Reaching the Uncivilized Native

Going from a suspicious stranger to being considered a leader.


"Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men ; forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the liv­ing God ; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." 2 Cor. 3 :2, 3.

When I first came to the mission field, some ten years ago, to work with the uneducated Indians of the Lake Titicaca Mission territory, I noticed something that greatly impressed and often disturbed me. It was the way the Indians would come around where I was working, and just stand there or sit there for hours at a time, without saying anything or doing any­thing. It made no difference what I was doing —treating the sick, selling medicine or school­books, studying, building, or repairing some­thing—I would find some of the Indians around, with apparently no definite object in mind. To an American, such a procedure was indeed most puzzling.

As time passed by, I began to understand what their object was. Perhaps unconsciously, but nevertheless surely, they were reading me. I was to them as a letter which they were studying. They had no degrees in mental sci­ence, no knowledge of telepathy or psychology, but they were surely reading my character, cautiously and coldly analyzing me, to see how it happened that I was among them, and if I were friend or enemy. The thought was almost terrifying as I began to realize its significance.

I had spent years in school and college, pre­paring to tell people about the third angel's message, about a soon-coming Saviour, about the great prophecies of Daniel and the Revela­tion; and while I was trying to do that in a simple way those to whom I was speaking had me up on trial. They were giving me a thor­ough and merciless examination. Even as I talked to them on many occasions, it seemed that they were looking beyond what I was say­ing, and were thinking about what I was, rather than what I said. Words were all right and necessary, but they were not enough.

How could I reach the place where they would consider me a leader, one whom they could trust for guidance, instead of a suspicious stranger? Would a sermon on the 2300 days help? Would a thorough review of the proph­ecies of Daniel and Revelation aid? Such an effort would be almost without value to a peo­ple whose entire range of thought had never reached beyond the time in which they lived, nor their radius of interest beyond the family circle.

They themselves answered my question. Be­fore they would rest their eternal destiny upon any body or doctrine, or accept the leadership of any one in such vital matters, they must see proof. And they were looking to me for that proof. I was surprised to see that they had no difficulty in recognizing that the ten command­ments were the law of God, the rule of right. Even the most savage man seemed to recognize that, even though he did not obey them. I realized then that my fundamental work was not simply to give these people an understand­ing of the prophecies, but to save them from sin, and to lead them to place their all at the feet of Jesus.

Here I saw that the uneducated native has a distinct advantage over the educated man. The educated man builds his faith, at least in great part, upon the proved historical values of Christianity, of the Bible, and of what faith in Jesus has accomplished in the past. He seems to require all of this before he can ac­cept Jesus as his Saviour. This results in a faith that is built largely on abstract proof. It is not so with the native. He is more practical, and also requires more concrete proof. He wants to see evidence before his eyes. And hav­ing seen it in the life of the missionary, he accepts all unreservedly. The teachings of the prophecies come later, strengthening the faith already built up. But they are secondary. The primary objective is to establish the native's faith in Jesus as his Saviour, as the One and only One who can satisfy his sours deep need.

How vividly I remember the time a mission­ary revealed a bit of sarcasm and anger in a remark to a young native who was helping at a funeral. This young man had been friendly for a long time, and we hoped he would be a worker someday. From that day he left us alone, as if we were poison. I tried to win him back; but he simply replied that if the gospel of Jesus could not keep us from getting angry, how could he expect it to keep him from getting angry? How could the fulfillment of Daniel 2 be a more powerful sermon to him than that experience? The loss of a potential fellow worker was not the saddest part of the record carried to heaven that day, but the burial of the faith of a simple Indian boy, crushed by a human failure to properly live the life of victory. The missionary tried to make it right, but it was too late.

What a contrast such a sad experience pre­sents to the stories of sacrifice and devotion which the natives tell about the missionaries who have won them. A native who worked with Pastor Stahl never tired of telling how he would visit them .in their homes, heal their sick, and in everything reveal the love of Jesus. Upon that great work is built the conversion of thousands of Indians around Lake Titicaca today. Many others have followed the same example. One of the most thrilling ex­periences one can have is to hear the natives tell of what the missionaries have done for them, and of their love for Jesus.

Perhaps we can learn from these simple na­tives. How can we save others, if we ourselves are not saved? Of what value to us is the teaching of the prophecies, if it does not pro­duce the fruits of righteousness in us? Thanks be to God, it does produce these fruits, as is witnessed by the many thousands that today rejoice in victory through Jesus in this last great message! At the same time we must recognize that the great objective is victory over sin and faith in Jesus. How unworthy we are to stand before lost men as living repre­sentatives of Jesus, as living examples of what Jesus can do for a man. Yet how marvelous are the workings of God through the devoted missionaries and workers all over the earth who have witnessed for Him. May God make us worthy workers in the greatest work on earth —that of saving men for eternity.

Lima, Peru.

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November 1936

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