True Stories

Taupo at twilight. The great lake serves as a mighty reservoir feeding the North Islands' power network. We've chosen Lake Taupo to represent a reservoir of powerful stories and articles which we have compiled. Authors are acknowledged wherever possible.

True Stories

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The Ant
The Painting
Christmas Story
Sankey's Surprise
Tarores Gospel

Brenda was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took a hold on the rope, and started up the face of that rock.

Well, she got to a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda's eye and knocked out her contact lens. Well, here she is on a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn't there.

Here she was, far from home, her sight now blurry. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord to help her to find it. When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no contact lens to be found. She sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for the rest of them to make it up the face of the cliff.

She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of that Bible verse that says, "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole Earth." She thought,"Lord, you can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and you know exactly where my contact lens is."

"Please help me." Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, "Hey, you guys, anybody lose a contact lens?"

Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it!

Brenda told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, "Lord, I don't know why you want me to carry this thing. I can't eat it, and it's awfully heavy. But if this is what you want me to do, I'll carry it for you."

Josh and Karen Zarandona say that this is a true story. Choice one.


Elisabeth Elliot

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One day, when I was a freshman at high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd. - I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get a life." He looked at me and said, Hey thanks! There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. My friends thought the same of him too.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "You're gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day! He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valadictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd.

He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through the tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story..."

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He told of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life for better or for worse. God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way.


Author Unknown

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A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Viet Nam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.

The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this." The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.

He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died not long after and there was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collections.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?" There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?" Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. "We have $10, who will bid $20?" "Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters." "$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?" The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over." "What about the paintings?" "I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.

Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, the Son , who'll take the Son?" Because you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.


Author Unknown

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A brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. and on Dec 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On Dec.19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm - hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but cancel the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?" The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth.

The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare,and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between. The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island where he had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.


Rob Reid

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One Christmas Eve, Ira Sankey, the famous gospel singer, was traveling by steamboat up the Delaware River. Asked to sing, Mr. Sankey sang the 'Shepherd Song.' When the song was ended, a man with a rough, weather-beaten face came up to Mr. Sankey. He said: "Did you ever serve in the Union Army?" "Yes," answered Mr. Sankey, "in this spring of 1860." "Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright moonlit night in 1862?" "Yes," answered Mr. Sankey very much surprised.

"So do I," said the stranger, "but I was serving in the Confederate Army. When I saw you standing at your post I said to myself: 'that man won't get away from here alive!' I raised my rifle and took aim. I was standing in the shadow completely concealed, while the full light of the moon was falling on you."

"At that instant you raised your eyes up and began to sing just like a moment ago. Music has always had a special effect on me, so I took my finger off the trigger. 'Let him sing his song to the end,' I said to myself. 'I can shoot him afterward - no difference to wait. My bullet can't miss him anyhow.' But the song you sang then was the same one you sang just now. I heard the words perfectly:"

"We are thine. Do thou befriend us,
be the guardian of our way."

"I began to think of my childhood, how my mother used to sing those words. She had many, many times sung that hymn to me. But she died all too soon, otherwise much in my life would have been different."

"When you had finished your song it was impossible for me to take aim again. I thought, 'the Lord who is able to save that man from death must surely be great and mighty,' and my arm and rifle dropped at my side."


Religious Digest

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Ngakuku, a Waikato chief, lived in the region near what is now Hamilton, in New Zealand, in the days when the Anglican and Methodist Churches were doing their first great mission work among the Maori. He was not a Christian, but favoured the Christian faith sufficiently to send his 11-year-old daughter, Tarore, across the Kaimai mountain range, so she could learn to read from the missionaries in Tauranga.

Waikato girl

There, she made good progress, under the guidance of Archdeacon and Mrs. Brown. When Tarore was about to leave the old mission house to return home, Mrs. Brown presented her with a copy of St Luke's Gospel.

Back home, Tarore carried this Gospel everywhere in a bag hung round her neck. At night she slept with it in this same bag, as a pillow. In the evenings she read from it to her father and his men. As Ngakuku listened, he realized that it was not his daughter speaking. The book was speaking through her. 'These are the words of the Great Spirit', he said, and, being captivated by the message, he became a believer.

Some time later, a party set out on a journey from the village, or pa. Ngakuku took Tarore and her three year-old brother along. One evening they camped at the foot of the spectacular 300 metre-high Wairere Falls.

Carelessly, they let the smoke from their campfires rise through the trees, and it was seen by a war party of the Arawa tribe of Rotorua, who were deadly enemies of the Waikatos. The Arawas, led by their chief, Uita, launched a dawn attack on Ngakuku and his party. In the confusion that followed, Ngakuku and his mean escaped to the safety of the hills, but Tarore, in the deep sleep of childhood, was left behind. She never awakened - at least, not in this life.

When they later found her dead body, Ngakuku's men called for UTU (revenge). "No," said the chief, "there has been too much bloodletting already. The great God in heaven whom I have learned to love through the reading of her Gospel, he will take care of the revenge."

Returning to Rotorua, Uita took with him the trophies he has seized during the Wairere Falls attack. Among them was Tarore's bag, with its Maori Gospel. It lay unused at Rotorua for some time, until a slave called Ripahau came to the pa, carrying his master's body for burial. Ripahau had been taught to read, and on joining up with the tribe at Rotorua, he demonstrated his skill by reading Tarore's Gospel. He wasn't a Christian, but as he read, the men of the tribe gathered to listen.

Eventually, chief Uita, whose own hands had been stained with the blood of the little owner of the book, was moved by its message. With the true dignity of a Maori chief however, he would not confess his faith publicly until had permission. So, he had a letter written to chief Ngakuku, humbly asking his permission to enter a Christian place of worship to confess his faith. God had avenged Ngakuku!

After some time, the slave, Ripahau, left Rotorua, and traveled south to Otaki (near Wellington), where he joined up with the tribe of the famous warrior chief, Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha, one of the three great chiefs of the North Island, terrorized people in his area, and even carried out fearful raids as far sough as the Kaikouras and Canterbury, in the South Island.

Te Rauparaha's son, Tamihana, however, had an entirely different nature from his father. His slave taught him to read, but they soon ran out of reading material. So, Tamihana sent a messenger back to Rotorua for further books. Three or four were sent. One of them had lost its cover and outside pages. They had been torn off and used for bullet wads! However, on what was left was the name 'Ngakuku'. It was Tarore's Gospel.

Soon, a group of three men could regularly be seen together at Te Rauparaha's stronghold, on Kapiti Island. Two of them, Tamihana and his cousin, had portions of Tarore's Gospel on their knees, while the third, the slave, was teaching them to read. Both men were moved to faith in God, and their testimony also led the slave to become a Christian. A wave of evangelism swept through the tribe.

Anxious to get a missionary, Tamihana went right up north to the Bay of Islands, and it was through his pleading that Mr Hadfield came down to settle in Otaki.

Some time later standing on the shores of Kapiti, and looking toward the South Island, Tamihana thought of his father's enemies. He determined that he would go to them as a missionary. Accompanied by his cousin, Tamihana set out in a canoe. In a journey of over 1600 kilometres of open sea, he went down the east coast past the Kaikouras, to Canterbury, and right on to southern Otago, preaching the Gospel with great power in every pa along the coast. When Bishop Selwyn, of the Anglican Church, later made his first Episcopal tour to the south, he found scores of Maoris who had become Christians through the influence of Tamihana.

But even this is not the end of the story of Tarore's Gospel. In recent years, the Maori children of Otaki, the direct spiritual descendants of Tamihana, have regularly given money to the Bible Sociey in New Zealand. They gifts have provided Gospels, particularly for children in countries such as Japan, Nigeria, Labrador, and India.

This is the story of one little book, a copy of the Gospel of St Luke. It shows how the Spirit of God can work in his own mighty way, whenever, and wherever the Gospel is read, or heard.


Colin Read
General Secretary, Bible Society in New Zealand
"I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
(Luke 6:27-28)

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