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“As a Hen Gathers Her Ducklings” Melissa Rollins
One spring, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, we had a pair of ducks on our farm, named Clara and Joe. We always wanted to have baby ducklings. Every time that Clara would build a nest and lay eggs and begin to sit on them, some stray dog or a wild animal would interfere. This happened over and over. Finally, my father asked an old farmer, who lived several miles away, if he had a hen that would sit on another hen’s eggs. The elderly farmer said that he did. My father then asked the old gentleman if he thought that this particular hen would sit on duck eggs. He said he wasn’t sure, but he was willing to try if Daddy could rob the eggs from Clara’s nest. Daddy watched Clara for several weeks and discovered where she had built a new nest. He took six eggs from her nest and carried them to the farmer’s home. The hen that the farmer chose to incubate the eggs was a little bantam hen.
Now, bantam hens are very small, about half the size of a regular hen. Duck eggs are very large. A bantam hen’s eggs are tiny, about one-half to one-third the size of a hen’s eggs. Imagine a tiny bantam hen sitting on huge eggs, which were completely foreign to her. The bantam hen’s tiny body could barely fit over six duck eggs. We didn’t know if a chicken could hatch duck eggs or not. We just hoped that the tiny hen would not reject Clara’s eggs and we could get one or two baby ducklings. Three to four weeks later, the old farmer drove up behind our house one evening in his pickup truck and blew the horn. Daddy, my sister
and I ran outside and the farmer handed us a cardboard box. We peeked inside and there, to our surprise, was a little solid black bantam hen and six fuzzy yellow baby ducklings! We couldn’t believe it! The tiny hen had hatched The feathers on the little hen shimmered like black satin under the porch light in contrast to the bright yellow fuzzy ducklings. The babies looked like six bright rays of sunshine as they huddled next to their black-as-midnight adoptive mother. What a beautiful sight! We tried to be quiet and careful as Daddy reached into the box and handed my sister and me a baby duckling. They were so cute and irresistible! The mother hen was frightened and began to cluck and wanted us to return her new babies. We gently placed them back inside the box and she calmed down. We couldn’t wait for the next day to release them over at our barn and see how the new mother and ducklings would adjust to our barnyard. The next day was exciting. I had never seen anything like it before. The tiny hen proudly paraded the six baby ducklings around the barnyard and immediately began scratching for food, as she would have done for her baby chicks. She scratched in the dirt and clucked to the ducklings as she found each of them a worm or bug to eat. The six babies certainly kept her busy! Now, if these babies had been little bantam chicks, they would have been very tiny, much smaller than regular chicks. The ducklings were giants compared to chicks! How she ever was able to handle them, I will never know. Near the barn was a small pond with a quiet stream of water where the mother hen took the ducklings on an expedition one day to get a drink of water. Instinctively, the baby ducklings headed straight for the water and paddled away, swimming happily across the little pond. Well, the mother hen was hysterical! The ducklings had never once been more than a few inches away from the little hen. Her babies were completely out of her reach. She began to flap her wings frantically and run back and forth along the side of the pond. She clucked loudly and urgently, pleading with her babies to come back to her! They paid no attention. They were just as happy as they could be, having a wonderful time frolicking in the water. They were having so much fun!
Issue 6 / 2010
R AY M AG A Z I NE A few times they paddled within inches of their adoptive mother, just out of her reach, and then turned and swam away to play some more. When they had had enough, they swam to the bank, waddled out and shook off the water from their tails. The mother hen was right there waiting for her babies. The ducklings ran to her as she clucked a different sound, this time not one of urgency, but more of a scolding sound, as if to say, “Why did you leave me and disobey me? I only wanted to protect you. I am your mother and I love you and take care of you. I lead you and guide you and feed you each day. I would do anything to protect you. How can I do that when you are out of my reach and not within the safety and security of my wings?” One by one they came close to her and she then began to make a soothing sound to quiet her energetic ducklings. She lifted her wings and they raced for cover underneath their mother. The ducklings peeped quietly and happily. They were within the safety of the little hen’s wings and disappeared completely out of sight. She settled down and made a sound as if to tell them to be absolutely quiet and listen to her. Not a peep could be heard from them. They were happy and content and safe from any danger. Once all of the ducklings were gathered underneath the little hen, they actually lifted her completely off the ground. It was such a precious sight. As the ducklings grew, they continued to go on their daily swimming trips. The mother hen repeated her antics each time the ducklings went into the water. Yet, day after day and time after time, she welcomed them and received them and gathered her babies one by one. She always lovingly forgave them for going astray. Sometimes we go our own selfish ways and stray from God. Yet, He always welcomes us back and forgives us. Every time I watch the film “Matthew” and see Bruce Marchiano portray Jesus as he speaks these words from Matthew 23:37, I cry: “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem...how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” I cry because Jesus desperately longs for His children to come to Him. He loves us so much! My mind goes back and remembers
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that tiny hen and how she loved and cared for those six ducklings. They were “her babies” and she loved them, even though they were not her own. How much more does God love us? Multiply it a billion times! He loved us enough to send His only Son. He doesn’t want us to spend one second outside of His love, just as the mother hen couldn’t bear for her babies to be even one inch outside of her love and care. God gave me a tremendous glimpse into His heart and His reality by allowing me to receive and experience something so special and yet so simple that even a child could understand the magnitude. It was a miracle gift wrapped in a cardboard box, filled with a tiny hen and six fuzzy ducklings! God’s free gift of His Son to us is so wonderful! All we need to do is accept Him and welcome Him into our hearts. Yet, it is so simple that millions miss it by trying to complicate something that is so perfect. Just as the little hen adopted those baby ducklings, God wants to adopt us as His children. “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ...to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the ONE HE LOVES.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
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The Day of Grace A Children’s Story written by Engela Herbst Monday morning came at last. Nina was so excited; choir practice was starting today. She was definitely beginning to settle in at school – the closeness between her and Grace was supernatural for such a new friendship. Some afternoons Grace’s mom picked both Nina and Grace up after school, given that the two girls shared a lot of activities. Mrs Lawson, the foster mother of the house of safety where Nina stayed, really needed the help. It was not always easy to handle so many children and all their sport and cultural activities, but she truly wanted them to have the best she could offer. In more ways than one they had to be satisfied with almost nothing for most of their lives; therefore she wanted to encourage them to involve themselves as far as they could. The school bell rang at 1 o’clock and the two girls ran to the choir teacher’s class. Practice usually started at 13h30 so the other kids were having lunch, but Nina still had to audition for the choir. Mrs Lawson made a special arrangement with Nina to have a late audition, because she was new in school. Nina really wanted to sing in the choir – since Grace was singing, she wanted to try as well. Mrs Mathews, the choir teacher, was already waiting at the piano. The girls knocked on the door, breathless and red cheeked. “Hi, Nina. Hi, Grace. How are you two doing,” she asked. “We are very well, thank you ma’am,” Grace answered; Nina wasn’t one for many words. “As soon as Nina has caught her breath, we can start,” said Mrs Mathews. A little while later Mrs Mathews started playing a few notes on the piano. Nina sang each note with a clear, perfectly on key voice. A smile spread over Mrs Mathews face; she needed to hear no more – after twenty years of directing the choir she could recognise talent after one octave. It was clear that singing came natural to Nina; she reached both high and low notes with no effort at all. “OK, Nina. Go have something to eat; afterwards Grace can show you where the choir meets. I will be glad to have you in the choir. You will get a letter that you must give to your aunt – it will explain everything she needs to know. Our first performance takes place in a fortnight; you have a lot of words to learn, but the melodies should be easy for you.”
The two weeks flew past. It was Friday evening and the whole choir was neatly dressed in their uniforms. All the girls had the same ribbons in their hair and everybody looked beautiful. Nina was a little nervous, but Grace smiled at her and calmed her down a bit. Tonight was quite a big evening, with some Senior Choirs and experienced Youth Choirs participating as well. A couple of songs by the Pretoria Youth Choir were scheduled – they were very good; their conductor, Mr Grossen, also conducted a symphony orchestra and was world famous. This sounded very impressive to Nina – she loved music so much. Each choir was shown to a different backstage room; theirs was positioned next to the Pretoria Youth Choir. The performance had already started. The first Primary School choir was onstage, singing their hearts out – all the others were warming up, each in their own room. While they were warming up, Nina hit some high notes perfectly. The conductor of the Pretoria Youth Choir came in and stood right next to her; it was his custom to do this, scouting for new voices. With a frown on his face Mr Grossen fixed his eyes on the ceiling – this surprised Nina, but she kept on singing, her voice as strong as ever. Mr Grossen moved about the room, but listened intently, lost in the voices. After a while he walked over to Mrs Mathews and they whispered together in a serious manner – how odd, thought Nina. The rest of the evening went very well. The performance of all the choirs was first-class and they were applauded after each song. What a wonderful night! The following morning Mrs Lawson received a strange call, one that would change Nina’s life forever. It was Mr Grossen – he wanted to see Nina for an audition as soon as possible. Mr Grossen was an important person in the music circles, but he was also a child of God; he said that Nina’s voice was the closest to an angel’s voice he has ever heard. It seems that Jesus was silently working out His plan for Nina’s life. His plan was much bigger than she could ever imagine or dream; Jesus had her in the palm of His hand and would not let go – not ever! Jesus had a plan all along and it involved an angelic voice coming from a broken little girl. In heaven the angels smiled; it was time for reparation, the kind that would spread joy throughout the house of safety. Issue 6 / 2010
MOTOR MOTORI ING NG
unveils details of the all-new Volvo S60
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Text & Images: Volvo South Africa