At the age of twelve, I wanted a pet.  And the pet that I wanted was a white hen.  My parents decided to order two dozen chicks from Australia.  "You will have your hen, and the grown birds will provide eggs for the family," my father said.  The order was mailed – and we waited.

             At that time, we were living on a mission property called Bena Bena in the central highlands of New Guinea.  My father was the principal of the boarding school there, with around two hundred and fifty students dependent on the school for education, spiritual guidance, food and shelter.  Rugged mountains covered in tall, thick grass surrounded the school property.

         It was a lonely life for a missionary child in some respects, as there were no other expatriates in the area.  The isolation meant that I had to rely on correspondence lessons for my education.  Some families could only go to their nearest town once every six months, as they lived so far away.  I was lucky.  Once a week we went to Goroka, an hour’s drive away, and I could socialize with my friends.

           In the mountainous terrain transport was difficult.  A rough road dug into the clay hillsides wound its way to Goroka.  Sometimes the trip was impossible, when rain had fallen and the road was as slick as butter.  Vehicles had been known to slide over the edge in a second, falling hundreds of feet to the valleys below. 

          One day when we arrived in Goroka there was a box waiting for us at the Post Office. 

          "Open it up!" said my father with a smile, and I needed no further prompting.  Twenty-five pairs of bright little eyes blinked, in the sudden light.  The twenty-five fluffy chicks they belonged to huddled together, making not a sound. 

          With great excitement we showed our chickens their new home - a bamboo hut, with a strong wire enclosure around about for them to run in.  They settled in quickly and began to grow.

            Weeks went by, and the birds became strong, healthy hens.  We had no shortage of eggs.  But one morning, when my father came down to let them out of the chicken house, he noticed that two were missing.  There was nothing to be seen of them, not a feather!  He was rather perturbed, and carefully locked the gate that evening.  A few days later, another two chickens disappeared.  This time he was really alarmed.  With this pattern developing it would not be long before our flock was gone!

              Dad put an extra wall inside the chickens' roosting house, but chickens disappeared anyhow.  He tried setting up an alarm system, which would sound at the house if a thief broke into the pen, but it did not work.  Then he stopped to think out a new plan.

               He wrote down how much the chickens had cost.  He calculated the amount of feed they had taken, and how much they were now worth, including eggs laid.  Then he paid tithe on the "increase", or profit we had potentially made on the flock.

           "Dear Heavenly Father," he prayed, "You have promised that if we bring all the tithes into the storehouse, You will rebuke the devourer.  Please place Your hand over these chickens now, and protect them for us, if it is Your will!  Amen."

          The chickens were safe.  No more chickens ever disappeared from that chicken house and they continued to provide us with a regular supply of fresh eggs.  We often wondered just how the Lord worked to stop the chicken thief.  One day a student heard the villagers talking, and came to my father with the story.

          "When you first brought the chickens here, two men were watching," he said.  "One man lived in the village on the hill, and the other man lived in the village close by here.  When the chickens were big enough to be eaten, these two men would come down to the chicken pen in the late afternoon.  They would hide in the long grass nearby and wait for you to lock up for the night.  Then, after dark, they would work their way inside the pen, breaking through the thatch and wire until they could steal two chickens, one for each of them.  Every few days they would come back, and take another two.”

          “One day, while they were hiding in the long grass, a tall white man dressed in white clothes walked down the hill towards them. This tall man went past the chicken house, directly to where the two men were hiding.  One thief jumped up and ran towards the village close by.  The other thief ran a long way, and hid in the long grass on top of a hill.  The tall man in white followed the thief who ran up the hill, and when he reached the place where he was hiding, he leaned over and touched him.  Then he disappeared!  Those two men were so afraid that they decided never again to touch the chickens in your chicken pen."

          We knew that it was no ordinary man who had chased the thieves that night.  No other white man lived within miles of our school, and nobody wore white clothing.  The red dust of the highlands made it impossible to keep white clothing white!  That night, my father prayed a special prayer: “Thank you, Lord for sending an angel to guard our chickens.  We know that if you are so concerned about the safety of our lttle chicken flock, you must be even more concerned about the welfare of us, your children!”

THE END

 

 

 

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