Long ago, in a world different from ours, there was a large village called by the name of Hudea. This village was like nothing you or I could imagine living in. There was no electricity or running water. There were no cars or trains. There were no big stores with flashing signs and no fancy restaurants. The houses that the villagers lived in were small, but built well to withstand the harsh winters that seemed to last for most of the year. Large and heavy fences contained strong horses with thick winter coats. Other places such as that housed large herds of cattle. Each family owned a large piece of land where they grazed their animals in the short summer and where they planted the crops that would keep them from starving during the long harsh winters.
The village of Hudea was fairly large. There were one-hundred-and-fifty families that lived their lives out there. The entire village – with the exception of one small family – was deeply devoted to their religion. They believed that there were many gods who controlled each of the elements that made up their survival. They also believed that if they offended their gods in any way, the gods would become very angry and send a winter, or a terrible sickness, to them that would not end until they had all been destroyed. They lived in constant fear of making any mistakes that would offend the gods and, in turn, lead to their deaths.
In the village, there were only four people – one little family – who chose to break free from the old superstitions and fear. This is their story.
“Stay away from the windows, children.” Ecrea stood by the only two windows in the front of his home. His wife, Hanewal, stood against the wall, with their two teenage daughters wrapped in her long arms. Beside them there stood five small bags of hastily packed provisions.
“Mama, are they going to make us leave the village?” the younger of the girl, who was thirteen, looked up at the woman, her auburn eyes filling with tears. Her lips quivered slightly. Her brown hair fell nearly to her waist.
Hanewal stroked her daughter’s hair gently. “Tuskanah, my daughter…” she sighed. “I don’t know what will happen to us.”
“We must trust Jesus.” Sabelet, a strong girl of fifteen said. She turned to her sister. “If these people make us leave the village or even if they kill us, we will never give up our faith!” Sabelet’s black eyes flashed. Her deep red lips were pressed tightly together and a look of determination was written across her flushed face.
Tuskanah, taking courage from her sister, stood a little straighter and said, “You’re right, Sabelet. We have to remember our faith.”
Hanewal kissed both of her daughters tenderly. She strove to hide her own tears as she said, “I hope that we won’t have to choose between our faith and our lives…” she lowered her head. “…But if we must die, I am ready to go to my savior.”
A slight smile crossed Ecrea’s face. “It is good to know that my family has such a strong faith.”
“Papa, how could we not be willing to give up our lives for the sake of the Gospel?” Sabelet looked at her father earnestly. “Jesus gave up his life to save us from the power of sin. I am willing to die for that belief.”
Hanewal opened her mouth to speak, but a sudden pounding on the door silenced everyone. Tuskanah buried her face in Hanewal’s arms. Sabelet stepped towards Ecrea with her face determined and brave.
“Open this door!” Someone outside the house shouted. Shouts of an angry mob were heard. “Open this door in the name of the gods!”
Ecrea stepped to the door calmly and opened it. “Sirs, we do not open our door to you because we believe in the power of your gods. We open this door to you because we are not afraid to be witnesses to our faith in Jesus Christ!”
A burly man from the crowd, who appeared to be the leader of the mob, stepped forward and slapped Ecrea across the face. “Traitor! You and your family have forsaken the gods! You will bring evil upon us all!”
Ecrea winced in pain from the blow. “We have done no harm to you. We have only accepted Jesus as our Lord.”
Anger flamed in the man’s eyes. “You listened to those cursed missionaries! The ones who we killed!” He added emphasis to the last words. “Ecrea, before you were led astray by those missionaries, you were a good man! You were always ready to give to the gods. And that is why we have decided to spare your lives.” He stuck his head inches away from Ecrea’s face. “You and your family have the rest of the day to leave the village. If you are here tomorrow, we will kill you. Make no mistake, Ecrea, we will kill you, your wife and your daughters.”
The man, followed by the crowd, turned abruptly away and returned to their homes. Ecrea turned slowly to his family.
Hanewal burst into tears. “Ecrea, where will we go? Where will we live? Winter is approaching and we will have no shelter! We will starve to death – if we don’t freeze first!”
Ecrea tenderly took his wife in his arms. “Hanewal, we will just have to trust God.”
“And we should thank Him for sparing our lives.” Sabelet said reverently.
Ecrea nodded. “We only have a few hours to pack our things. We need to find a place to spend the night before it is dark, so that we can avoid robbers.” He turned to his oldest daughter. “Sabelet, come with me. We will start gathering some of the livestock. Hanewal, you and Tuskanah put all of the food we have into boxes. Pack anything that you want to keep.” He started towards the door, followed by Sabelet. “And hurry.”