Honest Beggar

 

Willis and Margaret sauntered down the streets of Baguio, enjoying a short reprieve from the intense heat and humidity of Manila. Willis had been elected president of the North Philippine Union, but Americans have to seek the coolness of the mountain air of the islands further to the south in order to regain some of the vigor the intense heat saps from them.

While admiring the handicrafts of the clever Philippine people, Willis glanced up to see a little beggar girl headed toward them.

He said to Margaret, "Look who's coming toward us – a beggar."

"How do you know she's a beggar?" Margaret asked.

"You can always tell them because they wear clothes two sizes too big for them. They think all Americans are rich. Let's ignore her to see what she does."

"Agreed," Margaret said.

As they walked past her extended hand, she took hold of Willis' coattail and pulled it.

He turned and asked, "What do you want?"

"Please, sir, may I have five centavos? I have not yet had my breakfast."

Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a handful of change and gave her the smallest coin he had,a ten-centavo piece.

The little girl scurried away and soon disappeared in the crowd. The missionary couple forgot the incident while continuing their walk and viewing the display of wares in the various shops along their course.

After a lapse of about twenty minutes, they looked up to see the little beggar heading straight for them again.

"You are an easy mark, Willis," Margaret said. "Now she's coming back for more."

"Let's try to ignore her again to see what she does this time."

Looking straight forward, they brushed past her outstretched hand and she used her same tactic to get their attention.

He turned to face her. "What do you want this time?"

"Mister, here is your change. I asked you for five centavos and you gave me ten."

Willis and Margaret, shocked at the honesty of the child, asked, "Where is your home? Where do you live? What does your father do? Would you like to take us to your home to meet your parents?"

After answering each of their questions, she said, "Come with me."

They followed little Feley, not her real name, to a hut on poles among many other such huts. They climbed the narrow ladder to the thatched-roof room. When their eyes grew used to the darkness, they were appalled at the sight they beheld.

The father, who lay on a pile of rags in one corner of the room, brought up bloody sputum at each violent coughing attack. Because his tuberculosis had reached an advanced stage, he was no longer able to work or care for his family. The dejected, care-worn mother rocked hopelessly back and forth as she nursed a sickly infant. Eight other children with sunken eyes and swollen stomachs stared at the American visitors in silent testimony to their constant enemy -- hunger.

"How much food do you have in the house?" asked Margaret.

"About a cupful of rice," the mother responded.

Those ambassadors of Jesus assured the woman, "We'll be right back."

They climbed down the ladder and returned to the marketplace where they had met Feley. They purchased two large grocery bags of food, as much as both of them could carry -- rice, dried milk, fruits and vegetables. Then they hastened back to the dismal room on stilts.

After struggling up the ladder with their heavy sacks, they set the food before the astonished family. The children were more pleased with the food than American children are with toys and gifts at Christmas. Smiles wreathed their faces, and shining eyes spoke unvoiced thank-yous. The gloom and despair that had hung so heavy in the air when the Hacketts had entered had lifted.

Willis prayed before leaving this humble hut, "Dear Lord, if it be Thy will, lay Thy healing hand on the husband and father in this family and restore his health and usefulness. Bless the dear, burdened mother and these precious children. May we all meet in Thy kingdom. Amen."

Next the Hacketts contacted the Adventist Dorcas Society of Baguio, gave them the address of Feley's family and told of their great need. The Philippine Dorcas ladies went to work.

After a few more days in the cool mountains, the missionary couple returned to metropolitan Manila to continue their work.

When Willis and Margaret completed their term of missionary service, they returned to the United States to educate their own two sons, but an assignment from the General Conference took Willis back to Manila about ten years later. The people, whom he loved, insisted he speak for chapel early one morning at Philippine Union College. In his sermon he told of his encounter with Feley.

While he spoke, he noticed a stirring in the back of the auditorium. When Willis was about to sit down, the platform chairman brought a young lady to the podium with him.

He said, "Pastor, here is the epilogue to your story. This is Feley. She is now in the nursing class at our college, and all the members of her family have united with the Seventh-day Adventist Church."

Willis could hardly wait until the service closed to learn the rest of the story. He asked Feley hesitantly,

"How is your father?"

"My father recovered. He is working and is a church member also."

"It's a modern-day miracle," Willis responded.

"The nourishing food and your prayer gave him hope. Your visit changed our lives."

"It was your bringing back the change that changed your lives," he corrected.

 

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