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: It’s part two of the NINTH story, which left readers with quite a scary “cliff hanger!”)
(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.)
PS:Remember, Gus loves to add lots of letters to the ends of his words.
Here’s where I left off last time with my story of being… LOST IN CHINSAPO!
……I sank down on my knees and started rocking back and forth. 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.
I started to cry and wiped the tears away with my arm.
Mom HAD to be really worried now. I wasn’t home all day and she didn’t know where I’d gone to. Maybe she would eventually think I was with Dad and Marshall. She probably HOPED I was, But then, when Dad got home and I wasn’t with HIM….
I started crying harder, she would be so scared… because of me!
OH! And Dad didn’t know where I was either! He thought I was at HOME! And even if he suspected I’d maybe tagged along secretly – like I did – he would be, oh, he would be soooooooo mad to have to come back for me.
I squeezed my eyes shut, knowing what discipline I was going to get.
But wait…. NOBODY could drive into Chinsapo in the dark! And it WAS dark now.
I could see a few tiny cooking fires, but that’s all.
I heard a rumble. Was that thunder?
A mosquito buzzed around my head and I swatted at it frantically. What if I got bitten? What if I got malaria?
“NO,” I cried into my hands. “Noooooooo!”
Then I felt a tap on my arm…..
I looked up through my tears. It was the girl. She was still there! I could barely see her, even though she was so close. But she was there! She was someone I knew, or at least knew about. I wasn’t totally alone!!
I stood up. “What should I do, —-” I didn’t even know her name. “Will you help me?”
She smiled then and her white teeth were like a happy beacon in the dark! I reached out and she took my hand. She nodded and began tugging me back up the path… towards her house.
“What’s your name?” I asked her. “I’m Gus.” I pointed to my chest, but she probably couldn’t see me.
“Are you Mr. Chunga’s daughter?”
She glanced at me curiously then nodded.
“Chisomo,” she said softly. (chee-SO-mo)
“Zikomo?” I thought she said “thank you.”
She shook her head and smiled that “happy beacon” again.
“Chisomo!”** she said loudly, and pointed with the hand that was holding mine at her own chest.
Oh, that must be her name. I wondered what it meant. I would ask Mom or Dad when….. when I… got home. Suddenly I was scared again.
She tugged at my hand once more because I had stopped. I felt a few drops of rain on my arms. It thundered again, louder. I walked faster after the girl.
The wind started blowing and then another flash and thunder. We were jogging now. I was so glad she knew the way because I couldn’t see a thing. I stumbled a few times on clumps of grass, but she – that little girl – held my hand tightly.
It started raining harder. We started running faster.
Finally I could see a small fire ahead of her, under a wood and thatch shelter. A lady was standing beside it, watching us run down the path. She called out and waved. We ducked under the thatch and out of the rain.
Up close with the fire light, I could see the same baby in a sling around the lady’s back. She slipped it under her arm to the front and out of the sling. She handed it to the little girl… to Chisomo. My friend glanced back at me and went into the house.
The lady, who must be Mrs. Chunga, looked at me with her hands on her hips.
She said “Moni. Dzina lana ndani?”** in Chichewa, but I didn’t understand. I hoped Chisomo had told her who I was; that I came in the Rover.
She repeated the question and pointed at me.
“Umm… Gus? My name is Gus.” I tapped my chest. She smiled and nodded.
“N’Dali!”** she called and I flinched. (nnn-DAH-lee)
(Here is a picture of him with his sisters and brothers and some other friends.)
Mrs. Chunga told him to do something in Chichewa and he nodded, looking at me.
“You! M’zunga.”** (mmm-ZOON-gah) He pointed at me, “to come.”
He curled his hand and pointed to the house. I followed him, but at the door he stopped and pointed inside. I looked inside, then at him, and he nodded.
I stepped out and immediately fell down hard! He had stuck out his foot and tripped me! And now he was laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach!
I felt tears in my eyes again as I got up. I felt like punching him, but by the way he danced around, I knew I would just miss and look really dumb.
I brushed dirt off my hands and felt a sting on my elbow and one knee. I thought of Mom and how she would wipe a scrape clean, dab on some medicine, and maybe put on a Band-Aid. ‘There are a lot of germs in the soil in Malawi,” she would warn.
I swiped at my eyes again and turned my back on that mean N’Dali, if that was his name. The rain was coming down hard now, pounding on the metal roof like a million kettle drums.
I looked around the room and at once saw an old lantern sitting on a box in the middle of the room, its dim light making wavy shadows on the rough brick walls. It smelled awful, not like lanterns we use camping. What oil were they burning in it?
There were two wood chairs nearby that “had seen better days,” my Mom would say. Woven grass mats covered most of the floor except where I came in. Rolled piles of cloth – rags really – lay here and there against the walls. A narrow doorway covered by a torn cloth led into another room.
Chisomo was kneeling on one of the mats in the corner, wrapping the baby in some of the material. She laid it gently against the wall by the door way to the other room and came to me. She pointed to a mat and a roll of the material across the room.
She said, “Kama.”** (KAH-mah)
Before I could say anything a tall girl, about Julie’s age, and another one about Melody’s age ducked out of the other room. They stared at me. I stared back. They went outside. Again Chisomo pointed at the place by the wall and smiled.
Was I supposed to go there? Why? I went to the mat, sat on it, and leaned against the wall. I felt something crawling on my bare leg and brushed it away. It crawled back and I slapped at it.
My stomach was really growling now. It was complaining that it had only ONE granola bar, a bite of another one, and a fried grasshopper to eat all day. I pictured Mom serving up dinner on our long table. What would it be? My favorite chicken and spicy rice, with canned peaches? My mouth watered and my stomach cramped. “I want to go home!” I said softly. “Why, oh why, did I do such a dumb thing?”
My eyes stung, but there were no more tears. I was so thirsty. I needed a drink really bad. Some cold water from the fridge, or… or even a bottle of my favorite Orange Fanta soda that we got on special occasions. I licked at my lips, but my tongue was dry.
I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed back against the wall. Something fell into my hair and I jerked away and brushed out the little pieces of brick.
There were voices in Chichewa outside; Mrs. Chunga’s and the girls’, then some boys’ voices. Then they all filed inside, led by the dance-stepping mean boy, who came and sat by me. I scooted sideways away from him and he grinned and made a rude noise.
Mrs. Chunga sat on one of the chairs. She had a bowl with some steaming white stuff mounded in the middle. Everyone sat down and the bowl was passed around. Each person scooped out a portion with their cupped hand – about as much as one of my Mom’s big serving spoons would hold.
N’Dali, the mean boy, who had scooped out as much as his hand would hold, passed it to me. There wasn’t a lot left. I looked around and saw that Chisomo had not had a turn yet, plus another little boy about Deek’s age who had toddled in, naked and wet with rain.
I sniffed at the white stuff and recognized nsima (nnn-SEE-ma), the ground up, cooked kernels of maize. I mentally divided the portion that was left into three and reached in my hand. It was cold by then, sticky and gluey. I scooped out a walnut-sized portion and gave the bowl to my friend. She took an even smaller amount and gave the rest to the toddler. He sat with the bowl between his legs, scooped and licked nsima off his fingers.
I stuffed most of mine into my mouth and almost spit it out. It didn’t have ANY salt in it like my mom put in when she cooked nsima. It was …. it was… I made a face and swallowed it, and then I licked my hand for what was stuck between my fingers. Ewwwwww. Then I noticed how dirty my hands were. I wiped them on my shorts.
Now I was really thirsty. That nsima made my tongue stick to the top of my mouth! I made a motion to Chisomo like I was drinking something. She looked at her mom, and then went into the other room. She came out with a chipped mug and handed it to me.
I looked inside.
There was water alright, but it was as dirty as the girl’s wash water in the bucket that I saw earlier.
I looked at it, and… and… raised it to my mouth. But I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t drink it. All I could hear was my Mom’s voice, “Never, never, never drink any un-purified water! Don’t even brush your teeth with it. EVEN if it looks perfectly clean. You will get bad diarrhea or maybe even typhoid!”
But I was soooooo thirsty!! I groaned and handed the cup back to her.
Chisomo said something to her Mom. Her Mom answered back in Chichewa, shaking her head.
Chisomo said more, very quietly. It sounded like begging. Her Mom shook her head. The she sighed, looked at me, looked at the roof, and sighed again. She nodded to Chisomo who ran into the other room.
She was in there for a few minutes, and then she came out carrying something wrapped in a rag. She took the rag off and rubbed the dust off the object. It was….. an unopened bottle of FANTA!!!!! Not orange, but yellow, maybe pineapple, but that was just as good.
Suddenly some of my saliva drooled into my mouth as I could almost taste the Fanta. Dare I hope?
She walked over and handed me what looked like “golden treasure” for it truly was! It was warm from her hands but I didn’t care.
N’Dali cried out in anger and complaint and tried to grab the bottle from me. I held it close to my chest with both hands and turned away from him. He pulled harder and began to hit my head with his fist. “Give it me, give it me!” he cried.
I held on.
Finally his Mom called out sharply and he stopped. But his hand was still on the bottle and his eyes bored into mine. Gradually he took his hand off, but sat tensed right next to me.
I waited as long as I could, then twisted off the lid, cutting the palm of my hand a little bit because it wouldn’t turn. I waited a minute longer, then with both hands locked around the bottle I raised it to my mouth and tipped it up.
Ohhhh… it was sooooo good… sooo sweet… so wet. The bubbles tumbled over my tongue and down my throat. It wasn’t icy cold, but I didn’t care. I drank half the bottle with my eyes closed, without taking a breath. Then I opened one eye. N’Dali was still staring at me; his eyes were huge and bright.
I stopped drinking, but held the bottle tightly in my mouth where it was. I looked at him again and in the dim light from the lantern, saw one tear run down to the corner of his nose.
He was crying. N’Dali was crying! That mean, trickster, grabbing, hitting boy was crying, and I was the cause. I lowered the bottle and licked my lips. I looked inside and saw there was about two inches left. I wanted those two inches in my mouth SO BAD!!!
I felt a tap on my arm and looked away from N’Dali to Chisomo. She was smiling that big ‘happy beacon’ smile. This girl had risked the anger of her mother and the jealousy of her brothers and sisters for me. Her Mom had feltobligated to give me the soda – one they were probably saving for a very, very special occasion – just because my Dad had fixed their roof. I swallowed hard.
I looked back at N’Dali who had wiped the tears angrily away from his eyes and once again was glaring at me. I slowly pulled my fingers from around the bottle – they wouldn’t come easily, and handed it to him.
His eyes got so wide and white that they looked like giant marbles in his dark face. He hesitated only for a second, then grabbed the bottle and chugged it all down, closing his eyes while he drank like I did. I KNEW what he was feeling and tasting right then. I swallowed too – I couldn’t help it. That sweetness, that prickly sweetness going over his tongue and down his throat. I knew just what it felt like, what it tasted like. And the soda could still have been mine, if I hadn’t… But no.
N’Dali finished with a small burp. Then he put the bottle back into his mouth, and leaned his head way back. He shook the bottle to get out the last drops. Then he snaked his tongue inside the opening and licked it. Finally he laid it down. He looked at me with soft eyes now.
“Zikomo,” he whispered and held out his hand for one of those weird, complicated Malawian handshakes. “Pepani,”** he added and pointed to the outside doorway.
Pepani? Pepani…ummm. I knew what that meant… Oh, yeah. It meant “I’m sorry.”
Suddenly, everyone got up and either went outside or to a spot on the mats along the wall where the bundles of cloth waited to be unwound and wrapped around them as very, VERY thin blankets. The two biggest girls went through the inner doorway.
Mrs. Chunga carried the bowl outside and then returned. She rolled down a piece of material over the door opening. Next she picked up the baby who had never cried once, and tucked it under her dress top. She sat on one of the mats across from me, her back against the wall, her feet stretched out in front of her. Her shoes were old and ragged and had holes in the bottom. The toddler went to her and plopped down on her lap. He patted the baby’s leg.
Soon the baby was slipped back out and handed to Chisomo for wrapping and laying down. The toddler took his position next under the other side of her dress top.
I felt a nudging and saw that N’Dali was holding up the unrolled material for me. He had lain down on the mat against the wall, covered himself with half of it, and was beckoning me to come in beside him.
For a second I wondered what trick he had under there. A sharp stick? But a sudden gust of chilly wind blew through the doorway curtain and made my decision for me. I slid down on the hard, scratchy mat next to him and pulled my half over me. My shoulder stuck out of a large hole.
I felt creepy crawly things in my hair. The mat itched the bare parts of my skin. My palm and my elbow and knee hurt. My stomach growled… but a sweet taste was still on my tongue. Some warmth was coming from N’Dali, and just like with Deek when we sometimes slept in the same bed, I snuggled closer to him.
“Zikomo,” I said.
“Mugone bwino,”** N’Dali said. (mu-GO-nay BWEE-no)
I said the same back to him. I hoped it meant “good night.”
How could this be a GOOD night? I was lost in Chinsapo. I was hungry and now a little sick from all that sugary soda. I was sleeping on dirt with only a bit of woven grass between me and it. There were bugs or … whatever, crawling on me and in my hair. (Hey, no wonder all the Malawi kids, boys and girls, had shaved heads!!) And I was in super bad trouble when my Dad came for me in the morning.
WOULD he come for me? Maybe he thought I ran away or got kidnapped and had called Mr. Banda, the policeman. Maybe Dad and Marshall and Ugunda were out searching for me right now in the neighborhood. Ohhhhhh, what a stupid thing I’d done. Would Dad EVER forgive me? Would Mom?
I missed them tucking me in and kissing my forehead. I missed the Bible reading in the living room, and the sometimes funny questions that we asked and Dad answered. I missed my soft bed and pillow and the Angels Baseball team blanket Uncle Will had brought me. I missed Deek and his funny little snoring across our room.
Oh, how I wanted the mosquito net around my bed at home!! I pulled the thin rag over my head.
I cried. Then I prayed.
“Dear God. I love You, and I know You always will love me, no matter what I do or how I disobey. But You are holy and hate sin. Your Bible says so.”
I thought of some verses from the Bible, like Romans 3:23 and 6:23, and the verses in Proverbs 6 that tell seven things God hates. I couldn’t remember them all, but I DID remember, “a tongue that deceives; a heart that makes up wicked plans.” I guess I had done those….. Besides disobeying my parents, not respecting their feelings, being selfish… and a lot of other stuff!
“Dear God,” I prayed again, “I say to You that I have sinned sooooo many ways today. I did them on purpose to get my own way. I didn’t think about others, only myself.”
I wiped my eyes with my fingers under the sheet, sniffed and swallowed hard.
“Dear God, I’m sorry.” Then I said it in Chichewa too, “Pepani,” because… well just because I wanted to. N’Dali turned over and I felt his boney back against mine.
“Dear God, thank You for forgiving me and making my heart clean, like You promised if I confessed my sins and really meant it. Wow… You did it because Jesus already took my punishment for them. Jesus…. I love you!”
I took a big breath which shook a little in my chest. I sniffed and swallowed again. I felt much better. Forgiveness will do that to you, like Dad always said. But I knew I had to confess and tell my Mom and Dad how sorry I was for hurting them. That would be hard. But knowing that GOD had already forgiven me made it a little easier.
I knew I would get disciplined. God told parents that they needed to do that for their children because it showed how much they loved them, and because it helped the kids to know the ‘right’ way. And Dad… he was always fair and kind.
Oh, Daddy, I love you too! I hope you will know how sorry I am. And Momma…
I heard a little whimper from the baby across the room. The lantern had been blown out but I know it was Chisomo, sleeping next to it, that patted or rubbed it till it went back to sleep.
“Dear God, thank you for Chisomo. She helped me all day to find the right way, first to where Dad and Marshall were working on her house, then coming to find me in the dark, and bringing me back here, and even getting that soda for me. She must believe in You too, from Mrs. Molenaar’s Thursday Bible teaching.
I had a thought then and chuckled softly. Chisomo was like Jesus in a way, like when He said he was the good Shepherd, going after a lost sheep. I’m a dumb lost sheep.
“Baaaaaa,” I said a little too loudly and N’Dali turned back over and mumbled something.
N’Dali wasn’t so bad after all. He liked to have fun – so did I. Maybe I also had laughed at one of my brothers or sisters when I played a joke on them – one that they didn’t think was funny.
“Dear God, I say to You that I am sorry for those times too. Please help me to be kinder, always.”
And here was N’Dali sharing his “bed” and thin sheet. And they ALL had shared the nsima with me. There was so little in that bowl, and so many of them. I was glad that we had hired Mr. Chunga to be our night guard. I wished we could give him even more money, but I know that was not the Malawi way.**
I promised myself that I would… well, that I would ask Mom and Dad first, but then send some bottles of Fanta to this family when their Dad came home. And some food – maybe canned peaches or granola bars!! But, how would Mr. Chunga carry all that? I didn’t remember seeing any men carrying boxes on their heads like the ladies do.
Oh!! We really need get a bicycle for Mr. Chunga!! With a rack! He wouldn’t have to walk two hours every day to our house, then back again. I would give my allowance, ALL of it, if it would help. I would ask Dad tomorrow.
Tomorrow…. A day of rescue, of being sorry and getting discipline, AND hugs from Mom. Oh, I loved my Mom’s hugs, and kisses in my hair…..
During the night, we had a scary visitor. I thought I was dreaming or something when a white face was breathing its hot breath on me… something with horns and a long whisker on its chin. I thought of Maya’s medicine man!!
“AAAAH! Help!” I said, sitting up.
Mrs. Chunga called to N’Dali in Chichewa, and he caught the goat that had wondered in, its rope dragging behind, and pulled it outside. After he tied it up again he came back to “bed.” He was a little wet. It must be still raining, but I’d gotten used to the drumming on the roof.
It was barely light when I woke up again. The rain on the metal roof had stopped, and I heard an unmistakable sound. Footsteps running and a voice calling,
“GUS! Gus, are you here? Oh, please, God, let him be here! GUS!!”
“DADDY!” I cried, knocking N’Dali awake and throwing off the cover. I stumbled out the doorway, nearly ripping down the hanging cloth and ran to my father.
“Gus! We were so worried…” he said hugging me hard against his chest and ruffling my hair.
“Daddy, I’m sorry I hid in the Rover. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first, or even tell you I was here. I am so sorry!”
We were both crying then, for happiness. Mr. Chunga walked to his house, leaving us alone, and met his wife coming out. They talked in Chichewa. N’Dali came out too and stared at us. Chisomo peeked out behind him and smiled her happy beacon smile.
“Daddy, the Chunga’s were very good to me. Chisomo found me and brought me here when I was lost in the dark. They gave me nsima and soda and a place to sleep! Oh, Daddy, couldn’t we do something for them? Please!”
He finally let me loose from the hug. He put his arm around me and we walked to where Mr. & Mrs. Chunga were standing.
“Medson, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to your wife and family for caring for my boy. Thank you. Zikomo!” And then to Mrs. Chunga, “Zikomo!”
I told Dad who Chisomo and N’Dali were and how they’d helped me. N’Dali puffed up like a balloon, his chest our and chin up, and showed his mischievous grin. Chisomo ducked her head and blushed. I think. It was hard to tell with her dark skin.
The baby cried and Chisomo went to get it. The toddler toddled out, and the other two girls and two boys come outside too, but stayed further away.
Dad gave me one last shoulder hug, and then said, “Gus, let’s go. I’ve brought a few things for Mr. Chunga’s family.”
We walked along the path towards where the Rover was parked. I was surprised to see that Dad knew the way pretty well now. Mr. Chunga had to remind him of only one turn. We unloaded a couple big bags of maize, a case of water bottles, and some apples.
In the last box, which was folded shut, I found a dozen granola bars and….. six bottles of Orange Fanta!!! I closed it back up again and yelled, “Hot dog!!” All the kids who had been following us looked at me like I was crazy. Well, I was crazy-happy. Mr. Chunga’s two sons helped to carry the food away. Our guard was probably very tired now and would sleep all day.
“How will we find our way out in the Rover, Dad?” I asked when they were gone.
Dad waved to a couple village boys. They climbed in the back seat and pointed which way at each turn. Soon we were at that scary bridge. The boys ran ahead and directed Dad on how to turn his wheels to get across. Dad thanked them, quickly handed them a couple granola bars, and we were off.
Well, you know the rest of the story. I got squished by Mom’s hugs… Mom’s wonderful hugs. She cried and I cried and told her I was so sorry. She took me inside for a big, big breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, a bowl of strawberry yoghurt, and FIVE canned peach halves. Plus juice and milk. Wow…. my belly got so full. And I think I drank three big glasses of clean cold water too.
My brothers and sisters crowded around and wanted to hear all about my adventure. I started to tell them – to brag about it – but then I remembered how worried and fearful I’d made Mom and Dad, and I just said. “I’ll tell you some later. It’s MUCH better to be home.”
Then I went to bed. But not before getting a shower, a comb through my hair to get out any bugs, medicine and Band-aids on my scrapes, lotion and a strong prayer about my mosquito bites (we found SIX in all!!)
There would be time enough later for the talk and the discipline. I was ready for it. I knew I deserved it, and I felt love from Mom and Dad, and my heavenly Father about it. I had learned a HUGE lesson. I hoped I wouldn’t ever forget.
That’s it, kids. Have you ever disobeyed your parents in some big way and were very, very sorry later? Did you tell God about it? He is so good to forgive! And your parents will forgive you too, because they love you. You will probably get some kind of discipline. But that’s okay.
PS: Here are the meanings of some of the Chichewa words in the story. Can you find what Chisomo’s and N’Dali’s names mean?
Chisomo – (the little girl’s name) “grace”
Moni. Dzina lana ndani? – Hello. What is your name?
N’Dali – (her brother’s name) “trickster”
Mzunga – white person
Kama – bed
Pepani – I’m sorry.
Mugone bwino – Sleep well.
Muyende bwino! – Go well!
“the Malawai way” – There is a small set wage for all workers. You can’t pay them more or others would get jealous and there’d be fighting and stealing.
“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.” ~~~ Psalm 34:11 Good News Bible