Jungle Missionaries

 

Troubled Times

The first sewing class was a great success. The Indian women had been making bead aprons and doing hand sewing for years, but they were delighted with the neat, even little stitches that the sewing machine made. Leona was delighted that there were finally some Indian girls coming to classes.

One evening Leona and Mother were helping the Indians sew. The twins were supposed to be getting ready for bed. Suddenly they both began to scream. Leona ran toward the bedroom.

Mother and Muriel were already there when Leona reached the bedroom. They had rushed in and were busy pulling down the mosquito net, which was covered with flames. Vivian and Viola just stood there screaming. Mother noticed Leona in the door and called out, “Bring the water bucket! Quickly!”

Leona raced back to the front of the house and picked up the handle to the big water bucket. She knew she couldn’t carry a full bucket, but she whispered a quick prayer for help and half-carried, half-dragged it back toward the bedroom. Mother and Muriel stomped flames on the floor. Then Mother noticed Muriel’s dress was burning.

“You’re on fire!” Mother yelled at Muriel. She grabbed the full bucket from Leona and dashed it all over Muriel. The water drenched Muriel and ran all over the floor, putting out what was left of the fire.

“Oh, my,” Mother sighed and sank down on the lower bed. “Would someone like to tell me what happened here?” She looked at the twins. The two had stopped screaming and just stared at the floor. Viola chewed on her thumb.

“I guess it was my fault,” Vivian admitted.

“You were just trying to help me.” Viola sided with her twin. She sighed. “I was playing on the top bunk this afternoon with Muriel’s paper dolls, and I forgot to put them away.”

My paper dolls!” Muriel stressed the first word. She scrambled up the end of the bunk bed, still dripping wet, to check on her precious paper dolls.

“It was too dark to put them away properly,” Viola explained. “Vivian brought in a candle so we could see.”

“I guess I got too close to the net,” Vivian added. “It just flamed right up. I’m sorry, Mother.”

“You were brave,” Leona said admiringly to Muriel. “Are you burned?”

“I don’t think so.” Muriel looked at the sooty spots on her arms and hands. “Well, maybe I am a little, but I was too worried about the house burning down, and maybe the whole jungle. I didn’t even feel it.”

Mother picked up the empty bucket and looked at Leona in surprise. “That bucket was full when you handed it to me, wasn’t it? I didn’t think you could carry a full bucket of water.”

“I didn’t think so, either,” Leona admitted. “Anyway I never could before. But I asked Jesus for help, since I was worried that you might get burned. I guess He did help me.”

“Yes, He helped us all.” Mother paused. “I think we should have a thank You prayer that the house didn’t burn down. I don’t know where we would have slept until Dad came back.”

After prayer, Mother and the four girls cleaned up the bedroom. The mosquito net was totally gone.

“You will have to sleep with the window closed tonight,” Mother told the girls. “I don’t want any of you bitten by mosquitoes and getting sick.”

That night Leona tossed and turned on her bed. It was hot and stuffy in the closed-in room. Nobody slept well that night.

The next day Mother hunted around in some old boxes. She found old pieces of Mosquito nets she could sew together until she ordered a new one from Georgetown.

It was now June, and the days were very hot. It didn’t cool down until after the sun went down. One night a big, round full moon came up and shone off the sandy area by the workshop. The four girls begged to be allowed to go out and play. Finally Mother went out with them, and they played some simple games. After a few minutes, Leona noticed that one little Indian boy was watching from the edge of the jungle. She motioned for him to join them. Then she discovered there were a number of little boys all wanting to play. Everyone played together for over an hour, until Mother finally made them all go in to bed.

The next evening the moon came up again, and again the girls ran out to play. This time the little boys showed up as soon as they heard the singing, and then some of the little girls came too. Leona was delighted. They played the same games again, singing “A tisket, a tasket, a green-and-yellow basket!” Leona smiled at one shy Indian girl, and she smiled back. Leona went to bed happier that night, hoping she could finally make some friends among the Indian girls.

The moon was still bright and shiny the third night. When they went out to play, all the Indians came out. The adults built a little bonfire and squatted at the edge of the clearing to watch. All the children played in a big circle, and everyone laughed and sang excitedly.

All too soon, Mother started suggesting that it was time for bed. “You may play until the bonfire goes out. Then it’s bedtime,” she decreed.

Everyone threw themselves into one more game, singing loudly and running wildly around. When it was over, they glanced at the bonfire.

“It’s not out yet!” Viola declared triumphantly. “One more game.”

Leona ran over and grabbed some thatch off Dad’s workshop. She threw it on the fire. One of the little old women shook her finger at Leona.

“I didn’t want to fire to go out, because Mother said when it goes out, I have to go to bed! Sleep!” Leona demonstrated for the old woman by laying her cheek on her hands.

The old woman said something in Indian to an older boy.

“You don’t want to go to sleep?” the older boy translated.

“No, I want to play.”

“But why . . . why singing and dancing?” the boy asked.

“We weren’t dancing!” Leona was shocked at the accusation. “We are just playing games.”

“But you sing, only when moon.” The boy seemed puzzled. “You worship moon?”

“Oh, no, no, no! We worship God. This is not worship. Just play!” Leona tried to emphasize the point. “Because other nights it was dark and we couldn’t see. When the moon is bright, we can see to play.”

“You play at night in your country when there is no moon?”

“No-o-o,” Leona hesitated trying to think how to explain this. “In my country it gets cold at night. We can play in the daytime. Here it is too hot in the sun during the daytime.”

Just then, Mother called out, “Leona!”

Leona stamped her foot and threw the last handful of thatch onto the fire. Her shoulders slumped. “Now I have to go in,” she said sadly.

The Indians laughed. The old woman smiled and shook her head.

“Leona!” Mother called a little sharper this time. Leona knew she had better hurry. She turned and ran, thinking that she might not have a chance again to make friends with the little Indian girls.

Dad came home the next day. When the girls told him about the games in the moonlight, he was very upset. Especially when Leona told him about her talk with some of the Indians.

“I’m afraid that was a bad example to the Indians,” he told the girls. “All of the Indians around here used to worship the moon. In fact, most of them still do. Even those who have become Christians might still be confused about it. The older Indians will still be able to remember how things used to be. It really hasn’t been that many years since Elder Davis came out to preach to them. He was the first preacher to this area.”

“Is that why these Indians are called the ‘Davis Indians’?” Leona asked.

“Not just because Elder Davis was the first preacher,” Dad said. “You see, he died after being here just a short time, and the Indians felt that he gave his life to bring them the gospel message. His grave is on a little hill, close to Mt.Roraima. Which reminds me of what other news I have for all of you,” Dad went on. “Remember I talked about starting another mission? Well, I think I found a place this time. There is some lovely ground there at the foot of MountRoraima. We can start a new school.”

So it was decided that they would move again. This time there wasn’t even going to be a house or anything at the new mission. They would have to clear the land and build everything they would need.

Leona felt bad they were moving again. She hadn’t really had a chance to become friends with any of the Indian girls. Maybe things would be different at this new mission.

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