Many years ago, I was deeply involved in mission work in Jamaica. One of the primary ministry points was an extremely needy boys’ home. On one of my initial trips to this home, I was struck by the austere conditions in which the children lived. Months passed, but I couldn’t get those children out of my mind. As Christmas drew near, I worked feverishly and with the help of family and friends, I gathered items to take to the home for Christmas. I didn’t inform the superintendent of my intentions of a Christmas visit. I wanted it to be a complete surprise.
When I drove up in front of the main building at the home, the superintendent came out. I showed him the packages each boy would receive. Each would get a washcloth, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, underwear, a pair of shoes, and of course some Christmas candy and a small toy. He told me this had been one of the worst years financially the home had ever experienced. The children had been informed there would be no Christmas party that year. But then he confidently said, “I knew you would come.” I asked, “How could you possibly know I was coming?” The superintendent then shared with me the following account. It was indelibly etched in my mind.
When I was a boy, about eight years old, I lived in this very home. It had been a particularly hard year for the home. We were often hungry, our clothes were rags, and we had no toys or little else to take our minds off our deprivation. Then came a sad day when the old gentleman in charge assembled all of us boys in the chapel. With a heavy heart, he told us that there would be no gifts or special celebration because of our dire financial situation. He said he would try to have toto, (a sweet cornbread), half a banana, and some weak tea for our Christmas morning breakfast. He would also try to get some chicken backs, necks, and feet to go with our rice for our Christmas dinner. We were all sad and solemn as we left the chapel.
I slipped away to my bed. Under my mattress, I had hidden a few pages from an old Christmas catalog that I had taken from the book room. Missionaries sometimes brought magazines along with some worn children’s books to put in our book room. The pages from the catalog had pictures of toys that the white children in America would get for Christmas gifts. One picture captured my attention. It was a little boy about my age playing a harmonica. The picture showed the notes rising in the air as the boy played. The boy’s family was gathered around the Christmas tree and were singing together. I dreamed of getting a harmonica for Christmas.
We had been taught that Jesus loved children and heard their prayers. With all my heart, I prayed. Hoping against hope, I prayed and believed Jesus would see to it I got the harmonica. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. I didn’t sleep much that night. Before daylight, I searched all around my bed and couldn’t find it. My fear increased as the minutes passed. Then I thought maybe the harmonica had been placed far back under my bed so no one would see it and take it. My hope began to rise as sunlight filtered into the dorm room and I was better able to see. I slipped quietly out of bed and searched under and all around the bed. There was no harmonica! At breakfast, I was hungry and the meal was meager, but I couldn’t eat. I had never known disappointment and sadness so deep. I asked to be excused and walked down the drive to the big entry gate by the road. I sat in the shadow of the gate with my back to the home so none of the boys could see me. I cried and cried. There was no harmonica and Jesus didn’t care about a poor Jamaican orphan.
Through the sobs and tears, I heard noise down the road toward the banana fields. I looked up and saw a dirty old man in tattered, stained clothes step out onto the road. He labored beneath the large stalk of bananas on his shoulder. He slowly made His way up the road and stopped by the gatepost where I was sitting. He looked into my tear filled eyes and asked why I was crying. Through the sobs, I told him what had happened. I told him that I didn’t get the harmonica and that not even Jesus cared for me on this Christmas day. The old man told me not to cry and tried to reassure me that Jesus really did care. He gave no other explanation or comfort and gradually walked on.
Just before he disappeared from view, he turned around and called out, ‘little boy, come here.’ Still crying, I got up and walked up to him. He reached into his old shirt pocket and pulled out a shiny Harmonica, like the one I had prayed for. He handed it to me. Without another word, he walked on and disappeared from my view. Could this have been an angel? (Heb. 13:2)
God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform (Cowper).
~ Brother Roy