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.
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.
Everyone had been very, very busy for the last few weeks, trying to get everything packed up and ready to go. The Brooks family in Georgetown had also decided to go along. They had two little girls—four-year-old Flora and nine-month-old baby Juanita. Both families also planned to take a couple of older teenage girls along to help with the children and housework. Altogether they made a rather large group.
Finally the day came to load everything on the ferry for the first part of the journey. When all the luggage and supplies were finally loaded, Mother settled onto the ferry bench with a sigh. “I guess you could say that the hardest part of the trip for me is done with, now that we have loaded up everything.” She paused and wrinkled her forehead. “I do wonder if I have forgotten anything important.”
Dad laughed. “You’ll find out soon enough, but by then it will be too late anyway. This isn’t exactly going to be an easy trip, you know.”
Leona watched as her younger twin sisters bounced up and down on the bench. “Don’t you think this boat is rocking enough?” she asked. “Do you have to bounce too?”
“But we’re so excited!” Vivian shouted. “We are finally on our way.”
“What do you mean, ‘This isn’t an easy trip,’ Dad?” Viola asked.
“Remember, I told you we would have to hike part of the way,” Dad said. “Well, you better enjoy the boat, train, and truck part. Because it is about a three day hike in the jungles to get to the mission station.”
“How will we carry all our supplies and clothes?” Vivian asked.
“What’s the matter?” Dad teased. “Don’t you think we can carry all these packages?”
“Oh, Dad,” Leona gasped. “There must be over a hundred packages here. There is no way we could carry these all ourselves.”
“I guess you will have to wait and see,” Dad said. “We can’t even take horses on this trail. In fact, the Indians say that only people, dogs, and monkeys can make it over the trail.”
“I’ll make it, I’m a people,” Leona teased. “Vivian can be the monkey, and let’s see, that leaves Viola and Muriel to be . . .”
“Now, Leona,” Mother interrupted, “this is going to be a long trip. Let’s not start teasing each other already.”
Just then the whistle blew, and the ferry boat bumped against the dock.
“It looks like the first part of our trip is almost over,” Mother said. “Gather up your things and let’s get ready to get off.”
“Let’s go. We’ve got a train to catch,” Dad said.
He hurried everyone off the ferry and saw that all the supplies were unloaded. Then they all boarded a train that would travel along the coast until it reached the Essequibo River. After a train trip of about six hours, they once again had to unload everything. This time they loaded it all onto a boat. The boat would travel up the river to the town of Bartica.
As they traveled up the wide river, Dad explained a little more about the trip. “We will spend tonight in Bartica, and then travel by truck through the jungle for two days,” he said. “Then we will travel by paddle boat on the Mazaruni River for a ways. The Mazaruni River actually runs down into the river here, but we can’t travel the whole way on the river.”
“Why not?” Vivian asked. “We could just trade boats when the river gets smaller. That sounds easier to me.”
“Well, you see,” Dad explained, “the river is coming from high up in the jungle down to the ocean, and it drops over 5,000 feet. That means there are a lot of rapids and waterfalls on the river. Sometimes they do take canoes down the river, but do you know what they have to do?”
The four girls shook their heads.
“When they come to rapids or waterfalls, they just take the canoe out of the water and carry it on their head around to smooth water again.” Dad smiled. “Now that doesn’t sound so easy after all, does it?”
The pastor of the Adventist church in Bartica came out to meet everyone. He took them to a nearby hotel, where the four sleepy girls tumbled into bed.
“Try and get a good night’s sleep tonight,” Dad said as he tucked them in. “This is the last time, until we get to the mission, that you will get to sleep in a bed. After this, we have to camp out.”
“Good night, Dad,” Leona said, snuggling into bed. She felt very tired already, and the hiking part hadn’t even started. She wondered what it would be like to live that far off in the jungle. There wouldn’t be any stores or markets in the jungle. They would have to grow all of their own food. She drifted off to sleep wondering what kind of food the Indians ate.
At six o’clock the next morning the big truck pulled away from Bartica with the whole group and all the supplies on board. The truck headed into the jungle on a one-way dirt road.
Leona settled down on the hard wood bench as the truck bounced over the rough road. She heard Mother whisper to Dad, “I hope all our food doesn’t get smashed with those men sitting on it.”
She turned around and looked at the back of the truck, where all their supplies were stacked. On top of the pile sat a couple of men. Leona guessed they must be the gold diggers she had heard about. The men had packs and shovels with them. She watched as they bounced around on top of the boxes as the truck lurched over the ruts.
She looked back to see what Dad would say, but he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Leona knew that most of the food was in large metal cans so it was probably safe enough. Maybe Mother just didn’t like the idea of someone sitting on her food.
It was only 100 miles down the road to the government rest station. However, the truck could only travel about 10 miles per hour, so it took almost 10 hours to get there. Everyone was tired and sore when they finally stopped for the night. It was only a camping shelter, so everyone had to bring their own sleeping equipment.
“There are only 25 miles left of this road,” Mother said as she unloaded food for supper. “How long will that take us?”
“It will still take all day,” Dad told them. “That is why they built the hut here. It is about a day’s journey either way.”
“The truck must not go very fast if it takes all day,” Muriel stated. “I would think we could walk that fast.”
“Probably so,” Dad admitted. “But don’t worry, you will get plenty of chances to walk in a few days.”
The next morning everyone loaded up the other truck, and off they went over the last 25 miles. That evening a very tired group reached the little town of Issano on the Mazaruni River.
“Tomorrow we have another boat ride,” Dad said.
“When are we ever going to get there?” Vivian asked.
Leona had been wondering the same thing, but she hadn’t wanted to ask. Now she listened for Dad’s answer.
“We are actually almost halfway there,” Dad replied. “But the rest of the journey is going to take a lot longer. We will spend three days and two nights going up the Mazaruni River, and then we will spend Friday night and Sabbath at Kurupung. After that we have to travel by paddle boat to the foot of the mountain divide. Then we get to hike for three days. Then the last part of the trip will be in paddle boats again, up to the mission station. I just hope we can make it to the mission by the next Sabbath.”
That’s another week and a half! Leona thought.
Time went by faster than Leona had thought possible, and a few days later they were in paddle boats going up the last creek before thy reached the mountain.
As the paddle boats traveled up the winding creek, Leona almost drifted off to sleep to the sound of the rhythmic paddles. Dad started to say something, and Leona sat up suddenly as she realized what he was saying.
"We are almost there," Dad began. "Just one more turn around the river, and then you will be able to see for yourself just how all these supplies that we have brought with us are going to get to the mission station."
Our story so far: Leona and her family are traveling into the jungle to be missionaries to the Davis Indians. They have traveled by ferry, train, boat, and truck, and now they have reached the mountains, where they will have to walk. The Brooks family was going also.
“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.
Our story so far: While hiking over the mountains, Leona and her mother have become separated from the group. They thought they were behind everyone and were too tired to catch up.
Leona and Mother sat by the side of the trail for a few minutes. Finally Mother stood up. “I guess we better keep going. We can walk slowly for a while.”
“Wait.” Leona looked back down the path. “I thought I heard something.” They stood still and listened for a moment. “I do hear something,” Leona said excitedly. “But it’s coming up the path.” She turned to Mother with wide eyes. “Are there wild animals in this jungle?”
Mother looked very afraid, but there was nothing she could do. Then around the corner of the trail came a big Indian. And there was Dad right behind him!
“What have you been doing!” Dad exclaimed. “We’ve been trying to catch up with you for almost two hours.”
Mother explained in a rush, “Mrs. Brooks wanted to feed the baby, and when we couldn’t find you we thought you had all left us. We hurried as fast as we could, and Mrs. Brooks is still headed up the trial to find you.”
Dad shook his head. “We stopped at the stream, and Elder Brooks fed the baby. She’s doing fine. Then when we went to look for you, we found out you had left us. We’ve been trying all the time to catch you, and you thought that you were trying to catch us.” He laughed and then looked at his watch. “Anyway it looks like we will be able to go a lot farther today. That will make up for yesterday, when we were so slow. Now I guess I better go on and try to catch Mrs. Brooks. You can come along slower. Almost everyone else is quite a way behind us.” Dad hurried on up the trail.
Leona felt a lot better knowing that they were on the right trail, with Dad in front and Indians behind her. She and Mother hiked along slower now.
That night Dad was very pleased with how far they had traveled. “I guess we will have to have someone think they are lost every day.” He smiled. “That way we really keep moving.”
The next morning everyone had damp clothes to put on again. “This is horrible.” Leona pouted.
“At least there is only one more day,” Dad said. “I think we will make it to the creek tonight, and by tomorrow afternoon we should be at our new home.”
Just after noon that day, the family reached the top of the last hill. It had been raining off and on all day, and the trail was very muddy. “We just have to get down off this hill,” Dad said. “Down there is the creek where paddle boats will pick us up again.”
“But it looks like it is straight down,” Mother said. “With all this mud it is going to be very slippery.”
It was very slippery. Leona held onto vines and branches at the side of the trial. They all slipped and slid getting down the mountain that afternoon.
The sun was just starting to set when they finally reached the small jungle shelter by the little river where the paddle boats would pick them up in the morning. Leona was glad that it wasn’t dark yet. She hated the idea of walking in the jungle after dark. It was bad enough having to sleep in the thatched shelter with no walls around you. She went to find Mother.
Mother was busy looking for the Indians with the camping gear. Half the Indians weren’t even down off the mountain yet.
Dad decided they weren’t coming. “They had to go extra slow because of the mud. They will probably camp where they are and come down tomorrow.”
“But how will we sleep tonight?” Mother asked.
“We’ll just have to do the best we can,” Dad replied.
“Well, we won’t have to put on soggy clothes again tomorrow,” Vivian commented, “since we can’t take them off tonight.”
It was a long night, but when Leona awoke, the sun was streaming through the jungle leaves. The Indians and boats showed up to take them on the creek.
Just about noon, the little paddle boats pulled up at the mission station. Everyone helped unload the boats. The Brookses were going to stay for the weekend, and then they would travel on up the river to another mission.
The four girls ran happily through the big log house, looking it over. It was one very long building. One half of the house was a big room that was used for the church, with part of it being used for school when they had a teacher. The other half was divided up into rooms for the mission house. The whole building was built up off the ground on poles like all other jungle dwellings.
“Here’s a room with two bunk sets in it. This must be our room,” Vivian called. Leona and Viola ran into the room to see.
“Yes, it is a good thing you are all girls,” Mother said, following them in. “There is only one room for all four of you.”
Leona climbed up the rough bunk. She could touch the thatched roof. She looked out the window. There wasn’t any glass, but there was a shutter you could let down when it rained. So this was the mission house they would live in, she thought. Now she would see what it was like to be a missionary.
“Now that you’ve seen the house,” Mother said, “please help carry in some of the boxes from outside.”
Dad was in the front room area, piling up the boxes that he had already brought in. The girls began to bring in more boxes through the front door area. Suddenly Mother asked, “Why isn’t there a door here at the front of the house?”
“There aren’t any real doors,” Dad replied. “None of the Indians’ houses have doors on them.”
“But couldn’t we have a door anyway?” Mother pulled shut what looked more like a gate over the opening. “I don’t think this would keep out anything.”
“I’m afraid not” Dad told her. “You see, the Indians might think we were trying to shut them out if we put a regular door on the house. So we will just have to use this gate. Since they don’t have doors on their own houses, they wouldn’t understand why we should want one. We don’t want to offend them and make them think that we want to shut them out from anything.”
“Don’t they know that we’re here to help them?” Viola asked.
“Yes,” Dad answered. “But we have to help them in their own way. Sometimes trying to help in the wrong way ends up being worse than not helping at all.”
“Like when Vivian tried to carry the soup pot when we were camping and ended up spilling half of it on the ground?” Muriel smirked at her younger sister.
“Something like that,” Dad replied. “Vivian wanted to help, but she didn’t realize how heavy the pot was. Someday she will be able to carry it and do it right. You don’t always know until you try. That is one reason we came out here to the jungle. There wasn’t anyone else willing to try.”
“I hope we can be good missionaries.” Leona picked up another box.
“We’ll try and do the best we can,” Dad encouraged them. “That is another way you can know about God’s plan for you. If you see a job that needs to be done, and you can do it, then God expects you to at least try. I felt there was a real need out here in the jungle, so that’s why we are out here ready to work.”
Dad looked at the last few boxes. “Let’s see how fast we can get the rest of these into the house. All right?” He carried in another box and handed it to Mother.
Mother looked around the rough jungle house again, and then she said, “I am just going to have to do something else and try not to think about this house. I was going to spend a few days getting settled, but I think we will go ahead and start school on Monday.”
“That’s fine with me,” Dad said, carrying in the last box. “I was just going to go down to the village to talk to the Indians and let them know that we will be having church as usual. So I will invite all those who want to learn to read to come to school on Monday.” Then he went out and shut the gate behind him.
On Monday morning most of the little boys in the village appeared at the mission. Leona helped Mother pass out little shirts and shorts from the mission boxes to all the boys who came.
“Let’s give them all different colors of shirts,” Mother said. “That way we will be able to tell them apart until we get to know them better.”
“Why haven’t any of the girls come to school?” Leona wondered.
“They may come later,” Mother answered. “Right now the Indians think it is more important that the boys learn to read than the girls.”
“Well, I hope some girls come soon,” Leona said. “I want to have some friends that I can tell about Jesus.”