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Their Treasure

by Margaret W. Eggleston
Art: Heidi Reinecke

“Are you ready, dear?” A woman’s anxious voice pierced the stillness of the little Armenian church.

A weary-eyed man smiled soberly at his wife, standing restlessly in the doorway. “Yes, darling, I am ready, except for—”

“Except for what?” The woman shifted a fat-cheeked baby onto her hip and glanced down at the wide-eyed toddler clutching her skirts. “The Turks could be here at any moment. They must not find the children. Hurry!”

The man picked up a large Bible. “It’s just that I feel I can’t go without this Book. It’s the greatest treasure in the village. How could I—the church deacon—leave it for enemy forces to destroy?”

“But look at it!” his wife sputtered. “How can we carry such a thing? It must weigh as much as a baby—or a week’s supply of grain.”

“True,” the man agreed. “But it must go with us. It is too precious to lose, and we will need it.” He tucked the Book under his arm. “I’ll see if I can tie it onto my pack—and then we’ll be on our way.”

Outside the church, the man wrapped the Bible in a piece of burlap and then tied it onto his already bulging pack. He staggered and groaned as he lifted the burden to his shoulders.

“Maybe you’d better leave the Bible.” His wife tied the baby to her back and lifted the little boy into her arms.

The man shook his head. “Never. We must take the Book.”

Treasure abandoned
The narrow, winding trail leading out of the valley pulsed with a steady stream of refugees: men, women, and children in a desperate race to evade cruel soldiers bent on death and destruction. Where the trail led out of the village, the living stream flowed with a smooth, steady rhythm; but it seemed to lurch and sway as the way grew steeper. Weary fugitives began to abandon items they had thought they could not live without: saucepans and skillets; boots and bedding; lanterns and tools and baskets of corn. Still, the deacon struggled forward with his heavy load. Behind him, his wife cried out in agony. “I can’t carry the children any farther!”

“Sit here a moment.” The man helped his wife and children onto a large, smooth rock next to the trail. For a moment, he bent his head in thought. Then he untied the Bible and set it tenderly on the rock.

“The Lord will understand,” he murmured. He picked up his little son and the family hurried on their way.

Treasure discovered 
Darkness settled on the valley, and the line of refugees along the path dwindled. Far behind the other villagers, a woman carrying a heavy pack stumbled along. In one arm she held a small child. With the other, she dragged a little girl.

For hours, the three moved slowly up the steep trail. At last, the woman’s steps slowed, and she sank onto a rock at the side of the trail. “I must rest,” she gasped. “I cannot take another step.” As she lifted her little girl up onto the rock, her hand brushed against a package wrapped in burlap. What could it be? She picked it up. It was heavy! As she fumbled in the darkness, her fingers felt the object inside. “It’s a book—a Bible,” she decided at last. “It feels like our church Bible. Who could have left it here?”

For half an hour, she rested on the rock, pondering what to do with the precious Book. When she finally rose to her feet, she pulled a warm woolen blanket out of her pack and replaced it with the Bible. “This is too precious to leave,” she told her children. “Somehow we must take it.”

Treasure shared

Hours later, the woman staggered into the next village with her children. To her dismay, the streets were filled with brawling enemy soldiers. Her heart in her throat, the woman stole to the door of a church on the edge of town. She tapped on the door and whispered her name. “Let me in,” she pleaded. The door opened a crack, and she and her children crept inside. On the floor, a large band of refugees—all from her village—huddled together in terrible dread of what the night might bring.

“Don’t worry, neighbors,” the woman whispered. “I have our Bible.”

From one to another, the villagers passed the message along: “She has our Bible.” Soon the whole room had heard the good news.

“I have a candle,” a woman volunteered.

“And I have a match,” added another.

The woman carried the Bible into the center of the group and sat down. As she lit the candle with the one lone match, villagers held blankets and cloaks around her, lest the tiny flame be detected outside the church. Then through the dread and gloom of that dark night came another Presence as she read from the Word:

“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day. . . . A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. . . . For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”1 On and on, she read the promises of God.

The candle finally burned itself out, but a comforting peace remained in the dark, drafty church.

True treasure
For two days and two nights the refugees remained in the old church. Often they could not talk above the sound of the savage shouts and gunfire outside. At any moment they expected the soldiers to break down the church’s flimsy doors and rush in.

Then, suddenly, all was still. For several hours, the group waited in silence; then they ventured outside.

“It was very strange,” a townsman told the refugees later in the week. “The soldiers tried again and again to burn the church. They even tried to pour kerosene through the roof, but something seemed to hold them back. Every effort seemed to fail. I don’t understand it.”

But the Christians did. The answer was found in the true treasure they had found in the Book: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”2

1. Psalm 91:5, 7, 11.
2. Psalm 46:1.

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