‘Run to Daddy’

Testimony: What a green mamba snake and a little girl’s love for her father teach me about our heavenly Father.

‘Run to Daddy’

, communication director, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division

It felt like my heart was being ripped out of my body as I cringed at the thought that my only daughter would die right in front of me.

The enemy was about 6 inches (15 centimeters) away from my 3-year-old girl, and I stood more than 16 yards (15 meters) away. I could never get to her in time. I loved her so much, but my love could not save her. My highest priority was to save her, but I could not. Nothing upsets a father more than to see his baby girl so close but in imminent danger.

As I walked into our house in Durban, South Africa, I knew Leandra heard my voice. I saw her stepping off the windowsill in my study as I entered the hallway.

Leandra was curious and infected with a love for new things. Absorbed in her little world, yet oblivious to the real danger around her, she looked in my direction. I called her name and extended my arms toward her.

But when I lifted my foot to go toward her, I noticed a movement at her feet. Straining my eyes to make sure, I saw that, yes, a green snake lay right at her heels.

Green mambas and black mambas are not uncommon in that part of South Africa. I knew that with just one bite, the deadly venom would paralyze my daughter until the snake quickly stole her life — a life not yet lived.

Paul Charles and his daughter, Leandra, around the time of the snake incident. (All photos courtesy of Paul Charles)

Oblivious to the Snake

Leandra could not see the snake, and I suspect that if she had, she would have wanted to play with it.

My options were limited. If I ran toward her, the snake might become agitated and bite her. Even if I ran, I could not reach her fast enough. I had to do something, but I knew that I could do nothing.

Paul Charles baptizing Leandra during a service where he retold the snake story on Oct. 13, 2012.

With Leandra still oblivious to the snake, I called out to her with outstretched arms: “Leandra, my darling, run to Daddy. Come on, my sweetheart. Show Daddy how fast you can run. Come on, sweetie, run to Daddy!”

Without hesitation, Leandra ran toward me as I raced toward her. I caught her in my arms, squeezed her to my bosom, and called my wife.

Once Leandra was safely in her mother’s arms, I took a broom and rushed into the study to find the intruder. He was not going to get out alive. I had to kill that snake. My only thought was that no snake was going to crawl into my house, threaten my daughter, and get away with it.

With little concern for myself, I hastily moved the shelves and a table to find the slithering serpent. It made a daring attempt to escape and nearly got away. But I made sure that I smashed its head against the wall.

After I killed it, I took the dead snake outside, poured gasoline over it, and burned it. I even buried the charred remains — just to make sure.

My daughter could not understand what had just taken place. But I knew that she was safe and that was all that mattered.

Retelling the Horror at a Baptism

The intense feelings that I experienced that day returned when I related the story to our church congregation on Oct. 13, 2012, moments before I raised my right hand to heaven to declare to a much bigger Leandra: “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Father and daughter posing for a recent photo.

Then I looked at my daughter, who would turn 14 the next day, and said: “Leandra, on this special day, a defining moment in your life when you publicly announce to everyone that you love Jesus and desire to walk with Him every day of your life, let me remind you of that day when you ran to Daddy as soon as I called you. You did not question the reasonableness of the call. You did not ask why. You did not tell me your point of view. You did not debate it, nor did you ask me to explain further. You did not seek clarification. You did not wait, nor hesitate. You obeyed immediately.”

While little Leandra might have thought that I was calling her for myself, I was actually calling her for her own sake. In running to me as soon as she heard my voice, she chose life. But she did not choose life per se. In choosing me, she chose life. Likewise, in choosing Christ, we choose life.

God Always Sees the Snake

Many times when God speaks to us through His Word and commands us to obey, I wish we would in a childlike faith run to Him. He sees the snake at our feet, even if we cannot. In that immediate response lies our safety, our salvation, our life.

Jesus said that the devil, the snake, came to lie, steal, and destroy. But Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. God’s commands are life, and his laws are freedom.

Choose to obey because God is your Father, not because of the command. As my daughter entered a new period of her life with her baptism, I felt confident that she would be safe and saved if she responded to God, her heavenly Father, in the same way that she had responded to me, her earthly father.

While we may not see the snake, God sees it clearly. Our only safety is to run to Him. By the time we understand the reason, it may be too late. Safety lies in instant obedience. There is never a convenient time to turn to God. Now is that time. Your heavenly Father is calling your name today. Don’t hesitate. He can see what you can’t. Just run to Him. In that obedient response to His love is life.