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

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

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

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

 

“DEEK’S WILD RIDE!”

Hi Evvy-buddy!

(Yep… that’s a greeting from Deek!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get it?

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure!

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

Ugh, my back!

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarey-cat! In da hole! Lotta wain!!”

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

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

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

Mmmmmm… smoooch!

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

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

*****

“My turn now! Up you go, Deek!”

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

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

“Okay, Mom, but he loves it so much!”

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

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

“Oh, Marshall, I don’t know…”

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

Go Wover! Get gas! Go!”

“See, Deek wants to go too!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whoa, really?”

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

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

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

“Coffin!!!” said Deek.

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

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

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

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

mk-coffin1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please God, help me!”

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cookieees, yay!” said Deek.

My buddy!

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

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

 

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

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Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#9) “Chinsapo Adventure” (part one)

mk-story-coversThis story is NINTH 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. My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, as it pertains to their everyday lives.

So, here is the next story!  (Hint: This is a two part story, and has a “cliff hanger” ending.)

(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.)

 

Chinsapo Adventure  (part 1)

Hi! It’s me! Gussssssssssss!

Last time I told you about our fabuloussssssss HERO DOGS. Remember?

This time I am going to tell you about when I got really, REALLY scared!  I thought I was done for! A goner! Never to return to my nice life with my family. It makes me shiver to think about that night even now!

Okay, here goes.  It started out pretty fun. But… well, let me tell you a teensy bit about the weather here in Malawi first. In one way it’s opposite of yours, in another way it’s the same.

Okay, you might know from your parents, that there has been a drought in Malawi over the summer.  We usually get a few little rains, like where you live. But not this year… and not last year. Some people blame “global warming” or something like that, but don’t know what that is.

Here’s how Malawi weather is different from yours.  In the summer it is COLD!!  Not snow-cold, but pretty chilly!

The summer is called the “dry season”, but it’s cold.

The winter is called the “rainy season” and we DO get a lot of rain then, but it’s very hot.  I mean roasting, sweating, dogs-with-their-tongues-hanging-out-panting hot!

Cold dry summers…. hot wet winters.  You’re probably thinking “weird,” right?

THIS year, the water in our river went way, way down to barely a stream because of no rain.

This made it so the city officials couldn’t make any power for us. Something called hydro-electricity, which is when you make power by water in a river turning the wheels or…well, I’m not sure. Ask your mom or dad!

So our town ran out of water in the river and power in the… wheels or something… and it can’t make electricity.

When you run out of something, you know how that is, right?.  Like when you run out of Honey Nut Cheerios and you were really wanting to eat that cereal for breakfast. Or when you run out of dog food and your dogs look like they want to maybe eat you!  Or when you run out of gas in your car!!!  It’s not fun.

At first we didn’t have electricity for about six hours a day. That’s about the time when you wake up till way after lunch time. But worse than that, is when the electricity goes out when you are about to eat dinner, and it’s getting dark (it gets VERY dark in Malawi).  I think my sister, June told you about last Christmas when we had to light all the candles so we can see to open our presents.

What other things need electricity besides the lights?  How about the refrigerator? Or a hair dryer. Or the washing machine and clothes dryer?

The VERY worst part is, that even though we might still have some water left in our big water storage tank outside, way up on a brick tower, we need the electricity to pump it into our house!!

After a while, the power started staying off for 12 hours each day!

Then 18 hours!!

You know there is only 24 hours in a day, right?  So sometimes Mom had to stay up AT NIGHT to wash our clothes while the electricity was on for a few hours.

Finally, even though we were VERY careful to only use a TINY little bit of water for things, we used up all the water in our water tank.  Now we had no power and no water.

At FIRST, it wasn’t so bad. It was like camping. We had candles. We ate things from cans that Mom warmed on our stove for dinner, which is powered by that blue-flame gas. She cooked oatmeal for breakfast and we ate BP&J sandwiches for lunch.

I loved, loved, loved not having to take a shower…. for days!!  Can you image that? No scrubbing behinds your ears or washing your hair. Yay! Mom didn’t like it very much. And my sisters didn’t like it after a while.  Dad said he didn’t mind and Marshall acted all “macho.”

“WE guys don’t need showers!” he said. “WE are tough!”

We had to buy ALL our water in bottles from the Chipiku market. But, pretty soon the supplies there got low.

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We brushed our teeth in two spoons of water from a bottle! Washcloths could be barely wet to wipe our hands and face and really dirty parts of our arms and legs.

And the toilets. Yikes! Do you know that you cannot flush a toilet more than one time without water????  At first, when the water shortage started, we collected some water  from our pipes into buckets and kept them in the bathrooms to flush the toilets when they REALLY NEEDED flushing. But soon even THAT was used up. What did we do then?  We…well I’m not going to write about it here!

And then it came!

A huge storm dropped so much water on Lilongwe that things started to flood. Our driveway, our culvert, the streets. Water started coming into the side door of our house by the patio until we laid down big rolled-up towels. The red dirt roads and trails to the villages turned to slick, squishy red mud.

Then a very strong wind came with the rain. Our trees bent over and small branches broke off. The windows of the house rattled and shook. It was spooky! The girls screamed, but I LOVED it!! Sometimes the wind blew the rain right straight against the windows, like a garden hose! Goliath and Gideon huddled in the carport in their beds.

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“Marshall!” Dad called to my brother over the noise of the wind and rain. “Come help me put out the water buckets!”

I knew what they were doing – catching as much water as possible where it poured off the roof so we could flush the toilets again. They put out all twenty buckets. I watched them fill up and overflow. It was coollllllllllll.

“The plants are getting a good drink,” my sister April said, looking out the window.

“You mean they are getting a BATH,” I told her laughing.  Wait… would that mean I’d have to take a bath now?  In bucket water???

“No, honey,” Mom said, chuckling.

Then she said a very crazy-amazing thing.  “Children, hurry! Take off your shoes and run outside in your dirtiest clothes.  The rain will wash them for me!”

We stared at her in surprise.

“Quick!  It’s not cold. The rain brought on the warm humidity.”  We hesitated only a few seconds longer, then whooped and ran to follow her orders.

Soon we were out on the brick driveway, jumping in big puddles and twirling in the wind and rain, flinging water from our hair and clothes like dogs do when they shake off the wet. (Goliath and Gideon stayed undercover in the open garage, but they barked at all the fun.)

Soon, Mom brought out more shirts and pants and skirts. We changed quickly (not our underpants, of course!!) and left the wet and now pretty clean ones to be wrung out and hung up on the clothes lines on the side patio where the washer and dryer were.

“Rub the really dirty places on the fronts of shirts and knees of pants,” she said, handing each of us a little piece of bar soap. Then she looked at Dad. “Hudson, you too.”

He and Marshall both had soaked shirts and shorts from putting out the buckets, so they changed into the dirty clothes she handed them and joined the scrubbing and laughing and chasing us. Wahoooooooooooooooooooo!!!

What an awesome time we had, changing our outer clothes two more times before the rain slowed and stopped.  Mom had some dry and almost clean towels waiting for us when we came in, dripping and grinning from ear to ear.  It was awesome, having so much fun and helping  Mom “get the laundry done” too. And…. we all got our hair washed!

Have YOU ever done that? Or played in the rain? You should try it, if your parents say it’s okay.

But our happy time ended later in the afternoon when Medson Chunga, our night-time gate guard came to work. His clothes were damp and his shoes and pants legs were covered with reddish mud. He looked sad. (Medson has to walk all the way from the village to come to work every night. It takes him TWO HOURS!)

When Dad asked what the matter was, Medson said the stormy wind had blown off his roof. Rain had come in and made everything wet.

“Oh, Hudson!” said Mom. “What will his family do?” (Medson has a wife and six children.) “You KNOW it’s going to rain again tonight!”

I looked up at the sky, and sure enough, dark gray clouds were crowding all around the edges of the sunset.

“Medson, is your roof made of thatch?” Dad asked.

(Thatch is made of piled up branches on the roof boards, with lots of long dried elephant grass tied on top.  I keeps out the sun, and a lot of rain, when it’s new.  After a while…. not so good.)

Medson shook his head. “No. Made from the metal.”

He was talking about that corrugated tin that was on some of the small houses and shops in town. It kept out the sun and rain better, but oh, what a loud noise the rain made on it.  In a hard rain, you could hardly hear yourself talk.

Dad told us once, that if a sheet of that metal blew off in the wind, it would be like a flying blade and could cut a person’s head off!! I shivered. I’m glad Medson didn’t say anyone got hurt.

It was all the way dark by then and no way Dad could drive to the village in the mud and blackness.  He promised Medson that he and Marshall would take him home in the morning as soon as there was light and see if they could help fix the roof.

“Do you think Medson’s wife will take the children to a neighbor or relative’s house tonight?” Mom asked Dad. “I wish they all could come here.”

That made me a little worried. Where would eight more people sleep?

“Was anything damaged inside?” she asked. “The villagers have SO LITTLE to begin with.”  I could see her mind working. She went to the kitchen and opened some cupboards. Then she went to our pantry and linen closet.

That gave me an idea, but I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want them to say “no.”

~~~~~

Early in the morning, Mom cooked coffee and oatmeal on the stove for Dad and Marshall. I’d gotten up and dressed very quietly, not waking up Deek, and tip-toed to the hallway.  I could see what she was doing through the crack in the kitchen door.  She put three loaves of bread into a bag, plus ten small water bottles. Another plastic Chipiku bag had one of my old blankets stuffed inside.

The oatmeal they were eating – piled high with brown sugar and raisins – looked really good. My stomach growled.  Good thing I had taken two granola bars out of the pantry the night before.

When they were putting their dishes in the metal sink (and making some noise) I sneaked out the door by the garage and climbed into the back of the Range Rover.  There was a plastic tarp there, and I crawled under it.  I wanted to save the granola bars for later, but I couldn’t wait. I unwrapped one of them and ate it.  Soooooooooo good.

I wished I had some water of to wash it down, but before I could think of going back inside, Dad called Medson from the little guard hut by the gate. He and Marshall helped Dad load some things into the Rover. I stayed really still under the tarp as they put in hammers, a coffee can of nails, a few boards, and a short ladder. Mom brought out the bags she’d filled and put them in too. I thought about getting out a water bottle, but I might be noticed and my whole plan would be ruined.

Medson tied the dogs and rolled back the big gate for us to drive through. Then he closed it, let the dogs loose and came out through the small door in the gate.

“You’ll have to give us directions once we get over the bridge,” Dad told Medson.

I raised up just a teensy bit so I could peek out the side window of the Rover. I could tell it had rained overnight. Our culvert was still full of rushing brown water, and the streets had small branches all over them.  The main road was okay to drive, but I wondered about the dirt road going to the village.

“It’s a good thing the Rover has 4-wheel drive,” my dad said as we bumped off the paved road and onto the dirt… well, mud.

We slid sideways and spun the wheels. It was kind of fun, until I bumped my chin, which made me bite my tongue.  Owww!  Thank goodness the Rover has a noisy engine.

I could see mud from the tires flying up and plopping onto the roof. After a while, most of the sliding and flying mud stopped. Our Malawi sun dries dirt fast.

Then I heard Dad groan. He pulled the Rover to a stop with the engine still running.

Ah-oh. I knew we were at the bridge over the small river that separates the village from the town. It wasn’t a safe looking bridge to begin with; had the storm hurt it more? I wished I could sit up and get a better look, but I didn’t dare.

“No way the Rover is getting across that, Dad,” Marshall said.

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They all sat in silence for a minute, then Dad said, “Everybody out”

What was I going to do?  Nothing!  I squeezed down lower under the tarp and waited. I could feel the Rover rock as each person got out.

“Marshall, you go on ahead and direct my tires exactly over the long wood planks” I heard dad say from under the tarp.

“But Dad, there are boards in the middle that look broken! What if one of the wheels breaks through?”

“It will be okay, son,” Dad assured him. “That’s why I had you all get out, to lighten the load.” I heard him say a quick prayer to God for safety, then the Rover rocked again as he got in and slammed shut the door.

Oh no! What if my extra weight made the Rover break the boards?  I took a big breath and held it. When you swim, doing this makes you float. Maybe it would make me weigh less now.

We started moving slowly. I could tell when the front wheels and then the back wheels went onto the wooden bridge.  I could picture Marshall walking backwards, carefully, pointing Dad to turn the wheels to the right or left.  I looked at my hands and saw they were grabbing the tarp really hard.  I let loose and swallowed, still holding my breath.

It took sooooooooo long. Would that old bridge go on forever?  A couple times I heard boards creaking and imagined the Range Rover falling though into the river below. Could I get out fast enough not to drown?  By the way… how deep was the river now? Usually a person could go across in waist deep water.

I thought of Maya running through that on the night he escaped from the Medicine Man… in the DARK!!!  I sure couldn’t have done that!

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Then… finally…. the sound of the tires on the boards changed and I knew we were on the dirt again.  I felt like whooping out loud, but stopped myself before I could make a sound.

Dad got out and I could hear him calling to Medson to come across too. I heard a kind of slapping and I knew Dad was hugging Marshall.

“Good job, son. And thank YOU, Lord!”

We got going again and Medson started giving directions. I raised up and watched out the window. We bumped along, turning down one path then another with no markers to show where we were. There were fields of tan, dried-out maize stalks. Now and then we passed some huts, smoky with cooking fires.

Little kids ran out from the huts to the roadside and waved, calling “Azungu! Azungu!  (That means a white person.) Some of them ran alongside us for a while, but others just stared wide-eyed as we drove by.

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I wanted to wave at them, but I didn’t.

Dad dodged around a herd of cows, some donkeys, and several goats being prodded along by young boys with sticks.

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That was a Malawi boy’s job, to take the animals to places where they could eat grass or drink water. A Malawi girl’s job was to help her mother with cooking and babysitting and “washing” clothes by the river.

“Watch out for that kid!” yelled Marshall all of a sudden making me jump.  Dad jammed on the brakes and I was pushed hard against the back of the backseat. Oh, no! Did he hit a boy or girl?

But Marshall was laughing and pointing at a little spotted goat who was bouncing off into a cassava patch. (Baby goats are called kids, as you guys know, right?)  After a minute Dad laughed too.

One time, the Rover slid sideways into a ditch and I was knocked over to the other side. I grabbed the tarp but still got uncovered a little bit.

Medson called to some men who were sitting in the shade of a tree. They helped him and Marshall push us out. One man looked in the back window and saw me. I smiled at him.  He didn’t smile back, but he walked away without telling anyone.

Whew!

Finally  I guessed we could go no further and dad stopped the Rover.

Medson opened the hatch and helped pul out the tools and boards. I held my breath, but I’d covered up really good again. Then he waved for Marshall and Dad to follow him.  I thought about getting out then. Surely Dad wouldn’t take me home now, but he’d be mad. So I stayed crouching there a while longer.

Malawi kids ran out and walked on the path beside them. It wound between some huts made of bricks from the red clay on the ground. Most of the huts had thatch roofs.  When they had gone past one nicer looking house and I could still see a string of kids following them, I got out.

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I stretched my legs and my back. Whoa, that felt good.

I noticed a little girl carrying an even littler baby in a sling on her back looking at me with wide eyes.  I smiled at her and put my finger to my lips. Did she know that it meant “shhhh?”  I guess so, because she didn’t say anything.
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I pointed to my chest and then to where my Dad had gone. I made walking signs with my two fingers and started going that way. She came along too. The baby on her back was awake and stared at me with big round eyes. After a while, the eyes drooped and closed.

I kept Dad and Marshall in sight (they were taller than Medson or anybody else and easy to see) but I looked around too. I’d never been this far into the village. I saw boys kicking around one of those plastic bag soccer balls (a big wad of old paper wrapped with plastic bags and tied tightly). They make a pretty good kicking ball, for a while at least.

I wanted to go kick with them, but I knew I should keep my Dad in sight. I didn’t want to get lost. Maybe later, when I saw where they were going, I would come back.

The girl beside me tapped my arm and pointed.  I looked up. Dad had disappeared!  Oh, no!  Which way had they gone?  The girl tapped my arm again and pointed left. I smiled and walked faster till I could see them again.

We did this for a while, the girl and I. Every time I got distracted by interesting things to see, she would show me the way to go.  Once I watched a couple boys with a young ox who was pulling a cart about the size of Deek’s old crib.  It had two big wooden wheels and rocked side to side when it moved. The boys jumped in.  I wished I could ride too, and go wherever they were going. What fun!

Then came the tap on my arm and I looked to where I could barely see Marshall’s red shirt.

Another time I watched a girl with a blur bucket full of dirty water. She was pushing something up and down in it with a stick. I went closer and pointed at the bucket with a question look on my face.

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She dredged something out of the water and I could tell it was an old shirt.  She smiled. Oh, man! She was washing the shirt in… in… that dirty water. I remembered running around in the rain the day before. And what fun we’d had. Did she ever do that?

Then came another tap on my arm and I turned away.

Finally I saw Dad stop up ahead and Medson point at a house. It was small, but it had plaster on the outside walls, painted dull, dirty blue. There were lots of dirty hand marks all around the sides. One part of the roof looked okay, but on the other side the metal was peeled back in a kind of roll.  Three sides had come lose, but the nails on the fourth side kept it from blowing off.

“Looks like a sardine can!” I heard Dad say.

Huh?  What’s a sardine can? How did this roof look like one?  I shook my head. You will have to ask your mom or dad about sardines in cans.

Of course, now was the time that I SHOULD have gone forward and showed Dad that I had come along without asking permission.  I could help him carry the boards or hammers, or pick up nails that dropped down accidently.

My foot started to take a step forward… but then I remembered the boys kicking the ball, and the ox cart and other fun things I wanted to investigate back here in this part of Chinsapo Village. I’d only been to where Mrs. Molenaar gave Bible lessons to the kids on Thursdays. Back here was where they all came from. Maybe even farther!

Maybe… maybe I’d look around a little first. Marshall, or any of the kids that crowded around the roof project could help pick up nails.

I looked for the little girl carrying the baby.  She was just going into Medson’s house. Hey, she must be one of his daughters! No wonder she knew the way.  Well, I didn’t need her now. I would just go a little way down this path.  As long as I could hear the hammering of nails, I would know where to come back.

~~~~~

Oh, man, did I have fun. I found another bunch of boys in a clearing who were also kicking around a bag-ball.  I stopped a minute and listened for the hammering. Yep, still going.  Then I went to the boys.  They stopped and stared. I pointed to the ball and made kicking motions with my foot.  A minute later we were all kicking and dodging.

They didn’t know how to play soccer, not really, but they had two teams and were playing keep away. There were two pairs of rocks at each end of the field and I guessed they were the goals, but we hardly ever got to them.

I showed them how to jump with my feet around the “ball” and twist kick it away.  They loved that and were soon doing it too. Now and then I stopped to listen to the hammering.  Still going on.

The day was getting pretty hot now and I was getting thirsty.  I remembered the water bottles back in the Rover and was about to go back, when one of the little scrappy kids kicked the bag-ball right at my head.  I head-bopped it toward the “goal” and … wow, it went right in.  Of course they were excited then and I had to stay longer.

Finally I did start back, several little kids who weren’t playing ball following me. My stomach growled and I remembered I hadn’t had breakfast.  I pulled out the granola bar, which was squished a little and tore open the wrapper.  Suddenly all the little kids pressed in close, their hands outstretched.

Yikes!  I held the bar up high and they reached higher.  It was MY bar. I was hungry!  I hadn’t had any breakfast! My mouth watered for that granola bar!
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Then I remembered what Mrs. Molenaar said. Village kids NEVER had breakfast. Slowly I lowered my hand and started breaking off little pieces and handing them out. The ball boys came too, but by then I had only one small piece, about the size of my thumb nail.  I popped it into my mouth and showed them my empty hand.

Then one of the boys was pulling my arm and pointing a little distance away.  I followed, wondering what was up. I found another boy near a hut, squatting by a little fire, with some… Yikes! He had big grasshoppers frying in grease in a little, bent-up pan.  The boys all grinned and rubbed their bellies.

What?? No! Suddenly I remembered what Melody had done – eaten Mbewa, a mouse, well the head anyway, and she’d said Malawi kids eat grasshoppers too.

I looked closely. They were crispy and browned, with their legs tight against their bodies.  They did look a little like fried baby chicken wings.  Maybe.

The boy stuck a stick in one, blew on it, then held it out to me. All the boys watched, friendly-like, eager for me to…. to… eat it.

I reached out my hand, and took the ‘hopper off the stick. The boy poked another one and handed to another boy, who quickly crunched it in his teeth and licked his lips. Actually, the frying bit of grease smelled pretty good. And I could smell pepper too…..

Quickly I put the creature in my mouth and chewed. It was hot! Hot from the pan and hot with pepper. It had a sort of French Fries taste – you know the kind that are fried real dark and crisp.

I chewed it and swallowed and smiled.

“Zikomo!” I said (thank you).  They all cheered and crunched ‘hoppers. I looked to see if I could have another one, but there were none left.

Then I felt a tap on my arm and turned around.

It was the little girl, minus the baby. I almost didn’t recognize her in the dim light.  She backed away from the boys and motioned me to come.  Huh?  Then it hit me!  The roof repair! My Dad and Marshall! Were they done? I looked around, not remembering where I’d come to after the ball game. The sky was getting dark with clouds, and….. sunset.  Yikes!  I’d better hurry!

I thanked the boys again and hurried after the girl, who turned this way and that down paths. I didn’t remember going like this. Did she really know the way?  Was it really the same girl, Medson’s daughter? How long had it taken her to find me?

It was really getting dark when we got to the clearing. The roof looked normal again, not like that… that sardine can. But, where was my Dad?  Where was Marshall?  And the tools and the ladder?

I turned to the girl and made motions like turning a steering wheel and sounds like a motor.  She just shook her head. I made the motions again and started down a path. I had to FIND them before they got to the Rover and drove away.  She caught up and grabbed my arm. Again she shook her head. This time she made the wheel turning motions too and then threw her arms out wide.

I stared at her. No, they couldn’t be gone, couldn’t be driving home already. No!  I started to run again down the path where I thought we’d left the Rover.  She ran with me, then in front, then stopped me, holding up her hands.

I saw the truth in her face. They had gone without me! How could they forget me?  Then I remembered. No one knew I had sneaked along. No one knew I was in the village. No one knew but the boys I’d played ball and eaten grasshoppers with. And this girl.

What a stupid idea this was!  Why hadn’t I asked for permission! Or told Dad that I was here?  I started to cry, even though I didn’t want to. I knew Mom was so worried. And Dad was probably very, very mad to have to turn around and come back for me. But wait!  Oh, no! He couldn’t drive into Chinsapo in the dark!

And it WAS dark now. Black-dark. The clouds were covering all the stars.  I could see a few tiny cooking fires, but that’s all.

I was breathing hard now, like I had been running.

A mosquito buzzed around my head and I swatted at it frantically.  What if I got bitten?   What if I got malaria?

I heard a rumble. Was that thunder? I was really scared now. What was going to happen to me?

I sank down to the ground. “Oh, no!” I cried into my hands. “Noooooooo!” I started rocking back and forth.  “I want to go home!”  I wailed.

Then I felt a tap on my arm.

~~~~~

 

Oh gosh. Mom’s calling me to do my homework now. I’ll finish this story next time!  Bye!

Gussssssssssssssssss

 

“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.

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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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

Then the cell phone rang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go get the Rover,” Dad said to him.

3

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that like a doctor?” asked Gus.

“Shhhh!” June said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See ya!  Marshall

 

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#3) “The Eyes in the Well”

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This story is the THIRD in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa.

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

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

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

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The Eyes In The Well!

Dear kids,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wow,” said Marshall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then…. the house lights came on.

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

Then… both their flashlights landed on me.

And the rope.

And the open well.

4

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

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

I looked down at my hands in my lap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5

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

I was glad about that.

6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love, Julie

 

 – Note – 

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

 

 

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