The Savage Meets The Savior


The Savage Meets The Savior

September 13th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM

And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
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Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

Philippians 4:1-7

9-13-64  7:30 p.m.



On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled The Savage Meets the Savior. 

Last week Patsy Adams, a Wycliffe missionary in Yarinacocha, on the eastern border of Peru next to the border of Brazil, packed a lunch for the pilot and me, and we went to visit the Shapras.  And then the following day she had a breakfast for several of the missionaries, in which I had a delightful part.

She grew up in the First Baptist Church at Cleburne and her father and mother are here tonight.  And it is such a gladness to see them and welcome them.  They are with Brother and Mrs. Charles Smith.  They have one of the finest daughters in this earth, who has done a miraculous work with one of the most degraded tribes in the Amazon jungle.  God bless her and her companion as they minister to those savage people.

In your Bible, turn to Philippians chapter 4, Philippians chapter 4.  And we shall read the first seven verses together; Philippians chapter 4 and the first seven verses [Philippians 4:1-7].  Share your Bible with your neighbor and we shall read it out loud together.  It is a word about two women, Euodias and Syntyche, Euodias and Syntyche; Philippians 4, the first seven verses, all of us reading aloud and together:


Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 

And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the Book of Life. 

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men.  The Lord is at hand.  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:1-7)


You are going to be surprised at my text; Philippians 4:3, “Help those women.”

            As I prepared this message, I could have entitled it, and done it well and appropriately, I could have entitled it The Woman Missionary.

To my surprise, the miraculous work that has been done under the hand of God in reaching these savages for Jesus has largely been the work and the ministry of the godly, consecrated missionary girl; one of which is Mrs. Cameron Townsend, in whose presence I always feel like bowing my head.  She is so worthy and so noble.  And she is typical of those glorious girls who fearlessly and courageously, without protection except the keeping of the Lord, enter those savage tribes and teach them the Word of God.

            I found that same thing, if you remember, when I visited the San Blas Indians two years ago.  They live on a string of islands about two hundred miles in length, beginning at Panama and running along the outskirts of Columbia on the Atlantic side of the nation of Panama and Columbia. 

            There was an English woman who appeared in Panama and asked permission to visit the San Blas Indians.  The president of Panama said, “I have no jurisdiction at this moment over the San Blas islands.  But as far as I could, I would prohibit your going, for there is no need for you to be served up as a cannibal feast, in a cannibal feast,” for the San Blas were cannibals.  And she said, “If God would like me served up for a dinner, at His will may I glorify Him in being food for the cannibals.”

            In the providence of God, that English woman came to a San Blas island, the chief of which had in days past, and being captured, had been introduced to the civilized world.  And when he returned and became chief of his people and that woman appeared, he received her and made her a teacher for the children on his island.  And one of the children in her class was the famous San Blas convert Iglesia, who has been blessed of God to lead that entire nation to the Lord; the work of a woman missionary.

            I found that same and identical pattern in Orinoco and in the Amazon basin.  It is largely the story of a woman missionary.  Those wives of the missionaries are so devout, and the circle of the family is so Christian, and their language is so Christ-like.  I will give you an illustration of a little boy.  The little boy has become especially interesting to me in my old age.

            This little boy, the little Hatcher boy, came in and was exuberantly and triumphantly telling his mother about a frog that had jumped into the yard.  And he said to his mama, he said, “and I took a stone and I hit him with a stone.” And he said, “And I took my foot and I stomped on him with my foot,” and he said, “I got my tricycle and I ran over him with my tricycle.” And then the little boy added, “And the Lord took him home.”

            I was amazed at the physical endurance and strength of the woman.  One missionary, upon a day, pointed out to me an Indian woman who in the morning had given birth to a little baby.  And that afternoon, carrying that baby in her hands with a heavy banana, a stalk of bananas strewn on her back, walked five miles through the jungle, carrying that stalk of bananas home, and the little baby she had given birth to in the jungle trail.  You can hardly believe the endurance and physical stamina of those women.

And I saw some women do a thing that just amazed me.  We stopped on the Putumayo River, the boundary between Colombia and Ecuador.  We stopped on the Putumayo River to visit the Cioni Indians; Al Wheeler, living among them, and learning their language, and translating the Bible into the Cioni language.

            And after we made our visit with the chief—he looks more like a chief than a chief himself.  You will see him Wednesday night with his feathers and his paint.  It looks like war paint to me.  I’m glad it was peace paint and all of the accouterments of his tribe.  After our visit there, the little jungle strip to land on was in Ecuador on the other side of the Putumayo.  So we had to cross the great river in little narrow dugout canoes.  Oh, my companion Clarence Church and I got in the little dugout canoe, and one of the Cioni Indians began to paddle us across the great river.

            And some boys had gone ahead and they went to the other side and up to the landing strip to see that big bird take off.  And then there were two Cioni Indian women who were going to paddle over to the landing strip also, but with their little children they came up the Colombian side of the Putumayo to cross over above, and we began to cross over a little below.

            As we were making the crossover we heard two dogs begin to bark furiously.  And in a little while they had treed something, cornered something, and began to bark as dogs do when they corner a thing.  Then in just a moment whatever it was, and I learned it was a watusa, which is very sweet fine meat for an Indian; it is a rodent without a tail.  They had cornered that animal, and one of the dogs had driven it into the Putumayo River and the other dog stood on the shore barking.  The other dog followed it, swimming with it in the river. 

Now those two women were way up the river by that time, for this had happened down there at Buenavista where the Kumsa are.  Those women dumped out those kids just like you’d snap your finger; little old kids swam to the shore, and I never saw a canoe in all of my life race like those two women, one on one side and one on the other side, racing that canoe down the Putumayo River.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was just about like that as they went down that river, an amazing thing!

And when they got to that watusa they whopped him over the head, held him down until he was drowned, and dragged the big thing over the side of the canoe into the boat, and I know had a marvelous rodent supper that night.

It’s amazing what they can do.  And so it is in the story of the conversion of the fierce Indian chief Tariri of the Shapras.  This is the famous hero of Cameron Townsend.  And in the great exhibit of the Wycliffe translators in the New York World’s Fair there is depicted in beautiful and startling canvas the story of the conversion of the head shrinking, head hunting chief of the Shapras, Tariri.  

It was on my journey, as you know, up to see Tariri that our plane fell.  So I returned to the base, and there were two girls up there in the Oyaga river basin waiting for us to come.  There wasn’t any way of course to get in touch with them, so at the mouth of the river we waited all day long and nobody came.

And then they stayed at the mouth of the river all night long, part of the time arguing about which one of them was going to sleep on the side toward the jungle; and then the next day, all day long, until Floyd Lyon came with the plane and picked them up.

Tariri could not return.  He went up there among other things to bring Tariri to Yarinacocha, but Tariri’s wife was expecting the birth of a child any minute, and he said, “I cannot leave her.”  So when Floyd Lyon came back, he brought the two missionary girls up there in the Shapra tribe.  He brought Laurie Anderson and Beth Henson; Beth Henson of South Carolina, Laurie Anderson of New Jersey.

And those two girls brought two Shapra children with them.  A little girl who was deformed, had tuberculosis of the spine, fourteen years old, whom they brought that they might see if there was any way to help the child.  And the little boy, twelve years old, the prettiest little boy you ever looked on in your life.  They are the grandchildren of a Shapra chief who is now dead.  And this was the first time those headhunting Shapra children were ever out of the forest.

And it was the first time they had ever seen civilization.  It was an amazing and marvelous thing to me to visit with those two children.  The first thing they noticed was the noises everywhere; noises, noises of a motor running, noises of a power plant, just noises everywhere, so strange and different from the sounds of the forest.  They noticed the movement of vehicles, which was an amazing thing to those children.  And when they came into the house, they were surprised at a rug; asked what it was, and what it was doing on the floor.  Everything was an astonishing thing to those two little Shapra children.

I got Laurie Anderson and Beth Henson to sit down by my side, and I started talking to that little Shapra boy twelve years of age, the prettiest little boy—you will see him Wednesday night.  And I said to him, “You know,” I said to him,  “I have a little bitty fellow that we are rearing in our home.” And I said, “We have such-and-such nice home, and I live in such-and-such big city.”  And I tried to describe to that little boy all the things that we enjoy in our culture and civilization.

And then I said to him, I said, “Wouldn’t you like to come home with me and to see all these things?”

The little wide-eyed boy, speaking through the interpreter said, “No.  No.”

So I said to the interpreter, “Why wouldn’t you like to come?”

“Oh”, said the little boy, “It’s too far away from home.”

What an amazing thing!  The forest, and the thatched hut, and the life of a Shapra headhunter, and that’s home to him.  And he loves it, and is so ill at ease and fearful away from those familiar trees, and the river, and all the things that belong to his life in the forest, in the jungle.

Why are those children alive? The upper Shapra tribe made a raid on the down-river Shapra tribe in order to kill Tariri.  Tariri was chief of the down-river Shapras because he’d killed more men than anybody else.  He’d shrunken more heads than anybody else.  And having killed off all of his peers, he dared anyone to challenge his right to be chief.  That’s how he came to be chief.

And in a raid that the up-river Shapras made on the down-river Shapras against Tariri, he captured those two children.  And ordinarily they would have been put to death, but Tariri kept them for a month, and witnessed to them about Jesus, and sent them home with the Word of God in their hearts.  For Tariri, the fierce Indian chief, had become a Christian.

How did he come to be a Christian?  Because of that girl, Laurie Anderson, and her friend Doris Cox, who walked into that tribe bearing the message of the Son of God; they couldn’t speak the language, and to enter the tribe meant death.  But they had in their souls God’s commission to bring the Word of life and salvation to the headhunting Shapras.

Tariri, as he described it later, he said he was like this.  He said, “What could I do? Those two girls appeared.”  He said, “Had they been two men I would have killed them immediately.”  He said, “Had they been a man and his wife I would have killed the man and taken his wife for mine.  But what could you do with two girls who appeared in my tribe, calling me brother?” 

And unknown to those two girls it was the code of honor of the head shrinking Shapra for a man to defend unto death his sister.  And God put it in their hearts not to call him chief, not to call him great one, but to call him brother.

And Tariri entertained those two strange girls.  He said, “I thought they had come to find husbands.”  And there they were in the tribe, the girls reading the Bible.  Tariri the chief came by and said, “Reading that Book all the time.  Don’t you get tired of reading that Book all the time?”

“Oh no,” they said.  “This is God’s Book.”

“Oh, it is God’s Book?”

“Yes,” said Laurie, “It is God’s Book.”

“Well,” said Tariri the chief, “What is God saying?”

“God says in His Book you must not steal.”

So Tariri returned to his people and said, “God’s Book says we must not steal, so we are not going to steal anymore.”  “What else does God’s Book say?” said the chief.

Laurie answered, “God’s Book says you must not lie.”

So he turned to his people and said, “God says we must not lie, therefore from now on we are to tell the truth.”  “What else does God’s Book say?”

And Laurie said, “God’s Book says you must not kill.”

That’s too much for Tariri.  That’s too much.  That’s going too far.  Got to meddling now.  So Tariri turned to his people, and he said, “God’s Book says you must not kill your relatives.”

That was in 1950, as Uncle Cam says.  But since then, Tariri has become a devout Christian and a leader of God’s people in the down-river Shapras.  And now Tariri preaches we must love our enemies and forgive those who despise us [Matthew 5:44].  And in those raids made against him, seeking to destroy the life of this Christian chief, Tariri is always charitable and forgiving, as this instance in the fact of saving those two Shapra children.

It is the same story of the bravery of a woman missionary in the conversion of the terrible and savage Auca.  The Auca territory is a vast territory, and they have protected it by that vicious attack of the spear and the poison arrow.  Anyone who enters it enters at the peril of his life.  And for the generations, and I suppose the millennia, the terrible Auca had jealously guarded the vast territory beyond the Napo and beyond the Curaray rivers.

There are about one hundred, I think, in the up-river Aucas, and about four hundred in the down-river Aucas.  They have so killed one another until the tribe is not numerous.  They are so vicious that they are shot down like animals on sight.  And there is pressure now and continually on the Ecuadorian government to destroy that tribe, hunt them down, shoot them down like animals; the savage Aucas. 

It was an attempt to reach that up-river Auca tribe that brought the death, the martyrdom of those five missionaries.  One of them was Nate Saint, whose sister is Rachel.  One of them was Jim Elliot, whose [wife] is Betty.  In the providence of God there escaped for her life from the up-river Auca, there escaped an Auca girl named Dayuma.  And Dayuma was found by these missionaries, and they learned somewhat of the language of the Auca Indian.

And then in the providence of God with that escapee, with Dayuma, those two missionaries, Rachel Saint, whose brother Nate had been killed, and Betty Elliot, whose husband had been killed, those two missionary girls, boldly and fearlessly and commending themselves to God, walked into that Auca tribe and into that Auca village at Tawana.

All the Aucas fled immediately when the two missionary girls appeared.  But Dayuma’s mother returned and then gradually all of them returned.  Some time after that Dayuma went on a little mission, and here again the entire tribe left, all except Kimo.  And Kimo is the one that presided over the church service in which I preached.  And you will see him Wednesday night.

Kimo stayed, and Kimo said, “I have lived all my life in killings and in spearings.  Surely,” that old Auca Indian said, “there is some better way.  I am willing to listen and to try and to see.”  And Kimo became Rachel Saint’s first convert.

When I held the service there, Rachel Saint had around her all of those killers, all of them.  And every one of them she had won to the Lord.  She had won the Auca who had killed her brother, Nate.  You are going to hear them testify.  You are going to hear them say, for it is recorded.  It will be played in this auditorium Wednesday night.

Now when I came to the Aucas, I came in a time of great fear and great tension.  You see the down-river Aucas have never been touched.  They are as vicious and as savage as they ever were.  And they far outnumber the up-river Aucas.  Any day and at any moment, the up-river Aucas are expecting an attack from the down-river Aucas to destroy them off the face of the earth, because of their reception of the missionaries and their embracing of the Christian faith.  And they live in that constant dread.  When I came, I came at a day and at a time of awful tension.  When I stepped off the plane and greeted Rachel, in just a little while, in just a moment, she said to me, “This is a fearful thing for you to do.  You ought not to be here.  Under no conditions should you be here.” 

But I said, “Uncle Cam, Cameron Townsend, told me to come and made the provision for me to come.”

She said, “But Uncle Cam does not realize the situation here or he would never allow you to come.”

There was a girl from the down-river Aucas named Onkayay, and her family being speared to death, and being caught in a sexual orgy, she had swam, she had swam across the Napo River to the Quechua on the other side, and when the Quechua Indian saw her, he shot her down like he would any animal.  And the Auca girl was taken to an army hospital, and the army hospital turned her over to Rachel Saint.  And she was there, had been there just a few weeks.  She was there at Tawana in the upper Auca tribe.

And Rachel said, “The girl has told me that the down-river Aucas are nearby, and any moment, any moment they could come in order to rescue and take away this girl, Onkaykay.”  And being already apparently dedicated to the destruction of the up-river Aucas where I am, she said, “It is a fearful time and you ought not to be here, you ought not to be here.”  But she said, “If Uncle Cam says for you to come, I am not the one to say no.”

Well, you can imagine.  You can imagine, in the beginning the first moment of my being there, that enormous, illimitable jungle around and pressing on every side, you can imagine how I felt.  And up went the pilot and left me there.  Just got in his plane and flew away.

And wasn’t that something? And as though that were not enough, after he had been gone several hours, why, he radioed back to Rachel Saint and said, “Now the weather is closing in, and the sky is coming down, and it is so low, the ceiling is so low, that I cannot return to Tawana and get the preacher and Cam’s church.  I can’t get them.  So they are going to have to stay there.”

And then I found out that the weather sometimes closes in indefinitely and that little old landing strip gets soggy with water and the plane can’t land.  And I thought, “Now dear Lord, here we are, just You and I, just You and I.”

It frightened me, and scared me, and my heart nearly pounded out of my body.  And then I began to watch myself.  I turned to Rachel Saint, this woman.  The Aucas make her wear her hair long like a horses’ tail; long down her back.  I turned to Rachel Saint, God’s missionary woman, and I said, “Rachel, don’t you have anything with which to protect yourself?”

She said, “Nothing but the Lord.” 

I said, “Nothing but the Lord?”

“Yes,” she said, “just dependent on the keeping of God.”

And there I was scared, and frightened, and my heart pounding in my body as I could just envision those Aucas all around and maybe attacking any moment.  I was afraid.  And then as I looked at myself and looked at that woman, I thought I ought to be ashamed.  I ought to be ashamed.  She looks to God in faith.  Why cannot I look to God in faith?  And yet I am afraid, and my heart pounds.

We had a church service.  All the Aucas came to the church service at Tawana.  The church is a thatched hut with a platform about that high.  They just shimmy up the pole, the weak climb up the ladder.  All the women sit on that side, all the men on this side.

And the church service was presided over by one of those vicious killers, Kimo.  And when the service began, Kimo, through Rachel who was interpreting, Kimo said to her, “Ask him to sing a Christian song.” 

So I turned to Clarence Church, my companion, Wycliffe missionary, head of the work in Colombia.  I turned to him and I said, “Now we are going to sing “Amazing Grace,” and you follow after me.  Just come along, and if, why, I stumble, you just keep it going.”  He said, “All right.  You start.”

So I started and began to sing the first stanza, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now I am found; was blind, but now I see.”

I skipped the second stanza inadvertently, never thought about it, and I began singing the third stanza.  And for the first time in my life I saw the words of the third stanza of “Amazing Grace.”  “Through many dangers, through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.  ‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

I had one of those experiences that come once in a lifetime.  When I got through singing that third stanza, there came into my soul the peace that passeth all understanding [Philippians 4:7].  And I was no longer afraid.

The following week I was in Yarinacocha.  After the plane had come down and when we landed, and the missionaries were there on that little jungle airstrip to welcome us home, one of them said to me, he said, “Pastor, it’s the third stanza again of ‘Amazing Grace.’”


Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come. 

‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.


Oh, the miracle, the miracle of looking into the faces of those savages whose hands have been bathed in blood all of their lives, and now they testify of the saving grace of the blessed Jesus [Ephesians 2:8].

There is so much to say, so much I had prepared to say.  I must close.  We will say other things at other times.  May I close with this?

Late, late, the little plane came to take us away and out of that Auca tribe.  When we got in the little plane, all of those Aucas of the up-river tribe, now in the grace of Jesus, they lined the little runway there carved out in the jungle.  And as the plane rose to take off, they raised their hands and waved a fond and Christian farewell.  And as I turned away, I thought in my heart, raising their hands to heaven; hands that were bathed in human blood, but hands now cleansed, washed in the blood of the Lord.

My fellow Christians, these savage Auca; oh, what God can do!  What miracles God can do.  Some of these days, on the other side of the great divide, when we mingle with the redeemed in glory, you are going to see some of the tribe of the Auca.  They will be there.  They will be singing praises.  They will be rejoicing in the love and grace of Jesus; oh, marvelous, infinite grace, God’s amazing grace; the ableness of our Lord.

While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13].  Somebody you, come into the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], “Tonight, pastor, I take the Savior as my God.  All of the destiny of my life and soul, I give to Him, and here I come.  Here I am.”

“Pastor, this is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming.  And here I am.”  As the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, shall lead in the way, make the great decision tonight, come, come.  In the balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, there is a stairwell on either side at the front and the back, there are aisles down to the front, there is time and to spare, “Lord, here I come.  I give my hand of faith to the pastor.  I give my heart to God.”  Make it now, make it tonight; while we stand and while we sing.