, but I didn’t feel like eating any more candy, not even the blueberry ones. The big jar was half empty!!
I heard Grandpa call to me and crack open the door.
“Oh, good!” cried Grandpa. “There you are, June. Come out here and sit by me. I want you to help me with something.”
What could I do? Besides I didn’t really want to stay in my room alone any more. I put down the candy and followed him down the hall. When he sat down, I squeezed into his chair beside him.
“We were going to read the Christmas story again, but my old eyes can’t see very well in the candlelight. Would you read it for me from this very old Bible?” He lifted a big old book from the table beside him and set it in my lap. It was heavy and very thick and had gold writing on the front.
I sighed. I started to turn to Luke 2, but Grandpa said, “No, turn to Philippians 2 this time.
What? Everyone knows the Christmas story is in Luke. It tells about baby Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem, and the angels singing Peace on Earth, and the shepherds going to look at the baby. I was curious as I turned the old pages back to Philippians.
“Start right there, June.” He pointed to verse 5. “This Christmas story begins before Bethlehem. Before Nazareth. It begins… in Heaven.”
So, I read until he stopped me after verse 9.
“For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names…”
“That’s not the Christmas story, Grandpa!” I said.
“It isn’t?” he asked.
I read it again, to myself.
Well… it did tell about Jesus coming, but it went way past that, to the Easter story. Actually… way past THAT too. To Jesus going back to heaven. And what was that about a new name. Wasn’t He going to be called Jesus anymore?
That made me think about my OWN name problem and I didn’t want to do that. I started to close the Bible, but Grandpa stopped me.
“Here, look up another verse or two for me, will you?” He told me where and I found 1 John 4 and started reading aloud at verse 9.
“By this hath the charity of God….”
My eyes stopped at the fifth word – Charity?
“Go on,” said Grandpa.
“By this hath the charity of God, appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.”
I stared at those words. The reason God sent Jesus at Christmas was for….charity??? He gave something of His own – not an old throw away thing, but His very own Son – to the world because we were…what? Poor and needy? Like the Malawian villagers we sometimes take old clothes and food to?
It didn’t make sense.
“But…. we’re not poor and needy, Grandpa. We have a LOT of things. Why would God think we needed charity? Okay, okay, some people in the world need it…..”
Grandpa looked at me with his kind eyes.
“Sweetheart,” he said softly. “We ALL need very much what God is giving. Without it we are all lost. You remember in the Bible where it says we ALL have done bad things against God and other people… even our family. We couldn’t even come close to God’s high standard. We all have hearts that make us want to do bad. God is perfectly good (we call that being holy) and he can’t be with people who aren’t perfectly good too.
The Bible says we deserve God’s punishment for living that way. It’s only fair, don’t you think?”
My mind flashed to how I always tell Mom about the bad things my sisters and brothers do so they will get in trouble and get disciplined. Well, they should get punished, right? They did bad things! Yes, THAT was fair, I knew. But… God’s punishment…that was too scary to think about.
Grandpa went on, “We need God’s forgiveness for all those things we’ve done. He could just ignore them or erase them, but would that be fair to Him or to the ones we’ve sinned against? Would it be fair for someone to get off completely free from any punishment?
I shook my head no.
“The Bible says that God is just. That means He is fair.”
I never thought about God being fair, only that He loved us.
“All people, including Grandma and me, and your Dad and Mom and everyone – all people have broken God’s good laws and disobeyed His Word. We deserve his punishment. Don’t you think?”
I nodded, but it was hard to think about.
“That’s where Jesus comes in,” Grandpa said with a big smile. “He is God’s precious son, but God sent him from heaven to earth – yes as a baby in a stable – to get punished for us, punished for all the disobedience and sin we have done. Yes, He did this because He loved us so much, but also because He is just. He’s fair.”
It all didn’t seem fair to me. How could it be fair for Jesus who was perfect, to get punished for people who were sinful? And yet, He did it. I know all the Bible stories from Sunday School.
“We need something else too, June,” Grandpa said. “We need God’s perfect goodness. You see, we really ARE “poor and needy” after all! We need His…. charity…. as you call it.”
He smiled and patted my knee. “We don’t have anything to pay God for His goodness. (The Bible calls it righteousness.) What could we give Him? Even if we lived perfectly for the rest of our lives – and we couldn’t – it wouldn’t be enough.”
I was beginning to feel really bad listening to Grandpa. I was thinking of the mean things I had said and done to my sisters and brothers, how I always wanted to have the things THEY had and maybe made up stories to get them in trouble because I was jealous… and how I always wanted to make myself look really good and them really bad… and how I never admitted I did anything wrong even when I did sometimes.
I wondered how could I ever get this goodness from God that I needed, like Grandpa was talking about. So I asked him. “How can I get this goodness?”
Grandpa smiled. In fact he gave a happy little laugh. “God gives it to us as a gift. Just like He gives us forgiveness. He can give it, because someone else has paid for it. Do you know who?”
My eyes went to the figures of the nativity scene we have on a low bookcase. I saw the little baby in the manger.
I thought how He grew up and always obeyed God, and how He died unfairly so that I wouldn’t be punished for my sin. So I…. so I would also have…. God’s goodness instead of a heart that wants to do bad.
I looked back at Grandpa, my eyes and my mouth wide open.
“Yes, June. Yes!” he cried and gave me a big bear hug. “God did a wonderful exchange when Jesus died. He took our sin, and gave us back His forgiveness and His goodness.”
Wow, it made sense to me now. I have a lot of stuff – I thought about all the things in my room and about my family and friends – but I didn’t have everything. I did need God’s charity; I needed His giving me His forgiveness and His goodness. Boy, I sure was needy and poor!!
It made me want to thank Him. Thank Him very much!
And then I wanted to thank Grandma and Grandpa for the candy, and even for that old sewing picture, because it must have meant something special to them.
I got up and shuffled through the wrapping paper on the floor till I found the picture. But…. oh no! There was a big spider crack in the glass, just over the bottom word that was sewn bigger than the rest. I wanted to cry now. My first thought was to blame it on someone else, but I knew it was me who stepped on it. I had heard that crack sound.
I went to Grandpa very slowly, my eyes filling with tears. “I’m sorry Grandpa and Grandma. I ruined the picture you gave me. I didn’t want it at first, but now I do.” And I started crying really hard.
I didn’t know it, kids, but all my brothers and sisters and even Mom and Dad were staring at me in surprise.
Grandma got up and took me in her arms. “Charity June, we forgive you. The glass can be replaced. And it doesn’t look like the embroidered sampler is hurt at all.”
Grandpa was already gently pulling out the pieces of glass and laying them on top of that old Bible on the table beside him. With the glass out, I could clearly read the emboider—the cross-stitch letters and see tiny hearts that made a frame around them on the cloth. It said…
And now abides
but the greatest
of these is…
1 Corinthians 13:13
And in very tiny letters at the bottom… C.G.H.
My Grandma took the picture gently in her hands and lightly traced her finger over the letters. “This sampler was embroidered by your great, great grandmother, Charity Grace Hill, in 1902 when she was about 12 years old. We have cherished it in the family all these years.”
I looked at the stitched words again. They were over 100 years old!
“You were named after her, June, did you know that? We thought it was time for you to have the sampler now.” Her hands were shaking when she gave it to me. “Maybe before we go back to America, we will tell you her story. She lived up to her name, you know.”
“Did she give a lot of things to the poor?” I asked.
“June,” Grandpa interrupted, “Don’t you know what “charity” means? It’s an old English word. You read it in the verses tonight.”
I shook my head.
“Charity means LOVE, a special kind of Godly love” He repeated the verse in 1 John from his old Bible, “In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first LOVED us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.”
One day, much later, after Grandpa and Grandma had gone back to America, Mom asked me, “Well, June, do you want us to start calling you Charity now?”
Her question surprised me. I thought about what I had learned from the special Christmas story we’d read in Grandpa’s old Bible. I thought about the wonderful things my great, great grandmother had done (Yes, Grandma told me her story). I thought about the old sampler picture (with new clear glass now) that was hanging on the wall by my bed. And I thought about what Charity really means.
“Mom,” I said. “I think I need some more time to grow into that name.
And that’s my story, kids!
Love, Charity June
Well…..I’m still just June for now.
— Facts —
The electricity goes out often in Malawi, sometimes for whole days at a time. When it does, you don’t get any water in your pipes either, because electricity is needed to pump in your water. People who live in houses always have spare water in big plastic bottles, all purified and ready to drink or cook with.
They also keep buckets of water next to their toilets, so they can be flushed. (Did you know your toilet won’t flush unless water is coming through the pipes?)
Sometimes missionaries have a generator if they can afford it. It runs on gasoline and is noisy, but it will make some electricity for a while. But you can’t use hairdryers or plug in your Internet when you are using generator electricity.
And sometimes…. in the dry months, there is just NO water to pump, even if the electricity is working. And when it does come back, it is muddy from the red dirt in Malawi. Here’s what came out of our broken water heater. Ewwww!
Missionaries have to think of all this and buy drinking water in big bottles from the Chipiku market so they are prepared.
How would you like to live in Malawi with the electricity problems? In some ways, it is like camping. In other ways….. you just want to take a bath in clean bubbly water and go get a drink any time you want.
Next time… maybe Marshall will tell you HIS story about a…. criminal!
“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.” ~~~ Psalm 34:11 Good News Bible