Tales of God’s Packmen Pt.2
In the days of old, before the luxury of internet or audiobooks, our brothers, and sisters of the faith held their Bibles close. The word of God was dear to them, and they held a strong conviction that others needed to hear it. They were given a command: “go and make disciples of all nations.” This command they obeyed willingly, and eagerly. The faithful people of ages past knew the love of Christ, and were compelled to love their neighbours because they were loved first.
In a time before railways and motor vehicles, a group of kingdom workers called the packmen of God took it upon themselves to be the much-needed messengers of the Gospel. These packmen, sometimes referred to by the title of “colporteurs”, or “pedlars”, carried our precious book of God’s word to those who had yet to hear. The Bible, which we have so readily available at the press of a button, once needed to be carried hundreds of miles, across oceans and deserts, through treacherous lands and foreign territory. These messengers would go, leaving behind their chances at having a family, as well as an easy life. For the lost to hear of God’s message and salvation, these people had to give up their safety, their wealth, and their comfort, yet they did so without looking back.
This will be the second story retold from the book “Tales of God’s Packmen” by E.W. Smith. The stories written in the book were great, and I wanted to share them with you. The book is SUPER old, but the stories are timeless.
If you haven’t seen part 1 of this series, here’s the link:
Part 2: An Act of Audacity
In the Republic of Czechoslovakia — which could once be found on the map of Europe, but is now separated into Czechia and Slovakia — the Bible Society employed a colporteur named Kochol. One day, Kochol stepped off the train at a certain town, and avoiding the crowd on the platform, slipped quietly out of the station. He entered an inn, secured his room for the night, had something to eat, and then, taking his attaché case full of books, went out to begin his work. Going along the street, he noticed there were bills on the walls which said: “Vote for…” Evidently, an election was about to take place.
He came to a spot where a number of men were standing in the street outside a hall. “This here looks like an opportunity,” Mr. Kochol thought to himself, “I don’t know what is going on, but I may be able to sell somebody a Bible.” So he entered, carrying his bag.
Loud cheers broke out as he came into the hall. Applause filled the air. “What’s all this noise?” Kochol wondered. At first, it seemed as if everyone in the room was cheering for him, but that wouldn’t make any sense. He didn’t even know anyone in this town. He looked round, but nobody else had entered. As he made his way further into the room, three well-dressed gentlemen came forward with outstretched hands and smiles of welcome.
“We are glad to see you, sir,” one of them said.
“The people are ready to hear you. Good thing you arrived when you did, the people were getting impatient. We were afraid something happened to you.” “Could you come this way, sir? Quickly.”
One of the gentlemen went outside to call in the men who were standing in the street. The other two led Mr. Kochol onto the platform amid tremendous cheering. The chairman began at once to make his speech. “Friends,” he said, “this is an important moment for us all. The future of our country depends upon the result of this election. Please welcome our guest who has come to speak to us. We are very anxious to hear what he has to say to us at this momentous time. Without further words, I’ll let him introduce himself and address the meeting.”
Mr. Kochol was flabbergasted. Taking a look around, he saw many expectant gazes, as well as the chairman giving him the signal to walk up to the stage. Then it hit him. They had mistaken him for the electioneering agent.
Without an opportunity to explain, he began to walk up the stage. Cheers broke out again, and Kochol decided he wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by. It was just too good of a chance to pass.
Stopping at the center of the stage, he took a deep breath, and looked up at the crowd. “Friends,” he began, “I agree with your chairman. Our country is in a very critical state, but what is the problem? When a doctor is called in to see a patient, the first thing he does is to find out what is the matter with him. It is no good giving medicine until you know the disease that the sick man is suffering from. What is the matter with our country? Or rather, what is the matter with us? I will tell you. The problem is that we are not right with God. We must begin by repenting. We must learn God’s will and do it.”
Now, it was the audience’s turn to be flabbergasted. This was not at all what they had expected. Some of them began to whisper among themselves, and a hushed, yet frantic voice could be heard coming from the back of the hall: “Stick to the plan! Get back to the program!”
Mr. Kochol held up his hand to ask for silence. Then he went on: “You ask for my plan. Well, I have it here in this book, and if you will allow me, I will read you a few sentences.”
He took from his pocket a little Testament, and turning over the pages he read: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second, like unto it, is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. All things, therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them.” Then he said: “You are all in need and are looking for a plan. That is the best one I know.”
The people began to talk among themselves. “ What book is that?” Some of them asked.
“I think that is the Bible,” said others.
“Now, friends,” Mr. Kochol went on, “I see you have made a mistake. You have taken me for a politician. I am not a politician, but rather a colporteur of the Bible Society, and-”
Loud laughter broke out all over the hall. Most of the people were catching on to what was happening now and thought it had to be a joke. A few angry cries could be heard from the crowd, “Imposter!”
“Get this guy out of here!”
The chairman looked very uncomfortable. He rose and called for silence. “Friends,” he said, “There’s been a slight mix-up. There has been a mistake on our part, and we jumped too hastily to a conclusion. When this gentleman entered the hall, we took him to be the speaker that we were expecting, and we gave him no time to explain. It is not right to call him an imposter. All he did was take advantage of the mistake that we made — that is all. I, for one, admire a man who has the courage to seize every opportunity of doing his job. Besides, since our original speaker is still not here yet, let’s just hear what this enterprising stranger has to say.”
The chairman’s advice was angrily rejected by some people, and they left the hall with loud protests. The rest, however, seemed to have enjoyed the humour in the situation and agreed that Mr. Kochol should be allowed to finish his speech.
What followed next, was a beautiful telling of the story of the Gospel. Mr. Kochol proceeded to talk with grace and wit, and soon everybody was listening intently. All the while, the supposed guest speaker never showed up.
At the conclusion of his speech, he said: “Here in my bag I have a number of books of the Bible, and if it is okay with you all, I will hand them round. They are for sale.”
He descended from the platform and walked about among the audience, handing out Bibles. In a short time, he began selling book after book. When he had finished, with a few graceful words of thanks, he went out. The people cheered him as he passed through the door.
The news of what had happened that evening spread quickly through the town. “The evangelical politician,” as he was called, was received with smiles wherever he went during the few days he remained in the town. When the time came for him to board the train again, his bag was empty.