Jonahs by Jet

A Trip to the Game Park

“Swimsuit, binoculars, bug spray, flashlight, towel . . .” Keri checked her list again and snapped her suitcase shut. “I’m ready!” she shouted. Keri, David, and their parents were going to a game park to see African animals.

David helped Dad load the suitcases while Mom packed the cooler with fruit, tomatoes, and fresh bread.

Soon four seat belts were clicking in place. “Oops! I forgot something!” Mom laughed and dashed back to the house. She scrambled into the back seat carrying a miniature Porta Potti and a roll of toilet paper. They couldn’t count on public restrooms in Nigeria.

“Do we have water, Mom?” David reminded.

“Yes, eight bottles!” Mom replied.

“David,” Dad asked, “Will you ask God to watch over us on our trip?”

David prayed, and Dad started the engine.

Dad dodged the potholes skillfully along the winding road. Keri and David sang songs and watched the farm scenery. Soon they were entering the busy African city Jos. Huge trucks parked beside the road.

Boys sold sugar cane from wheel-barrows along the way. Women with colorful wrapper skirts and head covers walked to the market. Dad pulled into a filling station, hoping to buy gas, but the attendant shook his head saying, “No fuel!” and waved him on.

“Uh oh!” Dad groaned. They passed six stations, none with gas. “I guess we have enough gas to get to Bauchi.” Dad sighed. “But if we don’t find any fuel there, we’ll have to turn around.”

David and Keri exchanged worried glances as Dad turned the van out of Jos. They drove a whole hour in silence. Would they have to cancel their trip? Keri could only pray in her heart, “Please, God, we really want to see some of the beautiful things You’ve made. Help us find gas!”

In Bauchi, the gas stations had long lines of parked cars—but no gas! Dad decided to drive just a little farther. They searched for anyone selling fuel in the smaller villages. Then Dad parked beside the road. “Sometimes, when there is no gas at the stations, people sell out of cans,” he explained. “Let me ask around.”

In a few minutes, Dad climbed back into the car with a grin. “I bought a big can of gas!” he exclaimed. “It should get us to the game park and home too!”

Keri and David smiled with relief.

“Thanks, God!” Keri whispered.

Before long, they drove under a sign that said “Yankari National Park.” Dad checked them in and collected the key to chalet (cabin) number 9. “Be sure to keep your door locked!” the host reminded them. “The baboons would love to steal your food!”

Keri and David helped carry food and suitcases up the steps. David had just plopped a huge papaya on the table when a baboon dashed into the chalet, grabbed the papaya, and ran out the door. “Hey! That’s our papaya!” David yelled, chasing after the baboon. But the naughty baboon just squatted and ate the whole stolen papaya by himself! “There goes our breakfast!” David grumped. “Oh well, we still have bananas and granola!”

Unpacking made everyone hot and sweaty. “Let’s go for a swim!” Mom said. David and Keri changed their suits and grabbed towels. They raced toward a natural spring near their chalet. Lush green trees and vines lined the valley beside a clear stream.

“Look, David! That baboon has a baby on her tummy!” Keri pointed to a large baboon with a clingy infant. The mother baboon swung bravely over the spring on a vine and jumped to catch a tree on the other bank.

“Wow! I wish I could do that!” David grinned.

David and Keri dove into the clear water. The water was just right—not too hot, not too cold.

The deepest pool made by the stream was just over Dad’s head, but just a little way downstream, David could touch the bottom. Farther downstream, it barely reached Keri’s knees. David and Keri floated lazily downstream, staring at the jungle above them.

Then they raced splashing and laughing upstream again.

After a refreshing swim, the Skaus climbed out and dried off before walking to their chalet. “Let’s catch the afternoon game truck!” Dad suggested.

They grabbed binoculars, a camera, and bottles of water and caught a ride in the back of a noisy old diesel truck with about twenty other tourists. The game guide pointed out colorful birds, bushbuck, hippos, a crocodile, and a three-foot long monitor lizard.

“Ooh! He looks kind of scary!” Keri said.

Squealing brown pigs with tails raised to the sky fled, afraid of the noisy truck. “Those are warthogs!” Dad explained. Suddenly, the truck screeched to a stop. About thirty elephants plodded across the sandy road right in front of them! The biggest elephant swung her trunk and trumpeted a warning to all the tourists. A tiny baby was tended by its aunts and mother. Keri and David watched until all the elephants had disappeared into the bushes.

“They are awesome!” David exclaimed.

Around the corner, the truck braked again. Keri stood on her tiptoes to see a lynx licking his paws by a stream. It was hot. Keri swatted at a bothersome biting fly that tried to take his dinner out of her arm!

As soon as the game truck rolled to a stop in front of the lodge, Keri and David ran toward the spring again. They had their swimsuits on under their clothes, so it was easy to take off T-shirts and jeans and splash into the water.

Mom hesitated. She had forgotten her swimsuit. She was so hot and sticky. The water did look inviting. She glanced at the Muslim women tourists swimming in t heir long dresses and hoods. Then she looked at her own cotton-knit dress that hung past her knees. Under it she wore light pants to protect against the biting flies.

“Come on in!” Keri and David urged.

“Those women are swimming in their clothes, Mom! Keri pleaded. “Just jump in!”

Mom grinned sheepishly and took a long shallow dive into the deepest end of the spring. The water felt so refreshingly cool. She came up with a smile and a sputter. All the Muslim women began to clap! Keri swam over to Mom, and the Muslim women waded closer too. They tried to speak to Mom in Arabic and Hausa, but Mom could only smile back. They pointed to their children. They wanted Mom to teach their children how to swim like Keri was swimming! Pretty soon, David and Keri were playing “chase-the-stick” with one of the Muslim boys who spoke English.

That evening over steamy noodle soup, David and Keri talked about their day. “You know, Mom, I had fun playing in the stream with that Muslim boy! I wish he could know about Jesus, so we could play in heaven together too!”

Mom smiled. “Well, today we made friends. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have a chance to introduce our new friends to our Best Friend, Jesus!”

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