"Can you help my son?” asked an Indian woman, carrying her sick child into Pastor and Mrs. Stahl’s clinic.
Mrs. Stahl quickly prepared hot and cold cloths to place on the chest of the wheezing little boy. The child’s mother and father watched carefully, not sure they trusted the foreign missionaries.
Pastor Stahl, who was a trained nurse as well as a minister, had been working in the jungles of South America for a long time. He was used to patients and their families who didn’t trust modern medicine. Calling an interpreter, he carefully explained to the couple what he was going to do with their son.
“This boil is causing him a lot of pain. I’m going to lance it and draw the pus out of it. He’ll feel much better.” The pastor-nurse matched his actions to his words, lancing the boil even as he spoke. The little boy cried out, but it was soon obvious that he was more comfortable.
“You will have to stay here for eight days,” Pastor Stahl went on. “I know it seems like a long time, but if you want your son to get better, we’ll have to treat him morning and night for the next eight days.” As the interpreter relayed his words, he searched the couple’s dark eyes for a sign of agreement. But their faces remained blank. He didn’t know whether they trusted him or not.
The next morning the answer was clear. When the Stahls went looking for the sick boy and his parents, they were nowhere to be found.
“I had a feeling they would disappear,” Mrs. Stahl said. “Like so many others, they would rather take their chances at home than stay here and have us finish the treatment.”
“The sad thing is that the child will almost certainly die if he isn’t treated,” said Pastor Stahl with a sigh.
The next day the missionaries searched again for the family, but they had vanished without a trace. As the busy days passed, with patients to be treated and evangelistic meetings going on, Pastor Stahl forgot about the boy and his parents.
At the end of a long Sabbath of meetings Pastor Stahl was just about to enter his house when a voice caught his attention. An Indian woman was running toward him from the forest. “Pastor, be careful!” she shouted. “A man is trying to kill you!”
“What? Which man? Why?” stammered the startled missionary.
“The man who brought his son to you a few days ago. He has a rifle, and he says you killed his child with a knife. He’s going to kill you!”
The pastor was sorry to hear that the boy had died. But he knew the threat was real and that the man would not hesitate to carry it out. Quickly Pastor Stahl turned to his wife. “I’m going to look for this man,” he said. “Better to face the danger head-on.”
“I’ll go with you,” she volunteered at once. Rufino, their Indian helper, spoke up too.
“I will also go.”
Together the three started through the dark jungle night. Pastor Stahl’s heart pounded inside his chest. Somewhere, behind the shadowed trees, was a man who knew this forest far better than he did—an armed man, determined to kill him. But the thought of angels all around him calmed his fear.
Only the night noises of the jungle accompanied the three travelers to one of the nearby Indian camps. “Yes, the man was here a little while ago,” the Indians assured Pastor Stahl. “He said he was going to find you and kill you.” Some of the men volunteered to go along with the missionary and look for the would-be killer.
The same thing happened at the next few camps they visited. No one knew where the man was, but several men volunteered to come help search for him. Soon the little band traveling through the forest numbered 20.
Suddenly, through the trees, Pastor Stahl saw a small clearing. About 15 feet ahead of him a dark shadow flitted behind a tree.
That’s him, Pastor Stahl thought with a sense of certainty. He leaned over to Rufino and whispered, “I’ll stay here with the group. You go around behind the trees and capture him.”
Rufino nodded and slipped silently away from the group. Pastor Stahl stopped walking and began talking in a low voice to the men around him. He dared not look at the tree behind which the man hid, nor toward the edge of the clearing where Rufino was stealthily moving toward his prey. He could not betray, by a glance or an action, that he knew where the assassin was hiding.
For 10 minutes Pastor Stahl waited, talking with his companions. Then he heard shouts and the sounds of a struggle. At once the other Indian men ran toward the spot where Rufino struggled with the killer. They dragged the man out into the clearing.
“Do you want us to kill him, Pastor?” one of the men shouted.
Pastor Stahl looked at the struggling captive. “Why do you want to kill me?” he asked the man.
“You killed my child!” the man cried.
Taking a deep breath, Pastor Stahl reminded the man of what had happened when the child was brought to him. “What did I tell you to do?” he finished.
The man was silent, but the pastor repeated his question. Finally the man admitted, “You told us to stay for eight days so that you could finish treating my son.”
It must have been difficult for him to admit that it was his own neglect, and not the missionary’s, that had caused his son’s death. But the man closed his eyes and waited calmly. He was prepared to face death. He was sure Pastor Stahl would now order him killed.
Instead, the missionary placed an arm around his shoulders. “I came to this country all the way from the United States,” he told the man who had threatened to kill him. “I didn’t come all this way to kill people. I came to teach people about a God and Saviour who loves them. I love you and all your people.”
Then he turned to the man’s captors. “Let him go,” the missionary commanded.
Wide-eyed and trembling, the would-be murderer stood before Pastor Stahl. The pastor shook his hand. “You are free to go,” he said.
“I am free? May I go?” the dazed man repeated.
Pastor Stahl and his companions had not gone very far on their way back home before they heard running footsteps. For the second time that night the pastor looked into the face of the man who had wanted to kill him.
“I want to live with you forever,” the man said. “Will you give me a piece of land where my people and I can build houses, so we can live near you?”
Joy flooded the pastor’s heart as he led the man back to the mission and showed him a place where he could build a new home. The man and all his family moved to the mission, were baptized, and became eager workers in God’s cause—all because Pastor Stahl responded, not with revenge, but with love.