Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I just finished reading "Growing Up Yanomamo," by Michael Dawson. Wonderful book. It is available through Grace Acres Press: http://www.graceacrespress.com/. It tells the true story of Michael Dawson and of his life amongst the Yanomamo people of Venezuela. He is the fifth of ten children of Joe and Millie Dawson who were the first missionaries to the tribe. He was born in TamaTama. His first language was Yanomamo. The book is replete with accounts of hunting expeditions, near drownings, and other incredible adventures. Growing up he confronted Anaconda and Jaguar and other jungle beasts. He eventually went off to missionary school and then returned with his wife, Renee, to minister to the people there again. Sadly, his greatest challenge came when his wife Renee died of cerebral malaria in June of 1992. In the book he shares of his own personal struggles in dealing with his great loss.

There are many fascinating stories in the book, but I thought I'd share this one. Some years after his wife died, he was travelling with Mark Ritchie on a book tour. Mark wrote "Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story." They were at a particular university and were accompanied by Michael's brother, Gary, and a Yanamamo named Bautista. Here's what happened (From the book, pages 312-313)...

"On one of these tours, during a question-and-answer time, someone asked Bautista a question.

"You keep talking about your people needing change. Just what kind of change do your people need?"

Bautista answered, "First of all, I want to make it very clear that any change apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ will not help my people."

One of the professors stood up. "I know you have been brainwashed by your friend there," she said, pointing to Gary, "because I have a good life, and I have not had to convert to Christianity to get it. My parents immigrated over here to get away from the fighting in Lebanon when I was just a little girl. I am at peace, yet I have not had to change my religion or culture to have that peace."

Bautista was silent for a moment, then spoke. "While out in the jungle, if I notice a storm approaching I grab my machete and begin to build a lean-to shelter. Working quickly, I cut the poles and palm leaves I need. I then run and pull some vines to tie the whole thing together. I build my shelter and get under it before it starts raining. Now, if you come running up right before the storm breaks and I let you come in, you are just as dry as I am, although you have done no work. You are dry because you are under my shelter. I submit that that is what you have done here. My friend here has told me how this country was founded by people coming across the great water because they wanted to serve God. They built this country great by having the shelter of God’s Word over them. You can live a life of peace here because you are under the shelter that they built. You have done nothing to deserve this life, but you are enjoying the benefits of their labor. Now my people, on the other hand, have no shelter. So that is why I say the first and only change that will really help my people is to have this shelter that is Jesus. We have no other hope."

Slowly the professor sat down. Bautista looked around, bewildered at the standing ovation he received from the student body."

Pastor Jerry

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