Jungle Gem

📅 March 5, 2020

Ferdinand and Ina Rosenau arrived as missionaries in the Central African Republic in 1920 to begin a work their children and grandchildren would carry on. Here’s one story from Ina’s remarkable book God in Some of My Valley Days.

As Christmas approached in 1933, Ina began to notice one-year-old Wendell, the youngest of their six sons, groaned in his sleep at night. After a doctor examined him and judged him healthy, Ferdinand traveled to a mission station where he and other men were working on a translation of the Sango Bible.

He had only been gone half an hour when Ina realized Wendell had fever. She again sent for the doctor, who finally recognized Wendell had a massive heart defect. The baby worsened rapidly. Ina sent for Ferdinand, but it would be several days before he could return home.

For three days and nights, she stayed constantly by Wendell’s bed with the African Christians helping her. But Wendell died.

Ina had a coffin made for him and kept it in the house, while she waited for her husband to come home. When she knew she could wait no longer, she conducted the funeral service herself and lowered his little coffin into the grave. She covered it with sheet metal. When Ferdinand came home, they opened the coffin so he could say goodbye to Wendell, who “looked like he’d only gone to sleep.”

Ina’s recovery from the physical strain and crushing heartbreak took many days. The first day she was able to get up, they received a telegram from an English couple who were in a city nearby. They wrote: “May we accept your hospitality for Christmas?”

How could Ina say yes? They had no money for presents for their own children. She had sewn a cloth toy for her youngest son and had sent some money to a bookstore for gifts for the older boys. All she had on hand to cook with was a little flour and sugar and two cans of peas.

She composed a brief telegram—“Sorry. Impossible”—and was on her way to send it when she said the Lord seemed to say to her, “Is this the way you answer your telegrams?” She changed her message to “Welcome.”

Knowing that God would provide, Ina made out a menu and prayed, “Lord, I’d like to have roast duck, potatoes and gravy, peas, bread and lemon pie for dessert.” That was ten days before Christmas. The next day a package arrived: a basket of potatoes, twenty-five francs, which was the price of a duck and a small gift for each of her sons. And she still had peas in the cupboard and everything needed for the pies.

She had no proper yeast, only native yeast. She had only enough flour for one baking and when this native yeast failed, she was disappointed. But when their visitors arrived the next day, the lady handed Ina a package: a big loaf of bread and two containers of butter. She also presented toys and candy for each of the boys. When the package arrived on time from the bookstore, Christmas was complete.

After a long and fruitful life of ministry, Ina passed away on Christmas Eve 1979, having lived—as the African Christians said—“all the days her heart had strength for.”


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association