I wanted a pet. Not a cat, not a dog, but a hen. So when my parents decided to order two dozen chicks from Australia, I was happy and excited.
“You’ll get to have your hen, plus the grown birds will provide eggs for the family,” Dad had said. The order was mailed, and then we waited.
At that time we lived on a mission property called Bena Bena in the central highlands of New Guinea. My dad was the principal of the boarding school there, which was surrounded by rugged mountains.
In some ways it was a lonely life for a missionary’s kid. There were no other missionaries in the area, and I had to rely on correspondence lessons for my education.
The good thing was that we lived only about an hour away from the nearest town, Goroka. Other missionary families could go to their nearest town only once every six months, since they lived so far away. But we went once a week, even though traveling along the mountainous terrain was difficult.
One day, when we arrived in Goroka, there was a box waiting for us at the post office.
“Open it up,” Dad said with a smile.
I didn’t need further prompting. I carefully opened the box, and 25 pairs of bright little eyes blinked in the sudden light. The 25 fluffy chicks they belonged to huddled together.
With great excitement we took our chickens to their new home’a bamboo hut with a strong wire enclosure for them to run around within. They settled in quickly and began to grow.
Weeks went by, and the baby birds became strong, healthy hens. We had no shortage of eggs.
But one morning, when my dad went to let the hens out of the chicken house, he noticed that two were missing. There was nothing to be seen of them, not even a feather! That evening Dad carefully locked the gate.
A few days later two more chickens disappeared. This time Dad was really alarmed. At this rate it wouldn’t be long before our flock was gone!
Dad put an extra wall inside the chickens’ roosting house, but chickens disappeared anyhow. He tried setting up an alarm system, which would sound at the house if a thief broke into the pen, but it didn’t work.
Then Dad thought of a new plan. He wrote down how much the chickens had cost and how much feed they had needed. He calculated how much the chickens were now worth, including eggs laid. Then he paid tithe on the “increase,” or profit, we had potentially made on the flock.
“Dear heavenly Father,” he prayed, “You have promised that if we bring all the tithes into the storehouse, You will rebuke the devourer. Please place Your hand over our chickens and protect them for us, if it is Your will. Amen.”
From that time on, the chickens were safe. They continued to provide us with a regular supply of fresh eggs, and no more chickens ever disappeared from the chicken house. We often wondered just how the Lord had stopped the chicken thief.
One day a student heard the villagers talking, and came to my dad with the story. “When you first brought the chickens here, two men were watching,” he said. “One man lived in the village on the hill, and the other man lived in a village close by here.
“When the chickens were big enough to be eaten, the two men hid in the long grass and waited for you to lock up for the night. Then after dark they worked their way inside the pen, breaking through the thatch and wire until they could steal two chickens, one for each of them. Every few days they would come back and take another two.
“One day, while they were hiding in the long grass, a tall man dressed in white clothes walked down the hill toward them. The tall man went past the chicken house directly to where the two men were hiding. One thief jumped up and ran toward the village. The other thief ran a long way and then hid in the long grass on top of a hill.
“The tall man in white followed the thief who ran up the hill. When he reached the place where the thief was hiding, the tall man leaned over and touched him. Then the tall man disappeared! The two men were so afraid that they decided they’d never steal your chickens again.”
We knew that it was no ordinary man who had chased the thieves that night. The red dust of the highlands made it impossible to keep white clothing white!
That night my dad prayed a special prayer. “Thank You, Lord, for sending an angel to guard our chickens. We know that if You are concerned about the safety of our chickens, You must be even more concerned about the welfare of us, Your children!”
Illustrated by Ralph Butler