José and the Sete Passos Snake

“Look for something positive in each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.” Anon

It was already dark when José was making his way home through the tall grass along a narrow pathway to his home. José worked as caretaking at our seminary but that night he needed to take care of himself. As he walked he felt a tug on his pant leg so he turned on his flashlight to see what was happening. He saw on the path a snake that had its fangs entangled in the cotton fibres of his dungarees. So what was he to do? He reacted instinctively with the right action for he had grown up in the forested hilly area of the seminary where a number of venomous snakes lived.

My beautiful picture


José reached down, grabbed the snake behind its head and with a quick twist killed it. This was no little garter snake that we might find along some waterway here in North America. This snake is called “sete passos” which means, Seven Steps. The name is supposed to accurately indicate that a person bitten by this snake will be able to take only seven steps till he drops dead. José went safely home that night to be with his family.

Another snake known as the Cascavel lived in the jungle that surrounded the seminary. One day our family came to visit at the seminary and there we heard the bad news. The two cows kept there had died with snake bites. Those cows on the seminary property provided milk for the families that lived there but the milk production ceased that day. Those cows had been grazing on a hillside that had been cleared of jungle and perhaps because it was a cool time of the year it is thought that the cows had  disturbed the snakes as they curled up in the sun for some warmth. Keep in mind this information–the Cascavels is a larger more venomous version of our North American rattler.

I’m no expert on poisonous snakes in Brazil though I’ve read about them as well as poisonous scorpions, spiders and caterpillars. You need to understand that the seminary property lay in a basin with hills rising on every side with enough jungle on those slopes to provide cover for snakes. A small stream that ran through the property had been damned up to provide a couple of lovely ponds that in themselves provided protection for snakes.

 But of this I am sure—that God sent his angels to protect the families and their children who lived at the seminary. During all the time that this seminary was in operation, not one student, nor teacher nor any of their children were ever bitten by a snake. Our own children played and roamed the property as they wished with the other children that lived there. It is not that snakes were not nearby for one of the missionaries one day discovered one near her apartment. Well, she called for José who then came, found the snake, another Sete Passos, and sent it on its way to the nether world.

I must admit that I do not understand the plans and providences of God that overshadow our lives. Nor can my human cognition come up with answers as to the work of angels. But I believe God’s promise is true about angels, “…they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Luke 4:11. Those angels might have been working overtime providing protection for everyone at our seminary out there in the Brazilian boondocks.

More important for each of us now is that through Jesus we can call on God for daily protection and more importantly, forgiveness of sins. I am convinced His angels watch over us till the end of our lives.

P.S. I’ve taken the liberty to give the caretaker during his days at our seminary the name of José for that is the commonest name for men in Brazil. I have forgotten his real name from almost 60 years ago. The bush in the picture is the Pointsetia bush–they grow so easily in Brazil.


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