The three children huddled in the brush, waiting for Father. He had stopped to grab medicine from the little clinic and another bag of food. They didn’t know how long they would be out in the jungle and they would need all the supplies they could get.
He had urged them to go! Get out of sight and wait for him in the grove—but he wasn’t coming! What had happened?
Mother had been feeding the baby, but now she handed the child over to Chahna.
“Keep them quiet,” she whispered. “I’ll go see where Father is. If the mob gets closer, run!”
“I’ll find Father,” spoke up seven year old Aarau. “I’m a boy. I should go!”
“No! I will go,” said his mother. Her voice softened. “You watch the food. It’s not much—we mustn’t lose it.”
And she was gone, slipping silently through the jungle as Aarau frowned.
Chahna snuggled the baby close to her. She listened to the shouts of the attackers in the distance as they torched huts and searched for any who had not escaped from the village.
“She’ll get caught,” said little Jaya, shuddering.
“She’ll be careful. She won’t get caught. Aarau come back here. Mother said to wait.” This as the little boy tried to creep off through the jungle.
The boy reluctantly returned, though it was clear he didn’t want to take instructions from his big sister.
But suddenly Mother was back. The shouts of the angry men grew louder.
“He’s nowhere to be found! Come on! We must go! Now.”
“We can’t leave Father,” Aarau protested.
“He would want us to get away.”
Chahna was already obeying. She knew how quickly the gang of evil attackers could come upon them. Fortunately her little brother was busy carrying the large sacks of food and couldn’t complain too much.
“Go! Run!” urged Mother.
Chahna ran, clutching her baby sister. Mother grabbed four year old Jaya’s hand and brought up the rear. Aarau stumbled with the bags and went down, but quickly got to his feet again.
They dashed along the jungle trail. The baby bounced, Mother picked up Jaya as they wildly ran from the frightening noise of their enemies, who were spreading out looking for victims.
Finally they stopped to rest against a huge boulder.
Even the adults weren’t sure what they had done to make enemies of these angry men. They had suddenly attacked their Christian village with spears and knives and fiery torches. The Christians tried to live quietly and mind their own business, worshiping God in their own way. But all over the area, people who hated them for daring to turn from the old ways and the old false gods, would suddenly come down upon a village. If the people had a warning like Chahna’s village, they were fortunate.
“Come on!” Mother interrupted her thoughts. “We can’t rest any longer. We have a long way to travel and we need to make it out to the road by sunset. We’ll travel by night and it will be safer.”
“But what about Father!” insisted Aarau.
“I don’t know. We’ll pray that we can meet up with him. I didn’t dare go all the way to the clinic. There were too many angry men still in the village.”
“What if he got caught,” wailed little Jaya.
“We will trust the Lord,” Mother told her firmly.
“Mother!” Chahna gasped and held her little sister tighter.
The woman followed her gaze. Two baby tigers in a little clearing nearby were playing and pouncing on each other.
“Be absolutely quiet and still,” Mother whispered. “Do not move. Their mother is here somewhere. Lord God, protect us!”
“There she is!” squeaked Aarau. For once he was terrified.
The animal appeared on the other side of the clearing, her massive head barely visible in the shadowy brush. Then she silently padded into the clearing, every movement slow and smooth.
Aarau had calmed down. “We must look confident and make ourselves as big as we can,” he told Jaya in the slightest of whispers, He flexed his muscles and tried to look taller. “Or climb a tree. They can’t climb very well.”
“That’s only if she sees us!” Chahna hissed.
“Hush! Be absolutely still.” This from Mother, for the huge animal had turned her gaze toward them.
Chahna glanced down at little Maalai in her arms. The child was awake but silent, laying against her contentedly. Oh, Heavenly Father, keep her quiet….
The tiger turned away. She regarded her babies as they played, and padded around them.
Suddenly—a commotion in the jungle beyond her. Out of the brush dashed—Father! He stopped short as the tiger turned and gave a low growl. She stepped forward. They couldn’t see her expression, but knew it had must have changed from caution to attack mode. She shook her head and growled again as Father froze.
Chahna had gasped, making the baby look up at her startled. Tears rolled down Jaya’s cheeks, even as her mother clapped her hand over the four year old’s mouth. Aarau had let the bags drop with a soft plop as he looked about for a weapon. But even he knew there was nothing suitable to go up against a mother tiger.
The tiger seemed not to have sensed their movements. Father glanced away from her for a second—and saw them on the other side of the clearing! Then his gaze went back to the tiger.
He stayed absolutely still. They knew if she made one move toward him, he would rise up and try to act big, ferocious, perhaps grab two sticks to beat together…but she just stood as still as him, except for her twitching tail. The cubs fought playfully with each other. They didn’t even know anything was amiss for they were used to their mother keeping careful watch.
Several minutes passed. Finally Father took a step. Just a tiny one—backwards. Then he froze again. She growled and moved, pacing. Some minutes later, Father took another step.
The baby in Chahna’s arms sucked contentedly on a corner of Chahna’s sari. Heavenly Father….
Father took another step. For nearly an hour, Father took a step, froze, took a step. He was back in the jungle now. Finally, he gripped a tree trunk, and climbed, reaching a sturdy grouping of branches and pulling himself up.
His family sighed inwardly in relief as the tiger also seemed to relax. She turned to her cubs.
Suddenly, cries and screeches! People running through the jungle! They burst into the clearing! It was the mob—well, some of them. A half dozen men, bent on hatred and killing found themselves facing a full grown mother tiger in attack mode. The roar filled the air as she leaped at them.
Brandishing their spears and knives, they warded her off, then turned and ran. Perhaps they could have subdued her if they hadn’t been so surprised. Perhaps they were town or city people, who didn’t know not to run from a tiger. Perhaps she didn’t care about prey. Whatever, she only raced after them for a short ways before returning to her cubs and soon ushered them off into the jungle.
It was a while before Father emerged from the tree. What a reunion! Then they hurried away, far from both their attackers and the tiger.
It had been a good day.
Working in the garden…playing with the baby…helping Jaya learn to read…milking the goat…
The little ones were hungry. It was almost time to eat. Mother was about to boil rice over the fire for the evening meal. Father was coming in from the hunt with meat, laughing and chattering with the other men.
Suddenly—there had been a shout!
“They’re coming! Run!”
Mother had grabbed up food, swiftly wrapping it in a large leaf and stowing it in her bag, grabbing the pot, and a large sack of rice…
“Go!” Father had shouted at them. “I’ll be right there.” And he’d raced to the clinic for supplies and medicines….
Now Chahna couldn’t believe all that had happened, how strange everything was. Camping in the jungle at the edge of the road. Waiting for sunset when they could perhaps travel more safely. They’d watch for cars and jeeps, and dash back into the jungle when necessary.
For now they were eating fruit. They couldn’t risk starting a fire to cook their rice and meat. They’d save it. They might need it more later, anyway.
Mother was taking care of the baby and the rest of them were at prayer time as Father praised God for their escape and pleaded for wisdom for the future.
They traveled for days. Along the road with other refugees, watching carefully for enemy attackers who might be waiting for escaping Christians. Little Jaya was up on Father’s shoulders much of the time. Aarau tired quickly of carrying the pot and two bags of food, trying to put them off on his sisters. But Father was firm.
“Everyone has to do their share. But Jaya’s little and can only carry so much. You’re a big boy. Now go get sticks for our fire if you want to eat.”
To which Aarau would sigh that he had to help with women’s work.
The rice was nearly gone now—and the meat Father had caught that awful day they’d had to run had been used up. But he’d brought the small net for fishing, and as they settled by a stream for the night, he said, “come, Aarau let’s get food for our family. And bring the gourd so we can replenish our fresh water.”
Some days later, the food was finally gone and the road had led away from the jungle again, over dry, dusty terrain. There was no fruit to pick or game to catch. As they stopped to rest at noon, and drink from their water bottle, little Jaya cried in hunger. Even Aarau was silent as he wearily dragged his near empty bags along. He wasn’t interested in carrying the pot, but Mother insisted that they would need it and it must not be left behind.
Chahna carried the baby on her back and didn’t complain. What good would it do but make her parents feel worse.
Just then a large truck rumbled by, then pulled over and stopped. There were men in the back and Mother slowed fearfully. But a another man stuck his head out of the front window and called, “where are you going? Would you like a ride?”
Such an offer spurred them on and when they reached the truck, Father said, “the next town. My wife’s sister is there.”
Father hesitated, then nodded. “Our village was burned.”
The driver shook his head. “I’m sorry. This town, as well. It was mostly Christians. A lot of damage was done. The hospital’s full. You’re welcome to come with us, though. We’ll leave you off there and you can check on your family. But they may have moved on.”
They climbed into the back of the truck with the other passengers, who shared some food with them. In return, Father seeing a man with a wounded leg, pulled out his bag of bandages and medicines.
“I’m a doctor. Let me look at that.”
The man smiled gratefully.
An hour later, the little family was let off in a town that looked half demolished. Mother hurried on to her sister’s home, which was nearly in ruins. She looked desperately about for someone who had information.
A neighbor emerged from the house next door. “They’ve gone on to try to get work and shelter. There’s nothing here. Very little food. You have cousins in a town two hours away?”
“Yes,” said Mother. She turned to her husband and he already knew what she was going to ask.
“We’ll go on then,” he said.
Another neighbor came up then. “No, you can’t The bridge has been taken. Our attackers are guarding it. Your family got through before they came back, but now you’d never get past them. They’re done with us, though. They won’t come back here. Stay with us. We’ll share what food we have.”
But Father looked around at the desolate town. “No,” he decided. “Thank you but we’ll go east, back toward the jungle. There’s nothing for us back home but we’ll find a new place.”
“Into the jungle? It’s so dangerous—so many wild animals.”
“Yes, but we’re used to it. We’ll trust God, just as you do here. And there’s food—fish in the streams, fruit, meat.”
“God be with you,” said the people.
“And with you.”
They slept in the ruins of the house that night, then started off the next morning.
After another ride from some kind people along the road that headed east, they came to the flourishing rain forest again. Even though they didn’t know where they were going, they felt at home.
“No city or town for us,” said Aarau, climbing a boulder and looking about gleefully.
Father agreed. “We’ll be all right here. He made everyone different. Some like the city with all it’s hustle and bustle. But God has a place that’s just right for us.”
But two days later, they were so weary of traveling. They longed to find a little village or community to settle in. They’d seen nothing of angry mobs or the hateful people who wanted to kill them. And they avoided several places where they knew dangerous creatures might linger. Father was wise in the ways of the jungle.
“What day is it?” asked Chahna wearily, one morning as they set off again. They weren’t hungry for Father had caught fish, but they all were hopeful for some good rice and vegetables. And they wished that they’d been able to bring their goat.
“I don’t know.” Mother was getting a bit weak and sickly and Chahna took the baby on her back once again. Jaya carried the pot for a while. “Perhaps Easter has come and gone and we didn’t notice. We should have asked at the town what day it was.”
“I’ve lost track, too,” said Father. “But we can still remember our Lord’s death and resurrection. And be assured He has a home for us.”
Chahna was glad Father still had faith. They were all getting so weary that it was hard to remember that sometimes.
As they traipsed on, the morning sky was blue as could be and the day was fresh and inviting. It gave Chahna hope, just this little bit of a pleasant breeze in the normally humid, hot jungle.
“Do I hear…singing?”
“It is! It is!” said little Jaya, swinging the pot excitedly.
Chahna tried to hear, past the squawking of birds and chatter of monkeys. They had passed a pond and the trumpeting of a few elephants frolicking in the water could still be heard. But as they moved closer to the new sound….
“Alleluia…alleluia!. Christ is risen…He has taken our sin…He is risen today!”
They came out into a clearing suddenly.
A large gathering—maybe thirty people—were happily singing.
A man facing them, maybe the pastor stopped short. All the people turned to see what he was looking at.
Mother started to cry in exhaustion and relief. The people gathered round.
Soon they were worshiping and rejoicing together. And then came a feast…and a place to stay.
“You’re safe here,” they were told. “The government official in charge of this whole area likes Christians. His life was saved once by a Christian. He won’t let people hurt us. He punishes those who do. They knew they will be taken to court…He doesn’t just stand by like many officials do. And we do need a doctor here!”
“Not everyone here is a Christian, of course, in our village or those round about. But they leave us to worship God as we want. We work together to have a peaceful community and many want to know more about God”.
The little family looked at each other. This was God’s place for them.
Alleluia! thought Chahna. Thank you, Heavenly Father!