Right at the beginning, I want to thank the people who have commented on my blog during the last few days. I am still feeling quite awful, so have not had the energy to respond. But I have loved getting feedback from you!
Don Richardson is, as I have told you, my favorite missionary writer…a most stimulating thinker. In his book, “Eternity in Their Hearts”, he talks of the concept of a ‘sky god’ – benign and omnipotent – behind the confusion of most folk religions. Many of these traditions have a fairly well-defined understanding that they once had communication with this ‘sky god’ but have forfeited it until he gives them back his ways and laws through a book. Often it is understood that white men will bring this book to them.
Isn’t that amazing?
Let me give you one abbreviated account. I trust you like stories as much as I. Do read to the end as it is most moving:
For who knows how many centuries, the Lahu (a Burmese people ) had been haunted by a tradition which said that Gui’Sha – Creator of all things- had given their forefathers his law written on rice cakes! A famine came, and the forefathers ate the rice cakes for their physical survival. They rationalized this act be saying that Gui’Sha’s law would then be inside them!… They could not, however, obey their creator perfectly until they regained the precise written form of His laws.
The Lahu people had prophets of Gui’Sha. Their mission– to keep expectation of help from Gui’Sha constantly alive in the hearts of the Lahu people. To this end the prophets recited proverbs such as the following: “If a man had ten armloads of walking sticks and walked until every walking stick was worn to a stub, he still would not find Gui’Sha. But when the right time comes, Gui’Sha himself will send to us a white brother with a white book containing the white laws of Gui’Sha – the words lost by our forefathers so long ago! That white brother will bring the lost book to our very hearths!
Some Lahu even wore cords around their wrists symbolizing both their bondage to the nats (evil spirits) and their need for a divinely appointed deliverer who would one day cut these cords from their wrists!”
Now we fast forward to the 1890’s:
“One day (William Marcus) Young went to the marketplace (in eastern Burma) to preach among the Shan people, most of whom were Buddhists. Young read aloud Moses’ Ten Commandments. Then holding his Bible aloft – with the sun gleaming on its white pages – he began to preach about the laws of ‘the true God.’
As he preached, Young noticed strangely garbed men gravitating toward him out of the throng in the market. Obviously the were not Shan people. Later he discovered that they were Lahu men who had chosen that day to descend from distant mountains to trade their wares in the market of Kengtung. Soon they completely surrounded William Marcus Young. They stared incredulously at his white face, the white interior of the book in his hand, and listened to his description – in the Shan language – of the laws of God contained in that book.
Then, in an outburst of powerful emotion, the Lahu pleaded with William Marcus Young to follow them up into the mountains. In fact, they practically kidnapped him; ‘We as a people have been waiting for you for centuries,’ they explained. ‘We even have meeting houses built in some of our villages in readiness for your coming.’
Some of the Lahu men showed him bracelets of coarse rope hanging like manacles from their wrists. ‘We Lahu have worn ropes like these since time immemorial. They symbolize our bondage to evil spirits.You alone, as the messenger of Gui’Sha, may cut these manacles from our wrists – but only after you have brought the last book of Gui’Sha to our very hearths.’ ”
What a God we serve!