by Melinda Skau
Illustration by Kim Justinen
“Gotcha’!” David tagged Keri. Keri whirled around on the lawn.
Suddenly David and Keri forgot their game of tag as they saw a familiar red truck turn into their driveway. Dad stepped out of the driver’s door with a stethoscope around his neck and a smile that said “I’m glad to be home!”
“Dad!” Dad!” they said together. “You’re home from work early!”
Dad wrapped both kids up in a big hug. “Yes, I am home early. And I’ve got surprise news too!”
Keri’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “What’s the news?” she asked.
Dad grinned as he tousled Keri’s hair. “Well, we might be going on a trip. We’ll talk all about it at supper. First, let’s see if Mom needs any help setting the table.”
Keri and David could hardly wait to hear about the trip. Right after the blessing, Keri asked, “So where are we going, Dad?” Dad smiled at her impatience. “You mean I don’t even get to snitch a bit of burrito before I spill the beans?” he asked her.
“Dad!” Keri was pleading for an answer to her curiosity!
Finally, Dad broke the suspense. “How does Africa sound?”
“Africa?” David was so surprised that he stopped his fork in midair! “Africa is a long way from Tennessee! Why are we going there?” he asked.
“What’s it like there? When do we leave?” Keri wanted to know.
“Whoa!” Dad put a hand up. “Let me tell you the whole story. He sipped from his water glass and took a deep breath. Then he began from the beginning. “One day I was talking to God while I drove to work at the hospital. I prayed, ‘God, if you have any special work for us or any place You want us to go—just blow me away with the news!’ A few days later, I got a surprise letter saying it was a good time for me to move my doctor’s practice. And in the very next mail, we got a letter from friends in Nigeria asking Mom and me if we would come be doctors there. Your mother and I have prayed about it a lot. We really feel like God is calling our family to move to Africa this fall.”
“Move?” David sounded reluctant. “How long would we live there?”
“Probably six years. But we would come home for the summer every other year so we could see your grandparents and cousins and all your friends,” Mom explained.
Keri’s face fell. “I don’t want to move away from Rachel. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had!”
Dad and Mom nodded their heads with understanding looks. “It’s never easy to move,” Mom agreed. “We will miss our friends and relatives, but we can send letters and, once in a while, we’ll talk on the phone.”
Then she added, “And there are other missionary families in Nigeria with kids just your age. In fact, the friend who wrote to us is Dr. Saunders, the surgeon at Ile-Ife Hospital. He has four children. And Dr. Daniyan is the pediatrician (children’s doctor) at Ile-Ife. He has a boy and a girl almost your exact ages. I know you’ll make new friends soon.”
“I like my old friends! I don’t want to go either. I like my school here!” David frowned and crossed his arms with a sad Humph!
Dad sighed. “I think I have just the story for worship tonight. Let’s help Mom clear the table. Then we can all read together.”
When the kitchen was clean, Mom and Keri and David settled down on the big, comfortable couch in the family room while Dad found the Bible.
Keri snuggled close beside Mom. David leaned back on his favorite overstuffed pillow.
Dad explained before he began to read. “This is a story of a man God called to a faraway place. Any guesses who our story is about?”
“Abraham!” Keri guessed.
“Good try, but I’m actually thinking of someone who didn’t want to go.”
“Jonah!” both children shouted.
Dad began to read, “And God spoke to Jonah saying, ‘Jonah, go to Nineveh and tell the people they must stop doing wicked things…’ ”
Dad read all about Jonah running away from God and God sending the big fish to scoop him out of the sea and spit him out near Nineveh.
“Wow!” David said. “Maybe God will send us inside a whale to Nigeria, since we don’t want to go!” He was half teasing.
In her mind, Keri saw pictures of her whole family huddled together in the cool cave of a whale’s belly. It made her shiver. “I don’t think I want to go by whale to Africa,” she giggled a chilly little giggle.
Dad and Mom laughed. Dad spoke reassuringly. “I think we’ll fly by jumbo jet to Africa.” Then he added thoughtfully, “I believe God is giving us this opportunity to be missionaries because He thinks it’s the best thing for our family and for the people we can help.”
“That’s right,” Mom added. “It’s not where you lives that makes you happy. It’s doing what you know God wants you to do. I’m sure God has some exciting adventures planned for us in Africa.”
“Adventures in Africa,” Keri sang it like a little song.
“We won’t be like Jonah,” David said. “We’ll go by jet to Africa, so God won’t have to send a big fish to pick us up!” He grinned.
Keri got another silly picture in her head. She could imagine Jonah sitting next to her on the jet wearing his flowing robes and carrying a scroll to read to the people of Nineveh. When she shared her idea, the whole family laughed together as they thought about being Jonahs by jet!