The Mission Years-Part Eight

There were so many miraculous examples of protection during our time in Malawi. In the midst of all the intense persecution, travels into the villages, preaching before government officials for the Full Gospel Men’s Association and teaching at the local University, the angels were busy making sure that we were safe from danger and harm. Each member of the family faced something dangerous at least once.

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My son G and his Malawian friends, decided to use an African made bow to shoot an arrow into a bees nest. The African honey bee are known to pursue their attackers for more than a mile. They have a larger number of guard bees around the hive and a larger alarm zone to alert others for help. They are extremely protective of their hive. If you run away to dive into a pond, they will wait for you to come up for air to attack you. There can be anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 bees in a hive or nest. This particular nest was in the eve of the house located above the front porch.

african honey bees

The Africanized Honey Bee, more popularly known as the “killer” bee, has the general appearance of the more temperamental European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). However, they are slightly smaller, but only microscopic measurements in a laboratory would be able to distinguish between the two. They are robust, 3/4 of an inch in length, and are covered in fuzz. They are brownish in color with black stripes that aren’t as distinct as those on wasps or hornets. They have four clear wings that are attached to the thorax, which is the middle section of the body. The six legs are also attached to the bottom of the thorax. The abdomen is larger than the thorax and ends in the stinger, and the head is smaller than both of the sections. The two compound eyes are large and bulbous and allow the Africanized Honey Bee to see ultraviolet rays, enabling them to fly at night. The queens are the largest bees in the social structure, followed by the drones and then the workers.

I was just getting home from checking on the headquarters church project when I saw G running toward the back door of the house and his mom yelling at him to hurry up. We had three dogs tied up outside. Confusion was going on trying to get everyone away from the bees. I ran right behind G into the house and bees were following us in…I slammed the door shut and the houseboy was killing the few bees that followed G into the house. The Malawian friends of G had run down the hill to the servant quarters. When it was all over the only one who had been stung was the houseboy who had one bee get him in the arm. It did not go as well for the dogs. The bees were diverted from G toward the movement of the dogs. They attacked of them more than the others, and she (Bonnie) died. It was very sad for G and I to take her into the woods and dig her grave. G was very fortunate not to have died that day. He owes his life to Bonnie.

G also corned a stray dog one day in the one car garage. The garage didn’t have a door, it just had a roof and three walls with the front open. I don’t even remember what we used it for, as we never parked the car in it. Anyway, G decided to investigate this stray dog that had run into the garage. When the dog realized it was cornered, it attacked G and gave him a pretty good bite. being in Africa and being a stray African dog, and not knowing what germs it was carrying, we rushed G to the local hospital where they treated his bite, and advised that he should have rabies shots. So G went weekly for awhile to bare his white buttocks for a black nurse to inject him with a vaccine against rabies. G likes to keep things exciting.

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My daughter T was running and playing in the yard when she tripped over a rusted water shut off valve stem. It doesn’t freeze in Malawi, so the water pipes are laid above ground and then the shut off valves project upward creating a hazard for someone not watching their step. T wasn’t watching her step and tripped right over it. The picture doesn’t show the rust, but you get the idea. Again being in Africa we rushed her to the hospital for treatment and stitches. The gash in her leg just would not heal properly. It took forever to heal, then it would break back open and then it would seem to heal only to seep again…We used leaves from the Ala Vera plant to help speed the recovery, but she still has a nasty scar today for all the failed efforts.

Black Mamba 3

We have already discussed N with trying to poison himself to death, however he did make an attempt to charm a Black mamba one day too. We had taken a couple of days off from the work, and stayed in a tourist cabin on top of Mt. Zomba. It was very clean and nice with a fireplace and a supply of firewood stacked on the back porch. We were all busy checking out the rooms and lifting blankets and sheets and mattresses checking for any scorpions, spiders or snakes, when N came into the room saying, “Daddy, I saw a snake.” I turned quickly and said, “What?!” “Show me.” I took his hand and he led me to the woodpile on the back porch and at first I didn’t see anything, then something moved and my heart stopped. There was the biggest Black Mamba snake hiding in between several chunks of firewood staring back at us!! I quickly grabbed N up into my arms and grabbed G’s hand and rushed back into the house making sure mom kept everyone inside. I then went to get the houseboy and gardener and told them what we had found. They acted like nothing unusual was happening, got a makasa (hoe) and headed for the wood pile. The snake had crawled out onto the porch by now. The gardener got on one side and the houseboy got on the other side. One distracted the snake while the other one made a chop with his hoe, killing it.

Black mambas are fast, nervous, lethally venomous, and when threatened, highly aggressive. They have been blamed for numerous human deaths, and African myths exaggerate their capabilities to legendary proportions. For these reasons, the black mamba is widely considered the world’s deadliest snake.

Black mambas live in the savannas and rocky hills of southern and eastern Africa. They are Africa’s longest venomous snake, reaching up to 14 feet (4.5 meters) in length, although 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) is more the average. They are also among the fastest snakes in the world, slithering at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour (20 kilometers per hour).

They get their name not from their skin color, which tends to be olive to gray, but rather from the blue-black color of the inside of their mouth, which they display when threatened.

Black mambas are shy and will almost always seek to escape when confronted. However, when cornered, these snakes will raise their heads, sometimes with a third of their body off the ground, spread their cobra-like neck-flap, open their black mouths and hiss. If an attacker persists, the mamba will strike not once, but repeatedly, injecting large amounts of potent neuro- and cardiotoxin with each strike.

Before the advent of black mamba antivenin, a bite from this fearsome serpent was 100 percent fatal, usually within about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, antivenin is still not widely available in the rural parts of the mamba’s range, and mamba-related deaths remain frequent.

green mamba snake 2

It wasn’t over, later that day we drove to a park area on Mt. Zomba. We parked the car and started up the trail toward the source of a waterfall. We get half-way up the trail and I put my hand behind me signaling everyone to stop and be quiet. There was a green mamba snake wrapped around the branches of a bush right beside the trail. It was not more than fifteen feet way from us. I quickly got everyone to back slowly down the trail, and when we were a safe distance away, we turned and ran the rest of the way back to the car! Africa is a ‘wild’ place full of danger. The kids did get to wade in the creek of running water coming off of the falls for awhile, but it kind of takes the fun out of things when you see poisonous snakes everywhere you go.

The green mamba snake, which is also known as Dendroaspis viridis, is glossy grass-green in color with light bright green underside and averages 1.8 meters or 5.9 feet in length. The longest green mamba snake recorded was 3.7 meters or 12 feet in length. The green mamba snake lives in the forests of southeastern African near the coast stretching from the Eastern Cape in South Africa through Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Southern Malawi and Eastern Zimbabwe. This venomous snake can be found living in the trees of the African forest and is rarely ever found on the forest ground unless following prey or basking.

Unlike the black mamba snake, the green mamba snake is shy and non-aggressive. The green mama usually will swiftly make a get away if it feels threatened unless it is continuously being provoked. Like the black mamba, they will flatten their necks into a narrow hood as a defensive posture. The green mamba’s venom contains calcicludine, dendrotoxin, and other neurotoxins, which is similar to the black mamba’s venom. Even though the green mamba and the black mamba share the same venom, the green mamba’s venom is one-tenth as toxic as the black mamba and the amount injected is generally less due to the snakes size. The green mamba’s prey consists of adult and juvenile birds, birds’ eggs, and small mammals. Green mambas usually stay in the trees unless they are looking for food. Young green mambas usually eat other reptiles such as chameleons and other small lizards.

Green mamba males are known to engage in combat for mating rights, similar to the combat practiced by male king cobras. The combat involves wrestling matches, with snakes twisting and pushing each other to the ground, which may last several hours. Combat does not usually include biting. The female green mamba lays around 6-17 eggs during the summer months. The eggs are usually laid in a hollow tree among decaying vegetation. Hatchlings measure between 35 and 45 cm (13 to 18 inches) and are venomous from birth.

mt zomba

The wife had a insulin attack and had to be hospitalized for a few days till they got her regulated again. I do not know how she did it being a diabetic in Africa, but somehow she coped with her illness. She sang in the services and made a lot of trips into the villages with the family at first. Later she would stay home while I traveled with the interpreter as I would spend more time teaching the preachers after holding the services.

leopard-on-rock

The boys and I took a walk up through the grassy field behind the house to climb the little hill. When we got to a logging trail, N & I stopped to catch our breath, and the houseboy and G had gone on around the bend in the trail. G & I had just started to join them when they come running back around the bend saying they had just surprised a leopard! We grabbed everybody and ran back down the trail to the house. The leopard luckily had eaten and was sunning itself on a rock when it was surprised to see the houseboy and G come around the bend. It jumped up and ran the other way, thankfully!! This was right behind our house, maybe 1/4 a mile up the hill.

This is adventure enough for now…..

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