On a Visit with Our Brethren


On a Visit with Our Brethren

September 20th, 1964 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 15:36

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
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Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

Acts 15:36

9-20-64  8:15 a.m.



In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, after a visit of Paul and Barnabas to the mission field, in the thirty-sixth verse, Paul says to Barnabas, “Let us go and visit our brethren . . . and see how they do” [Acts 15:36].  And that is what we are going to do this morning.  We are going to visit our brethren who represent the gospel message of Christ in a faraway land among savage and darkened people, and we are going to see how they fare.

            I would like first of all to speak of things to eat.  I sat down at a table, a homemade table in a homemade kind of a hut.  I sat down with a missionary and his wife and their three little stair-stepped blond girls.  It happened that as I sat at the table, I faced the end of the little house made out of cheap boards in which they had their home.

            Here in the center was a makeshift of a table where she prepared the vittles.  To the right was a basin of some kind in which she poured water that was brought up from a distance to wash the pots and pans and plates.  And to my left, in the same end of that tiny little house, was an old beat-up oil burner cookstove.

            And as I sat down at the table with those three little blond girls and that missionary and his wife, I thought this is about as primitive a situation as I have ever shared.  And as I tried to eat the food that they live on all the time out there, I noticed a poem on the wall before the kitchen table upon which that dear wife and mother prepared those meals.  And I copied down that poem.  Listen to it.  It read:


Bless my pretty kitchen, Lord,

                        And light it with Thy love

                        Help me plan and cook my meals

                        From Thy heavenly home above


Bless our meals with Thy presence

                        And warm them with Thy grace

                        Watch over me as I do my work

                        Washing pots, and pans, and plates.


The service I am trying to do

                        Is to make my family content

                        So bless my eager efforts, Lord

                        And make them heaven sent.

[“My Kitchen Prayer,” anonymous]


            And I looked at that poem again and again.  “Bless my pretty kitchen, Lord.”  And I never saw so primitive a situation to prepare meals in my life, and yet that beautiful glorious, heavenly sentiment there.  That place was filled with the presence of Jesus.  And that poem so effectively reflected that humble devotion in that family group. 

You know, I took along a whole lot of food with me with a can opener.  I was prepared.  I had all kinds of things that I brought so I would have something to eat that I like out there in that faraway jungle.

You know something else?  I never ate a bite of it, not a bite.  I never opened a can of it.  I never touched it.  I couldn’t.  I’d have to go off and hide somewhere to eat it.  Then I couldn’t do it.  I took that stuff, every bit of it that I had brought along with my can opener and I gave it to all of those missionary families and I said, “Here, you take it, and you eat it, and you enjoy.  I can’t. I can’t.”  I gave every bit of it to them.

Did you ever try to go off somewhere and there are little hungry children who never tasted in their lives these good things that we have in America?  Go off somewhere and eat it by yourself?  Why, I couldn’t swallow it.  I couldn’t get it down.  I gave it to those little children and to those missionary families.

I came across something that, when I spoke of it, it had such a different effect than what I had thought for.  There is a man in one of those jungle bases who takes care of the little airplanes.  And he’s very proud of his parts department.  So we walked together down those little aisles in which he had labeled all of the different parts and there are just thousands of them to keep them little planes in the air. 

As we walked down one of the aisles I saw a jar of what looked like oil, some kind of special oil that had the top askew.  It wasn’t quite down.  It wasn’t straight.  And I had seen things in laboratories that were volatile and the fumes would explode the container if it wasn’t open somewhat.  So I paused there at that one and I said, “Look here. This must be some kind of a liquid that is highly volatile and if you were to close the top down tight it would explode.”

“Oh no,” said Bart, “Oh no, not at all.”  He said, “An Indian has tried to put the lid on that jar and an Indian can’t screw a lid on a jar.  He can’t learn it.”

I said, “You mean to tell me so a simple a thing as screwing a lid on a jar he can’t learn?”

He said, “No, he never learned how to do that, and he always leaves it just like that.  You know, we had in our house a jar of peanut butter and once a day my wife and I would allow ourselves the luxury of each one of us tasting peanut butter.  He said, “Every day when we went to our place in the kitchen shelf to take down that jar of peanut butter,” he said, “the lid was askew.  It wasn’t down.  And I asked my wife, ‘Why don’t you screw this lid down?’  She said, ‘Well, I do.  I wanted to ask you that.  Why don’t you screw that lid down?’ Well, to our amazement we found that our Indian maid every day was also taking just a little taste of that peanut butter and she never did learn to screw the lid down.

“So,” Bart said to me, “we were going to accost her and ask her about eating the things that we had that she had no permission to do.” But Bart said to his wife, “No, let’s just wait and see how long it takes that Indian girl to learn to screw that lid down straight.”  He said, “You know we found out that that girl never could learn to do it.  Until all the peanut butter was gone, she never learned to screw that lid on straight, never did.”

Well, I thought that was a good illustration of how mechanically minded we are, and how slow it is for a primitive person to learn to use gadgets.  But you know I told that story to a little group and they never got the point at all.  They never thought anything about that Indian.  They never thought anything about how long it took them to screw a lid on.

What impressed them was this.  They said to me, “I just cannot imagine living in a place where a jar of peanut butter was considered so luxurious an item that you took one little taste of it each day.”  This is the life of the missionary.  And the loneliness of their ministry in those faraway places is hard for us to realize.

In order to pick us up in Taiwano, in the Auca village, the little plane had to go up to an airstrip and dump out everything he had in his airplane, the provisions that he was taking back to his base Arajuna, which was an airstrip made by the Shell Oil Company, abandoned years ago but still cut there in the jungle with a few thatch huts that also were abandoned.

So he dumped out all of his freight and provisions in the little plane.  He took it all out at Arajuna and came over to Taiwano, to that Auca village, and picked up Clarence Church and me.  And then flew back over there to Arajuna to reload his plane for the airstrip was long enough there he could get it up in the air with two of us with him and with his little load of freight.

When we landed at Arajuna there were some Quechua Indians who, seeing the plane come down, came to the airport to see it land.  And when I got out of the plane just to look at those Quechua Indians, there came a young fellow running just as fast as he could up there to the plane where we had landed.  He was an American young man, a tall young fellow.

And he said to us, he said, “I haven’t seen anybody in so long.  And I haven’t talked in English to anybody in so long.”  He said, “When I saw the little plane start coming down to land here at Arajuna,” he said, “I just wanted to see you and I wanted to say something to you.  And I just wanted to hear my language once again.”

He was a Plymouth Brethren missionary.  He had settled as a single young man in one of those abandoned thatched huts.  And he was ministering to those Quechua Indians in the heart of the jungle alone.  I thought of a girl that I had talked to, one of our missionary girls in the heart of Nigeria, and remarking about so many who had come and gone, she had stayed for so long.

And when I remarked upon that, she said, “Yes, I’ve seen many come and many go.  And I’ve stayed through the years.”  But she added, “You do not know how many nights I have buried my face in the pillow and cried myself to sleep out of sheer loneliness.”

May I speak of their identification with their people? That is what to me is the noblest thing an emissary of God can do; to identify herself, himself, with the people to whom God has sent them.  Not that they are down there and I am up here; they are below and I am above; they are ignorant and depraved and I am cultivated and advanced.  But we are down here or up there; wherever we are, we are together in the love and mercy of Jesus. 

There was an Auca girl who because of the killings, and the slayings, and the sexual orgy, and all of her family gone and speared, she swam across the large, wide Napo River, thinking that certainly she would die in her own tribe.  Maybe she could live out there with a foreigner and a stranger.  And a Quechua Indian saw her and shot her. 

A missionary found her and carried her to an army hospital.  And there in the army hospital it looked as though the Auca girl would die; not so much because of her wounds, having been shot, but mostly because of the loneliness and fearsomeness of her life. 

Rachel Saint, that woman who went to the Aucas and is still there, she heard about that child, a girl about sixteen or seventeen.  She heard about the girl in the hospital, and she made her way there.  The girl was starving to death.  None of the food they brought her would she eat.

So Rachel Saint prepared for the girl food that she had eaten all her life as an Auca savage.  And the girl immediately began to respond.  Then she talked to her in her Auca language.  And as Rachel Saint ministered to her, talking her own tongue, speaking her own language, and feeding her food she had known all of her life as a savage forest girl, the child looked up into the face of Rachel Saint and asked, “Are you also an Auca?”

And the missionary said to me, “That was the greatest compliment I ever had in my life.”

“Are you an Auca?”

Why, to be an Auca to me would be the most degraded savage lot that mind could imagine.  But to the missionary she said, “That was my finest compliment.”

I talked to two girls, way back on the back side of that jungle, and in order to make their home just a little livable they put curtains in the window.   And when they did the Indians came and they said to one another, “What a waste of material.  What a waste of material.  What a waste of material.  Look at that.  They are hanging there in window.  What a waste of material.  It could be used for the children, could be used for clothes, could be used for so many things.  What a waste of material.”

When the missionary girls heard it, the first thing they did was take those window curtains down.  And the thatched hut was as bare as the rest of the other thatched huts in which the Indians so primitively lived; identifying themselves with their people.

I speak now of the unafraid sacrifice of their lives in behalf of the mission to which God has called them.  When that book, Through Gates of Splendor was written, those five missionaries who were slain by the upper Aucas, those five missionaries had just died.  And how they died had not been told.  They were just killed by those savage Aucas. 

But after Rachel Saint had entered that tribe and had talked to them about the Lord, and had won those vicious killers to Jesus, the story of the death of those five martyrs was told in detail.  Gikita, whose picture you saw last Wednesday night, and Kimo, the younger man whose picture you saw last Wednesday night, Gikita was the leader, being the older of the band, and Kimo, being the most vigorous, these led in the slaughter of those five missionaries.

And it came about like this.  Gikita, leading the band of Aucas, came upon them in the little place, the little sandbank there on the River Curaray where their plane had come down.  And Gikita killed the first missionary.  And when he did, the other four missionaries, having guns, shot them up in the air and all the Auca men fled away when they shot those pistols up in the air, except Gikita; he stayed, and he called those other Auca men out of their forest hiding place and urged them on to the slaughter of the other four missionaries. 

When the Auca men returned, one of the missionaries ran to the plane, and got in and shut the door.  He looked out the window and his three companions were being speared to death by the Aucas.  And that missionary, who ran to the plane and shut the door, opened the door and walked across the little sand bar and faced fearlessly the spears and the machete knives that cut him down.

Kimo, Kimo never got away from it.  They never defended themselves,  and they died unafraid.  For the Indian is afraid to die.  And when that story was told about the young missionary who ran to get into the plane, and shut the door, and then seeing that his companions were being speared to death, calmly opened the door and walked out to die, I thought of that young man so much; just calmly walking out the door, climbing out of the plane and facing, unafraid, death.


To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of that?


Afraid to see the Savior’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace,
The glory gleam from wounds of grace,
Afraid? Of that?


A flash—a crash—a pierced heart;
Darkness—Light—O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid?  Of that?

. . .


To do by death what life could not—
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall bloom from the spot?
Afraid? Of that?

[“Afraid? Of What?” E.H. Hamilton]

And when I looked and talked to Kimo, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at the great sacrifice in life and in blood that had been paid that he might know Jesus and be saved.

            We visit our brethren and see how they fare.  When I sat down in the thatched hut of Rachel Saint, the missionary there with the upper Aucas, I was reloading my camera.  And immediately, all those Auca men stood in a circle around me.  Oh, they were so interested in something!  They were so interested in something!

It’s hot, as you would know, and I had on a nylon sport shirt, very short sleeved.  I took out my glasses so I could see how to thread that camera just so.  And while I was in that process, there was a whoopedness going on you ever saw in your life.  They were just laughing, and jabbering, and talking, and pointing, and they were just carrying on.

            Well, I thought, “How they are just amazed at these gadgets that I have.”  So I showed them my camera.  I thought it was the camera.  They weren’t interested in the camera at all, not at all.  “Well,” I thought, “it must be my ballpoint pen.”  I was writing notes, showed them my pen, you know,  and how I was writing.  They weren’t interested in that at all.  I thought, “Well, it must be this wristwatch.”  So I showed them my wristwatch.  They weren’t interested in the watch at all.  I took off my glasses and I showed them my glasses.  They weren’t interested in my glasses at all.

            There wasn’t anything they were interested in, no gadget, no thing I had.  And I was nonplussed to figure it out.  So by signs I tried to convey to them what it is they are interested in, and what they are laughing about, and what is so hilarious.  And finally one of those Auca men moved over close to me and took his finger and thumb like that and pulled the hair on my arm.  And they all just died laughing.

            I rubbed my hand over my forearm.  I said, “Oh, it’s the hair on my arm that intrigues you!”  Oh, yeah, they just laughed and laughed. “yeah, yeah” they said, and they all made motions like that.

            Well, shall I tell this or not?  They are perfectly smooth.  They are perfectly smooth.  They have no hair on them at all except on their heads.  And finally I made a sign like this, and then like this, and then like that, and they all went around one to another, you know, making signs like this, and like this, and like this.  The beard that I could grow, they thought that was the most hilarious thing you ever heard of in your life.

            Isn’t that strange?  Isn’t that strange?  What things are interesting to different groups of people when we are reared with different backgrounds and see different things.  And I think about that group of primitive people.  To us, oh how darkened.  To us, how degraded.  And yet you listen. 

            One of the oilmen of the United States had occasion to try to find a certain place in the jungle.  By the way, the Texaco Oil Company on the Putumayo River has made one of the greatest oil discoveries in the world, and the Mobil Oil Company in Peru has done likewise with a tremendous gas field.  That country is going to be opened up.  It is inevitable.

This United States businessman, an oilman, an explorer, was taken by an Indian guide to a certain spot in the jungle in which he was so vitally interested.  And that night, unknown to this oil explorer from North America, he had a devout, humble Christian Indian guide.  And that night when they made camp, to the amazement of this businessman, the Indian opened a Bible and read to the American businessman a part of the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, which is a story of Jesus, the good shepherd [John 10:1-18].  And coming back to Lima, the capital of Peru, he was speaking before a group of people, American people.  And he told the incident of that Indian guide.  He said, “He could see a trail in the forest where I couldn’t see even the change of a vine or a leaf.  He knew exactly where the fresh spring of water was bubbling up.  He knew how to live off of the jungle and to find livelihood and life in the forest.  And,” he said, “the devotion, and the godliness, and the Christian commitment of that Indian man blessed my own soul.”

            He said, “You know, some of these days when the settlers come, and come they will,” he said, “they are going to find in the heart of this vast jungle these converts to Jesus.  And they are going to be the shepherds to create a Christian civilization in the heart of South America.”  We just know different things; that’s all.  Do you realize that?

In Kentucky I had a backwoodsman, the most backwoodsman that I ever saw, and his wife just like him.  She dressed with an old fashioned dress that closed around her neck here and went clear down to her ankles.  She wore high button shoes.  He dressed in homespun, and they lived on the back side of the wilderness of nowhere. 

            Upon a day I decided to go visit him, and I spent the day with him; most ignorant, and the most uncouth, and uncultivated that you could imagine.  But I spent the day with that man.

He knew the name of every tree in the forest.  He could recognize it by the leaf, by the bark, or by the wood.  He knew the name of every bird that sang, and he could see the trail where animals had passed by.  I didn’t know anything of it.  And when I saw how he lived, I would have starved to death back there.  But he lived out of, and off of, and in the wilderness.

            When I came back home after spending the day with him I changed my mind.  That’s about the smartest man, and about the shrewdest man, and about the wisest man I ever visited.  Some of us know just some things.  Some of us know different things.  And because we don’t know what he knows, and he doesn’t know what I know, that doesn’t mean he is ignorant and unlearned.  He may be wise beyond what I can ever attain to in my life. 

            And one other thing to share: the Jivaros are the dreaded headhunters and headshrinkers—and you saw pictures of them last Wednesday night—they are fearsome.  The Shapras are a part of that great Jivaro section of tribal Indians.  They are to be feared.  They are killers.  They are savages from the years as far back as archaeological evidences could portray.  They are vicious. 

            I came upon a group of Jivaro Indians, absolutely unafraid.  I walked down the center of a Jivaro village, and I talked to their people through an interpreter.  And I watched them cook and take care of their children, and I looked on the inside of their thatched huts, absolutely unafraid.  They had also, as we, they had heard the story of Jesus.  And they found forgiveness, and refuge, and peace in the blood of the Lamb.

            You know, as I walked down that Jivaro village of former headhunters and violent savage killers unafraid, there came to my heart a story of a missionary I had heard in India.  There was a great tribe in India, toward the Himalayas, into which no foreigner had ever gone.  And those who had attempted to go were killed.  He was led of God to preach the gospel of Jesus to that vast throng of savage Indians.  Then he was telling about it.  And as I listened to him, this is what he said.

            He said, “You know, one day I was seated on the top of a hill, and I saw below me three thousand of those savage Indians coming up toward me.  But,” he said, “as I sat on the top of the hill and watched them coming up toward me, I was absolutely unafraid.”  He said, “Back of me, back of me was my Baptist church.  And in front of me were three thousand of those Indians dressed in white baptismal robes.  And they were coming up from the river.  And as they had turned from their baptismal service, and were coming up the hill to the church, they were singing:


Happy day, happy day

When Jesus washed my sins away. 

He taught me how to watch and pray

And live rejoicing every day. 

Happy day, happy day

When Jesus washed my sins away.

[refrain from “O Happy Day,” Wesleyan Sacred Harp, 1854]


            Oh, the gracious blessing and the able power of the gospel of the Son of God to save even us!  A love and a grace that reaches down even to me.  Would you like to sing it?  Do so. 


                        Happy day, happy day

                        When Jesus washed my sins away.

                        He taught me how to watch and pray

                        And live rejoicing every day.

                        Happy day, happy day

                        When Jesus washed my sins away.


            This is God’s good news, called in the Greek euaggelion, called in the English “the gospel.”  The words mean the same whether in their language or ours.  It’s the good news of the love of God in Christ Jesus that washes our sins away [John 3:16; Revelation 1:5]. 

            We must close.  While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, put his life in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; somebody you, to give his heart in trust to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], while we sing the song, make the appeal, would you come and stand by me?  “Here, pastor, I give you my hand.  I give my heart to Jesus.”  Or, “Pastor, this is my wife.  We are both coming into the church.”  Or, “These are our children, the whole family is coming today.”  Or just one somebody you, while we sing this song and make this appeal, come; while we stand and while we sing.