Jungle Missionaries

Trail Troubles

As the last of the paddle boats were loaded up, Leona looked around the mission station for one last time. It was hard to believe that they had lived out in the jungle for two years. It had seemed as though the days were dragging by, especially when there wasn’t enough to eat. But now that they were actually leaving, Leona thought it had been a short time.

Going back down the narrow rivers in the paddle boats, Leona let her hand dangle in the cool water. She looked up at her big, strong dad.

“Maybe we weren’t very good missionaries after all,” she said slowly.

“What do you mean, we weren’t good missionaries?” Dad turned and glanced down at Leona with a puzzled look.

“Well,” Leona answered. “I didn’t really have a chance to become good friends with very many of the Indians. I didn’t preach to them or give them Bible studies. I’m sure nobody got baptized just because of me!”

“Wait a minute now,” Dad said. “I guess you are worried about that text in the Bible, the one that says, ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing a minimum of 10 a month.’ ”

Leona’s mouth fell open. “Dad, that’s not what it says!”

“Are you sure that isn’t how you were thinking?” Dad smiled back at Leona.

Leona turned that over in her mind until Viola’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Then how do you know if you are a good missionary or not?” Viola asked.

“God says to go and teach,” Dad replied. “So anytime you go anywhere and talk to people about God, you are being a good missionary. You can’t force people to love God and be Christians. You just need to tell them about God and how much He loves them and then let them make their own choice. Your job is to go and tell them. It’s God’s job to do the rest.”

Leona thought about that as the boat drifted slowly down the river through the hot, dry jungle. It seemed like only a short time before they reached the trail going over the mountain divide.

They spent the next three days hiking the mountain trail. It was quite a bit easier since the trail was dry, but then Dad was in a big rush to get the family over the mountain. He had to get them settled in the boats, and then he would return to the mission station. They hurried over log bridges and up and down steep trails as fast as they could.

Finally they reached the top of the last hill. Mother was tired from hurrying so fast and asked if they couldn’t slow down a little now.

“I’ll tell you what,” Dad advised her. “I will go ahead down this hill with the Indians, and we will get the boats loaded up. You can come down at a slower speed, and then we will be all ready to go when you get down.”

Mother had the girls sit down to rest. Viola and Muriel sat for only a few minutes; then they jumped up and started for the trail.

“I’m not ready to go yet,” Mother called. “I want you to wait for me.”

“We want to be the first ones down,” Viola replied. She walked back toward Mother. “Can’t we go ahead of you please? We can’t get lost; we just have to stay on the trail.”

“You can start when I get ready to go,” Mother answered. “I don’t want you to get too far ahead of me.”

Viola and Muriel ran back and forth on the trial, calling out to each other and playing tag. Mother rested a little longer and finally stood up.

“All right, you can go ahead now,” she told the two anxious girls.

The two took off like little rabbits, dashing down the trial. Mother and Leona and Vivian took t heir time. They never did catch up with Viola and Muriel. When they finally reached the river, Mother questioned Dad about the other two girls.

“They were in such a big hurry to get down here. Now where are they?” she asked.

“Why, I haven’t seen them yet,” Dad answered. “I don’t think they came down the trail.”

“But they have to be down here somewhere.” Mother looked around. “We didn’t catch up with them, and they started ahead of us. They couldn’t have gotten off the trail, could they?” She looked anxiously at Dad.

Dad thought for a minute. “There is one fork in the trial,” he said slowly. “It goes down to a little hut. They might have taken the wrong turn.”

“The wrong turn!” Mother’s voice rose. “O-o-oh.”

“It might look a little more traveled. Muriel may have chosen to turn there.” Dad put his arm around Mother. “Now don’t be worried yet. We’ll look there first. If we don’t find them, then we can start to worry!”

“Where will they be?” Leona asked.

“If they took the other trial, they would be down off this last mountain, but they will be upstream a few miles by the house there. That house belongs to a very strange man. I have heard that he sometimes sells things to the Indians, but no one really knows much about him. I will ask some of the Indians to go look for the girls. They can go that far on the river easily.”

Dad called some of the Indians over and explained what he thought had happened. Two of the older Indian boys took one of the paddle boats and started up the river after the girls.

Sure enough, about an hour later the boat came back with two very quiet girls. They were very glad to see Mother and Dad.

“We wanted to be first,” Viola said.

“So we hurried as fast as we could,” Muriel added. “Then we got to the bottom of the trail, and we could see the river and a strange house, but there weren’t any of our Indians around. We were scared and didn’t know where we were. We knew if we went back up the trial everyone would be gone anyway. We just didn’t know where everyone was or what we should do.”

“So we hid in the bushes,” Viola said. “Then we prayed and asked Jesus to help us. After a while we heard someone coming, and then we were really scared. But when we heard them call out our names, we knew it was our Indians coming to look for us. So we ran out to meet them, and they brought us safely back.”

“I’m thankful that you are here safely,” Mother said. “Even if you didn’t get to be first.”

“You should remember that text from the Bible,” Dad teased. “It says that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

After Dad hugged everyone goodbye, Mother and the girls climbed into the paddle boats and started down the river for Georgetown. Dad waved until they couldn’t see him anymore. Then he returned to work at the mission a few more months.

The rest of the family made it safely to Georgetown, where they would wait for Dad. When they got off the ferryboat, the conference president’s wife was waiting to meet them.

“I’ve heard how bad things have been in the jungle,” Mrs. Howard said. “I know that you haven’t had a lot to eat. So I want you all to come over to our house for supper tonight. We will have a big, special dinner”

Mother and the girls unloaded their luggage and headed for the Howard’s house.

“I wonder what we’ll have to eat,” Leona said.

“I don’t care,” Viola said. “As long as it’s not pumpkin!”

I’ve been dreaming of a bowl of mashed potatoes,” Vivian sighed. “One big enough for us to have second helpings.”

Mrs. Howard met them at the door and warmly invited them in. She led them into the dining room. Sure enough, there was a table loaded with good food. There was a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, enough for everyone to have second helpings. There were vegetables and a salad and a good looking vegetarian roast. The girls quickly scanned the table. No, there wasn’t any pumpkin to be seen anywhere!

“I even made a special dessert.” Mrs. Howard smiled. “I know how hungry you are. Let’s go ahead and eat, but remember you are not used to eating a lot, so save room for dessert.”

After the girls had eaten more than they probably should have, Mrs. Howard got up to bring in the dessert.

“I hope it’s a real dessert,” Viola whispered. “Not like those cassava cookies.”

“Hey!” Leona looked hurt. “I thought you liked my cassava cookies.”

“Of course we liked them.” Vivian tried to calm Leona down. “But you know what she means. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a real dessert.”

Mrs. Howard came back, proudly bearing a large pumpkin pie! For some reason, the girls suddenly felt too full to eat dessert. Mother tried to explain, and Mrs. Howard said she understood. She hadn’t realized that all they had eaten for months had been pumpkin!

A few months later, Dad joined the family. Mother and Dad decided that since Muriel was almost ready to start academy they would return to the United States. So once again the family packed for a two-week trip on a ship, and then they would be back in their own homeland.

“Well, did you enjoy being missionaries in the jungle?” Dad asked as the big ship sailed away from British Guiana.

“I did,” Vivian answered.

“Some day,” Leona vowed, “I want to be a missionary again.”

“Just remember,” Dad said, “you can be a missionary anywhere. God may not call you to go across the sea and into the jungle. He may ask you to be a missionary in your own neighborhood. You need to be willing to serve happily wherever God sends you. So now we’ll be missionaries in America.”

Leona smiled at Dad’s statement. Then she watched the last of the coastline disappear as the ship reached the open sea. She knew she wanted to follow God, and she would be happy to be a missionary wherever He sent her.

PS: Years later two of the girls did become overseas missionaries again. Leona and her doctor husband spent some time in Sri Lanka and Thailand and Africa. Viola and her preacher husband spent many years in Thailand. They both had many exciting adventures, but that would have to be another story!


The End

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