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The Mission Box

“Mama, can I sell my ponies at the garage sale?” Jenny asked, looking at her shelf full of plastic animals. “I don’t play with them any more, and they are just taking up space.”

“That’s a good idea.” Mrs. Rich came into the room where Jenny and her brother were sorting through their toys. It was “de-clutter” day at the Rich’s house and stuff was scattered everywhere. “Put anything you want to sell in this box,” she suggested. “It is really a good time to get rid of things, since the neighbors are having a sale.”

“How about my stuffed animals?” Michael asked, dumping an armload on the floor. “I want to keep Panda and Crocker, but I can sell the others.”

“They are so well-loved that they might have to go in the free box,” Mrs. Rich said with a laugh. “I think the dog must have chewed on this one!” She held up a teddy bear with a hole in the back.

Jenny dropped her ponies into the “sell” box and came over to look. “But lots of people would buy these,” she said, pulling out a couple of Beanie Babies. “This little zebra is soooo cute! Some little kid will really want it.”

“That reminds me!” Mrs. Rich said suddenly. “The Hustlers are taking some boxes of things for the poor children in Kenya. Wouldn’t it be nice to send them some of your toys?”

“They can have my ponies!” said Jenny.

“They can have all my stuffed animals!” added Michael. “Except, maybe Panda. He would miss me too much if he went to Kenya.”

Mrs. Rich smiled. “I’ll have to call Mrs. Hustler and see how much room they have. I’m sure your things will make the poor children so happy!”

“Do they have any dolls in Kenya?” Jenny asked thoughtfully, looking into her dolly crib. Six pairs of eyes stared up at her, but it was the sleeping “reborn” baby that she gently picked up. “I could give them Analise. She is my very favorite,” Jenny whispered.

“I’m glad you want to give them your best,” Mrs. Rich said, giving her daughter a hug. “That pleases Jesus very much! But if they don’t have room for big things, we can find some special little dolls to send. Just remember, whatever we send is going on a mission for Jesus!”

Jenny hugged her baby close and then laid her gently in the box with the ponies. “I guess this will be the mission box now,” she said. “I don’t need more money anyway, and I want to make some poor kids happy.”

“I just wish I could send along some food,” Mrs. Rich said, looking at their well-stocked shelves. “We have so much, and they are having such a famine right now. But canned things are so heavy…”

“What about dried fruit?” Jenny suggested, opening a drawer. “It’s really light.”

“And trail mix is really good,” Michael added, pulling out a bag. “Can we have some for lunch?”

Mrs. Rich laughed. “I guess it is about lunch time!” she said. “You each can have a handful while I make some sandwiches and call Mrs. Hustler.”

Jenny and Michael had piled the mission box full of toys by the time Mrs. Rich got off the phone. “Come and eat now,” she called from the kitchen. “I have something to tell you.” Her voice was strangely serious, so the children sat down quietly. “The Hustler’s got an email from the minister in Kenya. It sounds like what they need most is clothes, not toys.”

“But Mama—” began Jenny.

“Wait and let me explain,” Mrs. Rich continued. “It is hard for us here in America to understand how poor they really are over there, because we have so much. She says that they have to use all the money they get for food, so most of the children really don’t have anything to wear.”

“We have lots of clothes,” said Michael.

“Can’t we send clothes and some toys, too? Just a few little ones?” Jenny pleaded. “I know children like toys.”

“I’m sure they do, but—” Mrs. Rich sighed and looked at her plate. “They need food and clothes more than anything else. It is hard to imagine only eating one meal of rice and peas a day, or maybe only a piece of banana.”

“I would starve!” Michael said, licking the peanut butter and jelly off his fingers. “Can’t we send them some food, too?”

“Maybe we could send some money to help buy some,” Mrs. Rich agreed. “But let’s think about the clothes right now.”

“I have some dresses that are too small for me,” Jenny said, hopping up. “Maybe we can look through our storage boxes, too.”

“It would be better to give needy children the clothes than to store them,” Mrs. Rich agreed. “Mrs. Hustler sent over some pictures,” she continued, turning on the computer. “They will give us an idea of the sizes they need.”

“Poor little kids,” Jenny said, when Mrs. Rich showed them the email. “Their clothes are all ragged and dirty!”

“They don’t have any shoes either,” Michael said.

“Maybe they don’t need shoes because it is hot there,” Mrs. Rich said. “But some of them can’t go to school or church because they don’t have anything good to wear. That little girl looks like her dress is way too big.”

Dark eyes stared out of a brown face, and the sleeves dangled past the little girl’s hands. Jenny suddenly felt very rich indeed. “Don’t you think one of my dresses would fit her, Mama?” Jenny asked, eagerly. “Are there lots of children that need clothes? I hope we have enough!”

Mrs. Rich smiled. “I don’t think we do, dear, but we’ll send what we can,” she said, following the children down the hall. “Let’s look for things that are sturdy and lightweight, since it is hot in Kenya.”

“And pretty!” Jenny said. “I want to send some nice things for that little girl to wear. If she can’t have Analise, at least I can help her be happy! Don’t you think that is what Jesus would like?”

“Yes, indeed,” Mrs. Rich said. “Let’s begin filling a box right now!”

Far across the sea, on the edge of the hot savannah, a little mud hut stood by a dusty path. Two girls sat in the shade of a tree, watching their brother hop across lines scratched in the dirt. “You stepped on one,” Mary said. “You must start over.”

“It is my turn!” Esther said, hopping up. “I will throw my stone now.”

“Daniel!” Grandma called from the doorway, “Bring me some water so I can cook the ugali. Do not spill any, since we are almost out!”

Daniel stopped hopping and turned quickly to the house. He was glad there would be porridge to eat today, since the kind minister had given them some corn. Sure enough, the water jug only had one scoop left in the bottom, but it was enough.

“Should I go to the reservoir for more water?” Daniel asked Grandma.

“It is a long walk,” she replied, “but we cannot afford to pay the water man to bring us some.” She looked out across the dry fields and shook her head. Poor Grandma looked so tired these days. She hardly ever could go out to work anymore.

“After we eat I can go,” Daniel said, confidently. “It is only three kilometers. My arms are strong and I can carry the water.”

The sun was dipping behind the hills when Daniel returned with the water jugs. They were only half full, but he was glad to set them down and rest. “Let the dirt settle and then you can drink some,” he told his sisters.

After satisfying their thirst, the girls were eager to talk. “Dorcas and James came by,” Mary said.

“They are going to the meeting tonight,” Esther added. “And their daddy said he’d take us along, if we could go.”

“But Grandma said, no,” Mary continued, “’cause our clothes are too dirty.”

“I washed my shirt at the reservoir,” Daniel said hopefully.

“Come let me see you,” Grandma called from the house. She looked her grandson up and down, then slowly shook her head. “That shirt is full of holes,” she said. “I must mend it before school begins.”

Daniel sighed. He missed singing with the other children and listening to the kind minister speak about God. There was always good food to eat, too. If only he could persuade Grandma to change her mind!

But Grandma was firm. “You’ll have to do your singing and praying here tonight,” she said. “When we have enough money, we’ll buy some clothes.”

Daniel knew when that would be, but he didn’t say anything. There had never been enough money for new clothes in their house.

“I know!” said Esther, “We can pray for new clothes. Remember that we can ask Jesus for everything.”

“If it is good for us,” Daniel added.

“It is good to have clothes,” put in Mary. “And it is good to learn about the Bible.”

Daniel smiled. “Let’s have our own meeting then,” he suggested.

It was more than two weeks later that a bicycle bumped over the rutted roads and stopped in the shade of the tree. “It is the minister!” Mary shouted, running to greet him.

“Did you bring food for us?” Esther asked, looking at the bundle strapped to the back. But there were no maize sacks—only a big bag full of lumps.

“Not this time,” he said with a smile. Then he looked at the children thoughtfully. “Are you out of food?” he asked. “I haven’t seen you for awhile. How is your grandmother doing?”

“We have some corn still,” Daniel said.

“Grandma said we couldn’t go to Bible class,” said Esther, “because—”

“Shush!” Daniel said, giving her a warning look.

“Welcome, welcome!” said Grandma, coming from the house with her cane. “It has been a long time since we have seen you, dear brother.”

“Yes it has,” the minister said, shaking her hand warmly. “How is your back doing these days?”

“A bit stiff, but we get along,” Grandma said. “The corn has been a great blessing to us. Thank you and all the dear saints that sent it.”

“We thank the Lord for providing it,” he replied. “But we have missed seeing the children at Bible class and have come to see if we can help in some way.”

“Frankly, they don’t have suitable clothes to go anywhere,” Grandma said. “If I could get out to work a bit more, maybe we could get…”

“Well, praise the Lord!” the minister interjected. “He surely sent me to the right place today.” They all looked at him in surprise, as he untied the bag and reached inside. “Let’s see, I have something here that might be the right size,” he said, lifting out a blue and white striped shirt.

The children gathered around, and Daniel reached out his hand eagerly. The minister handed it to him with a laugh. “Well, Daniel. Just see if that will satisfy your grandmother!” Daniel wriggled out of his ragged shirt and slipped his arms into the clean new sleeves. Carefully he began buttoning up the front, while his sisters watched in admiration. He had never had a man’s shirt with buttons before.

“Quite nice,” said Grandma with a chuckle. “Quite nice, indeed!”

But the minister was already holding out several pairs of pants. “Which one will fit better?” he asked. “Yours are almost worn out, aren’t they?” Sure enough Daniel’s shorts did look very faded and worn with such a wonderful shirt. So Daniel pulled on a pair of sturdy gray slacks to complete his outfit.

“You look like the Bible teacher,” Mary said with a giggle.

“Now that’s a fine pair of clothes,” said Grandma with approval. “You will have to save them for meetings and school, so they won’t get worn out.”

“Thank you,” Daniel finally remembered to say. “They are perfect!”

Mary and Esther were delighted when the minister brought out some colorful dresses next. “This yellow one fits me!” Esther said excitedly. “See, Grandma?”

“I like this one. Isn’t it pretty?” Mary added, holding up a blue dress with white and green polka dots.

“It is wonderful,” Grandma said, blinking back the tears. “I didn’t know how I would manage—surely the good Lord hasn’t forgotten us.”

“Now we can go to the meetings again,” Daniel said with a grin.

“Well, praise the Lord!” the minister said again. “I am very glad.”

“Whoever sent the clothes was very kind,” Grandma added. “Please thank them for us.”

“God sent them!” Esther said. “We prayed for clothes and He sent them.”

“He surely knows how to answer prayer,” the minister agreed. “And this time He sent them all the way from America, with some dear friends that came to visit us. Praise the Lord!”

“All the way from America?” Mary repeated. She looked at her new dress and smiled. “I like it very much. Thank you for bringing it.”

“You are very welcome,” the minister said, climbing onto the bicycle. “I must go now, but I’ll be looking for you at the meeting!”

“Thank you! Good-bye!” the others said. They waved as he peddled out of sight. “We will see you at Bible class!”