Summary: Three characteristics of Stephen - the first Christian Martyr - that should be true of all believers.
One dark January evening in 1944 Bruce Porterfield sat down in his home in Lansing, Michigan, to read the paper after a hard day’s work. The story of how five missionaries had presumably been killed by Stone-Age Indians in Bolivia caught his attention. That evening he committed himself to follow in their footsteps.
Six years later he and his wife Edith arrived in Bolivia in the midst of a revolution. They survived the shooting that blazed around them and joined other missionaries at a back- woods river town named Cafetal. Here they heard of the wild Nhambiquaras. An Indian Tribe who had attacked the Tylee family and Mildred Kratz in Brazil.
In January, 1951, they were joined by a big, ambling bear of a bachelor named Dave Yarwood. A farm boy from Washington State, Dave loved the outdoors and was anxious to join the expedition to reach the Nhambiquaras.
The next month, Bruce, Dave, and colleague Jim Ostewig began their hunt. Meeting no success, they returned to Cafetal. August came and they were still no closer to making contact. Then, one day while they were on a turtle egg hunt they ran smack into four naked Indians. Nhambiquaras! The Indians took some gifts and vanished into the jungle.
In September they met up with eight Nhambiquaras. These Indians came right up and gave them bear hugs. Then they began touching the missionaries all over.
Other encounters followed. Occasionally, the Indians indulged in painful horseplay. On one occasion, one of the Nhambiquaras seized one of the missionaries around the neck and almost choked the breath out of him.
The dangerous game of hide and seek continued. Sometimes the missionaries were able to eat meals with the Indians. Sometimes they learned a few Nhambiquara words.
After one stay of several days at an outlying camp, Dave suggested that the others go back to Cafetal and stock up on supplies. "I’ll hang around here and keep up the contact," he said. Bruce didn’t want to leave him alone. But Dave insisted.
Bruce was glad to spend a few days with his wife. But he could not get his mind off Dave. He visualized him lying in his bunk reading his Bible. He recalled the time Dave had put his arm around a Nhambiquara and told him in English of God’s love. The Indian put his lips to Dave’s ear after each sentence and whispered back, in precise English, every word Dave told him. The Nhambiquaras were remarkable mimics. The Indian thought it was a joke.
Before Bruce could go back, a riverboat captain stopped to tell him that Dave was dead. Three Brazilian tax collectors looking for rubber hunters had come across Dave’s body. By the description Bruce knew that it really was his friend.
Bruce and Jim went back and found Dave’s remains. The shafts of two arrows trimmed in turkey feathers were sticking out of his back. Two more were in his chest. They buried the body, gathered up the few personal effects, which the Indians had not taken and went back to Cafetal. Dave’s diary told part of the story. December 4, the day before he was killed, nine Nhambiquaras came to see him. He learned some more words. "On the whole ... the atmosphere was friendly," he wrote. "We’ll see what happens tomorrow." That was the last entry.
The shock of Dave’s murder drove Bruce into a deep depression. It was two months before he emerged from what he called his "Dunkirk of the soul" and accepted an invitation from another missionary to help reach the wild Macurapis. They made a contact, then he joined another New Tribes’ man in search for wild Yuquis. These efforts led to some hair-raising incidents, but his faith was renewed and he continued the quest for more lost tribes.
In his book Commandos for Christ (Harper and Row) Bruce Porterfield has expressed the New Tribes Mission’s purpose; It is for us to furrow the ground. It is for others to plant the seed and reap the harvest. And as surely as day follows night, the harvest will come. And it will be rich, the result of all the hard plowing, sowing, and watering that has been done, in tears, heartaches, suffering, and blood....("By Their Blood" by James and Marti Hefley, p.565-567)
Martyrs for Jesus Christ. The story of the Christianity is literally a story of a trail of blood. It begins with the cross of Calvary, moves to Peter and the Apostles and continues to this very day.
What is a martyr? By definition, a martyr is a person who gives his or her life for a cause.
In Acts 6 and 7, we have the story of the very first Christian martyr. His name is Stephen. He began what was to become a very common occurrence for the next 2000 years. In fact, if we were to study the history of the church, we would discover that it is more and more common every year. In fact, there were more people killed for their faith in the 20th century than the combined total of the previous nineteen centuries. And I believe the trend is going to continue. In fact, I believe that if Christ doesn’t come soon, more people will die this century than the last 20 centuries combined.