“Father and the Revolutionaries,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 44–45
Of the many wonderful Christmases in my lifetime, there’s one I will never forget. I was fifteen years old and lived in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, when revolutionary soldiers took control of our colony. That night—still vivid in my memory—I was terrified!
On 23 December 1915, U.S. troops issued an edict for those in the army of Francisco “Pancho” Villa to surrender, and many of them did. We watched them as they passed by our place on their way to Ciudad Juarez, where they were taken into custody. Others of the revolutionaries stayed behind with Villa’s lieutenant and prepared for a trek to join their leader in the mountains.
The next afternoon, Christmas Eve, one group of Villa’s soldiers came to our door with flour, insisting that Mother make bread for them. A group of men made their camp on our farm, helped themselves to our grain for their horses, and housed the animals in our barn. Then a little later, at about six o’clock, another small group of soldiers came into the house. They ransacked the cupboards and trunks, shooting the locks off of them, looking for food and money, and taking what they wanted. Within a few hours, six different groups had gone through our house, taking anything they felt they needed for their long journey to join their leader.
As bishop, my father had just finished tithing settlement and was preparing to send the contributions to Church headquarters. The soldiers not only took most of our food, but they found the tithing money my father had locked away and took that too. They also took our sheets, blankets, and quilts.
Around midnight, Villa’s lieutenant and a group of soldiers surrounded our house, posting guards at each of the entrances. One of the guards fired a shot into the room where we were, breaking glass in a window. A piece of flying glass cut my head over my right eyebrow. When I saw the blood running down over my eye, I thought I had been shot, and I touched the back of my head to feel where the bullet had come out. I was relieved to find no hole.
When the soldiers had come into the house earlier, they had gone upstairs looting trunks and taking what they could find. They had noticed that all of the women and children were upstairs and the men were downstairs, so now they decided they wanted to go back upstairs to the women. But my father forbade them. When they asked, “Who would stop us?” Father stood in the doorway, blocking it, and commanded them by the priesthood of God not to go upstairs. The lieutenant and his assistant, suddenly subdued, said, “If that is what you say, muy bien.” And they left. Father showed them out, lighting the doorway with his coal oil lamp. The men shot the lamp out of his hand as they left. I can still see my father standing there, a pillar of faith and courage.
Because of the night’s events, we couldn’t even sing or hang up our stockings. We hardly even remembered it was Christmas Eve. We were joined very late that night by the John B. Robinson family, whose house the looters had doused with coal oil and set on fire, because the Robinsons wouldn’t let them in. We could see the blazing fire against the night sky as the Robinson girls and their mother cried, uncertain and frightened; they feared that members of their family had been lost in the fire. They were grateful when the others joined us later. None of us got any sleep that night.
When I see Christmas stockings hung, I am reminded of scenes from that night, and I am thankful for the Savior’s gifts to me—the gifts of life, faith, and hope. The terror of that night gave way to a profound gratitude, reinforced by the image of my father standing in that doorway after using the priesthood to rebuke those men. We had been protected by the hand of the Lord; I came to know that for certain. I have been strengthened by that knowledge throughout my life.