May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—The Apostle Paul
After years of labor, the airstrip at Daboto is finally finished. We now routinely land airplanes on a reasonably flat surface, which not long ago was just another piece of jagged terrain that makes up the mountains in these parts.
Final approach to Daboto is always an edge-of-your-seat affair. The short shelf of dirt rushes up at me at 75 miles an hour. Clouds on my left block the escape route. I’m committed to land. Lord, help me not to bend this thing, especially in front of all these people.
All these people? Seems like well over one hundred Moi have converged on the Daboto airstrip this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than twenty here before.
Stepping out of the airplane, I see Rich and Karen Brown, who’ve now been living among the Moi for a number of years. As they walk up the airstrip towards me, their feet don’t seem to be touching the ground. They are beaming.
“What’s with all the people?” I ask as they reach the parking area at the top of the strip.
“God is doing an amazing thing among the Moi!” says Rich with a face-splitting grin.
After years of language learning and preparation, these Ethnos 360* missionaries among the Moi finally reached the point where they were able to begin their chronological teaching through the Scriptures. They started with the Creation story and were moving through the narratives to end up at the resurrection of Christ. The people had come from all the far-flung hamlets of the Moi territory, some hiking five days to get there. The initial plan was to have teaching sessions five days a week. Soon after beginning, though, the Moi insisted the storytelling be done six days a week. They refused to return to their hamlets to tend their gardens and gather food. Those from afar had consumed all the food they’d brought, and the meager resources of the village of Daboto had also been depleted. Still the people refused to return to their homes for food. The Moi were literally going hungry so they could hear the Good News.
On the day I arrived, they were finishing up the teaching of the Law. The Moi were profoundly convicted of their sins and convinced that they stood separated from their Creator. The people were urgently pushing the storytelling process forward, so they could get to the part about the promised redeemer mentioned in the stories.
“Nate, we’ve got all the people here, and I don’t think any of them understand why you first came to them with the others in that helicopter ten years ago, and I don’t think they have a clue why you keep coming back. Would you share your story with them, so they might understand what drives you?” Rich puts me on the spot.
I flash back to the year 2000. I’m standing in a small clearing in the rainforest, high on the ridge on whose flank I now stand. Not another human being in sight. An hour earlier, we’d gingerly dropped out of a helicopter onto a knife-edge ridge that a lightning strike and fire had cleared of trees. I’m waiting for my GPS to pick up a satellite fix. The rest of the team has hiked on ahead, slowly clearing a path on a compass heading that we hope will someday turn into an airstrip to reach the Moi. The hairs on the back of my neck rise as I sense that I am not alone. Unable to shake the feeling, I turn around, and find myself looking into the eyes of a Moi tribesman.
He has stealthily crept up behind me without me hearing the slightest snap of a twig. I am the first outsider, the first white man, Piato has ever seen.
Back to the present. I now stand at the top of the Daboto airstrip, in a crowd of Moi and turn to find, once again, Piato standing right behind me. I put my arm around this warrior, and my heart begins to speak.
“Some of you have murdered.” Rich translates into Moi.
An image of Piato finishing off one of his wives with an axe flashes across my mind.
I continue: “I have not killed. But I have hated others in my heart, and the Redeemer has said that I am guilty of murder. I lacked only the axe.”
One murderer embracing another, I continued.
“My heart was black. I was separated from my Creator—under his judgment because of my sin. But I have met the Redeemer, and he has paid my penalty for murder and washed my heart clean. This is why I have come. This is why I keep coming back. So that you also may meet this Redeemer and have him carry off your sins. That you may walk with him in the light.”
I released Piato and picked up a tiny boy who was standing at my feet. Made in the image of the living God.
“I have come also because I have a dream that this little boy will be part of the first generation of Moi to grow up in the light, free from the constant fear and oppression of the evil spirits. The Redeemer will give you victory over the evil spirits. Please, listen to the stories and follow the Redeemer when you meet him.”
The word out of Daboto these days is that many of the Moi are embracing Jesus and breaking free from bondage to evil spirits.
The Light has come.
*Formerly New Tribes Mission.
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