Lessons/Stories from the Bush
The other night a missionary named John Cutts came by our house to talk to my family and some friends. John lives with the Moni tribe in West Papua. He has lived there since he was 2 years old. John’s parents were missionaries to the Moni, wrote out the Moni alphabet language for the first time, and translated most of the Bible into Moni. John knows their language fluently and continues ministering to them today with his wife. Here are some of the stories he told us. All of them are true.
The tribes in Papua New Guinea speak over 1/5 of all the world's languages. One of the biggest tribes in the mountainous area is the Moni Tribe. In the area where John grew up, there are 4 main tribes--and Moni is the largest.
Hazi Talk: These tribes had never seen a white person before missionaries in the 20th century arrived, and yet they had a strange legend in their culture. For generations the chiefs taught their tribes a legend about the white people like ghosts who would come someday. These ghost people would teach Hazi (eternal talk). They would tell the tribes how to live forever. I got goosebumps when John told that story! No one knows how that legend started or why it circulated for so long. It was an important part of their culture long before the first white man ever showed up.
First Encounter: The first time a white person showed up on the island, the news spread like wildfire. The chief of the Moni people heard that a white ghost had arrived and was speaking to a nearby tribe. The Moni chief walked through the jungle for three days to see the white ghost. Because the missionary was visiting another tribe that spoke another language, the Moni chief couldn't understand everything that was being said. After the missionary was done talking, the chief asked him to come to his village. The missionary couldn't understand him, so he gave the chief a bar of soap and a glass bottle of merthiolate, which is like iodine, some of the best medicine of the day. The chief walked back to his village and called all the people around him. He told them that a white ghost had given these gifts to him, and they were going to let his people live forever. Then he shaved the bar of soap into pieces and gave them out to the tribe, telling them to eat it. The people did, but there wasn't enough soap for everyone. So then the chief gave the people who didn't get any soap a sip of the merthiolate, but there wasn't enough of that either. So then he took a rock and smashed the glass bottle of merthiolate, and gave a little piece of glass to everyone who didn't get some soap or merthiolate, and they ate the glass. But the people kept dying and the missionary never showed up. Until John's parents walked into the village years later.
John’s parents lived with the Moni people, learning their language and culture. They were eager to share the Gospel with the Moni people, and eventually, God showed them the perfect way to explain the Good News. It's amazing how the Gospel reaches people of all nations and languages. To the Moni people, the Gospel just makes sense. There is a tradition within the tribes of West Papua. When two tribes war with each other, they have to keep fighting until there has been an equal number of deaths on each side. So, if side A has 4 deaths but side B has 6 deaths, they have to keep fighting. Maybe the next day, side A has 6 deaths, but now side B has 7 deaths. So they have to keep warring.
But there is a way out of it. If the tribe with fewer deaths decides it doesn’t want to fight anymore, they can have the Ceremony of the White Pig. What this means is that the tribe that has the fewer deaths will pick one of its warriors to sacrifice. The tribe selects the warrior, binds his hands, ties him to a spear, and hands him over to the other side as an offering of peace. It is called the Ceremony of the White Pig because pigs are the most valuable things in their culture. Pigs are a sign of wealth, used to buy brides, and during times of festivities. The White Pig (the chose warrior) is given to the other tribe, and they kill him. Then there can be peace between the tribes again.
So, the idea of Jesus as a sacrifice makes perfect sense to them. God wants peace with mankind so badly, He gave His best warrior and only son as a sacrifice so we could have peace. How amazing that such a concept makes perfect sense to people in one of the most remote places in the world!
An Actual Ceremony: John gets invited to a Ceremony of the White Pig. It's a really big deal for him to be invited and to be able to witness the ceremony. So John arrives at the place where the ceremony is happening. The two tribes are hooping and hollering and dancing around because they are so excited to enter a time of peace. The warrior who has been chosen as the White Pig is in the center of this giant celebration, hands tied to a spear that's stuck in the ground. John is watching all of this, thinking, "What am I supposed to do? Do I cut the guy loose? Do I stop them and tell them its wrong? Do I say to take me in his place?" And as he is thinking and praying, all of a sudden, all of these warriors come running into the clearing screaming and celebrating up a storm! In their hands are giant sticks, and they are carrying large, live boars tied to the sticks. They lay out the boars, one after another in front of the other tribe. There are 63 boars! The tribe that caught the pigs asks the other tribe if they will accept the 63 pigs as a gift instead of their warrior as a sacrifice. They say that they know now that they shouldn't sacrifice their own because of Jesus, and even though it's a serious tradition, they'd like to give 63 boars in his place.
The other tribe huddles together and talks about it for awhile. They finally decide to take the boars in place of the warrior. And they cut him free.
How amazing is that? We are like the warrior, tied to a spear, about to be sacrificed because of our sin, and Jesus takes our place (like the boars) and cuts us free of our bonds.
If you liked these stories and want to know more and/or support John, here is a link to his website: http://villageheartbeat.org/