Tag Archive | Malawi

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

April’s Amazing “NO” Play

Hi Kids!

It’s April again.

Guess what? I wrote a play!

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

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

So I asked  my brother Marshall.

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

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

“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO!” he said.

“Perfect!” I said.

“Huh?” he said.

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

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

“Yep.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um…. I don’t know….”

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

“Well…”

“And there’ll be brownies…..”

“Yeah?”

I nodded.

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

“Not nose…no’s.”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Curtain up…” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He got up and threw down his script.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the difference?”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Well, here’s how it happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But…” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

 Kukana did a good job running off crying.

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

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

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

By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.

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

Melody and June told him they loved it too.

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

*****

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

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

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

Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).

 

“PETER’S NO’S”

A play by

April Grace Matthews

from the Bible.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.

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

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

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

Then I knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was absolute silence.

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

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

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

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

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

Kukana nodded.

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean to you?”

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

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

He looked up at dad , “Will He?”

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

Love, April

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

So, here is the next story!  (Hint: It’s part two of the NINTH story, which left readers with quite a scary “cliff hanger!”)

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

PS:Remember, Gus loves to add lots of letters to the ends of his words.

 

Hi kidsssssss,

Here’s where I left off last time with my story of being… LOST IN CHINSAPO!

……I sank down on my knees and started rocking back and forth. They had gone without me! How could they forget me?  Then I remembered. No one knew I had sneaked along. No one knew I was in the village. No one knew but the boys I’d played ball and eaten grasshoppers with. And this girl.

I started to cry and wiped the tears away with my arm. 

Mom HAD to be really worried now. I wasn’t home all day and she didn’t know where I’d gone to. Maybe she would eventually think I was with Dad and Marshall. She probably HOPED I was, But then, when Dad got home and I wasn’t with HIM….

I started crying harder, she would be so scared… because of me!

OH! And Dad didn’t know where I was either! He thought I was at HOME!  And even if he suspected I’d maybe tagged along secretly – like I did – he would be, oh, he would be soooooooo mad to have to come back for me.

I squeezed my eyes shut, knowing what discipline I was going to get.

But wait…. NOBODY could drive into Chinsapo in the dark!  And it WAS dark now.

Black-dark.

I could see a few tiny cooking fires, but that’s all.

I heard a rumble. Was that thunder? 

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

“NO,” I cried into my hands. “Noooooooo!” 

Then I felt a tap on my arm…..

 *****

I looked up through my tears. It was the girl. She was still there! I could barely see her, even though she was so close. But she was there!  She was someone I knew, or at least knew about.  I wasn’t totally alone!!

I stood up. “What should I do, —-” I didn’t even know her name. “Will you help me?”

She smiled then and her white teeth were like a happy beacon in the dark! I reached out and she took my hand.  She nodded and began tugging me back up the path… towards her house.

“What’s your name?” I asked her. “I’m Gus.”  I pointed to my chest, but she probably couldn’t see me.

“Are you Mr. Chunga’s daughter?”

She glanced at me curiously then nodded.

“Chisomo,” she said softly. (chee-SO-mo)

“Zikomo?” I thought she said “thank you.”

She shook her head and smiled that “happy beacon” again.

“Chisomo!”** she said loudly, and pointed with the hand that was holding mine at her own chest.

Oh, that must be her name. I wondered what it meant. I would ask Mom or Dad when….. when I… got home. Suddenly I was scared again.

She tugged at my hand once more because I had stopped. I felt a few drops of rain on my arms. It thundered again, louder.  I walked faster after the girl.

The wind started blowing and then another flash and thunder. We were jogging now. I was so glad she knew the way because I couldn’t see a thing. I stumbled a few times on clumps of grass, but she – that little girl – held my hand tightly.

It started raining harder. We started running faster.

Finally I could see a small fire ahead of her, under a wood and thatch shelter. A lady was standing beside it, watching us run down the path.  She called out and waved. We ducked under the thatch and out of the rain.

Up close with the fire light, I could see the same baby in a sling around the lady’s back.  She slipped it under her arm to the front and out of the sling.  She handed it to the little girl… to Chisomo.  My friend glanced back at me and went into the house.

The lady, who must be Mrs. Chunga, looked at me with her hands on her hips.

She said “Moni. Dzina lana ndani?”** in Chichewa, but I didn’t understand. I hoped Chisomo had told her who I was; that I came in the Rover.

She repeated the question and pointed at me.

“Umm… Gus? My name is Gus.” I tapped my chest.  She smiled and nodded.

“N’Dali!”** she called and I flinched. (nnn-DAH-lee)

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

(Here is a picture of him with his sisters and brothers and some other friends.)

Mrs. Chunga told him to do something in Chichewa and he nodded, looking at me.

“You! M’zunga.”** (mmm-ZOON-gah)  He pointed at me, “to come.”

He curled his hand and pointed to the house. I followed him, but at the door he stopped and pointed inside. I looked inside, then at him, and he nodded.

I stepped out and immediately fell down hard!  He had stuck out his foot and tripped me!  And now he was laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach!

I felt tears in my eyes again as I got up. I felt like punching him, but by the way he danced around, I knew I would just miss and look really dumb.

I brushed dirt off my hands and felt a sting on my elbow and one knee. I thought of Mom and how she would wipe a scrape clean, dab on some medicine, and maybe put on a Band-Aid. ‘There are a lot of germs in the soil in Malawi,” she would warn.

I swiped at my eyes again and turned my back on that mean N’Dali, if that was his name. The rain was coming down hard now, pounding on the metal roof like a million kettle drums.

I looked around the room and at once saw an old lantern sitting on a box in the middle of the room, its dim light making wavy shadows on the rough brick walls. It smelled awful, not like lanterns we use camping. What oil were they burning in it?

There were two wood chairs nearby that “had seen better days,” my Mom would say. Woven grass mats covered most of the floor except where I came in. Rolled piles of cloth – rags really – lay here and there against the walls. A narrow doorway covered by a torn cloth led into another room.

Chisomo was kneeling on one of the mats in the corner, wrapping the baby in some of the material. She laid it gently against the wall by the door way to the other room and came to me. She pointed to a mat and a roll of the material across the room.

She said, “Kama.”** (KAH-mah)

Huh?

Before I could say anything a tall girl, about Julie’s age, and another one about Melody’s age ducked out of the other room. They stared at me. I stared back. They went outside. Again Chisomo pointed at the place by the wall and smiled.

Was I supposed to go there? Why? I went to the mat, sat on it, and leaned against the wall. I felt something crawling on my bare leg and brushed it away. It crawled back and I slapped at it.

My stomach was really growling now. It was complaining that it had only ONE granola bar, a bite of another one, and a fried grasshopper to eat all day.  I pictured Mom serving up dinner on our long table. What would it be? My favorite chicken and spicy rice, with canned peaches? My mouth watered and my stomach cramped. “I want to go home!” I said softly. “Why, oh why, did I do such a dumb thing?”

My eyes stung, but there were no more tears. I was so thirsty. I needed a drink really bad. Some cold water from the fridge, or… or even a bottle of my favorite Orange Fanta soda that we got on special occasions. I licked at my lips, but my tongue was dry.

I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed back against the wall. Something fell into my hair and I jerked away and brushed out the little pieces of brick.

There were voices in Chichewa outside; Mrs. Chunga’s and the girls’, then some boys’ voices. Then they all filed inside, led by the dance-stepping mean boy, who came and sat by me.  I scooted sideways away from him and he grinned and made a rude noise.

nsima-womanMrs. Chunga sat on one of the chairs. She had a bowl with some steaming white stuff mounded in the middle. Everyone sat down and the bowl was passed around. Each person scooped out a portion with their cupped hand – about as much as one of my Mom’s big serving spoons would hold.

N’Dali, the mean boy, who had scooped out as much as his hand would hold, passed it to me. There wasn’t a lot left. I looked around and saw that Chisomo had not had a turn yet, plus another little boy about Deek’s age who had toddled in, naked and wet with rain.

I sniffed at the white stuff and recognized nsima (nnn-SEE-ma), the ground up, cooked kernels of maize. I mentally divided the portion that was left into three and reached in my hand. It was cold by then, sticky and gluey. I scooped out a walnut-sized portion and gave the bowl to my friend.  She took an even smaller amount and gave the rest to the toddler. He sat with the bowl between his legs, scooped and licked nsima off his fingers.

I stuffed most of mine into my mouth and almost spit it out. It didn’t have ANY salt in it like my mom put in when she cooked nsima.  It was …. it was…  I made a face and swallowed it, and then I licked my hand for what was stuck between my fingers. Ewwwwww. Then I noticed how dirty my hands were. I wiped them on my shorts.

Now I was really thirsty. That nsima made my tongue stick to the top of my mouth! I made a motion to Chisomo like I was drinking something.  She looked at her mom, and then went into the other room. She came out with a chipped mug and handed it to me.

I looked inside.

There was water alright, but it was as dirty as the girl’s wash water in the bucket that I saw earlier.

I looked at it, and… and… raised it to my mouth. But I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t drink it. All I could hear was my Mom’s voice, “Never, never, never drink any un-purified water! Don’t even brush your teeth with it. EVEN if it looks perfectly clean. You will get bad diarrhea or maybe even typhoid!”

 But I was soooooo thirsty!!  I groaned and handed the cup back to her.

Chisomo said something to her Mom. Her Mom answered back in Chichewa, shaking her head.

Chisomo said more, very quietly. It sounded like begging.  Her Mom shook her head.  The she sighed, looked at me, looked at the roof, and sighed again. She nodded to Chisomo who ran into the other room.

She was in there for a few minutes, and then she came out carrying something wrapped in a rag. She took the rag off and rubbed the dust off the object. It was….. an unopened bottle of FANTA!!!!!  Not orange, but yellow, maybe pineapple, but that was just as good.

Suddenly some of my saliva drooled into my mouth as I could almost taste the Fanta. Dare I hope?

fanta-pineapple2

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!

She walked over and handed me what looked like “golden treasure” for it truly was!  It was warm from her hands but I didn’t care.

N’Dali cried out in anger and complaint and tried to grab the bottle from me. I held it close to my chest with both hands and turned away from him.  He pulled harder and began to hit my head with his fist. “Give it me, give it me!” he cried.

I held on.

Finally his Mom called out sharply and he stopped. But his hand was still on the bottle and his eyes bored into mine. Gradually he took his hand off, but sat tensed right next to me.

I waited as long as I could, then twisted off the lid, cutting the palm of my hand a little bit because it wouldn’t turn.  I waited a minute longer, then with both hands locked around the bottle I raised it to my mouth and tipped it up.

Ohhhh… it was sooooo good… sooo sweet… so wet. The bubbles tumbled over my tongue and down my throat. It wasn’t icy cold, but I didn’t care. I drank half the bottle with my eyes closed, without taking a breath. Then I opened one eye. N’Dali was still staring at me; his eyes were huge and bright.

I stopped drinking, but held the bottle tightly in my mouth where it was. I looked at him again and in the dim light from the lantern, saw one tear run down to the corner of his nose.

He was crying. N’Dali was crying! That mean, trickster, grabbing, hitting boy was crying, and I was the cause. I lowered the bottle and licked my lips. I looked inside and saw there was about two inches left. I wanted those two inches in my mouth SO BAD!!!

I felt a tap on my arm and looked away from N’Dali to Chisomo. She was smiling that big ‘happy beacon’ smile. This girl had risked the anger of her mother and the jealousy of her brothers and sisters for me.  Her Mom had feltobligated to give me the soda – one they were probably saving for a very, very special occasion – just because my Dad had fixed their roof. I swallowed hard.

I looked back at N’Dali who had wiped the tears angrily away from his eyes and once again was glaring at me.  I slowly pulled my fingers from around the bottle – they wouldn’t come easily, and handed it to him.

His eyes got so wide and white that they looked like giant marbles in his dark face. He hesitated only for a second, then grabbed the bottle and chugged it all down, closing his eyes while he drank like I did.  I KNEW what he was feeling and tasting right then.  I swallowed too – I couldn’t help it. That sweetness, that prickly sweetness going over his tongue and down his throat. I knew just what it felt like, what it tasted like. And the soda could still have been mine, if I hadn’t… But no.

N’Dali finished with a small burp. Then he put the bottle back into his mouth, and leaned his head way back. He shook the bottle to get out the last drops. Then he snaked his tongue inside the opening and licked it. Finally he laid it down.  He looked at me with soft eyes now.

“Zikomo,” he whispered and held out his hand for one of those weird, complicated Malawian handshakes. “Pepani,”** he added and pointed to the outside doorway.

Pepani? Pepani…ummm.  I knew what that meant… Oh, yeah.  It meant “I’m sorry.”

Suddenly, everyone got up and either went outside or to a spot on the mats along the wall where the bundles of cloth waited to be unwound and wrapped around them as very, VERY thin blankets. The two biggest girls went through the inner doorway.

Mrs. Chunga carried the bowl outside and then returned. She rolled down a piece of material over the door opening. Next she picked up the baby who had never cried once, and tucked it under her dress top. She sat on one of the mats across from me, her back against the wall, her feet stretched out in front of her. Her shoes were old and ragged and had holes in the bottom.  The toddler went to her and plopped down on her lap. He patted the baby’s leg.

Soon the baby was slipped back out and handed to Chisomo for wrapping and laying down. The toddler took his position next under the other side of her dress top.

I felt a nudging and saw that N’Dali was holding up the unrolled material for me.  He had lain down on the mat against the wall, covered himself with half of it, and was beckoning me to come in beside him.

For a second I wondered what trick he had under there. A sharp stick? But a sudden gust of chilly wind blew through the doorway curtain and made my decision for me. I slid down on the hard, scratchy mat next to him and pulled my half over me. My shoulder stuck out of a large hole.

I felt creepy crawly things in my hair. The mat itched the bare parts of my skin.  My palm and my elbow and knee hurt. My stomach growled… but a sweet taste was still on my tongue.  Some warmth was coming from N’Dali, and just like with Deek when we sometimes slept in the same bed, I snuggled closer to him.

“Zikomo,” I said.

“Mugone bwino,”** N’Dali said. (mu-GO-nay BWEE-no)

I said the same back to him. I hoped it meant “good night.”

Good night?

How could this be a GOOD night? I was lost in Chinsapo. I was hungry and now a little sick from all that sugary soda. I was sleeping on dirt with only a bit of woven grass between me and it. There were bugs or … whatever, crawling on me and in my hair. (Hey, no wonder all the Malawi kids, boys and girls, had shaved heads!!) And I was in super bad trouble when my Dad came for me in the morning.

WOULD he come for me?  Maybe he thought I ran away or got kidnapped and had called Mr. Banda, the policeman. Maybe Dad and Marshall and Ugunda were out searching for me right now in the neighborhood.  Ohhhhhh, what a stupid thing I’d done.  Would Dad EVER forgive me?  Would Mom?

I missed them tucking me in and kissing my forehead. I missed the Bible reading in the living room, and the sometimes funny questions that we asked and Dad answered. I missed my soft bed and pillow and the Angels Baseball team blanket Uncle Will had brought me. I missed Deek and his funny little snoring across our room.

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

Oh, how I wanted the mosquito net around my bed at home!! I pulled the thin rag over my head.

I cried.  Then I prayed.

“Dear God. I love You, and I know You always will love me, no matter what I do or how I disobey. But You are holy and hate sin. Your Bible says so.”

I thought of some verses from the Bible, like Romans 3:23 and 6:23, and the verses in Proverbs 6 that tell seven things God hates. I couldn’t remember them all, but I DID remember, “a tongue that deceives; a heart that makes up wicked plans.” I guess I had done those….. Besides disobeying my parents, not respecting their feelings, being selfish… and a lot of other stuff!

“Dear God,” I prayed again, “I say to You that I have sinned sooooo many ways today. I did them on purpose to get my own way. I didn’t think about others, only myself.”

I wiped my eyes with my fingers under the sheet, sniffed and swallowed hard.

“Dear God, I’m sorry.” Then I said it in Chichewa too, “Pepani,” because… well just because I wanted to. N’Dali turned over and I felt his boney back against mine.

“Dear God, thank You for forgiving me and making my heart clean, like You promised if I confessed my sins and really meant it. Wow… You did it because Jesus already took my punishment for them.  Jesus…. I love you!”

I took a big breath which shook a little in my chest.  I sniffed and swallowed again. I felt much better.  Forgiveness will do that to you, like Dad always said.  But I knew I had to confess and tell my Mom and Dad how sorry I was for hurting them. That would be hard. But knowing that GOD had already forgiven me made it a little easier.

I knew I would get disciplined. God told parents that they needed to do that for their children because it showed how much they loved them, and because it helped the kids to know the ‘right’ way. And Dad… he was always fair and kind.

Oh, Daddy, I love you too!  I hope you will know how sorry I am.  And Momma…

I heard a little whimper from the baby across the room. The lantern had been blown out but I know it was Chisomo, sleeping next to it, that patted or rubbed it till it went back to sleep.

“Dear God, thank you for Chisomo.  She helped me all day to find the right way, first to where Dad and Marshall were working on her house, then coming to find me in the dark, and bringing me back here, and even getting that soda for me. She must believe in You too, from Mrs. Molenaar’s Thursday Bible teaching.

I had a thought then and chuckled softly. Chisomo was like Jesus in a way, like when He said he was the good Shepherd, going after a lost sheep.  I’m a dumb lost sheep.

“Baaaaaa,” I said a little too loudly and N’Dali turned back over and mumbled something.

N’Dali wasn’t so bad after all. He liked to have fun – so did I. Maybe I also had laughed at one of my brothers or sisters when I played a joke on them – one that they didn’t think was funny.

“Dear God, I say to You that I am sorry for those times too. Please help me to be kinder, always.”

And here was N’Dali sharing his “bed” and thin sheet. And they ALL had shared the nsima with me. There was so little in that bowl, and so many of them.  I was glad that we had hired Mr. Chunga to be our night guard. I wished we could give him even more money, but I know that was not the Malawi way.**

I promised myself that I would… well, that I would ask Mom and Dad first, but then send some bottles of Fanta to this family when their Dad came home. And some food – maybe canned peaches or granola bars!! But, how would Mr. Chunga carry all that? I didn’t remember seeing any men carrying boxes on their heads like the ladies do.

Oh!! We really need get a bicycle for Mr. Chunga!! With a rack! He wouldn’t have to walk two hours every day to our house, then back again. I would give my allowance, ALL of it, if it would help. I would ask Dad tomorrow.

Tomorrow….  A day of rescue, of being sorry and getting discipline, AND hugs from Mom. Oh, I loved my Mom’s hugs, and kisses in my hair…..

*****

During the night, we had a scary visitor. I thought I was dreaming or something when a white face was breathing its hot breath on me… something with horns and a long whisker on its chin. I thought of Maya’s medicine man!!

“AAAAH! Help!” I said, sitting up.

Mrs. Chunga called to N’Dali in Chichewa, and he caught the goat that had wondered in, its rope dragging behind, and pulled it outside. After he tied it up again he came back to “bed.”  He was a little wet. It must be still raining, but I’d gotten used to the drumming on the roof.

It was barely light when I woke up again. The rain on the metal roof had stopped, and I heard an unmistakable sound. Footsteps running and a voice calling,

“GUS!  Gus, are you here?  Oh, please, God, let him be here!  GUS!!”

“DADDY!” I cried, knocking N’Dali awake and throwing off the cover. I stumbled out the doorway, nearly ripping down the hanging cloth and ran to my father.

“Gus! We were so worried…” he said hugging me hard against his chest and ruffling my hair.

“Daddy, I’m sorry I hid in the Rover. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first, or even tell you I was here.  I am so sorry!”

We were both crying then, for happiness. Mr. Chunga walked to his house, leaving us alone, and met his wife coming out. They talked in Chichewa. N’Dali came out too and stared at us.  Chisomo peeked out behind him and smiled her happy beacon smile.

“Daddy, the Chunga’s were very good to me. Chisomo found me and brought me here when I was lost in the dark. They gave me nsima and soda and a place to sleep!  Oh, Daddy, couldn’t we do something for them? Please!”

He finally let me loose from the hug. He put his arm around me and we walked to where Mr. & Mrs. Chunga were standing.

“Medson, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to your wife and family for caring for my boy. Thank you. Zikomo!” And then to Mrs. Chunga, “Zikomo!”

I told Dad who Chisomo and N’Dali were and how they’d helped me. N’Dali puffed up like a balloon, his chest our and chin up, and showed his mischievous grin.  Chisomo ducked her head and blushed. I think. It was hard to tell with her dark skin.

The baby cried and Chisomo went to get it. The toddler toddled out, and the other two girls and two boys come outside too, but stayed further away.

Dad gave me one last shoulder hug, and then said, “Gus, let’s go. I’ve brought a few things for Mr. Chunga’s family.”

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

We walked along the path towards where the Rover was parked. I was surprised to see that Dad knew the way pretty well now. Mr. Chunga had to remind him of only one turn. We unloaded a couple big bags of maize, a case of water bottles, and some apples.

In the last box, which was folded shut, I found a dozen granola bars and….. six bottles of Orange Fanta!!! I closed it back up again and yelled, “Hot dog!!”  All the kids who had been following us looked at me like I was crazy.  Well, I was crazy-happy.  Mr. Chunga’s two sons helped to carry the food away. Our guard was probably very tired now and would sleep all day.

“How will we find our way out in the Rover, Dad?” I asked when they were gone.

Dad waved to a couple village boys. They climbed in the back seat and pointed which way at each turn. Soon we were at that scary bridge. The boys ran ahead and directed Dad on how to turn his wheels to get across.  Dad thanked them, quickly handed them a couple granola bars, and we were off.

Well, you know the rest of the story.  I got squished by Mom’s hugs… Mom’s wonderful hugs. She cried and I cried and told her I was so sorry. She took me inside for a big, big breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, a bowl of strawberry yoghurt, and FIVE canned peach halves. Plus juice and milk. Wow…. my belly got so full.  And I think I drank three big glasses of clean cold water too.

My brothers and sisters crowded around and wanted to hear all about my adventure. I started to tell them – to brag about it – but then I remembered how worried and fearful I’d made Mom and Dad, and I just said. “I’ll tell you some later. It’s MUCH better to be home.”

Then I went to bed. But not before getting a shower, a comb through my hair to get out any bugs, medicine and Band-aids on my scrapes, lotion and a strong prayer about my mosquito bites (we found SIX in all!!)

There would be time enough later for the talk and the discipline. I was ready for it. I knew I deserved it, and I felt love from Mom and Dad, and my heavenly Father about it. I had learned a HUGE lesson. I hoped I wouldn’t ever forget.

That’s it, kids.  Have you ever disobeyed your parents in some big way and were very, very sorry later?  Did you tell God about it? He is so good to forgive! And your parents will forgive you too, because they love you. You will probably get some kind of discipline.  But that’s okay.

Love,

Gusssssssssssssssssssssss

  

PS: Here are the meanings of some of the Chichewa words in the story. Can you find what Chisomo’s and N’Dali’s names mean?

Chisomo – (the little girl’s name) “grace”

Moni. Dzina lana ndani? – Hello. What is your name?

N’Dali –  (her brother’s name) “trickster”

Mzunga – white person

Kama – bed

Pepani – I’m sorry.

Mugone bwino – Sleep well.

Muyende bwino! – Go well!

“the Malawai way” – There is a small set wage for all workers. You can’t pay them more or others would get jealous and there’d be fighting and stealing.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chinsapo Adventure  (part 1)

Hi! It’s me! Gussssssssssss!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then 18 hours!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it came!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, honey,” Mom said, chuckling.

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

We stared at her in surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good job, son. And thank YOU, Lord!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I chewed it and swallowed and smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I felt a tap on my arm.

~~~~~

 

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

Gussssssssssssssssss

 

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#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???

icash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, my,” said Mom.

“Hmmm,” said Dad. “Needs some work.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

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

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

Then the cell phone rang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go get the Rover,” Dad said to him.

3

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that like a doctor?” asked Gus.

“Shhhh!” June said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See ya!  Marshall

 

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

Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#4) “What’s In A Name?”

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

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

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

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

 

 

What’s In A Name?

Hi Kids,

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

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

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

I always wondered why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Do you know where that is?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. It was none of those.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Owwww!” I yelled!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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