Jungle Missionaries

Left Behind

“Here’s where we start hiking,” Dad said as the little paddle boats went around the last turn in the river before the landing.

Leona was very surprised to see a large group of Indians standing around on the shore. She had never seen so many Indians at one time before.

“Did everyone come to meet us?” she asked. “There must be hundreds of Indians here.”

Dad laughed. “Not really hundreds, but there are probably more than one hundred. They didn’t come down here just to meet us, but to help us carry all our supplies. They also had to carry food for themselves for the three-day trip out here and then the three-day trip back. They will carry all the things that we brought with us. They will carry the baby and even carry you if you get too tired.”

“Not me,” Vivian said. “I’m not a baby. I’m going to walk the whole way all by myself.”

“Well, we will see,” Daddy replied.

“How far do we have to walk, anyway?” Viola asked. “If I get tired, I wouldn’t care if someone carried me.”

“It is actually about 30 miles, but it is over a big mountain range. So the trail keeps going up and down and up and down through the jungle,” Daddy answered. “We will try to hike about 10 miles every day.”

Leona looked over at the Indians. She could hear their voices murmuring in a different language. She knew that most of the Indians didn’t know English.

The next morning was rather hectic as everyone rushed around packing up and loading things to go. Most of the Indians carried what looked like a big round deep basket with a strap on top. They would fill the basket with the things to carry and place the strap around their forehead with the basket hanging down their back. One Indian had baby Juanita in a basket on her back. Another Indian had a chair hanging down her back from the strap on her forehead. That was for any of the girls who wanted to ride for a while. Leona watched as an Indian put a small metal cook stove into his basket. Another Indian was carrying the parts of the bicycle Daddy had brought along. Every single thing that the missionaries were taking had to be carried by someone.

When the loading up was almost finished, the group of missionaries gathered together for prayer before they started out. As soon as prayer was over, Leona asked, “Do I have to carry anything?”

“Just yourself,” Daddy told her. “But that may be more difficult than you think.”

“It looks like we have almost everything loaded up,” Mother said. “I guess I could carry something too.” She picked up a lantern by the handle. “This shouldn’t be too heavy.”

Daddy smiled and shook his head. “Oh, no, you don’t,” he said. He took the lantern from Mother and handed it to a nearby Indian. “There will be too many times when you will need both hands free. That is why the Indians carry everything hanging down their back. That leaves both hands free for hanging onto vines when you are climbing up a steep trail or when you have to balance on a log bridge over a creek.”

“If the trail is that steep and narrow, how are we all going to stay together?” asked Mother. “What if someone falls behind or gets lost?”

“First of all, we will make sure that there are Indians in the back. If the rest of us stay in the middle, there won’t be any chances of getting lost. You really can’t get off the trail anyway. The jungle is too thick to walk through,” Daddy told them.

“I will also try right now and teach you some Indian words. Let’s see, achika means “come” and aberena means “wait.” Do you think you can all learn those two words right now?”

Leona practiced with her sisters, saying the words over and over. She giggled at the different way they sounded. Then she noticed that some of the Indians were watching them. They were all laughing at the girls too. That made Leona feel embarrassed, so she went and stood behind Mother.

“Let’s get started,” Daddy called. Some of the Indians took off up the mountainside on the steep jungle trail. Little by little the whole group went. Leona turned around after about 100 feet up the trail, but by then they were deep into the leafy green jungle, and she couldn’t even see back to the camping spot where thy had started out.

When they camped that evening, Daddy was worried about how long it had taken. “We have too many people in this group,” he said. “It will take us longer than I thought to reach the other river.”

The next morning Leona woke up stiff and sore. How she dreaded putting the same clothes back on. When she took them down from the line, she discovered it was so damp in the jungle that the clothes were still not really dry. She had to grit her teeth to pull on those cold, damp clothes.

After a few hours on the trail Wednesday morning, the group reached a stream with another log bridge. They had already crossed a few streams the day before. But this bridge was over a wider stream and about 10 feet above a waterfall. Some of the Indians were waiting on the other side, and some had put down their packs and were standing in the middle of the stream.

“You will have to be very careful here,” Daddy said. “We don’t want anyone to fall in the stream.”

“Why are those Indians in the water?” Mother asked. Leona could see that Mother didn’t like the looks of this bridge.

“They are there to catch anyone who might fall off the log,” Daddy said very calmly. “We wouldn’t want anyone going over that waterfall, now would we?”

Mother shuddered at his words. Even Leona had to bite her lip as they all inched their way across the slippery log. She took Mother’s hand when they had reached the other side.

“It really wasn’t that bad after all, was it, Mother?” She looked up at her mother’s face.

Mother took a deep breath. “I’ll have to admit that I was praying the whole time. Since we are going out to do God’s work, I am sure He will protect us. But I am still glad to be safely on this side.” Mother looked around. “It looks like we can rest a moment. I think we are going to wait until everyone gets across the log.”

She turned aside into a small clearing and sank to the ground. Leona joined her, followed by Mrs. Brooks.

“This is surely a little more of a trip than I expected,” Mrs. Brooks commented to Mother.

Mother answered her, and they continued talking for a while. Leona lay with her back on the grass and stretched her neck. She gazed up at the green leaves that stretched over her head. It was a hard trip, but it had been fun in some ways too. Leona had never done so many different things or seen as much in her whole life as she had the last two weeks.

Suddenly Mrs. Brooks raised her voice. “Oh, it’s past 10:00,” she said. “I better go and find baby Juanita. It is past time for her to eat. She will be crying, and the Indians won’t know what to do with her.”

She stood up and looked back down the trail. “Where is everybody?”

Leona and Mother both jumped up and looked around.

“They probably didn’t see us sitting here, and now they have gone ahead and left us.” Mother looked very worried.

“We can catch them,” Leona said. “Daddy said that you couldn’t lose the trial. They can’t be very far ahead; we haven’t been sitting here that long.”

“We’d better hurry, then,” Mrs. Brooks answered. “The baby will be getting very hungry.”

The three of them hurried up the jungle trail. Leona listened, but she couldn’t hear any other sounds. Mrs. Brooks kept hurrying them on. A whole hour went by, and still they hadn’t reached the group. After another hour without catching anyone, Mother stopped at the side of the trail.

“I just can’t keep going this fast,” she panted.

“But I can’t let the baby starve,” Mrs. Brooks cried. “I’ve got to catch up with them.”

“You go ahead,” Mother said. “And when you catch them, tell them to have someone wait for us. We will come along in a little while after I catch my breath.”

Mrs. Brooks hurried on up the trial. Mother sat down by the edge of the trail, and Leona sat beside her.

“We’ll go on in a minute,” Mother said to Leona. “I just couldn’t keep up that pace. I do hope that someone comes back to help us.”

Leona sat beside her mother. She wondered if they would ever find their group again.

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