A small New Testament, with a bright red cover, was one day sold to a woman in the country in Goiás State in Brazil; but she was not interested, and in tidying up the sala in expectation of friends calling, she threw it out on the rubbish heap, and there it lay neglected.

The neighbour came, from some little distance, bringing her little girl, and while the women gossiped, the child was sent into the yard to play. The bright cover of the little book attracted her eye, and she picked the Testament out of the rubbish and played with it all day: she had never seen a book before. When the time for departure came, she asked her hostess if she might keep it, and went home happily clasping her new treasure in her arms.

Now her mother was a great smoker, and paper being very scarce in those parts, usually rolled her cigarettes in maize leaves. But one day she found the little girl playing with the book, and decided that the pages were exactly the size she wanted for a nice fat cigarette! So the plaything was confiscated, and the child had to look elsewhere for her amusement. Day by day, the pages of St. Matthew disappeared in a cloud of tobacco smoke, and part of Mark had followed when the woman's husband entered the room in an angry mood just as she was tearing out a page. He was a 'rough' of the worst description, never without revolver and knife at his belt, and with his companion, José, he was the terror of the countryside. Snatching the Testament from his wife's hand, he bade her continue with the usual maize leaves for her cigarettes, and let him have the book for his.

But Carlos could read, and before further mutilating the book, he sat on an old wall in the garden in the hot sunshine and started to read. The sun grew low in the west, the Spirit of God stirred within him, and he became more disquieted and afraid. Finally he stuffed the torn book into his pocket and went off to find his companion in crime. "José," he said, "come and see this book I've found. I don't like it: it talks about God and sin …"

Day after day they read and discussed it: they read of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and now they grew afraid. They came to feel that Someone was standing behind them looking into their very hearts; and the time came when they both fell on their knees and cried to God for mercy and forgiveness. They continued to read, and they believed and accepted, as little children, and were truly born again.

Soon their wives saw the change in their lives, and neighbours began to wonder what had happened, for the whole countryside grew amazed at the change in them. Fear grew into curiosity, and curiosity into questioning. The story was told over and over again. They got into touch with a colporteur and obtained New Testaments and Bibles, and there began a work of God in that farming region which eventually led to the formation of a strong evangelical church, where the two onetime criminals were leaders. God has said that no word of His shall return void; and His Gospel is still the power of God to everyone that believes.


From: Anon, True Stories Re-told. London: Evangelical Union of South America, 1965, pages 51,52