At the upstairs window of the mission house, Maggie swept the sheer curtain aside. The white stucco chapel, dining hall, and school with playground formed a circular pattern around a large stone fountain skirted by a garden. Concrete walkways, flanked by flowers and shrubbery, with wrought-iron fence framed the perimeter of the missionary Oasis Compound. Mr. and Mrs. Weaver, veteran missionaries, headed across the courtyard. Maggie smiled. The nightly ritual—reading a bedtime story to the orphans in the dormitory. The lingering aroma of garlic, ginger, and cumin drifted up the steps, remnants of Mrs. Weaver’s supper handiwork—chicken biryani. She turned from the window, lifted a trembling hand to knock on Mom’s bedroom door. After a year apart from her missionary daughter, Mom had finally arrived in Chennai, India to visit. A dream come true.
Maggie patted the pocket of her kameez where she’d stuffed an old letter. Mom, why didn’t you tell me? She gazed at the ceiling, released a shuddering breath.
The bed creaked inside Mom’s room. Rustling, then water splashing. At last the door eased open, revealing Mom patting her face with a hand towel. The after-supper nap had done little to erase the dark circles under her eyes. After two weeks, shouldn’t she be over jet lag?
Worry wiggled through Maggie’s abdomen. She rubbed a hand over her stomach. “Mom, I don’t want to bother you if you need more rest.”
Mom waved a hand. “Don’t be silly. I asked you to get me up so we could spend some quiet time together.”
Quiet time. Maggie almost choked on a laugh. Quiet time in crowded, noisy Chennai? Imagine that. But at least they were alone in the missionary house. Even though activity buzzed all around outside. Only yards away, the ayah called the children to bed. Pots and pans clattered in the dining hall. And beyond the wrought iron gate, street noise never really stopped. Honking. Shouting. Not to mention the endless cloud of dust. The acrid odor of burning dung. Garbage.
It was a lot to ask of Mom—to be here with all the discomforts and the mosquitoes. But then, it occurred to her—she’d never asked Mom to visit. Mom simply couldn’t stay away. No matter what.
Mom must’ve detected Maggie’s concern because her face brightened in that way mothers’ expressions do when they’re getting ready to cheer up a child. She squared her shoulders, hooked arms with Maggie. “Hey, let’s go raid the kitchen. Didn’t Mrs. Weaver say she left some treats out for us?”
Maggie surrendered to Mom's lead down the steps. “Yes, and chai.”
“Perfect. And over a game, even better.”
Trying to humor a game-loving daughter, most likely.
Maggie wanted this evening to be special. A time to honor Mom for her contribution to her life. She’d never been great at words. No memorable Hallmark moments. Sharing her heart proved difficult. Showing her heart came much easier. Prayerfully, that’s what she could do tonight. In the small kitchen, Maggie peeked under the lid at the chai brew. The delightful aroma of cinnamon and cardamom always comforted her.
Mom breathed deeply, exhaled. “Now that’s nice.” She handed Maggie a cup and saucer.
Once settled at the table with tea and treats, Maggie’s eyes flit to a rattan chest of drawers in the corner. A fan whirred overhead, working hard to provide a cooling respite from the heat.
Mom eyed Maggie over her teacup. “So, what game would you like to play?”
“There’s something else I want to do first.”
Mom’s eyebrows shot up.
“I know it’s only February,” Maggie pressed on, “but you won’t be here in May. So I wanted to give you your Mother’s Day gift.”
Mom lowered her cup, pressed her small frame against the back of the chair. How fragile she looked. Maggie wished her mother would stay with her. But she knew she wouldn’t.
Maggie fumbled for the paper in her pocket. A lump formed in her throat as she tried to speak. “I found this in the attic at home when I was packing to come to India.” She smoothed the paper with tattered edges on the table surface.
Mom’s eyes narrowed, her face quizzical as she leaned in to examine the paper.
Maggie cleared her throat. “It appears to be a journal entry of some kind.” Why was she doing this? “I’m not sure why I took it, except that, well, it’s written to me.” Her gaze fluttered to Mom’s face.
“Yes, a letter. Dear Maggie . . . “ Mom’s eyes glazed over. “So, you’ve known. All this time.”
Maggie covered Mom’s hand with her own. “Why, Mom?”
Mom lifted slender shoulders, then dropped them on a sigh. “Why couldn’t I follow through on a missionary commitment I made to God as a teen?”
Maggie winced, not wanting to upset Mom. “No, why didn’t you tell me?” She leaned in, studied Mom’s sad eyes.
Mom lowered her head. “I didn’t want you to think less of me, for one thing. But mostly, I never wanted you to feel like you had to fulfill your mother’s unfulfilled dream. I was so determined you follow the path God had laid out for you, whatever that meant and wherever that led.” She moistened her lips, stared at her tea. “When you told your Dad and me that you sensed God wanted you in India, I inwardly smiled. I knew God had found His gal—one who was focused enough, strong enough to follow Him across the sea. I knew in His sweet wisdom He was granting my heart’s desire. You might say He gave me a second chance.”
Maggie grew quiet, pondering what to say. Then a grin tugged at the corner of her mouth. “And here you are.”
Mom slowly lifted her head, fresh energy seeping into her tired features. “Yes,” she nodded, “yes.” She squeezed Maggie’s hand, sucked in her lower lip to stifle a sob.
“I have something else for you, Mom.” Maggie rose, padded across the cool tile to the rattan chest. She opened the top drawer, pulled out a small white marble box and returned to the table. She set the box in front of Mom.
Mom gaped at it. “It’s beautiful. So ornate.” She ran a finger over the intricate carvings, the inlaid emerald on the top. “Maggie, this is much too costly.”
Maggie shrugged. “Not really, not by American standards. Consider it a preview of coming attractions. Remember, we still have the trip to the Taj Mahal coming up. I know you’ve always wanted to go.”
Mom’s lip quivered, but her face smoothed with renewed vigor. She smiled. “Well, thank you, sweet girl.”
“But that’s not all, Mom. It’s not just a pretty box. Open it.”
Mom lifted the lid. On a bed of velvet lay an antique locket. Her hand moved to her mouth as she gasped a sob.
“I found Grandma’s locket in the attic, too. I know . . . double bad.” She playfully rolled her eyes. “I was just praying you wouldn’t miss it until I could give it back. New and improved, you might say.”
Mom unclasped the tiny hook. Inside, a picture of Grandma with Maggie and Mom--three generations--smiled back at her.
“Grandma told me when I was young how she thought she would be a missionary to Africa but instead ended up serving with Grandpa in a Christian camping ministry in the States. Maggie smiled. “As you know, that’s where I developed a heart for missions.
Mom gazed at the locket. “Me too.”
“You know what they say, ‘God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.’” She took a sip of chai. “Look at the back of the locket.
Mom turned the necklace over. “God’s missionaries,” she whispered. She looked at Maggie through teary eyes.
“Yes, Mom, God’s missionaries. All of us . . . each playing her part.”
A rap at the door. Maggie set her cup down, reached for a tissue, and blew her nose. When she opened the door, Gavin, the missionary doctor, stood on the stoop, his dark hair matted on his sweaty brow. “Thought I’d check in on your mom before I return to the clinic.” He frowned. “You doing all right?”
She ran a hand through her hair. “Yeah, really good.” Even better if he’d notice her in more than a friendly way. But for now, really good. She turned, exchanged a warm smile with Mom.
For more of Maggie's missionary adventures . . . and love story . . .
Journey to Judah available here.