Reflections from John and Betty Sharpe

June 9, 2011

Ray Galea

John and Betty Sharpe who joined MBM in 2010. They served as missionaries with New Tribe Missions among the Tugutil people in Indonesia (1980-1995). Here is one story from their experience.

The evangelisation of Tugutil people of Lili was a long process that first involved teaching key Old Testament stories before telling the story of the life and saving work of Jesus. We had taught the creation of the angels and the Devil’s subsequent fall. We then taught how one third of the angels followed Satan in his rebellion against his maker and that these fallen angels were the demons that played such a big part in the Tugutil’s lives.

The completion of teaching Genesis Ch 3 happened to coincide with the time of the year when the Tugutil would go away in order to offer rice to the spirits to ensure a good harvest. Actually they ate very little rice in comparison to most Indonesians, but of the little they did grow some would need to be held back to offer to the spirits. This spirit festival continued on for several days and nights and involved the pounding of drums and dancing to summon the spirits, including a war dance called the “cakalele”. As their attendance would involve being absent for several lessons, we decided to stop the teaching until all those involved returned. When relaying this decision, we were in no way prepared for their amazing response.

One of the key men, Taunu, began by saying that they were not going to have their festival this year in fact they were probably never going to have it again. He went on to tell us how they had crushed the spirit rocks used by them for protection when they travelled, and thrown them, along with other fetishes and objects relating to the spirits, into the river where they could never be retrieved. The disposal of these kinds of objects often happens after the completion of telling the entire story of redemption but never have we heard of it happening so early in the teaching. As a team we had purposefully never condemned the way they lived or any of their practices. The thinking was that if any permanent change was to come about it would have to be a work of God’s Spirit and not simply conformity to what we missionaries saw as acceptable belief and behaviour. Genuine change must come from within.

Finally, Taunu totally amazed us as he continued. Apparently, as they had heard the story of Satan’s deception of Eve, they had realised that they had also been deceived into following this Satan and his demons. But now we had come to tell them about the one true God and they had decided that they no longer wanted anything to do with Satan but instead wanted to follow the true God who they were now hearing about for the very first time. This happened after teaching the first three chapters of the Bible!

Thus began a journey that would lead them to discover Jesus, God’s ultimate answer to mankind’s devastating dilemma.