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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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#6) (part 2 of 2) “The Thief”

mk-story-coversThis story is the SIXTH in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa.

This story is PART TWO of two, begun in the previous story – “Crime in Old Town.” It is immediately below this story.

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.)

 

The Thief!

Hi kids!

This is Marshall again. I’m back with the REST of my story. (Sorry it is so long! This part will be shorter. I promise. I hope!)

Last time I told you about catching that boy in Old Town who was stealing Mom’s cell phone?  I ran after him a long way… saved him from a bad beating (or worse) by some men… twisted my ankle… and FINALLY caught him… only to discover that it was… Maya (MY-yah).

I also told you about when I was almost seven years old that my parents decided to become missionaries and move us all to Malawi (well, God told them to) and how I was really mad about it?

I stopped that story on the day we arrived in Lilongwe (lee-LONG-way) and I fell asleep on the couch at Pastor B.’s house at the African Bible College (ABC), where he was a professor.

1

Okay…. Mom woke me up from that nap to eat lunch.  By that time I was really hungry, and it smelled very good.  Mrs. B (Mom called her Anita) had cooked some chicken, and some rice with a very yummy sauce, and made orange Jell-O with tiny pieces of carrot and celery in it.  For desert there were soft and gooey brownies. 

I think I ate more than her kids, Amy and Bradley, together!

(By the way, Amy is the same age as Julie, and they became friends right away. This is very unusual for Julie because even now, 8 years later, she is still pretty shy.)

After lunch, Pastor B took Mom and Dad and me to see the house where we would live.  Julie stayed to play with Amy and Mrs. B promised to watch the twins who were sleeping. It turns out she had a baby the same age as Melody and June.

We drove out of the beautiful ABC through the iron gates that the gateman opened and closed, and out into the dirty, dusty, country.  We drove a little way past some yellowish-green corn fields – oops, I mean maize fields – and turned down a lane that had old rusty car parts lying around. But then the road changed and got prettier with a few plants and flowers and trees.

You couldn’t see any houses – they were all behind huge tall walls that had barbed wire circles on top. They looked like forts! We stopped in front of one with a solid metal gate and Pastor B. tooted the horn.

After a while a door in the gate opened a peek and a dark face looked out.  Then it closed and the big gate starting rolling off to one side.  And there was our house.

I gotta tell you kids, it looked awful!  It was painted an ugly bright turquoise-blue with peach-colored trim. A lot of the paint was coming off.  There was no grass or pretty plants inside the wall, just red dirt and dried weeds. The screens on the windows looked old and torn. In the back, was a garage, but the door hung at a crooked angle.

“Oh, my,” said Mom.

“Hmmm,” said Dad. “Needs some work.”

“Yes, well, okay. Let’s go inside,” said Pastor B, getting out the keys.

All my old mad feelings started coming back. I sat hunched in the car till they said I had to come in. When I got to the cement steps, everyone was inside already. I jerked the screen door and one of the hinges broke.  “Serves it right!” I thought.

They were all in the “kitchen” and I heard Mom say, “Oh, dear.” 

It was pretty awful. Some of the cupboards didn’t have doors. The counter top sagged in one direction. There were dirt and dry leaves blown into one corner because one window and screen was missing. Something wiggled the leaves and I stepped back?  Was there a snake in the house??? 

“It’s a Chop-chop,” Pastor B said, and started kicking the huge, thick spider toward the door. Mom’s eyes were wide and her hand was over her mouth.

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Actually, I thought it looked kind of cool, as long as it wasn’t poisonous.  I decided to go outside and see what it did.  Mom was at the sink, turning the faucet when I went out the door.  I heard her say, “There’s no water….”

 

I watched the spider for a while then decided to look around. The yard was pretty big and went back a long ways from the street.  It was dirt, but there was a lot of room to kick around a soccer ball.  There was a little house in the back that I was going to go see, but everyone was getting back into the Range Rover, and Dad called me.

“Don’t worry, Audrey,” Pastor B was saying. “We’ll hire some workers to start fixing up the place. It won’t be long, maybe a month or six weeks tops. You will be staying with us meanwhile.

Well, we did stay with them at the ABC for almost two months.  Sometimes the workers did not show up. Sometimes they made mistakes and had to redo stuff. The windows and screens got fixed, new toilets were put in, most of the cupboards in the kitchen got doors, and the outside was painted a nice tan that matched the red dirt.

I found out that there were a lot of rooms inside – five bedrooms, a big living area, a room for Dad’s office; a long narrow room that Mom said would be used for our pantry. They fixed the screened porch into a “breakfast room,” Mom called it.

The room I picked out for my bedroom got painted purple by mistake. YUCK!  It had to be redone. There were three bathrooms…. but when we moved in, there was still no water.  We got big bottles of water to drink.  Mom was very glad that after two days, the water tank up on a tall tower was hooked up and we could take baths.

By then (after a week of very bad throwing up…ACK!), I remembered to never, never, NEVER drink or even taste any of the water out of the faucets.  We were to drink only the water in the bottles or from the big jug purifier on the counter. In the shower I pressed my lips together tightly so none of it would get in. I used bottled water in a glass to brush my teeth.

~

Ah- oh…. Melody just came in where I am writing this. “No, I am NOT writing the history of the world!  I think they want to know how it was when we first moved here…. right kids?”

“Mel, you can leave now. You don’t have to stand and read over my shoulder. Isn’t Mom calling you or something?  Okay, okay, I’ll tell them how I first met Maya.”

She’s right. I do describe way too much!

~

Anyway…. after we moved into the house and got settled, it wasn’t too bad. I hung my Angels Baseball Team posters and cap on the wall, and laid out my small collection of baseballs on one book shelf. 

We had to learn to always put down the mosquito net around our bed before we went to sleep at night… absolutely a MUST!   During the day, the net was pulled up and tied out of the way. Mosquitoes mostly fly and bite you from when the sun starts to go down at night, till after it comes up in the morning.  (The picture is of Julie’s and April’s beds. Mine is way too messy.)

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We met a lot of people at our new church – both “ex-pats” (people from other countries) and “nationals” (people from Malawi).  I made some friends, but not like Caleb and Jake back home.

Then Mom started helping Mrs. Molenaar, who went to a village out in the bush every Thursday to teach Bible stories to the village kids. Julie and I went too. Mrs. Molenaar took flannel boards and paper figures (with strips of flannel on the back so they would stick), and told stories that way. 

A Malawian lady named Mercy, who was a church member too, came with her to translate her stories into Chichewa (Ch’- CHAY- wah) for the kids. There were A LOT OF KIDS!!!  Like maybe 250!!!!  Mrs. Molenaar divided them into younger kids and older kids. They all sat on grass mats on the ground.

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She had a guitar and taught them Sunday School songs in English and in Chichewa.  Her daughter, Rhoda – who was my age – played a guitar too.  After the lesson, the little kids would get a half sheet of paper with a coloring picture on it. They were given a half a crayon each.  They traded with each other if they wanted a different color. 

I’m telling you, when I saw that, I wanted to bring all my boxes of crayons and give to them!!

~

“I’m getting there, Mel.”  I can’t believe what a bossy sister I have!

~

It was there at the village that I first met Mayamiko. (MY-yah-MEE-ko)

After Mrs. Molenaar taught the Bible lesson and songs to the older kids, they all went out to a big flat dirt area and kicked around a ball, like they were playing soccer, but more like keep-away.  But – get this – the ball was not like anything I had seen.

It was made up of pieces of paper trash (probably from some of the coloring papers) rolled into a tight ball, then wrapped with pieces of plastic bags, around and around and then tied in knots.

You could kick it, and it would fly or roll, but it did NOT bounce. And after a while it started coming apart and had to be tied up again.

Mayamiko was a tall boy with brown skin, wearing faded, torn shorts and an inside-out blue shirt.  No shoes.  He had dark, dark, chocolate brown eyes, and flashing white teeth when he grinned, which was often.  His hair – like all Malawi kids – girl or boy – was clipped very short.

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Right away we became good friends. Don’t ask me why, because he only knew a few English words and I only knew a few words in Chichewa.  But boy, could we play soccer, or kick ball, or keep away, or whatever you called it. 

He had a good voice and taught me how to sing the songs in his language – there is a lot of repeating when Malawians sing. I think that is because they don’t have printed song books – or overhead screens. One person will call out the words, and the rest will repeat it, clapping and doing little dances around.  It was really cool!!

Every Thursday we found each other right away, put our arms around each others’ shoulders, and never left each other till the very last minute, when we walked down the trail, across the bridge over the stream and I got into the Range Rover that Mrs. Molenaar drove.

On other days, a few students from ABC came to the village to teach English classes, and Maya went every time so we could get better at talking.

Then Maya missed a Thursday.  I asked some of the other big kids and they just shrugged.  One boy got a scared look on his face and shook his head quickly.

Then another Thursday went by and I was worried and sad and really missed him.

When he finally came back, he didn’t run to meet me, or grin that big teeth-showing smile. He seemed to stand taller too.

Right away I noticed his chin was different. It was a little swollen and looked like he had scratched it or cut it on something.  When I got closer I saw that it WAS a cut that was healing, and that it was in the shape of a “W”.

When he saw me looking at it, he turned his head away. 

“What happened, Maya?” I asked him?  He shook his head and looked at the ground.

“C’mon, tell me!” I begged him and tried to softly punch him like we used to do.  He took a step back. His arms stayed straight down by his side.

“I cannot come to Bible study and singing again,” he said. “I cannot play games now.” He looked over his shoulder. “I cannot come here again.”

“But why?”

He looked at my eyes a long time – just like when I found him so many years later in Old Town after that chase – his dark, almost black eyes staring into my blue-green ones.

“I am next,” he said. Then he turned and walked away, his back upright and stiff. He never looked back, and I knew he didn’t want me to follow him. I watched him go through the bush and felt a stinging in my eyes.

It was a very sad day for me because he never came back to Mrs. Molenaar’s village ministry again.

I asked her what he meant by “I’m next,” and she shook her head sadly.  “It must be that he is in line for some duty in his village, and that he is in training to become a leader in that.”

“Wow!” I cried. “You mean Maya is going to be chief or something?”

She hesitated, then asked if he had any new marks on his body.  I told her about the “W” cut on his chin.  She took a big deep sad breath and let it out slowly. “Then he is in line to be a village medicine man, and we have lost him.”

2

Well, that last scene in the village was flashing though my mind in that alley in Old Town after I turned Maya over and saw who it was.  I had just tackled my old friend after he stole my Mom’s cell phone and ran away.  How did he get there?  What had he done?  Why had he become a thief??

I helped him up, and then I couldn’t help it – I grabbed him and hugged him real tight. He was so skinny!  I said some of our old Chichewa “friend” words to him. I heard him groan. Then I remembered his bruises and cuts and quickly let him lose.  For a minute I thought he was going to run again. His muscles got tight and he glanced down at the cell phone.

We both looked at it, frozen in our places. Then he sat down hard on the ground, pulled up his knees, put his dirty hands to his dirty blood-streaked face and began crying. Big huge sobs.

I started crying too, but I didn’t know why. I was fifteen after all.  Fifteen and a half.  I sat beside him and said nothing.  The cell phone was still lying in the dirt, forgotten. After a while Maya sniffed and wiped his face on the bottom of his tank top. It just smeared the red dirt and tears and snot and blood.

He looked at me. I grinned. He grinned back that wonderful white-teeth smile, except one tooth was missing off to the side.

Then the cell phone rang!

We both jumped. For another second, I thought Maya was going to bolt away.  If he did, I decided I would let him. I reached for the phone, holding my breath, but he didn’t go.

I looked at him as I swiped the screen. “Hello, Mom,” I said. “I got it. And have I got a story to tell you!”

Actually, it was Dad on the phone and I told him where I was. I told him I wasn’t alone, that I’d caught the thief, but that he was not to bring any police. I would explain when he got there.

Just a few minutes later he and Ngunda came into the alley and trotted over to where Maya and I sat. We got up to meet them.  Dad stopped about ten feet away and stared.

“Mr. Matthews,” Maya said softly, and waited.

Dad had only seen Maya twice when he came to the village with Mrs. Molenaar when the twins were sick and Mom couldn’t go. But he knew who he was, my best friend.

Ngunda stood a way off and frowned. He looked like he was ready to give chase if this thief took off again.

“Go get the Rover,” Dad said to him.

3

Well, we took Maya home with us. Mom recognized him right away and I could tell she wanted to “mother” him and make him “all better.”  How was that going to work out, I wondered.

April was afraid of him at first – after all he looked a little scary.  Dirty and bloody with torn clothes and no shoes.  She saw me chasing after him too.  But when she realized we all accepted him (except Ngunda) and Maya flashed her his great grin, she got over her fear.

Our housekeeper, Asala, jumped when she saw him come into the house, her eyes wide in fear or anger, staring at his chin. But when Maya bowed his head at her in respect, she eased up, and went to get some of my clean clothes for him as Mom suggested.

After Maya washed and ate a ton of the leftover rice casserole Mom had made the night before. And after he met Julie again, and Melody and June, and Gus who right away grabbed his hand and sat down beside him on the couch… and after he let Deek come up to him and gently put a finger on a cleaned-up-but –still-nasty-looking cut on his knee, Maya told his story.

He spoke pretty good street English and we could tell that he had been out of the village and in town for a while.

He put his finger on the W scar on his chin and looked at me.  “If you do not know, when I left you and Mrs. Molenaar and the Bible study, I was to become one day the medicine man of our village.

“Is that like a doctor?” asked Gus.

“Shhhh!” June said.

Maya shook his head. “No, not THAT kind of medicine.  In our village, there is a chief who looks after the people and tries to make things good for them. There is also a medicine man who is just as strong as the chief in the eyes of the people. Maybe he is even stronger than the chief when they disagree on something.”

“How can he be stronger than the chief?” interrupted Gus again.

“August,” said Mom, “Let’s let Maya tell his story.”  Gus frowned at the use of his full name and sat back with his arms crossed.  Soon he was leaning forward and “into” the story again.

“That is because village medicine men use “bad” medicine. We… they…. are trained to know about plants and tree bark that can make people feel better…. or make them feel worse, even die. The village people are afraid of medicine men.  And those men like that, and sometimes do evil things, like burn down a hut, or a maize field, or kidnap a child and take him away, to keep the people afraid of them.”

“Wow! That’s awful!” It was Julie who said that. She was biting her lower lip, and Mom put her hand on Julie’s arm to remind her to stop.

I noticed that Deek had toddled over to sit on Melody’s lap on the floor and she was rocking him. His eyes were drooping, and his stuffed bunny fell out of his hand.

April, the avid reader in our family was staring at Maya wide eyed, as if he was telling  the most interesting story ever.  I guess he was.

Maya went on, “I remembered the stories that Mrs. Molenaar told us from the Bible, about how good Jesus was… how he healed people and never hurt them. As I was learning about the plants and tree bark I thought about these stories. I wanted to make people well, like Jesus did, not make them sick… or die.

“The old medicine man I was learning from tried to make me do bad tricks on the people when they didn’t pay him enough for his “good” medicine. I had to do it, but I didn’t want to.”  Maya hung his head when he remembered.

“I saw an old woman crying when all she had was burned up. I tried to help her get more food, but the medicine man found out and whipped me.

Asala, our housekeeper was looking around the doorway to the kitchen and listening. She was nodding her head like she knew what he was talking about.

“Well,” said Maya sitting up straight, “One night when I was supposed to put some poisonous beans into a family’s water pot because the father had been arguing with the medicine man, I went to the river instead and sat down.  I looked at the beans in my hand. I looked up at all the stars in the sky. I didn’t know what to do.

“Why didn’t you ask God what to do?” said our little April.

Maya grinned.  “That is exactly what I did, Miss April. I said to Jesus who was somewhere up there in heaven – like Mrs. Molenaar told us – that I did not want to hurt people. I wanted to be good like Him. I was sorry for the tricks I had played on the villagers to please the medicine man.  I asked Him to forgive me and be my friend, my forever friend. I said I wanted to obey the words in His book, the Bible.”

“And I asked him to show me what to do, even if it meant the medicine man would….. kill me.”

“What happened?” June wanted to know.  Was she thinking how her own life had changed after she was sorry for being so mean last Christmas and knew that Jesus had forgiven her?

Maya leaned forward. “Nothing.  I was sure Jesus had heard me – Mrs. Molenaar said He always did when we asked Him to forgive us.  But He hadn’t told me what to do.

“So I got up with the beans still in my hand.  I looked back to the medicine man’s hut where I lived too. Then I looked down the path to the family’s hut where I was supposed to poison them.

“One way, I would get praised by my “teacher” and maybe even get some reward, but I would become a killer.  The other way and I would have to run away from my village forever. The medicine man would probably send men after me to punish me or kill me. I would have to beg or…… steal…. to live.”  Here, he looked at Mom and bowed his head.

“What did you do?” asked Gus impatiently.  Of course we all knew – except maybe for him – because Maya was NOT an important medicine man. He was a thief.

“I couldn’t decide,” he said. “I was pulled one way and the other.  If I did this ONE thing, maybe I would never have to do it again. And I could help my village with all the good medicine I knew about. How could I help them if I was not there? I could become a GOOD medicine man!  It was just this ONE time……”

I’m telling you, kids, our room was silent right then and no one moved a hair.

“Well, I just called out His name. ‘Jesus! Help me!'”

“Then I heard a rustling sound in the leaves to my left in the direction where the family’s water pot would be.  I looked down, and with the starlight I could see a deadly black mamba snake, not this far away.”  He measured about four feet between his hands.

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“I threw the beans at the snake and took off running in the opposite way. I ran and ran and ran. I ran through the bush and even through the river which was not very high then. I ran and ran till I came to the road to Lilongwe.  I found a pile of old tires and hid behind them to rest.

“Before it got to be daytime, I started walking fast. It would seem strange to see someone running along the road – everyone else walks. I walked all day and I thought about what I had done.  Did Jesus bring that snake to show me not to go that way? Or did it just come by itself. Had I been foolish? Or could I trust Him?

I started looking around; thinking every man I saw was going to tell the medicine man where I was. I found a place to hide until it got dark. I was so hungry. ”

“Me too,” said Gus. “I’m hungry too!”  Everyone laughed at that and took a breath. We didn’t know we had been holding them.

“What did you do then?” asked Dad. “Did you pray again?”

Maya hung his head. “No,” he said softly. “I didn’t ask Jesus what to do. I was so afraid of the medicine man. I forgot the lessons Mrs. Molenaar taught about God supplying our needs if we would ask Him.  I didn’t see how that could happen. I didn’t trust Him.

Maya took a deep breath. “So I became a thief.  At first I took only food that I ate right then.  I got chased away, but never got caught. I slept in alleys. Then I took some clothes I saw drying on the rocks by the river. Not a lot!  Only what I needed.  Right then, I didn’t think I was SO bad.

“Stealing is stealing,” said June. “Even if you NEED it. God would have given you something to wear, I know it!”

“That is the truth, Miss June. But after that, it got easier and easier to take things. I started stealing bigger things and selling them for kwacha (Malawi money). Sometimes I went alone. Sometimes, like today, another boy and I did it together and shared what we got.”

Here, he looked right at Mom. “Mrs. Matthews, I am so, so sorry!  I was not hungry. I didn’t take your cell phone so I could eat. I just saw it sticking out and took it.  Jesus will never forgive me now!  I should be in Maula Prison.  I do not blame you if you take me there… or… even back to the village. It would be the same thing for me.”

Mom looked over to Dad and he nodded.  He stood up and said, “C’mon Maya.”

“WHAT??” I cried. Was Dad going to take my friend, my long-lost friend, to prison or back to the medicine man? “No, Dad. NO!”

Maya got up, looking scared. “Just so,” he said, his shoulders slumping.

But dad took Maya only as far as his office. He left the door open so we could see. He talked quietly to my friend for a while, although we couldn’t hear the words.  Maya nodded. Then nodded again, and covered his face with his hands.  Then both he and Dad knelt down beside a chair.

Dad put his arm over Maya’s thin shoulders and then looked up to heaven and prayed.

I’m telling you, we ALL prayed right then.  And when Dad and Maya were done and came out, we all could see his bright, happy, shining face.  Forgiveness will do that to you!

 

And that’s my story!  It got long again, I know.  I promised, but… you didn’t want to have a Part THREE, did you???

Hey!  Melody just came in and hugged me.  I guess that means I’m forgiven too, even though I had to take a lot of her scolding along the way.

Maybe April will write to you next.  I don’t know what she will say…. all she knows are books, books…. and more books!

See ya!  Marshall

 

“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 (#3) “The Eyes in the Well”

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This story is the THIRD 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, and 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.)

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

The Eyes In The Well!

Dear kids,

I’m Melody’s oldest sister, just after our brother, Marshall. My parents named me Julie Joy Matthews. Can you guess what month I was born in?  I’ll give you a hint – it’s the 7th month. And I was born on the 7th day!  I was only four years old when my parents became missionaries to Malawi. Now I’m twelve and a half. I don’t remember much about living in America, except when we visit there every couple of years.

Right now, it’s getting cooler in Malawi, just the opposite of where you live. We have hot, wet winters, and cool dry summers. All the grass is brown and dry now. When the warm and wet season comes, November to April, everything is green because of all the rain. We get “buckets and barrels” of rain then! (That’s what Mom says.) And also very loud thunder and flashes of lightening.

Sometimes I worry that our house will just wash away, but Dad says NO WAY that will happen. The rain stops just as fast as it starts, leaving everything dripping and muggy under a blue sky.

Well, we had a freak rain storm this summer (remember it’s usually cool and dry then). It rained really hard – you could hardly see across the yard for all the rain. It was pouring off our roof too, and the driveway got flooded fast.

It was that day that something happened in the very back corner of our yard. Usually the rain rushes down our driveway in the front, under our big gate, and into the culvert by the road, like in the picture.

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BUT…. as I was watching it out the window that day, the flooding water changed direction. It went along the wall to the very BACK corner of our yard.

Where would it go from there, I wondered, because we have a very tall brick wall all the way around our property. Would it stop up against the wall and flood our whole yard? Would it go into our garage or into our gardener’s little house at the other corner of the back yard?

Pretty soon I was biting the corner of my bottom lip, like I always do when I get worried. I was holding my little brother Deek (on my hip like my Mom does) as I watched the water do this weird thing out the kitchen window.

Deek noticed I was getting nervous. He started patting my mouth and saying “no biii, Ju-lee.”

Then I smelled something … well, let’s just say, I had to go change his diaper.

2

I didn’t think about the rain water rushing backwards till the next day.  It was sunny then  and everything was dried out again. I was swinging Deek and playing soccer ball catch with Gus and April. Gus went to play toy cars in the dirt and Deek followed him.

I started back to the far corner of the yard where the water had gone. It wasn’t flooded at all. Where did all that rain go to?

Marshall and Ngunda (nnnn-GOON-dah), our gardener, were trying to pry up a big wild plant. I laughed as they pushed and pulled one way and the other. That big weed did not want to come out! Marshall looked at me and then glanced back at the corner of the yard. April was there staring down at something.

“What’s she doing, Jule?” Marshall asked quickly. “There might be snakes around. Go get her!”

I looked where he was pointing and saw poor April leaning over something. Her arms started swinging around like wind mills. She looked like she was falling.

“April!” I screamed, and started running towards her. I felt Marshall charge past me.  He reached out and grabbed April’s shirt right between her shoulder blades and pulled her backward.  She was very pale and scared and turned around to cling tightly to Marshall.

What was it? A snake? I know that black mamba snakes are very poisonous, and can spit poison into your eyes from six feet away!!  Did we have one in our yard? Did April almost step on one… or a NEST of them??

I got to where they were standing, all the while looking down at the grass for a snake. I slid to a stop and stared down. Now I knew where all that rain water had gone.

There,  just where April almost fell was a big… black… hole!

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Quickly I looked over my shoulder for my brothers, but Gus and Deek were happily playing with their trucks.  Whew!

“Here, Jule,” said Marshall, and pushed April toward me. “Let’s have a look here.”

He went closer to the black hole and knelt down. I copied him and so did April, only I kept her back a little.  We peered over the edge and could see….. nothing. Just blackness. No bottom. I felt a kind of shiver go up my back.

Marshall picked up a rock about the size of an egg and tossed it into the hole. Immediately it disappeared into the blackness.

“Wow,” said Marshall.

“Well,” said Ngunda and startled us. He was shaking his head slowly. “A very old well we have here. It supposed to be covered.”  He looked around and spotted a rusty old sheet of metal with lots of holes punched in it. It looked like it got washed ways away in all that rain and was covered half with dirt.

Ngunda loosened it and brought it to the hole. “Get back now.  Very dangerous if you fall in. It very deep and narrow. You not get out, maybe.”

About then, Gus came running up, Deek toddling after him. Gus ran right up and looked in, standing RIGHT at the edge. The tips of his shoes were over the edge as he bent to look into the hole.

“Watch out!” I yelled and pulled his arm to get him away.

“Very dangerous, young Gus,” said Ngunda and waved us all back. He fit the metal over the hole and found four big rocks to put on the corners.

“Is that where all the rainwater went yesterday?” I asked him.

Ngunda looked at me and then around at the ruts in the dirt where the water had rushed. He frowned and opened the hole again. He threw a big rock in, which disappeared into the darkness just like before. We didn’t hear a splash, but we did hear a thud and then a……. screeching yowl echoing up the shaft!

We all jumped way back, even our gardener, whose eyes were open impossibly wide.  Something was in that old well!  But what?

Ngunda took off running to his house. That made April scared and she ran off to our house. Deek toddled as fast as he could after her. I almost ran too.

“Gus!” I said, almost shouting, “Go with them and tell Dad what is back here.” Gus obeyed me and ran after them. (I can be very bossy at times.)

Marshall was on his knees again, with his hands on the edge of the hole, or well, or whatever it was. He was peering down into the darkness.  I could see now there was a circle of bricks around the opening, but dirt and weeds had hidden it.

“What’s down there?” I asked Marshall. “Can you see anything?  What made that awful noise?”

“I don’t know. It sounded like a…. a…. well, I don’t know. Something wild maybe.” He tossed another small stone into the hole. Nothing.  “What did it sound like to you, Jule?”

“I don’t know either,” I said. But my mind was picturing all kinds of scary creatures and monsters. I started biting my lower lip.

Ngunda came up behind us then and we both jumped. Gideon and Goliath, our two big dogs came trotting over too. “What great guard dogs!!” I thought. They probably were sleeping away on their mats in the carport while “a thing” fell or crawled into this black hole!

“Back,” commanded Ngunda waving one hand at the dogs. Gideon and Goliath backed up and sat down. Ngunda had a big flashlight and stepped up to shine it in the hole. It barely lit the way down.

We could see wet weeds and roots hanging from the side walls. I shivered a little, thinking what if April had fallen down there. Or me!

He shone the light right to the bottom, a long, long way down. (Dad said maybe 10 meters when he saw it later.)  At the bottom, through the thick gloom we saw something muddy move, then jump up. The flashlight beam shown in its eyes for a second and they flashed green.

Marshall and Ngunda got up, brushing the dirt from their knees. I kept kneeling there, staring down into the now very black hole again. I heard a small yowl again.

“Some kind of cat,” Marshall said. “Did you see the green eyes?”

“Feral cat,” added Ngunda.” Wild cat.”

He put the metal sheet and the rocks back over the hole.  Dad came up then and they talked about the well and the wild cat. But all I could think about was the poor animal down there in all that darkness. Was it scared?

“I throw poison down it tomorrow,” said Ngunda.  Dad scrunched up his face and nodded reluctantly.

My heart was beating very fast. They were going to … to kill it?  Very quietly I whispered, “nooooo.”

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3

Around the dinner table that night Marshall and Dad told Mom about the deep hole and the cat inside.

“Oh, Hudson, what if one of the children had fallen in!” Mom had a worried look on her face, but she didn’t bite her lip like me. “Deek is so small,” she continued. “We never would have found him, or even thought to look there!”

“We’ll seal it up permanently tomorrow, Audrey,” he said. “Meanwhile you kids stay away from it.” He looked slowly around the table at each of us… right into our eyes.  We all nodded, one at a time.

While we talked about other things, I didn’t hardly realize what I was doing, but somehow I slipped a chicken wing into my napkin and put it in my pocket.

mk-chickenwing

Later that night, very much later, about midnight or so, I got up and sprayed some bug spray on my arms and legs, and patted a little on my face and neck. I didn’t want to get bit by a malaria mosquito!  Then I quietly walked down the hall and sneaked out the door on the patio side of the house where the washing machine was. I took my little pink flashlight to show the way.

Gideon and Goliath trotted by my side.  They could smell the chicken wing too, but I pushed their nosy noses away. It was really dark back there by the back wall. There was only starlight, and even though there are a lot of stars in Malawi, I couldn’t see very well. Would I find that old well?

Yes! I lifted the rocks off the metal sheet and pulled it back half way. I shone my flashlight down the hole. It looked creepier down there because my light didn’t go very far down the narrow shaft to the bottom.  But, then, the green eyes flashed up at me and I heard a little yowl. The dogs leaned over the hole and sniffed. I pushed them back.

I gulped and tossed the chicken wing into the hole. Gideon and Goliath lunged forward, like it was a game of fetch. But it disappeared too quickly and they whined unhappily.

When I shown my light inside the well again, no green eyes flashed up.

I sat back on the dirt. Gideon and Goliath lay down on either side of me. I thought about how it would be in a dark hole, trapped, alone and afraid and very hungry.  I just HAD to do something! But what?

When I aimed my flashlight down again, the green eyes flashed up at me. Flashed and stared for a few seconds.

I thought about how it was my job to look after my younger brothers and sister when my parents weren’t around. I was to help them with stuff, have fun with them, and keep them safe.  What about that poor cat creature in the black hole? How could I help it?

Gideon licked my fingers, getting the last bit of fried chicken taste. I patted him a few times. Then I saw the collar around his neck and thought of something.  If I could just……

I got up and found my way to the long clothes line that Asala (a-SAW-la), our housekeeper and Ngunda’s wife hung the clothes on. It was empty except one old cleaning rag hanging from a clothespin.

I stood and stared at it, my mind whirling around with thoughts and plans. Then, before I could think any more, I quickly untied the ends of the long rope and gathered it up. I grabbed the old rag and tied it to one end. Gideon and Goliath thought it was a game and tried to grab the rope.
“No!” I cried, but they kept bouncing around me as I stumbled back to the old well. Would it work? Would that feral cat creature be smart enough? Desperate enough? Strong enough? I had to try! Otherwise, tomorrow–

I thought of the poison that would be tossed into the hole to the hungry thing. It would eat it up right away and then get really sick and then–

Slowly, I started letting the rag end of the rope down into the hole.  Would it be long enough? What if I dropped it?

I came to the last 12 inches of the rope and lost hope. It would never work. What a stupid idea this was. I felt tears stinging my eyes.

But then I felt a little jiggle on the rope. I jumped and almost dropped it. I jerked it up and down a little bit a couple of times. It jiggled some more in my hands. Then I pulled it up about two feet and let it down quickly, then up again.

Suddenly I felt a weight on the rope; a pretty heavy weight. Was it working?  Would the creature do it??  Would it grab on with its claws? Would they hold it as I raised up the rope?  Slowly I pulled and pulled higher and higher and the weight did not come off.  My heart started beating faster as I got near the end of the rope.

Suddenly a black creature burst from the hole like a big hairy shadow. I fell backward and it raced across me. Gideon and Goliath took off after it, barking. I called them back, but they didn’t hear.

I shown my little flashlight where I heard the noise and saw a blurred creature race up a tree, jump at least five feet to the top of the wall, scramble under the wire and disappear.

And then…. the house lights came on.

Dad came running out with just his pajama bottoms on. He was holding a big flashlight and calling the dogs. Ngunda came out too with another flashlight.

Then… both their flashlights landed on me.

And the rope.

And the open well.

4

I have to tell you, it wasn’t a happy night for me. After they covered up the well again and collected the rope, Dad led me into the house with his hand firmly on my shoulder. He and Mom sat me down by the desk in his office.

“What were you thinking Julie? You could have fallen in and broken your arm… or your neck,” He was shaking his head solemnly back and forth.

I looked down at my hands in my lap.

“Didn’t I tell you kids not to go back to that well?”  I nodded.

“Didn’t you promise you would not do it?” I nodded again.

Dad just looked at me, and thought about what to say.  I started biting my lip.

“Don’t do that, Dear,” said Mom. Then she thought of something else and she leaned toward me. “Did that thing scratch you, Julie Joy? It could have had rabies or something!”

She pulled back my robe, lifted up my pajama top, and inspected my front side.  She relaxed when she saw no bite marks or claw scratches.

“I felt sorry for it, Daddy!” I said loudly and started to cry. “It was so dark down there! It was scared and hungry and Ngunda was going to poison it tomorrow and it was going to die!!”
“Julie!” Mom cried. “YOU could have gotten hurt too!  YOU could have di—. Oh, Sweetie, we love you so much.”

“It was an irresponsible thing to do,” said Dad. “Maybe if you’d have told us how you felt, we could have done something together… in the daylight.  I didn’t like the idea of poison either. But instead you disobeyed us. You promised, and then broke your promise just like that.”

I nodded. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” My voice was just a squeak now. He reached out and set me on his lap, even though I am almost too big to do that anymore.

“We forgive you Sweetheart, but you must always think before you act. You must think of the consequences. You must think about how your decisions will affect others. And you need to listen to your parents because we only want what is best for you.”

“I will, Daddy. I will try to be smarter and trust you and listen to what you say.” He and Mom kissed me then. We went to my bedroom and they tucked me back into my bed.

Dad gave me this discipline before he prayed with me and turned out the light.

“You will have to stay in your room all day tomorrow, Julie, and think about how you disobeyed. Think about how important promises are too. What if God didn’t keep His promises?”

Mom and Dad forgave my foolish idea when they saw how sorry I was. I was so glad they did. I asked God to forgive me too, and He did.

5

Dad and Ngunda covered up that old well hole permanently with cement the next day. The rain would go back down the driveway and into the culvert as it was supposed to do. And somewhere, a feral wild cat got a chance to live a little longer.

I was glad about that.

6

It was Dad’s turn to preach the next Sunday. He asked if he could use my adventure as an illustration and I said, yes.  He talked about how Jesus came down to this dark, sinful world and rescued everyone who wanted to be helped by him, who would believe in Him, by dying on the cross.

He read Romans 5:6 – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

Jesus wasn’t doing something foolish when He came down to help us, like I did. He was doing exactly what His Father told Him to do. I’m so glad He came and rescued me!

Then Dad read the first part of Psalm 40 and smiled at me over his reading glasses.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my way. Blessed is that man (or girl) that makes the LORD his trust”

Well, Kids, I know my story was very long this time. All my sisters and brothers say I talk too much, even Melody, who talks a lot too. I will tell the others to make their stories shorter.

Much love, Julie

 

 – Note – 

 June (Melody’s twin sister) will tell you a story next time. I had to beg her to do it, because, well, “it’s not a pretty picture.” It started out when the kids’ Grandma and Grandpa Matthews visited them in Malawi last Christmas, and ended in a… disaster.

 

 

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

 

 

Confession and Forgiveness

1 John 1:8-9 ~~~ “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “

angry wifeThis morning I got angry because the plans I’d made for the day were foiled.  I had carefully planned a day trip, which involved my hubby (which he had previously agreed to) and a visit to a family member, a pleasant lunch, and — using the car pool lane to drive the 70 miles through Los Angeles.  Over the weekend, however, Hubby made different plans unbeknownst to me, and declared that we would be having company at our house that morning.  

What? Had he forgotten MY plans? 

I stated (inwardly seething) that I would then go alone (suffer the congested traffic both ways) and HE could stay at home and meet HIS friends.  I did not, of course want him to agree, but he said eagerly, “Okay, if you are sure you don’t mind.”

Don’t mind?  YES, I minded, but I am stubborn of heart and stiff of neck. I oh-so-sweetly put my things in the car and backed out of the driveway. My heart was not loving and kind or happy. It was vindictive and petulant. I am sure I cut off several innocent drivers on the freeway and thought nasty thoughts about everyone for most of the hour and a half drive. It was only by God’s grace that I was not rewarded with a ticket or worse.

The visit was pleasant and by the time I left to come home I was almost over my grouchiness. I GUESS it had turned out okay, I thought reluctantly.   But later, when I sat down with my Bible for “quiet time” with my God, I knew it hadn’t.  The anger and petulance of the morning now stood between me and fellowship with Him, and I cried out in dismay.

*******

O my Father, I have sinned again today. I sin everyday, often. I am continually walking through mud puddles of sin; muck, dirt, dust, dung.  I try to avoid it, but I both blindly and willfully sin, like today.  Father I want to DIE to sin! I hate it, but I keep allowing my old sinful nature to reign.

I confess, I felt resentment and jealousy, and anger, and spite. But right now, I feel regret and sorrow for the words I spoke, for my foolishness and immaturity. Lord, I hate these sins!  I need washing!

I want to be loving sacrificially, as YOU love, not demanding my own way or pouting or going off in a huff. I want to be willing to be second place. Help me to humble myself and hate my selfishness.  May your spirit and Word rule in my life.

These are my sins, and many more. Just when I think I might be becoming more Christlike, I see that I am sinful and fleshly.  But, Father, YOU PROMISED that if I see my sins and agree with you about them and repent of them, that You will – for Christ’s sake – forgive me.

Christ’s death atoned for my sins – all of them – and satisfied Your wrath against me and them on the cross.  Even right now, You have said that He is interceding for me – pleading his own sacrificed blood before You for my sin. Cleanse me of these and all other unrighteousness you find in me – for His sake. As You promised.

I am standing on, depending on, this promise. As far as I understand Your Word, I am forgiven. My sins of this morning are wiped clean.  Thank You!

O keep these nasty “infections” from reoccurring again. (Oh, to be inoculated against sin!)  Holy Spirit, hit me upside my head when I begin to rebel! Word of God, permeate my dim wits and sound the alarm!  Father in heaven lead me, prod me, in the way that I should go and think and speak.

“Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” ~~~ Psalm 19:14