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

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This story is Twelfth in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children.  This one is from April, the middle girl, who wrote the Seventh story, “Just Pretending.”

I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences, such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi – BIG BLACK DOGS, the second story.  (By the way…. the main character in the first story, appears in this one too, and wait till you see what happens to him!!)

My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, for everyday life.

*** If you are new to the MK Stories, you can read this story first, if you  like, but then go back to the FIRST story and meet the kids in order.   http://bit.ly/2dnnrhD  

 

 

April’s Amazing “NO” Play

Hi Kids!

It’s April again.

Guess what? I wrote a play!

mk-stories-aprils-play4And no! I’m not going to be the star. I learned my lesson when I played Mary Magdalene in that Easter pageant!  I was such a show off back then!

I really wanted Daniel, who played the part of Jesus in the pageant, to be Peter in my play. The whole play is about Peter! I thought for sure he would do it. But he said he couldn’t because he had to get all his wisdom teeth pulled.

So I asked  my brother Marshall.

“No way, April. That’s kid’s stuff.  Besides, I’ve got a ton of homework to do before spring break”

I plopped down on the couch and took a big, long breath. What was I going to do? I need a boy to play the part.

“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.

“Gus? No way! He messes around and won’t be serious. And he’s always wanting to ride his bike or play soccer with Jacob.”  Actually, kids, ALL the boys I know just keep staring at that new soccer stadium at the end of our street and dreaming that they will play in it someday. Seriously?

So who was there left?  I couldn’t have a play about Peter without Peter.  Maybe Julie could dress up as a boy, or even Melody or June.  But I needed them for the girl parts.

“What about Kukana?” asked Melody out of the blue. (That means, I didn’t even ask her, she just said it.)

“What?” I said. “That dead mice eating boy?  No way.”

“Well, he probably wouldn’t want to be in your dumb old play anyway. He’d just say NO!” Melody stomped off to her room.

My head whipped around. “What did you say!!!”

My eyes were open wide and I started grinning. Because, kids, that’s when I knew it was SUPPOSED to be Kukana for the part of Peter. Peter was the disciple who was always saying “NO!” I would ask him that very next Sunday!

mk-stories-kukanaKukana started coming to Sunday School after Melody showed him up about eating m’bewa (that’s dead mice…eew!)  I think he kind of likes her, but she doesn’t see that at all. She is so…. so…. well, not interested in that kind of thing. Mom says that’s good, because she’s too young.

But it turns out, Kukana was only interested in the snacks Melody brought to class when it was her turn. Of course SHE didn’t make the brownies, Mom did. But Kukana thought it was Melody, so he was being really nice to her to get… thirds or fourths…if there was any left.  I guess he likes chocolate brownies even more than dead mice. Yuck.

Okay, so I asked Kukana if he wanted to star in my play.

“NO!” he said.

“Perfect!” I said.

“Huh?” he said.

“We’ll practice at our house,” I told him. “Mom will have cookies or something. She always does…..”

“Cookies?” he asked, raising his eyebrows way up high.

“Yep.”

“Hmmm,” he said and licked his lips. “What’s the play about?”

“It’s a Bible story about Peter’s no’s.”

“Peter’s NOSE?  What’s wrong with Peter’s nose?  Does it get longer and longer like Pinocchio’s when HE told lies, like in that cartoon video we saw at school? You know, the one during Inter-gritty week… or whatever.”

“Integrity Week,” I explained. “It means always being truthful. And no, the play’s not about Peter as Pinocchio.”

I paused for a minute right then, imagining Peter’s nose growing every time he denied knowing Jesus. That might be a cool angle…I could fix up a fake nose to….. But, NO! This was a Bible story play. It had to be all true.

“Peter isn’t going to be like Pinocchio in my play,” I told Kukana.”Sure, he did tell a lie three times when he was really scared. But he did something even worse!  He told Jesus “NO!”  That’s what my play is about.”

“Um…. I don’t know….”

“But you can say “NO” really well!  I heard you. And Melody said so too. You’d be great!”

“Well…”

“And there’ll be brownies…..”

“Yeah?”

I nodded.

“Okay, I’ll be in your play about Peter’s nose.”

“Not nose…no’s.”

“That’s what I said, nose. The nose knows! Hahaha!”  He laughed, stuck his two pointer fingers into his nose holes, and danced around.

I was already having second thoughts about him. But who else was there?

*****

We had the first “read-through” of my play the next Sunday afternoon.  (A read-through is when everybody in the play sits in a circle with a copy of the script, and reads their parts out loud. You can see where the whole play is going that way.)

First there was me (the script writer, producer, and director). I was going to be the narrator too (the  person who reads the Bible passage before each scene) but I decided to ask Julie. She’s a really good reader. I might have to tell her to read LOUDER, but that’s okay.

Then Kukana, of course, who was Peter. He came to the read-through with an old clothespin pinched on his nose. He yelped when Andrew pulled it off  and I thought it served him right. This was supposed to be a serious play!

I’d asked Andrew Kopp to play Jesus. He arrived in a long white “angel” robe left over from the Christmas play. He didn’t HAVE to be in costume, but he said he wanted to get used to walking in it.  Hey…you can’t say “no” to Jesus.

Oh wait!  That’s what my play’s about!

Caleb Ayres agreed to play the disciple John. I wasn’t going to have any other disciples in my play. It was too hard to get boys to be serious (THREE was enough).

Melody and June said they would play the maid and other person in the courtyard who asked Peter if he knew who Jesus was. So that was six in all. I might need someone to help with props….. if I had props.

We all sat down on the grass in our back yard, with the scripts on our laps. Andrew had to hike up his robe so he could sit cross legged.

“Okay, here’s what my play is about…” I started.

“Shouldn’t we pray first?” asked June.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” I said and bowed my head.  “Thank you, God for giving me the idea for this play. Help it to be good. Help everybody to learn their lines and be nice to each other. And help everyone who sees it want to know about Jesus as their Savior.”

“Amen-n-n-n-n-n-n-n!” yelled Gus, who had been hiding behind a tree next to our circle. “Can I watch?”

I wanted to say NO! (Gosh, I was beginning to sound like Peter!)  But I said, “Yes, but don’t interrupt the reading, okay?”

He ran around the tree trunk two times then plopped down in front and leaned back against it. “Okay, go.”

“Curtain up…” I said.

“There’s going to be a curtain?” asked Kukana?

“NO!” (there I go again!). “It’s just something you say when a play starts.” I cleared my throat, “Curtain up,” I said again and nodded to Julie.

She began reading the Bible passage like I’d written it in my script. It was from Matthew 16.

“Now Jesus asked his disciples……” read Julie.

mk-stories-andrew3“Oh, that’s me!” said Andrew and cleared his throat. “‘Who do people say I am?”

Caleb (disciple John): “Some say you are John the Baptizer, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”

Andrew (Jesus): “But who do YOU say I am?”
There was a minute of silence till Kukana found his place. I was beginning to wonder if he even could read!

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” he finally said in amazement. “Wow, is that true?” he asked, looking at me.

I nodded, put my finger against my lips, then pointed to the script.

Andrew (Jesus):  “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! My Father in heaven revealed that to you. And from now on you….”

“His name is Simon? I thought it was Peter?” said Kukana. “And who is this Barjonah guy?”

Gus was giggling now and Kukana gave him a nasty look. “Well, my dad isn’t a preacher, Gussy. I don’t know all the Bible stuff like you do!”

Gus was about to say something about that nick-name but I gave him a stern look and he shut his mouth. “Sorry,” he said under his breath.

“Jesus changed his name to Peter right then, Kukana,” said Andrew. “I was just about to read it.” He looked at his script and finished his line, “…from now on, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church so strong that even that bad place can’t win against it.”

Andrew looked at me. “‘…that bad place? You can say Hell when you are talking about the place where the devil lives. My dad said it was okay.”

I sighed and took out my pencil. I crossed out “that bad place” and wrote “H-e-l-l” over it, then passed around the pencil.

“I’m getting hungry,” said Kukana. “When do the brownies come?”

“I didn’t even tell him about the keys yet!” complained Andrew.

Julie flipped through the pages of the script. “There are still three pages left in this scene.”

“And Kukana…. I mean Peter…. hasn’t said NO yet,” Melody reminded me.

“Grrrrr! Is this what working with actors is like?” I complained through clenched teeth.

Gus got up then and sat down beside Kukana. “Let’s just finish this scene, then we can go in and get the brownies and milk. I’ll explain all this to you later. Just read your lines for now. Okay?”

The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.

Andrew (Jesus): “I’m going to give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and you can open the door to all the people I want to come in.”

I could see Kukana wanted to say something, but he glanced at Gus and kept quiet.

Julie went on, “From then on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer a lot of things from the Jewish leaders and be killed, and on the third day rise again. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying…..”

Gus elbowed Kukana and he said Peter’s line: “NO WAY, Lord!! This shall never happen to you if I can help it!!

Andrew (Jesus): “Get behind me, Satan!  Don’t try to stop me! You are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man!”

Kukana looked confused.  “Why did Jesus call Peter, Satan? That’s not nice. I don’t like that name!” He shivered, then added, “Besides, wasn’t Peter trying to protect Jesus from getting hurt?  Why was it bad for him to say “NO”?”

“Because Jesus HAD to die, Kukana,” Julie explained to him softly as we headed to the house. “God sent Jesus to earth for just that reason – to die.”

“But why?”

“Because otherwise WE would die and go to….Hell,” Gus broke in. “The Bible says we all sin and God can’t allow people who sin into His heaven because He’s holy. People who sin have to die. That’s the rules. So God sent Jesus, who never sinned, to die in our place. That way, when we believe on Him, and tell Him that we are sorry, our sin is all forgiven and we CAN go to Heaven to be with God forever.”

Kukana just stared at Gus. “Didn’t Peter know that?”

“Nope. Not then. And not for a long time,” Gus explained, opening the side door of our house. “None of the disciples really knew that till after Jesus rose up.”

Kukana was about to say something else, but just then, he caught the smell of brownies and his stomach growled. It actually growled loud enough for me to hear it!!!

We all made a bee-line into the kitchen where Mom’s warm brownie squares were sitting on the counter with glasses of cold milk.  Oh, yum!!

*****

mk-stories-aprils-play3Well, kids, that’s how the rest of the read-throughs went. There had to be several of them because Kukana kept asking questions and interrupting everything. I have to admit I got pretty impatient sometimes.

Gus stayed by him and tried to explain. And so did Julie. Actually, I was surprised at Gus. He didn’t want to be in my play because he had “other things to do, ” but he came to all the meetings. He was really nice to Kukana too.

The second scene in my play comes from John 13 and happens in the room where Jesus was going to eat the Passover meal with the disciples. They all had been arguing about who was the greatest and who would get the best jobs in Jesus’ kingdom.

(I was going to put their argument in my play, but I thought the boys would get side-tracked into REAL arguments about sports and who had the best bikes or could run the fastest, and stuff like that… and my play would be ruined. So I just had Julie read about it.)

Then she read how not one of the disciples offered to wash all their dirty feet before dinner.  I guess they did that in Bible days. We wash our hands, but…. well, that’s how it was then. No one volunteered, so Jesus got up to do it.

Julie: “Jesus poured water into a bowl and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with a towel. He came to Peter who said…..”

Kukana (Peter): “NO WAY, Lord, do you wash MY feet!!”  Then he whispered something to Gus and they both giggled, but got quiet again when I gave them a stern look.

Andrew (Jesus):  “If I don’t wash you, Peter, you have no part with me.”

Kukana (Peter): “Then Lord, wash ALL of me!”

This time he couldn’t help bursting out laughing. “That would be sooooo embarrassing!” he added, falling backward onto the grass. “I would NEVER ask Jesus to give me a bath in front of all the other guys!  That Peter was really stupid!”

“Let’s finish this,” said, and nodded to Andrew.

Andrew (Jesus), who had started laughing with Kukana, tried hard to get serious. He cleared his throat, snorted one last laugh through his nose, then said his line: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet. You are already clean, Simon Peter.”

Kukana looked amazed, “So then what was all the talk about washing and baths if they were already clean?  This is why I don ‘t read your Bible. It doesn’t make sense!”

“It was symbolic, Kukana!” I said, getting really impatient. “Jesus meant that Peter’s heart was already clean because he believed in Jesus. He just needed the everyday sins he committed to be washed away.  Sheesh, Kukana!  Don’t you know anything?”

“I’m not dumb April!” Kukana said, suddenly serious. “I know a lot of things!  I could say your whole play in Chichewa!  Could YOU?????”

He got up and threw down his script.

“April….” Julie said in a low voice, frowning at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I didn’t mean you were dumb, Kukana. I know you aren’t. Please forgive me.”

Kukana glared at me for a few minutes, then shrugged, picked up the script and sat down.

Julie said we should finish the scene because Jesus had one more line.

mk-stories-andrew4Andrew (Jesus) wiggling his eyebrows, looked slyly around at everyone and said slowly: “But…. not ALL of you are clean…….”

Julie finished the narration: “For Jesus knew who would betray him.”

“That’s me, right?” asked Kukana, sitting up straight.

“No,” Andrew said, “You’re going to deny me, not betray me.”

“What’s the difference?”

“C’mon, Kukana,” Gus said and helped his new friend get up. “I’ll explain when we go in the house. I think there are chocolate chip cookies today!”

I watched them run to the back door together.  I was beginning to think that Gus would have made a pretty good Jesus too.

*****

We finally got to the live rehearsals. I was surprised that Kukana memorized his lines so quickly.

“That’s not unusual,” Mom said. “In the villages, most of the stories are passed down orally – that means they are told from memory, not from reading them in a book. A lot of Kukana’s relatives still live in the village.”

Andrew did pretty well with his ‘Jesus’ lines too. He knew the Bible stories so well, that even if he changed a couple words here and there, it would still mean the same.

Melody and June had their few lines down perfectly, and Julie did hers by reading from a Bible.

The third “NO” scene went pretty good. Kukana understood that his character really loved Jesus a lot and didn’t want Him to die… and especially not to die all alone! So at the rehearsal (which we were doing in our carport now, pretending that there were people sitting in chairs in the driveway watching us), we didn’t expect Kukana to……..

Well, here’s how it happened

Julie, off to one side, said “After the meal they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”

When she said that, Andrew, Caleb, Gus (who was now playing Jesus’ other disciple, James), and Kukana walked slowly from the back door of the house to the middle of the carport “stage.” Nobody was carrying scripts now. Everyone knew their lines.

Andrew (Jesus), who was walking very well in his long robe now, said to the three disciples: “You will ALL fall away because of me this night. For the Bible says, ‘I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’.”

(We’d already explained to Kukana that Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for his sheep, and that His “sheep” were the disciples and  everyone who would ever believe in Him.)

Kukana (Peter), now in a dark green and brown striped robe said: “Not me! I will NEVER fall away even if these other guys do. Nope. No, No, NO!”  He strutted around looking pretty proud.

Andrew (Jesus): “Truly, I tell you Simon, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me THREE TIMES.”

Kukana (Peter): “NO, I will NOT!  Even if I have to die with You, I WON’T deny You!” Kukana stomped his foot.

Andrew (Jesus): “Simon, Simon, Satan wants to have you, to try to shake you up. But don’t worry, I have prayed for you that your faith doesn’t fail. And later on, you can help my other disciples.”

Kukana(Jesus): “I’m ready to go with you to prison and to..” Suddenly Kukana’s face got very pale and he looked sick, “…to…death.”

I called “Curtain!” and they all knew by then what that meant. Everybody went inside for Mom’s lemon bars, except Kukana.

“April, I don’t want Jesus to say that last line,” he blurted out. “The one about…..about Satan.”

“It’s in the Bible, Kukana. It’s what Jesus says.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of other stuff in the Bible that isn’t in your play. I know! I borrowed Teacher Molenaar’s Bible. I read it while I wait for my dad to finish work.” He tugged at the belt of his robe, “I… I don’t like to talk about ‘him’. You know, the devil.” This last word was whispered.

“But…” I started.

“April, last night I had a bad dream. And when I woke up our house was shaking!  It was HIM, he was trying to shake me up!  April, I know about “bad medicine.” In the village, he… the Medicine Man does BAD stuff to people who go against him.  He scares me!  I don’t think he wants me to be in this play about Jesus.”

He gulped then finished, “So… if  you don’t take out that line… then… I’m going to quit the play. I will!”

Kids, I didn’t know what to say. I remembered the story that Maya told us about being trained by the Medicine Man, and the bad things he wanted Maya to do – even throw poison seeds into a family’s water pot. Maya had escaped – with the help of Jesus…and the Black Mamba.

I looked at Kukana. He was taking off his Peter costume.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” I said.  I was trying to think fast… about that scene. Could I take out that line?  Maybe….  Peter had already told Jesus his big “NO” so…  yes, it could work.

“Okay, I’ll strike that line, Kukana. I’ll take it out. Go inside now for some lemon bars and send Andrew outside. I’ll tell him about the change.”

Kukana looked much better then. He tied his robe belt again, grinned, and ran into the house. “Hey, save some for me, guys!”

*****

Later we rehearsed the scene where Peter denies Jesus three times. Melody and June finally got to say their lines. (They were getting pretty bored by then.)

Kukana said his denials very loud and strong.  He wanted to curse for real, but I wouldn’t let him. Gus gave a great rooster crow from the side, and Kukana looked wide-eyed at where the audience would be when he heard it.

At the last minute I decided to include that little half-scene where Jesus is being taken to another trial and He sees Peter’s last denial. Since I took the other line out, I quickly added it to all the scripts. It’s from Luke 22.  Here’s what I wrote….

Narrator: “ The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. And Peter remembered what Jesus  said, and he went out and cried bitterly.”

 Kukana did a good job running off crying.

We rehearsed the last “NO” scene too, but we had a lot of problems with the sheet and the stuffed animals.

You remember that story, right, kids?  It’s from Acts 10.  It was after Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came and Peter got really good at preaching. He even healed people in Jesus’ name and raised a young lady, named Tabitha, from the dead.

Then he had that dream where this huge sheet came down from heaven full of all kinds of creepy animals, and heard God tell him to kill them and eat them.

By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.

“Can I get some m’bewa and put in the sheet? How about some grasshoppers?  I’d eat them!! Just like THAT.” He pretended to put creatures into his mouth and chew them up.

“No, Kukana, the whole idea is that Peter would say NO!  It’s the fifth NO he says to God. Peter was a Jew and Jews would never eat things that their religion said not to.”

Then everybody thought the stuffed animals (including a rainbow Unicorn that came from somewhere) just looked dumb.  And we couldn’t figure out how to let the sheet down without spilling them.  In the end, I just cut the whole scene.  We would have FOUR of Peter’s NO’s.

But…. I didn’t like ending my play with Peter (Kukana) running off the stage crying loudly because he denied Jesus.

We all got together after the final rehearsal to talk about it.

mk-stories-andrew1Then Andrew came up with a great answer to the problem. “I learned in my home school Bible class that Jesus had a private meeting with Peter after he got resurrected. It’s at the end of Luke, I think.  Jesus forgives Peter and welcomes him back.  We could show that . This scene could be a “YES” scene when Peter asks for forgiveness and JESUS says “yes.”

We all sat there staring at Andrew.  It was perfect!

“Wow!” I said. “And with different costumes, Caleb and Gus could be the soldiers who take Jesus away.”

“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.

“Yeah, cool,” said Caleb raising two thumbs.

Melody and June told him they loved it too.

I looked it up in the Bible – Luke 24, and 1 Corinthians 15 – and wrote a few lines into my script that I thought Jesus and Peter would say. We went over it a couple of times. It was a PERFECT ending!

*****

The play was just one week later on Sunday afternoon.  All our parents, neighbors and friends were invited, although we wouldn’t have enough chairs if everybody came.

“Why don’t you have it in the church,” Dad suggested. “That way there would be plenty of seats.  IBF (International Bible Fellowship) doesn’t have anything planned for that afternoon.”

WOW!!  My play would be a real pageant, like at Christmas or Easter, and on a real stage!!!

Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).

 

“PETER’S NO’S”

A play by

April Grace Matthews

from the Bible.

 

Dad printed some half-page programs, naming the scenes and who would be in them. Everyone who came would get one.  I asked him to give a closing prayer after it was over and he agreed.

All our costumes were finished. We didn’t have very many props – just the bowl and towel in the “washing” scene, and the cardboard helmets and swords for the soldiers. Marshall helped Gus make those.

I was so excited, I couldn’t even sleep that night.

inside-ibc-copy-2The big afternoon came.  We all went to the church and got into our costumes.  We met in the back room (in a theater it is call the “Green Room” but this one was painted white). We looked at our scripts for the very last time. They were pretty ragged by then.

Kukana, Caleb and Gus were nervous and sort of danced around acting stupid. Julie cleared her throat ten times. She was nervous about being in front of an audience.

Andrew stood in his white robe in the middle of the room and grinned.

Our dad peeked in and said the church benches were full and it was about time.  He high-fived everyone, then went out to announce the play.

I led the troupe (that’s what you call a group of actors) out to the platform.  I took my place in a chair to the side, with a brand new copy of the script. I planned to follow along and if anyone forgot their lines, I would “prompt” them, so they wouldn’t die of embarrassment.

I looked at all the audience and my heart started beating double time.

I leaned toward my actors and whispered, “Talk loud!”

And then it began.

Julie started reading from her Bible softly, but then her voice got nice and loud, “Now when Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples……”

She looked up at Andrew, who stepped forward and said, “Who do people say that I am?”

Caleb and Gus gave their answers, then Kukana gave Peter’s wonderful statement. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

Next came his loud “NO” about Jesus dying, and Jesus’s hard scolding of him.

A lot of people clapped after scene one.  I wiggled in my seat so happy with my play and my … players.

Andrew and Kukana did a great job talking about washing feet and whole bodies.  This time my “Peter” didn’t giggle. It was really great!

I had Julie add a little part about how the washing that Jesus did was symbolic of washing away sin, in case there were other people who didn’t understand.

Next was the scene where Peter would say loudly that even if all the other disciples left Jesus, HE would NOT!   And Jesus told him that he WOULD… before the rooster crowed the next day.

Then suddenly… there was an awful sound from the back of the church! I jumped in my chair and almost dropped my script.

It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.

Only it wasn’t a real bird. It was a man!  A big, dark man with a necklace of chains hanging around his neck had made that horrible, scary noise.  And he made it again, only louder and scarier!

People turned around, saw the man, and started talking in fearful voices.  A few people in the back rows moved away from him.  I looked for Dad but he had already started to move around the side wall towards the back.

Then I looked at Kukana.  He was terrified and as white as any Malawi boy could look!

Then I knew.

This was the powerful and evil Medicine Man from the village.  How did he get inside IBF?  Who had told him about my play?

Kukana was shaking so badly I thought he was going to fall over. I started to get up to catch him.

Suddenly, Andrew yelled out in his loudest voice, “SIMON, SIMON…SATAN WANTS TO HAVE YOU.  HE WANTS TO TRY TO SHAKE YOU UP!!   BUT I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU THAT YOUR FAITH DOES… NOT… FAIL!”

I stared at Andrew. His eyes were fierce and his fists were clenched. HE wasn’t scared. He was mad.

Kukana looked at Andrew too. He stopped shaking and stood taller.

The dark man glared at Andrew over the people’s heads. He glared at him a long time, his lips curling in a snarl, but our “Jesus” never moved.

Then, before my dad could even get to him, the man whirled around and ran out.

There was absolute silence.

Then, in a clear voice, Kukana said, “Jesus, your prayer saved me! I was going to be killed by that man, but your words…. the words from the Bible scared him off.”

Kukana turned to me then and started crying. “April, I want to be a Christian too. I want the real Jesus to be my Savior!  I want to be washed all over clean, just like the real Peter.”

I smiled so big at him that I thought my face would split.  There were some people who said “Amen” in the congregation.  Some women all over the church started singing softly, then loudly, praising God.

Daddy came onto the platform and kneeled down beside Kukana. It got quiet again. He spoke in a normal voice, but people in the back row could hear him.

“Kukana, do you know that God is Holy and that nobody can ever be as perfect as He demands them to be?”

Kukana nodded.

“Do you understand that anyone who is not perfectly good cannot have eternal life in God’s heaven?”

He nodded.  A couple people said, “amen” softly.

“Kukana, did you learn John 3:16 since you’ve been coming to Sunday School?  Can you say it to me?”

Softly the dead mice eater said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only bebot…bebotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him…. shall NOT die…. but have eternal life. John 3:16”

“What does that mean to you?”

“That Jesus came and died for me, that I wouldn’t have to die for my own sins.  I could live with God in heaven forever.  And even though I did a lot of bad things – like Peter did when he denied Jesus and even cussed him – even  though I am like Peter, Jesus can forgive me.  He prays for me. He wants me as His friend. And I want to be His friend too!”

Then Kukana started crying. He put his hands tightly over his eyes and pressed hard.  “I’m sorry Jesus!  Will You forgive me?”

He looked up at dad , “Will He?”

Dad said, “YES!  He already has!”  He gave Kukana a big, long hug.

People in the congregation were standing up now and clapping and saying, “Praise God!” and “Thank You, Lord!”

Finally dad stood up and everybody quieted and sat down.  “We have seen a miracle here today.  There are angels singing in Heaven about this boy’s new birth.”

He looked at me and smiled. “April, it was all those Bible verses in your play that did it.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and it came to Kukana today. God blessed your play more than you could have wished.”

*****

Well kids, we never finished the last two scenes.  Melody and June didn’t get a chance to accuse Peter of denying Jesus.  I don’t think Kukana could have done that “denying scene” anyway.  He was totally believing in his new Savior now!

And the last scene, about Jesus restoring Peter…. well, THAT happened in real life right before our eyes!

 

After we changed out of our costumes and gathered up the props, we walked home feeling really good.  Kukana couldn’t stop asking Dad questions and getting answers that made him even happier.

“I’ve been reading the Bible a lot since I got into April’s play, Mr. Matthews,” Kukana said. “Now I want a Bible of my own so I can read the stories about Peter and Jesus to my friends in the village. I want them to know how Jesus loves them too!”

“We’ll get you a Bible at Sunday School next week,” said my Dad.

Kukana skipped ahead of  us and did a cartwheel right in the street!  We all laughed.

And then kids, I had this brilliant, over-the-top, fantastic, glorious, coolest-ever idea!!!!!

“Kukana,” I said. “Do you want to read my play to your friends too?  In Chichewa?  We can all come and act it out for them while you say the words. You SAID you could do it……CAN you?”

“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! ” he yelled, jumping as high as he could and flinging his arms up as tall as the sky!

*****

Kids, I’m so happy that Kukana got saved, aren’t you?

And we really DID go to the Village a couple weeks later an dput on my play in Chichewa. This time, Jacob Kopp played the par of Peter, while Kukana translated the narration and all the actors’ lines.  he wasn’t even afraid of the Mecicine man, who strangely would not come close to our little troupe.

 

Kukana and I are going to write another play for his village friends.  I think this one will be about PAUL and his first missionary journey.

Love until next time!  I don’t know who will be writing…maybe one of my brothers and sisters! Hahahaha.

Meanwhile, why don’t YOU use YOUR talents for God. See what happened when I wrote a play?

Love, April

 

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

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

Parents note:  Witch Doctors, which I call “Medicine Men” in my stories, have a strong influence in village life in Malawi even today.  They use fear and “dark magic” to keep people in their power and in debt to them. EVEN Christian converts, when asked if they believe in the power of witchcraft, will say yes.   I have no wish to promote their craft in any way, other than to say, the devil and his minions have no chance against the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.     

(Read Bible passages like Luke 4:33-36, Luke 7:26-39 and Luke 9:38-43, that show Jesus’ power over the demonic world.  Also Paul’s experience with a magician in Acts 13:6-11.)

 

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Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#10) – LOST IN CHINSAPO (part two)

mk-story-coversThis story is TENTH in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. It’s part two with the NINTH story , which left readers with quite a “cliff hanger!”

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.

 

Hi kidsssssss,

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.

Black-dark.

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)

100_5254-copyA thin boy in shorts and an old plaid shirt came quickly out of the house, a big mischievous grin on his face.

(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)

Huh?

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.

nsima-womanMrs. 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?

fanta-pineapple2

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!

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.”

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.

mosquito5I felt a tickle, then a sting on my cheek!  NO! I rubbed the spot and felt a round bump coming up. A mosquito bit me!! Did it have the malaria germ??

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.”

100_5258-copy-3I looked back as we were leaving and saw Chisomo with that baby on her back. “Muyende bwino!”**  (Moo-YEN-de BWEE-no) she called and gave her happy beacon smile.

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.

Love,

Gusssssssssssssssssssssss

  

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

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 (#5) (part 1 of 2) “Crime in Old Town”

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

This story is part ONE of two, continued in the SIXTH story – “The Thief”

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.)

 

Crime in Old Town

Hi kids!

Melody told me you are getting to know all of us Matthews’ clan (family).  Already you have heard from her twin sister June, and from Julie, and from Gus-sy,

“Hey, stop punching me, AUGUST!  Or maybe I should say, Gussssssssss, like you say!  Oooof!  Oww!  Okay, okay, little brother I’m just kidding!  I love ya, you know it!”

Sorry, kids. I was just teasing him – not in a mean way, just a brotherly tussle, like having a pillow fight but without the pillows!

Anyway, I’m the oldest kid in this family. I’m fifteen and a half. I was born in….what month? Can you guess? My name is Marshall, so….?

I am where it ALL started, the first born Matthews kid in the family. I don’t think Mom really meant to start the “month-name” thing, but I was born in…. well, THAT month (Have you guessed it?), and she already wanted to call me Marshall.

I would have been Catherine, if I’d been a girl, so you see she wasn’t thinking of months then. Do you want to know what she WAS thinking about?

When Mom was a teenager she read a book about an amazing preacher from Scotland.  He wanted to be like David Livingstone – who brought the Gospel to Malawi, or he wanted to be like Erik Liddell who became a missionary to China. (Did you ever see the movie, “Chariots of Fire”? That was about Erik Liddell).

But God wanted this preacher to go to America as a “home missionary.”  America? That sounds totally weird, right? But I know there are places in America that need a “missionary” to tell people about Jesus too. Can you think of any place or people?

This man preached everywhere, starting in the state of Alabama.  When he went to Washington D.C., the people loved him so much that he was appointed as Chaplain (that’s sort of like a pastor) to the United States Senate.  The senators loved his prayers so much they would come early to work to hear him pray!

mk-stories-man-peterAnyway, his wife Catherine wrote a book about him after he died. “A Man Called Peter” was the title. His name was Peter Marshall. My Mom loved his story, and even cried at the end of the book. She decided to name her first son after him – IF she ever got married and had kids.

And that’s how I got MY name. It wasn’t because I was born in a certain month.  But when Julie came along in July, the tradition was started.

Oh, yeah!  My middle name is…. Saint. I know, I know!!!!  Don’t laugh!  I was teased about that name a lot of times.  Kids would call me “Saint Matthews!”

mk-stories-nate-saintLike I said, Mom loved to read Christian biographies (stories about real people), and another one she read before I was born was “Jungle Pilot,” the story of Nate Saint. Nate Saint flew missionaries into Ecuador in small planes.

Nate Saint wanted to tell the Gospel to the Auca Indians (a very dangerous tribe of head hunters), but before he could, they killed him with their SPEARS!  They also killed Jim Elliot and three other missionaries who were with him.  Later his sister bravely went back to Ecuador, and DID tell them the Good News about Jesus, and they were sorry for what they had done.

So, that’s how I got to be Marshall Saint Matthews. It’s a pretty big name to live up to, I gotta tell ya – two outstanding missionary men, and I’m just a kid. Well, a 15 and a half year old kid. (Gus thinks I’m a man already because I am as tall as Dad.)

As you can see, our Mom was very missionary minded. But that’s not saying she wanted to BE a missionary back then. Especially not a missionary to AFRICA!  It started way back when I was about Gus’s age and we still lived in America…..

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At first Mom didn’t want to leave everything she loved – her friends, her nice home, her church, her SUV car, going to a pool, or going to the beach, or going to a shopping mall, or having an air conditioner, and not having to worry about mosquitoes and very bad diseases.

She and Dad had some long talks – I could hear them sometimes when I couldn’t sleep and came out of my room and listened at the top of the stairs.

Dad told Mom how God was leading him to go to Africa to teach at the African Bible College and help with a small church that was just getting started there. Remember when June told her story, you read about Dad’s parents being missionaries to Borneo.  He had grown up in a jungle and it didn’t scare him to think about going to Africa. But it was different with Mom.

‘What about the children, Hudson?” Mom asked. “What if they get sick or…?” (Back then, there was only me and Julie and the twins, who were one year old.)   

“If God wants our family to go, Audrey, He will protect the children.” Dad said it quietly, but you could tell there were no “ifs” about it. He knew that God DID want him to go to Africa. To Malawi.

I could tell Dad was trying to help Mom get over being afraid, so he said, “I grew up in Borneo, don’t you remember? We lived with natives all around us. In Malawi, we will not be living in a village, but in a house. People speak English in Malawi too, so we won’t have to learn another language unless we want to.”

“But Melody and June are only one year old!” her voice was very shaky.

“Honey,” he said in a real soft voice, “Remember when we gave each of the children into the Lord’s care when they were born?” 

Mom was quiet because she knew that was true.

After a few minutes, when I think I heard her sniff, she said, “But can’t we be “home missionaries” right here where we live, like Peter Marshall?  We could go to the poor areas of our city, even learn Spanish. Or to hospitals. Or help the homeless. There is a LOT of hopeless people around….” 

(Mom asked all these questions, but she told me later she was really thinking about herself and about all her THINGS. She didn’t want to give them up. Maybe she was also scared about giving up her LIFE, like Nate Saint did.)

The more they talked down there in the kitchen, the more I thought about things that “I” would have to give up too. Things like my skateboard and big Lego sets and my new bike. And what about my friends? Jake and Caleb were my best friends! They would keep on being best friends, only “I” wouldn’t be there!  They’d do stuff that I wanted to do but “I” wouldn’t be able to do it with them if I was in dumb old Ma-loooowwww-eee. 

I was just starting T-ball too, and found out I was great at it. I loved swimming lessons and going to the beach. My Uncle Will promised me a surf board on my eighth birthday, and that was only 19 months away!  

I didn’t think about getting sick, like Mom worried about. Nah, I would never get any of those awful diseases Mom talked about. I hardly ever get a cough or an ear ache or throw up.

I heard Mom talking and arguing, some more, “But Hudson, think of all the vaccinations the kids will need, and the twins are so little!  You know they are saying now that vaccinations can cause other diseases in children, like autism, or…”

Right then, when I heard the word “vaccinations,” my head shot up. WHOA! No way did I want to get shots!! I hated getting shots!  Malawi was getting worse to me with every word.

After that, I started getting into the conversations between Mom and Dad whenever I heard them talking about going to Malawi. I always sided with Mom. Nope, we didn’t want to be missionaries to Africa. We wanted to stay RIGHT HERE. We could talk about Jesus RIGHT HERE in our OWN city. 

Mom and Dad prayed a lot and read the Bible. Dad talked about so many people who didn’t know Jesus in Malawi. He told Mom that God was calling him to preach and teach the people of Malawi, and to teach pastors to go into the villages because they DID know the language.

At other times, he told her not to worry. There was a good clinic with doctors and nurses, and that another missionary family was already there, with one more coming after us.

“Things will be different in Malawi and it may be hard,” he told her. “But God is in Malawi too. He will be with us always. He promised he would never leave us or forsake us.”

Mom finally agreed. She cried a little. One night I heard them singing songs in bed and in the morning, she was smiling a special smile.

NO WAY!  She had betrayed me! 

 

And then, kids, I started acting really bad. I argued and yelled and sat down with my arms crossed, and my eyes scrunched up and my teeth locked together, and refused to do anything they asked me to do.

“No, I don’t want to!” I said.

“I won’t!” I said.

And then ….. “You can’t make me!”

Of course, you know what happened then!  Dad took me upstairs to my room and talked to me and then…… you know.  And it didn’t feel good at all.

 

In the end I realized that kids really don’t have a lot to say in such big decisions. I mean, who can argue against GOD?  I went along with all the giving away of things and packing things in big plastic boxes and sleeping on the floor the last week. But inside I was really mad. I didn’t say it out loud, because I didn’t want more discipline. But I was sure thinking mad and bad things inside.

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When they had a party for us at our church, everybody came up to say good bye. There was a lot of hugging and picture taking, and crying.  I didn’t hug or smile for pictures OR cry.

Caleb gave me a cool expanding flashlight “for when your power goes out,” he said.  Jake gave me a new hand-held video game with extra batteries. “Thanks, guys!” I said.  We looked at each other, then looked at the floor. Caleb’s mom called and he ran off. 

Jake looked after him, and then said to me. “Well, have fun in the jungle!” and ran to where Caleb was. Another kid came to them with a soccer ball and they all ran to the parking lot to kick it around.

It’s not fair! I thought.  I want to stay here with my friends!

“I don’t like you, God,” I said to myself as we drove back to our house for one last night. 

During the night, Julie crawled over to my sleeping bag and curled up beside me. “I don’t wanna go,” she whispered. 

“Me neither!” I said. 

In the morning the pillow we shared was a little wet. She must have been crying. I know I wasn’t. I’m sure of it.

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The trip to Malawi was sooooooooooooooooo long.  At first, riding in a jet was fun. We ate meals right at our seats and watched movies with headphones on. We got pillows and blankets and the waitress lady gave me a plastic pin like the captain wears.

But it was hard to sleep, and Melody and June cried ALL the time. Julie was too scared to do anything but hold on tightly to the arm rests, especially when the plane bumped up and down. I noticed she was chewing her bottom lip real bad.  It got all red.

If you had to go to the bathroom, there was a long line to wait in, and then the bathroom was really small and I didn’t know how to flush it, and I almost got locked in. I pounded on the door and yelled. Someone pushed in the center of the door and it folded up.  What kind of dumb door is that!

Julie also got sick and had to use one of those paper bags from the pocket on the seat in front of her.  That almost made ME sick.  Dad held her on his lap and ordered a Sprite soda for her.  But when the jet started bumping around, a ding-ding-ding sound came on and he had to put her down and fasten the seatbelts.

We landed in a really hot and scary place. But at least we didn’t stay there very long. Then it was morning and I looked out the window. There was no city, just greenish bushes and grass and reddish roads. We flew beside a big lake for a long time. And then we landed.  We got off the plane way out in its parking lot and had to walk to the building.

“Oh, how pretty it is here,” Mom said. “It reminds me of Hawaii!  Look at those palm trees and all the flowers!  Take a deep breath kids, no smog.”  Dad smiled at her and put his arm around her for a quick hug.

It took another long, long time to get all our suitcases and wait for Pastor B. from the college to pack them all inside and on the roof of his Range Rover. 

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As we rode I looked outside. There was not much out there.  Old, dirty buildings with funny signs, people in old clothes selling funny stuff along the highway, and many, many, many rows of corn growing, except it was called maize, Pastor. B. said.

There were no MacDonald’s or Taco Bell or Yogurt Land shops, or pretty lawns or big schools. There were lots and lots of people walking along the road. A boy with a stick was making four cows move along by switching their backs.

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 Mothers didn’t push their kids in strollers. No, they… WORE THEM ON THEIR BACKS like back packs!!

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And they carried loads on their heads – baskets, tubs, water jugs. How did they DO that??

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Men carried gigantic loads of sticks on their rusty bicycles, or on donkeys. Sometimes there were stick cages with chickens packed inside, squawking and shedding feathers.

There were old people sitting by the road in dirty old torn clothes holding out their hands as we passed. One guy didn’t have legs. One old lady’s eyes were completely white.  It made me shiver.

I noticed that Julie wasn’t looking out the window anymore. She was squeezed down low beside me with her hands over her eyes. The twins? They were sleeping. I was very tired too, but I couldn’t stop looking at everything outside.

Finally we came up to a long and tall red brick wall with a black iron gate at the driveway.  A man in dark pants, a pink shirt and a wide tie came out of a tiny little square place in the wall where there was a stool and opened the gate for us. He closed it behind us.

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WOW!!  Inside this place, which I found out later was the African Bible College (ABC), it was so pretty. Nice houses and green lawns and flowers on the ground and in the trees, and new looking school buildings. A huge swimming pool and a big building Pastor B said was a gym.

We stopped in front of a house.  Pastor B. said, “Here’s where I live. You can rest here for a while. My wife has lunch ready for you, and then we will go to your place.”

Mrs. B. came out and welcomed us and hugged mom and us.  “Please come in,” she said.  She had glasses of orange drink for all of us.  It wasn’t cold with ice, but it was very nice to drink. I sat down on a long brown couch and….went to asleep.

~

Excuse me kids…… What?  What are you saying Melody? I can’t understand you with a banana in your mouth!  Hey, give me a bite. Mmm, yum, de–lish–ee-ous!  Thanks, Mel.  Now what did you want to tell me?  Ohhhh, right now?  Okay.

Well, Melody wants me to tell you about the crime I saw and the criminal who ran away. She says all this first day in Malawi stuff is boring. Well, she was just a baby then, so SHE doesn’t even remember it.

Okay. The story she wants me to tell happened a week after she ate that mouse – remember that? – And it made Mom totally forget about what she did. That’s why she thought this story was cool. It wasn’t cool for me while it was happening, I can tell you!  I got a sprained ankle and some bruises and scrapes on my arms out of it.

This story happened on the day we went to “Old Town” Lilongwe (lee-LONG-way). Lilongwe is our capital city, but it’s NO WAY as big as any of your cities in America.

When you go to the oldest part of the city, you can see the Lilongwe River on the left side of the road. Down a long slope at the edge of the river there are Malawian women washing their clothes.  (Yeah, I know!! In that muddy water!)  They beat the clothes up and down in the water, wring them out and hang them over big rocks or bushes to dry. These women live in nearby villages, not in town.

At the top of the hill of this “laundry river place” is an open market, where many, many grass-thatched booths are all crowded together so tightly you can hardly walk between them.

Malawians sell all kinds of things here, from old clothes and shoes and tools and tires, to squash and mangos and sugar cane and peanuts, to live chickens and goats, and fresh fish and goat meat hanging from hooks. Some people cook nsima (nnnn-SEE-mah) in pots over open fires on the ground. (Remember, that is the white thick porridge stuff made from ground maize that Melody told you about.)

One time Dad brought a pair of shoes to this open market. They were still very new, but the soles were coming off. Right away two Malawi men ran up to him and offered him money. They could fix the soles and sell them for a big profit!

It is very dusty, smoky and noisy. There are a lot of people and kids and dogs walking around. Here’s how it looks from the road.  (The river is down past the left side of the picture.)

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When you drive past this open market on the road, you drive under a walking bridge from one side to the other. This is a safer way to cross the street and not get run over by traffic. You can see it in this picture.

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By the way, I took these pictures with the new camera I got from Grandpa and Grandma last Christmas.

These cars and old trucks and buses are NOT driving to that open market. No, mostly only village Malawians go there. They don’t have cars, so they walk and carry the things they sell or buy in baskets on their heads.

All these cars are heading right around the corner into Old Town which is nicknamed “India Town” because there are so many people from India living there. Yeah, I know, weird. Indians living in Africa! There are also two big UN-Christian churches there, called mosques, where people do NOT learn about the Gospel or worship God.

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That day I’m going to tell you about, Mom went to Old Town to buy fabric to sew new sheets for us. The girls like bright colors in their rooms, such as purple, and yellow and blue stripes, and white with big red flowers. She brought April along this time too, so that Neema, a very good seamstress who works there, could measure her for some new dresses.

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A lot of tailors and seamstresses have shops along this road to take orders or to sell the shirts, and pants, and even coats that they make.

Dad was there to buy four huge bags of dog food (Gideon and Samson eat a ton of food every week!).  Ngunda needed a new garden rake.

And I went along to help Mom carry bags.

“Marshall, can you hold all this while I talk to Neema?”  Mom said. She handed me a big sack filled with colorful material.

I looked around and could see Dad and Ngunda going into a big hardware shop down the street.  When I turned back, Neema was measuring and talking to April, and Mom was talking to a boy in an old faded soccer shirt who was trying to sell her something…. jewelry, I think.

“No, I don’t need that,” she said politely, then more loudly when the boy would not go away, “I don’t want that. Go somewhere else, please.”

He kept holding it up in her face and talking in broken English, trying to make a deal. Mom stepped back, pushing his hand away. I frowned.

April laughed at something that Neema did right then – probably tickled her – and I looked away from Mom. When I looked back, I saw another kid whose back was to me, wiggle out Mom’s cell phone from the pouch on her purse which was hanging on her shoulder. She didn’t notice because the first boy was being really pushy now.

“Hey!” I yelled. “Stop that!  Mom, watch out!”  She whipped around, but it was too late, both the boys had taken off down the street running fast.  I dropped the sack I was holding near Neema and took off after them.

“Marshall, come back!” she called.

“They got your cell phone!” I yelled over my shoulder, and saw her look into her purse.

The boy who had been showing her the jewelry took off sideways down an alley, but I kept after the one in a dirty red tank shirt who had the cell phone. He zigged and zagged through the crowds and the cars in the street. He nearly got run over by a truck loaded with Malawians going out of town. I had to stop till it went by and lost him.

Then I thought I saw him again way down the street moving fast, and I ran after him again.  Then something happened – he disappeared into a mob of men and boys. When I caught up, I saw the boy on the ground curled up into a ball. The men were kicking him and beating him with sticks. What was this?

“Stop!” I yelled and tried to break through the mob.

“He a bad thief!” several men growled, and continued with the beating, locking me out of the circle with their shoulders and arms.

“Wait! I’ll take him away!” I shouted, but they pushed me farther out of the circle. I struggled back, trying to get to the boy, pushing in as hard as they were pushing me out.

While they were busy with me, the boy scrambled up, hunched over, and ducked through an opening in the crowd. He started hobbling away, limping pretty bad. I let him get a little ways away, and then broke from the men. “I’ll get him!” I said in as mean a voice as I could. “He will pay!”

This time they let me chase after the “very bad thief” and didn’t follow. When he saw I was still chasing him, he took off in a spurt of speed and went around a corner into another alley.  I raced after him, getting pretty mad myself.

I knew that thieves – even young ones like this boy looked to be – might end up in Maula prison for years, never having a trial. I was beginning to think that maybe he deserved it.  I stepped on a loose brick and twisted my ankle a little bit.  I was just about to quit, when I saw him up ahead behind a big pile of trash. He was bent over, with his hands on his knees. He was breathing very hard, but…. I could see he still held Mom’s cell phone in one hand.

I took a flying leap and tackled him. We both went down with a double “oof” onto the hard packed red Malawi dirt. It knocked the wind out of both of us. I leaned back, but stayed sitting on his legs, my hand pressing down hard on the middle of his back. Both of us were panting and gasping for air.

I could see big bruises already coming on his ribs and one shoulder. I could also see Mom’s cell phone in the dirt just inches beyond his outstretched arm.

A crowd of men started gathering at the opening of the alley, but I raised my fist and made a really mean face, like I was going to beat the boy myself, and they slowly moved away.

I had heard Dad talking about Malawi “mob justice” once, but I hadn’t seen it for myself. Dad said that because the police were never around, and when they were, they didn’t care about such things, the people would “take the law into their own hands” and punish the offenders themselves. They wanted to get even for being stolen from or hurt in some way.  But sometimes they went too far.

The boy moved under me, and I leaned forward on his back, putting more weight on him.  I didn’t want him beaten to death, but I really didn’t want him to go to prison either. It’s an overcrowded place with some really mean men, and a boy like this would just get forgotten for years. He would probably get beaten up or starve and die there.

Besides, Mom’s cell phone had been rescued. It didn’t look broke or anything.

Finally I slid off his legs and reached to turn him over. Red dirt was stuck to his face around his eyes and nose and mouth. He had been crying, and I could see a bloody lip. There was a strange scar on his chin that looked like the letter “W”.

Then our eyes locked on each other’s – his dark chocolate brown and my blue-green ones.  My mouth dropped open!  No!

It was Maya!

~~~~

That’s all I have time for today, kids. Next time I will go back to…. well, you will see. And you will see about Maya too (by the way, you say the name, MY-yah.)  and about that “W” scar on his chin.

Gotta go!  Dad’s calling me to help change the oil on his Land Rover and help him check the breaks. We want to go on a camping trip soon, and it has to be running in tip top shape.

See ya,  Marshall

~~~~

(If you want to think more about this story, and what God says in His Word, read Romans 12:14-21 and let me know how you think this story should turn out….)

“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 (#4) “What’s In A Name?”

mk-story-coversThis story is the FOURTH 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 such 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!  (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.)

 

 

What’s In A Name?

Hi Kids,

It’s my turn to tell you a story. You already know from Melody that I am her twin sister. She is older than me by fifteen minutes, but we were born in two different months, May and June.

That’s how we got our names. Hers is Melody May and mine is Charity June. Being twins, we look alike, but we don’t act alike. She is friendly and daring and thinks of other people’s feelings. I’m not like that. Sometimes I get jealous and even mean.

Everyone calls her by her first name, but they call me by my second name.

I always wondered why.

One day, I complained to Mom, “Kids in Sunday School sing about my sister’s name, Making Melody in my Heart, to the King of Kings, why can’t they sing Making Charity in my Heart instead?”

(Charity means giving some of your old things to poor people who really need it. That’s a good thing, right?)

Mom looked off over my head, with a small smile on her mouth as if she was remembering something good, and then answered, “You’ll grow into it one day, June.”

What?? How do you grow into your name? Don’t you grow into it when you are born?

The story Julie Joy wants me to tell you started way back in December when it was Christmas time here in Malawi. It was also Deek’s second birthday.

Our Grandpa and Grandma Matthews came to visit us. Maybe because it was Christmas and Deek’s birthday or maybe they wanted to see how we were doing in Malawi. They were very tired at first. I takes thirty-five HOURS to travel here from America!

One thing I noticed right away was that they brought four extra suitcases of stuff for us – like clothes and school books and special shampoos for mom, and vitamins and first aid stuff, and a new computer battery for Dad’s laptop. There were also presents for Deek’s birthday, AND Christmas presents for all of us!

On Christmas morning we all had hot oatmeal with the toppings we each like best – three flavors of yogurt, raisins, granola, nuts, chocolate chips, and brown sugar (which Mom makes by mixing white sugar and molasses together because there is no such thing as brown sugar in Malawi! Weird, huh?).

We had a special Christmas service at our church, but this time Dad didn’t have a part. We sang Christmas carols, and then our regular pastor read the Christmas story from the Bible. He invited my Grandpa to pray, which kind of surprised me, until I found out that Grandpa and Grandma used to be a missionaries too, in some other place called Borneo.

(Do you know where that is?)

Some of the ladies at church gave us waxed paper wrapped packages of cookies and pumpkin bread. Mom gave them little baggies of her very special brownies.

We had a big Christmas lunch, with six small roasted chickens called “baby chickens” at the Chipiku (Ch’-PEE-koo) market in Lilongwe, our town. (They are actually Cornish Hens, my mom says.) We also had roasted potatoes, slices of red, red tomatoes, and canned peach halves. We had Jell-O that Grandma made in layers of red and green, and for dessert Mom made three apple pies. We ate all of them!!

Anyway…. we FINALLY got to the opening of presents. We sat in chairs in a big circle in our main room. The windows and doors were all open because it was hot and a cool wind was coming in because a storm was brewing.

(By the way, mosquito screens cover every opening in the house because those tiny flying bugs like to come inside and bite us and sometimes make us sick with malaria!)

It was darker than usual in the house with the storm clouds covering the sun, even though it wasn’t raining yet, so mom turned on the lights. We had a tiny little plastic Christmas tree that Grandpa and Grandma also brought. It had a flashlight battery inside, making the colored lights shine out.

After we opened our presents from Mom and Dad, Dad passed out all the ones from Grandpa and Grandma. We each got two. Marshall got a pocket camera and a really cool knife with lots of things that open up. Julie got a soft fuzzy blue bathrobe and slippers and a matching Disney “Frozen” hairbrush.

Melody got a new board game and a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle. April got a set of twelve kid’s books and a pen with her name on it. Gus got a miniature train set in two boxes. And Deek got a little tricycle, two coloring books, and a big box of “washable” markers. (Mom made sure they were washable.)

I got a plastic jar of Jelly Belly jelly beans! All flavors! My favorite candy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then I started to open the flat box on my lap. I was so excited. Was it a scrapbook or a giant book of crossword and word search puzzles? Was it game that took batteries and made noise?

Nope. It was none of those.

It was a picture in a frame with glass on the front. The frame didn’t even look new, but was worn and scratched in a lot of places. And, worse yet, the picture wasn’t even a picture. It was a bunch of words and designs in sewing, AND the glass looked foggy. It looked like something that someone didn’t want any more and gave to us “poor” missionary kids. It was like… like charity…. given to ME!

I dumped the old sewing picture on the floor and picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candies. I hugged them, looking around at my sisters and brothers. They were all “wow-ing” about their presents and trying them out, thanking Grandpa and Grandma, even giving them hugs.

Mom came over quietly and picked up the framed picture. She sat by me, holding it so I had to look at it. I did, for a minute, and then turned away.

“It’s a sampler,” she said. “People long ago made these to remember important sayings, often from the Bible. They did their very best stitchery on them, sometimes taking months to finish. This one was made by your –.”

“It’s ugly, and I don’t want it,” I cried in a mad whisper. I slapped it away, and it fell to the floor with a clunk.

Just then a huge, loud thunder sounded and the lights went out. Mom and Dad and Marshall stumbled around through all the furniture and wrapping paper to light the candles.

In Malawi, we are used to the electricity going out, especially in storms. Mom keeps a bunch of white candles with matches all over the house on high shelves for when this happens.

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Once they were all lit, we could see again, but not as well as before. The light was dim and yellowish and the flames wiggled back and forth from the wind.

It started to rain so Dad got up and closed a couple of the windows. Then it got more warm and humid. I noticed that the old picture on the floor got covered up by some torn wrapping paper. I was glad.

“How lovely!” said Grandma. “Perfect light and sound effects for singing some joyful Christmas songs!”

I didn’t feel like singing songs. I didn’t feel joyful. I felt mad. Why didn’t I get fun presents like everybody else? I went over to where Melody and April were setting up the new game.

“Come play too,” said April, making room in all the wrapping paper on the floor for me to sit.

“I don’t want to play your stupid game. I pushed the game board with my foot and scattered all the pieces.

“Ju-une, why did you do that?” wailed Melody. I can’t find the other dice now in all these ribbons and papers. Mom, make June help us find the pieces.”

“It’s right there,” I said and kicked the little square with my toe. Are you blind or something!”

When I backed up, I tripped over an empty box and lost my balance. I fell with a thud on one of Gus’s little train engines.

“Owwww!” I yelled!

“Mo-om-m,” Gus yelled back. “She messed up my train!

Dad came over then and helped me up. But he didn’t let loose of my arm. Instead he marched me out to the kitchen.

“June, what’s the matter with you? Why are you being so mean?” he asked.

“Everybody got good presents, but I didn’t!” I cried back.

“What about the Jelly Belly candy? I thought those were your favorites.”

“They are,” I said in a small voice, my head bent over. When I looked up I was crying. Not sad tears but mad tears. “I wanted some puzzle books, or a new hair brush, or markers. I wanted a computer game or something, and all I got was an old picture! I hate it.”

“June,” said my dad. “You need to go to your room until you can come out with a happy face.”

That would be NEVER, I thought and stomped into the main room.

When I picked up my jar of Jelly Belly candy, I stepped on something under the wrapping paper. I heard a crack, but with so much noise, no one heard. I hoped it was a game piece or a toy train car.

In my room, I slammed the door shut, but everyone was singing, “Hark, The Herald Angles Sing” as loud as they could and didn’t hear me. It was raining hard now and thundering. I felt like that inside, like the storm.

I opened the Jelly Belly jar and ate a few green ones. I ate some red and red-spotted ones next. Then I poured a whole handful and popped them all into my mouth all at once and chewed.

MKJellyBeans.jpg
They sang “The First Noel” and I ate white jelly beans. They sang “Angels We have Heard on High” and I ate yellow and orange jelly beans.

I was starting to feel sick when I heard a knock on my door. Everyone was singing “Silent Night” now, but I didn’t feel like eating any more candy, not even the blueberry ones. The big jar was half empty!!

I heard Grandpa call to me and crack open the door.

“Oh, good!” cried Grandpa. “There you are, June. Come out here and sit by me. I want you to help me with something.”

What could I do? Besides I didn’t really want to stay in my room alone any more. I put down the candy and followed him down the hall. When he sat down, I squeezed into his chair beside him.

“We were going to read the Christmas story again, but my old eyes can’t see very well in the candlelight. Would you read it for me from this very old Bible?” He lifted a big old book from the table beside him and set it in my lap. It was heavy and very thick and had gold writing on the front.

I sighed. I started to turn to Luke 2, but Grandpa said, “No, turn to Philippians 2 this time.

What? Everyone knows the Christmas story is in Luke. It tells about baby Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem, and the angels singing Peace on Earth, and the shepherds going to look at the baby. I was curious as I turned the old pages back to Philippians.

“Start right there, June.” He pointed to verse 5. “This Christmas story begins before Bethlehem. Before Nazareth. It begins… in Heaven.”

So, I read until he stopped me after verse 9.

 “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names…”

“That’s not the Christmas story, Grandpa!” I said.

“It isn’t?” he asked.

I read it again, to myself.

Well… it did tell about Jesus coming, but it went way past that, to the Easter story. Actually… way past THAT too. To Jesus going back to heaven. And what was that about a new name. Wasn’t He going to be called Jesus anymore?

That made me think about my OWN name problem and I didn’t want to do that. I started to close the Bible, but Grandpa stopped me.

“Here, look up another verse or two for me, will you?” He told me where and I found 1 John 4 and started reading aloud at verse 9.

“By this hath the charity of God….”

My eyes stopped at the fifth word – Charity?

“Go on,” said Grandpa.

“By this hath the charity of God, appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.” 

I stared at those words. The reason God sent Jesus at Christmas was for….charity??? He gave something of His own – not an old throw away thing, but His very own Son – to the world because we were…what? Poor and needy? Like the Malawian villagers we sometimes take old clothes and food to?

It didn’t make sense.

“But…. we’re not poor and needy, Grandpa. We have a LOT of things. Why would God think we needed charity? Okay, okay, some people in the world need it…..”

Grandpa looked at me with his kind eyes.

“Sweetheart,” he said softly. “We ALL need very much what God is giving. Without it we are all lost. You remember in the Bible where it says we ALL have done bad things against God and other people… even our family. We couldn’t even come close to God’s high standard. We all have hearts that make us want to do bad. God is perfectly good (we call that being holy) and he can’t be with people who aren’t perfectly good too.

The Bible says we deserve God’s punishment for living that way. It’s only fair, don’t you think?”

My mind flashed to how I always tell Mom about the bad things my sisters and brothers do so they will get in trouble and get disciplined. Well, they should get punished, right? They did bad things! Yes, THAT was fair, I knew. But… God’s punishment…that was too scary to think about.

Grandpa went on, “We need God’s forgiveness for all those things we’ve done. He could just ignore them or erase them, but would that be fair to Him or to the ones we’ve sinned against? Would it be fair for someone to get off completely free from any punishment?

I shook my head no.

“The Bible says that God is just. That means He is fair.”

I never thought about God being fair, only that He loved us.

“All people, including Grandma and me, and your Dad and Mom and everyone – all people have broken God’s good laws and disobeyed His Word. We deserve his punishment. Don’t you think?”

I nodded, but it was hard to think about.

“That’s where Jesus comes in,” Grandpa said with a big smile. “He is God’s precious son, but God sent him from heaven to earth – yes as a baby in a stable – to get punished for us, punished for all the disobedience and sin we have done. Yes, He did this because He loved us so much, but also because He is just. He’s fair.”

It all didn’t seem fair to me. How could it be fair for Jesus who was perfect, to get punished for people who were sinful? And yet, He did it. I know all the Bible stories from Sunday School.

“We need something else too, June,” Grandpa said. “We need God’s perfect goodness. You see, we really ARE “poor and needy” after all! We need His…. charity…. as you call it.”

He smiled and patted my knee. “We don’t have anything to pay God for His goodness. (The Bible calls it righteousness.) What could we give Him? Even if we lived perfectly for the rest of our lives – and we couldn’t – it wouldn’t be enough.”

I was beginning to feel really bad listening to Grandpa. I was thinking of the mean things I had said and done to my sisters and brothers, how I always wanted to have the things THEY had and maybe made up stories to get them in trouble because I was jealous… and how I always wanted to make myself look really good and them really bad… and how I never admitted I did anything wrong even when I did sometimes.

I wondered how could I ever get this goodness from God that I needed, like Grandpa was talking about. So I asked him. “How can I get this goodness?”

Grandpa smiled. In fact he gave a happy little laugh. “God gives it to us as a gift. Just like He gives us forgiveness. He can give it, because someone else has paid for it. Do you know who?”

My eyes went to the figures of the nativity scene we have on a low bookcase. I saw the little baby in the manger.

mk-xmas-nativity

I thought how He grew up and always obeyed God, and how He died unfairly so that I wouldn’t be punished for my sin. So I…. so I would also have…. God’s goodness instead of a heart that wants to do bad.

I looked back at Grandpa, my eyes and my mouth wide open.

“Yes, June. Yes!” he cried and gave me a big bear hug. “God did a wonderful exchange when Jesus died. He took our sin, and gave us back His forgiveness and His goodness.”

Wow, it made sense to me now. I have a lot of stuff – I thought about all the things in my room and about my family and friends – but I didn’t have everything. I did need God’s charity; I needed His giving me His forgiveness and His goodness. Boy, I sure was needy and poor!!

It made me want to thank Him. Thank Him very much!

And then I wanted to thank Grandma and Grandpa for the candy, and even for that old sewing picture, because it must have meant something special to them.

I got up and shuffled through the wrapping paper on the floor till I found the picture. But…. oh no! There was a big spider crack in the glass, just over the bottom word that was sewn bigger than the rest. I wanted to cry now. My first thought was to blame it on someone else, but I knew it was me who stepped on it. I had heard that crack sound.

I went to Grandpa very slowly, my eyes filling with tears. “I’m sorry Grandpa and Grandma. I ruined the picture you gave me. I didn’t want it at first, but now I do.” And I started crying really hard.

I didn’t know it, kids, but all my brothers and sisters and even Mom and Dad were staring at me in surprise.

Grandma got up and took me in her arms. “Charity June, we forgive you. The glass can be replaced. And it doesn’t look like the embroidered sampler is hurt at all.”

Grandpa was already gently pulling out the pieces of glass and laying them on top of that old Bible on the table beside him. With the glass out, I could clearly read the emboider—the cross-stitch letters and see tiny hearts that made a frame around them on the cloth. It said…

And now abides

Faith,

Hope,

Charity,

these three;

but the greatest

of these is…

Charity

1 Corinthians 13:13

And in very tiny letters at the bottom… C.G.H.

My Grandma took the picture gently in her hands and lightly traced her finger over the letters. “This sampler was embroidered by your great, great grandmother, Charity Grace Hill, in 1902 when she was about 12 years old. We have cherished it in the family all these years.”

I looked at the stitched words again. They were over 100 years old!

“You were named after her, June, did you know that? We thought it was time for you to have the sampler now.” Her hands were shaking when she gave it to me. “Maybe before we go back to America, we will tell you her story. She lived up to her name, you know.”

“Did she give a lot of things to the poor?” I asked.

“June,” Grandpa interrupted, “Don’t you know what “charity” means? It’s an old English word. You read it in the verses tonight.”

I shook my head.

“Charity means LOVE, a special kind of Godly love” He repeated the verse in 1 John from his old Bible, “In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first LOVED us, and sent his Son to be a sacrifice for our sins.”

~~~~~

One day, much later, after Grandpa and Grandma had gone back to America, Mom asked me, “Well, June, do you want us to start calling you Charity now?”

Her question surprised me. I thought about what I had learned from the special Christmas story we’d read in Grandpa’s old Bible. I thought about the wonderful things my great, great grandmother had done (Yes, Grandma told me her story). I thought about the old sampler picture (with new clear glass now) that was hanging on the wall by my bed. And I thought about what Charity really means.

“Mom,” I said. “I think I need some more time to grow into that name.

And that’s my story, kids!

Love,  Charity June

Well…..I’m still just June for now.

— Facts —

The electricity goes out often in Malawi, sometimes for whole days at a time. When it does, you don’t get any water in your pipes either, because electricity is needed to pump in your water. People who live in houses always have spare water in big plastic bottles, all purified and ready to drink or cook with. 

They also keep buckets of water next to their toilets, so they can be flushed. (Did you know your toilet won’t flush unless water is coming through the pipes?)

Sometimes missionaries have a generator if they can afford it. It runs on gasoline and is noisy, but it will make some electricity for a while. But you can’t use hairdryers or plug in your Internet when you are using generator electricity.

And sometimes…. in the dry months, there is just NO water to pump, even if the electricity is working. And when it does come back, it is muddy from the red dirt in Malawi.  Here’s what came out of our broken water heater.  Ewwww!

MK.Malawi mud.jpg

 

Missionaries have to think of all this and buy drinking water in big bottles from the Chipiku market so they are prepared.

How would you like to live in Malawi with the electricity problems? In some ways, it is like camping. In other ways….. you just want to take a bath in clean bubbly water and go get a drink any time you want.

Next time… maybe Marshall will tell you HIS story about a…. criminal!

 

 

“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”

mk-story-covers

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

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

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

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

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

The Eyes In The Well!

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.

mk-rain-in-culvert

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!

mk-well

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.”

mk-well-cover

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.

mk-chickenwing

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

 

 

Praying in God’s Will

Good wisdom on how God answers prayer. Is there a “magic formula”?

The Life Project

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I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15

These three simple verses are encouraging ones, for they assure us of two wonderful things.  First, we have eternal life.  Second, anything we ask for in prayer will be done, if we ask in God’s will. This is our focus here: God’s will.

The whole idea of tacking “in Jesus’ name, Amen” has always struck me as trying to work the system just a little bit.  Of course, we do that because Jesus is recorded three times in John’s gospel telling His disciples…

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