Amazing Story from Early SDA Missions

How a Head Bought Freedom

Over 600 years ago, a group of wise spiritual leaders lived in Peru. They were descendants of the original settlers who had come from the northern regions of China, across Russia and the Bering Strait, into what is now known as Alaska. They migrated southward and settled in Peru. They brought with them a rich spiritual heritage that strongly resembles the faith of Noah and his sons, whom God had preserved in the ark during the Flood.

They believed in one true Creator God who made all things in heaven and earth. They believed that the Creator was good and would never require human sacrifice, a practice that was widespread in the growing Inca Empire of Peru. As the generations passed, this tribe of monotheistic (worshipping one God) worshipers came under continual persecution from the much larger polytheistic (Worshipping many false gods) Inca Empire, of which they were a part. But they continued steadfast in proclaiming the existence of one Creator God who was inherently good and possessing no evil traits.

As the persecution intensified, the tribe became smaller and smaller.  In a final effort to rid the Inca Empire of these "strange" worshipers, their leading men were invited to a special meeting with the Inca leaders. As the men made their trek away from their families, the other men, women and children who were left behind were all mercilessly slaughtered.

It was at this point that one of these wise spiritual leaders declared a prophecy to the Incas. He said that the history of Peru would be divided into four segments. The first part, he explained, belonged to the original settlers who believed in the one true Creator God, of which his people were the descendants. The second period would be ruled by the Inca Empire, with its worship of multiple gods and human sacrifice. The third period would bring the Inca Empire to an end by an invading force that would nearly obliterate the knowledge of the true God from Peru. This part of the prophecy pointed to the arrival of the Spaniard conquistadors, with their Catholic pagan belief system, in 1533. The fourth period would belong again to the one true Creator God, by the arrival of a messenger from a distant land who would give the people of Peru knowledge of the Creator of heaven and earth.

It is widely believed in Peru that the fourth part of this prophecy was fulfilled by the arrival of Fernando Stahl.  Stahl arrived in the 1920’s from America, an Adventist missionary doctor. He came to Peru at a time when Catholicism was pervasive in its darkest form. According to the Catholic politicians, it was against the law for the common people to be educated in reading and writing. They were to remain in ignorance so they could be more easily ruled. Dr. Stahl began to set up schools in direct conflict with this law. He was determined to teach the indigenous people to read, that he might put the Bible in their hands and give them a knowledge of Christ.

In his missionary and educational ventures, he continually held central the teaching that there is one true Creator God who made heaven and earth, a good God who loved each individual and gave His own life for their eternal salvation. Upon hearing these teachings from the strange foreigner, it was proclaimed from person to person throughout Peru that this must be the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy.

As Stahl’s influence spread and the people eagerly received his teachings and were educated in reading and writing, multiple efforts were made to extinguish the missionary’s life. Dr. Stahl built a house with a secret trap door in the floor that led to a passageway of escape through a nearby hillside. When his home was surrounded by mobs instigated by the priests, often he would escape to safety through this tunnel.

Dr. Stahl found a key friend in one of the remaining Inca chiefs. The chief wanted his people to be taught to read and to know the true God. He aided Stahl in establishing many schools and came under attach himself because of his sympathy with the missionary. Unable to escape the wrath of the priests, the chief was beheaded in an effort to strike fear into Stahl and the common people. But Dr. Stahl was undeterred and continued to establish one school after another.

The chief’s wife wrapped her husband’s severed head in a cloth and took it on the long journey from the highlands of the Lake Titicaca region to the capital city of Lima. There she begged for an audience with those in authority. She was repeatedly denied. She continued to stand outside the capital building day after day demanding a hearing. Eventually she was allowed to state her case.

In audience with the political leaders, she laid her husband’s head on the desk and told the story of their efforts to educate the people, and how her husband had been martyred for this great cause. Through this woman’s effective appeal, the law that forbade the education of the indigenous people was overturned and Dr. Stahl’s schools became legal.