The number of factors that must have combined to make our meeting possible, not to mention successful, left me completely astounded. Yet, at the same time, it was nothing short of what I had asked for.
It was Sunday morning again, and that meant distributing materials to my colporteur teams and collecting my plastic-bag lunch from the cafeteria. But today the kitchen crew hadn’t made our sack lunches, and that was just the beginning of our troubles.
“The police checkpoint isn’t letting anyone through today because of elections” Damaris was the second person to inform me.
So, Lord, where should we go? I thought. Please send your angels to guide us to people who are hungry for truth today. I heard no voice and saw no vision, but it occurred to me that I should take the road toward Riberalta. Almost in the same instant, however, it occurred to me to go the other direction to km 21! Oh, when will I learn to distinguish the promptings of the Holy Spirit from my own imaginings? But on the other hand, no doubt there were honest truth-seekers to be found in both directions! So I took the pragmatic option and went left, as I needed to drop off some voters and the Health service group in Yata. Since the larger towns were closed to traffic, our territory would be a number of small communities and solitary farmhouses strung out over a span of about 30 kilometers.
When I stopped to drop off the first team of colporteurs on the outskirts of the village of Alvaroa, a large man approached pushing a motorcycle. I recognized him as Hendry’s[i]dad,
Hendry Senior. We greeted one another, and Teacher Gabriela and Hansel soon had him convinced to be their first customer.
I dropped off the next team in 12 de October, the official polling station for this portion of the rural sector, and continued on to another wide spot in the road called El Hondo. Only three or four villagers were home. The other half of the population had gone to vote, and those who remained were merely waiting for their friends and family to return with the motorcycles so they could go too.
“These are beautiful books!” they all said. “But right now we have no money!”
I guessed this would not be our best day for sales, but hoping to accomplish at least something useful, I offered them a ride to the polls on my way back through if they still needed it.
Farther up the road we fared no better. We took a side road with a sign for Los Angeles, but merely found a small number of isolated houses, most of them far from the main road and accessible only by motorcycle track. We parked the truck and walked fifteen minutes to one house, just to find it empty. Apparently everybody had taken their civic obligations very seriously today.
It was about quarter ‘till noon when we finally found a house full of people, but although we captured their attention for a few minutes, most of them soon lost interest, and the two women who said they wanted books again had no money. Out of time, we started back to pick up the other groups. As we approached El Hondo, however, I remembered my promise to give the folks a lift. One lady was waiting near the road, so I stopped and asked if she wanted a ride. She gestured and made some guttural noises in response, and I observed that while she could understand me, she was unable to talk. I asked her if she knew if anyone needed a ride to the voting station, and she shook her head. I told her about what we were doing and asked if she liked to read. When she saw the books she seemed excited, and pointed us to some people sitting on their patio on the other side of the highway, about 70 meters from the road. It was a house that had been empty earlier in the morning.
We crossed the road and walked down the path toward the hut, accompanied by the mute woman. As we approached I observed an elderly lady resting in a hammock and several children playing nearby.
Probably not much chance of a sale here, I thought.
“¡Buenos días!” de grietad.
“¡Buenos días! Responded the woman in the hammock. “Come on in and sit down!” she invited with the characteristic hospitality of the rural folks in this province.
“Thank you!” We sat on the 1×10 board that constituted the other half of the deck furniture and began the canvass. Hardly had I begun to explain when a young couple appeared and sat on the bench next to me. I greeted them and handed them books to look at as well. I could see they were interested in Christ’s Object Lessons and Steps to Christ.
The old lady in the hammock was also interested. “Oh, what nice books! They are all so beautiful!” She said.
“Yes, indeed, they are wonderful books, and we want so much for everyone to have a copy that we are offering them for an excellent bargain! You can’t find these books around here, we
have brought them from far away, and it really is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! Which ones will you take?” I explained the prices. [ii]
“Oh dear” said the woman in the hammock. “I really do like these, but I don’t have the money right now. Can’t you come back another day?” She looked at the couple next to me. “Are you going to buy?” she asked. They exchanged glances. They must not have money either. I thought. But to my surprise, the young woman reached into her bag and pulled out a 200-boliviano bill! [iii]
“I really like these! We’ll take these two.” She picked out Steps to Christ and Christ’s Object Lessons from the stack of books I had shown them. “Do you have change?”
Oh no, what a fool I was to take the money out of my wallet this morning!
“Let me check!” I quickly counted all the cash I had on me: I was twenty bolivianos short. Now not only would I lose the sale, but this young couple would miss this opportunity to have the truth in their homes! Suddenly I remembered the DVDs.
“I’m 20 BS short of change, but I have these fabulous videos here. Usually I sell them for 30 BS, but if you take them with the books I’ll let you have them for 20!”
“Let me see those. Hey, these look good! What are they about?” The young man asked.
“They are dramatized documentaries that explain the prophecies of Revelation.” I explained. “Your whole family will be sure to enjoy them. Some of your neighbors here wanted to buy them this morning.”
“Oh, we don’t live here, we are just stopped to visit my mother-in-law on our way home. We’ll take the DVD’s though!”
I was shocked. Apparently so was grandma, for she piped up: “This is amazing! We never have peddlers come by like this! You just showed up out of nowhere, and exactly at the right time!” She seemed more excited about it all than if she had been buying the materials for herself! And why not? I suspect by the time you’ve read this she has already seen the DVD’s!
[i] Please pray for Henrry. He was baptized his freshman year, but during the vacation he slipped into the attractions of the world, and this year he is really struggling. “It’s like there is this voice telling me, ‘quit wasting your time here, just go out and have fun’” he told me. “But I know God wants me here. I came back because I felt that if I didn’t, I would be lost.” Just a few days ago Henrry’s grandpa passed away. They were very close, so this is an especially hard time for him.
[ii] Most of our books go for $6.50, and while that may sound cheap, it can be a daunting price here where most folks make a daily wage of about $14.00! We also have some materials for about $4.25 and some booklet versions of Steps to Christ and The Great Controversy that are 70 cents each. I always offer customers a discount if they buy more than one book. All of our proceeds go to buy more materials and to cover transportation costs.
[iii] About $29.00
Kody & Lyli Kostenko