The Valley . . . of Prayer
Reﬂecting on God’s quiet protection
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, 11, KJV).
The decision to move must have been made prayerfully and carefully. We were leaving our home in the city and moving to the country, more specifically “the valley,” with lush, green vegetation everywhere.
We kids viewed the move as an adventure, but for our parents it was a necessity.
The house we moved into was located near my father’s job, the church school, and the college. In terms of space the house was big enough to accommodate a large family, and the fact that it lacked a few amenities didn’t bother us kids in the least. We were viewed as “outsiders,” coming into a village in which practically everyone was related. And, unknown to us, the villagers did not expect us to remain for any period of time.
“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”(verses 11, 12, KJV).
MEMORABLE SETTING: Trinidad’s natural splendor was the setting for this story. The author’s mother, Elvira, and sister, Sharon (above, inset).Our home boasted an adequate vegetable garden and was surrounded by every fruit tree that our young minds could imagine, and we went wild tasting and staking out our favorite fruits, which ranged from different types of mangoes, guava, plums, oranges, grapefruit, and cherries to tamarind, bananas, limes, and lemons. There was even a cashew tree from which a few lessons were learned—namely, that the juice produced a terrible stain, and the nut, which grew at the top of the flower, would cause terrible blisters to the fingers or mouth if eaten unroasted. Being able to climb all these trees was a must—so I learned from my brothers.
To add to this veritable “Eden” was the nearby river with various pools, where we enjoyed many an early-morning bath, much to the dismay of our mother, who always fussed with Dad for taking us out at 5:30 or 6:00 to bathe in the cold water.
As the summer ended we discovered just how fortunate we were to live opposite an elementary school. On the first day of classes it became obvious that the previous occupants had made and sold different snack items to the schoolchildren. My mother, who was quite industrious, realized what was expected and quickly learned to make such treats as Popsicles, guava candy, peanut butter fudge, pickled plums and mangoes, and tamarind candy—to name a few items. This provided additional income for the family.
To quote Dickens, it was truly “the best of times” and “the worst of times”—especially for some of our family members.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (verse 13, KJV).
One night I was awakened by what felt like an earthquake. The queen-size bed that I shared with my younger sister was shaking—violently! Sitting up, I discovered my sister huddled in the corner of the bed, terrified, eyes bulging, teeth chattering, hands clutching the blanket so tightly that I had to physically pry her fingers open. Being so young, she was unable to say what had given her such a fright. (Years later we learned that she had seen the form of a person in the room, but she was too terrified to scream.) And this was not a one-time incident. This “fright night” continued over a prolonged period, each following a familiar pattern. Ultimately, it became a cause for concern for my parents.
Coincidentally, my younger brother complained that something was scaring him at night. My older brothers joked and accused him of eating too late at night, thus causing nightmares. He shared a large room with four other brothers. The older boys had partitioned the room by installing a heavy navy-blue curtain. They were all in the same room; why did he not feel safe?
We finally took him seriously when one morning the boys discovered a huge slash in the curtain. Upon questioning, our youngest explained that almost every night he saw what appeared to be a large hand coming toward him as though to strangle him. Therefore, as a form of protection, he had started sleeping with a pocket knife under his pillow. That night in question he had decided to strike out at “the hand,” thus slashing the curtain.
What was scaring these children? Why the two younger ones? And why only at night? were just some of the questions that swirled in our heads.
Slowly the pieces came together.
In relating the various incidents to our nearest neighbor, Mom discovered that the original owners had often engaged in occult practices and rituals, holding “lodge meetings” and séances at late hours in the night. The neighbor told stories of different individuals coming and going at various times of the day and night, and of strange, sometimes terrifying “otherworldly” sounds coming from the house.
How naive and innocent we had been! There was so much that we didn’t know.
When we had first moved in we never knew what those drawings on the walls, of circles with crosses and other frightful-looking animals in the middle, meant. We had simply erased them and gotten rid of the strange-looking artifacts we found in and around the house. Nor had we understood why our neighbor had been so emphatic when she told us to throw away and never, ever open the many bottles filled with red-, green-, and blue-colored liquid that we’d uncover while “digging for treasure” around the house.
It had always been a mystery to us why the house seemed to be a haven for all creatures “great and small”—from bats and owls that made their nocturnal rounds inside the house to an occasional snake, as well as many scorpions and house lizards that acted as if they, not we, owned the place. We, however, took it all in stride, never being hurt by any of these creatures—especially the scorpions. Somehow we thought that this was normal country living.
“For thine is the kingdom” (verse 13, KJV).
The drawings, the vials of colored liquid, and the various creatures all meant something—but only to those who fully believed in the otherworldly.
Thank God my parents did not fall into that category. They never raised an alarm—or gave a name to the terrifying incidents. They realized that we were wrestling not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers . . . in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). They decided to intensify the spiritual atmosphere in the home; we were awakened very early every morning, rain or shine, for family worship, and end the day with more of the same, especially on Friday evenings.
My parents had an awesome, powerful, personal prayer life in which they presented each one of us before the Lord. My dad had his personal devotions about 4:30 a.m., and Mom at some point during the day while we were at school. Their prayers, like a huge blanket, cloaked us, the innocent, who had been exposed to the elements of evil. This led to the inevitable triumph over the powers of evil, for in a short time the “fright night” and “nocturnal visitations” declined in frequency and intensity, until they ceased altogether. In fact, things became so normal my youngest sister was born in that house.
These unpleasant experiences, however, did not dampen our enjoyment of living in a setting in which we were free to roam, explore, and enjoy the bounties of the earth—if only for a short time. By God’s grace the younger ones, to this day, have not suffered any ill effects from having lived in “the valley.” My mom summed it up best when she said, “It was truly God’s mercy and His blessings that brought us through those difficult years.”
“For thine is the . . . power and the glory, for ever, Amen” (verse 13, KJV).
Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is an editorial assistant for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines.