I. Stoned to Death! Like Stephen I Prepared to Die.
by Bill Hunt
The artistry of intricate, multicolored, inlaid tiles covered the walls of the Mosque in a tree-shaded village in Northern Pakistan. The decor glittered in streams of hot sunlight. Located off the open central court, beyond the rectangular reflecting pool used for prayer washing, we found within the outer walls a more hidden sanctuary, an open alcove shaded and cooled by a high curved ceiling. I wondered as I walked if God's presence was in this place for the prayerful Moslem.
Within a few moments, my Christian friend, Chris, another young American serviceman, and I, each dressed in casual clothes, exited the Mosque and leaned over to tie on our shoes.
"Stand still! Don't say a thing! Don't move!" our alert Pakistani host exclaimed.
I looked up alarmed to pay more attention to our surroundings. Before us a crowd of Pakistani villagers assembled, and a strong-voiced spokesman addressed them.
"They plan to stone you! They believe you are spies!" our guide warned under his breath.
Sure enough, the men throughout the crowd threateningly held big gray stones in their fists and shouted toward us angrily.
"They won't stone you as long as you stand here on the steps of the Mosque," said our guide.
Instantly, the thought came, I'm not leaving these steps. Could there be food in a Mosque? Could one live here for days? The gravity of the situation turned my thoughts quickly to Jesus, and I surrendered my life to him. In a few moments, I could die a painful death as a target of heavy flying, fist-thrown rocks.
I thought of Jesus in the courtyard facing Pontius Pilate. I thought of Stephen or Paul before crowds of bloodthirsty men. Never had I planned to die in such a way. But now I prepared for death. In my spirit, I began to pray.
Our Pakistani host suddenly acted on an idea. He approached the crowd and began shouting to the assembled men. He seemed quite a spokesman in his native dialect, but I couldn't understand his Pushtu or Urdu.
"These men are not your enemies, they are our friends," he may have said. "Look, they have visited the Mosque with me. This agitator is lying to you and dishonoring our nation. These men have come in peace, not as enemies."
All I know is, by God's wonderful grace, the crowd amazingly turned on the agitator. He darted up the street trying to escape as the angry villagers quickly followed around a corner after him.
Our Pakistani host, my Christian friend Chris, and I escaped down the street, not knowing what would befall us.
"Keep running!" they yelled back at me.
I noticed both my friends racing a distance ahead. My lungs hurt, my feet grew sore. I ran as best I could. I ran with my face in the air, swinging clenched fists. Something made me look up. The sunlight slapped through tall leafy treetops over my head all along the village way. In such an anxious moment, I recognized the unmistakable presence of God.
Amazed, I realized at the same time absolutely no one else appeared on this wide village street which served as our avenue of escape. No one peered out a window, no one stood in a doorway. Running for my life, I felt my heart beat a strained rhythm in my chest. At the same time, I found myself experiencing an incredible, overwhelming inner peace.
(1st True Story in Series: Life is 100 Million Miracles.)