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  • Cindy Marabito

The missionary who came to town


I used to dream of being in Africa with all of the animals. I had never met anyone from Africa and had been told the only reason we needed to be over there was to teach the Africans about Jesus. One time in Kountze, a missionary and his wife came and gave a talk at Granny’s church. He brought slides and showed them right there in the big chapel. It was odd, because they were usually real strict about things like that. These were devout Southern Baptists.

The visiting missionary man and his wife were kind of funny looking. He wore a short-sleeve white shirt with a clip on tie. To me, there was something that took away from the religious if the tie wasn’t a proper tied knot tie. He clicked the slide projector to change from one picture to another and delivered a loud oratory on each image. With each one, his voice got more and more authoritative. He conveyed an air of possessiveness and you got the feeling he thought Africa and everything in it belonged to him.

He had a lot to say about his work there. There were slides of him and his wife dressed up and posing with African tribal people in their native dress. I don’t remember him referring to anyone by their name, just his wife who he called Mrs. It looked very hot and the missionaries appeared to be extremely uncomfortable. They were sweating in all of the photos and his white shirt had great big yellow stain marks under the arms.

There was one picture of a zebra, but none of any other animals. I knew Africa had lots of animals from reading the National Geographic. After the lecture was over, there was a question and answer segment. I immediately had raised my hand and asked about the animals. He said they didn’t have much time to visit with the beasts and that their work was to bring Christ to the wild natives. I asked if the animals didn’t need Christ, too and he said no, that animals have their own God. At that point, Granny nudged me to shut it down and I knew better than to continue with my line of questioning. It rankled me when I’d hear adults say that people had a different God. I was beginning to wonder what their God was like and had begun to question their version of God. To me, nothing was closer to God than animals and the world they lived in. I felt lucky Daisy had picked me to be her friend. I was filled with a wildness as I stood there and rubbed on her trunk. It felt surreal, like from another planet, but warm and good, too. It felt like what God feels like.

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