A common statement you might hear in response to Christian workers going to remote people groups is, ‘Why don’t you leave them alone? They are happy the way they are.’ Have you ever heard this…or thought this? We thought we’d ask those who could shed the most light on the issue – the people themselves!
So we made the trek into one such remote group and asked, “Some people back home say you were happy the way you were, that you should have been left alone. What would you say to that?” Every person we talked to had an emphatic response, contrasting their lives before and after the arrival of the Gospel and the Christian workers who brought it.
One woman replied, “What! Who told you that talk? They should be saying, ‘They live in darkness. Let them have the opportunity to live in the light.’” Some men responded, “Before the missionaries came we were incredibly afraid of the spirits. When we were afraid we would cut ourselves. Fear absolutely reigned over us. You can’t fathom how bad it was. Now we’re no longer under bondage to the fear that came with the many taboos we had. We’re free.”
Twenty years before this isolated people group was spotted by a pilot flying over a jungle in the Asia-Pacific. These people were undocumented, forgotten by the rest of the world. A group of Christian workers eventually went to live among them. As they soon found out, life in the jungle was a miserable cycle of spirit appeasement. There were strict and bizarre rules for every occasion, ranging from the need to slash themselves when they were sick and taboos on food when they were hungry. Human life was not valued, and children were neglected, even killed, if caring for them became tiresome.
The new missionary team did not want to directly change their culture, but simply introduce them to God. They wanted these people to fall in love with their Creator. To know him and his love for them. So after years of grueling language and culture learning, the team (comprised of three families) bit by bit shared God’s Word to any who would listen, all whilst providing desperately needed medical care.
Today fear of evil spirits no longer haunt this people group. They can eat anything, go anywhere, and human life is valued. Families are starting to live under the same roof together. The medical and educational transformation is remarkable, and that’s not even taking into account the spiritual change. It’s not uncommon to see families reading God’s Word together around the fire, tracing their fingers under words they have just learned to read. They see themselves as a free people. It is evident they have a purpose and their joy is actually contagious.