Lifting its head suddenly and making a quick half-turn, the black-maned lion's nostrils swelled as it sniffed the air. It froze, jowls dripping blood from the wildebeest it had been feeding on, golden eyes glittering in the bright African sun. Its body was one long coil of hard muscle, a killing machine. As the wind stirred the long grasses of the veldt, the beast crouched and began advancing toward a stand of tall grasses fifty yards away.
Mallory Winslow tried to stay absolutely still as she crouched low in the grass, unarmed and defenseless against one of the largest lions she had ever seen. The lion padded by noiselessly, like a tawny ghost, so close she could see the powerful muscles rippling under the hide. She had been close to lions many times before and had even killed one once, but then she'd had a powerful rifle in her hands and had been accompanied by her father and two other hunters.
Even so, she was not alone. She glanced at Ubo, the Masai warrior crouched at her left hand, his ever-present spear in his hand. Just the sight of him gave her confidence,
~for he was the pride of the Masai warriors. His spear was his most precious possession, which he had carefully anointed with animal fat and polished until it gleamed. Two black ostrich feathers were attached to its tip with a string of beads.
Mallory felt a touch from Ubo, and she knew he was saying silently, I am here. Do not be afraid. You are a daughter of the Masai!
The lion froze and stared at them for what seemed a long time. Then suddenly the lion coughed deep in its chest, turned, and ambled back toward the carcass of the wildebeest.
Again Mallory felt the touch of Ubo's hand, and she glanced at him. With his head he signaled a silent retreat. Mallory followed him for nearly half a mile. Finally Ubo stopped, planted the butt of his broad-headed spear in the ground, and turned to the young woman.
"That lion is beautiful," he said in the Masai tongue.
Mallory studied Ubo's tall, lithe figure. Masai warriors had been known throughout their history as absolutely fearless. Visitors to the Masai country were always impressed by their intelligence and beauty. Ubo stood several inches over six feet and was as lean as a panther. He wore a single garment, a red tunic with one strap over his right shoulder. His inky black hair had been dyed with ocher and lay in tiny rows arranged neatly on his head. Around his forehead was a string of beads, red and white and blue, meticulously made by his sweetheart. His earlobes had been elongated and decorated with tiny beads, and a chain of the same material hung around his neck. He had coated his legs with ocher mixed with fat and, while it was still wet, had drawn intricate patterns.
"I thought he was going to charge, Ubo."
"So did I, but you were not afraid."
Mallory smiled, looking up into his deep brown eyes. "I am never afraid. Not with my friend Ubo to protect me."
Ubo took in the young woman who stood before him. As always, he marveled at her, for she was not like other women. He had known her since she was a child. Mallory Anne Winslow had jet-black hair and dark violet eyes, a color Ubo had never seen in anyone else. She had an olive complexion, oval face, and a wide mouth. She was very tall for a woman, a trait she had inherited from her father, John Winslow. Her violet eyes and black hair came from her mother, Jeanine. She was now twenty-two years old, and Ubo remembered the time she had talked him into letting her accompany the warriors of his tribe on a lion hunt. No woman was ever permitted, and even now Ubo could not understand how she had finally gotten him to agree to it. He smiled a gentle, thoughtful smile and shook his head. "How is it, daughter, that you can get me to do anything you like?"
Humor gleamed in Mallory's eyes, and she turned her head to one side, a manner she had when she was amused. "You have to let me have my own way because I'm such a good child."
Ubo laughed deep in his chest. "I remember when you were a little girl, all skinny and thin, but you thought you were too tall."
Mallory smiled at the memory. "I was ashamed to be so tall. I thought a woman should be small."
"A woman should be as God has made her. He made you tall, and I remember once I threatened to cane you if you didn't stand straight."
"I remember. I think you would have done it too."
Ubo's eyes clouded with sadness, and he said, "Come. It is time to go."
As the two made their way back toward the compound, Mallory surveyed the African landscape. This was all she had ever known, except for one visit to the United States when she was fourteen. This was her world--the twisted trees, the vistas of space, the herds of animals that shook the hard-packed earth like thunder as they raced across it. She had learned all the names of the beasts, the birds, and the vegetation from the tall Masai who walked beside her, adjusting his steps to hers.
"What is it like, this place to which you go?" Ubo asked.
"Norway? Why, it's altogether different from Kenya."
"Different how, daughter?"
"It's very cold there much of the year. It snows, and the waters are all covered with ice."
"Tell me again about the snow and the ice."
Mallory had tried before to explain snow and ice to Ubo, yet she herself had only seen pictures. Her one visit to the States had taken place in the summer. There were no adequate words in the Masai language to convey cold. There were many words for heat, but cold was a foreign concept--at least the kind of cold that freezes water. She was good at languages and had picked up Masai simply by spending time with the Masai people. She had learned French and German in school, as well as Latin at her father's insistence, and during the last two years she had learned to speak Norwegian with Anna Jorgensen, a missionary from Norway.
"I do not understand this cold land you speak of," Ubo said. "Are there any lions there?"
"No. Not a one."
"Then how do warriors prove their courage?"
"I don't think they do. Not the way the Masai think of it."
"And what is the name of the people you will go to tell about Jesus God?"
"They are called Lapps."
"Tell me about them."
"Well, let's see.... They live in the very coldest part of the country, and they keep cattle for their livelihood."
"Oh!" Ubo said, delighted. "That is just what we do. Ubo own many cattle--wealthy man!"
"Yes, but their cattle are different, Ubo. I've seen pictures. They're smaller than your cattle, with big antlers, and they're called reindeer. The Lapps keep herds of them, and they eat them and use their hides to make their clothing and tents."
"Do they mix their blood with milk for their drink?"
"I doubt it." Mallory laughed at her friend. "I think only the Masai do that."
As the compound came into view, a wave of sadness washed over Mallory at the realization that she would be unlikely to see this dear friend of hers for many years. "Don't forget me, Ubo."
He laid his hand on the young woman's head--a very unusual gesture for him. "Not while the rivers flow! You go to tell people about Jesus. I will pray for you--and you must pray for Ubo and for your Masai family."
"I will every day, Ubo." When he removed his hand, she simply whispered, "Good-bye," then turned and walked away.
Ubo watched her go, knowing that he was losing something precious out of his life. He had learned to love this young woman, and it had been Mallory Winslow who had led him to worship Jesus--something that the other missionaries had failed to do. As she disappeared inside the walls of the mission compound, he walked away, his shoulders bowed with grief.
"Mallory--here you are!"
Mallory had seen Paul Joubert's vehicle parked in front of the main building of the compound. She knew he would be there--and she knew she had to talk with him--but now as he came toward her, she wished he hadn't come.
Paul approached her with a sober look on his square face. He was not a tall man and was stocky and muscular. He was an Afrikaner, a man of twenty-five whose fair skin was sunburned, as usual. He put out his hand to greet her, and when she took it, he enclosed both of hers. "I've been waiting for you for two hours. Where have you been?"
"Oh, I just wanted to take one more look around before I left." Mallory shook her head and added wistfully, "I'm going to miss this place."
Joubert released her hand and stood quietly watching her. "I need to talk to you. Where can we go?"
"Let's walk down by the river."
As the two made their way toward the serpentine river that watered the compound's fields and vegetable garden, Paul said, "I see most of your family is here."
"Yes. It's my going-away party."
They reached the bend of the river and stood on the bank, neither of them speaking.
Paul broke the silence. "You know why I've come."
Mallory faced him and noted, not for the first time, that he was about an inch shorter than she was. When it came to young men, it had always been that way. Those she had liked had been short and stocky, but this was not what troubled her most at the moment. She was about to hurt Paul, and she dreaded it, for she had become very fond of him.
"I can't marry you, Paul."
Paul came from a wealthy family of mine owners, and he had met Mallory in college. Those had been good days of close friendship, but after they had come back home, he'd begun to pressure her to marry him. He was a good Christian man, but Mallory sensed that he was far more attached to worldly things than she was. This would be natural, since his family had great possessions; nonetheless, it disturbed her.
"We must marry," he insisted. "You know how much I love you, Mallory ... and I think you love me too."
With that he swept Mallory into his arms and kissed her. She did not resist, yet he sensed that her heart did not return his ardor. Releasing her, he stepped back and his lips grew thin. "What's wrong? I thought we had an understanding."
"I made a mistake, Paul. You know we can't marry. I'm going to do missionary work in Norway. Your life is here."
"I've never accepted that."
"I know you haven't, but you must."
"Look, there's another way. I've mentioned it before. I've been thinking about it a lot and have talked to my family." Paul's face grew animated. "The mines are doing very well. Why, Mallory, we could send and support five missionaries to Norway, if you like. Then you wouldn't have to go."
Mallory suddenly felt tempted. It would indeed be easy to marry Paul. Life would present no difficulties, and she would not have to leave her beloved Africa. But even as this thought came to her, she pushed it aside.
"God has called me to go--not to send others in my place."
Paul continued to plead with her, but he finally saw that he was not going to change her mind. "So this is your final decision, Mallory?"
"Yes, it is. I'm sorry, Paul."
Paul Joubert was a stubborn man, but also practical. When he saw that a cause was lost, which happened rarely in his life, he never wasted his strength on a useless battle. "Will you write to me? You'll come back before too long and then we'll see."
"I'll call you on the shortwave radio."
Joubert shook his head glumly. "Well, I won't stay for your party. I'll say my good-bye here."
Mallory put her arms around him and gave him a sisterly hug. She felt a sense of loss, but she had known this moment must come. "Good-bye, Paul. I wish you well."
The two made their way back to the compound in silence, and Paul returned to his car. He started the engine and drove away, never looking back.
"I have a letter here for you to give to my sister Eva."
Anna Jorgensen, a tall woman with fair hair and blue eyes, was sitting next to Mallory at one of the tables in the communal dining room of the compound. The room was crowded with well-wishers who had gathered to send one of their own to far-off Norway. Anna smiled at Mallory. "I think God must have a sense of humor."
Mallory lifted an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well, He called a woman from the land of ice to come here to Africa under a blazing sun, and now He's calling a woman from this place to go and freeze in order to present the Gospel to the Lapps. It would have been much more economical if He had called me to preach to the Lapps and you to preach to the Masai."
Mallory laughed. "It is rather ironic. You know, Anna, I've often thought of the verse in John that says, 'He that believeth on me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.'"
"What about it?"
"I think most of us would rather dig a channel. If we wanted to get water from point A to point B, we would make that channel as straight as we could. But a river doesn't go like that, does it?"
"No. It meanders and twists and turns. I see what you mean. God does things we can't understand." Anna reached over and put her hand on that of the younger woman. "I'm glad you're going to the Lapps. They need Jesus desperately."
"Doesn't anyone witness to them--the native Norwegians?"
"Very little, I'm afraid. The church has grown cold in Norway. And from what Eva writes me, it hasn't changed much. But God will allow you to witness to them."
The two women had grown close over the past two years, ever since Mallory had announced that God was calling her to be a missionary to the Lapps in Norway. She knew this desire had been birthed, at least in the beginning, by Anna's wistful comments that the Lapps were without God and no one seemed to care. This had created a desire in Mallory that she felt was of God, yet she had waited for months before telling anyone. The Winslows had a strong missionary heritage, and her decision had been respected by her parents and the other missionaries.
As Anna spoke quietly about life with the Lapps, Mallory's eyes fell on her parents, and a warmth washed over her, for she loved them dearly.
Her mother, who had been Jeanine Quintana before she had married John, was a striking woman, still very attractive with her black hair and violet eyes. John was her second husband, her first husband having died, leaving her with a considerable inheritance.
Mallory spotted her two brothers toward the other end of the table, engaged in a lively argument. It seemed they were always at odds with each other. Tyler was two years younger than Mallory and Chance three years younger. They both looked very much like their father, and people often mistook her brothers for twins.
At the end of the table sat Barney and Katie Winslow with their daughter, Erin, and their son-in-law, Quaid. Mallory's father had once tried to explain how she was related to this arm of the Winslow family, but it was complicated, and she hadn't tried to remember the details. She did know, however, that Erin, who was eleven years older than she was, had met Quaid Merritt in America. He was a pilot, and now the two of them used their planes for missionary work.
Barney's brother and sister were both there also, along with their spouses. Andrew and his wife, Dorothy, sat across from Esther and her husband, Jan Kruger, the Krugers' only son, Ross, was engrossed in an animated conversation with Quaid Merritt.
Mallory felt a glow of pride at being a part of the Winslow family, and when Barney stood up suddenly, she felt a rush of emotion. He had been the first of the Winslows to come to Africa, and now at age sixty-eight, with his hair gray and his figure somewhat stooped, he still seemed a strong man.
"All right. Let's have a little quiet here. I'm going to make a speech."
"Oh no!" Ross said. "Get your wallets out, everybody. He's going to take up a collection!"
The laughter went around the table, and Barney could not help grinning. "I'll skip the collection this time, but I do want us to join together in wishing well our latest missionary addition to the family." Barney's eyes turned to Mallory as he said, "Sending missionaries is new for us. We're the ones who have always gone, and now a Winslow will be preaching the Gospel in Europe. I want you to know how very proud I am of you, Mallory."
Mallory's face grew warm as she listened to Barney's words of love and affection. Then, to her surprise, he finished with, "Now, let's have a sermon from the newest missionary in the Winslow family."
Not expecting to be put on the spot like that, Mallory rose slowly to her feet and looked around at all the family and friends she knew would be praying for her. "I feel so incapable of doing this job," she began. "But if you'll all pray for me, as I'll pray for you every day, I know I'll have the victory." The crowd broke into smiles and clapped, some voicing their agreement and praise to God at her declaration of faith. Then as they quieted, she spoke, more confidently now, about how God had blessed her with such a wonderful family.
"What are the Lapps like?" her brother Chance asked when she paused for a moment. "Tell us about them."
"What I know about them I've mostly learned from Anna," Mallory replied. "They are a small group, no more than twenty thousand, and they live in Lapland, which is the northern part of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. I plan to work primarily with the Lapps who live in Norway, because I don't know a word of the other languages. Nobody knows where these people came from, but it was probably Russia. They are short people with high cheekbones, dark hair, and olive skin. Their way of life is very simple. They've tamed huge herds of wild reindeer, and they follow these herds to use for their food and clothing."
She ended by saying, "I don't mind telling you I'm a little afraid of what life will be like for me there in such a cold, primitive place, but my heart is very joyful that I'll be telling the Lapps about Jesus."
"How will you approach them?" Chance questioned. "I know you've learned Norwegian, but I thought they spoke another language called Lapp."
"That's true, but most of them speak some Norwegian. And I'll pick up some of their language after I get there. As for how I'll approach them ... why, it'll be the same as it is here. I'll try to hold up Jesus to them."
John Winslow smiled. "That's the only way, daughter. Your mother and I are very proud of you."
"We're all proud of Mallory," Barney said. "And we'll be expecting glorious victories for the kingdom of God."
Mallory felt a lump in her throat. She was leaving all she'd ever known, and life in northern Norway would be very difficult. Here she had always been surrounded by loving, supportive family and friends. There she would be alone in a strange, alien world. But looking around in that dining hall at all the loving faces of these people she knew would be praying for her, she was filled with a new confidence that told her she could not fail.
The Unlikely Allies by Gilbert Morris
Copyright © 2005; ISBN 0764227793
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.