Chapter 6: A Brand From the Burning

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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DURING our recent visit to the Matta we passed a night with an Italian brother, named Angelina. His house is the customary meeting place for the believers of that neighborhood on Sundays, and we had a Gospel meeting there. Before leaving next morning to continue our journey, we asked our host to tell us about his conversion, as he appeared to have rather an unusual sense of the Lord’s grace in him. Even though now he has been a believer for about six years, he has not got over the surprise that God should have saved him of all men in the world. He told us the following: ―He used to be a terrible man, spending his time and money in drinking caxaca (the “fire-water” of Brazil), and going about with his revolver, firing at anything he happened to pass. There came to live in his neighborhood two German Christian men, one of whom had once been a drinking companion of Angelina. These two Germans began to hold Gospel meetings in various houses, and to some of these the wife of Angelina went, and was converted. She is the daughter of a neighboring farmer, who is also a German. The preachers urged her to invite her husband to the meetings, but for some time she was afraid to make any such suggestion. However, one day she screwed up her courage and asked him to attend with her. The husband stared in blank amazement, and told her that she must leave him to his drink and revolver. The German brethren were praying very specially for him, and the change in the wife gave her more influence with her husband. She continued to invite him, so that at last he promised to go for once only, to satisfy her. When the evening came, his courage almost failed him, but he prepared himself by loading his revolver, also arming himself with a large bottle of his favorite drink, and sallied forth. He replenished the bottle on the way, and when at last he reached the house he was so unsteady that on alighting from his horse he fell down. In spite of this, he managed to stagger into the room where the meeting was being held. It had already begun, for owing to the amount of refreshment he had taken on the way, he had arrived late. Notwithstanding this fact, he went round the whole company present, shaking hands with each one, including the preacher. Having performed this ceremony, he began again, this time offering each one a drink from his gin bottle. When he reached the preacher, who was reading a Scripture, the German dropped his Bible with astonishment, whereat the Italian thought he must be drunk. When the other German believer (his one-time drinking companion) refused the bottle, he told him that he was only refusing for appearance in present company, for he was a harder drinker than himself. Some of the men present wanted to turn the intruder out, but the German brethren would not hear of it. He remained fairly quiet during the rest of the service, and afterward the preacher had a talk with him, but made very little impression. They resolved to continue in prayer for his salvation. After some days they felt that they should visit him in his house. When they were drawing near to the house, Angelino saw them coming, and thinking that they had come to rebuke him for his conduct in the meeting, he told his wife that he was going to shoot them both on the doorstep. He went to get his revolver, but before it was loaded, they arrived, and greeted him so kindly and warmly that he forgot his weapon, and made them welcome. They came in, chatted in a friendly way, and then asked permission to read a portion from the Word of God, which they did, explaining the passage to him. They then asked what he thought about it, and he replied that it was very good, but not for him, as he could not part with his revolver or drink. After this he began to attend the meetings, but apparently against his will. He became afraid that he was going to be converted. He tried to make up his mind to attend no more, but in vain. When it was drawing near to meeting time, he often determined to run away and hide in the wood, but when the hour arrived, it always found him listening to the Gospel. The struggle went on for some time, but in the end Angelino was obliged to give in. He asked the Germans what would happen to his revolver if he got converted, and they told him not to worry about that, but first of all to become converted, and then carry the weapon as long as he thought he ought to do so. One night he broke down completely, and returned home a converted man. Then came the question as to his favorite weapon. He decided that it was not the thing for a Christian man to carry about with him, so what should he do with it? He sold it at a very reduced price, but afterward regretted that he had not buried it in the ground. The desire for caxaca seems to have left him at once. When his German father-in-law heard of his conversion, he thought it a huge joke, and said that his unworthy son-in-law would be back to the bottle in a week or two. The old man (whom we visited) is half an infidel, but will not on any account risk attendance at a Gospel meeting. He admits that the change in Angelino for so many years is a very astonishing affair.
Angelino now longs for the conversion of his neighbors. One day, not long before our visit, a neighboring youth came to his house armed with rifle, revolver, and long knife. He was at feud with another youth in the locality, and they were seeking to kill each other. Angelino warned him against such a crime, and urged him to do as he had done, to get right with God, and drop his firearms. The youth scoffed, saying he was a Catholic. The next day at the same hour he was shot dead from behind by his enemy who had been hiding some time in order to kill him. Such crimes often go unpunished, but in this case the murderer not long afterward met a similar fate.
We left Angelino’s house with a fresh sense of the greatness of the saving grace of God.