Pastor von Asselt and his wife huddled around the little lamp that rested on the table in their bamboo hut.
Darkness had settled in the Sumatran jungle. The eerie blackness and strange noises of the bush country on this Southeast Asian island haunted them. That night seemed especially unnerving. They both sensed that something dreadful was about to happen.
They had reason to fear. The Battak tribesmen around them had murdered two American missionaries before Mr. and Mrs. von Asselt had arrived from Europe.
As they always did when they were frightened, the missionaries opened the Word of God, seeking peace of mind.
While they were reading, they heard a noise outside. It was not the screaming of a wild beast or the cry of a disturbed bird, but the thrashing of brush as if a hundred madmen were rushing toward them.
A chill of terror seized the missionary and his wife. They knelt before the Lord, as they had done many times before, and pleaded for protection.
Outside, a band of angry men were following a hired assassin toward the missionaries’ hut.
These tribesmen had tried to kill the von Asselts many times before, but without success. In desperation they had met with a professional assassin and offered to pay him to do the job.
The assassin had laughed at the failures of the others. “I fear no God and no devil,” he said.
It was no idle boast. He really didn’t fear anything. He belonged to a special Battak guild of men who went about killing anyone for a price.
Brandishing his long sword over his head, the assassin advanced through the bush with a gleam in his eye, determined to kill the missionary and his wife regardless of what might come.
The other men dropped behind to watch. Courageously the killer entered the yard. Then suddenly his face paled. His strong arm, which had so often struck down his victims, fell helpless at his side.
Staring in unbelief at what he saw, he turned and raced back to the others, shouting, “Flee for your lives!”
Knowing nothing of what had taken place outside, Pastor von Asselt arose from his knees. “I feel better now,” he told his wife.
Two years passed without the missionaries’ experiencing any more of those terrifying sensations of danger. They moved inland, where a different tribe received them more kindly than had the Battaks. There they built a small house. Life became more cheerful and pleasant.
One day a Battak acquaintance from the adjoining district came to visit Pastor von Asselt. The two talked together for some time; then the visitor turned to the missionary.
“Tuan,” he said slowly, “I would like to have a close look at your watchmen.”
“My watchmen?” the missionary asked in surprise.
“Yes, your guards, the men you have stationed about your house at night to protect you.”
“Oh, I have no watchmen. Only a herdboy and a cook are with me, and they would make very poor guards.” The missionary laughed.
The Battak tribesman looked the missionary in the eye as if to say, “Don’t try to fool me.”
“May I look through your house?” the man asked.
The missionary consented. “You may look anywhere you wish.”
The Battak looked in every corner of the small house, under the beds, and even between the sheets. Returning to the reception room, he sat down disappointed.
“I know you have watchmen, but where are they?” he said.
Pastor von Asselt began asking questions, and the man told him how many times the men of the tribe had banded together to kill the missionary couple. Every time they had come to the house, they had seen two rows of watchmen standing guard, and they had given up their evil design.
The night they had hired the assassin, they were confident they could get rid of the missionaries, for they hated them and were afraid of their religion.
“When the assassin came within your yard, he saw the same two rows of men that we had seen before,” the Battak explained. “He had been sure he could get through, but when he saw those strong men standing shoulder to shoulder with swords that glittered like fire, he could not move forward, but ran back. After that we never tried again to harm you. Now, Tuan, where are your watchmen?”
“I have never seen the watchmen,” Pastor von Asselt said.
“And your wife has never seen them?”
“No, my wife has never seen them.”
“But all of us have seen them; how is that?”
Pastor von Asselt went to the shelf and picked up his Bible. “See, here is the Word of our great God, in which He speaks of guarding and defending us,” he said. “We firmly believe that Word; therefore, we do not need to see the watchmen. You do not believe; therefore, the great God has to show you the watchmen, in order that you may learn to believe.”
Praise God for His angel army.
Reprinted from the May 17, 1961, issue of Guide.
Illustrated by Mariano Santillan