Carmelita’s Christmas Eve
By Mildred Holingsworth
“Go away! I do not want you, Missionary,” screamed the woman as the missionary stood at the door of her thatch roof home. “You have ruined my Pedro,” she went on. “All the time he carries his Bible and tells of your Gospel. He is a silly old fool. Go away. I will not listen to you!” With that, Carmelita slammed the door.
Gus Tillman turned sadly away. Sometimes it was discouraging, this work on a remote little Island of the Philippines. He had been thrilled when Pedro the old peddler arid husband of Carmelita, had trusted in Christ. The missionary had hoped that Carmelita might be willing to listen, but she seemed more angry.
She had been bitter from the start, the missionary remembered. More than once she had hurled stones and shouted angry epithets at the missionary. He tried to understand, remembering that only a few years ago headhunters had inhabited the island.
Tillman walked slowly, down the road. It was rough and stony, but beautiful flame and ceiba trees could be seen here and there, and the terraced rice fields were green and rich. “The love of God is manifested everywhere,” he thought, “except in the hearts of the people who live here.”
It had taken courage for Pedro to become a Christian, the missionary reflected, but he was truly converted.
In a few weeks Pedro had memorized several verses of Scripture, then he requested a Bible. “If you will show me where each verse is found and will mark a red circle around it, I will show it to others. They will believe when they see it in the Book.”
Daily, Pedro could be seen pushing his little cart of wares, with his Bible tucked securely under his arm. He talked to anyone who would listen, quoting the Scriptures and showing where they were found.
“Read it,” he would say, “Read the Bible. See what the Word of God says.” Many became interested because of Pedro’s faith and devotion.
One day the missionary asked about Carmelita.
“She cannot see the truth,” Pedro said sorrowfully. “Daily I pray that she will receive Christ and have the happiness that fills my heart, but she will not listen.”
“Does she cook the rice for you, Pedro?”
Pedro looked thoughtful. “Sometimes. Often it Is cold when I find it, but I do not mind,”
”Where do you sleep, Pedro?”
Pedro laughed softly. “Any place. I do not need the house. If Carmelita does not let me in, it is all right. If only Carmelita would let me explain: if only she would let me talk to our children when they visit us; but she tells them not to believe me…they do not talk to me.”
It was then the missionary had called on Carmelita, only to find her rage so great that he decided only prayer could change her heart.
For almost two years Pedro lived almost an exile from his angry wife. Faithfully he carried his Bible, always telling of the love and saving power of Christ. The missionary also labored on, and the mission grew as more children came.
Then it was Christmas. The missionary prepared to honor the birth of Christ, and the children were eager to help as they planned a program and arranged to buy gifts for the needy. Pedro gave of his meager earnings to help bring cheer and comfort to those in need.
Christmas Eve was clear, and a soft Pacific breeze swept over the land. The mission church was gay with flowers, and painted silver stars shone over the manger scene. Pedro sat with others in the congregation, his face aglow. The program began. There were songs of praise, prayers were offered and the missionary read the wonderful story of Christ’s birth.
Then the children came forward to sing of that wonderful night so long ago.
Away in the manger,
No crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus,
Lay down His sweet head.
Their voices rang out sweet and clear.
It was then that the missionary noticed a face at the door. Only the eyes were visible, sharp eyes, but they were dimmed with tears as they viewed the scene within. Surely, the missionary thought surely that is Carmelita, but yet…how can it be? Now the children were singing:
The stars in the heavens
Looked down where He lay,
The Little Lord Jesus
Asleep in the hay…
The missionary walked quietly to the door. Carmelita stood outside. “Carmelita,” he said gently, “Won’t you come in?” Carmelita nodded. “I couldn’t hold on any longer.” she whispered.
Trembling, hesitant, almost fearful Carmelita allowed herself to be led inside. The missionary placed her beside Pedro, whose face took on a new radiance as he took her hand and held it in his own calloused palm. .
When the service had ended and all had gone home, Pedro and Carmelita remained. The missionary opened the Bible.
“I know what it says about Jesus,” Carmelita said. “Pedro has told it over and over. I fought it; I fought Pedro. I tried to make him come back to our old religion, Pedro has something different. Something that’s wonderful and strong; stronger than I am and he has peace. He is no longer afraid of anything, not even death. I want this peace too; I want to know the Jesus that Pedro knows and loves.”
That Christmas Eve Carmelita received Christ as her Savior. Later, when the night was far gone, Carmelita and Pedro left the mission church, walking hand in hand. The missionary watched as they walked down the rough road, while the stars shone round about them. The missionary brushed tears away. “Well done good and faithful servant,” he whispered as in benediction upon Pedro. It would be a joyous and blessed Christmas.
“God…now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:3)
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a. new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23)
This article “Carmelita’s Christmas” by Mildred Holingsworth is published by Pilgrim Tract Soc., Randleman N.C., 27317