Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#5) (part 1 of 2) “Crime in Old Town”


This story is the FIFTH in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa.

This story is part ONE of two, continued in the SIXTH story – “The Thief”

Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children, (but the baby can’t write yet!).

I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences (and similarities) such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi as in BIG BLACK DOGS (the second story). They will also show how they face the same temptations, emotions, and problems that all kids everywhere do. I hope to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them truths from the Bible, God’s Word, as it pertains to their everyday lives.

So, here is the next story!  (If you are new here, scroll down, or check the list on the side bar to begin the with the FIRST story and meet the kids and their idiosyncrasies in order.)


Crime in Old Town

Hi kids!

Melody told me you are getting to know all of us Matthews’ clan (family).  Already you have heard from her twin sister June, and from Julie, and from Gus-sy,

“Hey, stop punching me, AUGUST!  Or maybe I should say, Gussssssssss, like you say!  Oooof!  Oww!  Okay, okay, little brother I’m just kidding!  I love ya, you know it!”

Sorry, kids. I was just teasing him – not in a mean way, just a brotherly tussle, like having a pillow fight but without the pillows!

Anyway, I’m the oldest kid in this family. I’m fifteen and a half. I was born in….what month? Can you guess? My name is Marshall, so….?

I am where it ALL started, the first born Matthews kid in the family. I don’t think Mom really meant to start the “month-name” thing, but I was born in…. well, THAT month (Have you guessed it?), and she already wanted to call me Marshall.

I would have been Catherine, if I’d been a girl, so you see she wasn’t thinking of months then. Do you want to know what she WAS thinking about?

When Mom was a teenager she read a book about an amazing preacher from Scotland.  He wanted to be like David Livingstone – who brought the Gospel to Malawi, or he wanted to be like Erik Liddell who became a missionary to China. (Did you ever see the movie, “Chariots of Fire”? That was about Erik Liddell).

But God wanted this preacher to go to America as a “home missionary.”  America? That sounds totally weird, right? But I know there are places in America that need a “missionary” to tell people about Jesus too. Can you think of any place or people?

This man preached everywhere, starting in the state of Alabama.  When he went to Washington D.C., the people loved him so much that he was appointed as Chaplain (that’s sort of like a pastor) to the United States Senate.  The senators loved his prayers so much they would come early to work to hear him pray!

mk-stories-man-peterAnyway, his wife Catherine wrote a book about him after he died. “A Man Called Peter” was the title. His name was Peter Marshall. My Mom loved his story, and even cried at the end of the book. She decided to name her first son after him – IF she ever got married and had kids.

And that’s how I got MY name. It wasn’t because I was born in a certain month.  But when Julie came along in July, the tradition was started.

Oh, yeah!  My middle name is…. Saint. I know, I know!!!!  Don’t laugh!  I was teased about that name a lot of times.  Kids would call me “Saint Matthews!”

mk-stories-nate-saintLike I said, Mom loved to read Christian biographies (stories about real people), and another one she read before I was born was “Jungle Pilot,” the story of Nate Saint. Nate Saint flew missionaries into Ecuador in small planes.

Nate Saint wanted to tell the Gospel to the Auca Indians (a very dangerous tribe of head hunters), but before he could, they killed him with their SPEARS!  They also killed Jim Elliot and three other missionaries who were with him.  Later his sister bravely went back to Ecuador, and DID tell them the Good News about Jesus, and they were sorry for what they had done.

So, that’s how I got to be Marshall Saint Matthews. It’s a pretty big name to live up to, I gotta tell ya – two outstanding missionary men, and I’m just a kid. Well, a 15 and a half year old kid. (Gus thinks I’m a man already because I am as tall as Dad.)

As you can see, our Mom was very missionary minded. But that’s not saying she wanted to BE a missionary back then. Especially not a missionary to AFRICA!  It started way back when I was about Gus’s age and we still lived in America…..


At first Mom didn’t want to leave everything she loved – her friends, her nice home, her church, her SUV car, going to a pool, or going to the beach, or going to a shopping mall, or having an air conditioner, and not having to worry about mosquitoes and very bad diseases.

She and Dad had some long talks – I could hear them sometimes when I couldn’t sleep and came out of my room and listened at the top of the stairs.

Dad told Mom how God was leading him to go to Africa to teach at the African Bible College and help with a small church that was just getting started there. Remember when June told her story, you read about Dad’s parents being missionaries to Borneo.  He had grown up in a jungle and it didn’t scare him to think about going to Africa. But it was different with Mom.

‘What about the children, Hudson?” Mom asked. “What if they get sick or…?” (Back then, there was only me and Julie and the twins, who were one year old.)   

“If God wants our family to go, Audrey, He will protect the children.” Dad said it quietly, but you could tell there were no “ifs” about it. He knew that God DID want him to go to Africa. To Malawi.

I could tell Dad was trying to help Mom get over being afraid, so he said, “I grew up in Borneo, don’t you remember? We lived with natives all around us. In Malawi, we will not be living in a village, but in a house. People speak English in Malawi too, so we won’t have to learn another language unless we want to.”

“But Melody and June are only one year old!” her voice was very shaky.

“Honey,” he said in a real soft voice, “Remember when we gave each of the children into the Lord’s care when they were born?” 

Mom was quiet because she knew that was true.

After a few minutes, when I think I heard her sniff, she said, “But can’t we be “home missionaries” right here where we live, like Peter Marshall?  We could go to the poor areas of our city, even learn Spanish. Or to hospitals. Or help the homeless. There is a LOT of hopeless people around….” 

(Mom asked all these questions, but she told me later she was really thinking about herself and about all her THINGS. She didn’t want to give them up. Maybe she was also scared about giving up her LIFE, like Nate Saint did.)

The more they talked down there in the kitchen, the more I thought about things that “I” would have to give up too. Things like my skateboard and big Lego sets and my new bike. And what about my friends? Jake and Caleb were my best friends! They would keep on being best friends, only “I” wouldn’t be there!  They’d do stuff that I wanted to do but “I” wouldn’t be able to do it with them if I was in dumb old Ma-loooowwww-eee. 

I was just starting T-ball too, and found out I was great at it. I loved swimming lessons and going to the beach. My Uncle Will promised me a surf board on my eighth birthday, and that was only 19 months away!  

I didn’t think about getting sick, like Mom worried about. Nah, I would never get any of those awful diseases Mom talked about. I hardly ever get a cough or an ear ache or throw up.

I heard Mom talking and arguing, some more, “But Hudson, think of all the vaccinations the kids will need, and the twins are so little!  You know they are saying now that vaccinations can cause other diseases in children, like autism, or…”

Right then, when I heard the word “vaccinations,” my head shot up. WHOA! No way did I want to get shots!! I hated getting shots!  Malawi was getting worse to me with every word.

After that, I started getting into the conversations between Mom and Dad whenever I heard them talking about going to Malawi. I always sided with Mom. Nope, we didn’t want to be missionaries to Africa. We wanted to stay RIGHT HERE. We could talk about Jesus RIGHT HERE in our OWN city. 

Mom and Dad prayed a lot and read the Bible. Dad talked about so many people who didn’t know Jesus in Malawi. He told Mom that God was calling him to preach and teach the people of Malawi, and to teach pastors to go into the villages because they DID know the language.

At other times, he told her not to worry. There was a good clinic with doctors and nurses, and that another missionary family was already there, with one more coming after us.

“Things will be different in Malawi and it may be hard,” he told her. “But God is in Malawi too. He will be with us always. He promised he would never leave us or forsake us.”

Mom finally agreed. She cried a little. One night I heard them singing songs in bed and in the morning, she was smiling a special smile.

NO WAY!  She had betrayed me! 


And then, kids, I started acting really bad. I argued and yelled and sat down with my arms crossed, and my eyes scrunched up and my teeth locked together, and refused to do anything they asked me to do.

“No, I don’t want to!” I said.

“I won’t!” I said.

And then ….. “You can’t make me!”

Of course, you know what happened then!  Dad took me upstairs to my room and talked to me and then…… you know.  And it didn’t feel good at all.


In the end I realized that kids really don’t have a lot to say in such big decisions. I mean, who can argue against GOD?  I went along with all the giving away of things and packing things in big plastic boxes and sleeping on the floor the last week. But inside I was really mad. I didn’t say it out loud, because I didn’t want more discipline. But I was sure thinking mad and bad things inside.


When they had a party for us at our church, everybody came up to say good bye. There was a lot of hugging and picture taking, and crying.  I didn’t hug or smile for pictures OR cry.

Caleb gave me a cool expanding flashlight “for when your power goes out,” he said.  Jake gave me a new hand-held video game with extra batteries. “Thanks, guys!” I said.  We looked at each other, then looked at the floor. Caleb’s mom called and he ran off. 

Jake looked after him, and then said to me. “Well, have fun in the jungle!” and ran to where Caleb was. Another kid came to them with a soccer ball and they all ran to the parking lot to kick it around.

It’s not fair! I thought.  I want to stay here with my friends!

“I don’t like you, God,” I said to myself as we drove back to our house for one last night. 

During the night, Julie crawled over to my sleeping bag and curled up beside me. “I don’t wanna go,” she whispered. 

“Me neither!” I said. 

In the morning the pillow we shared was a little wet. She must have been crying. I know I wasn’t. I’m sure of it.


The trip to Malawi was sooooooooooooooooo long.  At first, riding in a jet was fun. We ate meals right at our seats and watched movies with headphones on. We got pillows and blankets and the waitress lady gave me a plastic pin like the captain wears.

But it was hard to sleep, and Melody and June cried ALL the time. Julie was too scared to do anything but hold on tightly to the arm rests, especially when the plane bumped up and down. I noticed she was chewing her bottom lip real bad.  It got all red.

If you had to go to the bathroom, there was a long line to wait in, and then the bathroom was really small and I didn’t know how to flush it, and I almost got locked in. I pounded on the door and yelled. Someone pushed in the center of the door and it folded up.  What kind of dumb door is that!

Julie also got sick and had to use one of those paper bags from the pocket on the seat in front of her.  That almost made ME sick.  Dad held her on his lap and ordered a Sprite soda for her.  But when the jet started bumping around, a ding-ding-ding sound came on and he had to put her down and fasten the seatbelts.

We landed in a really hot and scary place. But at least we didn’t stay there very long. Then it was morning and I looked out the window. There was no city, just greenish bushes and grass and reddish roads. We flew beside a big lake for a long time. And then we landed.  We got off the plane way out in its parking lot and had to walk to the building.

“Oh, how pretty it is here,” Mom said. “It reminds me of Hawaii!  Look at those palm trees and all the flowers!  Take a deep breath kids, no smog.”  Dad smiled at her and put his arm around her for a quick hug.

It took another long, long time to get all our suitcases and wait for Pastor B. from the college to pack them all inside and on the roof of his Range Rover. 


As we rode I looked outside. There was not much out there.  Old, dirty buildings with funny signs, people in old clothes selling funny stuff along the highway, and many, many, many rows of corn growing, except it was called maize, Pastor. B. said.

There were no MacDonald’s or Taco Bell or Yogurt Land shops, or pretty lawns or big schools. There were lots and lots of people walking along the road. A boy with a stick was making four cows move along by switching their backs.


 Mothers didn’t push their kids in strollers. No, they… WORE THEM ON THEIR BACKS like back packs!!


And they carried loads on their heads – baskets, tubs, water jugs. How did they DO that??


Men carried gigantic loads of sticks on their rusty bicycles, or on donkeys. Sometimes there were stick cages with chickens packed inside, squawking and shedding feathers.

There were old people sitting by the road in dirty old torn clothes holding out their hands as we passed. One guy didn’t have legs. One old lady’s eyes were completely white.  It made me shiver.

I noticed that Julie wasn’t looking out the window anymore. She was squeezed down low beside me with her hands over her eyes. The twins? They were sleeping. I was very tired too, but I couldn’t stop looking at everything outside.

Finally we came up to a long and tall red brick wall with a black iron gate at the driveway.  A man in dark pants, a pink shirt and a wide tie came out of a tiny little square place in the wall where there was a stool and opened the gate for us. He closed it behind us.


WOW!!  Inside this place, which I found out later was the African Bible College (ABC), it was so pretty. Nice houses and green lawns and flowers on the ground and in the trees, and new looking school buildings. A huge swimming pool and a big building Pastor B said was a gym.

We stopped in front of a house.  Pastor B. said, “Here’s where I live. You can rest here for a while. My wife has lunch ready for you, and then we will go to your place.”

Mrs. B. came out and welcomed us and hugged mom and us.  “Please come in,” she said.  She had glasses of orange drink for all of us.  It wasn’t cold with ice, but it was very nice to drink. I sat down on a long brown couch and….went to asleep.


Excuse me kids…… What?  What are you saying Melody? I can’t understand you with a banana in your mouth!  Hey, give me a bite. Mmm, yum, de–lish–ee-ous!  Thanks, Mel.  Now what did you want to tell me?  Ohhhh, right now?  Okay.

Well, Melody wants me to tell you about the crime I saw and the criminal who ran away. She says all this first day in Malawi stuff is boring. Well, she was just a baby then, so SHE doesn’t even remember it.

Okay. The story she wants me to tell happened a week after she ate that mouse – remember that? – And it made Mom totally forget about what she did. That’s why she thought this story was cool. It wasn’t cool for me while it was happening, I can tell you!  I got a sprained ankle and some bruises and scrapes on my arms out of it.

This story happened on the day we went to “Old Town” Lilongwe (lee-LONG-way). Lilongwe is our capital city, but it’s NO WAY as big as any of your cities in America.

When you go to the oldest part of the city, you can see the Lilongwe River on the left side of the road. Down a long slope at the edge of the river there are Malawian women washing their clothes.  (Yeah, I know!! In that muddy water!)  They beat the clothes up and down in the water, wring them out and hang them over big rocks or bushes to dry. These women live in nearby villages, not in town.

At the top of the hill of this “laundry river place” is an open market, where many, many grass-thatched booths are all crowded together so tightly you can hardly walk between them.

Malawians sell all kinds of things here, from old clothes and shoes and tools and tires, to squash and mangos and sugar cane and peanuts, to live chickens and goats, and fresh fish and goat meat hanging from hooks. Some people cook nsima (nnnn-SEE-mah) in pots over open fires on the ground. (Remember, that is the white thick porridge stuff made from ground maize that Melody told you about.)

One time Dad brought a pair of shoes to this open market. They were still very new, but the soles were coming off. Right away two Malawi men ran up to him and offered him money. They could fix the soles and sell them for a big profit!

It is very dusty, smoky and noisy. There are a lot of people and kids and dogs walking around. Here’s how it looks from the road.  (The river is down past the left side of the picture.)


When you drive past this open market on the road, you drive under a walking bridge from one side to the other. This is a safer way to cross the street and not get run over by traffic. You can see it in this picture.


By the way, I took these pictures with the new camera I got from Grandpa and Grandma last Christmas.

These cars and old trucks and buses are NOT driving to that open market. No, mostly only village Malawians go there. They don’t have cars, so they walk and carry the things they sell or buy in baskets on their heads.

All these cars are heading right around the corner into Old Town which is nicknamed “India Town” because there are so many people from India living there. Yeah, I know, weird. Indians living in Africa! There are also two big UN-Christian churches there, called mosques, where people do NOT learn about the Gospel or worship God.


That day I’m going to tell you about, Mom went to Old Town to buy fabric to sew new sheets for us. The girls like bright colors in their rooms, such as purple, and yellow and blue stripes, and white with big red flowers. She brought April along this time too, so that Neema, a very good seamstress who works there, could measure her for some new dresses.


A lot of tailors and seamstresses have shops along this road to take orders or to sell the shirts, and pants, and even coats that they make.

Dad was there to buy four huge bags of dog food (Gideon and Samson eat a ton of food every week!).  Ngunda needed a new garden rake.

And I went along to help Mom carry bags.

“Marshall, can you hold all this while I talk to Neema?”  Mom said. She handed me a big sack filled with colorful material.

I looked around and could see Dad and Ngunda going into a big hardware shop down the street.  When I turned back, Neema was measuring and talking to April, and Mom was talking to a boy in an old faded soccer shirt who was trying to sell her something…. jewelry, I think.

“No, I don’t need that,” she said politely, then more loudly when the boy would not go away, “I don’t want that. Go somewhere else, please.”

He kept holding it up in her face and talking in broken English, trying to make a deal. Mom stepped back, pushing his hand away. I frowned.

April laughed at something that Neema did right then – probably tickled her – and I looked away from Mom. When I looked back, I saw another kid whose back was to me, wiggle out Mom’s cell phone from the pouch on her purse which was hanging on her shoulder. She didn’t notice because the first boy was being really pushy now.

“Hey!” I yelled. “Stop that!  Mom, watch out!”  She whipped around, but it was too late, both the boys had taken off down the street running fast.  I dropped the sack I was holding near Neema and took off after them.

“Marshall, come back!” she called.

“They got your cell phone!” I yelled over my shoulder, and saw her look into her purse.

The boy who had been showing her the jewelry took off sideways down an alley, but I kept after the one in a dirty red tank shirt who had the cell phone. He zigged and zagged through the crowds and the cars in the street. He nearly got run over by a truck loaded with Malawians going out of town. I had to stop till it went by and lost him.

Then I thought I saw him again way down the street moving fast, and I ran after him again.  Then something happened – he disappeared into a mob of men and boys. When I caught up, I saw the boy on the ground curled up into a ball. The men were kicking him and beating him with sticks. What was this?

“Stop!” I yelled and tried to break through the mob.

“He a bad thief!” several men growled, and continued with the beating, locking me out of the circle with their shoulders and arms.

“Wait! I’ll take him away!” I shouted, but they pushed me farther out of the circle. I struggled back, trying to get to the boy, pushing in as hard as they were pushing me out.

While they were busy with me, the boy scrambled up, hunched over, and ducked through an opening in the crowd. He started hobbling away, limping pretty bad. I let him get a little ways away, and then broke from the men. “I’ll get him!” I said in as mean a voice as I could. “He will pay!”

This time they let me chase after the “very bad thief” and didn’t follow. When he saw I was still chasing him, he took off in a spurt of speed and went around a corner into another alley.  I raced after him, getting pretty mad myself.

I knew that thieves – even young ones like this boy looked to be – might end up in Maula prison for years, never having a trial. I was beginning to think that maybe he deserved it.  I stepped on a loose brick and twisted my ankle a little bit.  I was just about to quit, when I saw him up ahead behind a big pile of trash. He was bent over, with his hands on his knees. He was breathing very hard, but…. I could see he still held Mom’s cell phone in one hand.

I took a flying leap and tackled him. We both went down with a double “oof” onto the hard packed red Malawi dirt. It knocked the wind out of both of us. I leaned back, but stayed sitting on his legs, my hand pressing down hard on the middle of his back. Both of us were panting and gasping for air.

I could see big bruises already coming on his ribs and one shoulder. I could also see Mom’s cell phone in the dirt just inches beyond his outstretched arm.

A crowd of men started gathering at the opening of the alley, but I raised my fist and made a really mean face, like I was going to beat the boy myself, and they slowly moved away.

I had heard Dad talking about Malawi “mob justice” once, but I hadn’t seen it for myself. Dad said that because the police were never around, and when they were, they didn’t care about such things, the people would “take the law into their own hands” and punish the offenders themselves. They wanted to get even for being stolen from or hurt in some way.  But sometimes they went too far.

The boy moved under me, and I leaned forward on his back, putting more weight on him.  I didn’t want him beaten to death, but I really didn’t want him to go to prison either. It’s an overcrowded place with some really mean men, and a boy like this would just get forgotten for years. He would probably get beaten up or starve and die there.

Besides, Mom’s cell phone had been rescued. It didn’t look broke or anything.

Finally I slid off his legs and reached to turn him over. Red dirt was stuck to his face around his eyes and nose and mouth. He had been crying, and I could see a bloody lip. There was a strange scar on his chin that looked like the letter “W”.

Then our eyes locked on each other’s – his dark chocolate brown and my blue-green ones.  My mouth dropped open!  No!

It was Maya!


That’s all I have time for today, kids. Next time I will go back to…. well, you will see. And you will see about Maya too (by the way, you say the name, MY-yah.)  and about that “W” scar on his chin.

Gotta go!  Dad’s calling me to help change the oil on his Land Rover and help him check the breaks. We want to go on a camping trip soon, and it has to be running in tip top shape.

See ya,  Marshall


(If you want to think more about this story, and what God says in His Word, read Romans 12:14-21 and let me know how you think this story should turn out….)

“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.”  ~~~ Psalm 34:11   Good News Bible

2 thoughts on “Stories of Missionary Life in Africa for Children (#5) (part 1 of 2) “Crime in Old Town”

  1. Malawi IS an amazing place, so poor, but the people for the most part so open and nice. (I probably told TOO MUCH description in this story, but….) Any way, thank you for sending a comment. I hope you won’t be disappointed about Maya.


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