Red Rivers and Soccer Games

By Mary Beth

Deep in the heart of the emerald-green jungles and snake-like rivers of Brazil, Al and Sue Graham came to live in 1960. Their purpose: to live among the Sateré people, to learn their language, and share God’s Word with them.

Al and Sue Graham

They were not welcomed! None of the Sateré understood why the Grahams were there. They stole from the translators and taught them obscene words. Then they mocked the missionaries when they unknowingly spoke those bad words.

The Grahams and their children loved to play in the river after the heat of the day. One of the women in the village went to the chief and said, “They can’t do that!  They will offend the gods and some from our village will die.” In respect to their wishes, the Grahams gave up their freedom to play in the river.

One day Al had had it. He went down to the river to talk to God. He asked him, “How can you love these people?”

God responded, “The same way I love you!”

At that moment, Al saw a dramatic vision: a black cross rose up out of the suddenly red river. Through this vision, God impressed on Al that he had a plan for the Sateré and Al was part of the plan.

So, with God’s strength and grace, the Grahams stayed.  They learned to speak Sateré and created an alphabet for the language. They taught the people how to read and write and translated the New Testament into the Sateré language. In 1986 the Sateré New Testament was published and received with great joy by the growing number of believers. The entire Sateré Bible was published in April 2017. 

Rebecca and Mike Navratil, who work at International Media Services (IMS) located at JAARS, had the privilege of spending three weeks in a Sateré village, deep in the rain-forest, to dub the JESUS video at the people’s request.

According to Rebecca, “The Sateré were eager to participate in the dubbing of their JESUS video. We had nearly 50 speakers, including three pastors and three chiefs from other villages.” On their final Friday night, they showed the video to a packed church.

“They were stunned to see this video in their language–a dream they have had for a long time,” Rebecca remembers. Jesus has given the Sateré victory over the deception, fear, and harmful restrictions of their former animistic beliefs. They want to use the video to share this Good News with their people who still don’t know who Jesus is!

The highlight of this trip for Rebecca was seeing the impact of the gospel in the lives of the Sateré believers. She heard stories like the one of a father who refused to abandon his little daughter to death when she was born with no hands and only one leg. Crying, “God wants this baby to live!” he saved her life. Today she is a radiant Christian woman who wants to be a teacher.

A soccer player wearing the River uniform

A group of young soccer players also gave Rebecca and Mike reason to rejoice. When the Navratils attended one of the regularly scheduled soccer games, they noticed that one of the Sateré teams wore unusual uniforms marked with the word, RIVER surrounded by yellow stripes. When asked about the design, a young soccer player explained that they had named their soccer team RIVER in gratefulness to God for his plan and to honor Al Graham and his family for their perseverance.

Three generations after Al stood by the river, wondering how God could love such a hardened people, those same people remembered his sacrifice and have been transformed by God’s Word in their language. These young soccer players visit other villages to compete. After the games, they share their testimonies of who God is and what he has done in their lives.

Gerson holding his complete Satere Bible

Praise God with us that “[His] word will not return to [him] empty, but will accomplish what [he] desires and achieves the purpose for which [he] sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Learn more about IMS and their resources here. You can view related posts here: All Skills for All People, A Repurposed Life, The Blind See.