The Johnsons- Adventures in Africa

For over two hundred years, missionaries have been passionate about helping people have the Bible in their own language. Some call this their heart language.  If people can know the Scriptures in their heart language, they can understand God’s love and salvation much easier.

For example, perhaps you know some Spanish but your “heart language” is English. That’s the language you understand best. How much would you really understand about God if you read a Spanish Bible?

Lots of people around the world need to have the Bible translated into their own language.

This is a fictional story that takes place some years ago, when your grandparents were young. Africa has changed in many ways since then but I hope you like this series.

Christmas Cheer

Part One

Tim and Karen had lived in the bush country of Africa nearly all their lives. Tim had come with his parents when he was just a toddler and Karen had been born here. They loved their home, their friends, and best of all having a part in helping people know Jesus.

Their parents were always busy with preaching, teaching, nursing, and Bible translation. But Tim and Karen did what all kids do—school, chores, and—having fun.

And Christmas vacation was the best time to have fun!

Tim and Karen loved Christmas and here it was only two days away! The children were all out busily gathering fruit and nuts and beautiful tropical flowers.  Tim and several of their African friends had their baskets full and Karen’s arms were loaded with blossoms.

“Let’s head back,” called Tim. “I don’t think we can carry another thing. Coming, Karen?”

“I just want to get a few of these real pretty ones here.”

“We can come back tomorrow,” Tim’s arms were beginning to ache and there was a long way to go.

“Hey, everybody!  Look at this!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a hut!”

“Oh, is that all?”

“But what’s it doing way out here?  There’s smoke coming from it so someone must be living there.”

“I don’t know, but let’s get going, huh?”

Before he could continue, there was suddenly a commotion from their black friends.  One of the boys came and pulled Karen away, almost making her drop her flowers. The others were dancing up and down, obviously terrified.

“Come!  Come, quickly!”

“Hurry!  Hurry!”

“We didn’t know you were that close to the evil woman’s hut!”

The African children ran down the trail urging the two white children along.

‘Why? What’s the matter?” Karen protested as she was pushed along by her best friend. Finally the missionary children persuaded them to slow down enough to talk.

“There’s a bad woman there.  She does evil magic. Did she come out? Did she look at you?  If she did, she sent the evil spirits into you!”

“No, no one came out. But we don’t believe that, anyway.”  Karen looked at her friend sternly.  “I thought you didn’t believe that stuff anymore, either!”

“Oh, but it is true!  No one in our village goes near her.”

“She must be lonely.”

“We should go back and find out more,” agreed Tim.  Anything as interesting as this was worth investigating.

“No!  No!  No!” The children scattered and ran. “We won’t play with you. She must have put an evil spirit in you already!”

Tim and Karen were left looking after them in astonishment.

“Let’s go tell Mom and Dad,” said Tim, as they started picking up the scattered fruit and flowers.

***

When they arrived home, Karen ran in calling, “Mom!  Mom!  We’ve got something to tell you!”

Tim followed her in and let his heavy baskets drop to the floor.

“Oh, you’ve got lots!” Mrs. Johnson looked around. “But where’s everybody else?”

They told their mother all about the hut and their native friends’ reactions.

“The poor woman. But I can’t visit her until tomorrow.  I’ll ask around and find out who she is.”

“Okay. We’ll go back and pick up the rest of the fruit and nuts.”

Mrs. Johnson must have caught the gleam in her son’s eyes and replied, “all right, but don’t go near the hut until I come, too.  She might never have seen a white person and she might get frightened. I don’t want her going after you with a machete or something.”

“Mom!” Tim laughed but Karen looked rather frightened.

“I mean it. It’s happened before to missionaries.” She looked at them, gravely. “Promise?”

Tim was disappointed but he said, “okay, I promise.”

Karen very willingly nodded. She didn’t like the idea of someone chasing her with a machete.

Mrs. Johnson smiled. “Don’t worry, tomorrow morning will be soon enough. We’ll take some flat cakes to her. When you get back, why don’t you make them, Karen. And Tim, would you look in the box for some gifts for her.”

Their mother picked up her basket of teaching materials and went out for her Bible lesson with the women. The children hiked back to gather the scattered fruit and nuts that the others had dropped.  Karen pointed out the hut.

They watched it for some time from the bushes but they kept their promise and didn’t go any closer.  They finally left, disappointed that the woman hadn’t at least come out so they could get a look at her.

***

The children spent the evening sorting the fruit into piles and putting the flowers together in pretty arrangements. They wrapped the stems in wet moss with huge leaves around that. It would keep them fresh.  Mrs. Johnson was busy baking and throughout the evening, the Christian women came with flat cakes that they’d baked. Mom had asked for a few boxes of plastic wrap to come with their supplies this once.  The women watched, fascinated, as she wrapped their food in it. They curiously touched and smelled the wrap. Tim and Karen were interested, for they had never seen it either. They had been too young to really remember the one time that they’d been to the States.

“It’ll keep the food fresher than wrapping it in leaves like we usually do,” their mother explained. “We don’t want it to get stale. This is too special.”

Karen kept gazing into the box at the cakes wrapped in the clear, shiny plastic. They were special.  Each one had been a sacrifice to scrape together enough ingredients to make. There was hardly enough food for each one’s own family but this year the Christians wanted to show their love by making special gifts for their neighbors. The Christian men were doing special things, too-like fixing a neighbor’s roof or helping to pull up stumps to clear land. And they were all inviting people to the service at the church on Christmas day.

Before the Johnson family went to bed that night, they prayed that the unbelievers in their village would understand why the Christians were celebrating. They prayed for the mysterious woman in the hut, too.

***

The next morning, Mrs. Johnson and the two children started out for the hut. Karen carried the basket with the cakes and other little gifts in it. Tim carried the first aid kit, just in case they might need it.

The children excitedly showed their mother the way and finally they came out into the little clearing.  For the first time, the children saw some sign of life.  There was a goat out in front and then a girl, about their age, appeared at the door. She came out into the clearing and started milking the goat.

She was very dirty and skinny and seemed unhappy with the amount of milk that she’d gotten for she gave the goat a slap and shook her fist at it.  Then, as the goat ran off, she suddenly sat down in the dirt in front of the hut and began to cry.

Mrs. Jackson went toward her, not too quickly so as not to frighten her. The girl was frightened anyway. She leaped to her feet and backed away until she was flat against the side of the hut. She huddled against it, terrified.  The girl made noises with her mouth as Mrs. Johnson came forward slowly, a smile on her face and talking quietly.

The girl was either too shocked at seeing a stranger, and one with white skin at that, to listen or else she didn’t understand the language.  Mr. Johnson switched to a dialect of a nearby tribe but the girl still didn’t seem to understand.  Mrs. Johnson motioned the children forward, thinking that perhaps the girl wouldn’t be so frightened of them, but she only turned and hid her head, cringing against the grass wall of the hut.

Finally, Mrs. Johnson took the flat cakes out of the basket and showed them to the girl. Like magic, she stopped crying, grabbed the food, and disappeared into the hut.

“What should we do?” asked Tim. “Should we go in?”

“Let’s hold off a little,” replied his mother.

They waited and waited but there wasn’t a sound from inside the hut. Meanwhile they gazed around the area.

“This was once a village.” Their mother pointed to some debris and tumbledown huts.  The decrepit one in which the girl had disappeared seemed to be the only one still standing.

Quite a while later, the little girl still hadn’t come out so Mrs. Johnson finally approached the door. The children followed.

What a sight met their eyes! The little hut was filthy. On a mat next to the fire sat an old woman. Her body was covered with a terrible rash. Tim and Karen couldn’t help shrinking back out of the gloom and smell into the bright sunshine. Tim saw his mother shudder slightly, as if she felt like doing the same thing but she didn’t. She walked right in and went over to the woman, smiling.

“Hello,” she said in the dialect of their village. Their mother told the old woman where they lived and that they would like to visit for a while.

Would the woman let them stay?  Would they get chance to talk to her and find out why she and the girl lived way out here all alone?

To be continued….

By Carol Bennett