. A WALK WITH THE BIRD
EL SALVADOR DEL MUNDO – Every person, I guess, has a great animal story. It is strange how animals capture our hearts. We give them our energy, time and tenderness, yet we almost always outlive them and wind up with a broken heart, but we become richer because of them. So is my story of El Salvador del Mundo.
I was carrying the cross through the country of El Salvador. There was tension and crisis. I had preached to huge crowds in the cities as they rushed around the cross, eager for every word. But one thing struck me. There, in the very heart of the city at the key intersection, was a roundabout with a large statue of Christ holding the world in his hands. The name of the statue is El Salvador del Mundo, interpreted in English, “the Savior of the World.” Oh, how that moved me. What pain Christ must feel at creation gone mad.
When you walk around the world sometimes you get a little eccentric. I had a sudden urge to get a parrot. Now, can you believe that? Walking from Mexico to Colombia can do something to you!
As I left the city with a deeply burdened heart at what was sure to come (war), I stopped to preach under a big tree in the blazing sun. The crowd gathered, but separated from the crowd were two boys who caught my eye. On one of their shoulders was my bird, the loveliest parrot that ever spoke. These boys prayed to receive Christ, and as I talked to them I reached to touch the deep red and green parrot, covered in beauty and elegance. The boy stood still and the parrot turned his head as if to bite. I didn’t move my hand but let him softly chew. He blinked his eyes as if to say, “It’s okay,” and I began to stroke him. Then I slipped my finger in front of his legs and he stepped up on my finger. My heart leaped with joy. This was my dream. I raised my hand to shoulder height and the parrot leaped off, walked over to my ear and began to nudge behind my ear and turn his face and beak into my shoulder-length hair.
“Quanto dinero por la papaque?” I said calmly, but excitement was rising inside. “U.S. dollar,” I said.
The two young fellows, about 11 or 12 years old, in short pants and bright shirts, could hardly contain themselves. “Dollar, dollar” they were leaping. One of them lifted his finger up “Uno dollar,” he said in a question.
Surely that was too much, he must have thought. I smiled.
“Dos,” he said more confidently.
“Si,” I replied.
They began to giggle and clutch each other as I walked over to our van that was parked nearby, where Mike my driver had stopped. I went into the trailer and came back. They were so happy as my parrot watched the transaction that was to determine his future home.
“Una mas,” I handed them one each. “Ultra mas, cono Biblia.” (Papers about Jesus Christ).
Everyone was happy, especially me. The statue in the heart of the city flashed into my mind. Your name shall be El Salvador del Mundo. I will teach you how to preach. It is hard to get humans to do it, to go into the dangerous jungles. I’ll teach you how to praise the Lord, all in Spanish, then I’ll release you in the jungle with the other parrots and you can teach them, then soon the whole jungle will be filled with the good news of Jesus and praise to the Lord. A great missionary plan was born. He did a “squat” on my shirt, so I knew he was excited too!
El Salvador grew close to my heart. He always greeted me with a kiss and began to praise the Lord with great regularity. I was comforted daily to know that El Salvador would be waiting to greet me at the end of the long walk.
Through the country of El Salvador I walked and preached, then through Honduras and into war-torn Nicaragua. Death was everywhere, all around me, and especially in Leone where I carried the cross through the lines of the Sandinistas and the Somoza government troops that were surrounding it. The cross in war again!
As I carried the cross one day, I met Don Price, a friend and veterinary doctor from Key Largo, Florida, walking toward me. Don had come to spend a two-week vacation with me on the road, interpreting in Spanish and teaching it to me. He was walking slowly with a sober look; something was wrong. The truck and trailer were parked by a big tree. Mike stood at the door and Don spoke. “Arthur, you know we sprayed for mosquitoes last night. Well, El Salvador has been having respiratory problems. I did everything I could, but he overdosed on mosquito spray. El Salvador is dead.”
Only children and animal lovers can know how I felt. Tears burst from my eyes. I don’t expect some to understand, but I had struggled through war all day, gunfire and death stared me in the face, yet a parrot had broken my heart. Maybe it was built-up emotions; everything I had experienced, but nothing could console me. Mike was crying and the veterinarian was speaking to us.
I held El Salvador tenderly in my hands and looked at his lifeless body, then lowered him into the deep grave we had dug beside the tree. Don read a scripture, Mike sang in a broken weeping voice, and I prayed and wept. We covered the grave and erected a cross. Nothing else to say as tears poured down my face.
I lifted the 12-foot cross, set it gently on my right shoulder, and began to walk. The sounds of fighting echoed in the air. Soon, in a matter of hours, I, too, would face death under another tree just a few miles away. (See Chapter 13) “Oh, Jesus my buddy El Salvador is dead. I miss him.” Soon my sweat mixed with my tears as I walked on in the way of the cross.