Archives

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

mk-story-covers

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.)

 

Advertisements

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.

mk-smlbridge

“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!”

mk-happy-face-1

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.

mk-happy-face-2

~~~~

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!

100_5255-copy

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.

mk-lazaro-and-2-close

(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 (#7) “Just Pretending”

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

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

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

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

“Just Pretending”

Hi kids,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, here she comes…finally!

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

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

 

Hello there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it happened.

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

mk-stories-anne-of-green-gables

~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But…”

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

“Pretending….”

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

I shook my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mk-stories-sower-seeds

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

~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, it was going to be so good!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mk-stories-mary-m-jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOYS!

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

Melody is so mean.

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

~~~~

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

“Body!” repeated Deek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got up quickly.

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

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

“Please to hurry,” urged Asala again.

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

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

“Go, tell her come!” repeated Asala.

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

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

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

“And the dogs!” I whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

icash

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

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

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

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

mk-stories-cop-and-matt

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

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

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

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

“But the dead body, Daddy—-”

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

mk-stories-funeral2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go ahead, April.”

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

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

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

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

I felt like laughing. So I did!

 

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

Love,  April Grace

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Thief!

Hi kids!

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

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

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

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

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, my,” said Mom.

“Hmmm,” said Dad. “Needs some work.”

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

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

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

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

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

mk-spider

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

~

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

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

nets-copy

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

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

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

img_3124

 

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

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

~

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

100_5464

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

Then the cell phone rang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go get the Rover,” Dad said to him.

3

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that like a doctor?” asked Gus.

“Shhhh!” June said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mk-stories-black-mamaba2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See ya!  Marshall

 

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

Don’t Blame Me

Lubeck cathedral

Don’t Blame Me.

These are the ancient words of a poem carved in a gothic, medieval alphabet on a cathedral door in Lubeck, Germany.

Translated into modern English, the words take the form of a frightening poem, calling believers as well as unbelievers to look to ‘the thoughts and  intents’ of their hearts.

 

You call me eternal, then do not seek me
You call me fair, then do not love me
You call me gracious, then do not trust me
You call me just, then do not fear me

You call me life, then do not choose me
You call me light, then do not see me
You call me Lord, then do not respect me
You call me master, then do not obey me

You call me merciful, then do not thank me
You call me mighty, then do not honor me
You call me noble, then do not serve me
You call me rich, then do not ask me

You call me Savior, then do not praise me
You call me shepherd, then do not follow me
You call me the Way, then do not walk with me
You call me wise, then do not heed me

You call me Son of God, then do not worship me
When I condemn you….. then do not blame me.

I heard these words this morning in a recorded sermon by John McArthur.* They were written anonymously centuries ago, perhaps chiseled by a workman at the behest of a clergyman whose love for God and life of service were growing cold. Or, possibly by a zealous minister seeing his congregation becoming prideful, insincere, and self-satisfied. The year was 1173, but the wisdom of the poem is for us to consider today.

McArthur’s sermon was titled “Beware of Hypocrisy” from his Living Real series (1969). He referred to verses in Matthew 6 and 7 from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before man, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’.”

These are sobering, convicting words by Christ, meant to shake hypocrites from their self righteous pride and turn them (repent) to the only Righteous One, for true salvation.

Although I am a believer and I trust fully in the Lord Jesus for my salvation and righteousness before God, I still at times walk in pride, ego, selfishness, and hypocrisy toward God and others.  This prayer is my heart, crying out today for genuine love toward my God and for a life that honors him in all I do.

prayer, woman by bed

 

“O, God and Father of my Lord Jesus, help me not to live in hypocrisy!

Help me to heed your words of wisdom and walk in your Way, living gratefully the redeemed life you have given me through your Son, Jesus.  May my heart seek you, obey you, and honor you in all I do.

Help me to see you as the ultimate Light and Truth and to seek you with all my heart and soul.  Help me to trust in your grace absolutely and thank you always for your mercy and forgiveness. You are eternal, almighty, sovereign; my Lord and King. 

Help me as your child to freely ask ‘anything’ of you because you are rich beyond all my imagination, and You delight in supplying my needs and giving good gifts to me.

O Shepherd, Savior, Son of God, I worship you. Fill my heart and my mouth with praise and gratitude. Make me true!” 

  

 

*John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College & Seminary, and featured teacher with the “Grace to You” media ministry. All of John’s 3,500 sermons, spanning more than four decades of ministry, are available for free on this website.

In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church.   The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage

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.