Living Among a Tribe of Cannibals

My good friend Paul Richardson who is the author of A Certain Risk: Living Your Faith at the Edge (listen to an interview with him here) sent the following email a couple of days ago.

“Fifty years ago an adventurous 25-year-old Canadian and his American wife set out to find the end of the world. They sailed on a ship for six weeks across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, then found their way north to a massive, untamed island in Southeast Asia. Stretched like a menacing archaeopteryx across the steaming equator, this island was and remains without argument the most breath-taking, dangerous, unpredictable, mysterious and rugged place on the face of our planet.

The young couple paddled in a wooden, dugout canoe 20 miles up a winding river into the heart of a crocodile-infested swamp, where they settled in with a tribe of cannibals who lived in thatched tree houses perched above the canopy of the rain forest. There, a million miles from nowhere, Don and Carol built a tiny thatch-roofed home, mastered the tribal language, and dedicated themselves to bring about hope to a people who had coexisted since the beginning of time with fear, violence, betrayal and internal darkness.

That young couple was my mom and dad. Their intriguing story was chronicled in the missionary classic Peace Child, which became the Reader’s Digest Book of the Year and has sold 400,000. My parents lived in the jungle without electricity for the next 15 years and raised my two brothers, my little sister and me there.

Yesterday was my dad’s 77th birthday. In a few days, my brothers will arrive, and together we are going back to celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the arrival of the message of Hope to this tribe. After a day on the north coast, where the three of us attended boarding school as children, a small, single engine airplane will carry us over the towering mountains to the southern swamps. Our pilot will most likely circle our old villages a few times while strategizing his landing on the same little river where my parents arrived by canoe so long ago.

We will spend four days with our tribe, celebrating, hugging, speaking, sharing, and retelling our memories. Over 2,000 guests from the four surrounding tribes are planning to attend the celebration. The villagers have prepared a reenactment of the arrival of the message of Hope. In my own heart, the excitement I am feeling rivals what I felt in the weeks before my wedding day and the births of my children. The entire trip will be documented by two filmmakers.

Will there be a cloud of witnesses somehow watching this celebration from the edge of Heaven? I don’t really know. If there is, my mom will be in the front row. This trip is dedicated to her.”

Grateful for the Richardsons’ adventurous spirit which continues through their kids and inspires so many of us!

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