When we are in a crisis situation, we always seem to be faced with this critical question: will God be there for me? I remember just such an occasion. Although thirty five years have passed, the power and the joy of God's miraculous intervention moves me still.
Here is how God answered that question. I had received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in the summer of 1958. About five minutes after conversion, I was filled with God's Holy Spirit. My joy knew no bounds. Then and there, I knew I must preach His Gospel. Three years later, I found myself in Honduras doing just that.
Honduras was tentatively at peace, ruled by a military junta. While the Government wielded the apparent power, the real authority rested with the local church. In the cities, where the majority of the people lived, church authority was muted, hidden by the activity of governmental institutions. But in the mountains, no such effort was made to veil the Church's exercise of power. Consequently, the villagers were subjected to a continuous barrage of religious abuse. I had an opportunity to experience that abuse close up.
I arrived one morning at a small village, nestled high in the hills. By nine o'clock, I had passed out tracts to most of the village men. They received them with respect, announcing themselves to be lovers of the Savior. As I witnessed to them of the gospel of Christ, I became aware of a subtle change. The men fell silent, and I could see the fright in their eyes. They melted away as though they had never been there. I turned to see what could have possibly panicked them. I noticed a clergyman striding determinedly across the clearing that served as a town center. Approaching an elderly gentleman, the clergyman struck him repeatedly on the arm, held out his hand, and received some money. He quickly tucked it away in the pages of the Bible which he carried. I was shocked! The Spirit of the Lord was upon me, and a confrontation with this man was inevitable.
"What are you doing? Why did you hit that fellow?" I cried. The pain and anguish I felt for the poor villager was evident in my voice, attracting the attention of a small group that was nearby. The reply of the clergyman was strident and loud. "He owes the church money!" "Owes money," I thought? "How can one owe money for listening to the Gospel?" It sounded like the Pharisees and tax collectors, just as Matthew had written in his gospel. Suddenly, the Spirit moved mightily in me. I quickly jumped up on the plaza fronting the market and cantina, and what passed for the local restaurant. I began to preach the Gospel.
Starting at Mt. 23:9, I preached that there was only one true Father, and only one true Teacher; the Lord Jesus Christ. After a quarter of an hour, I noticed that the crowd had shifted into two groups. In the one, the clergyman required the people to surrender their tracts, and urged them to leave. Those who didn't received an angry dressing down. In the other, the clergyman passed quietly among them, stopping occasionally to whisper to someone.
Abruptly, the high-pitched whine of a racing engine broke the stillness of the morning air. A small Volkswagen bus broke from the canopy of the jungle on the far side of the clearing. Squealing to a stop, the driver and his passenger jumped out of the van. They quickly slid open the side door. Both men grabbed me under the armpits and threw me roughly into the back seat. With clashing gears and roaring motor, the van sped out of the village, headed down the mountain. The whole action was over in about thirty seconds.
Sitting in the back of the speeding car, I laughed in the Spirit. "Lord," I said, "I am sure I'm going to die now, but that's okay with me. I've preached the Gospel and I'm ready to come home." Without warning, the van jerked to a halt on the bank of a quiet river. The driver turned to me and began telling me what had happened.
He explained in mixed English and Spanish that he and his friend lived in a very small village some 70 kilometers to the East. About six o'clock that morning, they met for prayer. While they prayed, the Spirit spoke to them. He told them to go to the village where I would be preaching. The Lord warned them in the Spirit that my life was in danger, and that they should rescue me. They had not known I would be there. When the men arrived, they had joined the crowd. They heard the clergyman telling the people to take me out of the village and kill me. It was then that the two brethren took action and pulled me from certain death. I will never forget them, and will love them always before the Lord. So, after much tears and worship with prayer, and sharing of the Word, we parted.
In giving this testimony, it has not been my intention to offend anyone. However, there are many things that happen in the jungle that are hidden from the outside world. This is one of them.
And now I ask you, " was God there for me?" You, dear reader, must answer this question for yourself. As for me, I know he was. And should I find myself in another crisis, I believe then too, God will be there for me.