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Peace Child

In 1962, missionaries named Don and Carol Richardson went to New Guinea to bring the Good News of Christ to a group of people known as the Sawi. The Sawi was a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe who used the skulls of their victims as pillows. He wrote a book about his experience called Peace Child. He began his work among the Sawi by reading through the Gospel of Matthew. But to his consternation when he got to the part of Judas betraying Christ, everyone cheered. He did not realize that their culture was one built around treachery.

The one who was the most devious was the one who had the most respect in their tribe. The missionary searched for every possible means to explain the greatness of God’s gift of truth and pure love to a people whose values were based on deceit. Then one day, he witnessed a solemn ceremony between two warring tribes. One of the chiefs walked over to the other and handed him a child. In fact, it was the chief’s own son. Their custom had been that peace could come between two tribes only if the chief of one of the tribes would give his son over to the people of the other tribe. He was called the “peace child.” The chief would place his own son in the hands of a people who hated him and had been his enemies. It was the only way to bring peace between them. Richardson saw in this act the perfect bridge to help these people understand what God had done.

God had given his “peace child” into the hands of a hostile world in order to bring the hostility between us to an end. The angels said at his birth: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

From a sermon by William D. Brown, "CHRISTMAS" 7/31/2008

 
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Don Richardson spent several frustrating years among the Sawi tribe in New Guinea. He had come from America as an anthropologist/missionary, hoping to bring the Christian message to a nearly stone-age tribe. But his message kept colliding with the tribe’s unusual beliefs.

Christian values of love and forgiveness had no appeal to the Sawi, for they held up deceit as the highest virtue. They saw no reason to change their patterns of cruelty and cannibalism. In fact, when Richardson told them the story of Jesus, only one incident sparked their interest: the story of Judas’s betrayal! To the Sawi, Judas was a genuine hero; he had shrewdly penetrated the trusted inner circle of disciples before turning against Jesus.

Every time Richardson tried to share Christ with the Sawi, the attempt miscarried. Finally, after watching the fourteenth bloody battle fought outside his home, Richardson reached the end of his patience. How could he ever break through to such violent people? He decided to leave New Guinea, despite the Sawi’s pleas that he stay.

Just before Richardson left, the Sawi and their deadly enemies, the Haenam tribe, staged an elaborate ceremony in front of his home. It was their final effort to convince the missionary to stay.

The entire village gathered to watch the event. All were silent except the Sawi chief’s wife. She screamed loudly as the chief seized their six-month-old baby from her arms and held him high in the air. The chief then carried his son to the enemy chief and gave him to his enemies. A member of the tribe explained to Richardson that the Haenam tribe would rename the baby and rear him as one of its own.

Richardson knew that no Sawi could be fully trusted, since any action might be part of an elaborate deception. But that memorable day he learned of the one great exception: the peace child. A chief’s giving his own son to his enemies--that profound, painful act would overcome all suspicion. By mutual agreement, as long as the peace child lived, no wars could be fought between the two tribes.

Something clicked in Don Richardson’s mind as he watched the spectacle. At last he had found an analogy--a parallel story--built into the Sawi’s culture that could convey the message of a forgiving God. He gathered members of the tribe around him and, with a pounding heart and dry throat, told them of God’s peace child. God had sent his own Son, Jesus, to live among enemies, to make peace with humankind.

 
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PEACE CHILD

In 1962, the Sawi people of New Guinea still lived in relative isolation. They were head-hunting cannibals. Their culture could not be more different from that of Don and Carol Richardson, and yet this missionary couple attempted to share Christ with them. In fact, two rival Sawi tribes, fascinated by the Richardsons, moved their villages right around the missionaries’ jungle home.

But Don became frustrated by his inability to find a point of contact. He was also discouraged by the 14 civil wars he had already counted right outside his front door now that the two tribes lived side by side. Eventually, the Richardsons decided to leave. However, the Sawi response surprised them: "If you’ll stay, we promise we’ll make peace in the morning."

The next morning the Richardsons awoke to see the most amazing ritual they had ever witnessed. The two tribes were lined up outside their houses, on either side of the clearing. Finally, one man dashed into his hut, grabbed his newborn son, and began to run across the meadow towards the other tribe. His expression betrayed absolute agony. His wife ran after him, screaming and begging him to give the baby back to her.

But her husband wouldn’t stop. He ran over to the other tribe and presented the boy to them. "Plead the peace child for me. I give you my son, and I give you my name," he said. Moments later, someone from that tribe performed the same agonizing sacrifice with the same intensity and passion. Richardson found out later that as long as those two children remained alive, the tribes were bound to peace. If they died, then literally all hell would break loose--cannibalism, murder, civil war.

While this amazing scene unfolded before him, Don suddenly realized that this was the analogy he needed to communicate Christ. The next time he spoke to the Sawi elders he told them of the perfect Peace Child, Jesus. Eventually, droves of Sawi became followers of Christ.

Several years later, on Christmas day, hundreds of Sawi from every tribe - tribes that had warred and cannibalized each other for many years...

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: Don Richardson was a missionary to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Try as he would, he could not find a way to make the people understand the gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery revenge, and murder were highly honored there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a “peace child”.
The missionary seized on that story as an analogy of the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally His peace will ...

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In 1962, missionaries named Don and Carol Richardson went to New Guinea to bring the Good News of Christ to a group of people known as the Sawi. The Sawi was a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe who used the skulls of their victims as pillows. He wrote a book about his experience called "Peace Child." He began his work among the Sawi by reading through the Gospel of Matthew. But to his consternation when he got to the part of Judas betraying Christ everyone cheered. He did not realize that their culture was one built around treachery. The one who was the most devious was the one who had the most respect in their tribe. The missionary searched for every possible means to explain the greatness of God's gift of truth and pure love to a people whose values were based on deceit. Then one day he witnessed a solemn ceremony between two warring tribes. One of the chiefs walked over to the other and handed him a child. In fact, it was the chief's own son. Their custom had been that peace could come between two tribes only if the chief of one of the tribes would give his son over to the people of the other tribe. He was called the "peace child." The chief would place his own son in the hands of a people who hated him and h...

Continue reading with a Free PRO Subscription...

 
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