That Book With
The Green Cover
I was twelve years old when I left the home of my parents. My new home was the streets of Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. My bed was the sidewalk or the park. And newspapers were my blankets. In order to survive, I had to beg for food and be content with the leftovers that people were ready to throw away.
With the lapse of time I joined a company of juvenile delinquents and got into the habit of stealing. When I realized it was not safe for me to continue in Fortaleza, because I was already well known to the police, I decided to move to Recife, Pernambuco, together with a companion. To get the money that was needed for the trip, I still remember that I picked somebody’s pocket.
Barely one year had elapsed before the police were after me in Recife as well. So I chose another city—Salvador Bahia—where, for the same reason, I could not stay for more than one year. This time I decided to go to Belo Horizonte, Minaise Gerais.
I was sitting in the living room of a boarding house, in Belo Horizonte, when a maidservant passed by with a bunch of books in her hands, which she threw into the garbage. Out of curiosity, I salvaged one of those books—one with a green cover—from the garbage can, and, as I was illiterate, I showed it to my companion, inquiring about its contents. “This book,” he said, “deals with ancient history and talks about God.” Becoming even more curious, I asked him to read to me a few passages here and there.
When he was reading aloud, I felt something strange going on within me—something that had never happened to me before—something that really touched my heart. In the words that he read from that volume there was comfort, hope, and joy. I still remember those first sweet impressions that took possession of my heart. But I also remember the warnings and threats that shook me to the very roots of my being, because I realized for the first time how great a sinner I was.
In spite of the influence that I received from that book, I kept on stealing until it became dangerous for me to continue in that city. The need to flee from the police brought me to Sao Paulo. On the train, a fine gentleman talked to me about Christ and Christianity, and again my heart was impressed, but not changed.
Right in the center of Sao Paulo (Praca da se), one day I was attracted to a group of believers who were listening attentively to an enthusiastic and loud-speaking preacher. I approached those people watching for an opportunity to steal at least one wallet, but my attention was diverted to a green book from which the preacher began to read. It was the same type of book that I had retrieved in Belo Horizonte and that was still in my possession. New hope sprang up in my heart. Now I was sure that that book would show me the right way—the way out of hell. That’s what I call the type of life that I had lived so far.
With mixed feelings in my heart, I still continued to steal, until I ended up in a reformatory (reform school). There I was visited by that Christian gentleman who had talked to me on the train to Sao Paulo. He stood surety for me, took me out of the reformatory and welcomed me into his home. By the grace of God, I saw that a U-turn was necessary in my life, and that the time had come for me to make a decision—either for God or the devil. I began to go to church. It was wonderful to be in a different company.
As soon as I began to attend church services, one brother took special interest in me and found me a job. Another brother was very patient with me and taught me how to read. Under the influence of the Bible—the book with the green cover—which I was reading with the greatest delight, my life was changed. I broke away from the devil, gave up the world, abominated my previous life of crime, and became a Christian.
By the help of God, I found a Christian wife and established a Christian home, in which our three children share our routine duty of reading the Bible daily.
I must say in conclusion that, if I had been brought up in a real Christian home, where the Word of God is read and obeyed, my past experience would have been completely different from what it was.
Manuel P. dos Santos