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

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

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

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

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

 

 

April’s Amazing “NO” Play

Hi Kids!

It’s April again.

Guess what? I wrote a play!

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

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

So I asked  my brother Marshall.

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

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

“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO!” he said.

“Perfect!” I said.

“Huh?” he said.

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

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

“Yep.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um…. I don’t know….”

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

“Well…”

“And there’ll be brownies…..”

“Yeah?”

I nodded.

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

“Not nose…no’s.”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Curtain up…” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He got up and threw down his script.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the difference?”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Well, here’s how it happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But…” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

 Kukana did a good job running off crying.

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

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

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

By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.

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

Melody and June told him they loved it too.

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

*****

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

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

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

Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).

 

“PETER’S NO’S”

A play by

April Grace Matthews

from the Bible.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.

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

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

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

Then I knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was absolute silence.

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

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

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

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

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

Kukana nodded.

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean to you?”

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

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

He looked up at dad , “Will He?”

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

Love, April

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

“DEEK’S WILD RIDE!”

Hi Evvy-buddy!

(Yep… that’s a greeting from Deek!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get it?

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure!

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

Ugh, my back!

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarey-cat! In da hole! Lotta wain!!”

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

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

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

Mmmmmm… smoooch!

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

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

*****

“My turn now! Up you go, Deek!”

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

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

“Okay, Mom, but he loves it so much!”

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

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

“Oh, Marshall, I don’t know…”

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

Go Wover! Get gas! Go!”

“See, Deek wants to go too!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whoa, really?”

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

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

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

“Coffin!!!” said Deek.

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

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

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

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

mk-coffin1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please God, help me!”

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cookieees, yay!” said Deek.

My buddy!

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

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

 

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#8) “Unexpected Arrivals”

mk-story-coversThis story is the EIGHTH 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.)

 

“Unexpected Arrivals”

 

Hello Kids!

It’s Julie again!

Last time, I wrote about what was in that old well that’s in our back yard. Do you remember? You can hardly tell where it was now. Dad didn’t want us (or anything else) to fall into it, so he and Ngunda covered it up with cement. Then Dad got some bricks and built a big round planter on top of it, tall enough for us to sit on.

They filled it with dirt and compost from garden clippings and Mom’s kitchen scraps and planted a small lemon tree there!  The little flowers on it smell so good, but we haven’t gotten any lemons yet.

I can hardly wait for them to grow because I love lemonade!  Mom wants them to squeeze over fish when she cooks it. And also to put into her tea.  And of course, EVERYONE loves lemon bars and lemon cake.

C’mon little lemon tree… GROW!!

mk-lemons

Last week we had two exciting things happen.

First, we got a big box of letters and cards in the mail from the kids at Faith Bible Church. They had written them to us during their Vacation Bible School.

Here’s a picture they sent in the box. It shows some of the kids making the cards!  (If you see any of them… tell them a big “thank you” for us!)

mk-vbs-letters

It was so fun to open them and read the messages and see the drawings. You could tell that some of the cards were from real little kids because they were just scribbles. But we loved them anyway!!  We read our own cards, and then we passed them around so the rest of us could read them too.

April cut cute shapes from her cards and tied a little ribbon at one end. She’s using them as bookmarks in her Bible and other favorite books. She made five especially nice ones to give to her friends and teacher at church.

Marshall and Gus made a whole fleet of colorful paper airplanes out of their cards. Then they had a contest for which would fly the best. Marshall had saved one card that had a lot of yellow coloring on it. He cut out a star and pinned it on Gus for having the best flying airplane.

June did something very pretty with hers. It was something I never would have thought of. On the cards that had drawings of fish or flowers or stars or boats, she punched little holes around each drawn thing, and then threaded different colored yarn through the holes. They really looked cool!

Melody used some of the yarn to attach her cards at their top corners to make a long banner which she taped up on her bedroom wall.

Deek…. well, Deek just liked to throw his whole pile of cards up into the air and let them fall down all around him. Then he would shuffle through them, swishing them all around with his feet. (Mom rescued a few and set them up by his bed so he could look at them when he went to sleep.)

I cut out some of the objects that the kids drew, and a few of the messages they wrote, which I cut into heart shapes. Then I used a wire hanger that my Mom had and some strong string, and made a mobile to hang by my window. When the wind comes in, they flip and turn and spin. I love them so much!

After all the excitement and craft making was over, everyone went to put away their scissors and tape, and to display the things they’d made. Gus and Marshall went outside to fly airplanes.

I decided to help Mom by picking up all the paper scraps and tiny yarn pieces scattered everywhere around the living room. I used the broom to get some that had gotten pushed under the couch. Then a saw one more envelope under there that hadn’t been opened.  I pulled it out with the broom and wiped off the dust that came with it.

It had no name on it. There were no stickers or colored marks on the outside, but there was something inside. Something MORE than a card. When I turned the envelope up on edge, the thing slid to the bottom.

“Mom,” I called, waving the envelope. “Look what I found under the couch. It has no name on it.”

Mom peeked out from the room where she was changing Deek’s clothes. “Just open it, Honey,” she said. “Maybe there is a name inside.”

“But…if it doesn’t belong to me…” I protested. Then I rattled the envelope again. I really DID want to know what was inside.  If it was for someone else, I would just give it to them.

I started to tear open the top, when all of a sudden the dogs started barking furiously. I heard a car horn honk out a funny tune. Gus and Marshall ran by the window shouting.  What was happening?

I slipped the envelope in the back pocket of my jeans and ran to see.  Melody, June and April were right behind me. Ngunda had the dogs tied up and was rolling our big metal gate back along its tracks.

A bright blue Land Rover started edging inside. The top canvas had been rolled back and a tanned arm stuck out of it and waved a small American flag back and forth.

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“Uncle Will!” shouted Marshall, running to open the car door before it had even stopped moving.

A tall tanned man in sun glasses, a bush jacket and jungle hat, stepped out. All of us just stared at him in wonder except for our oldest brother. It looked like Marshall was going to knock him over with his hugging. Then it was like Marshall got embarrassed and stepped back. He held out his hand to shake instead.

“Aw, come here, my boy,” said our Uncle Will and pulled Marshall into another big hug.  “You’re getting mighty big!  Hey, who are all these?” He looked around at the rest of us.

I remembered him vaguely from the time before last that we went back to America. That time, he wore boots, a leather hat with a snakeskin band, and a necklace of beads and spear heads.

Whoa!” he said looking right at me, “Is that you, Julie Joy? What a young lady you are becoming.  You’re… what, twenty now?  Or twenty-five?”

I shook my head, grinning. “No-o-o-o-o! Thirteen.”

He gasped loudly then bowed deeply, which made me giggle.

Then Marshall introduced Gus and our sisters to their Uncle Will. The tall man shook hands solemnly with Gus, after first clicking his heels together and saluting him. (Gus still had a paper airplane in his hand, and the gold paper star pinned on.)

Then our uncle laid his hands on the heads of our twin sisters and pulled them to him, both at one time for a big three-way hug.

“Where’s your Mom?” he asked Marshall after he’d patted April’s cheek softly and winked at her.

“Well, I’ll be!” he added, looking over April’s head. Mom had come outside now, carrying Deek.

“WILL!” she cried and ran to him, handing Deek to me on the way. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? Oh, it is so good to see you!”  She went into his open arms and they hugged and swayed back and forth for a long time.

I put Deek down, and then picked him up again because the excitement was scaring him and he was puckering up to cry.  Uncle Will saw this and came to us, still holding Mom’s hand.

“Who is this young man?” He said and took Deek from me. He tossed him into the air, and then caught him easily, swinging him around in a circle. I gasped and Deek shrieked and Mom laughed.

“Will, be careful!” She said as he raised Deek up to sit on his shoulders, stubby legs around his neck. It knocked off his hat and Gus was quick to grab it, putting it on his own head and laughing when it came down over his eyes.

“This is Deek,” said Mom to her brother. “Deacon William Matthews, our youngest.”

“Deacon William? You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Which part?” she asked, teasing him. “We didn’t name him after YOU!  Well, not completely. We wanted to remember the missionary, William Carey.

“Oh, that’s fine,” said our uncle, “but….. Deacon?  Seriously?”

“Well…. You know our tradition of naming the children with a reminder of the month they were born in.  Deek was born in….”

“DECEMBER!” we all called together, cutting her off.

“Dees-ember!” said Deek, bouncing up and down on Uncle Wills shoulders and flapping his arms.

Then we all heard a familiar toot and Ngunda opened the big gate once more to let in Dad’s car.  Uncle Will handed Deek back to Mom and went to greet his brother-in-law. They shook hands, and then hugged, slapping each other on their backs the way grown up men do.

“Hey, Bro, why didn’t you tell your wife and kids I was coming?”

“I wasn’t sure when you would come. I didn’t want them to get all excited and be disappointed.”

About then, after shutting the gate, Ngunda let the dogs loose. They joined in the fun, jumping up on Uncle Will’s chest and almost knocking him over.

“Whoa, you big lugs!  Down boys!”  He thoroughly scratched their necks and squeezed their shoulders up next to his knees, and then sent them off.

As we all started towards the back door, Dad asked, “And where have you been these days, my famous jungle-doctor brother-in-law?  Zimbabwe? Mozambique?”

“No. Ghana, this time,” he answered. “But I’ll be working in Malawi now for a couple weeks.  No, not at your Kamuzu Hospital in Lilongwe. We’ll be down south at a clinic in Zomba.  So… now is perfect time to visit my sister’s… growing family!”

“Oh, Will,” said Mom, disappointed. “Zomba is a seven hour drive away!  How long can you stay before you leave?”

“It will take me a week just to get all your kids’ names straight, Sis,” he joked. “Let’s see….who are we missing? Where is January Jan?   September Seth?  October Otto?  And…. November Gobble-gobble?  Hey, stop hitting me!  I know, I know… seven kids are enough!”

We were all laughing at Uncle Will and Mom, including Dad.  We had never seen her act so funny before. It was almost like she was a little girl again.

Inside the house, our uncle got more serious. “But, actually, Hudson, while I am here, I need to talk with a one of your teachers at ABS. I think she goes to your church too.  It’s about a young village boy named Lugono. She wrote to Operation Smile about him and I need to see him in person.”

“That must be Debbi Kingsley,” Dad said. “I’ll take you to meet her tomorrow.”

After that, the afternoon was a scrambled happy stew of talking and laughing and showing things and playing guessing games and getting to know Uncle Will. He asked us all lots of questions and bounced Deek on his knee till he got the hiccups from laughing.

When Mom said she would fix some dinner, we all moved into the kitchen to “help” her… but mostly just to look at and listen to our uncle.  He was wonderful and exciting. And besides being fun and part of our family, he was real doctor: Dr. William Calder. He told us some amazing stories about kids all over Africa that he helped by operating on them.

Gus had a question that made us all giggle, except maybe for April who looked like she wanted to know too. “If you are really Mom’s brother, why isn’t your name, Dr. Matthews?”

Uncle Will’s eyes were sparkling, but he answered Gus seriously. “Because ‘Calder’ was your mother’s name too, before she married your dad.”

“It was?” Gus said and looked at Mom in a curious way. We all laughed then, including Gus.

~~~~

It was very late when we were finally sent to bed, with the promise of Uncle Will coming to each of us to pray and “tuck us in.”

Back in the room that I shared with April, who was brushing her teeth right then, I was puzzled to feel something in my back pocket.

“What in the world…?” I said aloud.

Then I found the envelope. I had forgotten all about it with Uncle Will coming and all the excitement  afterwards. I started to open it right then, but April came back and I quickly hid it under my pillow.  I would show her tomorrow, I promised myself, after I found out who it belonged to. But for tonight, I wanted it to be my secret.

But I was too late.

“What was that?” April asked and picked up my pillow. “Did you get another card?  What’s in it?” She was shaking it like I did when I first found it.

“I don’t know,” I said and sighed. “I don’t know what’s in it, and I don’t know if it is even mine. There’s no name on it.”

“Well, OPEN IT!” said April and did just that.

There was a paper inside with neat printing on it. It said, “For JOY, read Romans 12:22.”

“See, it IS for you. You are Julie JOY, right?  And look!  Here’s a little pin. Oh, a cute happy face!”

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She handed me the pin, the note, and the envelope, and went to her bed. She picked up the book lying open on her night stand and began to read. She was deep into the story before I could blink twice.

I felt happy with how the whole envelope thing turned out.  It WAS for me after all, and I loved the little pin. It wasn’t a cheap button pin like you might get for free, but a nice gold-color pin like a piece of jewelry about the size of an American dime.  How cool was that?

And I was the only one who had gotten a “prize” in an envelope.

Who had put it in the box I wondered. Was it a teacher? I didn’t know any close friends back at that church, but one girl HAD seemed to like me the last time we visited. Maybe Taylor had sent it.

I picked up my Bible and found the verse written on the paper.  It was exciting to think that someone was sending ME a special message!  I read the verse to myself, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I memorized it in a minute. Easy-peasy.

I put everything on my night stand and lay down with a smile on MY face.  I was asleep just like that and only slightly remember a hand on my head and a deep voice softly praying for me.

~~~~

Next morning, I put the pin on my pajama top and went out to the kitchen where I could hear Mom making breakfast noises.  Uncle Will was there too, sitting on a stool with a cup of coffee in his hand.

Before they heard me, I saw how much they loved each other and were glad to be together even for a short visit.  Uncle Will was Mom’s only brother, and she didn’t have any sisters.  I wondered how it would be to have only one more kid in my family.

“Julie Joy!” my uncle said, holding out his empty hand to get a morning hug. “Why is your face shining like a mirror in the noon day sun?”

I looked down at my pin and smiled bigger.

“Ah, what do we have here? Now, that’s a right beautiful pin, m’lady.”

“It’s called a happy face, Uncle Will. Someone at our church in American sent it to me.”

I showed it to Mom too, who had her hands floury from making cinnamon rolls.

“There was a Bible verse in the envelope too.”  I recited the verse and the reference to them.

“That’s a good one,” my uncle said. Then, it was weird, he got this  far off look on his face like an idea was blooming in his mind somewhere. He leaned over to look more closely at my pin.

“Hmm,” was all he said.

~~~~

The next thing that happened, was two days later.  Dad had taken Uncle Will to the College with him, and he had talked with that teacher. In the afternoon, he had ridden with her out to the village to see Lugono. He was sad but excited when he came home for dinner.

“I think it might work,” he told Dad later that night while Melody and I were playing Dominos on the cleaned-off dining room table.  “But he’s pretty scared. His mom might need some convincing too. I wonder…..”

Here is where he looked right at me. Then he leaned close to Dad and they talked softly for a while, both of them glancing at me now and then.

It made me feel kind of worried. What were they talking about? The corner of my bottom lip slipped under my teeth before I could stop myself, but I quickly made it come right out.

Finally they sat back. In a minute, Uncle Will called me over to them and I sat beside him on the couch.

“Julie, you seem to be someone with a lot of compassion for others. Your Dad told me how you rescued that  feral cat in the well… no, no… don’t worry!  He also told me how you were sorry for disobeying him.”  He smiled gently at me.

“And I’ve also seen how gentle you are with your little brother…. Deek.”

Here he looked at Dad. “Sheesh, what a name!  How did you let my sister name him that, Hudson?”

Dad shrugged and grinned.  “It grows on you, Will.”

“Anyway, Julie,” he continued. “I’d like you to come out to the village with Debbi and me tomorrow and meet Lugono. Would you do that?”

I nodded. I had been there many times when Mom went to help Mrs. Molenaar teach Bible and sing and hand out bread to the kids.

“I should tell you….” he glanced at Dad, “I should tell you that I’m considering him for surgery next week.  He… well, he has a different problem.  He might look quite frightful to you.  I’d understand if you didn’t want to go. But…. I think you would be a big help.”

I thought about a baby I’d once seen at the village. He had a funny mouth. His upper lip was pulled up into part of his nose and a tooth was growing in a weird place.  I felt really awful  and sad for him, but then I saw his eyes – so big and dark and shining – and all I wanted to do was hug him and make him all better.

I nodded again to Uncle Will. “Yes, I’ll go with you. I want to.”

He grabbed me – big as I am – into his lap for a big hug, and kissed the top of my head. “Thank you, sweet Jewel!  Oh, and be sure to wear that pin.”

And I did. Before I went to bed that night, I pinned it on the shirt I would wear the next day.

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~~~~

On the way to the village the next day, Miss Debbi told us Lugono’s story.  He was one of eight kids and his mother was a widow.  (That means her husband had died.)  One night, two years before, Lugono tripped and fell face first into the open cooking fire. He got VERY bad burns on his face and burned off one eye, one ear, and half his nose.

(Let me tell you, when I heard that, I wanted to scream or cry! Oh, that poor boy!)

Miss Debbi went on to say that his mother took him to a health center, then to the Kamuzu Hospital in Lilongwe. He was there for three months!!  But they didn’t do much for him. They sent him home to die because they thought he was “a hopeless case.”

Right then, I remembered part of my “pin” verse, “joyful in hope,” but Lugono didn’t have much hope, did he?

What happened then, Miss Debbi?” I asked.

“His mother cared for him in the village. Every time she cleaned his wounds, she cried and prayed for a miracle. She never gave up hope.”

Hope….

She continued with the story, “My friend first saw him when his Mom brought him to a mobile clinic for malaria testing. Sonja contacted me because she knew I was helping to find children who needed an Operation Smile* surgery. We took pictures of Lugono and sent them in.”

She smiled. “Your uncle here is the answer to all of our prayers!”

“Julie,” said my uncle, looking right at me, “I believe we can help Lugono with some starter surgery, but he will need many more to really restore his face. The problem is, he is very frightened to have anything done. We… I… hope that you can somehow help him.”

We bumped into the village right then and I took a deep breath. I recited the whole “pin” verse to myself. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  As I stepped down from the Jeep, I prayed really hard for Lugono and for ME.

Like in every village, when visitors arrive, all the children come running, shouting, smiling, wanting to touch you, and get their picture taken. This was the fun part about visiting a village!

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I looked around, but I didn’t see any boy who might be Lugono.

Miss Debbi took us to a thatched red-brick hut. We started to go inside, but Uncle Will said we needed the sunlight to see.  Soon a woman came out leading a boy about nine years old.

And then…. “Oh, no!  Oh, no!  “Oh, please God,” I prayed to myself with all my might, “Oh, please help me not to look away from him!”

I was crying inside and praying softly and smiling and reaching out for Lugono’s hands all at the same time. I recited my “pin” verse softly even though he didn’t know what I was saying.

His poor skin was all twisted up and pulling his lips and half nose and one “good” eyelid towards the burned side.  Everything else – where no eye or ear was – was just tight, shiny, pink-spotted skin.

He looked away from us and turned to go back into the hut.

Miss Debbi said something. She pointed to me and then to Uncle Will and talked more in Chichewa. Lugono tried to look up at my tall uncle, but his skin was too tight and the eyelid wouldn’t stretch at all. My uncle, kneeled down in the red dirt in front of him. He gently ran his hand over Lugono’s face, talking softly and smiling.

Miss Debbi translated and Lugono seemed to listen. Pretty soon he looked at me as best as he could under that half-closed twisted eyelid. It was then I saw his one dark, shining, unhappy but beautiful eye gazing at me. I really think I started to love him then.

I took one of his hands and started to tell him what a good doctor my uncle was, how he had helped many, many kids by his surgeries. Then I remembered what Miss Debbi told us about his mother’s prayers.

“Lugono, God has sent my uncle-doctor as the miracle your momma prayed for. He has come to help you. Don’t be afraid to let him.”

I said it again, this way, “Your momma has been faithful in prayer. God has sent you hope, a reason to be joyful.  Please be patient and trust our good God, and let my uncle-doctor help you in your …. affliction.”

He looked at me steadily with his eye while Miss Debbi translated, and I looked back with all the love I could. Finally he nodded.

“Thank God,” I heard Uncle Will whisper as he stood up.

Then Lugono smiled. Or… he tried to smile. It was… it was horrible to see, almost like a monster’s smile.  But I knew my uncle-doctor would make it beautiful.  Make it a…. happy smile.

I looked down at my pin and without a thought, unfastened it from my shirt. I looked at Lugono and held it out for him to see.  He held it closely to one eye and… smiled again.  I took it and pinned it to HIS shirt.

I heard a joyful laugh.

I don’t know if it was from him or me!

~~~~

I saw Lugono ten days after his surgery, right before Uncle Will went back to America. The team had done many surgeries to help kids, but Lugono’s was the most wonderful to me.

Of course he still does not have an eye or an ear, and although his skin is still shiny and spotted pink, it’s not twisted so much now.

He can look out of his one eye just fine and blink. His lips work good now – he has a great smile – and his half-of-a-nose is straighter, so he can breathe through it.

Uncle Will says he will arrange for Lugono to go to America in a few months, and have more surgeries to make everything even better.

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(See Lugono and Miss Debbi and his mom in the picture?) **

~~~~

When I rode out to the village with my uncle and Miss Debbi for a last visit, Lugono was still wearing the happy face pin. He made signs asking if I wanted it back but I shook my head. Seeing HIS happy face was better than any pin could be.

To me, it was like that pin came just for him!

Before we went to the village, all my sisters and brothers – even Deek –  made cards for Luguno, with drawings, and yarn stitches, and even ribbons. He loved them and also the paper airplanes Gus and Marshall made. And he tied my mobile in a nearby tree to flip and turn and spin in the wind.

~~~~

That’s all this time. I really love writing to you. When I tell you the things that happen in our family, it’s like I can see God at work in all of us.  And THAT makes me want to thank Him so much.

Love to you,   Julie

 

http://www.operationsmile.org/

**photo acquired with permission from the Tracy Elliott newsletter

“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 (#4) “What’s In A Name?”

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

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

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

So, here is the next story!  (Scroll down, or check the list on the side bar to begin the with the FIRST story and meet the kids and their idiosyncrasies in order.)

 

 

What’s In A Name?

Hi Kids,

It’s my turn to tell you a story. You already know from Melody that I am her twin sister. She is older than me by fifteen minutes, but we were born in two different months, May and June.

That’s how we got our names. Hers is Melody May and mine is Charity June. Being twins, we look alike, but we don’t act alike. She is friendly and daring and thinks of other people’s feelings. I’m not like that. Sometimes I get jealous and even mean.

Everyone calls her by her first name, but they call me by my second name.

I always wondered why.

One day, I complained to Mom, “Kids in Sunday School sing about my sister’s name, Making Melody in my Heart, to the King of Kings, why can’t they sing Making Charity in my Heart instead?”

(Charity means giving some of your old things to poor people who really need it. That’s a good thing, right?)

Mom looked off over my head, with a small smile on her mouth as if she was remembering something good, and then answered, “You’ll grow into it one day, June.”

What?? How do you grow into your name? Don’t you grow into it when you are born?

The story Julie Joy wants me to tell you started way back in December when it was Christmas time here in Malawi. It was also Deek’s second birthday.

Our Grandpa and Grandma Matthews came to visit us. Maybe because it was Christmas and Deek’s birthday or maybe they wanted to see how we were doing in Malawi. They were very tired at first. I takes thirty-five HOURS to travel here from America!

One thing I noticed right away was that they brought four extra suitcases of stuff for us – like clothes and school books and special shampoos for mom, and vitamins and first aid stuff, and a new computer battery for Dad’s laptop. There were also presents for Deek’s birthday, AND Christmas presents for all of us!

On Christmas morning we all had hot oatmeal with the toppings we each like best – three flavors of yogurt, raisins, granola, nuts, chocolate chips, and brown sugar (which Mom makes by mixing white sugar and molasses together because there is no such thing as brown sugar in Malawi! Weird, huh?).

We had a special Christmas service at our church, but this time Dad didn’t have a part. We sang Christmas carols, and then our regular pastor read the Christmas story from the Bible. He invited my Grandpa to pray, which kind of surprised me, until I found out that Grandpa and Grandma used to be a missionaries too, in some other place called Borneo.

(Do you know where that is?)

Some of the ladies at church gave us waxed paper wrapped packages of cookies and pumpkin bread. Mom gave them little baggies of her very special brownies.

We had a big Christmas lunch, with six small roasted chickens called “baby chickens” at the Chipiku (Ch’-PEE-koo) market in Lilongwe, our town. (They are actually Cornish Hens, my mom says.) We also had roasted potatoes, slices of red, red tomatoes, and canned peach halves. We had Jell-O that Grandma made in layers of red and green, and for dessert Mom made three apple pies. We ate all of them!!

Anyway…. we FINALLY got to the opening of presents. We sat in chairs in a big circle in our main room. The windows and doors were all open because it was hot and a cool wind was coming in because a storm was brewing.

(By the way, mosquito screens cover every opening in the house because those tiny flying bugs like to come inside and bite us and sometimes make us sick with malaria!)

It was darker than usual in the house with the storm clouds covering the sun, even though it wasn’t raining yet, so mom turned on the lights. We had a tiny little plastic Christmas tree that Grandpa and Grandma also brought. It had a flashlight battery inside, making the colored lights shine out.

After we opened our presents from Mom and Dad, Dad passed out all the ones from Grandpa and Grandma. We each got two. Marshall got a pocket camera and a really cool knife with lots of things that open up. Julie got a soft fuzzy blue bathrobe and slippers and a matching Disney “Frozen” hairbrush.

Melody got a new board game and a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle. April got a set of twelve kid’s books and a pen with her name on it. Gus got a miniature train set in two boxes. And Deek got a little tricycle, two coloring books, and a big box of “washable” markers. (Mom made sure they were washable.)

I got a plastic jar of Jelly Belly jelly beans! All flavors! My favorite candy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then I started to open the flat box on my lap. I was so excited. Was it a scrapbook or a giant book of crossword and word search puzzles? Was it game that took batteries and made noise?

Nope. It was none of those.

It was a picture in a frame with glass on the front. The frame didn’t even look new, but was worn and scratched in a lot of places. And, worse yet, the picture wasn’t even a picture. It was a bunch of words and designs in sewing, AND the glass looked foggy. It looked like something that someone didn’t want any more and gave to us “poor” missionary kids. It was like… like charity…. given to ME!

I dumped the old sewing picture on the floor and picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candies. I hugged them, looking around at my sisters and brothers. They were all “wow-ing” about their presents and trying them out, thanking Grandpa and Grandma, even giving them hugs.

Mom came over quietly and picked up the framed picture. She sat by me, holding it so I had to look at it. I did, for a minute, and then turned away.

“It’s a sampler,” she said. “People long ago made these to remember important sayings, often from the Bible. They did their very best stitchery on them, sometimes taking months to finish. This one was made by your –.”

“It’s ugly, and I don’t want it,” I cried in a mad whisper. I slapped it away, and it fell to the floor with a clunk.

Just then a huge, loud thunder sounded and the lights went out. Mom and Dad and Marshall stumbled around through all the furniture and wrapping paper to light the candles.

In Malawi, we are used to the electricity going out, especially in storms. Mom keeps a bunch of white candles with matches all over the house on high shelves for when this happens.

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Once they were all lit, we could see again, but not as well as before. The light was dim and yellowish and the flames wiggled back and forth from the wind.

It started to rain so Dad got up and closed a couple of the windows. Then it got more warm and humid. I noticed that the old picture on the floor got covered up by some torn wrapping paper. I was glad.

“How lovely!” said Grandma. “Perfect light and sound effects for singing some joyful Christmas songs!”

I didn’t feel like singing songs. I didn’t feel joyful. I felt mad. Why didn’t I get fun presents like everybody else? I went over to where Melody and April were setting up the new game.

“Come play too,” said April, making room in all the wrapping paper on the floor for me to sit.

“I don’t want to play your stupid game. I pushed the game board with my foot and scattered all the pieces.

“Ju-une, why did you do that?” wailed Melody. I can’t find the other dice now in all these ribbons and papers. Mom, make June help us find the pieces.”

“It’s right there,” I said and kicked the little square with my toe. Are you blind or something!”

When I backed up, I tripped over an empty box and lost my balance. I fell with a thud on one of Gus’s little train engines.

“Owwww!” I yelled!

“Mo-om-m,” Gus yelled back. “She messed up my train!

Dad came over then and helped me up. But he didn’t let loose of my arm. Instead he marched me out to the kitchen.

“June, what’s the matter with you? Why are you being so mean?” he asked.

“Everybody got good presents, but I didn’t!” I cried back.

“What about the Jelly Belly candy? I thought those were your favorites.”

“They are,” I said in a small voice, my head bent over. When I looked up I was crying. Not sad tears but mad tears. “I wanted some puzzle books, or a new hair brush, or markers. I wanted a computer game or something, and all I got was an old picture! I hate it.”

“June,” said my dad. “You need to go to your room until you can come out with a happy face.”

That would be NEVER, I thought and stomped into the main room.

When I picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candy, I stepped on something under the wrapping paper. I heard a crack, but with so much noise, no one heard. I hoped it was a game piece or a toy train car.

In my room, I slammed the door shut, but everyone was singing, “Hark, The Herald Angles Sing” as loud as they could and didn’t hear me. It was raining hard now and thundering. I felt like that inside, like the storm.

I opened the Jelly Belly jar and ate a few green ones. I ate some red and red-spotted ones next. Then I poured a whole handful and popped them all into my mouth all at once and chewed.

MKJellyBeans.jpg
They sang “The First Noel” and I ate white jelly beans. They sang “Angels We have Heard on High” and I ate yellow and orange jelly beans.

I was starting to feel sick when I heard a knock on my door. Everyone was singing “Silent Night” now, but I didn’t feel like eating any more candy, not even the blueberry ones. The big jar was half empty!!

I heard Grandpa call to me and crack open the door.

“Oh, good!” cried Grandpa. “There you are, June. Come out here and sit by me. I want you to help me with something.”

What could I do? Besides I didn’t really want to stay in my room alone any more. I put down the candy and followed him down the hall. When he sat down, I squeezed into his chair beside him.

“We were going to read the Christmas story again, but my old eyes can’t see very well in the candlelight. Would you read it for me from this very old Bible?” He lifted a big old book from the table beside him and set it in my lap. It was heavy and very thick and had gold writing on the front.

I sighed. I started to turn to Luke 2, but Grandpa said, “No, turn to Philippians 2 this time.

What? Everyone knows the Christmas story is in Luke. It tells about baby Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem, and the angels singing Peace on Earth, and the shepherds going to look at the baby. I was curious as I turned the old pages back to Philippians.

“Start right there, June.” He pointed to verse 5. “This Christmas story begins before Bethlehem. Before Nazareth. It begins… in Heaven.”

So, I read until he stopped me after verse 9.

 “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names…”

“That’s not the Christmas story, Grandpa!” I said.

“It isn’t?” he asked.

I read it again, to myself.

Well… it did tell about Jesus coming, but it went way past that, to the Easter story. Actually… way past THAT too. To Jesus going back to heaven. And what was that about a new name. Wasn’t He going to be called Jesus anymore?

That made me think about my OWN name problem and I didn’t want to do that. I started to close the Bible, but Grandpa stopped me.

“Here, look up another verse or two for me, will you?” He told me where and I found 1 John 4 and started reading aloud at verse 9.

“By this hath the charity of God….”

My eyes stopped at the fifth word – Charity?

“Go on,” said Grandpa.

“By this hath the charity of God, appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.” 

I stared at those words. The reason God sent Jesus at Christmas was for….charity??? He gave something of His own – not an old throw away thing, but His very own Son – to the world because we were…what? Poor and needy? Like the Malawian villagers we sometimes take old clothes and food to?

It didn’t make sense.

“But…. we’re not poor and needy, Grandpa. We have a LOT of things. Why would God think we needed charity? Okay, okay, some people in the world need it…..”

Grandpa looked at me with his kind eyes.

“Sweetheart,” he said softly. “We ALL need very much what God is giving. Without it we are all lost. You remember in the Bible where it says we ALL have done bad things against God and other people… even our family. We couldn’t even come close to God’s high standard. We all have hearts that make us want to do bad. God is perfectly good (we call that being holy) and he can’t be with people who aren’t perfectly good too.

The Bible says we deserve God’s punishment for living that way. It’s only fair, don’t you think?”

My mind flashed to how I always tell Mom about the bad things my sisters and brothers do so they will get in trouble and get disciplined. Well, they should get punished, right? They did bad things! Yes, THAT was fair, I knew. But… God’s punishment…that was too scary to think about.

Grandpa went on, “We need God’s forgiveness for all those things we’ve done. He could just ignore them or erase them, but would that be fair to Him or to the ones we’ve sinned against? Would it be fair for someone to get off completely free from any punishment?

I shook my head no.

“The Bible says that God is just. That means He is fair.”

I never thought about God being fair, only that He loved us.

“All people, including Grandma and me, and your Dad and Mom and everyone – all people have broken God’s good laws and disobeyed His Word. We deserve his punishment. Don’t you think?”

I nodded, but it was hard to think about.

“That’s where Jesus comes in,” Grandpa said with a big smile. “He is God’s precious son, but God sent him from heaven to earth – yes as a baby in a stable – to get punished for us, punished for all the disobedience and sin we have done. Yes, He did this because He loved us so much, but also because He is just. He’s fair.”

It all didn’t seem fair to me. How could it be fair for Jesus who was perfect, to get punished for people who were sinful? And yet, He did it. I know all the Bible stories from Sunday School.

“We need something else too, June,” Grandpa said. “We need God’s perfect goodness. You see, we really ARE “poor and needy” after all! We need His…. charity…. as you call it.”

He smiled and patted my knee. “We don’t have anything to pay God for His goodness. (The Bible calls it righteousness.) What could we give Him? Even if we lived perfectly for the rest of our lives – and we couldn’t – it wouldn’t be enough.”

I was beginning to feel really bad listening to Grandpa. I was thinking of the mean things I had said and done to my sisters and brothers, how I always wanted to have the things THEY had and maybe made up stories to get them in trouble because I was jealous… and how I always wanted to make myself look really good and them really bad… and how I never admitted I did anything wrong even when I did sometimes.

I wondered how could I ever get this goodness from God that I needed, like Grandpa was talking about. So I asked him. “How can I get this goodness?”

Grandpa smiled. In fact he gave a happy little laugh. “God gives it to us as a gift. Just like He gives us forgiveness. He can give it, because someone else has paid for it. Do you know who?”

My eyes went to the figures of the nativity scene we have on a low bookcase. I saw the little baby in the manger.

mk-xmas-nativity

I thought how He grew up and always obeyed God, and how He died unfairly so that I wouldn’t be punished for my sin. So I…. so I would also have…. God’s goodness instead of a heart that wants to do bad.

I looked back at Grandpa, my eyes and my mouth wide open.

“Yes, June. Yes!” he cried and gave me a big bear hug. “God did a wonderful exchange when Jesus died. He took our sin, and gave us back His forgiveness and His goodness.”

Wow, it made sense to me now. I have a lot of stuff – I thought about all the things in my room and about my family and friends – but I didn’t have everything. I did need God’s charity; I needed His giving me His forgiveness and His goodness. Boy, I sure was needy and poor!!

It made me want to thank Him. Thank Him very much!

And then I wanted to thank Grandma and Grandpa for the candy, and even for that old sewing picture, because it must have meant something special to them.

I got up and shuffled through the wrapping paper on the floor till I found the picture. But…. oh no! There was a big spider crack in the glass, just over the bottom word that was sewn bigger than the rest. I wanted to cry now. My first thought was to blame it on someone else, but I knew it was me who stepped on it. I had heard that crack sound.

I went to Grandpa very slowly, my eyes filling with tears. “I’m sorry Grandpa and Grandma. I ruined the picture you gave me. I didn’t want it at first, but now I do.” And I started crying really hard.

I didn’t know it, kids, but all my brothers and sisters and even Mom and Dad were staring at me in surprise.

Grandma got up and took me in her arms. “Charity June, we forgive you. The glass can be replaced. And it doesn’t look like the embroidered sampler is hurt at all.”

Grandpa was already gently pulling out the pieces of glass and laying them on top of that old Bible on the table beside him. With the glass out, I could clearly read the emboider—the cross-stitch letters and see tiny hearts that made a frame around them on the cloth. It said…

And now abides

Faith,

Hope,

Charity,

these three;

but the greatest

of these is…

Charity

1 Corinthians 13:13

And in very tiny letters at the bottom… C.G.H.

My Grandma took the picture gently in her hands and lightly traced her finger over the letters. “This sampler was embroidered by your great, great grandmother, Charity Grace Hill, in 1902 when she was about 12 years old. We have cherished it in the family all these years.”

I looked at the stitched words again. They were over 100 years old!

“You were named after her, June, did you know that? We thought it was time for you to have the sampler now.” Her hands were shaking when she gave it to me. “Maybe before we go back to America, we will tell you her story. She lived up to her name, you know.”

“Did she give a lot of things to the poor?” I asked.

“June,” Grandpa interrupted, “Don’t you know what “charity” means? It’s an old English word. You read it in the verses tonight.”

I shook my head.

“Charity means LOVE, a special kind of Godly love” He repeated the verse in 1 John from his old Bible, “In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first LOVED us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.”

~~~~~

One day, much later, after Grandpa and Grandma had gone back to America, Mom asked me, “Well, June, do you want us to start calling you Charity now?”

Her question surprised me. I thought about what I had learned from the special Christmas story we’d read in Grandpa’s old Bible. I thought about the wonderful things my great, great grandmother had done (Yes, Grandma told me her story). I thought about the old sampler picture (with new clear glass now) that was hanging on the wall by my bed. And I thought about what Charity really means.

“Mom,” I said. “I think I need some more time to grow into that name.

And that’s my story, kids!

Love,  Charity June

Well…..I’m still just June for now.

— Facts —

The electricity goes out often in Malawi, sometimes for whole days at a time. When it does, you don’t get any water in your pipes either, because electricity is needed to pump in your water. People who live in houses always have spare water in big plastic bottles, all purified and ready to drink or cook with. 

They also keep buckets of water next to their toilets, so they can be flushed. (Did you know your toilet won’t flush unless water is coming through the pipes?)

Sometimes missionaries have a generator if they can afford it. It runs on gasoline and is noisy, but it will make some electricity for a while. But you can’t use hairdryers or plug in your Internet when you are using generator electricity.

And sometimes…. in the dry months, there is just NO water to pump, even if the electricity is working. And when it does come back, it is muddy from the red dirt in Malawi.  Here’s what came out of our broken water heater.  Ewwww!

MK.Malawi mud.jpg

 

Missionaries have to think of all this and buy drinking water in big bottles from the Chipiku market so they are prepared.

How would you like to live in Malawi with the electricity problems? In some ways, it is like camping. In other ways….. you just want to take a bath in clean bubbly water and go get a drink any time you want.

Next time… maybe Marshall will tell you HIS story about a…. criminal!

 

 

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

“Charlie” & Lazarus, a parable

lazarus-01Jesus told this story to men who were lovers of money, who ridiculed Him on His teaching about using money for the Kingdom of God, about being faithful to use what what they had, and about not being able to serve BOTH God AND money.

 

“You either hate one and love the other, or are devoted to one and despise the other. God knows your hearts. What men value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”

“There were two men……

A rich man (we will call him Charlie) and a very poor man named Lazarus.

Charlie lived in a fine house in a gated community.

Lazarus lived on the cold sidewalk outside the gate.

Charlie was clothed in purple and fine linen.

Lazarus was “clothed” in sores.

Charlie feasted sumptuously, every day.

Lazarus begged for just a few… crumbs.

While Charlie was probably pampered by a dozen slaves, Lazarus had his sores licked by dogs.

Then….both men died.

Charlie was buried (a grand funeral, no doubt, laid out in silken robes with flowery wreathes).  He went straight to Hades, and was in torment, in anguish, in flames.

Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s side where he was comforted and had access to refreshing cool water.

Charlie: “Oh, please, Father Abraham, send Lazarus with a cool drop of water for the tip of my tongue, for it is burning beyond what I can bear!”

Abraham: “Lazarus can neither hear you nor see you.  He is being comforted and healed from all the abuse and misuse he suffered on earth.  Sorry, Charlie… it’s not going to happen!  Your days of ordering slaves and servants to meet your every need are over.  Besides… there is this huge chasm between where YOU are, and where WE are.”

Charlie: “Then…. I beg you, Abraham, send Lazarus to my five brothers to warn them about this place!”

Abraham: “No, Charlie. Your five brothers have Moses & the Prophets (the Bible).  Let them listen to them!”

Charlie: “No, they do not read the Bible. They don’t know any of that. But… if you would send someone from the dead (Lazarus), they would believe him, I know!”

Abraham, with a sigh: “If they do not believe Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced if Someone (Jesus) was raised from the dead.”

~~~ from Luke 16.

 

Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

After Jesus’ resurrection, He joined two disciples walking to Emmaus, and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Later, to his own close disciples, Jesus said, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them,“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

***

Oh, be prepared for your last day! Read, listen to, meditate on, believe, and obey all God says in His Word about Jesus and the gift of faith and salvation. His Word is truth. Search the scriptures, for they testify of Jesus Christ, and in them you will find  eternal life. Be a “doer” of that Word and not only a superficial “hearer.”

Bible Helps on Who/What/How to Pray

Last November, after asking God to show me how to pray more wisely and fervently, and for the people that HE desired, I looked to His Word for guidance. To the back of His Word to be exact. I looked up PRAY in my Bible’s concordance and started studying the verses listed. They really opened my eyes and I began to pray for the people who came to mind with each of those passages.

I spent several days – maybe even a week – on each one, praying for those whom God revealed from each set of verses. And I would often go back and review the whole list up to that day.

Soon after that, I wrote the post, “Using My Bible’s Concordance to Pray” (http://bit.ly/1InncvX), hoping that it might inspire YOU to try it.

Bible study     I found about 16 verses in the Old Testament and 24 in the New Testament of my concordance (yours may be different, depending on the version you use). Some verses were very similar and I grouped these together.

Here are a few more that I found in the Old Testament:

6. pray for the “wicked” that God would repay injustice on them, or…. if they repent, that He would show them mercy. (You’ll find lots of these in today’s news, and they are hard to pray for.)

7. pray for myself by confessing my sin and my need to depend on God.

8. pray for those who are burdened, depressed, and despondent because of the battles going on in their lives. (emotional, marital, physical, spiritual)

9. pray for peace in Jerusalem (that the Gospel would be proclaimed, heard, and believed; so that the perfect peace of God would reign in hearts)

10. pray for those who worship idols (literally, in 3rd world countries, and here in the US, where we make money, fame, possessions – anything that we desire more than knowledge and fellowship with God – into an idol)

11. pray for “kings and governments.” I included law makers, legislators, the military, financial, economic & health leaders, police, courts, judges etc., so that we can live peaceable lives and have freedom to share the Gospel. (specific names, if you can – remember this is an election year!)

12. AND THEN CAME A FEW SCARY PASSAGES!  We are NOT to pray for, intercede for, or cry out to God for – people who willfully refuse to hear His Word, obey His commandments, or repent. We are to only warn them. (especially hard if these are loved ones, but trust God)

A week before Christmas, I began on the New Testament references for PRAY.

13. (this one out of order, but I was studying in there) pray for the children of the faithful – that they will “walk in the truth.”

14. pray for those who persecute you for righteousness’ sake

Bible study.prayer15. (A how-to passage) pray with the heart attitudes that Jesus taught his disciples, avoiding those that “puff up” your ego (those won’t be heard anyway).

16. (Another how to passage) pray the “attitudes and aspects” of the “Lord’s Prayer.”

And that’s where I am today.  I will spend more time on #15 and #16 before going on. There is so much to learn about the way of praying that God hears, loves and answers.

STAYED TUNED, I know there is so much more I (we) can learn in the New Testament about WHO to pray for, WHY they need prayer, and HOW to pray for them as God desires.  Be sure to let God bring specific people to mind as you study, and pray for them that day, week, or however often you recall them. Otherwise this study is only “head knowledge.”

Thank, You Father for showing me this way to pray for others. Help me to fellowship and commune with You in prayer and Bible study every day.

How Do You Answer Such questions?

What day is this?

“Why, it’s Tuesday.” (There’s only one answer to this one, although you might add the month and date, depending.)

What am I supposed to be doing? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing!

“The laundry, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, writing thank-you notes, feeding the dog….”  (lots of answers to this question, depending on the time and situation and person).

Question marks1But, what if these questions are asked repeatedly, over and over, in an unceasing, annoying, frustrating, pull-your-hair-out-by-the-roots-and-scream way, many, many times a day?

What if they are asked by someone you love, someone who is struggling mentally to understand?

The easiest (but perhaps not the best) way to reply is to answer their question directly.

Then answer the question a second time.

old man2Then, answer it again. And again. Try not to let your voice get sharper and your blood pressure higher. Try not to say, “You just ASKED that question, aren’t you LISTENING?” or “Why do you want to KNOW?” or “It’s TUESDAY, TUESDAY, TUESDAY!!!” (By that time, it may be Wednesday. You might have to check your calendar.)

But that’s just it. YOU can check your calendar with understanding. YOU can see what you need to do, where you need to go, who you need to call, what event is coming up that you need to prepare for.

They probably can’t.

How about that second question? It’s maybe a bit easier to keep your cool because you can answer it – at first – in a variety of ways. “Oh, honey, all you have to do is just sit there and look at your magazine.”  “Oh, nothing. Just enjoy the sunshine.”  “Right now, just finish your sandwich.” “Nothing! You aren’t supposed to be doing ANYTHING….Sweetheart.”

old lady3For a loved one who has worked hard all their life, been on a busy schedule with lots of responsibilities, to not have anything to do is frightening and worrisome.

What if they are forgetting something important? What if they are supposed to be some where and will get into trouble if they don’t show up? What if…?

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

I’ve had only a little experience with questions like this.  And I admit, I am not a good care giver. I’m not patient and kind, as the scripture says. Not long-suffering and slow to anger, as God is. Not loving and gentle, as Jesus was with the little children, which is what so many of our elderly are becoming like.

It’s so frustrating. It’s so heart-breaking.

While I was praying this morning and reading the Bible, God gave me some wonderful ANSWERS to those questions.

What day is this?

old man.woman“This is the day that the LORD has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!!” (Perhaps sing a song or two that they have known, or a simple chorus. Encourage them to sing along. If they are able, encourage them to get up and dance a few steps.)

This is the day of salvation! Let’s not harden our hearts against God, but say aloud all the wondrous things  He has done for us, especially for saving us from our sin, by sending Jesus to die in our place!

(Say honestly and with sincerity, “Thank you, LORD!” Encourage them to think about what they are thankful for. This may be hard, but keep at it, give them hints.)

What am I supposed to be doing? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing!
old lady woman4Here are some wonderful things from God’s Word that you can tell them they are “supposed to be doing” (as are all believers):

–Rejoice in the Lord. (Show them how!)

–Sing songs, hymns, choruses (aloud and to themselves).

–Pray for a friend (or an enemy or a missionary). You begin and let them pray too.

–Confess your sins to God. (Remind them He forgives.)

–Share (preach) the Gospel. (Have them tell their testimony – how they were saved – if only to YOU, it will be priceless, I promise, and they are sure to remember long ago events.)

–Praise (magnify) God for some of his attributes. (Loving, slow to anger, compassionate, powerful, kind, forgiving, healing, protecting.)

–Read the Bible. (If they can, or talk about familiar passages they might know or have memorized.)

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

I’m encouraged by this.  Maybe it won’t satisfy them in the long run, but I can turn some of these frustrating times (and annoying repetitive questions) into precious moments spent with a loved one,  together with the LORD.