Jungle Missionaries

Missionary Bibles

Leona snuggled down under her sheet with her mosquito net tucked firmly around the mattress.

“Don’t forget, Mother, you promised to tell us about when we came to British Guiana as little babies,” Vivian reminded their mother.

“I didn’t forget.” Mother brought a chair to the doorway and sat down. “You will have to listen quietly now, and I will tell you the whole story.

“About the time Muriel was three years old, we were living in South Dakota,” Mother began. “It gets very cold there in the winter. Since Dad had lived for years in Africa before he and I got married, he really preferred warmer weather. He let the General Conference know that he would like to go back to the mission field. We received a couple of calls to different places, and we wondered which one we should choose. We wanted to follow God’s will and to choose where He would want us to go.”

“Yes, that is what Dad was saying in worship this morning.” Leona sat up in bed. “He said that following God’s plan would lead us to heaven. But how do you find out what God’s plan for your life is? If you have to choose, how do you now that you are choosing the right way?”

“Sometimes it does seem difficult, doesn’t it,” Mother agreed. “But there isn’t always just one right way. You know if we were going to go to the beach from our house, there is more than one way to go. There are plenty of roads that lead to the beach from here. And God may have more than one thing for you to do in life. The most important thing is for you to have a good relationship with God and for you to be willing to go anywhere that He might want you to go.”

“So how did you choose to come here?” Muriel asked.

“That turned out easier than we thought,” Mother replied. “Before we had a chance to decide, all of the calls except one were canceled. The only one left was for Dad to be the conference president in British Guiana. That suited Dad fine, since it was a nice warm country. A young evangelist named Glen Coon had just had a series of tent meetings there in Georgetown and had more than 400 people waiting to be baptized.

“We decided we would leave about the first of November, before the weather turned too cold to travel. Leona would be almost one by then, and Muriel would be four. Since we were expecting another baby in December, we figured we would travel to Georgetown and have the new baby there.”

“But we weren’t born here, were we,” Vivian said.

“No, that wasn’t how it worked out.” Mother laughed. “Instead of December, the new baby was born at home in the middle of October. And it wasn’t one baby, it was two! We hadn’t been expecting twins at all. We didn’t even have a bed to put the new babies in. When the first baby was born, Dad emptied out a dresser drawer and put some blankets in it for the baby to sleep on. Then the doctor started laughing and told us that he’d better empty out another drawer. At that time it didn’t seem funny to me at all. The first-born baby weighed about five pounds and had blond hair and blue eyes. We named the baby Vivian Margaret.”

“That was me.” Vivian giggled.

“That’s right,” Mother went on. “The second baby was smaller, not even five pounds, and had dark hair and dark eyes. We named her Viola Mildred. Dad said that since both of their initials were V.M., they would be volunteer missionaries.”

“We didn’t exactly volunteer,” Viola pointed out. “I don’t think we even had any choice. We were too little to care.”

“Well, that’s true,” Mother said. “But at first, Dad didn’t even want me to come here to British Guiana until you were bigger. Of course I told him that it would be much easier for me to travel with tiny babies who couldn’t walk or crawl yet. I didn’t want to try and travel with four children by myself.

“So I got a sturdy clothes basket with a lid that was big enough to hold both of the twins and put a pillow in the bottom. I put a pink ruffled lace edge around the basket, and they looked like two little dolls when I laid them in their basket together.

“When the twins were only four weeks old, we all traveled by train to New York City. Dad spent the three days and two nights sitting in a train seat, but at least he got one Pullman bed for me and the four girls.”

“Only one bed for all of us!” Leona exclaimed. “How did we all sleep?”

Mother laughed. “It was rather difficult. I put the basket with the twins down at the foot of the bed. Then Leona slept one way and Muriel the other with their feet together in the middle of the bed. I slept on the outside edge so that no one would fall off. We rode the train clear into New York City.”

“I remember the big ship at New York,” Muriel added. “We were on it for a long time.”

“That’s right. It took about two weeks,” Mother said. “And we weren’t allowed to wash out any clothes on the ship. The clothes weren’t a problem, but we had three babies in diapers! I had to buy a dozen yards of very cheap flannel that I cut up into tiny disposable diapers.”

“Didn’t we stop and visit sometimes?” Muriel asked. “I remember we saw a lot of different people.”

“There were other missionaries at the places the ship stopped who came out to meet us,” Mother answered. “They would invite us to come home with them for dinner. That was how we managed to wash out some clothes. I would always put a pillowcase full of dirty clothes under the twins in their basket. Then we would wash them out and dry them before we had to get back on the ship.”

“Dad said there was a rope ladder at one stop,” Leona said. “Tell us about that.”

“Oh, yes.” Mother laughed. “That was at Port of Spain in Trinidad. There wasn’t any wharf there for ships to dock at. They would put a rope ladder over the side of the ship, and you would climb down into a little boat that would take you ashore. I really wanted to stay on the ship there. But Mr. Howard, who was a missionary in Trinidad, came and invited us for lunch. He said he had heard we had twin babies, and his family wanted to see them. Finally we decided to go. I put the twins in their basket, with some dirty clothes underneath, and then put the cover over it to protect them. We set the basket by the rail with one other small suitcase we were going to take.”

“I went down the rope ladder all by myself,” Muriel bragged.

“Yes, you did,” Mother replied. “But first Dad carried Leona under one arm and climbed down the ladder. After that a porter came up and said to Muriel, ‘would you like me to carry you down, baby?’

“Muriel stood up as tall as her four years would let her and replied, ‘I’m not a baby—I’m the biggest. We have three babies.’ Then she climbed right over the rail by herself and went down that rope ladder like a little monkey.

“The porter laughed at her and then, before I could say anything, he picked up the basket and put it on his head. He picked up the suitcase under one arm and went over the rail! I was so surprised that I couldn’t even speak. He climbed down that rope ladder with the basket still balanced on his head!”

“And we were still in the basket!” Vivian exclaimed.

“About half way down, one of you twins must have woken up,” Mother continued. “Suddenly I heard one of you cry. The porter heard it too. His eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. He climbed on down as carefully as he could and then set the basket in the bottom of the boat. He eyed the basket suspiciously and then lifted the cover. His eyes nearly popped out when he saw it was not just one baby in the basket, but two!”

“I think that is really funny.” Viola started giggling.

“Then what happened?” Leona asked.

“We had a good visit,” Mother answered. “Actually I think the Howards all felt very sorry for Vivian and Viola. You were both very tiny and hadn’t gained any weight at all. The Howard family was sure you weren’t going to live.”

“But we did live, didn’t we, Mother?” Vivian said.

“Oh yes, you did.” Mother smiled. “We asked around, and someone told us that we could buy some powdered milk from Canada that was very good for babies. It was also terribly expensive, but we put the twins on it for at least six months until they started gaining some weight.

“So that is the story of that trip,” Mother said. “We finally made it safely to British Guiana. And now I think that you should all get to sleep. We are going to be very busy for a few weeks packing for our next journey.”

Mother left the room. Leona sighed and rolled over. She wondered what it was going to be like traveling farr off into the jungle where the Indians were. She did want to follow God’s plan for her life, but she hoped that it wouldn’t mean she would have to do anything too difficult or frightening.

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