The village of Lazaro, beside Lake Albert and surrounded by the Blue Mountains, was usually a peaceful spot. But in the late 1960s, there was no peace for Lazaro. The Belgian Congo had become the Congo Republic but had not yet become Zaire. A group of rebels, called Simbas, was fighting against the new government, killing the people and looting their villages. Now they had arrived at Lazaro.

"Someone from this village must die!" shouted the rebel leader to the village people. The people were afraid--just what the rebel soldier wished.

With an ugly sneer, he continued, "When we come to a new village, we always kill someone to show that we are the only authority."

The people waited silently. As the leader slowly looked them over, he noticed two strong young men standing to one side.

“Say, you two," he shouted. " Why not one of you? The only thing is to decide which one."

The people were horrified, and some of the women began sobbing. One of the Udubre brothers, leaders in the village, was going to be killed!

Then their father, an old gray-haired man, walked up to the rebel leader and spoke. "Please, I beg you. Don't kill either one. They both have families who need them. Don't kill them. They are my sons."

"Someone must die!" shouted the soldier. "I won't listen to you. Get out of my way!" And he gave old Lazaro Udubre a push.

"Wait!" said Lazaro. "If someone must die, let it be me! I'm old and I've lived my life. I'm a Christian and I know that I will go to heaven where it is more beautiful than anywhere on earth. So kill me."

The rebel chief listened, but could hardly believe what he was hearing. He didn't know what to think. Finally, he said, "All right. Since you want to die, it will be you." He ordered two of his men to tie Lazaro up and put him in the truck. His two sons rushed up and kissed their father. Even they could hardly understand what their father was willing to do for them.

"Don't worry about me," their father reassured them. "And don't try to change my mind. I know what I'm doing. We'll see each other again one day in heaven with Jesus." Before he could say any more, the rebels took off through the forest in their truck.

When they reached a clearing where the rebel camp was located, the soldiers ordered Lazaro out of the truck. Around him he saw bodies scattered over the ground. He saw a row of men and boys lined up. He saw soldiers reloading their guns.

"So this was where I am going to die!" he thought.

"Wait a minute," called the chief to the firing squad. "This man here says he's a Christian. He has offered to die instead of his sons. He ought to be able to preach. So, old man, you have one minute to preach to these men before we shoot them. That should be interesting!"

"How can anyone be so cruel, and make fun of death and of God's word?" thought Lazaro. But God was giving him the chance to speak about him to these prisoners, so he walked over to them.

"Listen," he said. "Many of you know about Jesus. But if you don't believe in him, it's not too late. Remember the thief on the cross beside Jesus? He believed and was saved just before his death. Believe in Jesus and he will save you, too. Jesus said, `I will not reject any one who comes to me.' "

Several of the prisoners bowed their heads and sobbed out their prayers. While they were praying, they were shot and fell to the ground dead. Later, two other rebel trucks arrived at the clearing with groups of villagers. Two more times Lazaro was able to tell the men of Jesus before they were killed. For some unknown reason, he was not shot that day.

When night came, he was pushed inside a hut. He could not sleep, however, because his mind was filled with the horrors he had seen.

The next day was like the day before. Groups of condemned men arrived and Lazaro preached to them. Then there were groups of bodies to be buried.

Each morning Lazaro thought, "I'll surely be killed today. How can I stand to see any more of this butchery?" But no. Had the drunk rebels forgotten that their “preacher" was also one of the prisoners who was to die?

One day a rumor spread through the rebel camp. The government army was coming near to destroy the rebels! Now, it was the rebels who were afraid. They jumped into their trucks and disappeared into the forest, leaving Lazaro alone in the clearing. He was free!

Later the Christians of the village, once again at peace, gathered to hear God's Word. When they heard how Jesus died in their place, they understood the words better. For there with them was the living example of Lazaro, who also had loved enough to volunteer to die in his sons' place.


From: They loved their enemies by Marian Hostetler, pag. 79-82, 1988, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa, USA.