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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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#7) “Just Pretending”

mk-story-coversThis story is the SEVENTH 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 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!  (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.)

“Just Pretending”

Hi kids,

This is Melody again. I know it’s my sister April’s turn to write to you. You will like her. She’s cute and smart and was born in April…of course.

She loves to read books – any books just about. She even likes to read cookbooks!  And she likes Kids’ National Geographic Magazines that tell about other places in the world, and animals and insects and snakes – which there are a LOT of here in Malawi.

In fact… she was reading that magazine on the day after the big rain Julie told you about, when she almost fell into that old deep well in our backyard. She was reading and NOT paying attention to where she was going.

Pssstt! Don’t tell anybody, but that magazine ended up at the bottom of the hole when Marshall grabbed her to keep her from falling in!  Later, after she got over being scared, she was mad because she hadn’t finished reading it!

April has also read the whole Chronicles of Narnia series. Did you ever read those?  We ALL did. Dad has the complete set in his library, but he lets us read them any time we want. He has a Pilgrim’s Progress book with pictures too

The thing is…. when April is reading a book, she really gets into it and doesn’t want to stop (like right now!).  And … sometimes she acts like she is one of the characters, and talks like them for days. Once, when she was reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, she pretended that our dog, Gideon, was Aslan, and called him that for a week. (He didn’t care.)

Oh, here she comes…finally!

I got to warn you – her eyes are staring off into the distance and she is walking slowly, so I know she is still thinking about something she was reading.

“Hey, April!  The kids are waiting for you. Just start writing….

 

Hello there!

Yes, I am April, and I do like – no, I LOVE – to read. When I am reading, it is like I am right there inside the story. Do you ever do that?  And when the book is done, I am sad.  Sometimes I start reading it all over again.

Let’s see….. I think I will tell you about what happened last April, soon after my birthday, which is the day after April Fool’s Day. I am SOOOO glad I was not born on April Fool’s Day. (Thank you, Mom!)

Well, of course I got BOOKS for my birthday, also a new set of 50 colored markers, and a big, thick sketching pad. Besides reading, I like to draw pictures. Sometimes I draw pictures from the books I read.

Sometimes I even make up stories with the same characters that are in the books.  These stories I keep secret in my journal. I would be embarrassed for anyone to read them, especially Melody who teases me about reading so much!  SHE likes to go outside and DO things.

Oh, sometimes I show my teacher a story that I wrote, if we have an assignment or something. That’s different, and I get graded… usually an “A”.

Anyway, last April I got two really wonderful books. Melody says I got “super cuckoo crazy” about them and I guess I did.  But, I learned a really important lesson from them too. I still get the shivers when I think about that time.

Here’s how it happened.

The two books I got for my birthday, were Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea.  Have you heard of them?  They are really good, and in fact there are MORE of them in the series that I don’t have yet. I don’t blame what happened on the books. No…. it was all me.

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~~~~~

Melody was sitting at the kitchen table that day doing some homework for Mrs. Molenaar’s class when I came in to get a glass of water from the water purifier bottle on the counter. I had been reading the first “Anne”  book (for the third time). I so love Anne!  I wish I could be so smart and fun as she was. That’s why I…..

“APRIL, what did you DO???” Melody yelled, standing up so quickly her chair fell back. “You are SO going to get into trouble!”

That’s when she came over and tweaked the two braids that I had made in my hair… the braids that I had “colored” with some of my new markers to match Anne’s in the book.

“Please call me Miss Aprile…with an e,” I said.

“What? Are you kidding me?” Melody said. “April doesn’t have an ‘e’ in it.”

“It does now!” I said with my teeth grinding.

Just as my hero Anne in the books didn’t want to be plain old Ann with no “e”, I didn’t want to be plain old April any more.

“Okay, April, I’m leaving before Mom comes,” Melody said. “And you’d better not use that stupid “prim-missy” accent on her. Just be yourself. It’s good enough!”

Well, that’s when I got into that “pretending” that Melody talked about. I practiced sitting up very straight with my hands folded in my lap.

I said aloud, “I AM myself. I’m Aprile Grace. I’m an orphan who was adopted by this nice Matthews family because they needed a girl to help clean the house and cook and do the washing.  I lived in an orphanage till I was six years old and was afraid no one would EVER want me.

“The Matthews family didn’t want me at first either. They wanted a boy. But they changed their mind because I am so funny and  entertaining.  Now I live here, but I have to behave and do all my chores, and say all my prayers, or else they might send me back to the orphanage….”

“APRIL GRACE MATTHEWS, what are you saying???”

“That’s Audrey Matthews,” I said aloud in my Anne voice. “She’s my adopted mother–”

“April, stop that right now!  You are not adopted. You did not come from an orphanage. And you know very well that Asala is our housekeeper.  Let me see that book!”

I had to give her my Anne of Green Gables book. I slowly took my finger out of the mark where I had been reading when I came to get that glass of water. I’d read the whole book before, like I said, so I knew what would happen, but I didn’t want to lose my place!  Still, I had to obey, so I handed it to … Audrey.

“April, we need to talk again about your pretending to be one of the people in your books. I know you love to read, and that you really “get into” the stories you are reading, but…”

“But Mom!” I said with a pout. (I knew she really WAS my mother). “They have such fun in their lives, and do exciting things and have “bosom” friends and go on picnics and eat ice cream….”

“April.  We had ice cream after dinner last night.”

“But…”

“No buts, April. You have to stop this. It is lying.”

“Pretending….”

“Lying. When you say things to people that are not true, April, it is lying.  Someday, some person is going to believe your “pretends” and it will get you in trouble.  It might even get us ALL into trouble. Do you want that?”

I shook my head.

“I’m going to put this book away for now,” she said. “You may not read it…. or any other book except your Bible, for two weeks.”

“But, M-o-o-o-m-m-mmmm…. please don’t do that!” I cried, and got real tears in my eyes. (At least I tried really hard to make them real.)  But she shook her head and took my book with her and went out of the kitchen.

“And you’d better hope that marker comes out of your hair!” I heard her say from down the hall.

“Told…..you…..” said another voice is a quiet whisper.

“Be quiet, Melody!” I yelled. “You shouldn’t have been listening.”

My sister giggled and then ran across the living room, her sandals making flap-flap-flap sounds on the marble tiles. The door slammed and I knew she was outside.

Well, I didn’t care if I did get into trouble for coloring my hair orangey-red with markers. I thought it looked pretty! (Too bad you couldn’t have seen it. I know you would like it.  Maybe.)

I wished I really DID have red hair instead of plain brown hair like all my brothers and sisters. (The boys all have dark brown hair like Dad’s, Julie’s is almost blond, and Melody, June, and me have dumb old “nothing” brown hair. June says it is like brown sugar or caramel, but I think it is like… muddy water!)

I wanted to be special… instead of just plain April with blah brown hair.

There IS one way that I am special, but I didn’t think of it back then.  I am the first in our family to be BORN in Malawi.  Melody says she became Malawian when she ate a mouse (ewww).  But all I had to do was to get born.

Of course, Gus and Deek – when he’s older – could say the same thing.  We three – and Freddie who died – were born in Malawi, but I was FIRST. It makes me happy to think of this now, but back then, all I could think about was ME and how plain I was, compared to all those wonderful people in my books.

I forgot so fast that I had just had a birthday, and that everyone had given me presents, and I had eaten my favorite cake, and had worn a birthday hat, and had everyone sing to me. I forgot to have thanks in my heart.

Since I only had my Bible to read, I read all of Jesus’ parables in Matthew. (I like that Gospel book the best, because my last name is Matthews!)

Jesus’ parables made me think of the stories I wrote in my journal. They were parables too, right?  Mine were mostly about me, of course, and how fun or smart or pretty I could be. And they didn’t have a lesson at the end, like Jesus’ stories did.

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Hmmm… how could I write one with a “moral” at the end?  I would have to think about that.

~~~~

Easter came in April that year, so I also read about the resurrection of Jesus in all four of the Gospel books.  I especially liked Mary Magdalene. She was so beautiful (I imagined) and so sad to believe that Jesus had died and she couldn’t even find his body to put spices and things on.  I loved her scene where she thought Jesus was the gardener!

That made me think about Ngunda, our gardener. Could I write a story about him and me that had a moral?  I would have to think about that too.

I was so excited the next week when my class decided to put on the Easter play at our church, and I was picked to be…. Mary Magdalene!!!  Wow!  I knew just how dramatically to play her.  I could really be HER because I had so much practice being other characters in my books. (See, Melody! Na-na-na!)

I memorized all her words from the Bible and thought about adding some more to make her even more special, but the teacher said “No, way!” and gave me a verse in the book of Revelation to read – 22:18, I think.  (I told her I would read it, but didn’t get around to doing it right away.)

I practiced Mary’s words and decided how I would act when I saw that the tomb was empty (overcome with sadness), how I would jump back to see the angels (Oh, My!), how I weep (that means cry) and then fall at Jesus’ feet when He said my name…. Mary…,  and how I would hold on to His feet to keep Him from leaving again.

And then the way I would get up, my face shining (somehow – maybe have some lotion on my hands?),  and run away so excited to tell all those unbelieving, scared disciples that Jesus really WAS alive.

Oh, it was going to be so good!

We got the costumes – pretty simple, so I added a fancy sash, which my teacher wouldn’t let me use. I guess Mary WAS in mourning, so she wouldn’t dress like that….okay, I get it.

Anyway, every day I walked around our house or the yard outside practicing her words and actions. I got Gus to play Jesus once, so I could practice falling down and grabbing his feet. But he said it felt weird and wouldn’t do it again.

Finally the Sunday came. It was the day of my great part in the Easter play. Mom took me early so we could practice in the church’s main room (it’s called a sanctuary). Someone made a big rock-looking tomb out of cardboard with a cut-out for the door and a big cardboard circle for the stone that was rolled in front. It was pretty good!  I think my brother Marshall worked on it too.

Everyone had on costumes, including head scarves over the girls heads. I tied mine on so you could see my face good.

The angels were in white bathrobes (really??), and Jesus…. Well, Jesus was…. He looked really amazing!  Somehow they had put glitter or something on his white robe because it kind of sparkled.  I wasn’t going to have any trouble falling at his feet, but… to pretend I thought he was the gardener…, well THAT was going to take some good acting.

Maybe if I sort of covered my eyes with my scarf – no, I didn’t like that idea. I would have to cover my eyes with my hands, leaving a little space so I could see where I was going.

I was SO excited! The crowd – which was huge on Easter Sunday – was really going to love me.

I played my part perfectly (and only added a few words of my own, to clarify which Mary I was). Daniel M., who played Jesus, looked a little startled when I said, “Teacher!” then added, “Yes, it’s me, the one You cast seven demons out of!” But he’s a good actor too, and went on with his lines perfectly, sending me off to tell the disciples the good news.

mk-stories-mary-m-jesus

The rest of the play was about Jesus meeting with the disciples and having them touch his wounds and telling them to “Believe, and then to go tell the world about what He had done.”

People really clapped at the end!  I was smiling so big when I took my bow. Wow, it felt so good!  I thought right then that I might become an actress when I grew up!  It felt amazing to be so special and admired.

Well, I pretty much floated through the rest of the day. Dad preached on how important the resurrection of Jesus was from 1 Corinthians 15, I think.  Then we had a big pot-luck lunch with the Floreens and the Ayers and the Kopps at our house.

Abby said SHE wanted to play Mary next year, but I secretly thought that “I” had that role sewed up for a few years.

Zoe thought Jesus was so wonderful in his white shining robe. She said she loved His words about going to all nations to preach the Gospel.

“That’s why my family moved to Africa,” she said, “so we can tell Malawi people the good news about Jesus.”

Well, THAT was why MY family came there too. Duh!  And the Ayres. And the Floreens. And Pastor B and Mrs. B. We were missionaries, right?

But my part in the play!  Wasn’t it great?

JoJo and Titus really liked how I fell down at Jesus’ feet.

“Did it hurt?” JoJo asked, adjusting his glasses.

Caleb told how he would have done it. “I would have fallen down, rolled over twice, and spread my arms out wide, and crossed my eyes.”

BOYS!

Melody said, “Why didn’t you color your hair blue, April? Or purple? You would have gotten noticed even more!”

Melody is so mean.

What’s weird is, Mom and Dad didn’t say ANYTHING about how I played Mary Magdalene. I know they SAW the play. They talked to my teacher afterwards. Why didn’t they say how they liked me in it?

~~~~

In our family devotions that night Dad read about John the Baptist, how he said Jesus must increase while he (John) wanted to decrease. What did THAT mean? I guess it was good that he wanted Jesus to have more followers than he did – especially since he was going to get be-headed pretty soon.

But why read this on Easter night?  And why did they have ME read that one section about Jesus being the bridegroom and John the Baptist, as His best man?  Did this have anything to do with Jesus turning water into wine at another wedding?

I just couldn’t THINK of that right then. I wanted to think about that scene in the garden by the tomb where I…..

~~~~

All the next week after Easter, I replayed my words from the play and acted out my scenes whenever I went outside to play in the back yard. Julie was pushing Deek on the swing one of the times I was pretending to be Mary Magdalene again.

“Where have you taken His body?” I said loudly, weeping, to an imaginary gardener/Jesus.

“Body!” repeated Deek.

“Oh, April, you and your missing “body!” Don’t you get tired of doing that over and over a hundred times?” She gathered up Deek and went inside the house.

“No, I don’t,” I said to no one, and flung myself on the ground as if to plead with Jesus to stay and not go away again.

“Miss April! You all right?”  It was Asala, our housekeeper, coming out of their little house at the back of our property. She was carrying her little baby boy named Praise on one hip and a laundry basket on the other. She looked worried and started toward me.

I laid there without moving for a minute longer, enjoying the impression I was making. She hurriedly put down the basket, and rushed toward me.  At the last minute I moved and sat up, smiling. “I’m fine, Asala,” I told her. “I was just begging Jesus not to go away again.”

Asala stopped dead still, her eyes wide open, squeezing little Praise until he started to whimper. “What you talking about?” she asked, looking all around.

“I’m Mary,” I said, “and they took the body of Jesus away. That’s what I first believed, but then I saw Him and fell at his feet!”

“You, April, not Mary,” she said, easing up a little but still looking around cautiously. “Not good to play-act about dead bodies!”

So…. to tease her, I stood up and “became” Anne again. “Oh, please don’t tell Audrey, Miss Asala! She will send me back to the orphanage!”

“Orphanages are no good places to play-act about either,” said Asala, turning and picking up the basket. She swung Praise around to her back in that sling thing she wears and started hanging up the wet clothes, all the while watching me.

So…. I pretended to be a bunch of characters in my books and in the Bible, one after the other. Why not, with such a good audience?  It was such great fun. But when I came to the story of Lazarus walking out of his tomb like a zombie at Jesus’ command, she quickly picked up the empty basket and went into her house.

I decided to make some drawings in my sketching book and brought it and the markers out to the back yard. It was so nice there on the grass after I put a blanket down, that I drew maybe about six pictures before I heard a loud rumbling of men’s voices from behind our back wall.

It was in Chichewa so I couldn’t understand even one word. It kept up and then the back, chained wooden gate rattled a little. And one voice got louder.

What was it? I was about to go inside, when Asala came out of her house and went to the gate.  She spoke in the native Malawian language, listened awhile, then came running to me, her face serious.

I got up quickly.

“Miss April,” she panted, “please to go tell your mother that those men… they say they need her help.  There is a dead body behind the wall.”

“WHAT?” I cried. I looked toward the wall and heard the voices.

“Please to hurry,” urged Asala again.

A body behind our wall?  A dead body?  How had it gotten there? Had those men… killed someone? Were they going to come into our yard?  Where was Ngunda?  Then I remembered that he had gone with Marshall to take the dogs to get their vaccinations. That meant…. no guard dogs either!

I was scared. This was not like play-acting!

“Go, tell her come!” repeated Asala.

I ran into the house, so panicked I could hardly breathe.

“Mom, MOM!” I screamed. “Someone killed a man behind our back wall. There are men wanting to come in and kill us too!  Asala said to call the police!”

Mom got scared too. “What, honey? What are you saying about a murdered man? Behind our wall?  Oh, this can’t be happening when your Father and Ngunda and Marshall are all gone!!”

“And the dogs!” I whispered.

“What? Oh, yes, the dogs are gone too!”

She went to the side door and stepped out to the patio. You could clearly hear the men’s voices from there.  She ran and got her cell phone, pushing an automatic call button.

“HUDSON, You have to come home right now! Call the police and hurry home. There is a mob behind our back yard and they have killed someone already. They are trying to get in!  OH, HURRY!”

By that time, Julie, Melody, June and Gus were in the room too, their eyes wide with fear. Deek, being carried by Julie, started to cry, repeating the new word he had learned, “Body…body…body!”

“Let’s pray, children,” said Mom. We huddled together and she prayed for our protection, for wisdom about what to do, about getting Dad home quickly from ABC, for the police to come too. “O God, You are our refuge and strength. We will not fear. What can men do to us without Your  knowledge?”

We all heard a car honk at our fence in the front and Melody ran out to let in Dad. Amazingly he had a policeman with him, the one who was stationed at the new crossing gate at the end of our street.

“Audrey, tell me what is happening?” Dad said. The policeman cocked his head toward the rumbling in the back, but waited to hear.

“Asala told April….” Mom started. “Oh, April you tell it.”

“There was a rumbling of voices outside our back wall.” I said. “I thought I heard someone scream for help, and then sounds like sticks or rocks hitting somebody’s head. And a big thud to the ground.” I demonstrated how I thought it might have happened, but didn’t fall all the way down.

“Then there was a pounding on the back gate. I thought it was going to break right down!” I cringed to show how scared I was.

“Asala came out, but she was very afraid to go near the wall, so she called from way back and told them to go away. They talked in loud voices to her in Chichewa and she answered back. Then they talked more and louder, and she came to me and told me to run and have Mom call the police, that they were all going to come in and kill us too! And I did what she told me. Oh, Daddy!!”

The uniformed man took out his club and went immediately around the house to the back wall.

“Go inside everyone,” Dad said and followed the man.

We all went to the back of the house where Mom and Dad’s room was and peeked out the curtains. The policeman was talking to Asala. Then he put his hands on his hips and looked back at the house. Dad came up to them, and the policeman and Asala talked to him.  I saw him relax his shoulders and take a big breath.

What was the matter with them? Couldn’t they see we were all in danger?

All three walked to the back fence. Dad unlocked a tiny little peek-hole door in the gate and spoke through the opening.  He listened. Then he talked to Asala; then to the policeman. She nodded and the policeman shrugged.

Then Dad did something amazing!   He took out his big wallet and shoved a wad of Kwacha through the little door in the gate. WHAT???

icash

Oh! I get it. He must be paying blackmail or something! Giving them money to make them go away.

Then he closed the little door and re-locked it.  Asala went into her house, and Dad and the policeman walked to our back door.  By that time we were all crowding out to hear what he had to say.

“Did you pay them a ransom for us, Daddy?” I asked, scared but in an exciting way.

“April,” he said, “this officer wants to say something to you.”

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“Missy,” he said, eyeing me like I was a criminal or something. “Do not lie again or I will have to come and take you to Maula Prison.”

He stared at me for a minute, and then he turned and walked out our front gate.

“I ran to Mom and hugged her tight. “What does he mean? What does he mean?”

“Come inside, all of you,” Dad said.  We all went into the living room and sat down. “April you have told one pretend story too many.  And you are going to be punished.  Asala told us the real story. She said that those men needed our help, and that you were to go get your mother.”

“But the dead body, Daddy—-”

“Hush. You are not to say a word.  Yes, there is a dead body back there. Yes, there is a crowd of men. Yes, they did want to get our attention…. BUT.”  Here he looked at me very sternly. “You imagined all the rest. This was a funeral procession.  The dead body is in a wooden box carried by four friends.  It is the custom in Malawi for poor people to go to the fences of nice homes and ask for a donation to help cover the cost of burial.

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They were asking for our HELP, April, and we nearly had the police take them to jail for…. for murder!  Do you understand what this would have meant for us?  For our witness among the poor people in our community?  What would the Malawians at church have thought of their pastor sending a funereal party to jail?

“How about the ridicule or expensive fines from the authorities – it will be bad enough when Banda tells our story around – although I asked him not to. April—”  Here my Dad sighed and put his face into his hands.

After a while, he raised up and said, “See what your pretending, no, let’s call it what it is, what your LYING has nearly cost us?”

I felt bad and sorrier than I’ve ever felt before. I didn’t have to pretend, I started crying for real. What had my pretending done?  It was getting so that I believed my own made up stories!!  Would I get so that I didn’t know the REAL truth at anymore?

Dad must have heard my thoughts, because he said, “Lying is just like any other sin, April.  When you do it over and over, pretty soon you don’t feel bad about it.  You get better at sinning.  And your conscience can’t be heard any more.  It’s like you turn off God’s voice in your heart. Then the Evil One can have his own way.”

“No, Daddy! I am really sorry. I don’t want to preten- to lie again!  I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want God’s voice to be turned off in me. Oh, Daddy, what can I do?”

It was here that he quoted 1 John 1:9. I knew it by heart already.

‘If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ “

“April, God is holy and He can’t just overlook sin. Do you know HOW He can forgive us when we sin?  It is because He put all of every true believer’s sin – ALL of it – on Jesus on the cross. Jesus had no sin of his own, only ours. Then God – who hates sin above all else looked away and crushed His only dear Son to death. Our dear Savior paid the wages for sin that WE were supposed to pay. Death.

“Then Jesus rose again… on Easter… (Here, he gave me a long look.), proving that God accepted His Son’s payment for sin IN FULL.

“You know your Mom’s favorite verse, don’t you?” He turned to Mom. “Audrey, say it, please?”

‘For God made Him who knew NO sin, to BE sin for us, that WE might become the righteousness of God in Him.’  2 Corinthians 5:21,” she said softly.

Dad nodded to her and she gathered the rest of my family into the other room.

Daddy and I kneeled down right there. (He groaned a little when his bad knee touched tile floor.”

“Go ahead, April.”

“Dear Heavenly Father,” I began. “Thank you for being such a good God, for making a way that I could be forgiven for my sin. It must have hurt You a lot to kill your own Son. I am so sorry for that!  And I am sorry for… lying.  I know it is sin. You say so in Your Bible. So I did sin today. And I have sinned by lying a lot.  I don’t want your voice to be shut off in my heart. I want to hear You when you tell me not to do something. Please forgive me, for Jesus sake, for what He did.  You said You would.”

I know I was forgiven right then. I believed what God said in 1 John.

Then I added a PS to my prayer. “And dear Heavenly Father, I confess my other sins too…for being mean to Melody when she was trying to set me right…for thinking I was SO great in the Easter play, even better and more important than Jesus!  Oh, dear God!  If Jesus had not come back to life, then… then… then You could never forgive my sin…. ever!  I made my role of Mary Magdalene bigger than Jesus, when HE is the most important. I bet SHE never would have thought like that in real life. I am so sorry.”

After that, Dad got up and hugged me. We sat on the couch and both of us had a “good” cry. Then he went back to work at the College, and I sat by myself for a long time. I was one of God’s adopted children. Adopted forever, with no threat of being sent back to any “orphanage.”  I WAS special to God. I didn’t have to pretend to be anything different than that.  I took a big happy breath and let it out.

I felt like laughing. So I did!

 

Well, that happened six months ago. I still like to read books and can’t help getting “into”  the stories I read. But I don’t want to BE the people I read about….. except Jesus. I am a daughter of a KING!  How could I be better than that??

Love,  April Grace

Wow! I just realized what my middle name really means – it’s how God saves people!

 

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