Tongues in the Jungle
by Mildred G. Lewis

 

Hidden away, deep in the jungles of Papua, New Guinea, primitive tribes that practice cannibalism still exist. It was to these people that Elder Jim Harris, a missionary to the South Pacific Islands, was seeking to bring the message of the gospel.

In 1980 he took a two hundred fifty-mile journey by canoe along the Sepik River and the May River to a little village called Sari. A little Christian church of twenty-five members met in a little thatched-roof building in this village that had been a stronghold of Satan.

Pidgin English is spoken by most of the people in New Guinea, but these tribes are so isolated that even Pidgin English is unknown to many of them. Finding someone who knows the tribal dialect as well as English is virtually impossible, so preaching the gospel usually requires two interpreters instead of one.

As Elder Harris presented the Gospel in the simple thatched-roof building, the devil worked hard to disrupt the meetings. There was a man in the village who hated Christians and was determined to destroy their church. He began by trying to burn the church down. Carefully he made twelve torches. Just one was more than enough to burn the church like paper since it was made only of dry thatch and thin wooden boards. Late at night, when the villagers were sleeping, he came stealthily to the church with his twelve torches. He stood outside, lighted one of the torches, and threw the flaming ball up onto the dry thatch.

As the torch hit the roof, a big ball of flame immediately shot thirty feet into the air. Everyone in the village woke up and came rushing out to see what was going on. But the fire went out! The church did not burn!

Again he tried as the villagers looked on. Again there was a tremendous flash, and flames leaped high, covering the church with fire. But just as quickly, the fire went out without burning the church.

The angry man tried the third torch. Then the fourth and the fifth! He continued until he had used every one of his twelve torches. Those simple village people witnessed a marvelous demonstration that led them to understand that God's power is stronger than Satan's is.

The frustrated man went home to sulk. Undaunted, the angry devil worshipper tried another tactic. He owned an ax--not just a stone ax like most of the tribal people, but an ax with a steel head. He was determined that nothing would stop him from destroying the meetinghouse. If he could not burn it down, he would chop it down! He chose a post at the corner of the building and took a mighty swing. Before the blade struck the post, the ax handle broke and the ax head fell useless to the ground. Confused, he went home and carved a new handle. The next night he tried again, but again the handle broke in mid air. Once more he retreated to carve a new and better handle. But the same thing happened the third time. God had intervened.

After the third ax handle had broken, he decided to go in and learn about the God who was so powerful. Pastor Harris was giving a message to the people telling them of the hope of eternal life where there is no sickness, no death, and no hunger. It was a precious message too those needy people

Their lives are filled with unending sickness. The villagers contract malaria by the time they are two weeks old. For the rest of their lives they suffer from recurrences of the malaria. This weakens them leaving them vulnerable too many other diseases. Food is scarce, so hunger is a constant companion. Death is a well-known visitor to these tribal villages where people seldom live past forty years of age and where half of their little ones die in infancy.

They can hardly comprehend what it would mean to not be hungry, not be sick, and live in a peaceful land where there is no death. They know too well the meaning of tragedy, pain, and sorrow.

Pastor Harris announced the title of his sermon, "Our Father in Heaven." "The Big Pella Masta on Top," the first interpreter echoed. Then the voice of the second interpreter was heard translating from Pidgin into the tribal language.

"The Big Pella Masta on Top"--"Is preparing a place for you," Elder Harris continued. Again the two interpreters translated. It was a lengthy, time consuming process. The people had no background in any religion except devil worship, so even the concept of what heaven is and who "Our Father in Heaven" is, had to be explained. With two translators, this simple message would take nearly one and a half hours to give.

About three-fourths of the way through the sermon Pastor Harris noticed that both translators were standing there silent. "Do you understand what I am saying?" He questioned them in English.

To his utter amazement, before they could respond, the gathered people replied, "Yes, Pastor, we understand, keep speaking." Thrilled, but awed by the obvious presence of the Holy Spirit, he completed the sermon. The people understood every word.

Upon finishing the sermon he taught them to sing two songs in English. What a sweet sound that must have been to hear those fierce tribal people as they began to sing the songs of Jesus.

About three-fourths of the way through the sermon Pastor Harris noticed that both translators were standing there silent. "Do you understand what I am saying?" He questioned them in English.

To his utter amazement, before they could respond, the gathered people replied, "Yes, Pastor, we understand, keep speaking." Thrilled, but awed by the obvious presence of the Holy Spirit, he completed the sermon. The people understood every word.

Upon finishing the sermon he taught them to sing two songs in English. What a sweet sound that must have been to hear those fierce tribal people as they began to sing the songs of Jesus.

"God is so good,

"He answers prayer,

"He's coming soon,



God is so good,

He answers prayer,

He's coming soon,



God is so good,

He answers prayer,

He's coming soon,



He's so good to me.

He's so good to me.

He's so good to me."

"Alleluia, Alleluia,

Alleluia, Alleluia,

Alleluia, Alleluia,

Alleluia, Praise the Lord!"



The sound of harmonious singing drifted out over the jungle. Once again the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt as the people, most of whom had never even heard English before, sang with perfect understanding and flawless accents.

Pastor Harris was filled with a quiet, holy joy as he stepped into the canoe with his companion to return to his humble abode that night. As the reality of what had happened dawned upon them, they praised God for His marvelous works to the children of men. God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Instead of giving just Elder Harris the gift of tongues, He had given the whole audience the gift of tongues so that they could be taught more effectively the gospel of God's love. God wants them to know that He is powerful and that He loves them.

 

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