Don’t Give Up

Francisco lived in the countryside of Peru and he was a terror to all who lived around there. He was clever, and no matter how many crimes he committed, he always managed to get around the law. You see, no judge dared to convict him. The judges knew that if they did, their families would be the victims of the next wave of terror. Fear reigned supreme in the village and extended out into all the countryside around.

One day a boat captain and his wife arrived and announced that there would be some evangelistic meetings and health clinics. Francisco felt that his superiority was being challenged. He spread the word around that anyone who went to the boat for treatment or who attended the meeting in the evening would be sorry.

Pedro, the boat captain, knew nothing of Francisco’s threats, and he went about setting things in order. His wife, Alicia, was a bit surprised when no one came to ask for medicine or treatments, but her last few weeks had been so busy she was rather glad to have some quiet time.

Pedro set up the small platform and ran extension cords from the boat’s generator to the shore so that he could use his projector. He whistled as he worked, unaware of the fact that the few people who showed up to watch would not dare to come hear him preach.

Pedro was naturally friendly, and during the course of the afternoon when small boys gathered to watch curiously, he told them that his wife would tell them stories that night. He also told them about the beautiful colour pictures he would show them, and the songs they would learn. “Hurry home and tell your parents to be sure to come and bring you along,” he called after them as they ran back into the forest.

Pedro ate his simple supper by the window of the boat and wondered why not one soul had shown up yet for the evening meeting. Usually he had to hurry through his supper and be on hand to see that no one disconnected the projector or played with the folding organ.

“Strange no one has come,” he said to Alicia as he finished his beans and rice. “But maybe these people actually eat at the same hour we do for a change.”
Alicia smiled as she cleared the table, but by now a cold fear clutched at her heart. Suppose no one came at all? Suppose these people were superstitious and cruel? She had heard of some of the river folk who met outsiders with bows and arrows and who put poison into the water or tried to kill them in other ways. But these people don’t look as though they would do that, she thought. Surely it is just my imagination.

It was getting dark now and not a soul was in sight anywhere. “This will bring them out,” smiled Pedro as he started up the record player. “They’ll hear the music and come.”

But no one did. Pedro peered out into the music-flooded forest. He thought he could see shadows flitting about from tree to tree, but he couldn’t be sure. As the music floated through the darkness he walked over to Alicia. “Pray, Alicia. This could be a trick. They may be waiting for darkness to begin their foul play, if there is to be any.”

But somehow Pedro felt that there was to be no foul play. Perhaps the people were more shy than the villagers upstream. He couldn’t be certain, but he had a feeling that there were people peering from behind the trees and through the bushes. “I am going to preach anyway,” he told Alicia. “I am even going to show the pictures, just as though there was a large audience.”

Alicia played the organ and Pedro sang lustily and then prayed, hoping that people would come. Then he showed his slides. Still no one came.
The sermon Pedro preached to empty space was powerful and convincing. He felt sure it was not falling on deaf ears, even though he could not see any listeners.

The next night was the same. And the next. And the next. Alicia was discouraged and telling Pedro to give up and move on to another village, but Pedro refused to give up. On the fifth night Pedro made an announcement. Anyone who was ill, any who had ulcers or sores or needed medical attention of any kind, could come to the boat and be treated. “It’s free,” he announced, looking steadily into the “eyes” of his audience, which so far as he could discern was only a cluster of trees.

Daylight was just piercing the darkness when Pedro awoke the next morning. Something had awakened him, though he couldn’t tell what. He sat up in bed and looked out over the river, where a few clouds in the eastern sky were turning rosy, and the birds were beginning to sing their morning songs. A splash on the river somewhere nearby told him that a crocodile had slipped into the still waters. Pedro stretched and inhaled the cool morning breeze. It wouldn’t be long, he knew, until the sun would come up and turn the morning’s freshness into a sauna bath.

Then he heard it. It must have been what had wakened him. A low moaning. Pedro jumped out of bed. As he went past the window he saw where the sound was coming from. A man, dirty and unkempt, crouched on the riverbank holding his hands to the side of his face.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Pedro called out to him. The man, still groaning, got to his feet and staggered up the plank that Pedro had stretched to the shore.

It’s my tooth, sir,” he began, trembling as Pedro ran his hand over the side of the whiskery face. “It has bothered me for a long time, but two days ago it began to really ache. Now my face is swollen and the pain is so bad I cannot stand it any longer. I heard you say last night that you were a doctor. I need help. Please, sir, won’t you pull this tooth?”

“I am not a doctor,” Pedro hastened to explain, but my wife is a nurse and she has had a course in tropical medicine. However,” he added thoughtfully, “I don’t think she has ever pulled a tooth.”

The sufferer moaned in agony.
“Sit here,” Pedro commanded, realizing that the man truly needed help. “Tell me what your name is so I can write it in the records.”
The man bowed his head, ashamed. “My name is Francisco,” he said softly. “You may have heard of me.”
“No, I haven’t.” Pedro laughed wryly. “No one has come near enough for me to get acquainted. I haven’t heard anything.

“Well, I am the reason no one comes to your meetings,” Francisco confessed, brushing his bushy moustache thoughtfully. “I am the terror of this country, and I threatened anyone who came near your boat.” He sat down on the chair Pedro offered. “But if you will pull this tooth I promise to change all that.”

Pedro hurried down to the living quarters of the boat and awakened Alicia. “You’ve got to come and pull a tooth, dear. Come on, get up. Where are those old forceps we used to have?”

“I have no idea. I never use them, and I don’t know how to pull teeth.” Alicia tumbled out of bed, muttering about the early hour.
“Well, you’ve got to find the forceps. This man has a terrible toothache, and he is the key to our success here.”

Alicia fumbled around in some drawers and finally came up with several forceps. “I don’t know a thing about them,” she said. “They were here with the medical supplies when we took over the boat. I don’t know which is for the top or the bottom and I’m not dressed. And– Pedro, you do it. I’ll come up and give the injection, though I haven’t the slightest idea where to give it.”

While Alicia dressed, Pedro found the syringe and the Novocain. He sterilized the forceps as best he could and arranged his meager tools on a sterile bandage. Alicia administered the Novocain, not at all sure she was doing it right, and then she handed the forceps to Pedro.

Up to this moment Pedro had thought the morning was delightful. Suddenly he was perspiring – a cold, clammy perspiration – and his hands were shaking. “I’m no dentist,” he objected.

“Neither am I,” laughed Alicia. “I’ve never even seen a tooth extracted. Just get a hold of the tooth and pull I guess.”Pedro finally got a firm grip on the tooth. He pulled and he tugged, and finally the tooth began to budge just a bit. Then the forceps slipped. Pedro looked at his patient sitting there so calmly, his countenance radiating confidence and trust.

“Don’t mind me,” Francisco said when he saw the beads of perspiration trickling down Pedro’s face. “I can take it. You just get that tooth out of there.”
Finally, after a considerable struggle, the tooth was out. Alicia stuffed sterile gauze into the wound, and they sent Francisco on his way. He went down the gangplank muttering through the gauze. “You’ll have a crowd tonight.”

They did! And Francisco himself became the first convert from the evangelistic meetings. The Lord used his toothache to reach him with the gospel and it is a good thing that Pedro did not give up when no one came to his meetings the first few nights.

Sometimes it may appear that there are no results for our work and we are tempted to give up, but Paul wrote, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Gal. 6:9. Don’t give up. Keep on doing the work the Lord places before you.