November 24, 2014
Further Adventures of Missionary Max: A Family Reunion--of Sorts
Six Yamani warriors--spears held firmly in their hands, faces painted for war--marched silently, single file, into the auditorium and stood at attention behind the back row of chairs. The three young people leading the singing and the man accompanying on guitar noticed them at the same time Max did, and the last line of the hymn trailed off and died in their mouths. The congregation, wondering what was going on, craned their necks around to see what Max and the song leaders were seeing. When they saw the warriors, gasps and a couple muffled screams escaped from the audience. Mary Sue turned several shades paler--something many in the congregation would have believed impossible up until that moment.
His mind racing into overdrive, Max caught Ilana’s eye and motioned with his head to the back of the auditorium. She nodded, then she stood up to approach the warriors. Out of the corner of his eye Max saw that Ray had moved to stand casually off to the side. Max knew his friend was packing, and that he was subtly positioning himself for a clean shot should things get out of hand.
While Max appreciated Ray’s gesture, he really hoped things didn’t go that far. If there were any kind of panic on the part of the congregation, the scene had the potential to get very ugly, very quickly.
With that in mind, Max stepped to the microphone and spoke to the congregation. “Irmãos,” he began in Portuguese, “no ya se corre-corre,” he finished the phrase in Creole--don't be frightened. “This is a group of Yamani from Ilana’s tribe, and she is going to talk to them. Don’t make any sudden moves. I’m sure there is a perfectly good explanation for why they are here.”
He chose not to mention how his last encounter with the Yamani had been on somewhat less-than-cordial terms. Indeed, among the men standing there, he was sure he recognized some of those who had chased Ilana and himself through the jungle a few short months earlier.
Ilana made her way swiftly to the back, and was soon in animated conversation with the warriors. She was no longer director of FUNAPI, the government agency that dealt with Indian affairs, and the last time she had seen any of them, she had been fleeing from them by Max’s side; still, she was one of them and was by far the best equipped to deal directly with the men. Max held his breath, looking for any sign of reaction--positive or negative--in the painted faces of the tribesmen.
It was with great relief that Max saw her embrace one of the men, then another and another until she had hugged the entire group. Max felt fairly certain this was a good sign. Ilana looked back at him and signaled that all was well. Max dismissed the congregation, and they exited the building with astonishing rapidity, giving their jungle visitors a wide berth.
Quickly he made his way back to where Ilana was still talking to the natives. He noticed that Ray had come up silently beside him.
“Max!” Mary Sue hissed at him. He paused and turned towards her. “What if it’s a trap?”
Max looked at her incredulously.
“I’m serious!” she continued. “What if that Indian girl called them here to... to kill us?”
Ray had come up alongside Max, and shook his head in amazement. “Is she for real?”
Max just rolled his eyes and continued to the back of the auditorium. Ilana met him there.
“Max, these are representatives from all three clans of the Yamani tribe, and they have come for our help.”
“That’s a radical change in attitude from the last time we met,” Max observed. Ilana couldn’t help smiling.
“They say that after we were pulled from the jungle--thanks, Dad--they concluded that there must be a powerful spirit working on our behalf.”
“A powerful spirit, or an old guy who happened to have an airplane stored in the barn behind his house,” muttered Ray, ever the cynic.
After a quick conference they decided that the best place to meet would be Ray’s house. The old Portuguese plantation had plenty of space for everybody, and from there it would be easy for the Yamani warriors to slip back into the jungle. Ray left in his old beat up, VW Beetle, and then returned, this time with an equally old, equally beat up VW van. Everybody squeezed inside, including Mary Sue, who at the last minute decided that she’d better go along to keep an eye on things. She insisted, however, on sitting in the passenger seat (much to Ray’s chagrin), which left Max and Ilana squeezed in the back with the warriors.
That night, around the fire Ray had hastily built in the back yard, Max listened as the Yamani explained the reason for their presence.
When the Yamani people came across the great sea, we inhabited the green island, the ones you white men call “Esmeralda.” It was considered sacred, and there we built a great city called Ichi Kahn. It was a beautiful city, crowned with a glorious temple that reached to the clouds. From Ichi Kahn the great kings ruled our four great peoples: the Tree People, the Rock People, the Earth People, and the River People. Our nation spread over all the islands that the white men have called “Cabrito.”
But our ancestors displeased the gods, and great disease fell upon the city dwellers. Such was the death visited upon the island that our people left, and the city was accursed.
Having no ruler, the clans began to fight amongst themselves. After countless years of warfare our brothers the River People tired of the conflict. One day they left, saying they would return to the Green Island, and to Ichi Kahn. The other tribes begged them not to go, but they insisted. They packed their families and belongings in their canoes and rowed out into the ocean, towards the Emerald Island. A great mist came down and covered them, and they were never seen again.
Many times over the years brave Yamani warriors have gone to the Emerald Island to try to find our brothers and let them know that peace has come to us. Often they do not return. Those who do return report seeing warriors like shadows in the trees. Thus we no longer call them “River People” but “Shadow People.”
Life continued this way, year after year, century after century, until last week, when suddenly strange warriors burst upon our villages with no warning, killing many men, and taking many prisoners, and then disappearing again into the jungle. Some of our own brave warriors gave chase, and followed them to the ocean, where the invaders boarded canoes and struck out in the direction of the Green Island. Our warriors feared to follow.
And now there is great distress among our people. We do not know why our brothers, the River People, have emerged from the shadows after so long, only to make war on us. Some in our camp want to make war on them in return. Others are afraid, saying that the Shadow People are half man, half spirit. There is a great crying among our people for our brethren who were killed or taken captive.
And so, in a great council, it was remembered how our princess Ilanawehe and her pale friend were snatched from the sky just before we, in our frenzy, were to run them through with our spears. We have been sent as representatives to beseech you to forgive us of our past grievance, and help us in this present trouble.
Max was spellbound by the story. The Yamani had fascinated him since his first night among them, and now he was getting a new window on their history. He wondered how many people at FUNAPI had such knowledge of the “indigenous people” it was their job to protect. Most likely they were completely unaware of these recent developments.
“I do have one question,” said Max. “Whatever became of the rather large witch doctor who got the people whipped up in a frenzy that night in the forest?”
Ilana turned to the warriors. “Do na Owanalehe?” she repeated in the Yamani tongue. A look of sadness mixed with consternation came over their faces. They responded, and Ilana translated their answer.
“Apparently he was greatly displeased at our escape. After the warriors returned and told him what happened, he became very agitated, and berated them severely. His harsh words deeply offended many of the warriors. His standing among the people diminished. Then one day, he simply disappeared. They searched for him for several days, but he could not be found.” Ilana paused while another warrior interjected something, then continued. “There are rumors spreading through the jungle that he was present when the Shadow People attacked, and that around his neck he wears the Green Monkey.”
At the name of his favorite watering hole, Ray’s head snapped up. “The Green Monkey? What does a tavern down by the docks have to do with anything?”
“Not the tavern, Dad. It’s a monkey’s head, carved out of emerald or some green rock. It came into the possession of the tribe many years ago--some say it was even a gift from the gods--and the Yamani revere it. It was passed down from generation to generation of Yamani medicine men, until it was lost in a battle with the white men many years ago.
“The Yamani believe that the man who has The Green Monkey possesses superhuman powers. They also believe it gives them protection, and ascribe any current misfortunes to the fact that is was lost.”
“But it’s just a trinket!” The exclamation came from Mary Sue, sitting in the corner.
“To us, yes,” Max interjected, trying not to let his impatience show. “But jungle cultures like the Yamani are very close to the spirit world, and this kind of thing is very real to them.”
Mary Sue gave a response somewhere between a grunt and a snort, and resumed her pout.
One of the warriors spoke again. His words caused some discussion among his friends. Ilana translated: “He says that some villagers claim they saw a woman among the attackers--a woman whose head was on fire.
Others say this is ridiculous.”
“Hair on fire...like mine?” he ran his hand through his own perennially unruly shock of red hair. Ilana translated, and the first Yamani answered.
“I saw her,” he said solemnly. “And her hair was fire. Yours is just dying embers.” There was general mirth among the tribesmen as he spoke, and then among the others as Ilana translated his words.
“Max, they want an answer.” Iliana reminded him as the laughter dwindled. She, and everybody else around the fire, looked at him expectantly. Slowly Max stood, and as he did, he prayed for wisdom like he had never prayed before.
“Friends,” he began. “You asked us to forgive you, but you have no need of our forgiveness. Your attack on us six months ago was provoked by others, and fueled by ignorance.” He watched their expressions closely in the flickering firelight as Ilana translated. Some of the warriors remained stoic, while others seemed visibly relieved. “Rather, all mankind, white or brown, is in need of the forgiveness of that Great Spirit who plucked us from your midst.”
Plucked us from your midst? Max thought. Where did that come from? Shakespeare?
“All of us have offended Him, and all of us deserve His righteous wrath. And yet, in His infinite mercy, He offered His Son as a sacrifice, pouring His wrath out on Him instead.” Again, there were mixed reactions from the group.
Better get to the matter at hand.
“You have come to us for help, and as those who have been forgiven by the Great Spirit, we must help our fellow man. Let us confer among ourselves, and we will tell you our plan.”
And he truly hoped that by the next day there would be a plan to tell them.
Sunday Afternoon Evangelism
Recently our church decided on a once-a-month evangelism campaign in our own neighborhood. Besides looking for opportunities to share Christ, we are looking to make contact with folks who have never heard of us, or don't know what we are all about.
Yesterday was our second "evangelism day". Here are a couple pictures:
The guys team, ready for action.
The girls team, pounding the pavement.
Mikey gets a bird's-eye view.
This video came across my "desk" this morning. It features six seminary students from the Cariri Baptist Seminary, where we served our first term.
Of special interest is the young man on the far left (as you look at the group). This is Francivaldo, who is from our church here in Maranhão and currently preparing for ministry.
Missions in Bom Gosto: November, 2014
This month's trip to Bom Gosto was eventful, and spiritually profitable. Some highlights:
* Our ladies organized a baby shower for a junior-high-aged girl who is pregnant and abandoned by the father.
* Two evangelism teams that spread out over the community.
* A group of local believers who began the Source of Light discipleship course.
Here are some pictures taken throughout the day.
Excited church members on the bus, ready for another day of ministry.
Independência ou morte?
The river in Bom Gosto is always a major attraction.
Evangelism teams, before splitting up and canvassing the community.
Rickson, tuning up!
This month's adventure: getting the bus unstuck.
Musical Interlude: Brass Finger?
A little "shaken-not-stirred" music to get you in the mood for the next Missionary Max episode, which will "drop" later today.