Jungle Missionaries

Real Missionaries

by Patsy Current

Illustration by Mary Rumsford

Leona was playing under the house with her younger sister Vivian, when she heard the door above her crash shut. She looked up and saw Vivian’s twin, Viola, come dashing down the stairs from the mission house. Viola’s dark-brown eyes sparkled as she ran across the cement slab under the house to where her sisters were playing.

“I’ve got a secret,” she said in a loud whisper. She seemed hardly able to contain herself. Leona looked from dark-haired Viola to blond, blue-eyed Vivian. Usually it was Vivian who got excited. Viola must really know something special! Leona wondered how they could get Viola to tell them.

Vivian didn’t seem to worry. “Tell us now!” she demanded.

Viola motioned with one hand, and the two dark heads and one blond head bent close together.

“I just heard Dad talking with Mother.” Viola lowered her voice and looked around. “I think we are going to be real missionaries.” Her eyes grew wider. “Remember how hard Dad has tried in the last year to find someone to go into the jungles to teach the Davis Indians?” she asked.

Leona nodded. “Ever since the Cotts left, they haven’t been able to find anyone willing to go. It has really bothered Dad that he couldn’t find anyone.” She remembered how discouraged Dad had been after his last visit into the jungle. The Indians were begging for someone to come and teach them to read in their own language and to help them learn more about Jesus.

“That’s right.” Viola nodded. “So you know what he has decided? I heard him tell Mother that it would be easy enough for the conference to find a new conference president. Since no one else is willing to go, he plans on going himself. Of course, that means he will take all of us with him. So we will all get to be missionaries to the Indians.” Leona’s eyes widened at the thought. The Davis Indians were a long way off in the jungle. How would they get there? She wondered if she really wanted to be a missionary like that. Leona glanced over to where her older sister Muriel sat reading a book.

“Does Muriel know yet?” Leona asked.

“Oh, let’s not tell her,” Vivian said. “We can have a secret of our own for once.”

Leona laughed at the thought. It did seem that Muriel always knew more than the younger three girls. Sometimes she liked to boss her younger sisters around. But Leona knew that sometimes the three of them would gang up on their older sister, and it wasn’t always fair to have three against one.

“Wow, it will be neat to be real missionaries. I wonder what the jungle will be like,” Vivian blurted out, forgetting she was trying to keep a secret.

Muriel promptly dropped her book and came over.

“What do you mean real missionaries? What are you talking about?” she butted in.

For a moment, the three glared at her for interrupting, but they were all too excited by the news to really let it bother them.

“We may get to go with Dad and Mother out to the jungle to teach the Davis Indians,” stated Leona. “So then we would be missionaries.”

“What do you think we are now?” Muriel asked. “We’re missionaries here in British Guiana. Really, how could you be so silly? Isn’t that the mission building right there next door? Don’t we call this the mission house?”

Leona looked around the yard and up at the house she had lived in all her life. “But it doesn’t seem like we’re missionaries,” she said. “Georgetown is a big city, and there are lots of Adventist people here, and besides, we have always lived here.”

“But you were born in the United States,” Muriel said firmly. “You’re a missionary from a different country. That’s why we go back and visit the U.S.every few years.”

“But I like it better here than I do there,” put in Vivian. “It’s always so cold when we go there to visit, even in the summer.”

“And no one sleeps with mosquito nets,” Leona added.

“The last time we went, we thought everyone lived in tents.” Viola giggled. “Do you remember how Mother laughed when we asked her why no one could afford to buy houses?”

“That is because we went straight to camp meeting, where everyone was staying in tents,” Muriel said. “At least I was old enough to know better.”

“You thought it was too cold there too,” reminded Leona.

“It doesn’t matter,” Muriel insisted. “We are missionaries here anyway. A missionary is a missionary if he tells people about Jesus, whether it is in a big city or out in the jungle.”

“Well, I’m going to go talk to Mother about it.” Leona tossed her head. “I’m not so sure that I want to go that far out into the jungle anyway. It seems rather scary.”

Leona left her three sisters talking together and slowly climbed the stairs. Mother and Dad were still talking in the living room. She decided not to interrupt them yet, and wandered into the girls’ bedroom.

Sitting on the bed, she stared around the room. Even if it wasn’t fancy, it had been the only bedroom she had ever had. She knew it was quite different from the bedrooms she had seen when they visited relatives in the United States, but it still felt like home to her. Besides the usual mosquito nets, the feet of all the beds here had to be placed in pans of water. That kept the little bugs and ants from climbing in bed with you. Leona looked at the bulging wallboard. It was so damp in this country that it was hard to keep anything looking nice. Most of the other houses didn’t even have wallboard, just the framing with wood outside.

As she thought about leaving this little room and traveling out to the jungles, she remembered what Dad had talked about during worship that morning. He said that God had a plan for everyone. That He had a plan for their lives which would lead them to heaven if they chose to follow it. She wondered if going out to the jungle was part of God’s plan for her life.

Just then Leona heard Dad’s voice from the living room.

“Where are the girls, anyway?” Dad was asking Mother.

Leona jumped off the bed and ran into the living room. “I’m right here,” she said. “The others are under the house.”

Mother went to the window and pushed open the heavy wooden shutters.

“Girls,” she called, “please come up here for a minute.”

The other three girls ran up the stairs and burst into the room.

“Well,” said Dad, “from the looks on your faces I would guess that you already know what I was going to tell you.” He looked over at Mother. “How do they always find out these things?” he asked.

Mother smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

“If we decide to go, it will mean a lot of extra work for a few weeks,” Dad told the girls. “You will have to give your mother lots of help. We will have to take everything with us that we might need for the next couple of years. I don’t plan on going out there and then coming back every year. It is a long, difficult journey and a very expensive one.”

Mother sighed. “Do you think it will be as bad as our first trip out here to British Guiana?”

“That was quite a trip, wasn’t it?” Dad laughed. “This trip has a lot more difficult traveling. But at least the girls can all walk and feed themselves now.”

“Traveling with three babies was a lot of work,” Mother replied. “And the worst of it was trying to do something with all the diapers.”

Leona was curious. “What did you do about diapers?” she asked.

“It’s a long story,” Mother answered.

“Would you tell us about the trip?” Viola begged. “We were all too little to remember anything about it.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what.” Mother got a wise look on her face. “When we finish supper and you all have your pajamas on and are tucked in your mosquito nets, I’ll tell you the whole story,” she promised. “But right now,” she went on, “I think we had better go and eat supper. Then we can discuss all the things that you think we should pack up and take into the jungle with us.”

Leona could still hardly believe it. She knew Dad was gone for weeks when he went into the jungle. Even though she lived in a mission field, she hadn’t considered herself a real missionary. At last she was going to find out what it was like to be a missionary for God.

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