This story is the THIRD in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa.
Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children, (but the baby can’t write yet!).
I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences (and similarities) such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, and show how they face the same temptations, emotions, and problems that all kids everywhere do. I hope to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them truths from the Bible, God’s Word, as it pertains to their everyday lives.
So, here is the next story! (Scroll down, or check the list on the side bar to begin the with the FIRST story and meet the kids and their idiosyncrasies in order.)
The Eyes In The Well!
I’m Melody’s oldest sister, just after our brother, Marshall. My parents named me Julie Joy Matthews. Can you guess what month I was born in? I’ll give you a hint – it’s the 7th month. And I was born on the 7th day! I was only four years old when my parents became missionaries to Malawi. Now I’m twelve and a half. I don’t remember much about living in America, except when we visit there every couple of years.
Right now, it’s getting cooler in Malawi, just the opposite of where you live. We have hot, wet winters, and cool dry summers. All the grass is brown and dry now. When the warm and wet season comes, November to April, everything is green because of all the rain. We get “buckets and barrels” of rain then! (That’s what Mom says.) And also very loud thunder and flashes of lightening.
Sometimes I worry that our house will just wash away, but Dad says NO WAY that will happen. The rain stops just as fast as it starts, leaving everything dripping and muggy under a blue sky.
Well, we had a freak rain storm this summer (remember it’s usually cool and dry then). It rained really hard – you could hardly see across the yard for all the rain. It was pouring off our roof too, and the driveway got flooded fast.
It was that day that something happened in the very back corner of our yard. Usually the rain rushes down our driveway in the front, under our big gate, and into the culvert by the road, like in the picture.
BUT…. as I was watching it out the window that day, the flooding water changed direction. It went along the wall to the very BACK corner of our yard.
Where would it go from there, I wondered, because we have a very tall brick wall all the way around our property. Would it stop up against the wall and flood our whole yard? Would it go into our garage or into our gardener’s little house at the other corner of the back yard?
Pretty soon I was biting the corner of my bottom lip, like I always do when I get worried. I was holding my little brother Deek (on my hip like my Mom does) as I watched the water do this weird thing out the kitchen window.
Deek noticed I was getting nervous. He started patting my mouth and saying “no biii, Ju-lee.”
Then I smelled something … well, let’s just say, I had to go change his diaper.
I didn’t think about the rain water rushing backwards till the next day. It was sunny then and everything was dried out again. I was swinging Deek and playing soccer ball catch with Gus and April. Gus went to play toy cars in the dirt and Deek followed him.
I started back to the far corner of the yard where the water had gone. It wasn’t flooded at all. Where did all that rain go to?
Marshall and Ngunda (nnnn-GOON-dah), our gardener, were trying to pry up a big wild plant. I laughed as they pushed and pulled one way and the other. That big weed did not want to come out! Marshall looked at me and then glanced back at the corner of the yard. April was there staring down at something.
“What’s she doing, Jule?” Marshall asked quickly. “There might be snakes around. Go get her!”
I looked where he was pointing and saw poor April leaning over something. Her arms started swinging around like wind mills. She looked like she was falling.
“April!” I screamed, and started running towards her. I felt Marshall charge past me. He reached out and grabbed April’s shirt right between her shoulder blades and pulled her backward. She was very pale and scared and turned around to cling tightly to Marshall.
What was it? A snake? I know that black mamba snakes are very poisonous, and can spit poison into your eyes from six feet away!! Did we have one in our yard? Did April almost step on one… or a NEST of them??
I got to where they were standing, all the while looking down at the grass for a snake. I slid to a stop and stared down. Now I knew where all that rain water had gone.
There, just where April almost fell was a big… black… hole!
Quickly I looked over my shoulder for my brothers, but Gus and Deek were happily playing with their trucks. Whew!
“Here, Jule,” said Marshall, and pushed April toward me. “Let’s have a look here.”
He went closer to the black hole and knelt down. I copied him and so did April, only I kept her back a little. We peered over the edge and could see….. nothing. Just blackness. No bottom. I felt a kind of shiver go up my back.
Marshall picked up a rock about the size of an egg and tossed it into the hole. Immediately it disappeared into the blackness.
“Wow,” said Marshall.
“Well,” said Ngunda and startled us. He was shaking his head slowly. “A very old well we have here. It supposed to be covered.” He looked around and spotted a rusty old sheet of metal with lots of holes punched in it. It looked like it got washed ways away in all that rain and was covered half with dirt.
Ngunda loosened it and brought it to the hole. “Get back now. Very dangerous if you fall in. It very deep and narrow. You not get out, maybe.”
About then, Gus came running up, Deek toddling after him. Gus ran right up and looked in, standing RIGHT at the edge. The tips of his shoes were over the edge as he bent to look into the hole.
“Watch out!” I yelled and pulled his arm to get him away.
“Very dangerous, young Gus,” said Ngunda and waved us all back. He fit the metal over the hole and found four big rocks to put on the corners.
“Is that where all the rainwater went yesterday?” I asked him.
Ngunda looked at me and then around at the ruts in the dirt where the water had rushed. He frowned and opened the hole again. He threw a big rock in, which disappeared into the darkness just like before. We didn’t hear a splash, but we did hear a thud and then a……. screeching yowl echoing up the shaft!
We all jumped way back, even our gardener, whose eyes were open impossibly wide. Something was in that old well! But what?
Ngunda took off running to his house. That made April scared and she ran off to our house. Deek toddled as fast as he could after her. I almost ran too.
“Gus!” I said, almost shouting, “Go with them and tell Dad what is back here.” Gus obeyed me and ran after them. (I can be very bossy at times.)
Marshall was on his knees again, with his hands on the edge of the hole, or well, or whatever it was. He was peering down into the darkness. I could see now there was a circle of bricks around the opening, but dirt and weeds had hidden it.
“What’s down there?” I asked Marshall. “Can you see anything? What made that awful noise?”
“I don’t know. It sounded like a…. a…. well, I don’t know. Something wild maybe.” He tossed another small stone into the hole. Nothing. “What did it sound like to you, Jule?”
“I don’t know either,” I said. But my mind was picturing all kinds of scary creatures and monsters. I started biting my lower lip.
Ngunda came up behind us then and we both jumped. Gideon and Goliath, our two big dogs came trotting over too. “What great guard dogs!!” I thought. They probably were sleeping away on their mats in the carport while “a thing” fell or crawled into this black hole!
“Back,” commanded Ngunda waving one hand at the dogs. Gideon and Goliath backed up and sat down. Ngunda had a big flashlight and stepped up to shine it in the hole. It barely lit the way down.
We could see wet weeds and roots hanging from the side walls. I shivered a little, thinking what if April had fallen down there. Or me!
He shone the light right to the bottom, a long, long way down. (Dad said maybe 10 meters when he saw it later.) At the bottom, through the thick gloom we saw something muddy move, then jump up. The flashlight beam shown in its eyes for a second and they flashed green.
Marshall and Ngunda got up, brushing the dirt from their knees. I kept kneeling there, staring down into the now very black hole again. I heard a small yowl again.
“Some kind of cat,” Marshall said. “Did you see the green eyes?”
“Feral cat,” added Ngunda.” Wild cat.”
He put the metal sheet and the rocks back over the hole. Dad came up then and they talked about the well and the wild cat. But all I could think about was the poor animal down there in all that darkness. Was it scared?
“I throw poison down it tomorrow,” said Ngunda. Dad scrunched up his face and nodded reluctantly.
My heart was beating very fast. They were going to … to kill it? Very quietly I whispered, “nooooo.”
Around the dinner table that night Marshall and Dad told Mom about the deep hole and the cat inside.
“Oh, Hudson, what if one of the children had fallen in!” Mom had a worried look on her face, but she didn’t bite her lip like me. “Deek is so small,” she continued. “We never would have found him, or even thought to look there!”
“We’ll seal it up permanently tomorrow, Audrey,” he said. “Meanwhile you kids stay away from it.” He looked slowly around the table at each of us… right into our eyes. We all nodded, one at a time.
While we talked about other things, I didn’t hardly realize what I was doing, but somehow I slipped a chicken wing into my napkin and put it in my pocket.
Later that night, very much later, about midnight or so, I got up and sprayed some bug spray on my arms and legs, and patted a little on my face and neck. I didn’t want to get bit by a malaria mosquito! Then I quietly walked down the hall and sneaked out the door on the patio side of the house where the washing machine was. I took my little pink flashlight to show the way.
Gideon and Goliath trotted by my side. They could smell the chicken wing too, but I pushed their nosy noses away. It was really dark back there by the back wall. There was only starlight, and even though there are a lot of stars in Malawi, I couldn’t see very well. Would I find that old well?
Yes! I lifted the rocks off the metal sheet and pulled it back half way. I shone my flashlight down the hole. It looked creepier down there because my light didn’t go very far down the narrow shaft to the bottom. But, then, the green eyes flashed up at me and I heard a little yowl. The dogs leaned over the hole and sniffed. I pushed them back.
I gulped and tossed the chicken wing into the hole. Gideon and Goliath lunged forward, like it was a game of fetch. But it disappeared too quickly and they whined unhappily.
When I shown my light inside the well again, no green eyes flashed up.
I sat back on the dirt. Gideon and Goliath lay down on either side of me. I thought about how it would be in a dark hole, trapped, alone and afraid and very hungry. I just HAD to do something! But what?
When I aimed my flashlight down again, the green eyes flashed up at me. Flashed and stared for a few seconds.
I thought about how it was my job to look after my younger brothers and sister when my parents weren’t around. I was to help them with stuff, have fun with them, and keep them safe. What about that poor cat creature in the black hole? How could I help it?
Gideon licked my fingers, getting the last bit of fried chicken taste. I patted him a few times. Then I saw the collar around his neck and thought of something. If I could just……
I got up and found my way to the long clothes line that Asala (a-SAW-la), our housekeeper and Ngunda’s wife hung the clothes on. It was empty except one old cleaning rag hanging from a clothespin.
I stood and stared at it, my mind whirling around with thoughts and plans. Then, before I could think any more, I quickly untied the ends of the long rope and gathered it up. I grabbed the old rag and tied it to one end. Gideon and Goliath thought it was a game and tried to grab the rope.
“No!” I cried, but they kept bouncing around me as I stumbled back to the old well. Would it work? Would that feral cat creature be smart enough? Desperate enough? Strong enough? I had to try! Otherwise, tomorrow–
I thought of the poison that would be tossed into the hole to the hungry thing. It would eat it up right away and then get really sick and then–
Slowly, I started letting the rag end of the rope down into the hole. Would it be long enough? What if I dropped it?
I came to the last 12 inches of the rope and lost hope. It would never work. What a stupid idea this was. I felt tears stinging my eyes.
But then I felt a little jiggle on the rope. I jumped and almost dropped it. I jerked it up and down a little bit a couple of times. It jiggled some more in my hands. Then I pulled it up about two feet and let it down quickly, then up again.
Suddenly I felt a weight on the rope; a pretty heavy weight. Was it working? Would the creature do it?? Would it grab on with its claws? Would they hold it as I raised up the rope? Slowly I pulled and pulled higher and higher and the weight did not come off. My heart started beating faster as I got near the end of the rope.
Suddenly a black creature burst from the hole like a big hairy shadow. I fell backward and it raced across me. Gideon and Goliath took off after it, barking. I called them back, but they didn’t hear.
I shown my little flashlight where I heard the noise and saw a blurred creature race up a tree, jump at least five feet to the top of the wall, scramble under the wire and disappear.
And then…. the house lights came on.
Dad came running out with just his pajama bottoms on. He was holding a big flashlight and calling the dogs. Ngunda came out too with another flashlight.
Then… both their flashlights landed on me.
And the rope.
And the open well.
I have to tell you, it wasn’t a happy night for me. After they covered up the well again and collected the rope, Dad led me into the house with his hand firmly on my shoulder. He and Mom sat me down by the desk in his office.
“What were you thinking Julie? You could have fallen in and broken your arm… or your neck,” He was shaking his head solemnly back and forth.
I looked down at my hands in my lap.
“Didn’t I tell you kids not to go back to that well?” I nodded.
“Didn’t you promise you would not do it?” I nodded again.
Dad just looked at me, and thought about what to say. I started biting my lip.
“Don’t do that, Dear,” said Mom. Then she thought of something else and she leaned toward me. “Did that thing scratch you, Julie Joy? It could have had rabies or something!”
She pulled back my robe, lifted up my pajama top, and inspected my front side. She relaxed when she saw no bite marks or claw scratches.
“I felt sorry for it, Daddy!” I said loudly and started to cry. “It was so dark down there! It was scared and hungry and Ngunda was going to poison it tomorrow and it was going to die!!”
“Julie!” Mom cried. “YOU could have gotten hurt too! YOU could have di—. Oh, Sweetie, we love you so much.”
“It was an irresponsible thing to do,” said Dad. “Maybe if you’d have told us how you felt, we could have done something together… in the daylight. I didn’t like the idea of poison either. But instead you disobeyed us. You promised, and then broke your promise just like that.”
I nodded. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” My voice was just a squeak now. He reached out and set me on his lap, even though I am almost too big to do that anymore.
“We forgive you Sweetheart, but you must always think before you act. You must think of the consequences. You must think about how your decisions will affect others. And you need to listen to your parents because we only want what is best for you.”
“I will, Daddy. I will try to be smarter and trust you and listen to what you say.” He and Mom kissed me then. We went to my bedroom and they tucked me back into my bed.
Dad gave me this discipline before he prayed with me and turned out the light.
“You will have to stay in your room all day tomorrow, Julie, and think about how you disobeyed. Think about how important promises are too. What if God didn’t keep His promises?”
Mom and Dad forgave my foolish idea when they saw how sorry I was. I was so glad they did. I asked God to forgive me too, and He did.
Dad and Ngunda covered up that old well hole permanently with cement the next day. The rain would go back down the driveway and into the culvert as it was supposed to do. And somewhere, a feral wild cat got a chance to live a little longer.
I was glad about that.
It was Dad’s turn to preach the next Sunday. He asked if he could use my adventure as an illustration and I said, yes. He talked about how Jesus came down to this dark, sinful world and rescued everyone who wanted to be helped by him, who would believe in Him, by dying on the cross.
He read Romans 5:6 – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Jesus wasn’t doing something foolish when He came down to help us, like I did. He was doing exactly what His Father told Him to do. I’m so glad He came and rescued me!
Then Dad read the first part of Psalm 40 and smiled at me over his reading glasses.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my way. Blessed is that man (or girl) that makes the LORD his trust”
Well, Kids, I know my story was very long this time. All my sisters and brothers say I talk too much, even Melody, who talks a lot too. I will tell the others to make their stories shorter.
Much love, Julie
– Note –
June (Melody’s twin sister) will tell you a story next time. I had to beg her to do it, because, well, “it’s not a pretty picture.” It started out when the kids’ Grandma and Grandpa Matthews visited them in Malawi last Christmas, and ended in a… disaster.
“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.” ~~~ Psalm 34:11 Good News Bible