As captain of the Luminar medical launch, Pastor Paulo Seidl often traveled a 500-mile stretch of the San Francisco River, treating more than 5,000 people each year. Since he was also the president of the San Francisco Mission in eastern Brazil, he also had to travel inland at times. Cars, buses, and trains were few, and visiting members in out-of-the-way villages could be done only by horseback.
“We’ve made many trips together, but I think this is one of the longest and perhaps the hardest,” sighed Pastor Seidl.
Pastor Placido Pito, his ever-faithful companion, replied, “Riding horseback is more wearisome than riding the launch, but a change is good for us.”
The two pastors were traveling about, holding baptismal services and organizing Sabbath schools and churches in the state of Bahia. Sometimes the travelers would go an entire day without meeting another person or passing a home. Simple foods, such as rice, beans, and mandioca meal, had to be carried along. Water was scarce most of the time, but by refilling their jugs when passing small streams they avoided emergencies. At night they slept in hammocks tied to trees.
During the hottest part of the day it was customary for them to stop under the trees, cook their simple rations, and take a nap. The noonday sun was too energy-consuming for them to risk traveling. It was hard both on them and on their faithful horses.
About 11:00 in the morning on the third day out, the travelers came to a clump of trees close by a stream of clear water. “OK, Pastor Placido, this is it!” announced Pastor Paulo. “I’m getting hungry. Let’s make this our noonday spot.”
They let their horses amble over to the stream, where fresh grass was more abundant. A “fireplace” was soon constructed with some half-dozen good-size stones, and in less than 10 minutes the fire was doing its job.
While the rice was cooking, the two men decided to start their usual nap. Pastor Placido left the fire and walked over to two stout trees nearby. “I think I’ll tie up my hammock and have a little rest,” he said.
Pastor Paulo lay down on the ground. “I’ll sleep right here. It feels good to stretch out straight for once!”
About 15 minutes later Pastor Placido happened to turn sleepy eyes toward his companion sleeping comfortably on the ground. They opened wide instantly. He almost yelled, but quickly controlled himself. Within a few inches of Pastor Paulo’s leg was a fat, writhing rattlesnake at least three feet long!
“Don’t move, Pastor Paulo, or you’re dead!” Pastor Placido whispered excitedly. “Lie still! Please don’t do anything!”
Pastor Paulo obeyed. A moment later he was shocked out of all sleepiness as the cold lithe creature crawled slowly up his legs and across his stomach and chest. The pastor closed his eyes and lay motionless (although his heart was pounding much harder than usual).
Will it ever leave? he asked himself. Will it ever leave?
Slowly the thick cold serpent seemed to be drawing a figure eight over his body.
Send Thine angel, O Lord, if it be Thy will. I’m in Thy service, he prayed silently.
Pastor Placido was praying too and at the same time trying to plan a way to attract the snake away from Pastor Paulo. Time passed. It seemed like hours, even though it really was only a matter of a few minutes. Finally, taking its own good time, the deadly creature slithered to the ground and wriggled away.
With sticks and stones the two men took the offensive and killed the deadly intruder. “I’ve seen some big rattlers, but that was the fattest and healthiest yet–and to think that it really had me down!” exclaimed Pastor Paulo.
“I can see why a serpent makes a good representation of Satan–to me it’s such a hideous creature,” added Pastor Placido. “But the Lord heard our prayers, and we can thank Him once again for protecting us. Now we have one more reason for being even more faithful in doing His work.”
“How true! Say, the fragrance from those pots is really good. My appetite is coming back! Let’s eat,” suggested Pastor Paulo. And that is what they did.
Reprinted from the February 26, 1958, issue of Guide.
Illustrated by Javier Saltares