Manuel was a little Indian boy who lived on the banks of the Amazon River [Brazil]. His father was chief of the tribe. Their home was a hut built on high stilts with a roof made of palm leaves, and they had a little farm back in the jungle.
One day Manuel sat on a big log on the bank, dreamily looking out over the broad river. Grandmother had taken the canoe and gone across the water to visit a friend. Father and Mother were at work on the farm.
Manuel was too young to have many worries, but one thing did make him afraid at times. He would hear his people talk about the "river spirits." They did not know much about them, but it was commonly believed they captured people and made them their slaves.
This morning as Manuel sat and dreamed, he became aware of a rumbling and a great movement beneath him. The log began to move toward the river. It was a small landslide, and before Manuel could flee to the safety of the bank, he found himself carried swiftly into the great stream.
Terrified, the poor boy clung to the log and screamed and cried for help. All the while the powerful current was carrying him swiftly downstream. Fish nibbled at his toes, submerged branches struck him as he was swept along, till he was sure the "river spirits" were trying to get him. As he clung to his strange boat, many thoughts went through his mind and he asked himself where would his soul go if the "river spirits" captured him. In his terror he held on more desperately, and two hours went by.
In the meantime Manuel's father, hearing the boy's cries, had rushed to a neighbor's farm and borrowed his boat. Heading downstream he paddled as fast as he could, hoping to find his boy still alive. By and by he thought he could see a speck on the river far on ahead which might be his son, and he paddled on with renewed energy and hope. Several hours later he caught up with the swift moving log to which Manuel was still clinging bravely.
Oh how great was their joy as he pulled alongside and lifted Manuel into the boat, safe at last! Then they headed for home.
"Tell me, Father," said Manuel, "where would my soul have been if the "river spirits" had got me?"
"I do not know, my son," was the only reply.
Manuel asked many people that question during the next three years, but no one could tell. Then one day some strange people came to visit their tribe. They were not dark-skinned as the Indians were, but white. Manuel's people learned that they were missionaries, and soon they began to teach them some strange and wonderful things out of a black book they carried. They spoke about God who lived in heaven, and about His wonderful Son who came down into this world and died for all men everywhere — even Indians. Manuel wondered if that Book might have the answer to his long unanswered question — Where would he be if the "river spirits" had got him?
The missionaries invited all who would come to the Sunday school to learn from the great and wonderful Book. Manuel went and thought how marvelous it would be to possess that Book for himself. Then he was thrilled one day when the missionary offered a Bible to anyone who could recite the 66 books of the Bible by heart. The missionary thought this would take the Indian children a long time, but what was his surprise the very next Sunday to hear Manuel say them off perfectly. To be sure he got a copy of the Book and then he set about to learn how to read it. All the while the boy listened carefully to everything the missionaries said and searched his own Bible for himself.
Soon Manuel found that there were two places his soul would have gone had the "river spirits" taken him — to heaven or to hell. Then as realized what a dreadful place hell is, he began to be concerned about his sins. As the months went by, Manuel longed to have his sins forgiven and to be sure he would go to heaven.
He asked the missionaries, and how glad they were to tell him that the Lord Jesus had died to put his sins away upon the cross, that He had borne the punishment they deserved, and now God forgives every one that believes in Jesus. The Book said, "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." John 1:12
That same night Manuel opened his Bible and read: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 5:24
In the night Manuel went to his father and woke him up. "Father," he said, "I found the answer to my question. I would have gone to hell if I had drowned, but Jesus died that I might go to heaven. May I take Him as my Saviour?"
Startled at so strange a request in the dead of the night, his father listened to all his boy had to say. He remembered his own fears for his son the day he was swept away down the river.
"Yes, you may, my son" was the reply.
With a heart overflowing with thanksgiving, Manuel opened his heart and received the Lord Jesus as his Saviour that night. A wonderful peace filled his soul.
Some time after, both his father and mother, his grandmother and his sister, all were saved, and great was the rejoicing in that happy family.
Today Manuel preaches to his own people the wonderful news of a Saviour who died for sinners everywhere, who now lives in heaven and cares for His own, and who is coming soon to take them to be with Himself above.
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