Grow: Don Richardson (Missionary May Series)
We continue our focus on missionaries in the month of May by looking at the work of Don Richardson.
Before I begin, I’ve got to confess that I am no missionary expert. I didn’t grow up learning about those that took the gospel to all nations. I don’t really know very many now. But I do want my children to know about them. And so I’m embarking on new territory for me so that I can make sure my kids know about the “great cloud of witnesses” that are around them and that have come before them (Hebrews 12:1).
Don Richardson is most well known for his work with the Sawi tribes in New Guinea. He went there with his wife, Carol, and his seven month old son to bring the gospel to this group of tribes who thought that murder and deceit were good things. They thought that it was a worthwhile tactic to feign interest and friendship with an enemy only to kill him once he got comfortable enough.
Don worked hard to learn their language, and he tried for months to help the tribes understand the gospel. But when he got to the part about Judas betraying Jesus, the tribes missed the point of the story and saw Judas as the hero, since that is what they themselves viewed as a good character trait.
Because of this ingrained but warped view of treachery, the tribes were always at war and fighting amongst themselves. Don and his wife eventually came to a point where they had decided that they must leave because of the danger to them and their family.
But the tribes didn’t want them to go. They said that they would make peace.
To do this, a child from one tribe was given to another. Similarly, that tribe gave a child back to the first tribe. The child that was given was called the peace child. And it was in this exchange of children that Don saw his opening to sharing the gospel.
He explained to them that Jesus was God’s peace child to us. He gave Him to us so that there would be peace between God and man. It was through this illustration and the perseverance of Don and his family that the Sawi tribes came to know who Jesus really was and accept the gospel.
You can read more about Don here or in his book Peace Child.
Or you can watch the movie Peace Child or see the video clip Never the Same that looks at the impact the gospel has had on these tribes since the offering of the peace children 50 years ago.
When thinking about how to share this story with Sebastian (I think Elliot is a bit young now, but he’ll listen just the same), all I could think to focus on was the act of sharing. The tribes had to give up something precious to them in order for there to be peace. God did the same thing with us. So, I’ll explain that when he shares his truck or airplane or train that he really loves, especially when he doesn’t want to, he is doing what God did for us: showing us love so that there can be peace. It’s simplistic, but I hope that something will stick.
I’m glad I took the time to learn about this amazing man of Christ and his story of perseverance and success in sharing the gospel. I hope that I will take the time (and have the patience) to find the ways to make the gospel accessible to all, especially my children. They are my mission field right now. I am determined to be a faithful missionary to them, and I am encouraged by those who have gone before me.