T he four Papaioannou missionary children wanted a pet for a long time.
They begged for a cat or a dog when the family from their homeland in Greece in Europe to work far away in the Philippines in Asia.
Father was busy teaching at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, and Mother was caring for the four children and studying for a master’s degree in education. Besides, the parents weren’t all that interested in having a pet at home. They didn’t want to feed a cat or clean up after a dog.
“No pets,” Mother said, firmly.
The children knew better than to argue.
After four years in the Philippines, the family moved to a new missionary post in Cyprus, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea. Father rented a house with a big yard.
The children were now older, and their pleas for a pet grew louder.
“Can we have a cat?” asked the oldest, 12-year-old Revel.
“How about a dog?” said Loukas, who was 11 and the only boy in the family.
“It would be so nice to have a cat,” said 8-year-old Niki.
“Or even a little kitten,” said the littlest, Kellita, who was 5.
Father and Mother hadn’t changed their minds. But amid the chorus of pleas from the children, they were glad to have a good excuse to say, “No.”
“The contract we signed to rent the house says, ‘No pets,’” Father said.
The children, however, weren’t ready to give up.
“Can we pray about it?” asked little Kellita.
“You can pray all you want,” he said, confident that a pet would never join the family.
The children began to pray every evening.
“Dear Jesus, please give us a cat,” said Revel, the oldest.
“Or a dog,” said Loukas, the boy.
“A cat would be nice,” said Niki.
“Or even a little kitten,” said little Kellita.
It so happened that the next-door neighbor had a big cat, and the cat gave birth to three adorable black kittens. When the kittens were just 1 month old, they began to explore the neighbor’s yard on their own. One day, the kittens found an attractive hole in the fence and scampered through it.
“Look!” little Kellita squealed in the missionary family’s yard. “We have three kittens in our yard!”
The other children came running. Sure enough, three kittens were playing in the grass. Soon the children were playing with them, petting them and having the time of their lives.
The kittens came to the missionaries’ yard every day. As they grew into cats, they sometimes stayed in the yard. When they saw the window of the missionary family’s house open, they jumped inside and made themselves at home.
Father and Mother couldn’t say anything. Nobody in the family had brought the cats home, so there was no one to tell to take them away.
The children were thrilled. God had answered their prayers by giving them not just one pet, but three.
The Papaioannou missionary children has witnessed many answers to prayer.
One day, Loukas had the enormous sum of 40 euros in pocket money, and he wanted to buy something at a big toy store called Jumbo in Cyprus.
When the family arrived at the store, he and his sister disappeared into the crowd to find something to buy.
But Loukas was in tears when it was time to go. He had lost the 40 euros.
“It’s all right,” Father said. “We can replace the missing money.”
“No, I lost my money,” Loukas said. “It was a lot of money. Can I pray that God will help me to find it?”
“There is no way that you will find the money here,” Father said. “There are too many people. It would be better if you prayed that the person who found the money actually needed it.”
Loukas didn’t change his mind.
“No, I want to pray,” he said.
Loukas prayed and went to look for the money.
A few minutes later, he returned, beaning with joy. In his hand he held the 40 euros. He found the two 20-euro banknotes in a bin filled with exercise weights. He had looked down and seen a corner of the banknotes sticking out from under the exercise weights.
One summer, the missionary family camped with other Adventist families at a church campsite in Greece. It was a dry, hot summer, and a big forest fire broke out three or four kilometers from the campsite on a Sunday afternoon.
The adults and four missionary children watched and waited to see what would happen.
Slowly, the fire came closer and closer and was more and more dangerous. The campers had to act. They formed a circle and began to sing and pray.
As the campers sang and prayed, a wind started to blow. The wind blew the flames away from the campsite.
The group sang and prayed for 20 minutes, and the wind kept blowing the fire farther and farther away. The adults grew tired. The children grew tired.
“OK, the danger is over,” someone said.
The group broke up.
Within minutes, the wind changed direction, and the fire raced toward the campsite.
“Evacuate!” someone shouted.
“We have to leave now!” said another person.
Most of the campers packed and fled to the safety of the beach, about 700 meters away.
Seven men stayed at the campsite with two newly arrived firefighters.
Around midnight, the fire came within 100 meters to the fence surrounding the campsite. Flames could be seen licking the tops of pine trees. If the wind blew one burning particle inside the fence, the whole campsite could go up in flames.
The five men and two firefighters formed an emergency line, but they knew there was little that they could do.
The fire crept closer and closer.
The Adventists prayed.
Just when the fire came within 10 meters of the fence, a big brigade of firefighters arrived and put out the flames.
In the morning, the campers looked at the scene in astonishment. The entire area around the fence was black. Even a neighboring campsite had been burned to ashes. The Adventist campsite looked like a green oasis in the middle of a blackened wasteland.
The fire burned on both sides of the camp but didn’t touch it.
“The Lord stopped the fire right at the fence,” said Father, whose full name is pastor Kim Papaioannou. “We knew it was not going to touch us, and our camp was saved.”