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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(Jesus): “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 an dput 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 Mecicine 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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“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.

 

 

A month’s worth of daily prayers from James

A way to use scripture to direct my heart to Him each day in prayer. (Copy and print them out in two columns, fold over and put in your Bible for your quiet times.)

12144585-hands-folded-in-prayer-over-open bible

  1. Help me to joyfully thank You for trials and testing today, knowing that they produce patience and spiritual maturity in me. (1:2-4)
  1. Remind me to confidently ask for wisdom and help in trials, knowing that you will give it. (1:5)
  1. Strengthen my faith, keep me from doubting Your promises. (1:6-7)
  1. Help me recognize and resist the temptations that come from my own flesh and from the world. (1:13-14, 27 b)
  1. Thank You for all the good and perfect gifts You give me. (1:17)
  1. Thank You for being unchangeable, steadfast and faithful. (1:17)
  1. Help me to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (1:19)
  1. Thank You for saving me! (1:21 b)
  1. Help me to truly hear and obey Your word, and not just study it intellectually. (1:22-25)
  1. Keep me from sinning with my words today. (1:26)
  1. Show me how to demonstrate Your love and compassion to the sick and needy today.  (1:27)
  1. Keep me from showing partiality to others for what it will profit me. (2:1-7)
  1. Help me to demonstrate love for others by my actions. Show me how to be merciful and kind. (2:12-13)
  1. Teach me to give generously to the needy. (2:15-16)
  1. Keep me from being proud of my salvation. Remind me that faith is a gift and not something that I have worked for. (2:19-23)
  1. In my desire to teach others, protect me from error, and keep me from arrogant pride. (3:1-2a)
  1. Teach me how to bridal my tongue, knowing that I am otherwise useless to You. (3:3-4)
  1. Remind me how much evil and hurt my words can do to others. May my words today contain only blessings and affirmation. (3:5-10)
  1. Give me a wise and understanding heart. Let Your perfect wisdom guide every decision. (3:13)
  1. Cleanse me of bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition. (3:14-16)
  1. Help me be open to reason, peaceful, gentle, sincere, and full of good fruit and works. (3:1 7-18)
  1. Keep me from a quarrelsome attitude. (4:1-2)
  1. Teach me how to pray unselfishly.(4:3)
  1. Show me how to humble myself before You today. Thank You for your promise of grace. (4:6-10)
  1. Keep me from speaking evil of fellow believers, from criticizing or belittling them. (4:11-12)
  1. Help me always to seek Your will before making plans for the day and to wait patiently for Your direction. (4:13-16)
  1. Help me to do the right thing, even if it is hard or costly or humbling. (4:17)
  1. Keep me from loving money. Instead, focus my eyes on Your faithfulness and care for me. (5:1-3)
  1. Help me to be content in every hard situation and trial, and to rest in Your promises and presence. (5:7-11)
  1. Help my words to always be trustworthy. Keep me from any lies or deceit. (5:12)
  1. Teach me to pray with faith in all ways and circumstances: joyfully praise You, fervently intercede for others and myself, honestly confess my sins, knowing You hear and answer. (5:13-16)

 

 

Worldliness and The Word

ipad_mini 2254930bHalf way through my allotted time for Bible Reading and Prayer this morning, I was reading emails and posting on Facebook from my iPad.  My Bible, prayer journal and pen, and my “Morning & Evening” devotional book by Charles Spurgeon lay beside me…unopened. 

Once again I had been lured away from spending that first hour or two of the day with my God in prayer and reading the Word.

Half, yes, HALF of my precious time was gone! I’d wasted it on frivolous things, seeing who was ‘following’ me, who wanted to ‘like’ me or comment on a post I wrote, or who ‘desperately’ needed an email response from me right now!

Me. Me. Me.  All me, and not a thought for my God…  Groan.

O Father in Heaven,  I am so guilty of breaking Your first commandment, of putting other things (gods) before you in my heart and mind. Why did they seem so important?

I want to love You and serve You and obey You with ALL my heart. O please forgive me. Cleanse my heart and mind of worldliness and selfishness and glory-seeking. May I not presume on Your grace and mercy and love.  They are so precious to me. I thank You for grace and for forgiveness which was bought for me with the blood and death on the cross of your precious Son, Jesus.

And yet, I keep sinning this way, putting other things (self) before You in my heart and mind. I’m acting as if Your Word were only there “in case of emergency” or to read “if I have extra time.” But I love You! I love your Word!  I hate that I am so easily lured away.

Father, use the Sword of the Spirit (Your Word) to prick and slice and stab me when I seek other things before and besides You. Remind me that without You I am lost. Without Your Word  I am adrift with no way to hear Your Voice.

  • “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” ~~~ 1 John 2:15
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” ~~~ Matthew 22:37
  • “I love you, O Lord, my strength!” ~~~ Psalm 18:1
  • “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things!” ~~~ Psalm 119.37
  • “I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. ” ~~~ Psalm 119:48
  • “(My) delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law (I will) meditate day and night.” ~~~ Psalm 1:2
  • “O God, You are my God; early will I seek you…”  “My soul will be satisfied… when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” ~~~ Psalm 63, 1, 5-6