by Kyla Steinkraus
Ten-year-old Mark stared out the car window at the waving yellow grass of the savanna. It stretched out as far as he could see, and was dotted with occasional umbrella acacia trees and bushes. Mark’s family served as missionaries in South Africa.
Mom and Dad liked to take long drives on Sabbath afternoon. They wanted to explore as much of the beautiful grasslands as they could. Mark and his 9-year-old brother, James, searched for giraffes, gazelles, and their favorite—lions. But most of the wildlife hid so well that it was hard to find them.
After an hour of riding, Mark was tired of being in the car. His legs and back hurt. “Can we have a break?” he asked his parents.
“Are we there yet?” James whined.
“I suppose we could stop,” Dad said, winking at them through the driver’s mirror.
“Up there.” Mom pointed to a pretty spot beneath a tree off the side of the road. “Are you hungry? We could have our picnic here.”
“Hooray!” James yelled. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a whole lion!”
“I hope not,” Mom said, laughing.
Dad pulled the car over. He set the picnic supplies on the ground and handed Mark the soccer ball. “Stay near the car,” Dad warned. “Don’t run off!”
“We won’t,” James said.
Mom and Dad spread out the checkered blanket and started setting out the sandwiches and chips. Mark stretched out the kinks in his legs and back. It was December, and even though it was winter back home, in South Africa it was summer. The air was hot and humid. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck. But it didn’t matter how hot it was—he still wanted to play soccer.
“Come on!” James yelled, stopping a few yards away. “Bet you can’t make a goal!”
Mark kicked the ball to James. It rolled through the matted grass. James turned and dashed after it. They kicked the ball back and forth. James had terrible aim. The ball went spinning off in random directions. Every time Mark went after the ball, he wandered a little farther away from the car. The grass got deeper and thicker. It was hard to walk through, and difficult to kick the ball. Just ahead of him, the grass was taller than he was.
“Kick higher!” Mark called.
“I’m trying!” James yelled back. He kicked the ball hard. The ball bounced past Mark, straight into the clump of tall yellow grass.
Mark started to jog toward the grass.
Suddenly a booming voice rang out. “Mark!” the voice shouted so loud it sounded like an explosion in his ears. “Run! Now!”
Mark was so shocked, he did exactly what the voice demanded. Fear shot through him. His heart hammering against his ribs, he turned and raced back toward the car as fast as he could.
James must’ve glimpsed the terrified expression on Mark’s face, because he ran too, even though he didn’t know why.
Just as the two boys reached the car their mother screamed.
Gasping for breath, Mark turned around. A tawny, muscled form slunk out of the tall grass. Two yellow eyes stared straight at him above jaws bristling with sharp teeth.
“Lion!” James yelped.
The lion flattened her ears.
“Get into the car!” Dad cried. He yanked open the car door and pushed Mark and James inside. He and Mom leaped into the front seats and slammed the doors shut. Mom engaged the locks. Just in case.
Everyone stared through the windows as the lion stalked closer. Her giant paw struck the soccer ball. Mark gulped. Not two minutes ago he’d been standing right there.
She seemed to study them for a long moment, as if deciding whether the car would make a good lunch. Then she turned and slipped into the yellow grass, her tail twitching as she disappeared.
The car was completely silent. Mark listened to the rapid beat of his own heart. His whole body trembled.
“That lion was hunting you,” Dad said finally in a shaky voice. “If you had run up to the grass to get your ball, she would’ve attacked you.”
“Did you yell for me to run?” Mark asked Dad.
Mom and Dad exchanged a look. “We couldn’t get the jar of peanut butter open,” Mom said sheepishly. “I’m so sorry. We were distracted.”
Mark told them about the voice shouting in warning, so loud and close it had made his ears ring.
“Was it God who spoke to Mark?” James asked. “The same way God told the lions not to eat Daniel?”
Mom nodded, tears gathering in her eyes. “Do you remember our Bible verse this week?”
“The song of Habakkuk,” Mark said. “The mighty power of God.”
“We do indeed serve a powerful and mighty God,” Dad said. “The same God who shut the lions’ mouths to protect Daniel is the same God who created the entire universe with the power of His word alone.” He wiped a tear from his eye. “He’s the same God who spoke out of thin air and warned you, saving your life.”
Mark was awestruck, overwhelmed with thankfulness to the awesome God he served. “We should pray,” he whispered.
Mark’s family sat in the car for a long time, their heads bowed as they prayed in joy and thankfulness to God for loving them, watching over them, and protecting them.
USED WITH PERMISSION FROM GUIDE MAGAZINE
PHOTO CREDIT PEXELS