Peten had made a weeklong trip to the coast from his home in the mountains of Guatemala, walking most of the way. At the coast he stayed in a little mud house, which he shared with a stranger.
But when the stranger went his way, he left behind a little black book. Peten saw it lying in the hut and snatched it up eagerly. A book could be valuable. Peten had gone to school for a while when he was young, and he had learned how to read a little. All the way back up the mountains he did his best to read the book. He read of strange beasts surging out of the sea. He cheered David on to victory over Goliath. He wistfully read the story of Jesus Christ. For Peten it seemed wonderful, so full of meaning.
In his village Peten found it impossible to keep what he had read to himself. Others saw him reading and asked questions. Soon a group of 30 gathered frequently to hear Peten read from his book and discuss its meaning.
Then another wonder came to the village. Juarez, the village storekeeper, came back from a journey with his mule train, and in the baggage was a small transistor radio. Everyone crowded around to hear the voices from faraway Guatemala City and the towns across the border in Mexico.
Juarez let the radio play for a while. “If you listen, you will buy,” he said aloud, hoping he was right. “Every home should have a radio.”
Peten had no money to buy a radio, but he loved to listen to the music and the news. One night Juarez tuned the dial of the little radio, and suddenly a voice seemed to be speaking right to Peten.
Grabbing at Juarez’s arm, Peten said, “Did you hear that? I know those words! They are written in my book! Who is that speaking? Where is he speaking from?” Juarez winced and pulled his arm away. “Listen for a few moments,” he growled, “and they will tell us who it is.”
But Peten raced out of the shop and ran from house to house looking for his friends. “Come quickly! On Juarez’s radio a man is speaking about the book!” In a matter of moments a crowd was gathering around Juarez’s little store. Now Juarez had a problem. Letting one or two people at a time come into his store to listen to his radio was OK. But let 40 people crowd into a little store only 10 by 10 feet, and you just don’t do any business.
Juarez could see that his plan to make money on his radio was failing. Everybody was listening, and no one was buying. They were using up his batteries, too!
When someone began to move his bags of beans, and when someone else stood on the box of candles, it was too much. “Out! Out! All of you, out!” Juarez shouted. “I shall turn off the radio. You can buy your own radio if you want to listen to this nonsense from Peten’s book.”
Consternation flooded the faces of the eager group. Peten looked earnestly at Juarez. “You know we do not have money to buy a radio,” he said. “Yours is the only one we can listen to. We want to hear what this man is saying about the book.”
Peten’s friends murmured their agreement. Juarez eyed the group speculatively. What would it be worth to each of them to listen to the radio? he wondered. Perhaps there was more than one way to make money from his investment.
While the voice on the radio went on, Juarez made no effort to chase the crowd out of his store. He continued thinking about what he might charge for listening.
At the end of the program Peten spoke for the group. “Let us come next week and hear this man speak about the book. Tonight he told the answer to several questions that have puzzled us. Next week he is going to speak on one of the prophecies, and we all want to hear that.”
Juarez knew that this was the time to bargain. “You can listen next week,” he said, “but it will cost you 25 cents each. I must have money for batteries, and you are wearing out my radio.”
Juarez knew that 25 cents was just a place to start. When the bargaining and hassling were finished, the group had agreed that each person would pay a dime to listen.
Next week Juarez pushed the sacks back himself and made things comfortable for the group. By the time everyone had crowded in, he had more than $3 in his pocket. This way he would pay for that radio in just a few weeks!
Peten had pencil and paper ready, and he eagerly copied down the texts the speaker read from the Bible. He even copied down the name of the broadcast: La Voz de la Esperanza. “Voice of Hope,” he mused to himself. ”That’s a good name for a radio broadcast.”
The next day Peten sent a letter to Guatemala City asking for the free Bible lessons the speaker had mentioned. Then he began to count the days. He knew it would take a long time for the letter to reach the distant city. Suddenly nothing seemed quite so important as understanding the message of the little black book.
Four weeks in a row he and his group paid their dimes to listen to the radio. Finally a weary mule plodded into their village with the letter.
“Here it is! Here are the lessons about the book!” Quickly the message spread among Peten’s friends. Soon a Bible study began in Peten’s house. Peten smiled as Juarez pushed his way in among the eager group. Apparently the radio messages had reached into the storekeeper’s heart as well.
Because it was the only Bible in the village, Peten’s book worked overtime as the group struggled to understand the lessons from the Seventh-day Adventist broadcast, Voice of Hope. They had plenty of time to read and reread what the lessons and the Bible said. Each time they sent a batch of lessons bouncing away on the mule, they knew that another month would pass before the lessons would come back corrected, with a new series for them to study.
During these month-long intervals the eager readers tried to adjust their lives to what they had been reading. Outward signs of what was happening in their hearts began to appear. Others watched with interest as the group stopped eating pig meat. Then they noticed that some were stopping work before sunset Friday.
One day over the mountain trail came Pastor Villalabos from the Voice of Hope office. Nightly and during the siesta time the pastor met with the faithful students of the Bible. He even dug into his pocket and found a dime to listen along with the rest to the messages of Pastor Perez over the radio.
Two weeks later Pastor Villalabos held a baptismal service. Thirty people joined Peten in starting a new life with the Savior they had learned to love. Juarez smiled at the group gathered in his store to hear the next broadcast. They were all his brothers and sisters now.
“Pastor Villalabos, Peten, my friends, I have something to say.” Juarez cleared his throat. “You have been paying a dime to listen to the Voice of Hope each week. My radio is long since paid for. I have been keeping the money aside. Now I want to give $30 toward the church that we shall soon be building. And every time you come to listen, your dimes will go toward that new church.”
As Pastor Villalabos guided his mule back down the steep mountain path, he thought, Would I pay a fee every time I listened to God’s Word over the radio? What is it worth to me?
What is God’s Word worth to you?
Reprinted from the March 25, 1970, issue of Guide.