This story is about Amanda, a young Waldensian girl living in one of the Piedmont valleys of northern Italy. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, as it had been for centuries, it was a death penalty to own or to read a Bible.
For hundreds of years, through ages of persecution, the Waldenses secretly had Bibles hidden. They read and memorized them, and secretly distributed them to those who could read throughout all of Europe. Many of the Waldenses were caught and martyred. At times, crusades [papal armies] were sent out to destroy all the Waldenses, but God always preserved a remnant. It was the seeds from their witness and from the Bibles they distributed that eventually helped to bring about a reformation and religious freedom throughout Europe.
As Amanda grew, her mother carefully instilled within her the treasures of the Bible that she herself had learned at her mother’s knee. When very young, she had already memorized large portions of Scripture. She was also drilled in the importance of secrecy and of the danger of owning such a Book. To be caught was to die, but to read it and obey it was to have eternal life.
One day, suddenly and unexpectedly, it happened. Father was gone, and Mother was kneading the bread dough, getting ready to put it into pans for the oven. Mother, as usual when no one was around, had her Bible open upon the table. This was a time when she often memorized. It was at that instant that Amanda heard hoof beats coming around the trail to their valley home at the foot of the mountains. They were almost upon them before she heard the sound. She just had time to peek out to see two soldiers jumping off their horses in front of the door!
“Mother!” she gasped, “Mother, they are soldiers!” That is all she needed to say. She knew they were caught, for the soldiers did not wait to knock; they simply kicked the door open and walked in, looking for the Book. To be caught was to die, and Amanda knew they were caught! The Bible was right there, and there had been no time to hide it!
“Where is the Book!” they demanded. “You have been reported as having a Bible. Turn it over to us now.” Amanda was shocked. Surely they could see the Bible lying open right there upon the table. She looked at her mother, but the Bible was not there! Where was it? All she saw was Mother calmly putting the last pan of bread into the oven as though this was an every day occurrence, and she could not be bothered until her bread was safely baking.
Then turning around, Mother simply said, “I do not know who could have reported such a thing. You will not find a Bible in this house. You can search if you like.”
“Why, Mother!” Amanda thought to herself, for she had been taught never to lie. Now, of course, if the soldiers could not find the Bible, her mother had not lied, but how could she be so sure they would not? How could her mother be so calm, Amanda wondered. How could Mother have hidden it so quickly? and where? She had not moved from where she had been standing while kneading the bread. It was a mystery too great for her to ponder.