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 (#8) “Unexpected Arrivals”

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

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

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

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

 

“Unexpected Arrivals”

 

Hello Kids!

It’s Julie again!

Last time, I wrote about what was in that old well that’s in our back yard. Do you remember? You can hardly tell where it was now. Dad didn’t want us (or anything else) to fall into it, so he and Ngunda covered it up with cement. Then Dad got some bricks and built a big round planter on top of it, tall enough for us to sit on.

They filled it with dirt and compost from garden clippings and Mom’s kitchen scraps and planted a small lemon tree there!  The little flowers on it smell so good, but we haven’t gotten any lemons yet.

I can hardly wait for them to grow because I love lemonade!  Mom wants them to squeeze over fish when she cooks it. And also to put into her tea.  And of course, EVERYONE loves lemon bars and lemon cake.

C’mon little lemon tree… GROW!!

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Last week we had two exciting things happen.

First, we got a big box of letters and cards in the mail from the kids at Faith Bible Church. They had written them to us during their Vacation Bible School.

Here’s a picture they sent in the box. It shows some of the kids making the cards!  (If you see any of them… tell them a big “thank you” for us!)

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It was so fun to open them and read the messages and see the drawings. You could tell that some of the cards were from real little kids because they were just scribbles. But we loved them anyway!!  We read our own cards, and then we passed them around so the rest of us could read them too.

April cut cute shapes from her cards and tied a little ribbon at one end. She’s using them as bookmarks in her Bible and other favorite books. She made five especially nice ones to give to her friends and teacher at church.

Marshall and Gus made a whole fleet of colorful paper airplanes out of their cards. Then they had a contest for which would fly the best. Marshall had saved one card that had a lot of yellow coloring on it. He cut out a star and pinned it on Gus for having the best flying airplane.

June did something very pretty with hers. It was something I never would have thought of. On the cards that had drawings of fish or flowers or stars or boats, she punched little holes around each drawn thing, and then threaded different colored yarn through the holes. They really looked cool!

Melody used some of the yarn to attach her cards at their top corners to make a long banner which she taped up on her bedroom wall.

Deek…. well, Deek just liked to throw his whole pile of cards up into the air and let them fall down all around him. Then he would shuffle through them, swishing them all around with his feet. (Mom rescued a few and set them up by his bed so he could look at them when he went to sleep.)

I cut out some of the objects that the kids drew, and a few of the messages they wrote, which I cut into heart shapes. Then I used a wire hanger that my Mom had and some strong string, and made a mobile to hang by my window. When the wind comes in, they flip and turn and spin. I love them so much!

After all the excitement and craft making was over, everyone went to put away their scissors and tape, and to display the things they’d made. Gus and Marshall went outside to fly airplanes.

I decided to help Mom by picking up all the paper scraps and tiny yarn pieces scattered everywhere around the living room. I used the broom to get some that had gotten pushed under the couch. Then a saw one more envelope under there that hadn’t been opened.  I pulled it out with the broom and wiped off the dust that came with it.

It had no name on it. There were no stickers or colored marks on the outside, but there was something inside. Something MORE than a card. When I turned the envelope up on edge, the thing slid to the bottom.

“Mom,” I called, waving the envelope. “Look what I found under the couch. It has no name on it.”

Mom peeked out from the room where she was changing Deek’s clothes. “Just open it, Honey,” she said. “Maybe there is a name inside.”

“But…if it doesn’t belong to me…” I protested. Then I rattled the envelope again. I really DID want to know what was inside.  If it was for someone else, I would just give it to them.

I started to tear open the top, when all of a sudden the dogs started barking furiously. I heard a car horn honk out a funny tune. Gus and Marshall ran by the window shouting.  What was happening?

I slipped the envelope in the back pocket of my jeans and ran to see.  Melody, June and April were right behind me. Ngunda had the dogs tied up and was rolling our big metal gate back along its tracks.

A bright blue Land Rover started edging inside. The top canvas had been rolled back and a tanned arm stuck out of it and waved a small American flag back and forth.

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“Uncle Will!” shouted Marshall, running to open the car door before it had even stopped moving.

A tall tanned man in sun glasses, a bush jacket and jungle hat, stepped out. All of us just stared at him in wonder except for our oldest brother. It looked like Marshall was going to knock him over with his hugging. Then it was like Marshall got embarrassed and stepped back. He held out his hand to shake instead.

“Aw, come here, my boy,” said our Uncle Will and pulled Marshall into another big hug.  “You’re getting mighty big!  Hey, who are all these?” He looked around at the rest of us.

I remembered him vaguely from the time before last that we went back to America. That time, he wore boots, a leather hat with a snakeskin band, and a necklace of beads and spear heads.

Whoa!” he said looking right at me, “Is that you, Julie Joy? What a young lady you are becoming.  You’re… what, twenty now?  Or twenty-five?”

I shook my head, grinning. “No-o-o-o-o! Thirteen.”

He gasped loudly then bowed deeply, which made me giggle.

Then Marshall introduced Gus and our sisters to their Uncle Will. The tall man shook hands solemnly with Gus, after first clicking his heels together and saluting him. (Gus still had a paper airplane in his hand, and the gold paper star pinned on.)

Then our uncle laid his hands on the heads of our twin sisters and pulled them to him, both at one time for a big three-way hug.

“Where’s your Mom?” he asked Marshall after he’d patted April’s cheek softly and winked at her.

“Well, I’ll be!” he added, looking over April’s head. Mom had come outside now, carrying Deek.

“WILL!” she cried and ran to him, handing Deek to me on the way. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? Oh, it is so good to see you!”  She went into his open arms and they hugged and swayed back and forth for a long time.

I put Deek down, and then picked him up again because the excitement was scaring him and he was puckering up to cry.  Uncle Will saw this and came to us, still holding Mom’s hand.

“Who is this young man?” He said and took Deek from me. He tossed him into the air, and then caught him easily, swinging him around in a circle. I gasped and Deek shrieked and Mom laughed.

“Will, be careful!” She said as he raised Deek up to sit on his shoulders, stubby legs around his neck. It knocked off his hat and Gus was quick to grab it, putting it on his own head and laughing when it came down over his eyes.

“This is Deek,” said Mom to her brother. “Deacon William Matthews, our youngest.”

“Deacon William? You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Which part?” she asked, teasing him. “We didn’t name him after YOU!  Well, not completely. We wanted to remember the missionary, William Carey.

“Oh, that’s fine,” said our uncle, “but….. Deacon?  Seriously?”

“Well…. You know our tradition of naming the children with a reminder of the month they were born in.  Deek was born in….”

“DECEMBER!” we all called together, cutting her off.

“Dees-ember!” said Deek, bouncing up and down on Uncle Wills shoulders and flapping his arms.

Then we all heard a familiar toot and Ngunda opened the big gate once more to let in Dad’s car.  Uncle Will handed Deek back to Mom and went to greet his brother-in-law. They shook hands, and then hugged, slapping each other on their backs the way grown up men do.

“Hey, Bro, why didn’t you tell your wife and kids I was coming?”

“I wasn’t sure when you would come. I didn’t want them to get all excited and be disappointed.”

About then, after shutting the gate, Ngunda let the dogs loose. They joined in the fun, jumping up on Uncle Will’s chest and almost knocking him over.

“Whoa, you big lugs!  Down boys!”  He thoroughly scratched their necks and squeezed their shoulders up next to his knees, and then sent them off.

As we all started towards the back door, Dad asked, “And where have you been these days, my famous jungle-doctor brother-in-law?  Zimbabwe? Mozambique?”

“No. Ghana, this time,” he answered. “But I’ll be working in Malawi now for a couple weeks.  No, not at your Kamuzu Hospital in Lilongwe. We’ll be down south at a clinic in Zomba.  So… now is perfect time to visit my sister’s… growing family!”

“Oh, Will,” said Mom, disappointed. “Zomba is a seven hour drive away!  How long can you stay before you leave?”

“It will take me a week just to get all your kids’ names straight, Sis,” he joked. “Let’s see….who are we missing? Where is January Jan?   September Seth?  October Otto?  And…. November Gobble-gobble?  Hey, stop hitting me!  I know, I know… seven kids are enough!”

We were all laughing at Uncle Will and Mom, including Dad.  We had never seen her act so funny before. It was almost like she was a little girl again.

Inside the house, our uncle got more serious. “But, actually, Hudson, while I am here, I need to talk with a one of your teachers at ABS. I think she goes to your church too.  It’s about a young village boy named Lugono. She wrote to Operation Smile about him and I need to see him in person.”

“That must be Debbi Kingsley,” Dad said. “I’ll take you to meet her tomorrow.”

After that, the afternoon was a scrambled happy stew of talking and laughing and showing things and playing guessing games and getting to know Uncle Will. He asked us all lots of questions and bounced Deek on his knee till he got the hiccups from laughing.

When Mom said she would fix some dinner, we all moved into the kitchen to “help” her… but mostly just to look at and listen to our uncle.  He was wonderful and exciting. And besides being fun and part of our family, he was real doctor: Dr. William Calder. He told us some amazing stories about kids all over Africa that he helped by operating on them.

Gus had a question that made us all giggle, except maybe for April who looked like she wanted to know too. “If you are really Mom’s brother, why isn’t your name, Dr. Matthews?”

Uncle Will’s eyes were sparkling, but he answered Gus seriously. “Because ‘Calder’ was your mother’s name too, before she married your dad.”

“It was?” Gus said and looked at Mom in a curious way. We all laughed then, including Gus.

~~~~

It was very late when we were finally sent to bed, with the promise of Uncle Will coming to each of us to pray and “tuck us in.”

Back in the room that I shared with April, who was brushing her teeth right then, I was puzzled to feel something in my back pocket.

“What in the world…?” I said aloud.

Then I found the envelope. I had forgotten all about it with Uncle Will coming and all the excitement  afterwards. I started to open it right then, but April came back and I quickly hid it under my pillow.  I would show her tomorrow, I promised myself, after I found out who it belonged to. But for tonight, I wanted it to be my secret.

But I was too late.

“What was that?” April asked and picked up my pillow. “Did you get another card?  What’s in it?” She was shaking it like I did when I first found it.

“I don’t know,” I said and sighed. “I don’t know what’s in it, and I don’t know if it is even mine. There’s no name on it.”

“Well, OPEN IT!” said April and did just that.

There was a paper inside with neat printing on it. It said, “For JOY, read Romans 12:22.”

“See, it IS for you. You are Julie JOY, right?  And look!  Here’s a little pin. Oh, a cute happy face!”

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She handed me the pin, the note, and the envelope, and went to her bed. She picked up the book lying open on her night stand and began to read. She was deep into the story before I could blink twice.

I felt happy with how the whole envelope thing turned out.  It WAS for me after all, and I loved the little pin. It wasn’t a cheap button pin like you might get for free, but a nice gold-color pin like a piece of jewelry about the size of an American dime.  How cool was that?

And I was the only one who had gotten a “prize” in an envelope.

Who had put it in the box I wondered. Was it a teacher? I didn’t know any close friends back at that church, but one girl HAD seemed to like me the last time we visited. Maybe Taylor had sent it.

I picked up my Bible and found the verse written on the paper.  It was exciting to think that someone was sending ME a special message!  I read the verse to myself, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I memorized it in a minute. Easy-peasy.

I put everything on my night stand and lay down with a smile on MY face.  I was asleep just like that and only slightly remember a hand on my head and a deep voice softly praying for me.

~~~~

Next morning, I put the pin on my pajama top and went out to the kitchen where I could hear Mom making breakfast noises.  Uncle Will was there too, sitting on a stool with a cup of coffee in his hand.

Before they heard me, I saw how much they loved each other and were glad to be together even for a short visit.  Uncle Will was Mom’s only brother, and she didn’t have any sisters.  I wondered how it would be to have only one more kid in my family.

“Julie Joy!” my uncle said, holding out his empty hand to get a morning hug. “Why is your face shining like a mirror in the noon day sun?”

I looked down at my pin and smiled bigger.

“Ah, what do we have here? Now, that’s a right beautiful pin, m’lady.”

“It’s called a happy face, Uncle Will. Someone at our church in American sent it to me.”

I showed it to Mom too, who had her hands floury from making cinnamon rolls.

“There was a Bible verse in the envelope too.”  I recited the verse and the reference to them.

“That’s a good one,” my uncle said. Then, it was weird, he got this  far off look on his face like an idea was blooming in his mind somewhere. He leaned over to look more closely at my pin.

“Hmm,” was all he said.

~~~~

The next thing that happened, was two days later.  Dad had taken Uncle Will to the College with him, and he had talked with that teacher. In the afternoon, he had ridden with her out to the village to see Lugono. He was sad but excited when he came home for dinner.

“I think it might work,” he told Dad later that night while Melody and I were playing Dominos on the cleaned-off dining room table.  “But he’s pretty scared. His mom might need some convincing too. I wonder…..”

Here is where he looked right at me. Then he leaned close to Dad and they talked softly for a while, both of them glancing at me now and then.

It made me feel kind of worried. What were they talking about? The corner of my bottom lip slipped under my teeth before I could stop myself, but I quickly made it come right out.

Finally they sat back. In a minute, Uncle Will called me over to them and I sat beside him on the couch.

“Julie, you seem to be someone with a lot of compassion for others. Your Dad told me how you rescued that  feral cat in the well… no, no… don’t worry!  He also told me how you were sorry for disobeying him.”  He smiled gently at me.

“And I’ve also seen how gentle you are with your little brother…. Deek.”

Here he looked at Dad. “Sheesh, what a name!  How did you let my sister name him that, Hudson?”

Dad shrugged and grinned.  “It grows on you, Will.”

“Anyway, Julie,” he continued. “I’d like you to come out to the village with Debbi and me tomorrow and meet Lugono. Would you do that?”

I nodded. I had been there many times when Mom went to help Mrs. Molenaar teach Bible and sing and hand out bread to the kids.

“I should tell you….” he glanced at Dad, “I should tell you that I’m considering him for surgery next week.  He… well, he has a different problem.  He might look quite frightful to you.  I’d understand if you didn’t want to go. But…. I think you would be a big help.”

I thought about a baby I’d once seen at the village. He had a funny mouth. His upper lip was pulled up into part of his nose and a tooth was growing in a weird place.  I felt really awful  and sad for him, but then I saw his eyes – so big and dark and shining – and all I wanted to do was hug him and make him all better.

I nodded again to Uncle Will. “Yes, I’ll go with you. I want to.”

He grabbed me – big as I am – into his lap for a big hug, and kissed the top of my head. “Thank you, sweet Jewel!  Oh, and be sure to wear that pin.”

And I did. Before I went to bed that night, I pinned it on the shirt I would wear the next day.

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~~~~

On the way to the village the next day, Miss Debbi told us Lugono’s story.  He was one of eight kids and his mother was a widow.  (That means her husband had died.)  One night, two years before, Lugono tripped and fell face first into the open cooking fire. He got VERY bad burns on his face and burned off one eye, one ear, and half his nose.

(Let me tell you, when I heard that, I wanted to scream or cry! Oh, that poor boy!)

Miss Debbi went on to say that his mother took him to a health center, then to the Kamuzu Hospital in Lilongwe. He was there for three months!!  But they didn’t do much for him. They sent him home to die because they thought he was “a hopeless case.”

Right then, I remembered part of my “pin” verse, “joyful in hope,” but Lugono didn’t have much hope, did he?

What happened then, Miss Debbi?” I asked.

“His mother cared for him in the village. Every time she cleaned his wounds, she cried and prayed for a miracle. She never gave up hope.”

Hope….

She continued with the story, “My friend first saw him when his Mom brought him to a mobile clinic for malaria testing. Sonja contacted me because she knew I was helping to find children who needed an Operation Smile* surgery. We took pictures of Lugono and sent them in.”

She smiled. “Your uncle here is the answer to all of our prayers!”

“Julie,” said my uncle, looking right at me, “I believe we can help Lugono with some starter surgery, but he will need many more to really restore his face. The problem is, he is very frightened to have anything done. We… I… hope that you can somehow help him.”

We bumped into the village right then and I took a deep breath. I recited the whole “pin” verse to myself. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  As I stepped down from the Jeep, I prayed really hard for Lugono and for ME.

Like in every village, when visitors arrive, all the children come running, shouting, smiling, wanting to touch you, and get their picture taken. This was the fun part about visiting a village!

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I looked around, but I didn’t see any boy who might be Lugono.

Miss Debbi took us to a thatched red-brick hut. We started to go inside, but Uncle Will said we needed the sunlight to see.  Soon a woman came out leading a boy about nine years old.

And then…. “Oh, no!  Oh, no!  “Oh, please God,” I prayed to myself with all my might, “Oh, please help me not to look away from him!”

I was crying inside and praying softly and smiling and reaching out for Lugono’s hands all at the same time. I recited my “pin” verse softly even though he didn’t know what I was saying.

His poor skin was all twisted up and pulling his lips and half nose and one “good” eyelid towards the burned side.  Everything else – where no eye or ear was – was just tight, shiny, pink-spotted skin.

He looked away from us and turned to go back into the hut.

Miss Debbi said something. She pointed to me and then to Uncle Will and talked more in Chichewa. Lugono tried to look up at my tall uncle, but his skin was too tight and the eyelid wouldn’t stretch at all. My uncle, kneeled down in the red dirt in front of him. He gently ran his hand over Lugono’s face, talking softly and smiling.

Miss Debbi translated and Lugono seemed to listen. Pretty soon he looked at me as best as he could under that half-closed twisted eyelid. It was then I saw his one dark, shining, unhappy but beautiful eye gazing at me. I really think I started to love him then.

I took one of his hands and started to tell him what a good doctor my uncle was, how he had helped many, many kids by his surgeries. Then I remembered what Miss Debbi told us about his mother’s prayers.

“Lugono, God has sent my uncle-doctor as the miracle your momma prayed for. He has come to help you. Don’t be afraid to let him.”

I said it again, this way, “Your momma has been faithful in prayer. God has sent you hope, a reason to be joyful.  Please be patient and trust our good God, and let my uncle-doctor help you in your …. affliction.”

He looked at me steadily with his eye while Miss Debbi translated, and I looked back with all the love I could. Finally he nodded.

“Thank God,” I heard Uncle Will whisper as he stood up.

Then Lugono smiled. Or… he tried to smile. It was… it was horrible to see, almost like a monster’s smile.  But I knew my uncle-doctor would make it beautiful.  Make it a…. happy smile.

I looked down at my pin and without a thought, unfastened it from my shirt. I looked at Lugono and held it out for him to see.  He held it closely to one eye and… smiled again.  I took it and pinned it to HIS shirt.

I heard a joyful laugh.

I don’t know if it was from him or me!

~~~~

I saw Lugono ten days after his surgery, right before Uncle Will went back to America. The team had done many surgeries to help kids, but Lugono’s was the most wonderful to me.

Of course he still does not have an eye or an ear, and although his skin is still shiny and spotted pink, it’s not twisted so much now.

He can look out of his one eye just fine and blink. His lips work good now – he has a great smile – and his half-of-a-nose is straighter, so he can breathe through it.

Uncle Will says he will arrange for Lugono to go to America in a few months, and have more surgeries to make everything even better.

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(See Lugono and Miss Debbi and his mom in the picture?) **

~~~~

When I rode out to the village with my uncle and Miss Debbi for a last visit, Lugono was still wearing the happy face pin. He made signs asking if I wanted it back but I shook my head. Seeing HIS happy face was better than any pin could be.

To me, it was like that pin came just for him!

Before we went to the village, all my sisters and brothers – even Deek –  made cards for Luguno, with drawings, and yarn stitches, and even ribbons. He loved them and also the paper airplanes Gus and Marshall made. And he tied my mobile in a nearby tree to flip and turn and spin in the wind.

~~~~

That’s all this time. I really love writing to you. When I tell you the things that happen in our family, it’s like I can see God at work in all of us.  And THAT makes me want to thank Him so much.

Love to you,   Julie

 

http://www.operationsmile.org/

**photo acquired with permission from the Tracy Elliott newsletter

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#7) “Just Pretending”

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

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

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

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

“Just Pretending”

Hi kids,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, here she comes…finally!

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

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

 

Hello there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it happened.

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

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~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But…”

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

“Pretending….”

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

I shook my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, it was going to be so good!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOYS!

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

Melody is so mean.

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

~~~~

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

“Body!” repeated Deek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got up quickly.

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

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

“Please to hurry,” urged Asala again.

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

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

“Go, tell her come!” repeated Asala.

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

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

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

“And the dogs!” I whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But the dead body, Daddy—-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go ahead, April.”

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

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

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

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

I felt like laughing. So I did!

 

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

Love,  April Grace

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Thief!

Hi kids!

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

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

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

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

1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, my,” said Mom.

“Hmmm,” said Dad. “Needs some work.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

Then the cell phone rang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go get the Rover,” Dad said to him.

3

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that like a doctor?” asked Gus.

“Shhhh!” June said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See ya!  Marshall

 

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#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…..

1

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.

2

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.)

mk-stories-market-place

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.

mk-stories-bridge-over-road

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.

3

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.

mk-stories-sewing-in-it

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.

candlesfloreen
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