Jose, the Prodigal Husband

 

"Absolutely not!" Jose screamed at his wife. "If you insist on joining up with those crazy people, that'll be the end of you." He meant it literally.

"But it's right," his wife tried to convince him. "I know what I am doing is right. You haven't studied these things like I have. These people have the truth."

"Don't be foolish," he retorted. "How could a little group of people like that be right?"

"But, dear," Gilda said, "the pastor is planning a baptism next Sabbath, and I want to be baptized."

"What I said I mean, Gilda. If you go into that river to be baptized, you'll never walk out, and neither will that pastor!"

"But, Jose?"

"That's it," Jose interrupted. "I'll shoot both you and the pastor, and I mean it!"

Pastor Paulo Seidl had been holding meetings and Bible studies in the little village of Rio Arrojado, in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. Gilda had attended all the meetings and was convinced of the truth of what she heard. Her decision was firm to join the church. But since her husband was a man of the world, she knew he would be opposed to her allying herself with these people who kept the true Sabbath, worshiped the way the Bible said to worship, and whom she had grown to love.

Heartbroken, Gilda carried her problem to Pastor Paulo. "You know, Pastor Paulo, that Jose never leaves the house without that holster on his hip. He thinks it's the part of a man to fulfill an angry threat."

In certain sections of Brazil's interior, every man is still a law unto himself. Those who do not carry guns have only one reason for not doing so they cannot afford one. Being an angry man with a loaded revolver, and no fear of being punished for his crime, Jose had already taken the life of one who had dared to dispute his authority.

"Be of good courage, Senhora Gilda," comforted Pastor Paulo. "Don't give up your plan to be baptized next Sabbath. I'll be over tomorrow evening to have a talk with Jose. Perhaps he will yet agree to your decision."

Confident that he was being protected by guardian angels, Pastor Paulo went the following evening to the home of Jose and Gilda. Senhor Jose was sitting in the doorway of his little shack as Pastor Paulo approached. Their conversation was at first on subjects of general interest as Pastor Paulo tried to create friendship.

"I know why you have come," Jose said abruptly. "Gilda has told me all about it, and I have given her my decision. I am not a man to back down on what I have said."

Pastor Paulo, realizing the futility of further discussion, asked that they might pray together before he left. As he asked God's blessing upon Gilda and Jose and their home, he hoped to see a stubborn heart soften. But Jose relinquished none of his opposition. He remained as adamant as the rocky cliffs near their dwelling.

Praying for guidance and protection, Gilda was determined to be among the group to be baptized the following Sabbath afternoon. As church members gathered, Senhora Gilda took her place with the nineteen other baptismal candidates in the front seats of the little country church. Senhor Jose walked aimlessly about outside, making no attempt to hide the loaded revolver that hung at his side.

The entire congregation was moved by Pastor Paulo's sermon, and Gilda's courage strengthened as she listened to the message and took the baptismal vows.

After the service the crowd started down the familiar path to the river about a half mile away, singing as they walked along.

"I'm glad you have come, Jose," Pastor Paulo said, as in typical Brazilian fashion he put his arm around Jose's shoulders. But Pastor Paulo's friendly gesture in no way reduced Jose's rebellion.

"I have come to do what I said I would do," Jose snapped. "I have always been the boss of my home, and I always intend to be."

"That is your privilege, Senhor Jose. God planned that the man should be the head of the home. You may be ruler in your home, but you may not rule in the matter of the relationship of your wife to her God. That is always an individual matter. Each must have the privilege of deciding that for himself. If you consider it carefully, Senhor Jose, I am sure you won't do anything hasty that will bring later regrets."

But there was still no assurance that Senhor Jose would not attempt to carry out his threat. Several large trees gave protection from the hot afternoon sun at the bend of the river, where many of the congregation had been baptized. Senhor Jose found a convenient place to cross to the other side and stood high on the opposite bank.

"I wish you would take several men with you, cross over the river, and stand beside Senhor Jose during the service," Pastor Paulo said quietly to one of the leading men of the church. "He has threatened to kill his wife and me, and as you can see, he is armed. Be on the alert and ready to act should he reach for his revolver."

Pastor Paulo entered the water, and with uplifted hands asked God's blessing upon all present, and especially upon the twenty candidates for baptism.

One by one the first nineteen were baptized. Then, as Gilda approached Pastor Paulo, all eyes shifted toward Senhor Jose standing on the opposite bank. Gilda's determination to follow her Master even in the face of death was known to all.

Pastor Paulo raised his hand and began slowly. "Because of your willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of your Master, even unto life itself, and determining always to follow in His steps, I now baptize "

The ceremony was interrupted by an uncanny and unearthly cry. With terrible, unintelligible oaths Senhor Jose indicated his displeasure and ran from the scene.

Both Pastor Paulo and Gilda thought for a moment that the end had come. The pastor, however, gave no evidence of fright and finished the ceremony.

Almost certain that trouble awaited Gilda upon her arrival home, Pastor Paulo asked several of the women to accompany her. They were relieved to find that Jose was not there, but the house in upheaval showed that he had come, taken all his personal belongings, and left. When would he be back? And what would happen? Gilda fully expected to be killed, or at least horribly beaten because of her disobedience.

Jose did not return that night or the next. A week went by. A month. Eight months passed, and there was no sign of Jose. One day, at the barking of the dogs, Gilda looked up and recognized her husband walking up the path. But her moment of fright was short.

"Gilda," he said with a smile. The tone of his voice dispelled her fear.

"Why, Jose," she exclaimed, "you've come at last!"

Inside, Jose explained what had happened. "When I left, the day you were baptized, I didn't know where I was going. I was only determined to get away from a strange, false religion. I traveled inland for most of a month, stopping wherever I found someone who would take me in. Finally, after about five hundred miles, I came to Anapolis, Goias. I had to find work. Luckily, someone directed me to a well-to-do rancher who was in need of a hired hand.

"I hadn't been with him very long until I discovered that he was a Sabbathkeeper. I didn't tell him anything about myself, but I couldn't forget the strangeness of it all. I had come five hundred miles to get away from Sabbathkeepers and their doctrines, and the first thing I know I run straight into them again.

"Out of curiosity I allowed him to tell me all about his beliefs. I accepted the tracts he offered me, and I read them all as I had time. He was a real gentleman and wonderful to work for. In fact, I liked the whole family. When they asked me to go to church with them one Sabbath, I immediately accepted. I have been keeping the Sabbath ever since. Say, where is Pastor Paulo?"

On another Sabbath, four months later, Jose walked with the congregation down the path from the church to the river. There was no revolver at his belt this time. There was no anger in his heart. In the little cove beneath the large overhanging trees where Gilda had stood twelve months before, Jose was the first to enter the water.

"I now baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," Pastor Paulo repeated solemnly.

And Jose arose to walk in newness of life.

 

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