On a Visit with Our Brethren
September 20th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
ON A VISIT WITH OUR BRETHREN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-20-64 10:50 a.m.
On radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled On a Visit with Our Brethren.
Every once in awhile somebody will ask me, “When you preach to the missionaries and when you preach to the savage, what do you say? What do you preach?” Well, it just came to my heart that I just tell you what I say, and what I preach when I preach to a savage group, and when I preach to a hungry hearted, lonely missionary group in an outpost far, far away.
And I am going to do that tonight. There will not be something I’ve concocted sitting in a chair. I am going to summarize tonight messages that I have preached to those lonely-hearted missionaries. And I am going to summarize a message that I preached to a savage band of Auca Indians. And I hope God will bless it as you listen to what your pastor actually says in these faraway places.
Today, at this hour, we are going to visit those dear people. This will be the last Sunday that I speak of it, but there are so many things to be said I couldn’t find it in my heart to turn aside from the messages delivered last Sunday. This is a great time to pray for God’s remembrance of these missionary and evangelistic efforts.
So I had it in my soul to go see my brethren. And this is according to the Word of our Lord for in the Book of Acts, in the thirty-sixth verse of chapter 15 Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go and visit our brethren . . . and see how they do” [Acts 15:36]. And that’s what I did.
And I went to an unusual place. For most of our work is done in the great cities. City work is pretty much alike all over the world. How the people live, how they dress, and the houses, and the mass transportation, and all the other attendant adjuncts of urban life. Pretty much our work in a city is the same. But for one time in my life I wanted to go where people live in a savage background and where the pioneer missionary had to cut his way through a jungle to bear the good news of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
So I chose having been in Africa, having been in India, having been in Borneo, having been in Java, having been in the Philippine Islands, having been in places like that; I chose what I thought would be and what actually proved to be the most frontier, and untouched, and savage of all of the areas in this present world. I went to the jungles of the Orinoco and the Amazon basin.
And in that vast almost illimitable stretch of unpenetrated, un-mapped, un-trailed land, my heart was blessed. And that blessing, if God will be good to me, we shall share this morning hour, the missionary and what he’s like and how he does. A part of this message I prepared tonight is going to be who is called. Who is that missionary? You would be surprised who he is. For to us the missionary is a preacher. He’s an evangelist.
Most of those who work in that vast and illimitably meted area are not preachers as such. For the need is not a preacher as such. You don’t have any congregation. You don’t have anybody to preach to. You don’t have a church. You don’t have anything but misery, and hatred, and murder, and blood, and killing; and the need is oh, in so many areas.
For example, when we began this journey, our planned journey, our four hour airplane journey to the Shapras up in the Maranon Basin, I ate breakfast early that morning with an agriculturist. HIs name was Herbert Fuquay. He was a professor in the University of Iowa teaching agriculture. And God touched his heart, and he is now in those jungles teaching those Indians how to raise jute and how to raise corn and papaya and all the things that the jungle can so lusciously grow.
So at the breakfast table he opened his Bible and he said to me, he said, “These are the words of God that comfort our missionary hearts, and this is the word we pray for you on your journey today across the jungle.” And he read,
My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
(Psalm 121: 2-3, 5, 8)
Then he bowed his head and prayed for me; this agriculturist, this missionary of Jesus.
Well, what are they like and how do they fare? And Paul said to Barnabas, “Barnabas, let us visit our brethren . . . and see how they do” [Acts 15:36]. This is how they do.
I speak first of the way they eat and how they prepare their meals. I was in a shabby, it is a shabby made out of boards—you saw some of them last Wednesday night—just whatever they could lay their hands on, put it together and that’s home. And in this place, this claptrap, boarded-up place that they call house and home, there is a makeshift counter, and here the mother prepares the meal. And there is a big washbasin in which she washes pots and pans and plates. And there is a bucket of water that has been drawn and brought up from a great distance. And over here is an old dilapidated kerosene-burning cook stove. And here is a handmade, homemade table.
And when I sat down to eat with the family, the missionary and his wife and three little blond girls, and I sat on this side of the table facing the kitchen, all in one room with their beds and their mosquito nets back of me, and the eating table here, and then the little counter, and that old beat-up stove, and the bucket of water.
And as I sat there breaking bread with the family, I saw a poem that she had tacked up on the wall before her face as she prepares the meal at the counter, and I copied down that poem. You listen to it. It was entitled “My Kitchen Prayer.” And here it goes. “Bless my pretty kitchen, Lord.” That was the first verse. “Bless my pretty kitchen, Lord.” With an old beat-up kerosene burner for a stove, and a basin for washing and for cleaning, and a bucket of water brought in from a far off place.
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]
I have eaten in palaces but I’ve never felt like that. You just felt the presence of God and the benediction of heaven upon our breaking bread together with those three little blonde girls.
Now when I went I took a lot of food with me. I was given some food. I bought some food. I had a can opener. I was prepared for any eventuality. I wasn’t going to starve for sure, no matter where I landed in the jungle.
Well, I liked the bananas and I liked the pineapple. And I got along somewhat with the papaya. If I were real hungry and starving to death, I’d like it. But the rest of it I sort of had to struggle with.
So in that eventuality I took along with me as much as my weight would allow on the part of the airline. I took along a lot of things to eat and my can opener. So I started out and here and there. I never ate a bite of anything that I took along. Not a bite. I never opened a can, for in order to do it, I would have to go somewhere and hide myself away and eat what I had brought by myself. And I couldn’t do it.
I took every bit of those things that I had brought along, and I gave it out to the missionary with my can opener. Those little old kids never had seen anything like I had brought. They never had tasted any food as I packed away, and I couldn’t eat it by myself. I couldn’t swallow it. I couldn’t get it down. And I gave it to the missionary.
I had put in my handbag two peanut candy bars. And in the official report that the pilot made to the head of the Wycliffe Institute of Linguistics, as he was writing the story officially so it would be on record of our plane that came down, he said in that official report, he said, “The pastor had just given me a bar of peanut candy and I was enjoying it when the engine broke.” What a thing to make an impression on his memory, that I had given him one of those peanut candy bars and he was enjoying it so very much.
I told a story when I came back about Bart who keeps the hangar and the many, many thousands of parts without which those old airplanes can’t be kept in the air. Walking down through those aisles of all of those categorized parts and catalogued pieces of plane, I saw a little jar and the top wasn’t screwed on.
Well, I had seen volatile chemicals that you can’t close up because the fumes, the evaporation will explode the container. So they leave the little top open so the fumes can escape. Well, it intrigued me to see that little jar there with whatever was in it. And I said to him, “Well, I see you have a very volatile liquid here and you keep the jar unscrewed.”
“Oh no,” he said, “Not at all. That’s a jar of a special kind of lubricating oil. But,” he said, “you know an Indian can’t learn how to screw the top on a jar.” Well, that amazed me.
I said, “He can’t learn how to screw a top on a jar?”
“No,” he said, “He has no mechanical background at all and he just can’t figure out how to put that top on that jar.” He said, “For example, my wife and I had a jar of peanut butter. And once a day we allowed ourselves the luxury of tasting that peanut butter, just once a day.” Well, he said, “Every time we took the jar off the shelf from the kitchen cabinet, that top was unscrewed and wasn’t screwed on correctly. And I said to my wife, I said, ‘Wife, yhy don’t you put that top on right?’ and she said, ‘Husband, that’s what I was going to tell you. Why don’t you put that top on right? It’s always just askew, awry.’”
“Well,” he said, “We found out that the maid, our Indian maid, also was indulging in the luxury of once a day tasting of that peanut butter.” So they were going to accost her about doing a thing like that when they hadn’t given her permission. But Bart said to his wife, “No,” he said, “let’s don’t do it. Let’s just wait and see how long it takes that Indian girl to learn how to screw a top on straight.” And he said “She never did learn how, she never did learn how.”
Well, to me that was the point of the story. But when I told the story, that part made no impression whatsoever. The part and the impression made was this. That there would be a missionary family to whom a jar of peanut butter was a luxury to be carefully kept and to be enjoyed and tasted of just one time a day.
That is the pioneer missionary. And the loneliness that they know to us is indescribable. In order for the pilot to pick up Clarence Church and me at Taiwano where the Aucas live, he had to go to Arajuna, an abandoned airstrip made by the Shell Oil Company, in order to dump his load; it wasn’t very large, but to dump what he had, the provisions he had in his plane to carry back to Yarinacocha, and then with the plane unloaded to come and land in the little short jungle airstrip at the Auca village and pick us up. So he came and landed, and we got in the plane and then went back to Arajuna to pick up on that abandoned Shell Oil strip the provisions that he left behind on the side of the jungle.
There are some abandoned thatched cottages there by the side of that airstrip. So when we landed I got out of the plane and they were loading it up. I was looking at those Quechua Indians who would come out of the huts and out of the forest around and were looking at this airplane and at us. And while we were standing there, there was a young man, a young American, an American who came running just as fast as he could. And when he came up to us, he said, “Oh, I am so glad to see you! I am so glad to see you.”
He is a single young man, and he has made his house in one of those abandoned thatched huts by the side of the runway of Arajuna, and he is ministering to those Quechua Indians. And the reason he had come running to us he said, “I just wanted to hear somebody that could speak my language, just somebody to say something in English.” And he said, “I just want to talk to you for just a minute, just to say something to you and to listen to you use my language in saying something back to me.”
I thought of a missionary in the heart of Nigeria to whom I talked. And we were looking at things that were left behind by other missionaries, and I remarked on the fact that you sure have an accumulation here. And she said, “Yes, a great many have come and gone.”
Then I said to her, “But you certainly have stayed.” Through the years she stayed and she is still there. She said, “Yes, through the years I have stayed. But,” she said, “you do not know how many nights, how many nights, I have buried my face in my pillow and cried myself to sleep out of sheer loneliness.”
May I speak of their identification with their people? You know it is very easy and especially for an American, that ugly American as he is sometimes described, it is very easy and especially for an American to feel himself richer, and finer, and more exalted, and successful, and prosperous, and affluent, and better than the people that they see around them. And of course if anybody in the earth ever had the opportunity to do that, the missionary does.
These savage, naked, unkempt, dirty, untaught, darkened people; oh, yet, yet the true missionary, the true missionary will identify herself, will identify himself with those people. He’s one with them. There, there, up, down, however you would say it, I saw that in Rachel Saint.
That down-river Auca girl,[ Dayuma], whose family had been speared, all of her people killed, and she was going to be killed. And in a terrible sexual orgy, she fled away and swam across the Napo River, one of the great rivers of the Amazon basin.
If she stayed where she was with her Auca people, it meant death. If she fled she might live. So she swam across the river on the other side—and people kill an Auca like they would any other tiger, or ocelot, or jaguar, like any other animal.
So a Quechua Indian seeing her come out of the river, shot her. A missionary picked her up and they took her to an army hospital. And she was apparently dying in that army hospital. Not because of the terrible wounds from being shot by that Quechua Indian, but she was dying out of loneliness of heart and out of the fear of all the strange world around her.
She wouldn’t eat. She had never seen that kind of food. They spoke of her to Rachel Saint, and Rachel Saint took two of her Auca women with her and ministered to [Dayuma] in the hospital. She spoke to her in Auca, in her own language. And the girl came to life. And she prepared for the girl food that she had eaten all of her life as a wild Indian girl.
And one day while Rachel Saint was ministering to her, talking to her in her own language and bringing to her food that she had known in the forest, the girl said to Rachel Saint, “Tell me, are you an Auca?”
And Rachel said to me, “That was the greatest compliment I ever had in my life.” What? Are you an Auca, savage, darkened, ignorant, untaught? A compliment; you, an Auca.
Two of those missionary girls said to me, “Our little thatched hut we built out there in the jungle, just to make it look a little like a house and a home we put curtains in the window. And the Indians came by and looked at those curtains. And they said, ‘What a waste of material. Why, that material could be used for a little baby. It could be used to help make a dress.’ And when they saw it in our window, they said to one another, ‘What a waste of material.’” The two girls took it down, took it down, took it away, used it for something else; identifying themselves with the people.
And their self-sacrifice, even unto death, and their fearlessness in the face of almost certain tragedy, it is just like you had a visit with the martyrs in the old days and in the Acts of the Apostles. The five missionaries who were slain by those up-river Aucas, on the River Curaray, when that famous book Through the Gates of Splendor was written, the missionaries had just died. They had just been killed. And nobody knew the story of how it came to pass.
After Rachel Saint went to that savage and vicious tribe and had won those killers to Jesus—you saw pictures of the two leaders, Gikita and Kimo, last Wednesday night—after they had been won to the Lord, the story of the martyrdom of those five missionaries was told. And it was like this.
Gikita, being the oldest Auca, led the group, and Kimo, being the strongest, was by his side. And those men came suddenly out of the forest to where those five missionaries were building a little place and had landed their plane on a sand bar on the side of the Curaray. They came out of the forest and they killed one of those missionaries. And that left four there.
The four missionaries who still lived, they took their pistols and they shot up in the air, trying to scare the Auca savages away. And they all fled but Gikita. Gikita, being older and more experienced and having killed all of his life, he just stayed and called for those other Auca men to come back and to finish what they had begun.
So the other men came back out of the forest to kill the other four. And when the other men appeared, one of the missionaries ran to the plane and got inside and fastened the door. And looking out the window he saw his other three companions speared to death and chopped up with machete knives. And they said when the one in the plane saw what had happened, he opened the door and calmly walked out. And up on the sandbank of the river and faced unafraid the death that awaited him.
Kimo never saw anybody die like that, he said. For the Indian fears death. And when those men did not resist, and when they died unafraid, it made an indelible impression on Kimo. He was the first convert, the first Christian. And when I looked at Kimo, I thought, “Oh, the blood, and the sacrifice, and the life poured out, that you and your people might be saved.”
Ever since—I don’t know why—some of these things stay so in my memory and in my heart. But I’ve turned over and over in my mind; one of those young missionaries, when he saw the Aucas return with their spears and with their machete knives, run to the plane, and get inside, and shut and fasten the door. Then when he saw the other three cut down, calmly open the door, step out and walk to the edge of the river to be slaughtered, I just thought and thought of the devotion of that missionary, unafraid.
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 death a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? Of that?
[“Afraid? Of What?” E.H. Hamilton]
Every savage I saw in that vicious tribe, won to Jesus, baptized in the blood of the Lamb, and of the missionary who filled up what was lacking in the sufferings of Jesus [Colossians 1:24]; the life of the missionary and the people to whom God has sent them. They are a strange lot, no doubt about that.
When I walked into the thatched hut of Rachel Saint, I changed the film in my camera. So I was seated at a little table she had, put on my glasses, and was threading that camera. All those Auca men gathered around and they began to have the most hilarious time you ever saw in your life.
And they were laughing, and pointing, and saying things to one another that I just couldn’t imagine. I thought they never had seen a camera before, and they were laughing and talking about that. So I showed them the camera, you know, Didn’t say anything about the camera? I thought it must be my watch, so I took off my watch and tried to show them my watch. Well, they weren’t interested in the watch. I thought it must be the ballpoint pen with which I was making notes, and I showed them the pen. No, they weren’t interested in that. I thought it must be my glasses, they had never seen a fellow wear glasses before. So I took them off and started to show them my glasses, and they weren’t interested in that.
There wasn’t anything they were interested in. Well, I was just nonplussed. I couldn’t figure it out. So I tried to make signs to them. “ What are you interested in? What are you looking at? What are you laughing at? What is it?”
Eventually one of those men got up enough courage, and he took his thumb and his forefinger and he reached over, and I being dressed in a nylon sport shirt with short sleeves, he reached over with those two fingers, and he pulled the hair on my arm and just died a laughing, and all of them broke into an uproar.
And I said, “You are looking and you are laughing at the hair on my forearm!”
“Oh yeah,” and they just die laughing again.
And then for the first time I particularly noticed they are just as smooth as a woman, every one of them, every one of them. Now modesty forbids me to say what I did then at which they laughed so uproariously. And finally I did my face like this, following my beard around and then my hands like this, and clear down to there depicting that if I didn’t shave I would have a beard like my grandpap did way down here. And all those Aucas went around to one another with their hands down like that and their other hand like that, and just laughing and pointing at me like that; just dying a laughing.
What things amaze them that would never in the earth occur to us, but how wise they are! So easy for us to think because I know this and they don’t know these things, they are very, very, very stupid. Ah, we don’t realize. We don’t realize.
Some of us are wise in some ways and some of us are wise in other ways. But that doesn’t mean somebody else, who doesn’t happen to know what I know and hasn’t been trained as I have been trained, that he is not wise in what he knows, in the language and work in which he has been trained.
One of these rich oilmen from America hired an Indian guide to see an oil property in the heart of the jungle. Texaco, by the way has made one of the greatest discoveries of America on the Putumayo River. I was told they are thinking about building a two hundred million dollar pipeline to take it out of the jungle of Ecuador, across the Andes, to market it on the Pacific coast.
Well, this tycoon was there and had hired an Indian guide to go to a certain place in the Ecuadorian jungle. He didn’t know it. He thought the Indian was a savage, untaught and untrained. But that night around the campfire the Indian opened his Bible and he read out of the tenth chapter of the Book of John about Jesus, the good shepherd [John 10:1-18]. And then he had a prayer.
And that American tycoon later in Lima, the capital of Peru, was describing what had happened. And he said, “You know, I thought I was with an ignorant savage. But,” he said, “you know, he could see a trail through the jungle when I couldn’t even see a vine or a leaf had been moved. He knew exactly where the springs of fresh water were, and he knew every part and piece, every animal of that vast jungle. And he knew how to live in it, and how to live with it, and how to live on it.”
The man said, “You know, I’ve decided they are the smartest people in the world.” And he said, “I’ve come to another conclusion. Some of these days soon,” he says, “the settlers are going to pour into this last virgin area of the earth. Some of these days the settlers are going to come, and when they come, because of the sacrificial work of these missionaries they are going to find shepherds, these Indian guides, they are going to find shepherds who know Jesus. And they are going to build here in this jungle a Christian culture and a Christian civilization.”
Ah, the repercussion that lies in winning people to Jesus is beyond what mind could imagine; what it means to prosperity, to destiny, to the future of what is yet to unfold.
Now I must close. I spoke of the fearfulness that a missionary faces when first he visits a savage tribe; what a change, what a change the message of Jesus can make.
Last Wednesday night I showed a picture of the vicious, savage, head-hunting, head-shrinking Jivaro. They are a great tribe of Indians in the Amazon jungle, and they are vicious beyond compare. Their lives are lives of killing. That’s the way a man gets to be a chief; the man who has killed the most and who has those shrunken heads as trophies in his house. If he’s got the most he is the chief; bloodthirsty, without conscience.
I ran into a group of these Jivaros, absolutely unafraid; nothing to be afraid of. I walked down the open street of a Jivaro village with their thatched huts on either side. I watched their women cook at open fires. I looked on the inside of their thatched huts.
Through an interpreter I talked to them in a Jivaro village absolutely unafraid. Why? For the one and simple reason that they had heard of the good news of the blessed Lord Jesus, and they as Christians now were grouped studying together this blessed Book that tells us about Jesus.
And as I walked through that Jivaro village and thought of the marvelous, transforming power of the gospel of Christ, my mind went back in memory to a visit I had made to India, and to the testimony I had heard of an Indian missionary. Toward the Himalayas in the northern part of that subcontinent was a vast tribe, and no foreigner had ever visited it and come out alive. Every one that had ever been there had been killed, savage and vicious. And God had laid it in the heart of this Baptist missionary to carry the gospel of the grace of Jesus to that far away and savage tribe.
And now in his testimony, as I listened to him, he said this, he said “You know, one day I was seated on the top of a hill. And below me I saw three thousand of those savage Indians coming up the hill toward me. But,” he said, “I was unafraid. For back of me was our Baptist church, and in front of me were those three thousand Indians, dressed in white baptismal robes. And they were coming up the hill from the river. And as they came,” that missionary said, “those three thousand were singing this song.
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]
And I sat there unafraid. What Jesus can do for a people. Oh, the grace of God in Christ Jesus! [John 3:16; Revelation 1:5]. Let’s sing that chorus together.
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.
No longer afraid.
Now while we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. A family you, put your life in the fellowship of this precious church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. One somebody you, as God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it now. Make it this morning. There is time and to spare, come and stand by me. If you are in the balcony, there is a stairwell on either side, at the front and on back; come. On this lower floor, into these aisles and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Make it now. Make it today, while we stand and while we sing.