"Do you hear me, Delfin?" asked Mama. "Don't you ever go near a jeep!"
"Yes, Mama," answered Delfin. "If a jeep comes, I'll run and hide."
Delfin meant what he said. Mama had just told him that the ones who drive jeeps are usually gospel preachers. Gospel preachers were the ones who would catch little boys, carry them away and cut off their ears. No, Delfin would never go near a jeep.
Poor Delfin. He had never been told that the word "gospel" means "good news." He had never been told that the preachers were coming to tell the Indians who lived high in the mountains that God loved them and had good news for them. Sad to say, he had never heard that God's good news was that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15). No, Delfin had only heard the devil's terrible lies about the Gospel and gospel preachers.
But there was not much reason to be afraid, really. Few jeeps ever made their way high up into the mountains to the sleepy village were he lived. Nothing very exciting ever happened. Day after day Delfin and the other Indian boys looked after the goats. Day after day they led them to the same stream for water. They always went to the same hillside to search for firewood, and even their food was always the same. Only on fiesta days was there excitement. The celebration for the new year was the most exciting of all. For three days big firecrackers were set off, and the older folks would dance through the village down to the shrine and back again, to the sound of flutes, drums and the booms of firecrackers. Delfin had heard that the firecrackers would scare off the evil spirits of the new year. When the men brought dynamite to the fiesta, Delfin would shiver with a mixture of thrilling excitement and fear. This biggest of booms would surely drive away the evil spirits! After the fiesta, Delfin would take his goats back to the hillside to look for pasture, and so his days passed with fears of evil spirits, jeeps and gospel preachers embedded in his heart.
Sometimes the priest would come to the village where Delfin lived. He liked that. Everyone would go to the chapel where the priest would hold a ceremony and the people would light candles and kneel before the images to pray. Delfin respected the priest and thought that someday he wanted to be like this important man. One day Delfin, using all his courage, told the priest of this secret desire in his heart.
"I would like to study the Bible and be a religious man like you," he said timidly.
"Boy," replied the priest sternly, "don't you ever read the Bible! Those who read the Bible go crazy in their heads!"
Crazy! thought Delfin, terrified. How awful!
"If you want to be a religious man, then come and help me in the chapel," continued the priest more kindly. "You can clean the chapel and help to repair the images."
Delfin smiled. He would like that very much.
So began Delfin's new efforts to be religious. It was a strange mixture of faith and fear. His faith, sadly, was not in the Word of God, but in the images, the priest and in his own efforts to be good. And still there was fear. The fear of the evil spirits, the gospel preachers and now this new fear of the Bible itself did not go away as he tried to be good. If only someone could have told him that the Bible is God's own loving Word that "is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).
One of Delfin's jobs at the chapel was to repair an image when it was broken. He would get a little plaster and form again the broken ear or arm of the image, then paint it again to match the other side. Once in a while a tiny thought would pierce the back of his mind — If these images are our Saints and they are so powerful that we pray to them, then why can't they look after themselves? Why do they get a broken ear? Delfin knew such thoughts must be wicked and that he should probably confess them to the priest. However, as he mixed the plaster for the images, those thoughts would come back again — Why can't they fix their own hands?
One day when Delfin was alone in the chapel, a daring thought entered his mind. Do people really go crazy if they read the Bible? Is it true?
There was only one Bible that he knew of in the whole village. It was the large one right there in the chapel. No one was there to see him. Would he dare to read it? Would he dare to see for himself if it were true?
Maybe I will read only a little, he thought boldly, then I will go only a little crazy.
He hesitated ... and then with his heart pounding he went over to the big Bible.
I'll be careful, he thought to himself. I'll check exactly where all the images are and exactly which window the sun is coming in so that I'll know if I'm crazy.
He checked carefully around. Trembling, he reached slowing for the Bible. He looked up quickly! The images were still there ... the sun was still shining in the same window. His heart pounded as he opened the Bible just a little. Quickly he looked up again ... no change in the images or the sun ... he wasn't crazy yet. With dread and yet wanting so much to see, Delfin opened the Bible just enough so that he could read a few words. The place that he opened to was just where the New Testament begins. For the first time in his life he was reading the Bible, and to his horror the first words he read were, "THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW." The GOSPEL! ... Gospel preachers! ... the ones who cut off the ears of boys! Delfin read no more. In terror he shut the Bible and ran out of the chapel shaking like a leaf. He ran and ran, and in his heart he said he would never again open a Bible.
As the days went by, his fright faded a little and he thought about it more calmly. One thought stood out above all others — he wasn't crazy. Not even a little.
Delfin had been a captive of Satan with chains of lies that held his heart in fear. He did not know that they were lies, but now he doubted if everything he had been told were true. God was in His own way working with Delfin. The deliverance from lies and fears and evil spirits was coming. The One whose love casts out fear had His eyes upon Delfin. The One who came to set Satan's captives free planned that one day Delfin would hear His Word, the Bible, even if he were afraid to read it.
When Delfin first saw the Gospel preachers he didn't see a jeep so he did not know who they were. All he saw was a group gathered on the street corner in his village singing. No doubt Delfin did not understand much that he heard that day. But as he listened he heard one preacher reading these words from God's Word, "Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: ... feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psalm 115:4-8).
Oh, how these words sank into Delfin's heart. How he knew the truth of them! Had he not repaired ears of images that could not hear? Had he not painted eyes that could not see? God in His love and grace poured the power of these words into Delfin's heart and he reached out for more. He listened to wonderful words that told him of God's "good news": "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Delfin believed and accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. He is now a grown man with sons of his own, but he has never forgotten that day when he learned that the "gospel" he had always feared was really God's "good news" especially sent to a poor Indian boy.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Copied with permission for WholesomeWords.org from Messages of God's Love. Story also in Hugo and the Condors... published by Bible Truth Publishers.
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