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

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

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

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

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

 

 

April’s Amazing “NO” Play

Hi Kids!

It’s April again.

Guess what? I wrote a play!

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

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

So I asked  my brother Marshall.

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

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

“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“NO!” he said.

“Perfect!” I said.

“Huh?” he said.

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

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

“Yep.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um…. I don’t know….”

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

“Well…”

“And there’ll be brownies…..”

“Yeah?”

I nodded.

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

“Not nose…no’s.”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Curtain up…” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But why?”

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He got up and threw down his script.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the difference?”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

Well, here’s how it happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But…” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

 Kukana did a good job running off crying.

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

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

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

By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.

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

Melody and June told him they loved it too.

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

*****

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

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

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

Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).

 

“PETER’S NO’S”

A play by

April Grace Matthews

from the Bible.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.

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

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

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

Then I knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was absolute silence.

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

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

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

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

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

Kukana nodded.

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean to you?”

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

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

He looked up at dad , “Will He?”

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

 

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

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

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

Love, April

 

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

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

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

 

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Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#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!”

mk-happy-face-1

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.

mk-happy-face-2

~~~~

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