Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest roundup of good reads on the Web:

Gospel Hope for a Weary Mom, HT to The Story Warren. “The good news is, it’s not our perfect love and perfect parenting that will reflect Jesus to our children; it’s admitting our dependence on Christ’s perfect love and perfect life that points them to their own need for a Savior.”

Love Hopes All Things–and Tosses the Worst Assumptions, HT to Challies. “With the admonition to be slow to speak we should also remember, So be slow to assume.”

What Do We Do When Our Stories Collide? “Yes, at first, the timing for the two stories could seem awkward at best, even insensitive. But it was also an honest view of real life. How we can be dealing with one thing – a joy-filled occasion – and be unaware that the person next to us can be grieving.”

Individual and Community Discipleship. Discipleship isn’t always about two people working through a curriculum. “I have a received a lot of discipleship from Christians who were just doing what God made them to do.” Me, too.

A “God Is Faithful” party. When friends didn’t want the attention of a going-away party, Sue turned it into a “God is faithful” party. Love this idea!

An RV Renovation, HT to Decor to Adore. Wow! Inspiring!

This video was shared at Appointment Etiquette at a Writing Conference. It’s all about the wrong ways to get your manuscript to an agent or publisher, but I think you’ll find it funny even if you’re not interested in publication:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: What Is the Gospel?

What Is the GospelWhen we received the book What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert in a gift bag from a church we visited, my first thought was, “It takes 121 pages to explain that?”

But, as he demonstrates in the first few pages, people have a variety of ideas about what exactly the gospel is, some odd, some close but not quite accurate. This, above anything else, is essential to know, because if we’re wrong about this, we’re in big trouble.

The first issue is our source of authority. After showing that reason, our own experience, and tradition are all unreliable, he goes to the Bible. He asserts that we can’t just do a study on the word “gospel” because many passages that describe it don’t use that word. So he suggests “looking at what the earliest Christians said about Jesus and the significance of his life, death, and resurrection” (p. 27).

Starting at Romans 1-4 and then examining other passages in the Bible, he observes that the gospel covers four basic questions:

1. Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
2. What is our problem?…Are we in trouble and why?
3. What is God’s solution to that problem? How has he acted to save us from it?
4. How do I…come to be included in that salvation? What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else? (p. 31).

He further distills this down to “four major points…God, man, Christ, and response” (p. 31) and then dedicates a chapter to each one. One quote that stood out to me in the chapter on our response:

Many Christians struggle hard with this idea of repentance because they somehow expect that if they genuinely repent, sin will go away and temptation will stop. When that doesn’t happen, they fall into despair, questioning whether their faith in Jesus is real. It’s true that when God regenerates us, he gives us power to fight against and overcome sin (1 Cor. 10:13). But because we will continue to struggle with sin until we are glorified, we have to remember that genuine repentance is more a matter of the heart’s attitude toward sin that it is a mere change of behavior. Do we hate sin and war against it, or do we cherish it and defend it? (p. 81).

Since Christianity is not just about what we’re saved from, but it’s also about what we’re saved to, there’s a chapter on the kingdom of God. The chapter on “Keeping the Cross at the Center” addresses our tendency to try to make the gospel bigger, or more relevant, or less offensive by getting off-center, and he discusses three “substitute” gospels that even well-meaning people can fall into sometimes. And finally, the last chapter explores several responses a proper understanding of the gospel should have on us, one of which is loving the brethren.

Christian, the gospel should drive you to a deeper and livelier love for God’s people, the church. Not one of us Christians has earned his or her way into the inheritance God has stored up for us. We are not “self-made” citizens of the kingdom. We are included in God’s promises only because we know that we are dependent on Jesus Christ to save us, and we are united to him by faith.

But here’s the kicker. Do you realize that the same thing is true of that brother or sister in your church who annoys you? He or she believes in and loves the same Lord Jesus that you do, and even more, he or she has been saved and forgiven by the same Lord who saved and forgave you (pp. 117-118).

I found this a very readable and highly valuable book, both for non-Christians who want a clear presentation of what the gospel is all about, and for Christians to remind ourselves of what a treasure the gospel truly is, to keep us from getting sidetracked by “good” causes which de-emphasize, leave out, or muddy the gospel, and to let it affect our lives in every way it’s supposed to.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Walter Wilson

Walter WilsonWalter Wilson had the ability to turn nearly any conversation into a witnessing opportunity, yet with graciousness and kindness rather than belligerent buttonholing. A friend commented about him that he certainly had the gift of evangelism. True. But he also had an obedient and willing heart. He would have been the last person to have wanted people to think he was unique or that no one could do what he did. We can learn much from his spirit as well as the particular ways he had of turning conversations to the things of the Lord.

Harry Ironside urged him to write some of his experiences, which led to five books of anecdotes about various opportunities he had to lead people to the Lord. Some of the stories have been compiled into a fascinating book titled Just What the Doctor Ordered.

He was able to lead a German shop owner to the Lord when he told him the blank book he was buying was to be used for recording his prayer requests and answers. The man asked, “Can you get to Gott?” explaining that he had wanted to “find Gott” for many years.

One of my favorite chapters, “The Wrong Address But the Right Persons,” tells of a visit he tried to make while out of town to the son of a friend. After looking up the name and address, he arrived to find the man’s wife and two friends. As they began to talk, he realized that this young man, though he had the same name, was not the son of his friend. As he apologized and began to get ready to leave, he noticed a well-worn Bible on a table. He asked if they read it and loved it, which they said they did. He asked if they had learned from its pages how to be saved. Stirred, the three looked at each other, and then explained that when he had rung the doorbell, they had been on their knees praying that God would send someone who would show them how to be saved.

Another chapter tells about an atheist doctor known for his antagonism. Dr. Wilson visited him and discovered the one issue that kept the doctor from believing. He invited the doctor to church, and the Lord gave him just the right illustration that removed the obstacle in this doctor’s thinking. Another chapter tells how, as he was holding special meetings in a certain city, the pastor invited him to visit a church member who had been seriously ill in the hospital. They did so and had a good visit. Dr. Wilson took notice of a nurse in the room and went over to her to ask her if any of this man’s visitors had brought any message of comfort to her as well. She said no, she was not a Christian as these folks were. As he told her about the Lord, she began to weep. “All unknown to those who had visited the sick man, this nurse had been listening, the hunger had been increasing, and the desire to have what they were talking about became more and more acute in her soul…Although the visiting Christians had overlooked this splendid prospect, nevertheless God used their words to prepare her heart…The hungry heart may be quite close to us but may be all unobserved because we are not looking for the troubled soul.”

Other chapters are “The Case of the Japanese Barber,” “The Ticket Did Not Arrive on Time,” “God visited the Circus,” “Mrs. Fox Did Not Like It,” “A Hopeless Cripple Could Sing,” “Lost on Mount Wilson,” “The Candlestick Was Not in the Ark,” “”Lillian Was Miserable on the Stage,” “’Will I See My Little Girl Again?’” “The Intern Was Surprised,” “The Cursing Barber,” as well as others. At the end is a chapter entitled, “Hints and Helps For Personal Soulwinners.”

Dr. Wilson was not a trained or ordained preacher. He was a “medical doctor, natural scientist, salesman, businessman, author, preacher, school administrator, and more.” But he viewed sharing the gospel as his “principal business in life.” David Woehr, in his biographical sketch at the beginning of the book, says:

He translated that concern into action by taking advantage of every available opportunity to present the gospel. On the other hand, he placed great emphasis on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Each morning he would earnestly pray for the Holy Spirit to guide him to the particular person whom He had prepared to receive the gospel. During the day, expecting God to answer his prayer, he would take advantage of each favorable occasion to speak a word for Christ. He was not one to wait for some strange, inner urging of the Spirit to move him, for the opening up of an opportunity was leading enough for him.

Always a gentleman and never intrusive or abrasive, it was evident that the love of God motivated him. He was not a salesman with a product to huckster onto some unsuspecting potential client…Each one with whom he came in contact was a person who perhaps needed the water of life. He was a man under orders, ready at every moment to follow the Spirit’s leading and be the instrument by which God would bring a new-born babe into His kingdom.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Laudable Linkage

I’m here again today with my almost weekly round-up of interesting reads from the last week or so:

Gospel-Centered Reduction: Slighting the Spirit. There has been something bothering me about the term “gospel-centered” being used as an adjective on just about everything in Christianity in recent years, but I couldn’t quite articulate why. This article touches on some of the reasons.

Coffee With Facepalm Jesus Calling, HT to Bobbi. The various problems with portraying Jesus as saying things He wouldn’t say, from memes to cartoons to Jesus Calling.

Fred Phelps and the Anti-Gospel of Hate.

9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids.

31 Days of Purity: The Throne of Grace. I especially appreciated the paragraph by Lambert in the middle about the difference between condemning self-talk and confession.

This Mother Tore Off labels and Nurtured Her Son’s Hidden Genius.

Soldier Finds Lifeline in Letter Exchange With Vermont Author, HT to Sherry. I have never read either of these authors but want to now. I espcially liked this: “I needed that reminder that there was still hope and still beauty in the world. At that time in my life there was none. There was nothing except guns and fear. I was really not at all sure that I was ever going to get out of that place. This book gave me a little bit of beauty at that time, and I needed it. Not the way I need a new app for my iPad. I needed it to keep my soul alive.”

Threads: Loved this: “Every great story tells in some part The Great Story. Each truth revealed helps us make sense of our world. And through each tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale, the Truth is woven through the fabric of our being.” I don’t know that I’d say that about every story – I’ve read some awful ones with little redeeming value – but overall, yes, truth even in fiction points us to the ultimate Author of truth.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I don’t usually do one of these every week, but the past few weeks have been filled with good reading. Here are some posts that spoke to me this week:

A “Good Girl” Wrestles With the Gospel. “My sin nature seems to be super glued to me. Being a good girl doesn’t dissolve its adhesive effect. Following the rules doesn’t make me righteous. Acting like Pollyanna isn’t the same as having a pure heart.”

Nowhere Else to Go. This really touched my heart.

What Seems to Be. “If the characters in the story could step back and see what the storyteller sees, they might not despair quite so keenly.  They would trust the twists and turns as part of the greater narrative.  May it be so for me, and for all of us.”

5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennial. We shouldn’t throw out a true phrase just because someone objects to it, but we do need to make sure what we say  is truthful and appropriate.

Modesty Matters: The Heart of Modesty. I’ve read so much on modesty that I wasn’t terribly excited when I saw this title, but I appreciated the balance and the focus here. This is the first in a series.

The Silent Suffering of Miscarriage. Helpful and not so helpful things, from one who has been there.

Undercover: How book covers come to be. Thought this was fascinating.

Free ESV Online Study Bible, for a short time, to celebrate Crossway’s 75th year.

God's care

31 Days of Missionary Stories: Margaret Stringer: A Merry Heart and a Faithful Spirit

Margaret Stringer

Margaret Stringer has been one of my favorite people for years. The church we attended in SC supported her in Indonesia (formerly known as Irian Jaya, now West Papua). She was there for a little over 40 years, and she “retired” (I always put that in quotation marks, because she is one of the most active retirees I know, traveling often to churches and missions conferences) not too far from our church, so we invited her to speak at least once a year to our ladies’ group. She would have us just rolling in the floor telling about situations which I’m sure weren’t funny when they first happened.

I’ve appreciated not only her merry heart, but also her faith and obedience. Many of us can’t imagine being the lone woman to go to visit a village of cannibals at the possible risk of our own lives. That sounds like something missionaries did way back, like Mary Slessor. But there are still people who haven’t heard of the Savior, and God’s ability to meet their needs as well as the needs of His messengers are still the same.

from_cannibalism_small.jpgA few years ago she wrote a book titled From Cannibalism to Christianity: The Vakabuis Story, which tells mainly how the Lord opened one particular group of villages, from first contact to the establishment of a full-fledged church. There are hilarious moments as well as frightening ones. But what joy there is in seeing the light of understanding dawn after repeated sharing of the gospel. I don’t remember if Margaret said this in the book, but I know I heard her say while speaking to us that there were moments when she thought, “This isn’t going to make sense to them.” Imagine sharing the Word of God with someone who doesn’t know anything about it and doesn’t know who God is. Yet they did share God’s Word by faith, and the Holy Spirit gave understanding and conviction.

Secularists don’t have to worry about the people’s culture being infringed on. The people still have their own traditions and culture. But they also have hope and life. As I said in an earlier post, I don’t know why anyone, even the most unchristian person on the planet, would have any objection to helping people get rid of traditions like cannibalism and killing a twin baby. I appreciated the way Margaret endeavored to help them not to be too dependent on her. When they asked her to name the church, for instance, she told them they should name it.

One of her major accomplishments while there was reducing two languages to writing and translating the Bible into them.

When she retired she thought she would never have an opportunity to go back, but she was able take a few trips back. One night at our ladies’ group she showed some video footage (24 minutes condensed from 5 hours) while she told us what was going on, interspersed with some history here and there of the people. I tell you — seeing footage of former cannibals and headhunters now singing hymns, hearing about the most powerful and feared witch doctor in the area who became a believer and whose son is now the head of the church — that just does something to your heart.

She told us about one man during a visit who said something like, “When you left us, I was very sad for a long time. But you told us you were leaving God here, and He helped me. So when you leave this time, I will be sad, but not for as long a time, because God is here with me.” She said that’s not exactly how she put it to him, but it was so neat he got the concept that God was still there and didn’t leave when she did, and he could depend on Him.

I was amazed at her fearlessness. In one piece of footage, she was getting out of a boat to see one of the villages she used to work in, and one man took her hand and began leading her away. Her friend said, “Where are you going?” She said, “I don’t know!” As people came to greet her and hug her, the man would stop for a few minutes, and then take her hand and lead her away again. Finally he led her to his house, where he had prepared lunch for them.

One of my favorite stories she tells is not in the book but is so characteristic of her. She was new to the field, which of course was an adjustment, and she was pretty low. A number of trying things had happened, one of them a big storm that had blown through the glassless windows and ruined about 95 % of her work of language analysis. After she went to bed, something fell off the wall and hit her on the head. That was the last straw: if I remember correctly, she “fussed” in her spirit at God, saying things like, “I thought you loved me! I thought you promised to take care of me!” She got a light to see what had fallen, and it was a plaque that said…”He cares for you.” That’s one way to get the message!

Margaret has also written several articles about becoming and working as a missionary here. This video, narrated by Margaret, tells the Vakabuis story in condensed form, well worth the 30 minutes it takes to watch:

(You can see other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Missionary Stories: Eric Liddell: Olympian and Missionary

liddell The world knows the name Eric Liddell as the winner of the gold medal for the 400 meter race in the 1924 Olympics (portrayed in the film Chariots of Fire). Many know, further, that he did not originally train for that race: he had trained for the 100 meter race, but, dismayed to find that the race was to be held on Sunday, the Lord’s day, he refused to run it and was allowed to switch to the 400 meter. Perhaps fewer still know that he was born to missionary parents and went back to China as a missionary himself.

The biography Eric Liddell by Catherine Swift (Men of Faith Eric Liddell(series, Bethany House Publishers) details his parents’ testimony and early experiences in China. (Incidentally, this book includes the best concise exposition that I have ever read of the famed Chinese Boxer Rebellion, in which many missionaries were killed or driven from China.) Eric was born Jan. 16, 1902, in Tientsin in North China. His parents were originally from Scotland: Eric’s first visit there occurred during his parents’ first furlough when Eric was five.

At this time missionary children were usually educated in boarding schools, so Eric and his older brother Robbie stayed behind at the London Missionary School when their parents went back to China. Eric was thin, in frail health, and very shy at first, but flourished under the headmaster’s practice of his motto, “Healthy minds in healthy bodies.” Although gaining confidence and overcoming much of his shyness, he remained a relatively quiet personality. He began attending voluntary Bible classes in his teens, never taking part in the discussions, but thinking over them when he was alone.

He played cricket and rugby well and especially enjoyed running (interesting since there was concern during an early childhood illness that he might never run), winning many athletic honors: yet he was known for his humility and his not letting any of it go to his head.
Eric had a rather odd running style: “He had a habit of running with his head rested back on his shoulders, gazing up at the heavens instead of where he was going. His knees came right up as though he was trying to hit his own chin, and he lifted his feet far too high off the ground. His arms waved about sporadically and his fists punched at the air, making him look more like a boxer than a runner.”

During Eric’s college years he became well known for his running. At one point some students began evangelistic work in the area and had a particularly hard time reaching the men. One student thought of asking Eric to speak, thinking what fame he had would attract the men. Though he hated “the limelight,” Eric agreed to go. He very quietly and humbly spoke of God and his love for Him and trust in Him. That experience awakened in him a desire to more openly share His Lord with others and began a public ministry.

When Eric began training for the 1924 Olympics in Paris, it never occurred to him that the match would be held on Sunday, as well as two relays he could have competed in. When he saw the schedule, long before the event, he simply felt he could not participate and violate his convictions and dishonor the Lord and His Day. He did not make a big fuss about it — but others did. He received much criticism and was even accused of being a traitor to his country. The authorities tried to get the schedule changed, to no avail, then they asked Eric to compete in the 200 and 400 meter races instead. On Wednesday of the Olympic Games, Eric ran in the 200 meter race, winning a bronze medal, which no Scotsman had even done. Then on Friday, as he was leaving his hotel for the 400 meter race, his regular masseur handed him a slip of paper. Later in a quiet moment, Eric unfolded the paper to read, “In the old book it says, ‘He that honors me I will honor.’ Wishing you the best of success always.” This reinforced to Eric the word he had been resting on, “Whosoever believeth in me shall not be ashamed,” and encouraged him. To everyone’s surprise, he not only won the gold medal in that race, but set a new world record.

Just a few weeks later he publicly announced his plans to be a missionary in China, teaching at a college in the city in which he was born. He spent another year in England, holding campaigns and studying theology.

Eric ministered in China for several years, married, had two daughters and was expecting a third while unrest brewed: nationalists and Communists were fighting each other while the Japanese were creeping in. Eventually the Japanese gained control of their area and were talking about sending all missionaries to internment camps. Eric sent his wife and daughters to Canada. The Christians who were left found creative ways to get around the ban on church services, such as inviting each other to “tea” on Sundays. Just a few weeks before Eric expected to leave, all British and American missionaries were sent to an internment camp several miles away. Eric quietly ministered there in many ways. In another book, A Boy’s War, David Michell, who was a boy in the internment camps at the time, tells of his memories of “Uncle Eric,” as he was known to the children. Eric fell ill and gradually grew worse: eventually he and others knew from his symptoms that he had a brain tumor. His last words were, “It’s complete surrender,” a phrase he had used often in his life and ministry.

The world was stunned to learn of Eric’s death at the age of 43 just a few weeks before World War II ended. Memorial services were held in many places. His life still reaches out even now, nearly 60 years after his death, as an example of quiet, humble servitude and a life that honors God.

Here is a video of Eric Liddell’s and Harold Abraham’s races in the 1924 Olympics:

And this is pretty neat: Day of Discovery took Liddell’s three grown daughters back to China for the first time since their father had sent them to safety in 1941:

One quote of Liddell’s that I have in my files is “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.” I don’t remember the context in which he said these words, but they are a fitting epitaph to his life.

(You can see a list of other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Missionary Stories: Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story

I reviewed this book a few years ago, but I felt that I must include it in this series. This is a current missionary story published in 2000.

rainforest.jpgJungle Mom (who now blogs at Livin’ la Rita Loca) is a missionary that our church in SC supported, and she recommended to me the book Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story by Mark Ritchie. If I understand correctly, the Yanomamo territory bordered the Yekwana Indians that the she and her husband worked with, and the they knew many Yanomamo and their ways and some of the people in this book.

This book is not for the faint of heart, however. It is not gratuitous, but it is graphic and very frank in its dealings with demonism, violence, and the treatment of women. It is told through the eyes of “Jungleman,” a powerful shaman. It is interesting to see things through his perspective (told by him to the author, who wrote them down and confirmed the incidents with others).

He tells first of all of the Yanomamo policy of revenge. Any incident calls for revenge from the family or village sinned against, which usually involves a raid on the offending village, clubbings, and capture and group rape of women. The extent of the raid can vary — in some cases two opposing warriors take turns clubbing each other over the head or across the chest. In more serious offenses every male is killed and the remaining women are assaulted multiple times and then carried off to become wives of the raiding village. If a captured woman tries to run away, she is beaten or killed. Children of the raided village are often brutally killed, occasionally captured.

Such raids did not satisfy the revenge, however: it sparked more revenge. Any remaining men or any relatives who lived in other villages were then expected to exact revenge on the raiding village. A war once begun never stopped. In between raids, villages were afraid to go out into their gardens or out to find food, always fearful of an ambush. Sometimes they broke up camp and wandered in the jungle looking for food. Sometimes mighty warriors woke up with nightmares, haunted by the cries of those that they killed. Yet they could never admit this: fierceness was the most valued characteristic in a Yanamamo male.

Gradually white nabas (their word for non-Yanomamo) began to appear in the jungle. They “talked like babies” but sometimes had useful things to trade. The Indians quickly learned, however, through hard trial and error, that all nabas were not the same. Some were interested in trading, some were interested in helping, but some were evil and interested in exploiting (they knew some earned money by taking and selling pictures of them [one even told them to take off their clothes so the pictures he took and sold would be more “authentic”] and stories about them, but there were others whose exploitation was much, much worse). There were a few, however, who said they were followers of the one the Yanomamo regarded as the great enemy spirit. They said the Indians misunderstood Him, that He loved them and had a better way to live. The Yanomamo were naturally suspicious, but they kept interacting with them because of the items they would trade or because of the medical help, and later because of the peace they exhibited. Jungleman and others’ spirits became troubled every time they were near the village where the nabas lived and begged the shamans not to ‘throw them away.”

To me there were several major benefits to this book. One was the fascinating look into Yanomamo culture. One was the immense power of the gospel to miraculously change lives in those who receive it. It was thrilling to read of those who came to believe and how they changed and grew and began to understand the ways in which they had been deceived.

Another major value of this book is the truth that these “primitive” peoples are not living happy lives frolicking in an idyllic Eden. I don’t know if you realize this, but there is a large and growing segment of the population who believes that such people should be left alone to Western influence all together and especially Christianity. As I said in another post months ago, these people deserve as much chance as anyone else has to hear the gospel and have the choice to change their ways.

The following is an interview between “Doesn’t Miss” (their name for the author), Keleewa, the missionary who interpreted, and a Yanomamo called Hairy on pages 180-183:

“The naba wants to know why you want to change the way you live out here in the jungle,” Keleewa said to Hairy after Doesn’tMiss talked.

Hairy was surprised at the question. “Because we’re miserable out here. We are miserable all the time. The people from Honey [predominantly Christian village] came here and made peace with us many seasons ago and their village keeps getting better. We want that for us. If it means throwing spirits away and getting new ones, we will do it. [This is not something said lightly. Many were under the impression that they would be killed if they tried to get rid of their spirits.] But we need someone to teach us these new ways.”

Hairy didn’t have spirits because he was not a shaman. But he followed everything the spirits told his shaman. I knew my spirits would be very irritated if Hairy quit following the spirits. No one who has killed as often and as long as Hairy could ever stop it…

Doesn’t Miss talked with Keleewa for a while. Keleewa paused and thought how to say what the naba said. Then he told Hairy, “He says there are many people in his land that don’t think that he, or any of us, should be here helping you at all. They say that you’re happy here and that we should leave you alone. He wants to know what an experienced killer like you would say to them.”

Hairy grew even more serious. “I say to you, please don’t listen to the people who say that. We need help so bad. We are so miserable here and our misery never stops. Night and day it goes on. Do those people think we don’t suffer when bugs bite us? If they think this is such a happy place out here in the jungle, why aren’t they moving here to enjoy this beautiful life with us?”

Doesn’t-Miss was quiet. Then he got out of his hammock and walked down the trail…When he was too far away to hear, Hairy said to Keleewa, “Is he stupid? Doesn’t he have eyes? Can’t he see these lean-tos we call houses? Can’t he see us roam the jungle every day, searching for food that isn’t here, so we can starve slower? Can’t he see that our village is almost gone, that this move we are making now is our last hope to stay alive?”

Keleewa was slow to answer. He knew Hairy wouldn’t understand what he was about to say. “Most nabas think just like him,” Keleewa told Hairy, and shook his head because he knew he couldn’t explain why.

“Nobody’s that stupid,” Hairy snapped. “They must hate us. They think we’re animals.”

Later Hairy asked Keleewa what they had to do to get a white naba to come to their village and live with them and teach them about Yai Pada (God), offering to clear an airstrip. Kelweewa promised that if they cleared an airstrip someone would come. That day Hairy and his people began clearing the jungle, and Hairy “remembered the wife he had killed. ‘I don’t want to treat women like that any more,’ he thought. ‘I don’t want my children to be killers like me. I want them to follow the spirit of this man of peace. I want us all to be free of our past. I want to sleep again’” (p. 230).

Another time (page 202) an antro (Yanomamo word for the kind of naba who took pictures of them and wrote about them) scolded an Indian named Shortman:

“Don’t you ever speak to me in Spanish! You are a Yanomamo and will always be a Yanomamo. You have no business throwing away your true ways and trying to copy nabas with their clothes, watches, motors, and now even changing to Spanish! Don’t ever speak to me in Spanish again! You want to talk to me? Use Yanomamo.”

“What’s that in your lower lip there?” Shortman asked…

“That’s my wad of tobacco,” the antro answered.

“Where did you learn to chew tobacco that way?” asked Shortman.

“I learned it from your people.”

“You saw us chew tobacco that way and you tried it and you liked it. So you copied us, didn’t you?”

“That’s right,” the antro said, with some pride in his Indian ways.

Shortman shrugged. “If you can copy us,” he paused with a puzzled look, ”then we can copy you.”

Somehow the shamans could “see” when another person had spirits, and they had identified some of the evil nabas as having spirits that the nabas themselves didn’t know about. At one point when Shoefoot, leader of Honey village, came to America with the author, he “identified the signs and symbols of many of the spirits right here in our ‘civilized’ culture. He has no problem understanding the Columbine High School massacre or any other killing spree. The spirits of anger and hatred that own and drive a person are spirits he has known personally. He knows what it means to kill under the influence of something or someone. So when a student asks…”Why can’t you get rid of your spirits without converting to Christianity?’ his answer is simple. ‘I don’t know any other way to get rid of the spirits that are destroying us. And no other shaman does, either’” (p. 251).

(You can see a list of other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Missionary Stories: How to minister to a culture that values treachery?

peace childI first encountered Peace Child by Don Richardson several years ago in the Reader’s Digest Book Section. I cut it out and kept it, and some years later in college I also saw a film based on the book. I bought a new copy of the book after learning that these events took place in Indonesia, “next door” to where a missionary worked whom we knew and supported.This missionary knew Don and some of the people he ministered to.

In the early 1950s, many tribes in the jungles of Indonesia were totally unevangelized and virtually untouched by the modern world. Though “primitive,” they were not at all unintelligent: they had developed many skills for living in the jungle and had many legends and elaborate rituals ripe with meaning that had developed over the years. The Sawi, whom Don Richardson came to work with, were headhunters and cannibals, as were many of the other tribes. The Lord opened the doors for these people to accept the missionaries through their thinking at first that white people (whom they called Tuan) weren’t quite human, though they knew they were different from the spirits, through rumor that the Tuan could “shoot fire” (with guns), and through gifts the missionaries brought of such things as axes, which could fell a tree in four strokes, whereas the hand-made stone axes required about 40 strokes.

Three communities or villages settled around the new Tuan. Don spent hours listening to them, learning their language and their customs, and trying to tell them of God’s truth about creation, the entrance of sin, the promise of Deliverer, and the life of Christ. But the Sawi weren’t used to listening to tales about other cultures and grew bored…until Don’s narrative got to Judas. They listened intently to the story of Judas’s close relationship with Christ and his betrayal. They whistled with admiration. In their culture treachery and deception were virtues, the admirable stuff of legends. They valued not just cold murder, but the “fattening with friendship” of an unsuspecting victim, then delighted in telling about the look of astonishment on his face when he realized they were about to kill and eat him. They thought Judas was the hero of the story. Don was astonished and chilled and tried to explain that the betrayal was evil, that Jesus was the Son of God. But he couldn’t get through. Don and his wife Carol knew that God had some way to reach this culture and “set [themselves] to hope for some revelation.”

The next day fighting broke out between the different villages. That day and in the days to come, Don urged peace. Sawi villages usually kept some distance from each other, and Don realized that by having three villages come together to settle near him, the villagers were constantly being provoked to battle. Finally he felt that he should leave and settle somewhere else so that the Sawi would not end up destroying themselves. The Sawi protested they did not want Don to leave. Discussions began and leaders from both factions came to Don to assure him they would make peace.

The next day, the Sawi groups solemnly gathered. Don witnessed, to his amazement, a man from each of the warring groups bring one of his own children, with the mothers weeping, and exchange the children. Those in one group who would accept the child as a basis for peace were called to come and lay hands upon him, and the process was repeated in the other group. Then each child was taken to his new adoptive home. In a culture of violence and treachery, “at some point the Sawi had found a way to prove sincerity and establish peace…If a man would actually give his own son to his enemies, that man could be trusted.”

Don was horrified that his call for peace had caused this to happen, but soon began to see the parallels between the Sawi “peace child” and God’s sacrifice of His own Son. He began to tell them that Jesus was God’s own Peace Child to all men. Judas lost his status as hero because harming a peace child was one of the worst things someone could do. They began to see the inadequacy of their “best,” because peace in their culture only held as long as the peace child lived. When he died, old animosities could revive. But because Jesus rose again and was eternal, the peace He gave could never die.

It took many months for understanding and conviction to sink in, and even then they were afraid of angering the demons by departing from tradition. But when God enabled Don and Carol to revive a Sawi tribesman who was near death, the Sawi took this “as proof that the tuan’s God was powerful” and many began to believe.

Eventually more than half of the Sawi became believers, their language was reduced to writing, they were taught to read, the New Testament was translated, and some of the Sawi became teachers to their own people. Praise the Lord!!

As I have written before, some will criticize any attempt of other cultures to contact or influence primitive tribes. But, really, just as in the case of the Waodani (previously known as Aucas), if no one had stepped in, the Sawi would most likely have eventually ceased to exist, because each treacherous act of one group against another would set off a series of revenge battles with many more being killed. The Richardsons were careful not to try to impose a Western church upon the Sawi culture but to bring the gospel into theirs.

I would warn that the first several pages of the book describes a pretty ghastly deception and murder of one man to show by example what the Sawi culture was like. It is not gratuitous but it is graphic. I think this book would be perfectly suited for reading as a family or a class as well as for personal reading, but parents and teachers might want to preview that chapter to determine its appropriateness for the age level and personalities of their children. But I think anyone who reads it will get a glimpse into a missionary’s journey through adjustment to a different culture, perplexity in determining how best to share the gospel, the darkness of a culture without the Lord, and the amazing way God opens hearts and understanding to His truth. Stories like this are a part of the glorious fulfillment of the day John prophesied in Revelation 7:9-10: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”

A few years ago I searched for and found a copy of the film I had seen back in college, Peace Child, on DVD. I enjoyed watching it again. I am amazed at how much of the story they packed into a 30-minute film. I can’t express what it does to my heart to see former cannibals at the end of the film singing gospel songs. Then last year I came across this neat video of Don and his sons going back to visit the Sawi 50 years after that first visit.

(You can see a list of other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)

It Was For Me

I love the words to this song,  and the music by Rod France arranged by Faye Lopez beautifully expresses the message.

Why leave a heav’nly mansion?
Why choose a simple stall?
Why wander poor and homeless,
The King and Lord of all?
Why heal a lonely beggar?
Why cause the blind to see?
The Light of all creation,
Shining there for me?

Chorus:
It was for me He cried, for me He died,
for me He shed His blood upon the tree.
It was for me He came, for me His shame;
For me, oh praise His name, it was for me.

Why stay in Olive’s garden?
Why spend the night in prayer?
Why suffer such betrayal
In anguish kneeling there?
Why leave His mother crying?
Why set Barabbas free?
The spotless Lamb of heaven
Given there for me.

Why climb that dreadful mountain?
Why suffer agony?
Why give His blood a fountain,
Spilled and broken, flowing free?
When He walked the road to Calv’ry,
Gave His life so willingly,
Broken there, the Rose of Sharon died for me.

(Chorus)

The King who came from heaven,
To the cry, “There is no room,”
Now must lay His weary body
In a cold and borrowed tomb.
But the grave, it would not hold Him;
Death lost its victory.
The risen Lord of glory
is living now for me.

It was for me He cried, for me He died,
for me He shed His blood upon the tree.
It was for me He came, for me His shame;
For me, oh praise His name, it was for me.

— Dave Bolling

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6.

______________________________

Updated to add: I have been asked several times for the sheet music for this song. I don’t have it. I only have a recorded version on a couple of CDs (Creator, Redeemer and King by The Wilds Men’s Quartet; another is Sing Praise to God by The Wilds Christian Camp. An instrumental version is on the Almighty, Unchangeable God CD, also from The Wilds.) At this time the Wilds Christian Camp has a SATB version as well as a TTBB version on their site. Go to http://wilds.org/, click on Store, then Click on Product Search and search for the song by title.