This is a video of the Kimyal people of West Papua New Guinea receiving the New Testament for the first time. This is moving, and makes me think about how we take our Bibles for granted.
But there is another part to this story that is equaling moving–maybe more. I read the book “Lords of the Earth,” by Don Richardson this last summer. It told of the life of missionary Stanley Dale. Stanley was a stubborn man that had lost a couple of jobs because of his bull headedness, causing conflicts with co-workers. But he had a heart for God and a heart to see the Gospel brought to the people of Papua New Guinea. For every mountain and tribe there was one more behind it, and he wanted to get to those people.
He was able to reach one tribe with the good news of Jesus Christ after he had drawn a line in the sand that demanded that they totally abolish their animistic ways to follow Jesus—–no mixing and matching. Some criticized this move as being yet another way that Stanley was too narrow minded or bull headed to continue serving on the mission field.
But soon thereafter, a revival broke out and not only did that tribe begin to follow Jesus whole heartedly, but so did several neighboring tribes. Not so with the Yali, the people group behind this video. In 1961 Stan had made a trip to make an attempt to reach them. They would have nothing of it, vowing to never give up their way of life and to kill the man who would try to pervert it. Stan was shot with five arrows and he pulled them out and continued on. One or two would fell an average man, so this man must be a god, they reasoned.
Stan did retreat and made the trek again, determined to reach them with the Gospel. He went with a man, Phil Masters, whom he had just begun to work with. The news of their approach spread quickly throughout the Yali tribe and they launched out an all out attack on the duo. They could have retreated again, but Stan would have nothing of it. Again, his dogged determination forged him ahead. Perhaps it was from God all along, but it just needed to be tempered.
They did not run. They could have cut off a foot bridge across a steep gorge, prohibiting the warriors to get to them. Again, Stan would not cut it off, hoping to use it as a bridge to them, not a separation from them. The warriors caught up to Stan and Phil and the arrows began to pelt them. Instead of running, Stan stood there and took each one with a set look on his face. Encouraged by Stan, Phil did the same.
As the arrows hit Stan, he pulled them out, one by one. “He must be a god,” they thought. Surely again, no man could live. Finally, the two men became too weak to continue to stand and they fell that day. The Yali cut them up and ate them, scattering their bones so that they could not be resurrected. Cannibals have traditionally ate people so they could get their powerful spirit, making them a better warrior. They did eventually become better warriors as a result, ones for Jesus. What an irony.
This was in 1968. Another missionary couple were able to make inroads in the 1990’s. This video was made in 2011. It took quite a while for the Gospel to reach this people group, but its impact is stunning. Stanley Dale’s stubborn bull-headedness was tempered by God to make him able to forge to unreached territories for the sake of the Gospel. May we all be so indomitable.
Stan and Phil could not see the result of their last stand, but we can. I try to remember that as I sow seeds that do not have an immediate, visible result. May I continue to proclaim Jesus with a holy stubbornness and an indomitable spirit.