The Story of Alfred and Ishmael

The Story of Alfred and Ishmael

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A short history of Alfred Lau

Alfred was born in Solingen, Germany on August 5, 1928, were he began formal school. He then became a student at the All Nations Bible College in Maidenhead, England. In 1952 Alfred took theological training at the Pioneer Theological Academy in Rockford, Illinois. From there he received a Doctor of Divinity degree.

Alfred followed a calling to begin a home for boys from Indian tribes in Southern Mexico. He and his wife, Anni, started from nothing and started a home to train these children to become medical doctors, dentists, agricultural engineers, bi-lingual teachers, pastors, etc. Many of these underprivileged boys are now professionals in their own tribal regions.

For many years the home was financed partly through the collecting and exporting of cactus and orchid seeds which Alfred and the boys collected in the wild. During these expeditions into many outlying regions, new species and varieties were discovered. This activity made their home known world-wide. However, recently the Mexican government prohibited the collecting and exporting of seeds so that at the moment their future is quite uncertain.

The Story of Ismael Eugenio Angel

The morning was cool and cloudless at 6000 feet above sea level, a perfect day to climb the Paricutin volcano in the Western State of Michoacan in Mexico. Ever since my 12th birthday, when I heard about the birth of this fire-spitting mountain, I had dreamed to be there some day to see this spectacle of nature in person. At that time in 1942, I was forced into a uniform to be one of Hitler's youths in Solingen, Germany, and a visit to Mexico in the near future would have been just a dream.

One city after another went up in smoke, and Germany's fate was sealed. Would I ever survive this worst of wars ever to be fought in history? What I learned years after was that San Juan, a wicked little town closest to Paricutin, had been totally destroyed and the lava flow stopped at the last house. A farmer was plowing his field with his oxen when he observed flames coming from his cornfield. He ran head-over-heels to warn the inhabitants of San Juan, who were able to flee just in time.

Since I heard that story, volcanoes had a strange fascination for me. But the first active mountain of similar size that I climbed was near Managua, Nicaragua, called Santiago, near the airport of Las Mercedes. At that time I prepared for missionary service in Latin America and studied Spanish.

After a long delay, however, I was finally set to go to Michoacan. Before leaving for Mexico, I spent a visit at Miss Joy Ridderhof's mission offices in Los Angeles. She had the vision to produce and make available for missionaries world-wide, a wonderful little box, a gramophone player, so to speak, that could be cranked up to function and did not need any electricity.

After conversing about our needs in Indian tribes, she handed over to me the instrument that should later be responsible for a number of conversions. Besides, I received a big box of records that could be used in at least 40 different languages and dialects of Mexico. This precious load should be the tool of evangelization to many hungry souls that needed the Gospel.

When I woke up in the city of Zamora, I conversIsmaeled with the Lord in prayer about my intended visit to Paricutin, explaining that I would be happy to change my plans if He had different plans. A visit to the volcano could be postponed. I asked to show me a sign, someone who would accept the challenge of a new birth if exposed to the Word of God, which I carried with me in so many ethnic languages.

Up on the grassy hills, after a steady rain during the night, Ismael Eugenio Angel was herding his sheep. Now the sun was shining brightly from a dark-blue sky. It was still cool, and Ismael had spent the night in a cavern and was quite hungry.

His father was an alcoholic, the mother had died. In order to finance his alcoholism, he had practically sold his son into a kind of slavery. Ismael, who never went to school, never received any wages for his work as a shepherd boy. He barely existed, but people gave him handouts of tortillas and beans.

As he glanced upon the dirt road far below, he spotted a station wagon that slowly winded its way towards his village of San Lorenzo. He thought that the driver was of light complexion. Suddenly, it was like an inner voice telling him: Run and stop that car. It will make the difference of your life. He had never dared to stop a car, much less with a "gringo" at the steering wheel.

Ishmael had often though about life. Where did he come from? Where will he be going? Is there something that can make the wounded whole? He must have thought that there is an escape, and that there is a God Who could finish his misery. In his soul the cry was loud: "Who can wash away my stain? What can make me whole again?" And his cry was not answered. Nobody told him, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus." But those who seek Him shall find Him.

Like that questioning Ethiopian the Lord put on the same road with the apostle Philip, Ismael's questions were about to be answered, as God worked out his purpose in split-seconds. He never is too late. I could have passed up Ismael, but the gesticulating child told me that there could be an emergency. As I stopped my car, I looked into an inquisitive face but he said nothing.

"What do you want?" I asked him. He tried to find an answer. "Matches," he whispered, just to say anything at all. I thought that he has been cold during the night, or that he might be hungry, so I opened a can of pork and beans which the undernourished child devoured.

He spoke only a few words of Spanish, and then the thought flashed through my mind: "I have the gramophone player of Sister Ridderhof. I took out the box and examined the different titles. There were recordings of Popoluco, Mazateco, Mixteco, Mayo, Nahuatl, Tarasco.

Wait, this is his language. What does it say? John chapter 10. Could it have been something more fitting? Here he sat, with his sombrero and sarape, the sheep scattering over the hills, and the beautiful pine trees strewn over the volcanic landscape. And as he munched his breakfast, the voice from the gramophone spoke.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and nobody shall pluck them out of My hand."

"Let me hear it again," . . . and again, and again, until he knew the text memorized. He understood the text better than I, for he was a shepherd boy and longed to be with the Great Shepherd of the sheep. As the Spirit of God gave witness to his spirit that he was a son of God, a new life began.

I had to pay a nominal amount of Mexican pesos to buy him out of slavery. Ismael grew up with us and grew in God's grace. In due time, he won his father to the Lord. He could not wait until he entered Bible school to be prepared for the ministry of the Gospel. There he found a wonderful wife that bore him four children, all of whom now are missionaries.

Then the day came when I took him to Gospel Recordings in Los Angeles. Miss Ridderhof was thrilled to tears when Ismael told her the story of his conversion. She claimed the slide I had taken of Ismael as a shepherd boy listening to the story of the Great Shepherd and had artists make a large painting that later adorned her office.

The task of evangelizing the Tarascan Indians has not been easy. This is a tribe that the Spaniards shunned and made a long circle around them during the conquest. Independently minded, they do not easily accept anything new and untraditional. There is a great dualism between the worship of idols and the enforced religion that during the conquest of Spain was accepted as a convenient settlement.

Ismael had many times been beaten up, as have other Tarascan Christian workers. Some were even sacrificing their lives for the message of Salvation and became martyrs. Once they left Ismael for dead on an Indian trail, but the Lord watched over him and saved him from this period of severe persecution.

Ismael was one of my first spiritual sons and will be soon a grandfather. Through native people like him, I can reach the lost, as they speak their language, know their customs, and confide in their own people. He surely was a chosen vessel of God to take the message to the Tarascan people.

The last time I visited Ismael and his lovely family, we finally climbed Paricutin volcano together. With us were some of my Indian boys and other friends. Ismael, meanwhile, with a stack of tracts in Tarascan as well as Spanish, gave away this literature to tourists and Indians as they stood on the rim with gases and smoke passing though their legs.

A brief update on Alfred

Alfred was forced by the government to leave his family and mission in Mexico. He is currently living in Belize. As Alfred shares in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-14,19; Romans 8:17-18), he continues to reach out to Indian boys and share his love of the Lord with them.

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