J~"7 -f ^ JP-7 / -*
na^.^ uxarence Wilbur, 19O2-
1 Gurers roi- God. Harper
266 Hl?aci $3-75
Kail, Clarence Wilbur, 19G2-
Adventurers for God. Harper
26 5p* rillus*
KANSAS CITY, MO. PUBLIC LIBRARY
"P 1 /, f
Adventurers for Qod
"Of all the breeds of brave and gallant
men and women, Christian missionaries
are to me the most heroic and the most
unaware of their heroism."
Thus does the author of this baker's
dozen stirring accounts of great deeds
explain the drive that sent him to the
far parts of the earth, as today's foremost
reporter of Christian activities. Having
spent the greater part of his life as editor
and writer in chronicling all kinds of
adventures for God, he has chosen those
persons whose lives and work contain the
most dramatic incidents of the hundreds
and even thousands that might be told
of the Christian missionary enterprise.
CLARENCE W. HALL
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
ADVENTURERS FOR GOD
Copyright 1959 by Clarence W. Hall
Printed in the United States of America
All rights in this book are reserved
Grateful acknowledgment is made to The Reader's
Digest Association, Inc., for permission to use the fol-
lowing articles, which originally appeared in some-
what different form in The Readers Digest:
The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island, copyright
1947 by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. The
Man Who Founded A People (The Gospel of The
Plow) ; Unconquerable Kagawa ( Servant of the Poor ) :
copyright 1951 by The Reader's Digest Association,
Inc. He Brought My People Back to Life (Bolivia's
Most Unforgettable Character); God's Angry Man
(One Man Against ' Apartheid'); Medicine Man on
The Amazon; Through Gates of Splendor: copyright
1956 by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. The
White Man Comes to Shangri-La (The Valley that
Time Forgot); He's Given Sight to 100,000 (He Gave
Sight to 100,000); Skipper of The 'Morning Star';
Isle of Hope in Hong Kong ( Chinese Refugees' Best
Friend): copyright 1957 by The Reader's Digest
Association, Inc. Two Thousand Tongues to Go, copy-
right 1958 by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
PHOTOGRAPHS: page 68, top by International News
Photos, bottom by The Salvation Army; pages 135-
138, 140 by Robert Halmi; page 206, top by Wide
World Photos, bottom by Religious News Service;
page 240 by Nate Saint, copyright 1956 by Sam
The Library of Congress catalog entry for
this book appears at the end of the text.
To all those thousands
of brave and gallant men and women
who have left the comforts and safety of home
to respond with high-beating hearts
to the Divine command:
"Go ye into all the world . . . to every creature? 9
I THE VALLEY THAT TIME FORGOT 23
II HE GAVE SIGHT TO 100,000 42
III SKIPPER OF THE "MORNING STAR" 56
IV THE MAN WHO CONQUERED DEVIL'S ISLAND 70
V THE MIRACLE OF THE "OMI BROTHERHOOD" 81
VI Two THOUSAND TONGUES TO Go 106
VII BOLIVIA'S MOST UNFORGETTABLE
VIII ONE MAN AGAINST "APARTHEID" 168
IX MEDICINE MAN ON THE AMAZON 178
X "THE GOSPEL OF THE PLOW" 194
XI SERVANT OF THE POOR 204
XII CHINESE REFUGEES' BEST FRIEND 215
XIII THROUGH GATES OF SPLENDOR 228
Photographs appear on pages 35-34, 67-68,
133-140, 205-206, 239-240
All stories contained in this book were condensed in various
issues of The Reader's Digest between March 1947 and the pres-
ent. For permission to print them herein, in their original longer
form and with up-to-date material added, the author is indebted
to DeWitt Wallace and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders and co-
editors of The Readers Digest, without whose unfailing en-
couragement, editorial stimulation, and abiding interest in Chris-
tian missions these stories would never have been written.
'Through Gates of Splendor/' written by the author from his
own on-the-spot research, supplemented by material supplied by
Abe C. Van Der Puy, was first used as a book-length feature in
The Readers Digest (August 1956). Later, a book by Elisabeth
Elliot, using the same title with the magazine's permission, was
published by Harper & Brothers.
"The Gospel of the Plow," which originally appeared under the
title "The Man Who Founded a People," was written in collabo-
ration with Dr. Listen Pope, Dean of the Divinity School, Yale
Certain portions of the Introduction are taken from the author's
own text in Protestant Panorama, published in 1951 by Farrar,
Strauss & Young.
Acknowledgment is made to the following published works
which served as helpful background material in the preparation
of the author's original articles: Naught For Your Comfort, by
Trevor Huddleston (Doubleday); Kagatoa, by William Axling
(Harper); The Lady Was A Skipper, by Maribelle Cormack
(Hill & Wang); Devtfs Island, by Charles Pean (Hodder &
Stoughton); The Omi Brotherhood in Nippon, by William Merrell
Vories (Omi Brotherhood Publishing Department).
The author also gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assist-
ance given him by the devoted staffs of the various denomina-
tional and interdenominational mission boards in opening their
files, responding to endless questions for information, and check-
ing the stories for accuracy before they were put into print.
Of all the qualities with which mankind is endowed,
none excites in us deeper admiration than courage. Especially
when that courage is completely selfless, dedicated to a cause
higher than one's own search for personal happiness or gain.
The stories comprising this book are dramatic examples of
that kind of courage. They were gathered through years of
roving the remote corners of earth, on behalf of The Readers
Digest, as part of that magazine's never-ending hunt for
article subjects whose exploits on behalf of their fellows lift
us out of ourselves and serve to remind us that we too can
make our lives sublime.
That all the stories are of Christian missionaries is not ac-
cidental. As the author has stated elsewhere, "Of all the
breeds of brave and gallant men and women, Christian mis-
sionaries are to me the most heroicand the most unaware
of their heroism." Because they are so "unaware," and usually
so completely disinterested in publicity, their stories too in-
frequently get told.
Until quite recently, it must be admitted, the popular con-
ception of the missionary, even among people who should
know better, was a caricature. To those who had not ob-
served these "adventurers for God" at close range, the mis-
sionary was often regarded, when he was thought of at all,
as a dedicated but rather dull soul who hustled off to some
far region, at the beck of what he conceived to be the voice
of God but was more likely the urgings of his own malad-
justments, to take his frustrations to a people naive and un-
inhibited, forcing their splendid bodies into Mother Hub-
bards and their minds into theological strait-jackets.
But that immature judgment of missionaries has recently
undergone some sharp revision. We are belatedly coming to
see that, as a group, few others have done as much to bring
our topsy-turvy world back on balance, to scatter abroad the
tremendous boons of our democratic way of life, to impress
upon the world our fundamental beliefs in the basic dignity
of all people and their rights to education, modern medical
science, and a chance at a better life for all men.
No one volume, nor a dozen volumes, could hope to cover
the wide range of activity by missionaries around the world.
The stories in this book are merely representative of the broad
sweep of the Christian missions enterprise.
Geographically, their settings are the remoter areas of the
missionary frontier such as the shut-in Shangri-la of Dutch
New Guinea's mysterious interior; the exotic and scattered
islands of Micronesia in the South and Central Pacific; the
wild North- West Frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan;
the tragic Devil's Island penal colony in French Guiana; the
brooding reaches of the unbelievably vast Amazon River; the
turbulent veldts and crowded cities of Africa; the tangled
jungles of Ecuador and Peru.
Denominationally, they represent both the larger and
smaller church groupings: Methodist and Baptist, Presby-
terian and Congregational, Episcopalian and Anglican, Sev-
enth Day Adventist and Christian and Missionary Alliance;
Salvation Army and Quakers. In their work, the subjects'
denominational affiliation is not important. They are both
laymen and members of the ordained ministry; that dis-
tinction too is unimportant.
Vocationally, these missionaries are "specialists" in the fin-
est sense of the word and as such axe indicative of the
widened field of modern missions which today have room for
trained people of almost every kind of talent or interest. They
are skilled doctors and surgeons, educators and linguists,
agriculturalists and anthropologists, architects and business
administrators, social scientists and aircraft pilots, techni-
cians and navigators of sea and air.
These, like the thousands of other present-day missionaries
they represent, are inheritors of a great tradition, contributors
to a mighty record of achievement a record still only half
appreciated and but slightly understood by the world to
which they have given so much.
From Britain and America, during the past century and
a half, has flowed a thrilling tide of men and women
into every non-Christian land, eager to cast their light into
superstition's darkness, eager to burn themselves out for
William Carey heard the far bugles calling while at his
cobbler's bench in England, and he closed his shop door for-
ever that he might open the Gospel door to India. David
Livingston heard the bugles while tending a spinning jenny;
they pulled him to his feet and projected him into the depths
of darkest Africa. Robert Morrison heard them while peer-
ing at a map of the Orient in his study, and was immediately
off to traipse the China hinterland and bring a Christian
literature to a million peasants. Adoniram Judson heard them
while reading a sermon entitled "The Star of the East," and
he soon was burning up a hundred Burma roads with the
Gospel torch. John G. Paton heard them while roving the
pleasant pastures o his native Scottish highlands, and
promptly set sail for the turbulent tropics and the New
These are but five of a number that is legion. You can call
the roll of the intrepid pioneers for hours and never exhaust
the list. Some lighted out for the distant horizons with only
the Bible under their arms and a call to preach in their
hearts; some with medical kits and lancets in hand; some
with tools over their shoulders and bags of improved seeds in
their pockets; some with degrees in pedagogy or medicine or
agriculture or divinity; some with nothing save a spirit
burning to "further the Gospel" merely by living with and
humbly serving the people. But whyever and wherever they
went, they left footprints as long as the stride of God.
Americans more than any other people, and out of all
proportion to their numerical strength, have been missionary-
minded. That mission-mindedness is part and parcel of their
pioneering heritage. The American takes to the frontier,
wherever it is, with the habitual drift of a man gravitating to
his natural environment. It was the missionary impulse, in
large part, that brought the colonists to America in the first
place. Both the 1606 and 1609 Virginia charters made plain
that one of the chief reasons for settling these shores was the
propagation of the Christian faith. That impulse put mission-
aries in the van of every wagon train off to the westward-
moving frontiers, sent them out to meet immigrants, induced
them to build churches and schools in immigrant settle-
ments, in big cities and on prairies, in mining towns and
lumber camps. For a century and a half, they did not go
abroad; their focus was held to the new continent. There
was plenty to keep them busy.
It was early in the nineteenth century that American
Protestants began to focus their eyes on the far frontiers.
While still hurling the tentacles of their faith into every area
of American life in need of evangelization, they began reach-
ing out to other lands.
Out they went to India and Africa, whose immensely
rich resources had for centuries tempted foreign plunderers
. . . out to lands where the bodies of animals were sacred
and men's bodies cheap, where gods were wood and stone,
and where misery rode the back and poverty ached in the
stomach and hopelessness cried in the heart . . . out to
China and Burma and Malaya and the islands of the sea
. . . out to the outcaste, the untouchable, the diseased, the
blighted. Almost every local church formed its missionary
society. Pennies and dimes and dollars began dropping into
missionary boxes, clothing and food and books into mis-
sionary barrels. Denominational leaders got out their big
maps, began to plan world strategy.
Out they went and out they continued to go right up to
the eve of Pearl Harbor. World War II temporarily halted
the march, but it brought to blazing light what had been
happening in the world's far corners where those immigrants
for Christ had gone. American GI's, fanning out all over the
world, found some amazing Christians in some amazing
places. Back from the war fronts, they sent letters to loved
ones telling tales that seemed tall even to supporters of
foreign missions. Their lives had been saved by mission-
converted ex-cannibals. Their broken and fever-ridden bodies
had been transported over the Owen Stanley ranges by
"fuzzy-wuzzy" stretcher-bearers with "a look on their faces
that makes you think that Christ was black/' They had been
fished out of the sea, spirited to safety, nursed to health and
returned to their comrades by natives who couldn't speak
their language but could sing their hymn tunes. Following
the blazing path of war, members of the U. S. armed forces
came upon Christian communities distinguished by a charac-
ter of life sharply contrasting with the life around them,
met everywhere Bible-carryng and hymn-singing Christians
of varied hues where atlases and military intelligence had
indicated only savages.
The GI's ran into men of the stature of Albert Schweitzer,
one of the towering figures of our time, or any time, a man
of tremendously varied talents, content to lose himself in the
lives of Africa's black men. They saw men like Sam Higgin-
bottam, who has brought to India his immense achievements
in Christian agriculture, and Emory Alvord who in thirty
years had changed the face of Southern Rhodesia by the ap-
plication of his "Gospel of the Plow." They came upon the
monuments of Christian healing left by great medical mis-
sionaries like Gordon Seagrave, "Burma Surgeon," whose
triumphs over disease were such as to make Hippocrates rise
from his Grecian grave and applaud, They followed hard
upon the trail of men like globe-girdling Frank Laubach
who, with his "Each one teach one" program, is generalissimo
in the world crusade to stamp out illiteracy among the
countless millions on this planet who can neither read nor
write nor, therefore, vote.
The revelation was not alone to servicemen. Franklin D.
Roosevelt wrote before his death: "Since becoming President,
I have come to know that the finest type of Americans we
have abroad are the missionaries of the Cross. I am hu-
miliated that I am just finding out at this late day the work
of foreign missions and the nobility of the missionary."
Wendell Willkie went junketing around the earth during
the war, and came back to tell of the great "reservoir of good
will" America has in foreign lands, thanks in large part to
By no means the least contribution made by foreign mis-
sions is the large part they have played in making Ameri-
cans global-minded, preparing them for the day, now come,
when this nation would be the free world's leader and its
hope. We tend to forget that, if indeed we ever fully realized
it. As Kenneth Scott Latourette has pointed out, "Even
those most active in the world- wide missionary enterprise are
frequently unaware of how deeply it has molded the Ameri-
can outlook on the world."
During the many decades when millions of American
church members were making their gifts to "the mission half
of the church envelope," listening to addresses by mission-
aries on furlough, reading of mission projects through church
periodicals, studying missions in church schools, something
pretty important was happening to the American mind. It
was being keyed to the fact that peoples beyond the seas
and beyond our ken were important. More, they have taught
Americans to think brotherly to think about the world's
peoples in a way that had nothing to do with commercial or
What this has meant, and will mean in the future, nobody
can possibly assess. But one would be both unfair and un-
realistic if, in auditing the reasons for America's growth from
fierce isolationism into world responsibility, he did not ring
with red pencil those long years when Christians have been
preaching the infinite worth of man, irrespective of color or
race, and when Americans by the millions have been acquir-
ing a universal sympathy, a universal conscience, through
their interest in and support of world-wide missions.
And, mind you, this mighty "foreign aid" program is now,
and always has been, carried along with no support from
the government, no draft upon the taxpayer's pocketbook.
By contrast with the billions of government money poured
into underdeveloped countries, the funds that Christians
have had to work with are peanuts. Yet compare the results!
Miserly the pennies that have been put into the missions
enterprise, you say? You are right, of course. We should have
poured in millions, billions. But what miracles have been
wrought all across the world by even the pennies!
Another accomplishment definitely traceable to the mis-
sionary enterprise one that is vital to Christianity's future
in the worldis this: it has taught Christians everywhere the
meaning of that jaw-breaking word "ecumenicity." Especially
has it been taught where the importance of Christian
brotherhood and co-operation is needed the worst: among
America's great proliferation of religious bodies. Workers out
on the world's far-flung fringes, in a sort of reverse missionary
movement, have helped "Christianize" their home churches.
No one traveling to far parts and witnessing at first hand
the operations of various mission bodies can fail to be struck
by the spirit of co-operation and unity that exists among
them. The farther you get out onto the frontier, the more
Christian brotherhood you find among groups of even the
most diverse doctrinal differences, Dog-eat-dog denomina-
tionalism might be tolerated, though deplored, on the home
front. But out on the mission field it is fatal to both the
eater and the eaten. While "competition" among missionary
groups has not been banished entirely, one sees far less of it
abroad than at home.
It was at a missionary conference at Edinburgh in 1910
that the spirit of ecumenicity, long practiced by experienced
missionaries in the field, was finally recognized as a high goal
for churches at home as well as abroad. The challenge was
first thrown out by Episcopal Bishop Charles H. Brent who
declared, "The world is too strong for a divided Church!"
Since then the strides toward unified planning and co-opera-
tion, particularly among Protestant churches, has been im-
pressive. Christians everywhere today are singing with new
In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North,
But one great Fellowship of Love
Throughout the whole wide earth!
For that and a great deal else you can thank the foreign
To a broader understanding of that program, and of the
kind of people who make it dynamic and inspiring, this
baker's dozen of stories is sincerely dedicated.
Adventurers for Qod
Missionaries in "Shangri-la"
Dutch New Guinea
HP"! \7 Til HTH x. HP 17
1 Jhie V alley I Jhiat 1 ime Jr orj
Christian missionaries, I confess, fascinate me. Of all
the breeds of brave and gallant men, they are to me the most
heroic and the most unaware of their heroism. Thus when,
in 1956, I heard that a small contingent under the aegis of
the Christian and Missionary Alliance had quietly gone into
the forbidding interior of Dutch New Guinea, to seek one of
the world's most recently discovered tribes, I knew I had to
On a small airstrip at Sentani Lake, outside Hollandia, New
Guinea, I found Dave Steiger. He was changing the spark
plugs of a single-engine Piper Pacer, with which he services
the "supply line" to remote mission stations.
Dave regarded me doubtfully. To him it was incredible that
anyone would fly halfway around the world, then insist upon
penetrating into the unexplored fastnesses, just to observe
men of God going about their job. He scanned the sky, then
shrugged. "Weather's apt to close in over the ranges. But
Til chance it if you will."
Loading emergency supplies, we took off, flew for an hour
over impenetrable jungle and swamps, then rose sharply
toward an 8000-foot pass into the Snow Mountains. These
jagged, towering peaks, some of them rising to 16,000 feet,
24 Adventurers for God
have isolated the interior for centuries. As we approached
them, fog swept in suddenly, blocking out landmarks, clos-
ing in behind us. For another hour we floundered about, first
trying to get above the clouds, then beneath them.
Finally, through a temporarily clear space in the fog, we
sighted a river far below. Dave spiraled down, got under the
ceiling and followed the river tumbling through deep gorges.
And suddenly our goal, the Grand Valley of the Baliem River
called "Shangri-la" by the missionarieslay beneath us.
I gasped in surprise. The 40-by-lo-mile valley, studded
with neat villages, resembled New England more than the
last stand of Stone Age man. Everywhere I saw thatched
houses, whose gardens were surrounded by stone walls. Rim-
ming the valley were plunging gorges, giant waterfalls, ter-
When we let down on a small airstrip, we were im-
mediately engulfed by hordes of natives. Their dress con-
sisted principally of fancy headgear of fur and feathers, neck-
laces of shells, boars' tusks in their noses. Their bodies were
smeared with pig grease, their cheekbones daubed with col-
From their midst emerged a rangy American. Erect and
dignified, he looked as though he should be behind a busi-
ness desk, or perhaps lecturing a college class, instead of
leading one of the most perilous missionary expeditions of
This was Einar Mickelson from California.
It was on April 20, 1954, that Einar Mickelson set out by
plane for Shangri-la. As he was about to take off, a Dutch
official said to him: "I wouldn't go into that valley with any-
The Valley That Time Forgot 25
thing less than a regiment of soldiers. Hanged if I can under-
stand what drives you missionaries!"
Mickelson just grinned. "No need to be hanged/' he re-
plied. "You could find the answer in Christ's commission to
those who try to follow Him: 'Go ye into all the world.' Or
even in Kipling. He once spoke, you remember, of 'some-
thing lost behind the ranges, lost and waiting for you
The "something lost" was some 60,000 Danis, a race of
Stone Age people whose very existence was completely un-
known until recent years. Among the world's last undiscov-
ered tribes, they had dwelt for untold centuries in their shut-
in Shangri-la, undisturbed by the march of time, as un-
aware of the existence of a "civilized world" as that world
was unaware of them.
First word of their lush and beautiful Baliem River valley
had been brought out in 1938 by Richard Archbold, an
American explorer. Confirmation of Archbold's discovery
came from three survivors of a U. S. Army plane crash in
1945, when for 50 days newspapers headlined their dramatic
rescue by glider from the floor of the valley. Then it slipped
off the front pages and became again "the valley that time
But it was not forgotten by Einar Mickelson. Any news of
any people anywhere unreached by the Christian Gospel
was, for him, a mandate spelling "Go!" Since 1938 he had
made himself an expert on New Guinea's remoter regions,
founding for the Christian and Missionary Alliance extensive
mission operations in the Wissel Lakes area, among the
Eapauku and Moni tribes. Now he began bombarding his
movement's New York headquarters. Few salvos were
26 Adventurers for God
needed: the Alliance specializes in pioneering where no mis-
sionary has ever been.
Obtaining an entry permit from the Dutch colonial gov-
ernment was not so easy. On its maps the whole Dani area
was ominously marked "uncontrolled." In its scant files the
Danis were described as crafty and treacherous, cruel and vin-
dictive. But Mickelson was undeterred. "The Gospel makes
even the savage friendly," he said, pointing to the boons his
missions had brought to the tribes around Wissel Lakes.
When, in the summer of 1952, permission was finally
granted, the Dutch government said, "Understand, you're
on your own!"
Mickelson had already made two attempts to reach
Shangri-la overland, and each time had been stopped by
hostile tribesmen. Realizing the futility of this approach, he
asked the C&MA for an amphibian plane, an expensive re-
quest. The problem was finally solved by taking it to the Al-
liance membership, and the funds, mostly in small gifts,
were quickly subscribed.
As his missionary companion on the first flight in, Mickel-
son chose Lloyd Van Stone, a strapping young Texan who
had fought through New Guinea with the 1st Cavalry Di-
vision. "I don't know how we'll be received," Mickelson said
to Van Stone, "but there's no turning back now!" Van Stone
grinned, quoted a GI axiom: "We have to go in. We don't
have to come back."
At the amphibian's controls was Al Lewis of Hamilton,
Ontario, a former Canadian Air Force ace. Also aboard were
three Kapaukus, converts of the Wissel Lakes mission: a
pastor named Elisa, his wife Ruth and their two-year-old
baby. Mickelson's reasoning: since the Kapaukus were a
The Valley That Time Forgot 27
family, their presence would assure the Danis that the inva-
sion was a peaceful one.
Lewis let the plane down on the Baliem River. In 20
minutes the five passengers and supplies food for 30 days,
tents, lamps, radiowere unloaded, and the plane headed
Mickelson and Van Stone set up the radio and called then-
base at Sentani Lake, 150 miles away but centuries removed
in time. "We're here!" they exulted. "Thank God!"
But where were the Danis? For a whole day none ap-
peared. Did the weird silence indicate fear, or hostility?
The next day, while still getting their camp into shape,
the missionaries heard a cry from Elisa, the Kapauku. They
looked toward the distant hilltops to see, limned against the
sky, a long line of stalwart black men, their spears held up-
right like so many pales of a picket fence.
But not until the following day did the Danis approach
the camp. Then, abruptly materializing out of nowhere, a
large group was before them 15-foot spears extended, stone-
headed battleaxes on their shoulders, bows and arrows in
hand. Suddenly their leader gave a hoarse order, weapons
were lowered, and the whole group surged forward with
smiles and cries of "Nahp! Nahp!" the Dani welcome. The
missionaries repeated the cry with genuine relief, joyously
credited the friendly reception to the "volumes of prayerful
intercession for us by faithful groups back home."
The Danis were insatiably curious. To them, the color of
the missionaries' skin was an enduring novelty. They crowded
close, pinching the white faces and arms, rubbing them al-
most raw to see whether the "paint" would come off. The
white man's gadgets, too, were an endless fascination to
28 Adventurers for God
people who had never seen metal of any kind, nor a wheel,
nor glass. Given small mirrors, they gazed entranced at their
reflection, marveling that their "spirits" ( which they believe
to exist in the ether outside their bodies ) could be captured
When the missionaries put aluminum sides on their shelter,
the Danis spent hours dragging their spear ends across its
corrugated surface, creating a cacophony of sound. Glass win-
dows were equally fascinating; from morn till night the tribes-
men stood like dark, living statues, staring in. When a small
generator was rigged up and the first bulb lighted, they
shouted, "They've got the moon in their house!"
In turn, the missionaries marveled at the Danis* intelli-
gence and ingenuity. With only stone tools and sharpened
sticks they had managed to create well-irrigated gardens,
lushly full of yams, taro, spinach, beans, cucumbers, bananas.
From vines, bamboo and lumber split by stone axes they had
built ingenious suspension bridges, sturdy thatched houses.
They had worked out a currency system using the little
cowrie shell, brought in from the coast in some long-forgotten
era. One shell purchases a man's labor for a half day; two
shells, a bunch of bananas; three, a pig.
Family life followed ancient patterns. A man could have
as many wives as he could peaceably assemble and support
-or induce to support him. Wife-stealing was common;
amorous men hid in the brush surrounding gardens, seized
their prey as the women came to work. If caught, the at-
tacker paid the offended husband a pig, or negotiated a wife
swap. Adultery, however, was solely a male right. A man,
married or single, was unrestricted in his relations with single
women. But a woman was subject to severe punishment from
The Valley That Time Forgot 29
her husband for any similar conduct. Dani women resort to
the most violent extremes to induce abortion.
The missionaries found many grisly customs. One was to
cut off a finger as an expression of mourning for a close rela-
tive, and cast it onto the funeral pyre. When fingers were
gone, after multiple sorrows, the tips of ears were sacrificed.
Few women in Shangri-la were without mutilated hands or
Cannibalism was not uncommon, nor burial alive of the
aged. One day the missionaries, having missed an ancient
Dani, father of the mission's cook, were horrified to learn that
he had been put in a hole, covered up to his neck and left
Feasts, with nightlong ceremonial dancing, celebrated
every special occasion, helped to drain off Dani exuberance.
Missionaries had to learn which feasts to attend and which
to avoid. On one occasion, while learning, they were nearly
compromised. Shortly after the first mission house had been
erected, a group of Danis insisted upon marking the event
with a "tern" dance, described as a mild sort of flirtation
waltz between unmarried young people. The missionaries
were about to agree when, almost accidentally, they dis-
covered that the dance always wound up in a free-for-all
And religion? The Danis had no gods, no forms of worship.
They feared only "evil spirits" inhabiting the air, trees, rocks.
Nothing supernatural was good, only evil. And evil spirits
often vented their spleen against the living with visitations
Of all the missionaries* devices for creating confidence and
friends in Shangri-la, none was so immediately successful
30 Adventurers for God
as medicine. Mickelson had been in the valley only a short
while before word of the white man's healing magic spread
from tribe to tribe. Trained in first aid, he and his colleagues
spent much time treating wounds and sores, patching up
broken bones and halting infection with needle-injected pen-
icillin. Once introduced to the "shiny thorn" (the hypo-
dermic needle), the Danis clamored for it, often inventing
The missionaries firmly believe that treating the sick, apart
from its humanitarian good, "will help us to introduce Him
who heals broken hearts." During my visit I watched as
Tom Bozeman of Daytona Beach, Florida recently come to
the valley treated a group of Danis for yaws, great open
ulcers that eat away flesh like leprosy. After each insertion
of the needle he put his hand on the patient's head and
said something in the Dani language. I asked what he said.
"Just a simple little prayer/' he replied. "Something like:
'Lord, this man has a sore body. You are the Master of
health. And You love this man. Touch him and make him
well/ " Do they understand? "Perhaps not now, but some
day they may remember and thank the white man's God,
not us," he replied with moving sincerity.
Shortly after coming to Shangri-la, the missionaries' medi-
cal knowledge paid off in an important way. A young brother
of the most powerful chief in the area, Ukumhearik, fell out
of a tree, broke his leg and suffered a concussion. For days
the boy was near death, while the witch-doctor vainly per-
formed his rites.
Ukumhearik, a regal potentate with 20 wives and 10,000
followers, sent for Van Stone. "He is going to die, white
Tuan/' said the chief. "You help save?" Van Stone sent the
The Valley That Time Forgot 31
witch-doctor away, set the broken leg, hovered over the lad
for days, then persuaded the chief to let him take the boy
by plane to the hospital at Hollandia. Within two weeks the
missionary was back, bearing a completely healed youngster.
Ukumhearik never forgot the good deed. His memory of it
was, quite literally, a lifesaver to the missionaries on a
number of tense occasions.
The witch-doctor, who had been a troublemaker for the
mission, deemed it wise henceforth to be helpful too. One
day when Van Stone was stricken with malaria, he came to
the mission house. "Me help sick Tuan," he said, beginning
his incantations. Van Stone interrupted the mumbo-jumbo
to say, "I'll be all right. Jesus will heal me." The witch-doctor
went on waving his leaves and twiddling his fingers above
the missionary. "Me help Jesus!" he grunted.
When someone from the outside observed that "the whole
Baliem venture is suspended by two pretty slender threads
Dani friendship and one lone plane," one of the mission-
aries replied quietly, "Our dependence and confidence have
always been in Him who liangeth the world on nothing/ "
The slendemess of that second thread was demonstrated
when, for a period of five months, the plane could not land
because of low water in the Baliem and could fly in only
once every three weeks to drop supplies by parachute. It
was even more tragically proved one day when, in attempt-
ing a supply flight during bad weather, Pilot Al Lewis missed
the pass and crashed into a cloud-hooded peak. The loss of
pilot and plane was a blow; for weeks the mission was iso-
lated until another plane, land based, could be obtained and
an airstrip built
Dani friendliness too, it early became plain, was a brittle
32 Adventurers for God
and often twisted thread. Their moods could change in a
flash from easy amiability to truculence to blood thirst.
Such perverse switches were usually sparked by either their
inbred love for inter-tribal fighting or some inadvertent viola-
tion of their ancient taboos and superstitions.
The missionaries had not been long at their first rough
camp when they discovered that they had settled in a sort of
no man's land between two warring tribes: the people of
the valley and the hill-dwellers. One night in July 1954 the
hill people raided the river gardens to steal sugar cane. The
next day, while a few visitors from the hills were curiously
poking about the mission camp, they were suddenly am-
bushed by river warriors. Arrows and spears flew about the
camp; two hill-dwellers were killed, another fell while flee-
ing. Stunned at first by this violence, Van Stone grabbed his
shotgun, fired into the air, frightened the attackers away,
then rushed up the hill down which 300 hill warriors were
When the leader advanced on him, spear poised, the mis-
sionary said quietly, "You have your spear, I have mine.
Here's what mine can do!" and fired a blast that tore away
the branches of a tree. The warriors retired in sulky haste.
That night the missionaries went up the hill to treat the
wounded and bring consolation to the bereaved.
During the next few weeks tempestuous battles blazed
again and again with more dead and wounded left on
the missionaries' doorstep. By November Mickelson and
his group decided it was the better part of valor as well as
Christian strategy to move. So, on Thanksgiving, they aban-
doned the camp and established a new station four miles
south, at Hitigima, close to a large concentration of Danis.
The author making friends with Chief Ukumhearik (left), undisputed
ruler of 10,000 Danis and husband to 20 wives, and his witch-doctor at
Hitigima in New Guinea. (Chapter I)
The picture which, when shown to the Stone-Age Danis, brought to the
"Shangri-La" missionaries their closest brush with death, (see page 36)
Dani tribesmen preparing fire for feast celebrating victory in one of the
tribal wars that rage constantly in the Baliem Valley. (Chapter I)
Missionary Tom Bozeman inoculating
with penicillin a victim of yaws,
most prevalent disease in "Shangri-La.
The Valley That Time Forgot 35
One of the missionaries sighed in a letter home: "It's going
to take a while to teach the Dani to love his enemies, not
to steal his wife or pig, not to whack him with an ax or
pierce him with a spear."
At the mission one day some Danis were curiously look-
ing through an American magazine. When one seemed to be
dwelling overlong at an illustration, a missionary leaned
over, snatched the magazine away. He tore out the page and
crumpled it: it was a picture of Hercules decapitating the
Hydra. "These people," he muttered, "don't need any sug-
gestions on how to make mayhem more efficient!"
Most Dani customs either lead to war or flow from it.
Rigid boundary lines separate the hundreds of valley tribes;
to cross them means death. But to the Dani, risking death
is better than boredom. And Danis, the missionaries soon
learned, bore easily.
Cannibalism is practiced only on strong and valiant ene-
miesto gain their virtues. On one occasion, hearing that
a young warrior had been badly wounded and was in the
hands of the enemy in a nearby village, Van Stone hurried
over to offer medical treatment. At the village edge, he saw
a column of smoke rising. He was told, "You no need go;
him now being roasted. Big feast tonight!"
Here, more than once, the missionaries learned how sud-
denly Dani amiability could change to bloodthirst Their
closest brush with disaster came a year ago when three Dani
girls who had been helping to make an airstrip were drowned
while crossing the Baliem River. Going to console the
mothers, Van Stone found the families had been worked
into a fever of excitement by a few troublemakers.
At the funeral next day the people sat swaying and moan-
36 Adventurers for God
ing, their black faces contorted, their hands quivering on
their spears. Hostility rose to passionate pitch when one
of the mothers dramatically whacked off two of her fin-
gers with a stoneheaded ax and flung them into Van Stone's
The missionary pushed his way through the screaming
mob, sought out Ukumhearik.
"My people say you have brought only trouble," said the
chief. "They demand your death. But I try to help you,"
He addressed the people: "This is my friend. Before mis-
sionaries came, you were poor no shells, no axes, no cloth.
Now we have all these/'
The people shouted back angrily, wanting no part of the
olive branch. Ukumhearik lifted his hand. "Listen," he said.
"Big bird come to save white man." Sure enough, it was the
mission plane coming in on an emergency rim. Frightened,
the Danis fell on the ground, and the chief whisked the
missionary out of danger. By the next day hostility had died
as quickly as it had flared.
One evening, three months after the three girls' death,
danger flared again. The missionaries were projecting colored
slides on the wall of their house. As the Danis recognized
themselves, they laughed and shouted, "My spirit!" Then in-
advertently a slide was inserted of a group containing two
of the dead girls. Immediately the Danis prostrated them-
selves on the ground. When one cried out, "They've got
dead spirits in that box!" a fearful murmur crackled through
the crowd like dry grass aflame. Sensing a riot in the making,
the missionaries stopped the show, sent for the tribe's leaders,
spent hours patiently demonstrating how pictures were made
and reproduced. The incident passed. But henceforth the
The Valley That Time Forgot 37
missionaries carefully screened their pictures prior to project-
Despite such alarums, the missionaries managed gradually
to build up confidence in their intentions, nibbling away at
native hostility with a multitude of good deeds.
Most formidable obstacle was the Dani tongue, unlike any
encountered elsewhere. To help hurdle it, a talented mis-
sionary linguist, Myron Bromley of Meadville, Pennsylvania,
was brought in. Equipped with a notebook and dogged de-
termination, Bromley wandered among the people, listening
to the Dani speech, his pencil busy. With a tape recorder, he
sat for hours pointing to objects, having people repeat the
words for them over and over. At first the Danis were puz-
zled that anyone could not comprehend their tongue, would
put their faces up close to Bromley's, speaking loud and
clear as to a retarded child.
From such patient attempts to "unscramble BabeF he
acquired a large Dani vocabulary in an incredibly short time,
then produced a series of lessons for the other missionaries.
Within a few weeks all were fluent enough to converse.
Mastery of grammar and syntax took longer. Eventually,
however, the hitherto unrecorded tongue was reduced to
primer materials, and a pilot teaching project was started
with a small group of Danis.
The problem of getting the Christian message across was
at first discouraging. For one thing, the Dani language con-
tains no words or idioms for such essential terms as 'love,"
"sin," "grace," "salvation." After his initial attempts to explain
God's love for sinning humanity, Bromley reported, "The
people looked at me with as much comprehension as if I
were talking in Latin about the price of corn in Iowa." He
38 Adventurers for God
concluded, "Perhaps the Lord wants to remind us that this
message is not something to be casually huckstered."
Meanwhile, the men went on treks through the valley
to make friends with other tribes. At first this provoked angry
protests from the Hitigimans. They rolled their eyes to
express terror, bit their arms and pointed to their stomachs
to indicate "cannibals." Some even tried physically to restrain
them. But the missionaries pushed on across the boundaries,
concluding that "the uniform reluctance to let us leave is
probably influenced more by their desire to retain the bene-
fits of our presence than to protect us." The Danis in other
areas, they found, were mostly friendly. In one spot, how-
ever, Bromley and Elisa were thrown to the ground and
spears were placed against their throats. Sure that his end
was near, Elisa rolled his eyes heavenward and prayed,
"Well, Jesus, here I come!" Bromley, thinking fast, redeemed
their lives with a few cowrie shells.
On another occasion, Van Stone and two others had an
even closer call. They had taken a small boat up the Baliem
to survey some of the other tribes when, ashore for a while,
they were suddenly attacked with flying arrows and spears.
Declarations of peaceful aims availing nothing, they retreated
to the boat and paddled rapidly away. Feeling what he
thought was a branch caught against his knee, Van Stone
broke it off only to find an arrow had pierced Ms leg. It had
to be pulled out with pliers, and he was laid up for days.
This incident, following on the heels of other frightening
scrapes, accomplished what months of wartime fighting in
the South Pacific could not do: it put Van Stone on the brink
of a crack-up. Startled at the depth of his fears, he knew he
had to lick them or be through as a missionary. As soon as
The Valley That Time Forgot 39
lie could walk, he forced himself to go back into the same
territory where he had been shot.
"As I approached the spot," he says, "I felt a terror creep-
ing over me that was almost diabolical." He prayed for
strength, repeated, "Lo, I am with you always/' and, "Be
strong and of good courage." His fears fell away. The
formerly sinister tribe met him peaceably, promised to re-
ceive any missionaries who would come later. "From that
day I have felt no twinge of fear," he testifies, "even in the
After harrowing months, more missionaries were brought
in. Also, wives joined husbands, and in many cases families
came too. The coming of white women was of strategic im-
portance. Dani women, who had stayed shyly in the back-
ground until then, flocked around the mission, giving the
wives a chance to go to work on their superstitions, teach
them child care, sanitation, household arts.
First white woman in Hitigima was Darlene Rose, wife of
Gerry Rose of Bristol, Tennessee, who joined the group in
December 1954. She caused a bug-eyed sensation. Hundreds
of Baliem belles ran mutilated fingers through her fair hair,
pinched and rubbed her skin. Bewildered, she asked her
husband, "Am I being examined or tenderized?"
Chief Ukumhearik threw a big feast in her honor, seated
her beside him before mountains of roast pig and yams.
Served a choice rib, she was wondering where to begin when
Ukumhearik helpfully took it from her. With great decorum
he dug meat from bone with his long and dirty fingernails,
rolled the morsel on his pig-greased thigh, then flicked it into
her mouth. She gagged but managed to swallow, graciously
smiling her appreciation; later commented, "And I never
40 Adventurers for God
even had a stomach-ache!" Made the chiefs "daughter" that
night, she thereafter was dubbed the "white princess" by
With the coming of the wives and children, Dani periods
of capricious rancor became less frequent. More time could
be devoted to solidifying friendly relations with other clans,
preparing to set up schools and clinics. Yet even today every
missionary knows that the natives' friendliness cannot be
taken for granted, so ingrained is their superstition and so
mercurial their temperament.
A tragic reminder of this fact occurred in November 1956,
at Wissel Lakes. A band of unconverted Kapaukus, blaming
the missions for an epidemic of disease among pigs, de-
scended on the settlements, killing an Indonesian pastor and
his wife, also two children of another worker. They burned
to the ground a school and several mission buildings, then
hacked the mission airplane to pieces.
Mickelson's aim from the beginning was not only the
creation of a well-based Christian society in Shangri-La but
a strong indigenous leadership when white leaders will no
longer be needed. Mistakes of early missions were carefully
avoided: Mickelson told me he had no intention of stifling
native initiative and ingenuity, of replacing Dani culture
with Western ways, or of clothing nakedness with Mother
The delay in making converts bothered Mickelson not a
bit. To begin with, it was enough to impress upon the Danis
that the white man was their friend, to bring them physical
healing, to teach them peaceful ways and the arts of better
living. "Our job is to live with the Danis, share their life, earn
their love," he said to me. "If Christianity cannot make its
The Valley That Time Forgot 41
impression through love and kindness and helpfulness, then
it's not what we know it to be."
After two years in the valley, the Alliance had ten mission-
aries and their families at three thriving stations in the valley
each with its own airstrip hacked out by hundreds of
friendly Danis. And early in 1957, the Dutch territorial gov-
ernment, satisfied that Shangri-la had finally been "pacified"
sufficiently for the establishment of a government post in the
valley, began construction of a 1500-meter airstrip capable
of handling large planes. Moreover, the government prom-
ised to help subsidize schools and hospitals.
About the missionaries and their work, Dutch officials are
now lyrical Says Dr. Victor de Bruijn, director of the Bureau
for Native Affairs for Netherlands New Guinea: "Before
the boons of civilization can be brought to Stone Age natives,
a revolution in their mental attitudes has to be effected.
That's what Christian missions are dramatically accomplish-
ing in Shangri-la. These missionaries know far more about
this part of New Guinea and its people than does the govern-
ment. We are glad to follow their lead."
Would the government have trouble recruiting personnel
to man its post? De Bruijn thought so. "To impel a man to
live and work in so primitive a region," he says, "he must
have a song to sing. Missionaries have the song their coura-
geous faith and the noblest of human motives: to do good
for the people/'
To that tune, Christian missions for centuries have
marched against darkness and superstition the world around.
Today, in Shangri-la, that song is ringing clear throughout
the "valley that time forgot."
Sir Henry Holland of Pakistan s
He Gave Siglii
The surgeon in charge of a mission hospital on India's
wild North- West Frontier was jarred awake, the night of
May 30, 1935, by a thundering roar. The room rocked and
pitched, to the sound of fearful crashing and the screams of
patients in his nearby hospital Before he could struggle
from his cot amid falling debris, a huge weight knocked him
This was the Quetta earthquake, one of the most disastrous
in world history. In a few seconds it reduced the city of
60,000 to rubble, killing outright some 24,000 of its people.
The 60-year-old missionary came to consciousness amid
the deathly silence following the quake. Then, suddenly, he
heard a shout through the darkness. It was his son, also a
doctor and his assistant, who too had miraculously escaped
death. The surgeon painfully lifted his head and called out
in his high-pitched voice, "For Pete's sake, Harry, get me out
of here. There's work to be done!"
Frantically the son tore at the hill of rubble, and in 15
minutes the two were organizing rescue efforts. The hos-
pital compound with its facilities for 130 patients, two op-
erating theaters, laboratory, large dispensary and X-ray plant
built up from almost nothing through 35 agonizing years of
He Gave Sight to 100,000 43
effort was a shambles. Many of the patients and hospital
staff members were dead or dying. The missionary surgeon
limped about, furiously bandaging the wounded, directing
the removal of hundreds of corpses, giving thousands of
injections to stave off an epidemic of cholera.
Meeting perils was nothing new to Dr. Henry Tristram
Holland. When I saw him, in 1957, at 82 years of age he was
still meeting them and bringing Christian profit from them.
A man small of stature and puckish of countenance, his un-
spectacular appearance 'belies his spectacular record and
repute as one of the world's foremost eye surgeons. During
his 56 years in the border country between Afghanistan and
what is now Pakistan, he gave back sight to more than
In recognition of his life-service to the tribespeople of the
North- West Frontier, and for his contribution to ophthal-
mology, Holland was knighted in 1936 by King Edward VIII
the only surviving missionary knight since Sir Wilfred
In Sir Henry's youth there was nothing to forecast him
in the role of either knight or missionary. Son of an Anglican
country parson, young Henry decided to "go into medicine
to get out of the church." While studying at Edinburgh
University, however, he fell in with students intending to
become medical missionaries. Moreover, many of the medi-
cal faculty, he found, were devoted Christians, active in the
University Christian Medical Association. Here he was im-
pressed by such speakers as Henry Drummond, propounder
of love as 'The Greatest Thing in the World," and Charles
Studd, a famous cricket player. One day he noted over a
mantel a cryptic motto, "Not for ours only." Asking its mean-
44 Adventurers for God
Ing, he found it was from I John 2:2 "And he is the propitia-
tion for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins
of the whole world." Responding to the summons to selfless
living, Henry finally applied to the Church Missionary So-
ciety, a foreign missions arm of the Church of England.
Holland offered to go to Nigeria, but was told, "We're
sending you to Quetta/' Mystified, he demanded, "Where's
that?" He soon found out. The North- West Frontier, with
Quetta as its southern bastion, was a rough land of Kipling-
esque people and storied history. Its rocky desert wastes, bar-
ren hills and bloodstained passes such as the famed Khyber
had for 3500 years known the tread of invading armies. In
this no man's land he found a racial mosaic of nomadic Bra-
huis, swarthy Baluchis, marauding Pathan tribes devoted to
blood feuds and banditry. The Frontier tribesman was a
strange medley of the swashbuckling brigand cruel, treach-
erous, fanatical and the brave, proud, individualistic lover
of freedom, deeply religious according to his lights. Tall,
bearded, with deep-set fiery eyes and hawk noses, the Pa-
thans disdained all laws laid down by modern governments,
ruling themselves by tribal "Customary Laws" that were old
before America was discovered.
Because their land could not produce crops, the tribesmen
"farmed" the passes by raids on passing caravans. Almost
every family had a blood feud going. The tribes were no-
madic, grazing their camels, flocks and herds in the Baluch
and Afghan uplands all summer, then streaming through the
passes toward the plains of India in the winter. To keep
these hordes of free-ranging peoples in check, strong British
garrisons policed the Frontier.
The mission at Quetta, started in 1886, was one of a chain
He Gave Sight to 100,000 45
of stations begun not by missionaries but by British officers
and enlisted men with an enlightened idea of Christianity's
responsibility in colonial rule. They raised funds among
themselves, petitioned the Church of England to send out
clergy and doctors, then supported them for years.
Among such Christian soldiers was Major General Sir
Herbert Edwardes, who stood one day at Khyber Pass and
warned his men not to think "this immense India has been
given to our little England for no other purpose than our
aggrandizement. Empires come into existence for purposes
of the world's Creator."
Young Henry Holland reached Quetta in May 1900, to
find a plague raging in Karachi, with people dying in the
streets. On the long 400-mile journey to Quetta, he traveled
by pony, camel and on foot across the hot sands of the Sind
Desert, trekking with the tall, hawk-nosed tribesmen carry-
ing their homemade rifles with curving stocks inlaid with
brass and their great curved swords bright with semi-pre-
The mission station seemed to him an audacity, a tiny but
brave assertion that Christianity cares for both body and
soul. Such caring, he soon learned, could be costly.
Aroused by mullahs, the powerful Moslem religious lead-
ers, tribesmen often went on rampages, murdering Afghan
converts to Christianity, Indians and British as apostates in
Islam's eyes. To the fanatics, the killing of an "infidel" was a
pious act. Prior to Holland's coming and during his first years
on the Frontier, scores of missionaries and their converts
provided Moslem warriors with such passports to paradise.
Converts to Christianity suffered even more wholesale re-
prisals. On the Frontier it was a proud Moslem boast that
46 Adventurers for God
"no Afghan turned Christian has ever returned to his own
country and lived/' One convert, son of a Moslem judge in
Quetta, was seized, spirited in chains to Kabul, the Afghani-
stan capital, cruelly beaten then given a chance to recant.
When he refused, one of his arms was hacked off, then the
other. Still refusing to recant, he was beheaded. However, a
witness to the man's martyrdom later wrote Holland: "The
remembrance of the light and peace in Abdul Karin's face
has haunted me through the years. Tell me the secret of it."
This man too was converted and later executed for his
Holland prayed nightly that *1 may scorn the way of
safety, so that Thy will may be done." To his hospital staff
he said: "If we Christians cannot out-live and out-love any
other religion, we don t deserve to win."
He left no patient in doubt as to the motivation behind
his treatment. Before each operation he would say a short
prayer, endeavor to make every healing technique a "testi-
mony to the tender mercy of God." Asked why he mixed
Christian evangelization with medical treatment, he snapped:
"I am a missionary doctor. The Christian medical man who
says everything about the body and nothing about the soul
is not doing his full duty."
When a prominent Moslem leader hotly demanded why
the mission tried to convert his people, Holland deftly took
the wind out of his angry sails by saying, "We love your
people, and so we want them to have the best-in religion
as in medicine. Since we think Christianity the best of reli-
gions, we cannot be selfish with it any more than we can
withhold from those we love the best medical skills and
medicines we have."
He Gave Sight to 100,000 47
When the 25-year-old doctor first came to Quetta his hos-
pital boasted only a few beds and almost no modern equip-
ment. His own experience in surgery, as a student at Edin-
burgh, had been limited to opening a few abscesses and
presiding at a birth or two. But such was the pitiful plight
of the people, particularly during plagues and epidemics,
that he soon was treating almost all ailments in the medical
glossary. He wrote home: "If you ever see P.C. after my
name, it won't mean IVe been made Privy Councilor; it'll
stand for piles and cataracts!"
Cataracts particularly. This ailment was common along the
Frontier, and the pathos of the blind touched him deeply.
He soon discovered not only a special facility but his greatest
satisfaction in curing blindness. And as word of his skill got
about, tribespeople came in droves to be cured.
One day an old couple, both completely blinded by double
cataracts, stumbled into his compound. They had not seen
each other for years. Holland operated, then placed them in
beds side by side in the hospital ward. Days later, when the
bandages were removed simultaneously, they looked at each
other with first unbelief, then sheer enchantment. As the
two old people went into each other's arms, tears of joy
flowing down their faces, Holland wept with them.
Whole families would arrive at the compound, bringing
along children, animals, chickens. A patient quartered in one
of the wards would tether his camel outside, and one or
more relatives would bed down beside him. Some tribesmen,
who had never slept under anything but a tent roof, balked
at the wards. For the sake of tradition and family solidarity,
Dr. Holland always accommodated them. One family, with a
small son needing a bladder stone removal, slept in their
48 Adventurers for God
bullock cart with the bull in the compound outside. In a
temporary shelter serving as a pile ward, the doctor one day
found a horse tethered next to a patient. Humorously, he
asked if the horse suffered from the same complaint and
let him stay.
The Quetta hospital, growing without plan or design, be-
came a helter-skelter assortment of annexes and scattered
family wards. After the earthquake, the present modern,
reinforced-brick 200-bed hospital, with four operating the-
aters, delivery room, X-ray laboratory and nurses' training
school was erected mostly from funds raised personally by
Sir Henry during a tour of England and a public appeal put
on in his behalf by the London Times.
A further impressive monument to Sir Henry's skill with
both lancet and religious diplomacy is the famous Shikarpur
Hospital 200 miles southeast of Quetta. One of the largest
eyes clinics in the world, it can care for as many as 600
patients at a time.
Shikarpur, an exclusive Hindu city, had been closed tight
to Christian missionaries. But in October 1909, Holland was
approached by Seth Hiranand, a Shikarpur banker and phi-
lanthropist who for some time had been sending patients to
Quetta. "Why do you not come to my city?" he asked. "I
will provide many patients, pay all expenses."
Arriving in the forbidden city, Holland found hundreds of
blind and sick swarming about the grounds of Hiranand's
estate. He set up an operating theater on the large scimitar-
shaped verandah and went to work, fighting flies and dust
and clamorous patients. He stayed three weeks, performed
more than 400 operations. Before he left, the banker brought
him a large bag of rupees and a proposition. "Doctor Sahib,"
He Gave Sight to 100,000 49
he said, "as you have seen, there are many here who need
your skills. You will come again next year perhaps annu-
Cannily, the little surgeon replied: "I will, on condition
that you build a suitable hospital, housing for patients, and
underwrite all expenses." The banker agreed readily. Squat-
ting on the floor, Holland drew preliminary plans in the
verandah's dust. That done, he arose. "There's one other con-
dition," he said. "If I come, I must have the right to preach
When the conditions of the project became known, a city-
wide uproar arose. A big mass-meeting denounced the plan
for Christian infiltration. Hiranand sat through the angry
speeches, then rose to win the day by quietly saying, "If
you will find a surgeon as great as the Doctor Sahib, one
who will heal our blind and sick, and yet not preach Chris-
tianity, I will agree with you. Shall the thousands of our
people who need treatment be denied it by our prejudices?"
Getting news of the victory, Holland chuckled: 'Til bet
Shikarpur is the first city in the world to be opened to Chris-
tianity at the point of a cataract knife."
Next year, he found in that city a beautiful little hospital
ready for him, with two well-equipped operating rooms,
plentiful housing accommodations and 500 new patients
waiting. The reputation of the Shikarpur clinic, in full-tilt
operation each January-February, spread rapidly, until Hol-
land and his associates were performing as many as 1200
cataract operations and 2000 other major surgical procedures
during the six weeks the clinic operated. Leading ophthal-
mologists traveled across the world to observe the Holland
50 Adventurers for God
Among them were many Americans. One, Dr. Derrick Vail
of Northwestern University Medical School, tells of finding
Sir Henry's aura everywhere about the hospital and its
compound. "I was not fully prepared to grasp at once the
striking character of this dynamic and expert eye surgeon.
But in a few moments his simple and compassionate nature,
radiating from his inner warmth, embraced me and I knew
that here was a very great and good man."
Another American took Holland back to the States with
him for a vacation in 1928, pressed him to join his staff to
ultimately succeed him as head of one of the Midwest's
largest eye-ear-nose-and-throat hospitals. When Holland
shook his head, the eminent doctor offered a fabulous salary,
saying archly, 'Tm told that every man has his price, Sir
Henry." The missionary surgeon laughed. "I'm afraid you've
been misinformed. You can't put a price tag on a fellow's
love for his people."
During his long career, he was offered many other high
medical posts. Always he turned them down.
Holland early found that his compulsion to bring sight and
healing to the needy could not be contained by Quetta and
the several out-stations he established. Nor could his adven-
turous spirit. With British political and military officers he
argued that if he could go with them, "throwing pills about
and applying the proper sort of ointments," he might "help
to reduce the temperatures" of troublesome tribesmen.
He proved his point one day at a remote village on the
Baluch-Persian frontier where a team of British agents had
to deal with a difficult border bandit named Dost Mahomed.
The bandit, whose murdering and pillaging had thrown the
whole area into chaos, rode up on a prancing stallion and
He Gave Sight to 100,000 51
with five of Bis sub-chiefs inarched into the desert tent for
the meeting, rifles in hand, bandoliers of cartridges criss-
crossing their sunburned chests, surly and defiant.
While the negotiations went on, getting nowhere, Holland
slipped out, slung a medicine chest over his shoulders and
crossed the frontier into the walled city where 1500 of Ma-
homed's followers were encamped. For hours he treated the
sick, and when he returned to the place of conference 300
of them came with him, singing praises for the help he'd
brought. The bandit came out, still fuming at the Britishers'
demands. But when he saw the crowd of his own people,
happy over Holland's ministrations, he and his men laid down
their guns. The British agents used the truce to depart hur-
riedly. Afterward, Holland was told, "Dost Mahomed came
to the conference determined to loll the whole party. You
stopped him cold."
Alone, or with a mission colleague, he went out among
the tribespeople in areas where seldom a white man had ever
been seen. Through the craggy hills and sunblistered valleys,
he would travel for days on pony back, or on a riding camel
"the most uncomfortable conveyance known to man." When
he came upon a cluster of glowering Pathans, he would dis-
mount to treat diseases, patch up wounds, perform delicate
For these proud people, whom powerful British forces
could not conquer, he conceived a lasting affection. And
they for him. He moved through their forbidden areas un-
armedand unharmed. While he performed his operations,
the tribesmen would gather around curiously. He employed
them as screens from the dust and sand, put fans in their
hands to keep the flies away.
52 Adventurers for God
To win the tribesmen's confidence, lie joined them in rid-
ing, fishing, shooting. In appreciation for his services, they
would come at day's end to his campfire, offering with great
dignity gifts of their poor best: a joint of mutton, fruit, a
hand-made rug, a trinket.
On one tour, he had just finished treating a tribe and was
about to go when news came that a band of bloodthirsty
Afghan outlaws had slipped over the border and were in the
vicinity. But, he was assured, "They will not harm you."
Later he learned that his friends had sent outriders ahead to
throw around him an invisible circle of protection.
Wherever he went the tribesmen would seek him out.
On one occasion, while on a brief holiday in the Himalayan
foothills, a group of Pathans came leading a woman with
double cataracts, They pointed to her, saying simply, "Doctor
Sahib . . ." The only instruments he had with him were a
pair of iris forceps and a cataract knife. But from the wife of
a companion he borrowed nail scissors, tweezers and a cro-
chet hook; from a hairpin he improvised an instrument to
hold the eye open. Then, sterilizing his strange instruments,
he went to work. Five days later, when the bandages were
removed, the operation proved a complete success.
During another trip deep into the desert he came to a
small oasis, found a cluster of Baluchis hovered over a man
groaning in pain and near death. The man had fallen 30 feet
from the top of a date palm tree, badly ruptured his urethra;
his bladder was distended almost to the bursting point.
Having only primitive surgical instruments with him, Hol-
land punctured the bladder, contrived a drainage tube from
the metal case of a clinical thermometer, smoothed it down
with files and emery board, and bandaged him up. Being
He Gave Sight to 100,000 53
60 miles from the nearest railhead, 140 miles from the
nearest hospital, the little doctor hoisted his patient onto a
camel for the long desert trek, breathing a prayer that sepsis
would not set in. Arriving at the railroad station after 24
hours with his patient, he found that the next train was not
due for 36 hours. Keeping his patient alive by sheer will
power, they reached the hospital two long hot days later.
Holland operated again, found the wound aseptic, his man
on the road to recovery. "God is great!" chorused the Ba-
His reputation spread among the highly placed as well as
the lowly. He treated the Rajah of Shigar at his capital 200
miles from the border of Tibet, on one occasion was flown
to Kabul to save the sight of the King of Afghanistan. One
day he received a message from one of the most powerful
of the Frontier chieftains, the fabulous Wali of Swat, noted
for his antipathy for missionaries. But his need was greater
than his intolerance: he was going blind would the Doctor
Holland traveled by foot through the passes beyond Mala-
kand, where the Wali and his people had attacked the British
and where Sir Winston Churchill served as a war corre-
spondent. Finally he came to a setting like a page out of
The Arabian Nights. After saying the first Christian prayer
ever heard in the palace, Sir Henry operated successfully on
the Waifs eyes. Afterward, they became fast friends, often
went hunting together.
Not the least of Sir Henry Holland's achievements for
Pakistan and the North- West Froatier is his role in bringing
Moslem women into the 20th century. When he first came,
women had their place in the rigid seclusion of '
54 Adventurers for God
Wives were bought like cattle. Hospitals were "men only 9 '
institutions. Sir Henry's mission established a hospital for
women in the Quetta compound, convinced husbands that
it was an economic waste to allow a wife to wither and die.
One of his weirdest tasks was the replacing of women's
noses. Extremely jealous, the Pathan's tradition allowed him
to chop off a wife's nose at the slightest suspicion of infidelity.
Later, discovering her innocence, he was likely to regret his
action, bring her to the hospital for repairs. One, when told
that the operation would cost 60 shillings, hesitated until
the doctor asked, "Is it not worth the money to have a wife
with a nose?" The tribesman replied, "That's a hard ques-
tion, Doctor Sahib. You see, for 75 shillings I can buy a new
Sir Henry also gave Moslem and Hindu womanhood an
important boost up the social and professional ladder by his
program for training nurses and hospital technicians. In
1900, the idea of any proper Moslem girl working outside
the home, let alone in a hospital, was abhorrent. Holland,
always hard pressed to staff his hospital, put constant stress
on the dignity of serving one's fellows in need, on a people's
responsibility to help care for its own.
For years the backbone of his nursing staff came from the
outcast and depressed classes, many of them second genera-
tion Christians. His mission's nursing schools were the first
to give women not only training but graduate standing and
certification. Today the daughters of Pakistan's best families
are being trained as doctors and nurses.
For more than a half century Sir Henry worked toward the
the day when his hospital could be taken over completely by
indigenous leaders. "It is always a missionary's happiest
He Gave Sight to 100,000 55
achievement/* he says, "when a Christian institution can be
handed over to nationals, and is no longer a work done for
them but by them."
In 1939 Sir Henry reached his society's retirement age, 65
with no hankering to quit. Shortage of doctors in World
War II gave him the excuse to ask for an "extension for the
duration." He managed to extend the extension to eight
In the spring of 1948, when he was 74, having seen his
son Ronald succeed him at Quetta, he took what he thought
was his final departure from the land and people to whom
he had given his life. But he had hardly got back to England
muttering darkly at the "foolishness of a system that retires
a man in his prime" when word came that tribal chiefs had
made up a purse to bring him back for a period each year.
Ever since, he has spent his winters on the Frontier, his sum-
mers going up and down England recruiting missionaries and
stimulating British youth to selfless service.
Speaking to an assembly of London young people in
1956, he chided them for modern youth's preoccupation
with security, their hesitancy toward pioneering. "The grave
is secure," he said, "but terribly dull. Serve your age well
and security will take care of itself!"
When someone once asked why, with talents that would
have brought him vast material gains, he gave himself so
selflessly to healing the hurt of mankind, he replied, "Re-
member what a chap named Mallory said when he was
asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest? 'Because it's
there!' Thaf s my answer, too."
Eleanor Wilson of Micronesia
Skipper of ote Morning Star
When the storm struck one of those violent eruptions
of wind and wave for which the mid-Pacific is notedthe
60-foot ketch was tossed around like an eggshell nearing
Niagara Falls. Drenched with spray, I clung to the gunwale
and forgot my fears, watching the 65-year-old woman at
her post behind the helmsman. Clad in oilskins, her white
hair whipping from beneath her sou'wester, she was issuing
calm commands which sent her dark-hued crewmen scuttling
about the plunging decks and up the crazily weaving
rigging. She might have been giving directions to a maid at
This was the Morning Star VII, latest in a long line of
fabled missionary ships which have plied the waters of
Micronesia for the past century, serving the churches and
people of its myriad islands and atolls and helping make the
Marshalls and Carolines among the most thoroughly Chris-
tianized areas in the world.
And this was the equally fabled Eleanor Wilson, lady skip-
per and ordained minister, whose name is known from Guam
in the Marianas to Kapingamarangi in the Carolines, from
Eniwetok to Ebon in the Marshalls, and whose ship's wake
today is inscribing one of the most audacious pages in mis-
sionary history. To me the gentle Miss Wilson seemed better
Skipper of the Morning Star 57
suited to doing petit point in some Boston Back Bay draw-
ing room than to piloting a storm-battered ship, with only a
native crew for company, through some of the most danger-
ous waters in the world.
That night, the tempest over and the Morning Star back
on course, we sat on the hatchcover beneath a sky whose stars
seemed close enough for plucking while Eleanor Wilson
traced for me the unpredictable paths that had brought her
to this unusual career. Born into a New England family
heavy with the names of educators and college presidents,
she went to Simmons College, became secretary to a pro-
fessor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nothing
was further from her mind than being a missionary, unless
it was being a ship captain. As a young woman she took to
religion lightly, and to the sea with distaste.
But when, in 1921, a friend challenged her by saying,
"Eleanor, you're now 30, and what are you doing to make
the world better?" she began some serious thinking. She en-
rolled in New York's Biblical Seminary, became a YWCA
director of education.
Two years later she took her longest step away from
Beacon Hill. Offered the presidency of Women's Evangelistic
School in Kobe, Japan, she accepted with a reservation.
She prayed, "Lord, if I get seasick on the way out, I'll know
I've made a mistake." Since her only previous experience on
the sea had been agonizing, she was certain that this test of
her "calling" guaranteed an early return home. But amaz-
ingly, her stomach stubbornly refused her the alibi; she felt
not a moment of nausea- then or ever again.
In 1933 she was summoned back to Boston as associate
secretary for the American Board of Commissioners for For-
58 Adventurers for God
eign Missions. Her job: to find missionaries for far and diffi-
cult places. To her desk one day came an appeal for a teacher
willing to go out to Kusaie in the Caroline Islands, then
under Japanese mandate. "When I found recruiting difficult/'
she says, "my New England conscience demanded to know
why I was asking others to go where I was unwilling to go
myself." She went, paying her own fare and taking all her
savings to sustain her for a year. Except for the war years
she has been in the islands ever since, teaching in mission
schools on Kusaie, Truk and Ponape in the eastern Carolines,
at Jaluit, Uliga and Rong Rong in the Marshalls.
She became a lady skipper, abruptly, in 1950. A sailor
from the U. S. Coast Guard station at Rong Rong came run-
ning through the palms, a cablegram in his hand, and saluted
with exaggerated smartness. "Gotta call you Captain now,
ma'am/' he grinned. "You just got yourself a ship!"
The cablegram said that the missionary who had been
skippering the Morning Star VI had been called home. The
ship was berthed at Kwajalein; there was nobody else avail-
able to serve as captain. The message said, in effect, "You're
it!" She read the cablegram three times before she realized
that she, who knew nothing about navigation and held in
respectful fear the unmarked, reef-ridden, shark-infested
waters beyond the placid lagoons, was being handed the
job. What in heaven's name was the board thinking of?
She had no time to ponder. "Better get ready, ma'am/'
said the sailor. Tm to take you by launch to UHga, where
you can catch the Navy plane to Kwaj."
At Kwajalein her heart sank further when she saw the Star .
Its sails were rotting, its auxiliary engine out of repair, its
radio generator corroded and useless. And the crew was
Skipper of the Morning Star 59
plainly aghast that she was taking over. She summoned them
to the afterdeck. "The ways of the Lord/' she said (adding
under her breath, "and of the board"), "are past understand-
ing. But you all know how our churches and people have
depended upon 'God's little white ships' to bring diem the
Gospel, supplies and transportation for students and pastors.
If the Lord means for us you and me together to sail the
Star and do His work, He will protect us. Let's remember
Psalm 97: 'The Lord reigneth ... let the multitude of isles
be glad thereof.' "
Reassured that Deity was still in control but visibly un-
certain that with her at the helm the isles would ever be
seen by them, let alone be "made glad," the crewmen mut-
tered, "Amen." She surveyed their craggy, dark faces a mo-
ment, then added, "I'm going to see if the United States
Navy will help us make the Star seaworthy. Meanwhile, I
want you to scrub the decks, polish all brass, spray the
cabins with DDT and make God's ship one He won t be
Glad of the chance to sink their sorrows in work, the crew
soon had the little ship spick-and-span. They went further.
Suddenly conscious that the Star had no "head" that would
work, during her absence ashore one day they constructed
on the f antail a crude but practical structure of canvas and
two-by-foursthen modestly averted their eyes and retreated
forward whenever she headed aft.
The next six weeks were maddeningly frustrating. Even
with the wining help of Navy men, it took endless days to get
new parts for the engine, patches for the sails, repairs for
chronometer and generator. To improve the time, Eleanor
Wilson studied Mixter's Primer of Navigation., and talked an
60 Adventurers for God
Air Force navigator into teaching her how to use a sextant
and plot a course. After several shakedown runs in the atoll's
60-mile lagoon to try out her new knowledge, she laid a
course to Jaluit, 200 miles southeast, and headed for the open
sea. Going through a pass, a sailor on another ship hailed
her, "Where you bound, ma'am?" When she told him he
shouted, "Who's your navigator?" She jabbed a forefinger
proudly at herself. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "I'm glad I'm not
She delivered her ship to its port without mishap.
Nevertheless, those first months intimately acquainted her
with the haunting hazards of her new job. Of sailing through
seas without lighthouses or buoys to mark the channels, or
shore lights to guide her in. Of the treachery of green water
indicating reefs that could rip the bottom from her craft.
Of menacing coral heads just beneath the surface of other-
wise innocent water. Of sudden squalls and tricky ocean
currents that could throw her miles off course. Of blanketing
clouds that hid the horizon and blocked from sight the low-
lying islands, most of which were but a few feet above sea
level Of engine failure that seemed to come oftenest when
approaching narrow passages through reefs into the safety
of calm lagoons.
For instance, there was the time when, on the way to
Ponape via Ujelang, both her engine and the winds died.
Becalmed for three days, she was unaware that ocean cur-
rents were drifting them toward danger until suddenly a
brace of U. S. planes appeared, dropping flares and buzzing
her bow. Quickly taking bearings, Eleanor exclaimed, "No
wonder the Air Force is in a tizzy. We're in the restricted
Eniwetok area!" Signaling her incapacity to do anything
Skipper of the Morning Star 61
about it, she called the crew together, said quietly, "Let's
sing a hymn." They had scarcely reached the third stanza
when a freshening wind arose and, gaily waving to the dis-
tressed airmen, she wheeled the ship and set a direct course
Little by little she got the crew to teach her their own
ancient sailing lore. This knowledge, handed down for hun-
dreds of years by their ancestors, who had navigated frail
outrigger canoes across thousands of miles of open sea, en-
abled her men to plot a course by wave patterns, cloud for-
mations, the flight of birds.
One evening, arriving at an island too late to get into the
pass, she gave orders to shorten sail, keep the ship on a slow
course parallel to the reef. In the middle of the night, feeling
vaguely uneasy, she went on deck to find her helmsman fast
asleep, the wheel lashed, the Star drifting toward the reef
only a few yards away. Swiftly, without disturbing the
sleeper, she unlashed the helm and steered the ship out of
danger. When the new watch appeared two hours later, she
refused to turn over the wheel, manning it herself till day-
light. None of the ashamed crewmen has ever again been
caught asleep on duty.
Skippering the Morning Star entails not only sailing prow-
ess but widely varied pastoral services ashore. Any visit to
one of the hundreds of islands comprising Miss Wilson's
500,000-square-mile parish plunges her into a round of church
services, marriages, funerals, christenings, plus conferences
with the native pastor (who often is also die island chief)
and teachers in the mission school.
The Stars visit is a long-anticipated event. When we ar-
rived at Kili, the lovely little island to which the Bikini
62 Adventurers for God
people had been transplanted by the U. S. government, a
holiday was declared. The people flocked out from shore in
their outriggers, led by King Judah, the chief. Ashore we
were seated in a large thatch-roofed auditorium, leis thrown
about our necks. Then, lustily singing a Marshallese welcome
song, the islanders placed gifts before us baskets full of rare
shells, intricately woven hats and purses, great bunches of
bananas, breadfruit, pandanus, taro, roast chickens. Gravely
Judah told me: "We are very happy here. Please convey our
thanks to America."
Since transportation through these immense watery reaches
is virtually nonexistent save by outrigger canoe, the Morning
Star has been for years the islanders 7 favorite means of
getting about. No charge for passage is made. The itinerants
bring their own food and sleep on deck amid great mounds
of duffel. Says Miss Wilson, "They consider it their ship
and of course they're right. The Star can take 20 people, plus
five tons of freight; it's first come, first carried." On one
stretch between island stops we made, the Star's deck re-
sembled nothing so much as the colonel's jeep in Teahouse of
the August Moon.
Life aboard the Morning Star is, let us say, spiritually
aseptic. Historically the islanders have considered their ves-
sel a holy bark, freely at the service of all willing to comport
themselves as in a church. But not for the unrestrained. In
1889, Robert Louis Stevenson and some bibulous compan-
ions requested passage from Honolulu to Micronesia on the
Morning Star TV; informed of the rules, they hastily canceled
The Stars crew, made up from members of the Marshal-
lese Church, is like no other on any ship or any sea. Member-
Skipper of the Morning Star 63
ship in the church a self-governing, self-supporting body
which makes its own stringent rules is no frivolous matter.
While most islanders are baptized Christians and regular
attendants at church, membership is permitted only to those
who do not smoke, drink, dance or trifle with the seventh
commandment. No exceptions are made. Recently a king of
Majuro Island was expelled for smoking, and got back
in only after public confession and a promise to mend his
Aboard, prayers and services are conducted twice daily.
The men break into hymn-singing spontaneously hymns
heavy with assurance of God's care. When they lift their
harmonious voices in "Ta iman i jaje kio y bwelen dreka WOT
ak lari* (Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and
treacherous shoal) you know they are singing of deep, fa-
miliar reality, not poetic symbolism.
Between voyages, Eleanor Wilson supervises the church's
intermediate boarding school at Jabwor, on Jaluit Atoll, and
also does some teaching. In whatever spare time is left, she
guides her students' recreation and reading, encourages them
to think for themselves, ask questions, even challenge her
precepts. "Don't just accept what I say," she needles them.
"He who has never sincerely doubted has never truly
When on trips she often takes along her ninth-graders and
holds classes on board, using these sea junkets to teach them
about the outer world. Dr. Robert Gibson, director of edu-
cation for the U.S. Trust Territory, told me: "Of all the dedi-
cated and inspiring teachers I've seen in action anywhere,
Eleanor Wilson tops them all."
Throughout the busy district centers of the Trust Terri-
64 Adventurers for God
tory, occupying positions of high importance to Micronesia's
future, I found scores of brilliant young Marshallese who had
studied under her during her pre-skipper days at Kusaie,
Jaluit, Rong Rong, Majuro.
One is Kejeje, manager of the Jaluit branch of KITCO
(Kwajalein Island Trading Company), one of several native-
owned companies set up by the Trust Territory to supply
islanders with needed goods as well as teach them the prac-
tical benefits of capitalism. Kejeje told me how, while her
student at Rong Rong after World War II, he had been fired
with ambition by Miss Wilson's repeated challenge, "Some
day your people will have a chance to rule themselves. You
must be ready!"
Another is Dwight Heine, descendant of a German father
and a Marshallese mother, who under the Trust Territory
now directs all education projects in the Marshalls the only
Micronesian to hold such a position. "The years I spent under
Miss Wilson's teaching," Heine asserts, "were the most im-
portant of my life. She taught me far more than academic
subjects. At first I watched her, suspicious. Why, I asked
myself, was so lovely a person devoting herself to a people
not of her own race? Through her I came to know that there
are individuals and nations who give themselves selflessly
to others, not for what they can get out of us but for what
they can put into us!"
Miss Wilson spent the war years in the United States, lec-
turing about the people on the unknown specks of coral
then being thrust into the headlines. With an aching heart
she read of the bombings of the islands she knew so well.
She wept upon hearing how her Marshallese had replied
when asked what they wanted and needed most. To
Skipper of the Morning Star 65
astounded U.S. Military poll-takers, with pencils poised to
note down demands for creature comforts and doo-dads, the
people said simply, "Just send us back our missionaries."
The war over, she was the first missionary back in the
islands. Her post-war years were filled with rebuilding
bombed-out mission schools and churches, rounding up stu-
dents who had been for four years without education, hitch-
ing rides on Navy planes and ships to visit outer islands,
comforting and reassuring the scattered and war-bewildered
She found herself spending much time explaining her
fellow Americans to her adopted people, and vice versa. The
latter problem took on some proportions one day when an
overheated Navy officer barged into her quarters. "Did you
advise the mothers of Marshallese girls not to let them at-
tend Navy dances?" he demanded. Hinting that interference
with the official program for Navy recreation was pretty
close to high treason, he blustered that he had half a mind
and all the power to "have you sent home!" Recovering,
Eleanor Wilson smiled and said, "In that case, maybe I'd
better see the Commodore perhaps to say good-by?"
When, some days later, the base commander and his wife
dropped in at her place for a social call, she told the story.
"I did remind the mothers that if they did not wish their
daughters to face the discipline of their own churches, they
had better keep them from the Navy or any other dances.
One must understand, Commodore, that the rules of the
churches out here are much more severe than ours at home.
They are not my rules, nor the rules of the Congregational-
Christian Church of which I am a minister. But they govern
the lives of these people. My advice was based not on my
66 Adventurers for God
personal opinion of dancing but on the desire to avoid
trouble for these young women.
"I certainly do not wish, sir, to make your problem of find-
ing suitable recreation more difficult than it already is in
these islands. But the stay of your young men here is short.
The girls must go on living here, where church standing is
very important. Any girl who loses her membership might
find it impossible to marry well. I'm sure youll agree, Com-
modore, that such things make for great difficulties not only
for missionaries but for the Navy."
The Commodore did agree, and the matter closed hap-
pilyfor all but the frustrated officer. He, not Eleanor, was
"replaced" in the islands.
She and the Navy thenceforth got along famously. At mis-
sion stations where she taught school, most of them adjacent
to U.S. installations, she kept "open house" for Navy men,
baked them cookies and pies, planned parties aship and
ashore, counseled them in love problems, comforted the
homesick. In return, sailors voted her "the girl we most
couldn't get along without," took her picture, hung it up in
pinup spots, wangled for her rations of food and clothing,
abandoned building materials, transportation when she
Once, on an otherwise womanless cruiser taking her to
Kwajalein, an officer gave her his cabin and the seamen
plastered a nearby < head" with her name, followed by
hers, proclaiming this her facility and no other's.
And when she got her ship, they declared, "You're in the
Navy nowone of us!"
In mid-1951, sorely in need of a furlough, she left her ship
in the hands of a Canadian missionary captain serving in
Eleanor Wilson, Morning Star skipper, teaching navigation to young
Micronesians serving as members of her crew. (Chapter III)
Miss Wilson bicycling across her
ship's island base at Majuro in
the Marshall Islands.
Charles Pean, dauntless Salvation Army
officer, shortly after arriving in
French Guiana determined to
abolish the "dry guillotine."
A libere in Cayenne,
French Guiana, one of
2500 "graduates" from
Devil's Island whom
Pean and his Salvation-
ists helped rehabilitate
through Christian com-
French convicts working in the
broiling sun at Devil's Island, in-
famous French penal colony.
Skipper of the Morning Star 69
Okinawa and took a long-overdue leave. Some months later
she received jolting news: the Star had foundered in a storm.
She was now a skipper without a ship.
Then one day a friend found an adequate ship available in
Japan for $17,000; she decided to put her need before the
churches. Telling her story across the United States, she
recounted how in 1904, she, as a youngster along with thou-
sands of other children, had been one of the owners of the
Morning Star V. "Little did I dream as I clutched my ten-
cent share certificate/' she told her audiences, "that I'd one
day be a Star skipper!" She raised $20,000, much of it from
the piggy banks of Sunday-school children who gave just as
she had done.
In five months she was back in the Marshalls, where she
and the new Star were wildly welcomed by singing islanders.
At the U.S. Navy base on Kwajalein the commanding officer
insisted on a proper christening of the vessel. Island women
gaily festooned the Stars rigging with colorful strips of
cloth; a huge lei of fragrant flowers was flung over the bow,
another around the lady skipper's neck. Then, with solemn
ceremony, a bottle of coconut juice was smashed against the
As a fitting climax, before the little ship moved out, the
voices of 400 islanders, joined by officers and men of the U.S.
Navy, broke into a hymn sung at every Star christening for
the past 100 years: "Waft, waft, ye winds, His story."
Charles Pean of the Salvation Army
X3ie Man "W^Lio Concpiereci
After nearly a century, during which Devil's Island be-
came synonymous with everything evil in penological inhu-
manity, France's notorious prison colony in French Guiana
was being liquidated in 1946. And the man chosen by the
French Government to smash the infamous "dry guillotine"
which, since its establishment in 1852, claimed more than
70,000 victims was neither a government official nor a pro-
fessional penologist. He was a mild-mannered little Salvation
Army officer, Charles Pean.
Behind this choice lay a dramatic personal triumph a tri-
umph resulting from 18 years of unremitting labor on behalf
of Devil's Islanders and an unfaltering faith that religion
can transform human life on its most hopeless, most vicious,
most degenerate levels.
The story of Pean's triumph is to me one of the great
dramas of recent history, as well as a remarkable record of
personal dedication and self-sacrifice.
Just after World War I, while a student at the University
of Paris, Charles Pean came in contact with the Salvation
Army's work. The Salvationists' motto a man may be down
but he is never out fired his imagination.
The Man Who Conquered Devils Island 71
Young Pean decided to give this theory a whirl. Switching
from the social sciences to theology, he emerged from the
university with a degree in divinity and placed his life at
the disposal of the Salvation Army.
Pean was working in Paris' Montmartre when a newspaper
printed a series of articles on conditions in the French Guiana
penal settlement. It was not the first expose. Periodically the
world had been set back on its heels by reports from escaped
convicts or visiting newspaper men. But each time public
opinion had blown hot, then cold, then ceased to blow at all.
This time the stirring was supplied by a French journalist,
Albert Londres, and his exposures shocked public opinion as
it had not been shocked since the Dreyfus case and Emile
Zola's T Accuse. Yet, like others before it, the fierce public
demand for reform of Devil's Island flared only briefly then
But it didn't die down in Charles Pean. Shocked and
angry, he dug into libraries for previous accounts. He found
himself longing to help these "incorrigibles." And something
like the Apostle Paul's Macedonian call seemed to come to
him from the faraway shores of Guiana. He had dedicated
his life to the proposition that the "farthest down 7 ' could be
lifted. Why not apply it to the pariahs of Devil's Island?
Penologists laughed at him, showed him records of a hun-
dred attempts at Guiana reform and a hundred failures.
Pean was stubborn. "Perhaps all you say is true," he insisted.
"But I'd like to see for myself ." He wore down the authorities
with his persistence. They gave him carte blanche to investi-
gate as much as he liked, and shrugged him off. "You'll see,"
He did see. And he saw more and saw farther than the
72 Adventurers for God
officials In France had suspected. At Saint Laurent-du-Ma-
roni, the administrative center of the penal colony, he passed
through gates bearing the proud legend of the homeland,
"Liberty, Fraternity, Equality." It was the last he saw of
these principles in this crucified colony of crucified men.
For three months he poked about the colony. The officials
wanted to give him a "guided tour," but he insisted on strik-
ing out for himself, living with the prisoners, talking with
them, learning their ways of life and death. He went into
steaming jungle labor camps where men newly come from
the temperate European climate worked naked and half-
starved in swampland swarming with mosquitoes and snakes,
and where sooner or later fever and dysentery got nearly
every man. He spent nights in blockhouses where 30 to 40
convicts were locked in each cramped and stifling compart-
ment, and visited the disciplinary barracks where men be-
came maniacal after months of solitary confinement. He
discovered that of the 1000 or more prisoners sent out from
France yearly less than one tenth lived as long as five
He spent days at infamous Camp Saint-Jean, the "dead
end" of the settlement, home of those who had been banished
for life to the colony. Here men, chained like wild beasts or
herded together in immoral squalor, were kept in cells and
blockhouses with the syphilitic, the cancerous, the leprous,
But it was the colony's 2500 Uberes who struck Pean as
the most pitiful wretches of all. Although these men had
served their terms as convicts, they were required, under
France's infamous law of doublage, to remain in the colony
for a period equal to their sentence if it were less than eight
The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island 73
years, or for life if their sentence ran more than eight
years. Moreover, they had to provide their own passage
money home. Because there was no way by which a man
could earn more than a few francs, almost any sentence to
Devil's Island was for life.
As convicts, they had at least been lodged, fed and
clothed. As liberes, they wandered around the shoddy towns
of Saint-Laurent and Cayenne in tattered rags, their beards
and hair uncut for weeks, their faces gaunt, desperately
hunting for scraps to eat. There was a saying current among
the liberes: "When freedom is gained, then your sentence
Nearly all tried to escape. Few got away from the colony;
of those who did, only a handful were ever heard from again.
Sharks, quicksands or starvation in the jungles claimed the
Pean found that in all the colony there was no chaplain,
minister, priest, or even a chapel to bring the consolations of
religion to these neediest of all men.
He also discovered that the officials took an airy attitude
toward reform of any kind. When Prince Napoleon estab-
lished the colony in 1852, one of his ministers asked, "By
whom will you have the convicts guarded?" The Prince re-
plied, "By worse crooks than they are/' That set the pattern,
and it obtained, with few exceptions, throughout. Many a
well-meaning governor went to French Guiana for his two-
year term with big plans and high hopes. But the permanent
Penal Administration officials there had him beaten before
he started. They would trump up charges to have him re-
called, thereby putting a blot on his political career, or under-
mine his plans through inertia and delay, knowing he would
74 Adventurers for God
be transferred after two years while they and their graft-
went on forever.
But now, hot with anger at all he had seen, Pean went to
the current governor of the colony. "It seems impossible in
this 20th century," he stormed, "that France has more than
400 employes engaged in a penal service the only result of
which is the complete physical and moral degradation of
The governor sighed. "I agree with you, Captain. But it's
no use. This is a little hell no man can conquer." He smiled
wearily. "Perhaps it's even too big a job for God!"
"That, Your Excellency," replied Pean, "remains to be
He returned to France burning not only with anger but
with tropical fever. For 18 months he was bedridden, and in
his delirious nights the gaunt, hopeless faces of the Ii"b6res
haunted him. Finally he arose shakily from his sickbed to
push his crusade. He drew up a two-part program: first, a
long-range plan to abolish the settlement; pending that, a
moral and social reformation plan for the convicts and
liberes. He wrote articles, spoke at innumerable meetings
throughout France, haunted official chambers, kept the name
Devil's Island ablaze in the conscience of government.
It took Pean three and a half years to win the backing of
the Ministry of Justice. Then, in 1933, he sailed again for
French Guiana, this time with three other Salvation Army
officers. The penal officials at Saint-Laurent greeted his re-
turn with little enthusiasm. But since he had the backing of
the Ministry of Justice they gave him their indifferent sup-
port. After al, they reasoned, he could do little harm and
perhaps his plan for helping the UMres would take some
The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island 75
worry off their minds. He wangled the use of an abandoned
building and picked workers from the liberes to renovate
the place and to act as cooks and helpers in the dining room
and dormitories. One libere, a former Left Bank artist who
had slain his mistress, painted a sign: "I/Armee Salut Le
Foyer" (The Salvation Army Home), adding with a flourish
"The House of Hope."
The shelter's inaugural was ill-starred. Pean had planned
to celebrate the opening with a free meal for all comers. But
when it was time to eat, he discovered that his cooks and
waiters had found some wine and gone off on a spree. The
four Salvationists, their faces red, flung off their tunics and
served the meal to 2000 famished guests while the penal
officials present smiled knowingly. That night some of the
"guests" returned and stole the cutlery and china, most of
the provisions, the workshop tools, and even the cords from
Undaunted, Pean and his officers began anew. It took two
months to replace the stolen materials and get the restaurant
in working order again. Then they started other projects.
They opened a second home for liberes in Cayenne. In the
jungle they developed a farm to raise vegetables and meat
for cafeterias. Carpenter shops were set up to turn out fur-
niture for the shelters and carved objects for sale abroad.
Out of virgin jungle Pean and a half-dozen liberes hewed
a banana plantation which was to supply work for the men
and profit for the homes. 'There is work for every man who
wants to earn his keep/* said Pean, and even among these
hardened and cynical prisoners he found enough help to
The difficulties were all but insuperable. The colony's
76 Adventurers for God
"merchants" who acted as receivers for stolen goods, the
peddlers o a cheap brand of rum called "tafia," the native
women, the corrupt prison guards all saw in the Salvation-
ists a threat to their racket. Anonymous threats invited them
to leave the colony or else. Clever traps were set to dis-
credit them. They were waylaid at night by assailants, and
once Pean's assistant's jaw was broken. Civil magistrates and
police gave little protection; some even connived with con-
victs and liber es to rid the colony of these "do-gooders."
Friendly officers of the penal colony shook their heads at
Pean's methods of building the felons' faith in him and in
themselves. An embezzler was put in charge of the accounts;
a man who had served time for poisoning his wife was made
cook in one of the shelters; a rapist-killer guarded the home
of a Salvation Army officer while he was away and his wife
was alone. But to the liberes the strange tonic of being
trusted proved morally invigorating.
Only one failed monumentally, and his remorse drove him,
like Judas, to commit suicide. This fellow, Guillon by name,
Pean had fished out of the moral cesspool at the Saint- Jean
camp, and appointed him accountant at the Saint-Laurent
shelter. After months of sobriety and apparent rectitude of
life, Guillon suddenly resigned his job, went to live with a
Negress, and stayed drunk most of the time something dark
in his immediate past driving him frantic. He showed up
one night at the shelter, implored Pean to forgive him, and
fled sobbing. The next morning his body was found hanging
from the beams in the Negress* home. On his desk were
copies of notes he had made daily during his service with
Pean, notes that recorded every action of the Salvationists
which he had supplied to certain elements in the colony who
The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island 77
were trying to pin something on them. His traitorous act
had preyed upon Ms mind, and he had made the traitor's
Religious services were held in the jungle camps and
blockhouses, and for the liberes. But religion was forced
down no man's throat. All Pean asked was an honest effort at
self -saving. And slowly a few converts were made. Pean gave
them bits of colored ribbon to wear as a steady reminder of
the new life they had espoused.
In time the farms, plantations, workshops and shelters were
financially solvent. Sales of convict-manufactured items
abroad, plus the royalties from the books Pean wrote on life
in the colony, supplied Pean with the funds for his long-
dreamed-of program to repatriate liberes who had served
Pean's plan was designed not only to get the liberes home
but to restore their strength of character so that they would
become good citizens.
Pean called his plan "The New Doublage." When a libere
applied for work, he was told that for his labor he would re-
ceive lodging, meals and two francs a day. At the end of
each month he would also receive a coupon worth 40 francs.
He could exchange this coupon for ready money. But if he
saved 20 coupons, and thus had 800 francs to his credit, he
would get in exchange a ticket to France costing 1600 francs.
Moreover, the Salvation Army would meet him at the docks
in France and sponsor his new start in life.
This was a boon not only to the short-termers but also to
those condemned to perpetual exile for P^an had dug up
an almost forgotten provision in the law governing doublage
which stated that any libere who maintained himself for
78 Adventurers for God
five years after release from convict status, without having
attempted escape or otherwise incurred punishment, was
eligible to leave the colony. Under the old conditions, this
provision was an empty one, for it had been virtually im-
possible either to pile up five years* good conduct, to earn a
living, or to resist escape.
The relatively few who had been able to get back to
France had made sorry records. Their moral nature vitiated
by long residence in such a place and among such compa-
triots, they were no match for the odds against them in the
homeland. With no better papers than those stamped with
the Penal Administration insignia, employment was almost
impossible to obtain, and they quickly drifted back into
Pean's scheme if it worked would change all that. Sur-
prisingly, it did work!
To men whose every waking thought was of fleeing
Guiana, the plan offered a huge incentive. Less than two
years after "The New Doublage" was instituted, the first
crop of liberes sailed for France. Pean sailed with them.
"The whole future of your comrades in Guiana, and of the
colony itself/' he kept reminding them, "depends on you."
Newsmen met their ship, and editorials the next day pre-
dicted an immediate crime wave from "Pean's Pariahs." The
crime wave failed to develop then or later. Pean's pariahs
came back rehabilitated not only socially but spiritually. By
1939 he had returned 804 convicts and only three were
ever in trouble with the police again.
Meanwhile Pean divided his time between Guiana and
France, continuing his fight to have the colony abolished. He
was now recognized as an expert on Devil's Island. He had
The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island 79
accomplished not in just a few cases but in wholesale lots,
and on the toughest of material the thing penologists and
social scientists had said was impossible. When a commis-
sion was appointed to draft a law to liquidate the colony, he
was the only nongovernment member.
He did not rest here. He knew that the feet of any wide-
reaching reform move slowly, and that many a measure dies
within reach of its goal simply because those pushing it stop
too soon. A half dozen times before, reforms affecting the
colony had been voted by the Chamber of Deputies only to
be defeated in the Senate. And each time reports had gone
out to the world that Devil's Island was to be abolished.
Even while the proposed law was being drafted, Pean kept
up his pressure. He blew the trumpets everywhere. The
Salvation Army arranged mass meetings in Paris and other
cities, inviting leading members of government to speak,
putting them on the spot.
In 1938 the President of France signed a decree forbidding
sentences to Devil's Island and substituting penal servitude
in a standard penitentiary. Convicts already in Guiana were
to stay there until their sentences were served, but then they
could leave. The colony, it was thought, would be gradually
depopulated during the next ten years.
The war interrupted Pean's work; he was trapped in
France by the German invaders. Unknown to him, however,
the De Gaulle government-in-exile put most of his ideas into
effect. And early in 1946 came the official order to liquidate
Pean was the government's unanimous choice to supervise
the liquidation. With his commission in his pocket, "the hap-
piest document I ever carried," he arrived at Saint-Laurent
80 Adventurers for God
on Good Friday. Nobody had known of his coming, but the
news spread quickly. Convicts and liberes came from miles
around to spread flowers in Ms path and welcome him like
a conquering hero. Pean was so moved that tears rolled down
On Easter Sunday a mass meeting was held in his honor.
From a rude platform Pean looked out over the great crowd
of men for whose saving he had given 18 years of his life.
On his breast was pinned the ribbon of an Officer of the
Legion of Honor. The closing words of the citation that went
with it read: "He has the soul of an apostle"
But when he attempted to speak to the crowd he had no
apostolic message. All he could murmur was: "How fitting
that this meeting should be held on Easter Sunday!"
His voice broke, and he got no further. But it was enough.
His pariahs understood.
Merrell Varies of Japan
like Miracle of me
D /H II P?
On a chill February day back in 1905 a young American,
fired with an offbeat concept o missionary service, stepped
from a rattletrap train at a remote village in rural Japan,
plopped his satchel down on the deserted platform, and was
swept momentarily with a sense of his own folly. Backed by
no church or mission board, he had abandoned a promising
career as an architect to take a post as English teacher at a
He shucked off his misgivings by reminding himself of the
two-pronged point he had come 7000 miles to prove: (1)
that Christianity always makes a far bigger impact "where
it is talked the least, lived the most," and (2) that a self-
supporting layman could demonstrate religion's practical
application to society far more effectively than could any
Having spent his last borrowed dollar to get here, under-
standing not a word of the Japanese language, he scarcely
knew how he would go about proving his point. But, given
a spirit of utter dedication, he was sure a means could be
found . . .
Today, more than a half century later, the name and fame
82 Adventurers for God
of William Merrell Vories is known throughout the Far East.
Toyohiko Kagawa has called him "Japan's greatest Chris-
tian." And the "Omi Brotherhood" he founded has been
heralded by such American religious leaders as Dr. Glenn
Clark as "the most remarkable missionary adventure of
Tools of the Omi Brotherhood, in which more than 1000
Japanese Christians live and work communally, are not pul-
pits and churches but factories and schools. It owns proper-
ties valued at $1,700,000, conducts commercial enterprises
grossing more than a million dollars annually; and its archi-
tectural department, busiest in all Japan, has designed and
built some 2800 buildings.
Yet the Brotherhood is a community where nobody works
for personal profit; where everyone, from top managerial
brains to humblest laborer, exerts himself according to his
best ability and is paid only according to his barest needs
for one purpose: to demonstrate that Christian principles
are as workable in daily life as they are decorative to Sunday
From Vories' zeal ( and Brotherhood profits from its com-
mercial enterprises) have come, among other things: one of
the most progressive school systems in the Far East; a large
TB sanatorium, finest and most modern in Japan; a YMCA
through which pass thousands of boys and men annually;
an evangelistic department that has founded 13 churches,
supports scores of ministers and full-time workers serving
23 other preaching places and 36 Sunday schools involving
2500 pupils, and runs a unique "Find Christ by Mail" proj-
ect that reaches into virtually every home in Japan.
In Omi-Hachiman recently, I was shown through this
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 83
amazing community by Merrell Vories himself. A wispy little
man with the poundage of a jockey and the mystical drive
of a saint, he modestly told me how his dream had mush-
Born into a devout family that often entertained mission-
aries on home leave, Vories contracted in his teens "a vague
itch to sashay off to far places and save the world." He kept
the irritation under control, however, by developing a coun-
ter-itch for architecture. Attending Colorado College, he
sidestepped the challenges of Student Volunteer Movement
recruiters by saying, "I'm going to be an architect, make a
lot of money; then I can support a half dozen missionaries."
But before his graduation he recognized this for what it
was: a dodge. When he heard of the martyrdom of Chinese
Christians during the Boxer uprising, then raging, an ac-
cusing voice seemed to say, "They willingly give their heads
for their faith; you're not willing to give up even your
That did it. He would be a missionary but not in the
usual mold. He felt no call to the ministry. Like Socrates the
stone-cutter, or Paul the tent-maker, he would support him-
self by some convenient vocation, make evangelism his avo-
cation. To friends he said, "If I can only find some spot too
inconspicuous to appeal to any other missionary, IH go to
the ends of the earth!"
He almost did. Learning through the International YMCA
that a teacher of English was wanted by a town deep in
Japan's hinterland named Omi-Hachiman, he told his family,
"It's come, my dream job!" And borrowing $250 from his
father for a one-way passage to Japan, he set out.
In Tokyo he was warned, "You're going to a stronghold of
84 Adventurers for God
fanatical Buddhism, whose priests won't look with benevo-
lence on any Christian proselytizing you hope to do. But
it's virgin soil; you'll have three-quarters of a million people
all to yourself!"
Arrived at Omi-Hachiman after a 17-hour train ride, he
trudged off to the house set aside for him a 300-year-old
shack that had quartered a swift succession of his predeces-
sors. That first night an earthquake rattled its boards, and
shivering alone in the bare, nine-room structure, he wrote
in his diary, "Homesick, cold, lonely. But here!"
His loneliness melted fast when, three days later, he
began classes at the academy. Intrigued by having a "genu-
ine American" in their midst, his students tagged him around
after class, followed him home. He invited them to make his
house their rendezvous, introduced them to dominoes and
Flinch, spent all his salary on refreshments for his guests.
After a few days, he announced the start of Bible study,
expecting a half dozen; 45 showed up for the first class.
Within a few weeks he had four groups going, with 322
enrolled. If Bible study palled, his blackboard could be
flipped over to become a Ping-pong table.
When several of the boys became Christians, Vories invited
them to come live with him, sharing expenses. Soon his
"family" included eight of the academy's leaders, with others
begging to get in.
With his house bursting at the seams with eager young-
sters, Vories knew he had to expand. Why not open a YMCA?
A letter to 30 friends in America brought enough to start; a
successful dairyman in Kyoto, a native of Omi who had
become a Christian, contributed a choice lot. Soon Vories
had his student center under construction, with dormitory
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 85
space for converts and adequate rooms for Bible study and
Buddhist priests, alarmed, incited school roughnecks to
dragoon the rival faith. Boys known to be attending the Bible
classes were lampooned, assaulted with baseball bats, pushed
into the canal. But when Vories advised his boys to take their
persecution in good grace, to pray for their persecutors, the
fight went out of the bullies; intrigued, several became con-
The priests then instituted a vicious drive to get Vories
dismissed from his teaching post, pressuring the province's
leading newspaper to run a series of articles denouncing
Christianity and Vories. Their campaign succeeded. At the
end of his second year at the academy, the axe fell: his con-
tract was not renewed.
Out of a job, Vories took stock of his situation. Everything
he'd earned had gone into the YMCA building. Before the
whole province he was branded a pernicious influence.
Bleakly he reflected that not even Job had been more
thoroughly stripped and left sitting in the ashes of his hopes.
But when he remembered how his boys had stood up
under persecution, saw them now waiting loyally to join his
next move, he rebounded with zest. One of his first converts
offered to share his living allowance, 17 yen ($8.50) per
month; others contributed as they were able. Vories himself
managed to get odd jobs tutoring; at nights he laid out the
format of a little publication he named "The Mustard Seed,"
sent it to American friends inviting subscriptions. The maga-
zine's first issue graphically described his new building, en-
thusiastically stated his hopes and dreams. It contained no
mention of his dismissal ("I didn't want to begin with bad
86 Adventurers for God
news!"). Many promptly subscribed at $1 a year, providing
enough dollars to stave off disaster.
Then one night, while sleeplessly pondering how he might
further undergird his wobbly mission, the thought came:
Why not put his knowledge of architecture to work? Taking
this night-blooming notion to be the voice of God, he leapt
out of bed to awaken his associates, saying, "We'll form an
The next morning he cleared a space in the dormitory,
dug out an old set of drawing instruments he'd brought
along, rigged up a drawing table, started classes in drafting,
and announced grandly that the new architectural firm of
"W. M. Vories & Co." was in business.
To the objection that there was little future for a firm
centered in an unknown country town, he replied, "The
most remote place, if it be the place where God has placed
us, offers ample field for the best we possess."
His first student-draftsman was a convert from one of the
early Bible classes. Following Vories' use of the beatitude
"Blessed are the pure in heart" as an introductory to a slash-
ing attack on local prostitution, the boy had risen to wist-
fully ask, "Teacher, how can I become a pure man?" It was
a good question: he lived in a notorious brothel owned by
his uncle, was being trained to take over as manager. Vories
had brought him to his house to live; he later became one
of the Brotherhood's founders.
The firm's start coincided, happily, with a rising boom in
Western-style buildings. In earthquaky Japan, Vories learned
to build so as to absorb the shocks; soon he was erecting
structures that stood while others toppled, in time grappling
with more orders than he could handle.
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 87
In later years, after his firm was doing more business
than any other in Japan, he would recall, "With reluctance
I'd abandoned my dream of becoming an architect, feeling
I'd wasted all those years of study. Isn't that just like God?
He asks us to give up a selfish ambition, then gives it back
to us, saying, 'Use it for My sake!' "
Vories and his growing group of co-workers agreed to
live co-operatively, pooling their resources, sharing equally
all responsibility, taking from their earnings only bare living
expenses, turning back all the rest into evangelism. Finings
and week-ends they left their drawing boards for villages
crowding the shores of 40-mile-long Lake Biwa, setting up
Sunday schools and Bible classes which grew into churches.
To supply the new churches with leadership, promising
young converts were sent off to seminaries to be trained as
Until Vories came to Omi Province (now Shiga Prefec-
ture) there was not in all its 1616 square miles a single
permanent Christian church. Before long he had several con-
gregations going full tilt, each with its own building and
Growth was so rapid that shortly Vories was sighing, "We
planned to advance on our knees; we seem to be racing on
Pattern for all others was the church in Omi-Hachiman,
established in Vories' third year. From the first he insisted
that it be self-supporting, indigenously led. Even plate col-
lections were abolished when, one Sunday while playing the
offertory on the organ, he noted in a mirror the embarrass-
ment of some worshipers too poor to give. To the church
committee he said, "Making people give because they are
88 Adventurers for God
ashamed to be seen not giving is not good." Thereafter all
church expenses were met by secret but systematic pledges
Meanwhile, Vories used his architectural services for
"evangelizing" of another sort. To all clients he made it clear
that "Christian principles will be applied to every job from
drawing board to completed structure/' and that such
principles ruled out all "bribes, commissions, gifts." Aghast,
members of Japan's traditionally graft-ridden building trades
debated among themselves whether he was crazy or just
One holding the latter belief discovered his mistake when
Vories sought bids for a large school he had designed. A
few hours before the sealed bids were to be opened, this
bidder dropped by to say coyly, "If I get the job there will
be 100,000 yen ($50,000) in it for you." Flushing with anger,
Vories thrust the sealed envelopes toward him, saying, "Find
yours, and take it back. YouVe eliminated yourself!"
Early clients were equally aghast to learn that Vories'
"Christian principles" called for no Sunday work and a 44-
hour week. He argued and proved that a man does better
work, and more of it, when he has time off to spend with
One to whom he proved it was the president of a large
Osaka bank for whom he had designed a $2 million building.
Learning that Vories was imposing his 8-hour day, no-Sun-
day-work rule, the banker stormed: "We'll be delayed for
weeks getting in. Do you realize what that will cost us in
interest to say nothing in prestige?" Vories only shrugged,
"111 retire in favor of another firm if you like." Impatiently
the banker replied, "I'm only asking you to make an ex-
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood 89
ception in our case." To which Vories rejoined, smiling, "If
I compromise now on what I know is a sound principle, com-
promising might get to be a habit; I might even find myself
taking a few extra thousands in graft from, the contractor!"
The banker gave up; the building was finished weeks ahead
of the contract deadline.
Vories exulted, "We're building more than buildings!"
By 1948 his architectural firm had established branch
offices in Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Mukden, Peking.
Among the 2800 buildings he has constructed are some of
the largest and most modern in Japan. A sample is the
famous Daimaru department store in Osaka, occupying a
square block and costing more than $10 million. Its owner,
having visited in America and England, returned to tell
Vories, "Build me the biggest and most lavish store in the
world." Vories did. Another monument to his handiwork is
the new International Christian University in Tokyo.
In 1909 he formed the Omi Sales Co., Ltd., a firm for im-
porting building materials not available in Japan. He quickly
expanded the firm's scope when, in America the following
year to make business contacts, he met A. A. Hyde, founder
of the Mentholatum Company. Fascinated, Hyde listened to
his story, then said, "You say you need some bigger industry
to supply jobs for converts. Why not distribute my product?
You can have the exclusive rights and the profits."
Hurrying back to Japan with a few cases of Mentholatum,
Vories ran head-on into the pharmaceutical combine. When
druggists refused to stock the product, he talked Christian
organizations into selling it, gave them the profits. When
demand became brisk, druggists came begging. By 1930 sales
were so huge that Hyde suggested, "Why not make Men-
90 Adventurers for God
tholatum as well as distribute it? You furnish the building,
I'll furnish the machinery and the formula."
Vories designed a model factory, hired hundreds of work-
ers, plunged into wholesale production, and eventually some
30,000 stores were selling eight millon packages a year.
With the adding of more departments and more worker-
converts, Vories knew he must give form as well as spirit to
his Omi mission. But what form? He wanted no transcenden-
tal colony or monastic retreat, but a community that would
be "a practical demonstration of Christianized economics
working in the world today." To remove any suggestion of
foreign control or denominational bias, one of his first
acts was to change the name from "mission" to Brother-
The form he adopted was virtually what it is today. Mem-
bership in the Brotherhood is limited to the number of work-
ers needed in the various departments evangelistic, indus-
trial, educational and open only to those willing to subscribe
to its aims and ideals. Whatever one's job, as top executive
or common laborer, his wages are according to his living
needs, no more, no less. The average Brotherhood wage is
$62 a month. For emergencies the Brotherhood provides
from its common treasury. All policies and decisions are
made by a 12-man Executive Committee, whose members
are elected for two-year terms, act as chairmen of the ruling
body in alphabetical rotation, report its actions and decisions
to the Brotherhood's monthly meeting.
To conform to Japanese law, three different forms of
incorporation were necessary: one each for the strictly reli-
gious and philanthropic activities, the industrial department,
the architectural section. All earnings, however, go into a
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 91
common treasury which dispenses departmental appropria-
tions as needed.
Close-knit as are the members, they do not live in clannish
solitude from their Omi neighbors. Only a few families own
or rent homes in the compound. Vories made no rules against
ownership of property, though he himself never wanted to.
When, on his 70th birthday, the Brotherhood planned to
build a home for him, he stopped them saying, "You can't
build for everyone. I don't want anything that any other
member can't have.''
Vories' paternal solicitude for his workers was revolution-
ary. When he came, Japan's switch from feudalism to the
machine age had just begun. There were as yet no labor
unions, no fair-wage laws. Workers were a commodity to
be bought at the cheapest price, worked incredibly long
hours, were discarded when exhausted.
Against the background of such evils Vories framed the
Brotherhood's cardinal principles: "(1) Labor should be a
part of any industrial organization, not just an outside com-
modity to be bought like raw materials; (2) excessive sal-
aries to ornamental officials should be eliminated or dras-
tically cut; (3) industry should concentrate on producing
commodities that are needed, of good quality and at reason-
able prices with service to society as the prime goal."
The Brotherhood's plants have never known a walkout or
strike. Member-workers are free to leave, through dissatis-
faction or for higher pay, at any time. Few ever have.
When Communists came to Omi, foraging for discontent,
they found little to work on, went away sourly saying, 'The
Brotherhood has beaten us to it."
To Vories the Brotherhood's astounding financial success
92 Adventurers for God
was gratifying, but incidental. He told his workers, "What
we produce, in goods or profits, is not of prime importance.
Most important is how and why we live and work as we do.
The Brotherhood is not an argument for Christianity; it's a
He was a stickler for high standards of personal conduct.
Only once did he have to crack down in 1918, when four
younger members of the Brotherhood were caught in a
morality lapse. He dramatically announced that, as an act
of public contrition, the entire Brotherhood was being dis-
solved for three days, with offices closed and all work sus-
pended. It would be reestablished only when all members
voluntarily returned "with a renewed pledge to the central
purpose of the movement." The action made nationwide
news, purged the Brotherhood once and for all, gave him a
chance to express his thesis that "only an organization that
stands ready to kill itself for the sake of its principles is
qualified to live."
I walked through the Brotherhood's model factories and
office buildings, situated on a beautifully landscaped 3-acre
compound. Factory rooms are light and airy, equipped with
modern machinery. Workers pursue tasks to soft music
piped in, eat in a shiny cafeteria, purchase food and house-
hold needs at a large commissary Vories calls his "super-
market," relax on playgrounds and in indoor gyms and
A happy religious atmosphere pervades the whole com-
pound. Bible study rooms occupy every free space. Each
day's work begins with a devotional service in a large chapel
atop the main building. On the chapel's walls the factory
motto enjoins all to "Make Today Better Than Yesterday/'
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 93
and prayer is offered "that we might perform our work as
In later years industrialists came from all over Japan to
marvel at the factories' modern design, study its manage-
ment. Many invited Vories to redesign their own plants,
lecture their management on methods of making workers
happier in their work. This gave him further chance to preach
on Christian incentive which, he said, "disproves the ancient
theory of economists that only the hope of personal gain can
induce human beings to exert themselves in productive
To visitors puzzled over the Brotherhood's success, Vories
once said, "Either this is a work of God, demonstrating what
can be accomplished by the least able of mortals responsive
to His leading, or it is a preposterous combination of lucky
chances' befalling a group of self-deluded cranks. Take your
A good example of how Vories made the Brotherhood's
every enterprise carry its message is its "Mentholatum evan-
gelism." Printed on every package is a note inviting inquiries
about Christianity. More than 6000 came during the first
year, resulting in the formation of a "correspondence course
in the Christian faith." Enrollees among prisoners alone
number up to 1200 at a time. Others taking the course pay
only a small sum to help with the mailing costs; they may
also participate in the Brotherhood's 3000-volume circulating
library, paying only the return postage on books borrowed.
Because of the thousands of converts thus made, Menthola-
tum is known in rural Japan as "the Jesus medicine." Few
converts are "quickies"; one man studied the course for 30
years before becoming a Christian.
94 Adventurers for God
Today the Correspondence Evangelism Department em-
ploys a large staff including a dozen specially trained pastors.
The department head, Jisaburo Yamamoto, has his own
story of dramatic conversion through Vories' hound-of-
Yamamoto was one of Vories' first Bible class members
50 years ago. Upon learning of the boy's conversion to Chris-
tianity, his father, a prominent dealer in sake (Japan's fiery
drink made from fermented rice), demanded he come home,
prepare to succeed him in the family business. Yamamoto
left with Vories' angry words ringing in his ears: "If you
told me you're too weak to resist, I'd understand. But when
you tell me you're going to make your living making others
miserable, we'll have to part company."
One day, 15 years later, Vories and some tourist friends
were checking out of a seaside resort when the inn-keeper
told him the hotel had been engaged for a convention of
sake-mskers. At the wharf, Vories was going through the
gate to his ship when a horde of delegates debarked. At their
head was Yamamoto. Red-faced, his former pupil stam-
mered, "Teacher, forgive me. I must chair this conven-
tion, but when it's over, I will close down my sake busi-
Stubbornly, Vories blocked the gate, created a scene, coldly
said, "If you pass through this gate you will go to hell."
When Yamamoto hesitated, he said, "Come with me; let's
talk it over." Yamamoto spent most of the night with Vories;
the next day, accompanied by Vories, he returned home to
publicly announce a change of occupation. To a big public
meeting called to inform his employees and townsmen, Ya-
mamoto said simply, "I disgraced my old teacher. But he
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood' 95
loved me so much he was willing to make a fool of himself
to save me."
The TB sanatorium got its start when, one day in 1917,
a TB-ridden Buddhist priest named Kanyru Endo suddenly
appeared at Vories' door. Disgusted by the immorality of his
fellow-priests, Endo-san had left his temple nearby, was
wandering aimlessly near Omi-Hachiman when, pausing to
rest at a roadside station erected by the Brotherhood for
weary travelers, his curiosity had been aroused by a sign,
"Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give
The priest and Voiles spent most of the night arguing
heatedly the relative merits of their faiths. Finally Vories
said, "This is pretty futile, isn't it? Tell you what, stay with
us for six months. We'll both agree not to mention religion,
much less try to convert each other. If your life demon-
strates the superiority of your faith, I'll become a Buddhist.
But if, on the other hand, you find our brand of Christianity
has merit, well . . ."
The priest agreed, was given a light job in the drafting
office. One day Endo-san rose in a Brotherhood prayer meet-
ing to say, "I have found a real faith at last; may I be bap-
tized?" A few months later, contracting pneumonia, he lay
dying. His last request to Vories: "Why not start a sanatorium
for TB patients? Even if you can't cure them, you can give
them the peace I've found."
Acquiring a plot of land on a sunny hillside, Vories built
the sanatorium's first unit early in 1918. Its first resident
physician was an early convert who had left the community
to go through the Imperial University, became a doctor, re-
turned to serve the Brotherhood.
96 Adventurers for God
Today the sanatorium has 180 beds, 37 buildings covering
several acres, treats hundreds of patients annually for only
the cost of their food, is credited with sparking scores of
similar institutions throughout Japan. To it come health
authorities from all over the Far East, modeling their institu-
tions on its architecture and methods of treating Japan's
The Brotherhood's progressive school system likewise arose
out of an important event in Vories' life: his marriage in
1919. Called to Tokyo to design a residence for a nobleman,
he soon found himself in love with his client's younger sister,
Maki Hitotsuyanagi. Daughter of a Daiymo, feudal ruler of
a large province, Maki had spent nine years in the States,
was educated at Bryn Mawr College. Their marriage caused
consternation among Japan's nobility. It was permitted
only after 18 months of "negotiations" and final sanction of
the Imperial Household.
The wedding ceremony was performed in a college chapel
Vories had constructed; the reception held in the nobleman's
residence he'd designed; the honeymoon spent in a mountain
resort cottage he'd built for Omi workers. "Surely," he ex-
claimed happily, "no architect could ask for happier settings
for the greatest event in his life!"
Vories brought his bride back to an Omi fearful of what
the induction of this dainty daughter of the aristocracy might
do to the humble Brotherhood. The members' worries les-
sened when Merrell and Maki went to live in the poorest of
the OB's outstations, vanished entirely when she refused
servants, insisting on doing her own housework in its tumble-
With MaM in charge, Vories' long plans of an educational
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood* 97
system for his Brotherhood went into high gear. In short
order she created a rash of playgrounds, nursery schools,
kindergartens, night schools for workers. She also introduced
high school courses within the OB's plants where, in five
large classrooms, 120 girl employees work five hours, study
three, are paid for eight.
Today, in a modern educational plant donated by Mrs. A.
A. Hyde of Wichita, Kansas, 450 students from kindergarten
through senior high school study under the most advanced
pedagogical methods, taught entirely by 43 full-time Chris-
tian teachers. Object of the thriving educational program:
"to train Christian leaders for the Japan of tomorrow."
By 1940 Vories had seen his Brotherhood zoom into na-
tional prominence, more than validating his most roseate
vision. A large Tokyo newspaper named him "not only first
citizen of Omi-Hachiman but among the first in all Japan."
But he got his biggest kick out of the complete switch of
sentiment that had occurred in Omi-Hachiman itself. From
the old academy that summarily dismissed him years before
came repeated invitations to lecture on Christian ethics.
When in 1934 the academy needed public support to build
a new plant, he was asked to head the list of subscribers.
Knowing he had no money of his own, the Brotherhood
subscribed $5000 for him, saying, "Now youVe got revenge
on those who fired you a Christian revenge!"
Buddhists no longer picture Vories with horns and cloven
hoofs. One of the last to surrender was a wealthy man named
Nishikawa, owner of an expansive 300-year-old ancestral man-
sion in Omt One day, hearing that Nishikawa was critically
ill of diabetes, Vories rushed over with a supply of insulin,
saved his life. Amazed, the crusty old Buddhist demanded,
98 Adventurers for God
"Why do you do this for me, your old enemy?" Vories smiled,
"Were you? I didn't know/* Before his death Nishikawa
transferred his residence to the Brotherhood for use as a
dormitory for students.
Vories was proudest of all that his Brotherhood succeeded
in becoming self-supporting and self -directing. He bridled a
bit when some missionaries, comfortably backed by home
boards, wondered aloud whether Ms mission would not die
with him. He replied, "The very question predicates the old
mistaken idea of a mission. If it is to send out an endless
line of sectarian foreigners to control and direct native work-
ers, to live aloof from the people, and to dispense foreign
money in perpetuity, then missions had better stay away."
As for the "permanency" of his life-work, he wrote with
some asperity in his book The Omi Brotherhood in Nippon:
"What if a mission is not permanent? We have no desire to
perpetuate anything after its work is accomplished. On the
other hand, if ours is a true brotherhood indigenous, self-
supporting, untainted with overlapping or compromising
connections with classes and castesits permanency should
take care of itself."
Thus far it has.
In 1940 Vories applied for naturalization as a Japanese
citizen. The process took seven months; in January 1941 he
got his official papers. Eleven months later came Pearl Har-
bor, precipitating him into his deepest Gethsemane.
Though Omi-Hachiman was not bombed, the war took its
toll. The Brotherhood's industries were retarded, its educa-
tional program disrupted, its religious activities hampered.
Younger members were drafted, many killed. Only the armed
forces' need for Mentholatum saved the factory from confis-
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood? 99
cation and the membership from dissolution. The TB sana-
torium was taken over for a military hospital; the OB's
presses, used for printing its flood of books and evangelical
literature, were junked for scrap iron. The military clique,
moving in to mobilize the community's resources, conscripted
school children and older workers for labor in food production
and war factories, prohibited use of the English language,
ordered all citizens to bow before Shinto shrines.
When Vories objected, the military spread the suggestion
that he was an American spy, started a whispering campaign
that disturbed the prefectural governor and police officials,
made the whole Brotherhood suspect. However, when the
vicious rumor reached Tokyo the emperor promptly scotched
it by sending his brother, Prince Tagamatsu, to Omi-Hachi-
man the first time a member of the Imperial family had
visited the prefecture. The governor heard the prince say of
the Brotherhood, "This would be possible under any other
auspices than Christianity," later became a Christian himself.
To prevent further suspicion from touching his Brother-
hood, Vories accepted an offer from Tokyo and Kyoto uni-
versities to teach a course in advanced English started years
before by Lafcadio Hearn. He found, to his delight, that the
deans of both were Christians, and that most students in his
crowded classes were unaffected by the jingoists, interested
both in America and Christianity. He managed to make sev-
eral converts among them, was vastly cheered to find that
such evangelizing could be done "right in the midst of war."
Vories spent the last seven months of the war at Karui-
zawa, a mountain resort where the Brotherhood maintained
an architectural office. Here food was scarce, and he and
Maid were often forced to forage in the hills for edible leaves
100 Adventurers for God
and weeds. But also at Karuizawa was the summer villa of
the Crown Prince who, learning of their need, often shared
his food with them. Vories, who never missed a chance to talk
and pray with members of the royal family, finally succeeded
in converting Prince Masohito, the emperor's second son.
The war's abrupt end brought Vories a rare opportunity to
serve both his native and adopted lands. From Prince Konoe,
former prime minister who had been ousted by the military
clique, came a message: "Will you act as liaison between the
new government and the American occupation authority?"
For the next several weeks Vories, a little man in a big
black limousine, shuttled between the Imperial Palace and
General MacArthur's headquarters, interpreting the con-
quered to the conquerors, helping turn a land long held in
the brutal grip of military exploiters into a vital democracy.
Under MacArthur's benevolent reforms, strongly under-
scored with religious faith, Vories found the Japanese clam-
orous to learn more about Christianity. An avalanche of in-
vitations implored him to lecture in colleges, conduct evan-
gelistic services, confer with government officials on the
"spiritual aspects of democracy." He went everywhere, call-
ing America's announced principles for the rebuilding of
Japan "a bomb immeasurably greater than any ever dropped
the super-bomb of Christian love."
Summoned on several occasions to the Imperial Palace
to "explain Christian democracy" to the Emperor, he said on
one occasion, "Democracy, your majesty, is co-operation. Is it
not significant that even our Japanese character for the word
'co-operation' has a Christian cross at its center?"
An impressive example of his contribution to the snobless
social order decreed under Japan's new constitution occurred
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood 9 101
in the spring of 1947. Its beneficiary was the Eta (meaning
"unclean") class, Japan's equivalent of India's "untouch-
ables/' As butchers and tanners, Buddhist aversion to animal
killing had for centuries forced them into segregated villages,
Now declared by law equal to any, elements among the Eta
in villages surrounding Omi became outlaws, raiding main-
line trains, robbing passengers, spreading terror, defying
Frantic railway officials finally appealed to Vories. He told
them, "We'll tackle the problem if you and the police prom-
ise to keep your hands off. Give me a list of the leaders."
For the leaders of the eight gangs Merrell and Jvlaki
planned tea parties for eight successive Sunday afternoons,
sending out formal invitations. On the first Sunday morning
a young tough appeared. "Our leader can't come," he mut-
tered. Invited in, he warily looked about for police. When
by the second round of teas and cakes his belligerence had
melted, Vories said amicably, "I asked you and your friends
here because I need your help. I'm told there is much cor-
ruption among the police. I thought you could help us get
After hours during which the bandit vented his spleen
against society, then stayed for lunch, a commotion suddenly
arose outside. The entire gang was at the gate, shouting
and brandishing sticks, obviously come to deliver their "cap-
tured" emissary. Merrell and Maki, the subdued ruffian be-
tween them, went to the gate, bowed them in. They swag-
gered inside, listened suspiciously to Vories' project. He said,
"Everybody says you men are brave and strong, fearing no-
body, not even the police." Then he added, "If you help
me with this, I promise to do all I can to remove the disgrace-
102 Adventurers for God
ful discrimination you and your people have suffered so long.
Think it over. Meanwhile, our house is open to you. Bring
your friends, any time."
During the next seven weeks, members of the gangs fil-
tered in and out, savoring the arm-in-arm Vories friendliness,
awed by their gracious acceptance by a lady of the nobility.
Nothing was said about railroad banditry until, finally, one
gang leader volunteered, "Guess you've heard about those
train robberies. We might help. But people won't trust us;
they'll think we're gangsters." Vories replied, "I can fix that."
To railroad officials the next day he said casually, "I'm
appointing some special police to ride the roads. I need
passes and official armbands for these men." The officials
glanced at his list and gasped, "But these are the very gang-
sters who've been terrorizing our trains!" Vories nodded.
"Exactly," he said.
A few days later he distributed passes, armbands and
assignments, then waited to see what would happen. Almost
overnight all violence ceased. When it was plain that there
would be no reoccurrence, the astounded railway heads
asked, "How can we reward these men?" Vories replied, "As
you would any other good citizens. Give them citations of
The meeting, aglitter with formality and eloquent speeches
by pref ectural officials, followed by bowing and handshaking
between police and former bandits, was the season's big
event. All over the prefecture, the story of "When the bandits
came to tea" became legend.
Having dramatized Eta fitness for integration into polite
society, Vories moved to keep his promise. When leaders of
a village with a segregated community asked him to lecture
The Miracle of the "Omi Brotherhood" 103
on "Democracy and Christianity" he accepted on condition
that the meeting be held in the Eta section. The former
bandits spread word that "outsiders" were coming, promoted
a mammoth clean-up campaign. Every street and gutter
was scrubbed clean, every house made pin-neat. Visitors,
astonished, returned to their communities after the meeting
to say that they had misjudged the Eta, that ostracism for
such people made no sense.
A few months later a "culture society" for youth, formed
by the ex-gangsters, was invited to amalgamate with a simi-
lar group of the adjoining village. A big formal ceremony,
held in the school auditorium, celebrated the event. Lauda-
tory telegrams poured in from members of the central gov-
ernment in Tokyo. Newspapers throughout the country re-
ported it as "a historic day for Japan's long-neglected
With equal facility Vories blunted the busy sickles of
Communism when, after the war, Red activity broke out in
Japan's universities. One night in 1947 the leader of a vigor-
ous cell at Kyoto's Imperial University came to his door,
tartly saying, "I'm an atheist and a Communist; you prob-
ably won't let me in." Vories replied with disarming friend-
liness, "Why not? I take it we're both interested in the same
things: helping people to a better life."
After patient listening for hours to the Communist's glitter-
ing version of Red aims, Vories said, "It all sounds good.
Perhaps you have some place where your principles have
been practically applied a sort of showcase I could look
at?" When his visitor stammered, "Well, no not yet/' he
said: "But we have. Come and see."
The young Red toured the Brotherhood's industrial depart-
104 Adventurers for God
ments, studied Its social and economic platform, questioned
the workers, went away impressed. A few days later lie
returned with the cell's full executive committee. Shortly
all nine were converted, turned their group into a Christian
cell instead! After graduation, the young leader went into the
tanning industry, today operates a large plant whose princi-
ples are modeled carefully after the Brotherhood's.
I could find nobody in Japan who ever heard Vories ques-
tion the impulse that, a half century ago, dispatched him
across the seas into this place. He began without a dollar to
his name. "I still have no personal bank account," he told
me, "nor any expectation of ever having, nor any regret at
His serenity over his "bank-accountless" state was a puz-
zler to some. One day, dining with a friend of substance at
a swank New York club, he was told, "Merrell ? you're the
biggest fool I ever met! You could have been a millionaire
and you don't even own the house you live in!" Vories'
blue eyes twinkled, his thin face creasing in a smile, as he
pulled out some pictures of his Brotherhood, spread them on
the table, said quietly, "Who says Tm not wealthy?"
My visit to Omi coincided with the Brotherhood's annual
memorial service. Timed each year for the period when
cherry blossoms are in fullest bloom, the impressive ceremony
was established years ago in answer to Buddhist taunts that
"Christians do not honor their dead." Its site is a park-like
spot called "The Place of Perpetual Peace," at the base of a
hill topped by a lovely marble mausoleum.
We stood together beneath a pure white canopy stamped
with the Omi symbol and garlanded with flowers, watched
the assembly robed in their colorful kimonos, listened as they
The Miracle of the "Qmi Brotherhood?* 105
sang hymns redolent of the Resurrection hope. The singing
could be heard for miles around.
Then, at the service's climax, when those carrying the
napkin-wrapped urns containing ashes of their dead started
up the winding stone steps, climbing through lacy rows of
cherry blossoms toward the mausoleum high above, Vories
"When the time comes for what's left of my mortal body
to make that trip, I'd like for the Brotherhood to be singing,
as they're singing now, *O happy day that fixed my
choice' . . ."
William Cameron Totonsend and
his "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
Tnpi j np JL C^
wo 1 Ja0M<am<dl 1 omsucs to vJo
When the boa constrictor struck, Loretta Anderson, a
slight young woman from Paterson, New Jersey, was sitting
alone in her dugout canoe beside an Indian settlement on the
Morona River, deep in the Peruvian jungle. Her partner Lila
Wistrand, a nurse from Houston, Texas had just climbed
the river bank to treat a sick child. Suddenly the giant reptile
surged out of the water and lashed at Loretta. Screaming,
fighting off the monster, Loretta managed to leap from the
canoe, dripping blood from a badly gashed hand and arm.
Lila came on the run, dressed her wounds and an hour later
both were back at work patiently teaching the Shapra Indi-
ans to read and write.
At about the same time, some 800 miles to the southeast,
Esther Matteson of Oakland, California, and Annie Shaw of
Alberta, Canada, fever-ridden themselves, were battling an
influenza epidemic that threatened to wipe out the Piro
Indians along the turbulent Urubamba River. A couple of
hundred miles northeast of them, Mary Ruth Wise of De-
Witt, Arkansas, and Martha Duff of Lenoir City, Tennessee,
aboard a balsa raft loaded with Amuesha Indians, were fight-
ing rapids and treacherous whirlpools on their way to the
jungle school they had set up on the banks of the Chuchur-
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 107
ras River below the Peruvian Andes. And a bird's-eye view
of the rest of Peru's 230,000 square miles of primeval wilder-
ness would have revealed scores of other tiny jungle stations
where other young Americans 42 of them unmarried girls of
college age were stopping tribal wars, fighting superstition
and witchcraft, living dangerously among wild Indians. All
for one purpose: to coax aborigines, whose languages have
never before been reduced to writing, to learn the mysteries
of "the paper that talks," the printed word.
These young Americans, and some 700 others like them,
belong to one of the most determined and effective groups
now waging war on world illiteracy: the Summer Institute
of Linguistics (SIL), otherwise known as the Wycliffe Bible
Translators. Currently at work among 175 different language
groups in 12 countries, SIL linguists have a transfiguring
glory in their vision. Braving almost unbelievable hazards,
they quietly spend their lives analyzing unwritten Indian
languages, creating primers and dictionaries, setting up
schools and training native teachers.
The man who gives this group their vision is William Cam-
eron Townsend "Uncle Cam" to his associateswho has
spent more than 40 years among Latin America's Indian
tribes. I learned about Townsend one day in late 1957 while
hitching a ride across the Andes in a Peruvian military-trans-
port plane. As we swept past a 21,000 foot snow-capped
peak and began a long glide down toward the jungle, the
young pilot removed the oxygen tube from his teeth and
gestured toward the vast wilderness stretching out ahead
farther than the eye could see. "Many young Norteameri-
canos are out there," he beamed. "You know Senor Townsend
and his Institute Lmguistico?"
108 Adventurers for God
When I looked blank, Ids face expressed pity. "You should
go and see/' lie said. "Peruvians are proud of what the
Institute does for our country/'
During the next few days, penetrating deep into the jungle
by tiny missionary plane and tipsy dugout canoe, I did go
and see. In Indian villages dotted along the twisting jungle
rivers I watched these amazing young Americans conquering
by Christian love, savage peoples whom neither time nor
ancient Incas nor Spanish conquistadors had ever been able
to conquer. And in their midst, spurring them on, was
the remarkable man with the eager heart and the quick,
boyish smile, whose dream had catapulted them into this
audacious onslaught against ignorance and superstition.
Cam Townsend early developed his urge for spreading the
Christian gospel. Back in 1917, when he was 21, he quit
Occidental College in Los Angeles, packed a trunk with
Spanish-language Bibles and headed for Guatemala. He soon
found his Bibles a drug on the market. More than two thirds
of Guatemala's population were Indians: few knew Spanish,
fewer still showed any hankering to learn.
One day an Indian to whom Cam had oflfered a copy of
the Bible demanded, "Why, if your God is so smart, hasn't
He learned our language?" Then and there, Townsend quit
Bible distribution in favor of giving God another tongue.
For the next 15 years he lived with the primitive Cakchi-
quel tribe in Guatemala, eating their food (one diet item:
toasted ants), mastering their difficult tongue, gradually re-
ducing it to written form. Slowly and laboriously, he devel-
oped a simplified method for teaching any phonetically
When finally in 1932, racked with tuberculosis, Townsend
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 109
rode out again to civilization on a mule, he left the Cakchi-
quel Indians with, five schools, a small hospital, a printing
plant, scores of small churches and hundreds of literate con-
verts to Christianity. In Cam Townsend's soul was exulta-
tion; in his saddlebags was a printed copy, in the hitherto
unwritten Cakchiquel language, of the entire New Testa-
Back in the States, while recovering from the TB 3 he was
visited by an old missionary friend, Leonard Legters, who
urged him to do for other Latin-American Indians what he
had done for the Cakchiquels.
Townsend thought it over, finally said, "Okay, Leonard,
I'll tackle it. But on one condition: that you'll help me found
a pioneer training camp where we can train mission candi-
dates in primitive-language reduction and Bible translating.
We're going to need a lot of help to do the job I have in
. "I 3>
As a starter, the two men waded into statistical tomes on
illiteracy, and were astounded to find that almost half the
world's adult population could neither read nor write. Even
more astounding was the fact that there were in the world
some 3000 separate and distinct languages, more than 2000
of them without any translations from the Bible at all.
"That's our goal," declared Cam. "Two thousand tongues
In the summer of 1934 7 Townsend and Legters opened
their school in an abandoned farmhouse in the Arkansas
Ozarks. For the first session only two students showed up,
but by its eighth summer the school had outgrown the farm-
houseand a renovated chicken-coop used for sleeping quar-
110 Adventurers for God
ters and moved to the campus of the University of Okla-
Incorporated as the Summer Institute of Linguistics, this
unique school now teaches language analysis to some 500
students annually at the Universities of Oklahoma, North Da-
kota and Washington, has branches in England, Canada and
Australia. Graduates to date number more than 4000, are at
work in 25 countries under mission boards of 35 denomina-
tions, both Protestant and Catholic.
Students taking the required SIL courses for two summers
of 11 weeks each concentrate on no specific tongue. Instead,
they are drilled intensively in the general principles basic
to all language analysis. Once a student has learned to recog-
nize and reproduce phonetically the hundreds of known
speech sounds, he is taught how to create a workable alpha-
bet, develop a dictionary, work up a "grammar," construct
primers and teach illiterates to read.
But before being whooshed into SIL's wilderness orbit,
the student linguists are put through the wringer during
three months of rugged "survival tests" at a jungle training
camp. Here both men and women must prove themselves
able to handcraft their own jungle huts without saw, hammer
or nails (they use wild-cane poles, and leaves); make balsa
rafts and handle dugout canoes through raging rapids and
crocodile-infested rivers; cope with wild animals and giant
reptiles; administer first aid for everything from broken bones
to epidemics; and find their way on 25-mile hikes through
unmarked forests, living off the jungle. Those who pass these
rigorous tests more than 90 per cent are then sent out for
three months of living with "test tribes." Here they prove
further their ability to "take it."
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 111
As soon as he had trained a few in his linguistic method,
Townsend and his students headed for Mexico. They were
stopped at the border, bluntly told, "We don't want trans-
lators. The Indian languages must disappear." Townsend re-
torted, "They disappear more rapidly if you use the Indians'
languages to teach them Spanish."
With help from two noted Mexicans, educator Moises
Saenz and Dr. Mariano Silva y Aceves, a linguist, he wormed
his way in, settled among the Aztecs in the state of Morelos,
started on the long job of making friends and learning the
Cam Townsend and his wife were living in a rickety car-
trailer in the shabby village of Tetelcingo when, one day,
President Lazaro Cardenas came through on a tour of his
nation's hinterland. Seeing the sandy-haired, soft-spoken
young American sitting in front of his trailer surrounded
by Indians, Cardenas halted his car in a cloud of dust and
Amazed, Cardenas listened to the American's explanation
as to what he was doing here, then blurted, "I wish we had
a hundred like you." Townsend replied, "I'll see that you get
them, Your Excellency."
Today, with the full co-operation of the government, there
are in Mexico 216 SIL translators, working among 51 back-
ward tribes. "We don't look upon you as foreigners any
more," a high government official said recently. "You're real
Typical of Townsend's dedicated workers is Marianna Slo-
cum of Ardmore, Pa. Marianna and her fiance studied at SIL,
preparing to go together to the Tzeltals, a tribe numbering
some 40,000 in the state of Chiapas. When her fiance died
112 Adventurers for God
just before the wedding date, Marianna insisted on following
their gleam alone.
"My family was horrified/ 7 she says. "But they came
After mastering the complicated language, Marianna pre-
pared school texts, started reading and writing classes and
in 16 years founded seven thriving bilingual schools, trans-
lated into Tzeltal a raft of books and pamphlets introducing
the tribesmen to the Mexican national culture. Along the
way, she managed to banish witchcraft, thievery and drunk-
enness from large sections of the tribe, replace witch-doctors'
nostrums with modern medicine and convert 5000 Tzeltals
from sun worship to Christianity.
Last December, as Marianna packed up to move on to
another dialect, a leading Mexican magazine, Tiempo, made
her the subject of a 16-column cover story that proclaimed
her "the architect of a transformed situation." She had lifted
an entire Indian nation "from barbarism to civilization."
Meanwhile, word of SIL's achievements in Mexico was
spreading to other Latin-American countries. Joyously, Cam
Townsend helped spread it. Invited to conferences of Pan-
American educators, he found ready agreement among them
that any nation that ignored its large aboriginal population
was committing a criminal waste of human and national
resources. To those who gloomily opined that it was impos-
sible to find enough dedicated linguists among their own
people, he said, "We're training hundreds of young Ameri-
cans who ask for nothing but a chance to help you with the
Peru was first to respond to Cam Townsend's offer of
trained linguists. In the summer of 1945, at the invitation of
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 113
President Manuel Prado, he spent months surveying the
Peruvian jungle, visiting tribal headmen, sounding out their
willingness. Then he brought in workers for three of the most
remote tribes. To get to them, the young North Americans
had to travel for weeks by canoe and raft, beat their way
through almost impenetrable jungle, detour around tribes
noted for killing white men on sight.
This harrowing experience convinced Townsend of one
thing: "We've got to have a plane." A U.S. Marine mission
at Lima was about to scrap an old Grumman amphibian.
The Peruvian government, with a generous assist from a
Townsend admirer in California, bought it for him, and to fly
it Townsend recruited Larry Montgomery, a former Ail
Force combat flier. Today Montgomery is superintendent of
JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service), SIL's air arm.
JAARS now has a fleet of 19 planes, 21 pilots, plus crews
of maintenance men and skilled radio technicians. Most of
the aircraft are equipped with pontoons for river landings.
Workhorse of the fleet is a Navy-surplus PBY, used for haul-
ing heavy loads to jungle outposts and for transporting 50-
gallon drums of emergency gasoline which are cached at
convenient places along the rivers. The Catalina bears the
name "Moises Saenz/* in whose memory a group of Mexicans
donated its purchase money. Pride of the fleet is the Helio
Courier, a lately developed stallproof, spinproof all-metal
plane that can take off or land in 75 yards at only 30 m.p.h.
when fully loaded, cruise at 160 m.p.h, and as high as 23,000
feet, turn in a small radius at low speeds and, using an
ingenious winch, can hoist a man out of the jungle while
flying a tight circle close to the ground.
Last year Townsends daring pilots flew more than a mil-
114 Adventurers for God
lion and a half air miles over the "green hell" of Peru's
Amazonia without a single injury to any passenger or crew-
man. I saw for myself the hazards of such flying. One JAARS
flier told me, "Hang on. We have to do tricks with these
small planes that were never dreamed of by their manufac-
turersexcept in nightmares." Pilots must find their way
over country where all existing maps are inaccurate. Daily
they put their planes down safely on postage-stamp landing
strips gashed out of the jungle or make tricky river landings
on crocodile-infested waters.
All dangers are not in landings. On one occasion, when
JAARS Pilot Leo Lance stepped off his pontoon into knee-
deep water to secure his plane to a tree, a cry from a naked
Indian on the bank startled him. Following the Indian's
quivering finger, Leo saw swimming toward him a vicious
fer de lance. While desperately hanging onto the rope of his
fast-drifting plane, he had to fight off with a stick the water
viper whose bite brings death in a matter of minutes.
Flying alone on most of their missions, pilots not infre-
quently have to come down for minor repairs, must be able
to make their own. If dusk overtakes them, they must put
down for the night in jungle opening or on the river.
Whimsicalities of jungle weather and rainfall often present
problems. One night, after securing his plane to a tree, Larry
Montgomery left an Indian on guard while he walked to the
nearest Indian village two hours away through dense jungle.
In the middle of the night, the Indian guard ran in breath-
lessly to report, "Big bird drowning!" Racing back to the
river, Larry found it had risen 10 feet; his plane, almost
submerged, was held by the ropes from rising with it. Loosen-
ing the ropes, he climbed aboard to spend the rest of the
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 115
night. In the morning, as the water went down, he had to
slit holes in the fabric to let the water out, then patch them
up with random strips of cloth. After drying out the water-
logged engine, then washing off the heavy weight of silt
and mud caking the wings, he took off on his rounds, "a little
lopsided but finally airborne."
In flight each pilot packs an air mattress, mosquito net,
machete and survival rations, keeps in constant touch with
SIL's radio tower at its jungle base, relays weather informa-
tion from tribal workers, stands ready at a moment's notice
to go to the aid of a linguist or a fellow-pilot in trouble.
As Omer Bondurant, 35-year-old veteran of a World War
II night-fighter squadron, told me, "We do our best, then
leave the rest to God."
When Townsend is not gadding about the world scouting
out hitherto unreached Indian tribes, recruiting college
youths, selling governments on his literacy program, he is
"at home" at Yarinacocha, the staging area for SIL's Opera-
tion Peru. A 400-acre slash in the jungle, this base is a hum-
ming beehive of activity devoted to one end; the servicing
and supplying of the young linguists who are currently at
work among 29 of Peru's 45 different tribal groups, each with
its own distinct language, customs and jeopardies.
Catch him at home and Townsend will take you through
the big base sprawled out along the shores of Lake Yarina.
Here are the hangars, repair shops and airstrips for his air
force. Here, too, are the jungle-style residences for 175 work-
ers and their families; a medical clinic; commissary; cafeteria
and dormitories for tribal workers constantly passing in and
out; a printing shop where tribal primers, dictionaries and
116 Adventurers for God
other reading materials are manufactured some 18,000 vol-
umes in 1957. Here, also, are classrooms where Indians
brought in from their tribes may be given advanced training
under Ministry of Education supervision, taught Spanish,
then returned as teachers of their own people in newly es-
tablished government schools.
Nerve center of the jungle base is Radio Central, a control
tower manned day and night to keep contact with linguists
out among the tribes. "A translator," Townsend told me, "may
be deposited by plane in a howling wilderness, but unless he
has a radio transmitter for communication with headquar-
ters, the chances of his remaining long enough to get his
job done are slim." Thus, shortly after beginning the jungle
work, he bought, scrounged or had given him enough war-
surplus radio sets to bind his whole far-reaching jungle pro-
gram into a radio network.
Dramatic incidents proving the network's value occur with
alarming frequency. There was, for example, the time when
an SIL team used its transmitter to quash a tribal war in the
making. While among the Cashinahuas (known as the "Bat
People"), Eugene Scott and Kenneth Kensinger found their
tribe seething one day with war preparations. The Cashina-
huas had just heard a rumor that one of their men, who had
married into the neighboring Culina tribe, had been the vic-
tim of a witchcraft slaying by his in-laws. Brandishing spears
and bows and arrows, they shouted, "Death to all Culinas!"
"How do you know the rumor is true?" Scott asked the
Indians. "Come, let's check."
Mystified, the warriors crowded around the transmitter
while a call was put through to an SIL team living with the
Culinas. In a matter of minutes the voice of the "murdered"
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 117
man, 100 miles distant, was reassuring His kinsmen: he was
not only alive but was being treated well by "our friends
the Culinas." The warriors dropped their weapons. Their
chief asked to speak to his Culina opposite number, invited
the Culinas to a big feast. Three days later what might have
been a bloody battle was turned into an intertribal whoopla
Linguists in the jungles are required to make radio contact
regularly; if they are "off the air" too long, a plane is dis-
patched to discover why. A staff of radio technicians circu-
lates regularly among the stations to see that transmitters
and receivers are in top condition.
One girl, working with one of the Jivaro head-shrinking
tribes, told me of the time when, having gone three hours
downriver to reach scattered members of her tribe, she be-
came so absorbed that she "just plain forgot to report in."
Paddling back upstream, a trip requiring 15 hours, she ar-
rived at her shack on the river "just in time to welcome a
plane zooming in from a five-hour flight to rescue me.
TheyVe never let me forget that!"
On occasion the radio tower at Yarinacocha knits SII/s
whole sprawling operation into a network of prayer. The
operator on duty may alert the entire network as follows:
"For the next hour Pilot George Insley will be over jungle
area where he cannot land. . . . Wes and Eva Thiesen re-
port their Indians threatened with flash floods. . . Uncle
Cam leaving today to address college groups in States, seek-
ing new workers, . . . Pilot Don Smith forced down on
river, engine trouble. All request your prayers. That is all."
The girl linguists go out into these incredibly dangerous
places as casually and eagerly as their sisters at home explore
118 Adventurers for God
a shopping center. And they seem to make out better than
the men probably because the Indians are less suspicious of
them. As Dr. Townsend says, "The Indian chiefs think,
'They're only women. What harm can they do? Like as not
they're looking for husbands/ "
Townsend was at first skittish about sending girls into un-
predictable tribal situations alone. But he was shamed into
it when, several years ago, two volunteers demanded, "You
say that God takes care of His own. Doesn't that include us?"
He let them go. "And of course God honored their faith,"
he says. "He has taken perfect care of them."
In all Peru I found no better example of this care or of
the amazing courage of SIL's girl linguists than Loretta
Anderson, pioneer among the Shapra tribe.
Eight years ago the Shapras, vicious killers and head-hunt-
ers, were among the most feared of Peruvian tribes. Their
chief, a regal but bloodthirsty savage named Tariri, had
attained leadership by the simple device of slaying his pred-
ecessor in cold blood, then daring any wariror to dispute
his authority. Then one day in 1950 Loretta, with her first
co-worker, Doris Cox, paddled up to his village in a dugout
canoe. Climbing the river bank, between rows of glowering
tribesmen momentarily immobilized by such audacity, the
two slender white girls faced the chief. Using a few Shapra
words picked up from a trader downriver, plus sign lan-
guage, they told him they had come to live among his people
and study their language.
One of the Shapra words they inadvertently dropped in
the one-sided conversation was "brother." Only later they
learned how fortuitous was its use, that by it they had bound
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 119
Tariri to protect them since by tribal law Shapra men must
defend their sisters.
Tariri stared at the two girls in a long silence. Then he
crisply ordered that they be assigned a hut, with a couple of
older Indian women to help them with whatever they were
after. Years later he confided to Townsend, "If you had sent
men, we would have killed them on sight. Or if a couple,
I'd have killed the man and taken the woman for myself.
But what could a great chief do with two harmless girls
who insisted on calling him brother?"
The jungle surrounding their hut had its beauty: clouds
of lavishly colored butterflies fluttering through shafts of
brilliant sunshine that pierced the foliage when the rains
stopped; gaudy toucans, macaws and umbrella birds swoop-
ing through the trees. It also had its sinister sounds. At
night, from the dripping forest, came the cries of howler
monkeys and the jaguar's coughing roar.
Most discomforting were the hordes of flying and crawling
things: gnats that swarmed about them by day; the ants and
cockroaches that came out of every crevice of their hut, the
big spiders that crawled over their bed nets at night.
For months Tariri, busy with his wars, left the girls to their
mysterious devices though they learned from others in the
tribe that he got regular reports on their doings. Often the
whole tribe, men and women, would leave the village for
days at a time, for feasts, hunts, fiestas. Alone in the village,
the girls often wondered whether they were being aban-
doned. Today they scoff when you call them courageous.
"We were scared most of the time during the first five
months," Doris and Loretta will tell you. "But when we
trembled the most we prayed the hardest/*
120 Adventurers for God
They prayed hard one night when, while they were work-
ing over their notes by candlelight, an Indian woman burst
in with alarming news. The men of the tribe, winding up a
drunken feast, were even now reeling down the path to the
hut, loudly proclaiming their intention to attack the white
girls. "You must hide!"
The girls led to the forest, spent the night there. Next
morning, returning to their radio transmitter, they called
Yarinacocha, 400 miles away.
"Bring Tariri to the radio," said the base director, Harry
The chief, who understood Spanish, heard a stern voice
coming from the black bos. It said, "You are the chief and
you can't control your tribe?"
His authority challenged, Tariri drew himself up with
solemn dignity. "I am the chief," he said. "I promise that the
senoritas will not be harmed."
And they weren't, then or later.
Arnid such harassments, Loretta and Doris buckled down
to the agonizingly slow job of learning the language, des-
perately trying to distinguish one sound from another in the
exotic jargon that swirled about them. After several months
the white girls' persistence, plus their many kindly acts,
melted the Shapras* suspicions. Flattered by the girls' earnest
attempts to master their language, the Indians readily gave
them words for objects pointed at, and the language note-
books began to fill up with Shapra words and phrases. As
soon as they had a phonetic alphabet worked out, Doris and
Loretta began the long task of producing primers, teaching
Shapra children to read and write. Along with Shapra folk
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 121
stories and legends, they translated a few verses from the
Abruptly one day Chief Tariri joined a little group the girls
were teaching. He stood, frowning, as the lesson went on.
After hearing the first Scripture verse translated into his
own language, he broke in to ask that it be repeated again
and again. Finally he exclaimed, "My heart understands with
To Doris and Loretta he said, "When you came, I did
not understand why. Now I know. What you are doing makes
my people happier and better able to care for themselves,"
Thereafter the chief appeared regularly at the girls' hut,
would sit for hours helping them get the exact meanings of
words, write down tribal stories, translate more Bible verses.
And as he did so, Tariri began to show signs of subtle change.
One day in 1953, three years after the girls had come to his
village, he called his Shapras together for a dramatic an-
"I like this white girls' God/' he said. "He has brought us
many good things. I'm going to stop worshiping the boa."
He became more and more insistent on Bible translation.
Hovering over them as they struggled to get more verses
down, he impatiently demanded one day, "How can we re-
member God's word and live as He wants us to live when
it isn't written down on paper for us to see?"
In the following months, Doris and Loretta were convinced
that Tariri was indeed changed. Not only did he put aside
snake worship, but, one by one, without being asked to,
he shrugged off witch-doctor practices, outlawed murder,
In 1955, when Townsend arranged a celebration of SIL's
122 Adventurers for God
tenth anniversary in Peru, he took Tariri with him to Lima.
With Loretta translating for him, Tariri talked unabashedly
with Peru's president, newspaper editors, groups of school
children. Every inch a chief, even in the white man's jungle,
he held his head high, told Loretta, "Speak up, leave out
nothing I say."
Two years later, in June 1957, Townsend arranged for
Tariri and Loretta to go to Hollywood to appear on Ralph
Edwards' "This Is Your Life'* TV show. The program fea-
tured Rachel Saint, an SIL translator who had helped Lo-
retta briefly with the Shapras but who is now writing the
language of the Aucas, savage slayers of her brother, Nate
Saint, and four other young missionaries. Tariri caught the
fancy of viewers: millions will remember how he stood
proudly self-possessed, stared boldly into the camera's eye
and testified with simple dignity to his new-found faith.
The quality of Tarirfs commitment to Christian precepts
underwent a fiery test when, returning to his jungle fastness,
he was attacked by an enemy group. He was shot through
the chest, and others of his Shapras were slain. Jungle law
called for bloody reprisal, but Tarirfs faith was strong. He
issued an order for his revenge-hungry Shapras to simmer
down, called the girls to him and said, "Read, please, where
God says, "Return not evil for evil.' "
Tariri got a test of a different sort later and passed it
equally well. A well-meaning merchant in Lima, during one
of the chief's forays into civilization, showed Tariri the won-
ders of an outboard motor, promised to send him one for his
dugout canoe. Unfortunately, the merchant left the details of
filling the order to a clerk who thought "anything is good
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 123
enough for an Indian." Thus when, a few weeks later, the
chief unpacked the wooden box, his face fell. Instead of the
shiny new one he had seen, the motor was a battered model
that wouldn't work.
This first brush with civilized duplicity left Tarirf s faith
intact but his hackles high. With Loretta taking down his
exact words, he dictated a scorching letter of remonstrance
to his "benefactor." In it his newly acquired religious faith
struggled with his inbred impulse to retaliate for such an
offense against chiefly dignity.
"Senor," he wrote, "I was happy when you said you would
send me a motor. I told my children. I told aE the men in
my village. I thought you were good. I did not ask you to
help me. It was your own idea. You looked into my eyes.
I prayed God to help you because you were sending me a
motor. Then this bad motor came. I'm sad. God's heart is
sad too. Don't do that again. If you want to help someone,
really help him. Among ourselves we don't send bad things
to a chief/'
While keeping himself in Christian check, Tariri could not
refrain from recalling what might have happened under
other circumstances and previous customs. He said: "We
used to raid and take the women and kill the young men,
then take their heads. When people sent bad messages to
us, we said, 'Because they want to die, they do that!' Then
we'd go and kill them."
Then he concluded: 'That's the way we used to do, before
the girls came. Now we have left that. I'm not talking with
anger. I'm talking softly. It is because you don't know Jesus
that you do things like that. But I love you even though
you did that. I pray for you. But what you did to me, don't
124 Adventurers for God
do again!" The embarrassed donor sent new parts for the
motor. And today the chief goes up and down the river
four times as fast as lie used to.
By such trials Tarirf s faith has battled its way to triumph
over inbred tribal bloodthirst and modern loose-dealing.
Today there are a number of Shapra schools going, with
primers and other teaching tools in the Shapra language.
Young tribesmen now in training will shortly become quali-
fied teachers. Nearly 100 Shapras have followed Tariri in
accepting Christianity. The Gospel of Mark, in the Shapra
tongue, is completed and ready for printing. And in tribal
celebrations along the Morona River, Christian hymns are
now sung in place of the former sonnets to blood lust and
Still, the work is far from done. Another five to seven years
must be spent with the Shapras before the girls can move
on to another tribe and another long battle with a new
"It's not easy/' says Loretta Anderson. "But it's a lot of
fun. And how rewarding!"
I discovered this same attitude among every SIL linguist
group I met. Hardest pressed are those who work with tribes
whose languages are multi-tonal. For example, take the Ti-
eunas, who live far down the Amazon, and whose tongue has
five distinct tones. Each word in Ticuna may mean five
radically different things, according to the tone used.
Notifying one such tribe that they were leaving briefly
for a conference with Townsend, two girl linguists announced
that "The boss has sent for us" only to learn by the tribe's
horrified reaction that they'd actually said, "The devil has
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 125
sent for us!" And the superstitious people believed them at
first. In another such tribe, the words for "sinner" and "fat
person" are the same: the tone used spells the difference. One
day, teaching that "God loves the sinner/' the worker saw be-
wilderment on his Indians' faces. To his dismay he discovered
he'd been asserting that "God loves the fat person." Since
few in the tribe were fat, he was "shutting out a lot of them
from divine favor." He quickly shifted to the right tone.
But the SIL people have to sandwich their linguistic work
in between treating countless ills. For, in dispatching a pair
of workers into the jungle, Townsend likes to have one of
them a trained nurse, and both must be prepared to cope
with the health emergencies which arise in dismaying abun-
dance. Pneumonia is rife and deadly. Common, too, are ele-
phantiasis, yaws and an ulcerating disease called leishmania-
sis which, transmitted by a sand fly, destroys nose and throat
passages and brings death from starvation.
I found a good example of the linguist-nurse in Jeannie
Grover, a serene, blue-eyed girl from Pateros, Washington
Jeannie's tribe is the Aguaranas, a branch of the head-hunt-
ing Jivaros, largest Indian grouping (10,000) in Peru's Ama-
zon basin. Among them Jeannie and her partner, Millie
Larson from Solway, Minnesota, have established 11 bilin-
gual schools. In one-room, thatch-roofed schoolhouses scat-
tered over the jungle-covered hills, some 600 little boys and
girls are taught by Aguaruna men who, a few years ago, could
not read or write their own language but who are now profi-
cient in both it and Spanish. In June 1956 the 11 teachers
from these schools went to the polls to vote in the Peruvian
elections for the first time in Aguaruna history.
12Q Adventurers -for God
Jeannie s and Millie's hut is in a tiny patch of clearing,
edged on one side by the tumbling Maranon River, on three
others by dense jungle. When not off fighting their enemies,
Aguaruna men mill about the clearing, fondling their blow-
guns and poison-tipped darts, laughing and talking. I com-
mented that the Aguarunas, with their reputation as mur-
derous head-shrinkers, looked pretty foraiidable-these bar-
rel-chested bronze men in short skirts, erect and proud of
visage, their upper bodies daubed with red paint and deco-
rated with beetle wings and toucan feathers. Jeannie laughed
merrily. "They looked so to me ? at first. Now they're the
most beautiful people on earth!"
Every day some SO Indians come to her hut for first aid or
medical treatment. To reach other patients she must tramp
through the dripping forests, a banana leaf over her head
for an umbrella, her medical kit in hand, or travel by dugout
canoe up the turbulent river.
Does she feel no fear? "Only one that some day, when we
need it most, we'll run out of medicine!"
That fear was justified when, not long ago, Jeannie's Agua-
runas came down with 200 cases of dysentery, exhausting
her stock of remedies. But a radio message to Yarinacocha
brought swift answer. The doctor there loaded a plane with
medicines, flew to Jeannie's aid and, after ten days of furious
labors up and down the Maranon, had the epidemic stopped
in its tracks.
"Before Millie and I came/' Jeannie told me, "the witch
doctor was in sole charge of the Aguarunas' health. When
confronting a patient, he first fortifies himself with a long
drink of potent aijahuasca* Then, alternating drinks with puffs
on his pipe, he sucks on the surface of the sick area often
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 127
until the blood comes and spits on the ground. Next he
does a wild dance around the victim, cursing at the spot
where he spat. When the ayahuasca takes hold, he falls to
the ground. Anyone whose face shows up in his drunken
dream is declared to be the black-magic worker who caused
the sickness, and the alleged culprit is promptly banished, or
killed if the patient dies/*
"Nowadays," says Jeannie, "I'm afraid we are doing him
out of a job." The witch-doctor still goes through his she-
nanigans, but with less authority and fewer patients. In
fact, not long ago when his own daughter fell ill, he brought
her in his arms to beg for a hypo injection and sulf a salve
for the sores covering the little body. "White man's sickness,"
he grunted and turned his daughter over to Jeannie.
Jeannie regards her tribe with affection, their less mur-
derous peccadillos with amusement. Do she and Millie, I
asked, ever get lonely in this far pocket of primeval man?
Her blue eyes twinkled as she said wryly, "A lonely moment
is what we crave most!"
The base clinic at Yarinacocha, started in 1949 by Dr.
Kenneth Altig with a second-hand doctor's kit and a batch
of donated medicines, now boasts a 12-room building, up-to-
date laboratory equipment including X-ray, and serves 10,000
patients annually. Its medical stores are supplied partly by
the Peruvian public health service, partly by friendly phar-
maceutical houses in the States.
In charge of the always-crowded clinic is Dr. Ralph Eich-
enberger, the busiest and most resourceful medical director
I have ever met. With only a skeleton nursing staff ("I have
trouble keeping nurses they all want to go out into the
128 Adventurers -for God
tribes!") he manages a round-the-clock program of healing
that must surely be unique. Besides doctoring patients flown
in from the jungles, he keeps in touch with the linguist-
nurses by radio, and stands ready at a moment's notice to take
off into the wilderness to meet emergencies.
Dr. Eichenberger likens his work to that of a city's public
health service. "The only difference/' he says, "is that our
'city' covers a quarter-million square miles, our Visiting
nurses' are hundreds of jungle miles apart, our 'consultation
is by radio, our 'ambulances' are balsa rafts and jungle-hop-
ping planes/' Covering this circuit, containing 130,000 dis-
ease-prone tribespeople, takes some doing.
Since 1954, when many lepers were found living along the
Ucayali River, Drs* Eichenberger and Altig have conducted
monthly "leper flights." On these rounds they stop at dozens
of little villages, or meet in prearranged spots along the river
those who have been banished from their tribes. The suffer-
ers paddle out to the pontooned plane in canoes from their
jungle hideouts, lift their disfigured faces and hands in mute
appeal During the last four years hundreds of Indians, their
leprosy arrested, have been returned to their tribes.
SII/s linguist-nurses must necessarily perform medical
services far beyond the portfolio of the average graduate
nurse. But when they have a complicated case, they call Dr.
Eichenberger. This tireless, devoted man at his radio, his
calm voice reaching out across huge distances to prescribe
treatment, provides a picture whose drama is lost only on
For example, when his radio crackled out the news that a
young Piro Indian girl had suffered a compound fracture of
her elbow that resisted the usual setting, he called for an
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 129
exact description of the break, told the nurse how to rig up
rocks for weights to pull the shattered bones back into place
and how to apply tree branches for splints. Ten days later,
visiting the tribe on his regular rounds, he found that the
break was healing perfectly.
Then there was the Indian bitten by the deadly bush-
master and left by his tribesmen to die. The linguist, lacking
antivenin, was told: "You have a kerosene refrigerator? Pack
his foot in ice. I'm on the way." Within a few hours, Dr.
Eichenberger had the man back at the clinic, an operation
performed, and his life saved.
When a worker with the Huambisa tribe franticallv called
in to report a mother dying in complicated childbirth, Eich-
enberger crisply ordered: "Take your radio into the woman's
hut. Leave your receiver turned on. Do exactly what I tell
you." With his instructions, the birth was successfully accom-
plished. Both mother and baby lived. Hours later, the worker
called back: "Hear that racket, Doc? The whole tribe's cele-
brating. They say you're the greatest witch-doctor that ever
How do the SIL workers make these Amazonian Indians
want to learn? Says Townsend, "We trade upon three facets
in their mentality that are common to almost all primitives:
their pride in their own language, their eagerness to better
themselves economically, their insatiable curiosity. 7 '
It is Townsend's theory that "jungle Indians are the most
curious people alive. Only the fear of other tribes, plus gen-
erations of mistreatment by the only outsiders they've met
rubber workers, gold seekers, adventurers has prevented
them from learning about ideas, people, happenings in the
130 Adventurers for God
mysterious world beyond their green-walled prison. The mind
of the Amazonian primitive is an inexhaustible well of curi-
osity. Just provide a pump, prime it a little then step back
and watch it flow!"
Out in the jungle I saw his theory validated again and
again. In one tribe I watched a linguist with a young begin-
ner. She pointed to a symbol she had created for the word
"tree," let the youngster observe it for several minutes. Then
she flipped to a page with this symbol among dozens of
others. "Now find the tree," she said. The boy's eager eyes
searched the page. Then, suddenly, his brown finger stabbed
at one symbol and his face lighted up as he said, "Teacher,
"Once they discover reading is possible/' she told me,
"there's no stopping them."
The incentive to learn to write is likewise easy to stir in
Indians, The idea of communicating with each other by
"the paper that talks" intrigues them. Too, they quickly
catch on to writing's value as a prod to memory. One tribe,
watching their linguist at work, noticed how she would
stumble and stutter while trying to recall the correct word
then, after a glance at her notebook, burst forth with it,
They said, "We wish we had something to help us remem-
ber too!" Thereafter, when telling her something they wanted
to be sure she'd remember, they always said, "Write it down,
Teacher!" confident that if the matter was committed to
paper, she would not forget.
The advantage of learning a second language Spanish, in
the case of Peru also quickly becomes apparent to jungle
Indians. Especially to those who have dealings with itinerant
traders and patrones who settle near their borders, establish
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 131
trading posts, supply them with trinkets in exchange for In-
dian goods and often exploit their ignorance by bilking
There was, for example, the Indian who proudly bounced
into the hut of an SIL linguist, flourishing what looked like a
1000-peso banknote. "See how much money I got from a
trader who wanted my lumber!" he beamed. The linguist
glanced at the bogus bill, sadly shook her head. "It's worth-
less," she said. "Only used by children for playing store."
The Indian's face fell, his anger rose. "He could do that to
me because I'm illiterate," he fumed. "Please teach me!"
It was this kind of situation, Townsend told me, that im-
pelled Chief Shironkama of the Machiguengas to seek edu-
cation for his people. Throughout Peru's Amazonia, Shiron-
kama is acknowledged as one of the most powerful and,
until recently, one of the most feared of tribal headmen.
Today he and many of his formerly savage warriors are
striking examples of the changes that SIL workers can bring
about in a few years of concentrated effort.
To get Shironkama's story firsthand, I took off one day from
Yarinacocha for the far Urabamba River. Our pontoon-
equipped Cessna, flown by JAARS Pilot Don Weber, soared
for hours over thick jungle broken only by occasional twisting
rivers. Suddenly, far below, we saw one of the villages of
Coming down low over the river, Weber muttered, "It's
in flood. Look at that clutter!" I glanced down and was all
for turning back. The river was a raging torrent, filled with
logs. Weber calmly moved his stick and grinned. "Ever hear
of coming in on a wing and a prayer?"
Second later we splashed to a landing and Weber ma-
132 Adventurers for God
newered us toward the shore, skillfully dodging the drifting
debris. As the pontoons nudged the muddy bank, he leaped
from the cockpit and flung a rope to some excited Indians
who quickly secured the plane to a tree.
Atop the bank stood a solitary figure, clothed from neck to
ankle in a hand-woven cushma, the peculiar sack-like gar-
ment of the Machiguengas. This was Chief Shironkama,
former "terror of the Urabamba." He gravely greeted us, was
joined almost immediately by a handsome young man in a
jungle helmet Wayne Snell, SIL linguist from Elgin, Illi-
nois. Standing together on that lonely bank, the two made a
A gunner's mate during World War II, Wayne told me his
call to missionary service had come when he met, on island
after island in the South Pacific, black men who, instead of
the raw savages he'd expected, "were better Christians than
I was. M They had been made so, he learned, by Christian
missions. The war over, he took the SIL course, and volun-
teered for duty in Peru.
Since 1952, Wayne and his wife Betty have established a
number of bilingual schools among the hitherto unreached
Machiguengas; created textbooks on reading and writing,
arithmetic, farming, health and hygiene; persuaded the
prone-to-wander Indians to settle around the schools (initiat-
ing an agricultural program aimed at making it profitable to
do so); and translated several portions of the Bible. To top it
all, they have made a practicing Christian out of Shironkama.
Since his conversion three years ago, the chiefs rigid rule
for his large tribe has been: "No more killings; no more
drunken feasts; no more raids on other tribes for women."
William C. Townsend (left),
founder of the Summer Insti-
tute of Linguistics (Wycliffe
Bible Translators), with Chief
Tariri of the Shapras whose con-
version to Christianity trans-
formed an entire tribe of vicious
Peruvian jungle head-hunters.
Yarinacocha, SIL's jungle base in Peru, seen from the air. Overhead
are two of Townsend's "air force" of jungle-hopping planes which
serve the far-flung tribes where linguists are at work.
SIL workers with jungle tribes must learn to handcraft their own jungle
huts without benefit of hammer, saw or nails.
SIL linguist* building a balsa raft for travel and transport of supplies to
their remote jungle stations.
"Radio Central" at SIL's jungle base in Peru knits the widely scattered
jungle workers into an efficient network of prayer and communication.
A young linguist-nurse with the Aguanmas, a branch of the head-
hunting Jivaros, receiving medical advice via radio from the jungle base,
hundreds of miles awav.
An SIL worker patiently waits her turn to prove that
modern medicine, and not the witch-doctor's mumbo-
jumbo, is the answer to severe sickness.
One of SIL's ig-plane air fleet making an emergency call at a jungle
station deep in the ''green hell" of Peru's Amazonia.
Once known as the "terror of the Urubamba," Chief Shironkama (shown
here with SIL linguist Wayne Snell ) is leading his Machiguengas toward
To the little jungle schools come both Indian children and their parents,
eager to learn to read the "paper that talks."
SIL linguist-nurses must be prepared to cope with a dismaying variety of
physical ills and emergencies.
A young Indian, only a few years away from jungle savagery, who has been
trained to be a teacher of his own people, at work in his outdoor school.
The author demon-
strates the "flat
heads" produced in
one Peruvian tribe by
binding with boards,
fore and aft, the
heads of all babies.
For years, often as many as 15, a linguist must live with her adopted
tribe, patiently learning the language and reducing it to written form.
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 141
Shironkama settled Ms own woman question by dismissing
(with pensions) Ms plurality of wives > then asked Snell for
legal marriage with die one lie chose to keep.
The Snells' first contact with the cMef was dramatic. They
had scarcely settled in their native hut when their village,
a day's canoe trip from Shironkama's, was raided. The cMef,
whose supply of wives was running low, had staged the raid
to replenish Ms stock. When he and Ms warriors surged up
to the Snells' hut, Shironkama stared in disbelief at the wMte
couple, held Ms warriors back while listening to their reason
for being there, then abruptly turned on Ms heel and left,
cryptically grunting, "I'll be back."
One day shortly thereafter Shironkama reappeared, this
time trailed by a group of children he had rounded up from
several MacMguenga villages. To Snell he said, "You make
Only later did the Snells learn why Shironkama wanted
education for his people. For years his MacMguengas had
been victims of a wMte patron who cheated them blind in
trades, worked them for such pittance pay as one fishhook for
a whole barrel of rice, indentured them with debt. When the
MacMguengas, weary of such treatment, began staying away,
the patron called in Shironkama, told him he would have to
force Ms people to work out their debts, gave the cMef a
gun, saying, "If they won't work, shoot them!'* The cMef took
the gun, shot two of the patrons henchmen instead. "The
patron will not make you his slaves again/" he told Ms people.
"You are free."
CMef Shironkama told me, with Snell interpreting: "From
such wMte men as the patron I learned that men who had
power read books. I reasoned that, if one is to avoid being
142 Adventurers for God
cheated or enslaved, he too must have the knowledge that
books give. I wanted that knowledge for myself and my peo-
The next morning before dawn I was bonged awake by
someone beating on a hollow log. It was the bell announcing
school's start an hour later. The Indians were already assem-
bled outside the one-room schoolhouse; they'd been up, I
found, since 3: SO.
Chief Shironkama was herding the students, ranging from
very small to near-manhood, into the building whose thatched
roof was still dripping from the night's torrential rains. When
they were all in, the rough benches behind rude desks filled,
Shironkama himself sat on the floor, leaning against the
School began with a Bible reading. The lesson dealt with
John the Baptist's manful defiance of Herod. As it was ex-
plained in fluent Machiguenga, I watched the chiefs face. It
was alight with understanding. With every point Snell made,
Shironkama nodded thoughtfully, and from his throat came
the murmuring assent, "Mmm-mmm-mmra."
Instruction was then taken over by a young Indian named
Mario, whom the Snells had carefully developed into teacher
and village Christian leader. While Mario's voice droned on,
the chiefs sharp eyes searched the faces of the students to
see if they were listening. They were intently.
These students, Mario told me later, wanted to have classes
all day. They scorned recesses, barely taking time out to eat.
At dismissal of school they gathered in small groups to com-
pete in display of their new knowledge. I noticed one young-
ster, about 14, saunter off to the river bank, a primer under
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 143
his arm. He seated himself on a log and loudly began to
read. His pose was one of elaborate indifference to the kids
who came to catch the performance. But, behind the lifted
book, I saw his eyes dart up from the page now and then to
note his erudition's effect on his awestruck audience.
The scene was, in a way, comical; in another, strangely
pathetic. I turned away, feeling not a laugh but a catch in
This same pride in learning I found all up and down the
Urubainba. Especially among the Piros, one of the first tribes
SIL tackled. When Townsend wants to give grounds for his
great expectations among others, he says, "Take a look at the
Heroine of the Piro advance is Esther Matteson of Oak-
land, California. A quiet-spoken young woman with the
radiant face of a saint and the firm jaw of an American pio-
neer woman, she came down with the Townsends shortly
after President Prado opened the door, helped survey the
tribes, tramping endless miles through matted jungle, help-
ing pole dugout canoes and balsa rafts on exploratory trips
through dangerous river rapids.
Esther and a companion went to live with the Piros in
1947; she has been with them ever since. She faced all the
usual obstacles adjusting to primitive living conditions, the
Indians' early distrust and hostility, the towering task of
learning from scratch a language about which there was
no data whatever. Her accomplishments to date:
There are 13 Piro-Spanish schools scattered along the
Ucayali, Urubamba, Manu and Acre Rivers, one of them
an adult school for tribal teachers. In Esther's schools are
450 children and adults fiercely tackling such subjects as
144 Adventurers for God
reading, writing, arithmetic, Peruvian history, mechanics and
sewing, the rudiments of Spanish. As a result of their educa-
tion, many Piros now vote regularly in national elections,
govern themselves by democratic rules, have title to their
own lands, cut and sell timber, grow crops for sale where
hitherto they grew them only for their own use, are fast
forming an independent society that is a happy blend of
the best in their own culture and that of the white man.
One in every three Piros is a Christian. Esther has trans-
lated into Piro the entire New Testament, many educational
works besides texts, a book of 91 hymns, plus a long list of
linguistic and ethnological studies of her tribe for scientific
At a tidy little village called Buf eo Pozo I met 40-year-old
Moran Zumaeta, one of Esther Matteson's prize Piro teach-
ers. Moran's hunger for education, he told me, antedated
Esther's coming. For years he hammered at every door where
he thought "there might be somebody to feed my famished
mind/' Everywhere he was rebuffed, everywhere told, "Indi-
ans can't learn." Finally he stumbled upon Esther, struggling
to set up a small school on the Urubamba. She told him,
"You not only can learn; you must' 9
In an incredibly short time, with her encouragement he
learned to read and write his own language, has become pro-
Iciest in Spanish and four other tribal tongues.
Moran taught for four years, without pay, at a village
named Huau where Esther had begun a school. There he
was further trained by government educators, sent to Bufeo
Pozo to take charge of the government school there, then
to other villages. In his home village, hundreds of miles
away, he started a school with his own two sons in a small
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 145
lean-to; suspicious of Ms motives, no others would come at
first. At the end of nine months he had 34 students, made 31
converts to Christianity.
Everywhere Moran went he inflamed his people with his
own boundless yen to learn, multiplied himself by training
others to teach. Today he supervises four schools and eight
teachers, often travels the dangerous rivers all night to reach
his next school by class time.
I sat in the back of Moran's school at Bufeo Pozo, listened
to him teach. The room was crowded to capacity, Esther's
primers before them. At one desk sat a Piro father and son
bent over the same book, at another a mother and daughter
eagerly studying together.
Esther's Piro-land is filled with striking stories of Chris-
tian transformation. Take Hishonki, for example. After two
years on the Urubamba, Esther began translation of Bible
verses. To help her, she engaged Hishonki, an eager young
student whose only other passion was for fishing. One day
while they were laboring over the correct Piro rendering for
Christ's word, "Follow me, and 1 will make you fishers of
men/' he stopped suddenly to ask, "Teacher, does that apply
to me?" Esther replied, "I think it applies especially to you,
Hishonkir He was her first convert, became an evangelist
among his own people, within a year had won 200 other Piros
to the Christian faith.
Another eminent convert is Chomawari, the Piro chieftain.
Chomawari told me he not only ""believes with the head"
but governs his people by the Bible. The result: morality
among the tribe, formerly one of the most licentious in all
Peru, is 80 per cent better than it was ten years ago, accord-
ing to government Indian service officials.
146 Adventurers for God
Not long ago, when a rash of misdeeds broke out among
Ms tribe, Chomawari summoned the evil-doers to his house,
called in Esther Matteson. "Read what God says about play-
ing with another man's wife," he thundered. Then "Read
what God says about witchcraft." Then "Read what God
says about drunkenness/' With the culprits properly humbled
by Holy Writ, Chomawari softened, "I will not punish you/'
he said, "if God the Great Chief does not. But sin no more!"
Later, all the offenders became Christians.
Of all a linguist's tasks, says Cam Townsend, Bible trans-
lation is the trickiest. It must be preceded not only by pro-
ficiency with the language, but an intimate knowledge of a
tribe's customs and taboos as well. "Figures of speech that
may be meaningful to one brought up in the Anglo-Ameri-
can tradition are often mystifying booby-traps to a primitive
Some Biblical similes., literally translated, can convey le-
thal suggestion. For example, one linguist living with tribes-
men who had a penchant for burning their enemies be-
thought himself in time to avoid recommending that they
"heap coals of fire on his head/' He translated it instead,
"Make him ashamed by your friendliness/'
The speech of jungle Indians, for all its complexity of
syntax, is forthright and to the point. One tribesman, listen-
ing to the parable of the fruitless sower who scattered seed
on stony ground and among thorns, scoffed indignantly at
such stupidity. "Served him right/' he said. "Didn't he
know enough to dig a hole for the seed like we Indians
Tribal "informants" who help out the linguists are sticklers
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 147
for a common-sense rendering. A linguist trying out a literal
translation of the Sermon on the Mount got only as far as
"And he opened his mouth and taught them saying" when
his informant demanded, "How could he talk with his mouth
open? To talk, you have to open and close the mouth!" The
linguist promptly revised it: "And he began to talk . . ."
Suggestions from the Indians themselves often help to
make the wording clearer than in the English Bible. When
a tribe was getting nothing from Christ's warning, "If any
man offend one of these my little ones . . . " the translator
took an Indian's tip and put the onus on "any man who shows
one of these my little ones the wrong path," In another tribal
language the same passage is rendered, "If anyone spoils the
heart of one of these my little ones."
To the Huanuco Quechuas the phrase "Do not tempt God"
meant "Do not entice God to sin"; the translator rendered it,
"Don't push God to do what you want" And when the
Cashibos puzzled over the phrase, "God is no respecter of
persons," their linguist rendered it, "God doesn't just look
at the face."
Townsend insists that the great doctrines "must be ex-
plained in living, understandable words." Abstract terms are
always tough. In some tribes "God's love" is too weak; one
tribe describes divine compassion thus: "God hurts in His
heart for us." To the Piros such words as "faith" and Relieve"
are incomplete by themselves; they insist that "believing in
God" must also connote action; so they make it "to obey-be-
lieve." For the Shipibos "doubt" is described as "thinking
two things"; "pride" means "I outrank others." The same
tribe makes a covetous person "one who has gone crazy for
things." The Piros equate "peace" with "the well-arranged
148 Adventurers for God
soul/* For another tribe the phrase "Our hope is in God"
is translated, "We hang onto God/'
To Townsend such translations are "an improvement not
only for jungle Indians but possibly for modern Americans
After developing a passage as best he can, the linguist tries
it out on his tribe, submits it to long discussion, revises it
over and over again until the Indians' reaction indicates
"A single book of the Bible may take years to translate
satisfactorily/' says Townsend.
Final polishing of Bible translations and school texts is
done by SIL linguists at Yarinacocha. Away from the dis-
tracting demands of their tribes, in small shacks Townsend
built at the base for that purpose, they can huddle for hours
with their Indian informants and patiently put together the
information from stacks of notes and tape recordings made in
Most Indian informants are also teacher candidates. Thus,
bringing them to the base serves a double purpose. Between
helping with the translating, they attend classes fitting them
to take over the schools started by the linguists.
The government school for teacher-training has become
one of the most important activities at Yarinacocha. It got
its start some years ago when Townsend took Peruvian edu-
cators on a tour of his jungle schools that were being taught
by Indians groomed for the job by the linguists. The educa-
tors were amazed. "You've laid the groundwork for a whole
educational program," they said.
The result: in 1953 the Ministry of Education set up its
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 149
Curso de Capacitadon Pedagogica at Yarinacocha. Since
then, during the first three months of each year, promising
tribesmen have been brought in for intensive courses in
Spanish, advanced academic subjects, teaching methods. Ac-
credited, they return to their tribes as government-paid
teachers and hoist over their jungle schoolhouses the official
crest of the Ministry of Education.
In 1958, 75 teacher candidates took the course. Bringing
their families with them, many traveled for days by canoe
and raft to reach the base, while others came on the Insti-
tute's planes. They represented 16 different tribes-"a sort of
jungle version of the United Nations," Townsend calls them.
While I was at Yarinacocha, someone pointed out a chummy
pair of teacher candidates comparing notes and laughing
together. "They belong to tribes that have been mortal
enemies for generations/' said my informant. "Had they
met in the jungle a few years ago, they'd have killed each
other on sight'*
Dr. Morote Best, a brilliant educator, said to me, "Until
only a short while ago, nobody could convince me that jungle
Indians could learn. Then one day I came upon a pair of
these young girl linguists. I could scarcely believe my eyes
when I saw their crowded little school, found boys studying
books by firelight, older people struggling to learn to read
and write. I said to myself, 'There is hope for our Indians.' "
Returning to Lima, he gave a glowing account of what
he'd seen. "These young North Americans," he said, "are
showing us how to cut through the wilderness of ignorance,
helping to bring our aborigines into the life of our country.
They deserve help."
150 Adventurers for God
In January 1957 Dr. Morote was appointed by the Min-
istry of Education as supervisor of the jungle schools, now
has his own thatched house at SIL's jungle base, spends
much of his time on inspection swings through the jungles.
He shares Cam Townsend's conviction that "the newly edu-
cated Indian cannot subsist on his former economy of fishing
and hunting. Until recently a semi-nomad, moving from place
to place in search of new hunting and fishing grounds, he has
been shown the advantages of settling in permanent villages,
where his children can go to school and lie can make a better
life for himself/*
To help jungle Indians realize that better life, the Peruvian
government has launched a brand-new program to teach
modern agricultural methods to the tribes. On land adjoining
the SIL base, 250 acres have been set aside where Indian
teacher trainees can study agriculture under trained SIL
agronomists. To date, 21 teachers have taken the agriculture
course, and now are showing their fellow tribesmen how to
market their products.
Townsend's aim of "not taking the Indian out of the jungle
but taking the jungle out of the Indian" sounds good to
all save those with romantic notions about primitive peoples'
bliss in their native state. One day, after a large audience had
been told about his work, a hearer arose to bait him with
the familiar canard: "You missionaries make me sick! Why
force civilization on a people so unspoiled and happy? Why
not leave *em alone!"
Townsend replied, laughing, "I think, my friend, youVe
been no closer to jungle Indians than the movies, If you could
sit down with them, as I have, and hear them teU in their
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 151
own tongues the woes that haunt them through witchcraft,
superstition, fear and strife; listen to mothers tell of being
forced to strangle their newborn babies because of some evil
omen; see old folks being abandoned to die because they
had become a burden; or sense the hatreds bred in them by
generations of white men who took advantage of their ig-
norance to exploit them, steal their lands, ravage their women
and ruthlessly shoot them down well, then, my friend, you
just might change your mind about Indians as a quaint peo-
ple living lives of idyllic happiness."
Townsend's position is, "Sooner or later, whether we like
it or not, civilization is going to come to these tribes. Our
concern is that it be Christian civilization/*
Not so concerned are those who make their living from
oppressing the Indians. Some of the patrones, for example.
These look sourly upon anybody who would educate the
Indians, encourage them to own their own property, work
their own lands, vote for their rights. Not infrequently one
of them will complain to the government, lift false bogeymen
against SIL. Generally, however, they get short shrift from
officials who know better.
When, a few years ago, a wealthy patron charged Town-
send's people with being "foreigners who cunningly work
close to our country's borders, smuggle in goods from the
States to undersell us," his plaint was promptly filed in the
Governments normally indiif erent or even hostile to Chris-
tian mission endeavor of the usual kind welcome SIL with
open arms. And that despite the fact that Townsend makes
no bones about SIL's ultimate goal to put the Bible in every
tribe, in its own tongue.
]_52 Adventurers for God
To detractors of such a goal, Townsend replies forth-
rightly, "Of course that's what we are aiming at. But don't
forget that on the way to that goal, our workers pacify
savage tribes, awaken ambition in Indians, prepare them
for integration into the life of your country to which, in
time, they will make a big contribution."
Townsend is equally deft in parrying thrusts from another
quarter the religious. Such attacks are rare, since SIL's
members represent no religious body, cooperate with all.
There was, however, the time in 1953 when a Lima news-
paper carried a series of articles by a prominent Roman
Catholic blasting SIL workers as "Protestant wolves," their
work "sectarian and proselyting in nature/* and demanding
their expulsion. Townsend ignored the first blast. When
others followed, he composed a letter to the editor which
one Catholic authority applauded as "a masterpiece of Chris-
tian love and reconciliation."
Townsend wrote in part: "It is not a question of * wolves/
Ever} 7 SIL member must promise that his service will be
given in a spirit of love and brotherhood, without distinction
as to race or creed. We do not call ourselves Protestants but
simply believers in Christ, and because of our nonsectarian
nature we do not teach rituals and ecclesiastical systems.
"While we are motivated by the desire to serve God and
humanity, we are at the same time scientists dedicated to
the study of languages. And when we complete our lin-
guistic investigations we shall go, leaving behind our base
at Yarinacocha, with all its buildings, for a center of Indian
The letter was prominently displayed in the newspaper.
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 153
The attacks ceased, and Townsend and Ms workers went on
with their comradely friendship with Roman Catholic mis-
sionaries stationed in the jungles; gladly transporting them
back and forth to their posts, repairing their radios, sharing
medical supplies, bringing them to Yarinacocha for outings.
The priests and nuns have responded in kind, performing
innumerable acts of neighborly helpfulness to SIL workers.
Both groups agree that "the jungle, 57 in Townsend's words,
"is too big and too needy for anybody there to quarrel with
This year the Papal Nuncio in Lima, cordially receiving
Townsend, asked God's blessing upon his work "after listen-
ing most graciously to how we hope to attain our goal of
putting Holy Writ into 2000 more languages in this genera-
I asked Townsend his chances of attaining that goal Since
SIL is thus far at work among "only ' 175 of the 2000 lan-
guage groups, would he have to revise his estimate of the
time it will take? Townsend's reply is the measure of his
"Not a bit," he said. "Consider the tempo of our advance.
In 1942 we were at work in only one country; today we're
in 12. Since 1942 our increase of workers has been 1600 per-
cent. At that rate our membership will number more than
12,000 in 15 years. That should do it!"
I began to understand why the late Josephus Daniels, then
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, had called Townsend "a man
with the most audacious faith I ever knew/*
Surely no project is built more completely on faith. From
the time that he and Leonard Legters, SIL's co-founder, de-
154 Adventurers for God
cided to emulate Abram in trusting God even to "going out,
not knowing whither," Townsend's guiding principle has
been, "Go nowhere God doesn't lead; go anywhere He does."
But, I asked, how can one determine what is God's lead-
ing and what may be merely the nudge of one's own desire?
To Townsend it is profoundly simple: "We simply take our
inner urges to God in prayer, saying, If this is Thy will, not
ours alone, open the way/ Then if support comes, we know
that the door has not been jimmied by our will but has been
opened by God's hand."
If such dependence upon the divine sounds silly, improvi-
dentwell, that's the way God set it up. Just another indica-
tion that He knows how man's heart can play tricks some-
times, crossing the wires, and needs to be told, "Lean not
to thine own understanding." And just another evidence that
"The foolishness of God is wiser than man."
Townsend does not campaign for funds in the usual ways,
even with an annual budget which exceeds a million dollars.
He says, *I have never asked a man directly for a dollar
and I never shall." To him, the wheedling of gifts from re-
luctant givers is not only a denial of trust in God; it's an
offense to the dignity of God's work, and does little for the
giver. "We like our givers to be God-inspired partners, not
badgered Lady Bountifuls."
His practice of waiting for God's go-ahead, with funds
providentially provided, permeates the whole SIL organiza-
tion. No member is salaried. There is no guaranteed allow-
ance. Each is expected to "look to the Lord" to stir the hearts
of interested people to support his work without the worker
himself lifting a syllable in direct request. "Give full informa-
tion without solicitation," Townsend tells SIL members. To
Two Thousand Tongues to Go 155
this he adds the rider, "Even the information should be given
in such a way that the hearers will realize that our full
expectation is in God and not man."
Getting enthusiastic cooperation for his SIL program is
another mark of the Townsend genius. "We do not go into
any country nowadays/* he says, "without being invited."
True; but he shows a remarkable talent for getting invited.
He spends much time frequenting conferences where educa-
tors and officials discuss their indigenes and what to do about
them. Mingling with the experts, he quietly tells what SIL
has accomplished elsewhere. As in Mexico, Peru and Ecua-
dor, he has not had to wangle permission to enter; they invite
him in fast, with full government cooperation.
In tribute to his work with their people, Latin-American
nations have showered Townsend with kudos. Colleges and
universities seek him as lecturer, have tried to load him with
honorary degrees most of which he has respectfully de-
clined. The president of Peru has decorated him with the
Order of Merit for Distinguished Service, rarely accorded to
non-Peruvians. The government of Ecuador has conferred
upon him the Decoration of Merit, acclaiming him "spiritual
conqueror of the jungle."
But the tribute that has moved him most came from an
Indian chief in the Amazonian jungle, whose tribe he and
his SIL had transformed with hope. Said the chief, "Before
you came, there was only darkness. Now there is only light."
Dr. Frank Beck of La Pax
One afternoon a few years ago an American of some self-
importance strode into the crowded Clinica Americana, a
Methodist mission hospital in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
Brushing past a line of patiently waiting Indians, the visitor
exclaimed: "Who's in charge here? I am " and he men-
tioned a name well known in the entertainment world.
A tall, spare man arose slowly from bandaging an Indian
child's leg. "And I," he said, "am Dr. Beck. Take your place
at the end of the line, please."
This story, repeated with relish in La Paz, sharply limns
the character of the missionary doctor known throughout
Latin-America as "the father of modern medicine in Bolivia/'
Back in 1912, when Frank Beck first came to Bolivia, the
country's 750,000 Aymara Indians were among the most
neglected and depressed peoples on earth. Though they
comprised one third of Bolivia's population they had no
schools, no political rights, no health provisions. They were
virtual slaves, bought and sold as part of farms or industries
where they worked. Today, largely because of Dr. Beck's
labors, the Aymaras have made an impressive start toward a
place in the sun.
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 157
I had not been in La Paz an hour before I understood why
this remarkable American has been named "the outstanding
foreigner in Bolivia/ 7
"You know Dr. Beck?" I asked a traffic policeman. "Si, si,
senor" he beamed "Does not everyone?"
In broken English he told how Beck had delivered his
baby, worked until almost dawn to save his wife's life, then
spent hours driving him about to spread the tidings among
his numerous kin. "Ah, senor" said the cop, "there's a man
who leaves his mark on you!"
For more than four decades Frank Beck has been leaving
his mark on Bolivians, first as teacher, then as doctor. Many
of the country's leaders have either studied under him or re-
ceived his medical ministrations, often both.
President Heman Siles Zuazo, a former student of Beck
in the American Institute, told me, "He awakened us to our
responsibility to human beings as human beings. Can you
understand what that means to the future of Bolivia?"
Among missionaries he is a shining example of that vast
company of the dedicated who cannot rest until they have
left behind all of life's comforts and gone to earth's end to
serve their fellow man.
Frank Beck's sharp gray eyes first scanned far horizons
while he was a student at Dakota Wesleyan University. A
roommate named John Washbum went to teach at the Am-
erican Institute in La Paz (founded in 1907 by Methodist
missions) and wrote back: "If you're looking for a place to
invest your life, Frank, this is it!"
Excitedly Beck talked it over with a pert junior named Bes-
sie Dunn, daughter of a Methodist preacher from Iowa. In
1912, freshly possessed of his college diploma, he accepted a
Dr. Frank Beck of La Paz
One afternoon a few years ago an American of some self-
importance strode into the crowded Clinica Americana, a
Methodist mission hospital in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
Brushing past a line of patiently waiting Indians, the visitor
exclaimed: "Who's in charge here? I am " and he men-
tioned a name well known in the entertainment world.
A tall, spare man arose slowly from bandaging an Indian
child's leg. "And I," he said, "am Dr. Beck. Take your place
at the end of the line, please."
This story, repeated with relish in La Paz, sharply limns
the character of the missionary doctor known throughout
Latin- America as "the father of modem medicine in Bolivia/'
Back in 1912, when Frank Beck first came to Bolivia, the
country's 750,000 Aymara Indians were among the most
neglected and depressed peoples on earth. Though they
comprised one third of Bolivia's population they had no
schools, no political rights, no health provisions. They were
virtual slaves, bought and sold as part of farms or industries
where they worked. Today, largely because of Dr. Beck's
labors, the Aymaras have made an impressive start toward a
place in the sun.
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 157
I had not been in La Paz an tour before I understood why
this remarkable American has been named "the outstanding
foreigner in Bolivia."
"You know Dr. Beck?" I asked a traffic policeman. "Si, si,
senor" he beamed. "Does not everyone?"
In broken English he told how Beck had delivered his
baby, worked until almost dawn to save his wife's life, then
spent hours driving him about to spread the tidings among
his numerous kin. "Ah, senor" said the cop, "there's a man
who leaves his mark on you!"
For more than four decades Frank Beck has been leaving
his mark on Bolivians, first as teacher, then as doctor. Many
of the country's leaders have either studied under him or re-
ceived his medical ministrations, often both.
President Heman Siles Zuazo, a former student of Beck
in the American Institute, told me, "He awakened us to our
responsibility to human beings as human beings. Can you
understand what that means to the future of Bolivia?"
Among missionaries he is a shining example of that vast
company of the dedicated who cannot rest until they have
left behind all of life's comforts and gone to earth's end to
serve their fellow man.
Frank Beck's sharp gray eyes first scanned far horizons
while he was a student at Dakota Wesleyan University, A
roommate named John Washbum went to teach at the Am-
erican Institute in La Paz (founded in 1907 by Methodist
missions) and wrote back: "If you're looking for a place to
invest your life, Frank, this is it!"
Excitedly Beck talked it over with a pert junior named Bes-
sie Dunn, daughter of a Methodist preacher from Iowa. In
1912, freshly possessed of his college diploma, he accepted a
158 Adventurers for God
teaching post at the American Institute in Cochabamba, just
established as one of a growing string of Methodist schools
in South America. A year later Bessie arrived at the port
of Mollendo, Peru, "Guess we'll have to be married here/'
Frank told her. "Spanish custom doesn't permit a single
woman to travel unchaperoned!" They were married by
the mayor of Mollendo. During the ceremony Bessie be-
came so entranced by the flowery Spanish flourishes that
Frank had to nudge her and whisper, "It's time to say si,
Bessie." They made the 10-day trip into Bolivia's interior
by train, boat, dugout canoe and mule-cart across the Andes.
In 1914 the Becks were sent to Buenos Aires to help start
Cohgio Ward, now one of the most famous schools in Latin
America. They lived in a tent on the campus so that the
apartment provided for them could be rented to raise funds
for needy students. In 1917 they went back to Bolivia, and
in 1920 Beck was appointed director of the thriving American
Institute in La Paz.
It was three years later that Frank Beck came to a decision
that had long been building in him: he would switch his
field of service from education to medicine. He had been in-
creasingly haunted by the dark image of a potentially great
people, the Aymaras, shuffling through life with physical
maladies, dying before their time, with the social and poli-
tical cards hopelessly stacked against them.
In miserable hovels on the city fringes and out upon the
high plateau above La Paz, thousands of Indian families had
never known a doctor. Infant mortality was as high as 80
per cent. In La Paz there was only the poorly equipped
When his mission board back in the United States en-
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 159
couraged him to change his career, Beck announced that
he would take a furlough and put himself through medical
school. Returning to Chicago with Mrs. Beck and their two
children, he enrolled at Northwestern University's medical
school at the age of 35. Five years later, by tutoring on the
side, he had completed his medical work and was interning
at the Indianapolis Methodist Hospital
In October 1928 he and his family headed back to Bolivia
and, after he served as a traveling doctor for a year, he set
up shop in a tumble-down shed near the American Institute.
His equipment: three rickety beds, an old pressure cooker
for a sterilizer and a $35 set of instruments, discards from
World War I.
One of his first patients was an Aymara woman in a condi-
tion of eclampsia labor an attack of convulsions usually
fatal in that area. While curious Indian faces stared through
the window, he managed to save both mother and baby. This
was the first of some 4000 successful maternity cases which
in 25 years completely changed the attitude of Bolivian
doctors and public on the importance of obstetrical care.
In those days few women called in doctors at childbirth.
As word of his skill got around, the little clinic became
crowded. It was not uncommon to see a bejeweled ambas-
sador's wife next to a colorfully garbed Indian woman. To
reach Indians who would not or could not come to the clinic,
he made trips on a sputtery motorcycle out on the Altiplano,
sloshing through mud and wading hip-deep rivers to get
to his unwilling patients.
He found conditions beyond his worst dreams: obstetrical
cases botched by widwives or witch-doctors, every variety
of cancer, hernia, ulcer, kidney and liver trouble. Whole
160 Adventurers for God
families lived in unventiiated, damp, one-room huts where
even tie mildest infirmities often became fatal. Because of
the high altitude, whooping cough was especially deadly
At first the Indians, distrustful of any white man s inten-
tions, refused to come close to this lanky gringo and his
magic medicine. But his persistent friendliness, plus his
talent for performing "miracles" of healing, in time won
There was, for instance, the Aymara woman who had been
gored by a bull. Almost completely disemboweled, her intes-
tines were hanging out when Beck got to her. To an obbligato
of her groans and wailing by the pueblo people, a witch-doc-
tor was uttering loud incantations and feverishly slapping on
herbs and leaves. Almost by force, Beck took the woman
back to his clinic, sewed her up, and in two weeks she was
back home. The people gaped in unbelief. "Why she not
die? 7 * they exclaimed. "Everything all on outside, now all
As a result, more and more Aymaras came trudging into
the clinic, or brought their sick to mutely lay before him
along roads and rivers where he was known to come.
Dr. Beck asked no pay of the Aymaras. In their gratitude,
however, they sometimes put a chicken or a few eggs or
ears of com on his clinic doorstep or on the seat of his motor-
The medical profession in La Paz, what there was of it,
gave him a hard time at first. They did not relish this out-
lander coming in to take patients from whom they could
exact exorbitant fees. They liked even less his acting as
though Indians' lives counted. His temporary license to
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 161
practice was alternately revoked and renewed for years. But
tie went right on practicing, license or no license.
In 1932, with a war being waged between Bolivia and
Paraguay, Beck was asked to provide medical assistance for
the Bolivian Army. The war was fought in a disease-cursed
jungle area called the Gran Chaco more realistically dubbed
"the Green Hell." Soldiers died like flies from tuberculosis,
malaria, instestinal infections. Beck, burning with malaria
himself, fought to save casualties of both germs and bullets.
He could operate only between four and six o'clock in the
morning, after the clouds of mosquitoes had dispersed and
before swarms of vicious gnats took over. For Ms unsparing
labors during the fighting he was awarded the "Condor of
the Andes/' the highest honor that is ever given to for-
In 1935, desperate to expand Ms 15-bed hospital, Beck
gambled most of Ms meager funds on a trip to the United
States to seek building money. When none was available from
his mission board, he sought individual donors, and finally
reached Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of the Hudnut family.
Before them he spread out photographs, talked steadily for
15 minutes. Mrs. Pfeiffer finally halted Mm to say quietly,
"Well give you $30,000."
Jubilantly, he returned to La Paz and began construction
on a suburban site. To stretch his capital he pitched in him-
self, pushing wheelbarrows of cement, doing all the wiring.
To friends who marveled at his mechanical resourcefulness,
he replied that if he had Ms way every missionary would be
born and raised on a farm. "What I learned on the farm has
been more important to me as a missionary doctor than much
that I learned at medical school/' he said. When Ms building
162 Adventurers for God
fund ran low he invited local mine-owners and businessmen
to send their employees for treatment, asked for construction
help in return. Receiving a small inheritance from his father,
he threw it into the project, as well as every spare dollar he
could find from any source.
Meanwhile, Beck kept up a barrage of appeals to friends
back home. From a man in Montclair, New Jersey, came an
electric generator for use during power failures; from a
woman in Pittsburgh an elevator. American and British resi-
dents of La Paz contributed furniture, an oxygen tent,
an incubator, an inhalator. When the hospital was completed
it was the most modern in Bolivia, capable of handling 80
Beck's particular pride was the home and school for 30
nurses. When he had arrived in Bolivia, nursing as a profes-
sion was virtually unknown. Young women with education
sufficient to qualify for training (mostly Spanish, from
wealthy families ) scorned nursing as "servant work." To get
the necessary technical personnel, Beck brought in under-
privileged girls, imbued them with the idea that here was a
chance at a professional life not otherwise open to them,
then rigidly drilled them in the arts of healing.
By 1955 the nursing school of Clinica Americana had
turned out 103 graduates. Today hospitals, health centers
and clinics throughout Latin America clamor for nurses
trained there. At one time the public-health section of
Servicio Cooperative Interamericano, U.S. foreign-aid
agency, had 34 Beck-trained nurses on its staff, declared
them "the best in the world."
Dr. Beck is gratified by such accolades, but even more by
the fact that the Bolivian government is closely copying his
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 163
nurse-training program in its public health service. He says:
"The biggest contribution that medical missions can make
is to stimulate others to do for themselves."
At Clinica Americana, mornings were for operations
often as many as six a day; afternoons for out-patient con-
sultations, which averaged 7400 a year. Beck's charge to all
was 1000 bolivianos (about 20^) if his patients had it On
Wednesday afternoons, his only time off duty, he visited La
Paz orphanages to conduct clinics, perform minor operations,
bandage up wounds, making no charge to either patient or
Beck's nurses said of him, "Only God could be more omni-
present." From the first he insisted on living in a small apart-
ment on the clinic's top floor where he could hear every night
sound, tell by a nurse's step down the corridor whether he
was needed. "When you're trying to do a job," he said,
"you've got to be on the job." Told he would kill himself by
overwork, he snorted: "Work doesn't kill a man; worry does."
Bed patients soon learned to detect his short, quick step
in the corridors, were comforted by his habit of softly singing
hymns, humming or whistling as he performed operations.
One, asked if her emergency appendectomy was an ordeal,
replied, "How could it be? The senor doctor's voice was
more soothing than the anesthetic."
Between clinical chores in La Paz, Beck continued his
trips to the Altiplano to conduct wayside clinics, deliver
babies, take out teeth, patch up broken bones, pep-talk the
people into better self -health measures.
Some time ago a delegation of Indians tramped four days
to ask Beck to start a school at Ancoraimes, on beautiful Lake
Titicaca. Their children needed both education and medi-
164 Adventurers for God
cine. "How else/* asked their spokesman, "can we help our
people to a better life?"
Next day. Beck mounted his motorcycle, its side-car packed
with tools, nails, rough siding. The Indians helped him throw
up a one-room structure, then spread the word that education
had at long last come to Ancoraimes.
When school opened, Aymara children were present in
droves. School had no sooner begun than the town's mayor
appeared, trailing a cordon of police. Beck was thrown into
jail, spent the night fuming in his cell. In court the next day,
he indignantly addressed the magistrate. "They say I have
no right to start a school here, or vaccinate youx children
against smallpox. What in humanity's name . . ."
The Judge smiled and lifted a hand. "You don't remember
me. Dr. Beck? I studied under you at the American Insti-
tute!" He called the authorities to the bench, made them
apologize. Then, turning to Beck, he said: "Please teach us
better manners toward our benefactors."
Today, as a result of Beck's help, there are 18 Methodist
schools on Titicaca's shores, plus a small clinic and a four-
room cottage for the doctor. The schools and clinic serve
26,000 Indians, who come from 35 miles around. The settle-
ment is named "Beck Memorial."
Political revolutions in Bolivia occur with whimsical regu-
larity. During his 44 years there, Beck survived many. Never
taking sides, he deplored them mainly for their inevitable
dumping of wounded on his doorstep. When he saw an
upheaval coming, he alerted his staff, then took care of the
casualties as they came, with no regard to the side they
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 165
After one unusually violent upset some years back, an
officer of the successful coup stamped into the clinic to de-
mand preferred treatment for his patriots. Beck grabbed
his arm and marched him outside fast. "I'm in command
here," he said firmly. "Go!"
During the 1944 revolution, a cocky young soldier burst
into the clinic. "It is believed you have fugitives here," he
boomed. "I search!" Amused, Beck led Mm gravely through
the wards, only slightly discomforted by the sub-machine
gun the boy carelessly waved in Ms face. Beck was about to
open the last door when the soldier lowered his gun, acci-
dentally tripped the trigger, and blew off half Ms own toe.
Enraged that anyone would so carelessly endanger Ms pa-
tients. Beck escorted the soldier to surgery and took off the
rest of his toe without benefit of anesthetic.
To Bolivian politicians, this blunt but courageous Ameri-
can was at first an enigma, then a delight. Almost every
regime has sought Ms counsel, wanting to know what he
thought of their policies. "Dr. Beck," a prominent leader
informed me, "always gives it to us straight, as you Americans
say. It's refreshing and helpful. He's been more of a politi-
cal power than he realizes. For he thinks with his heart/*
When the Siles government came to power in 1952, sweep-
ing land reforms were initiated. Indians, for the first time in
400 years, now own their own land, are able to negotiate
wages. In June of 1956 they were given the right to vote,
something hitherto unknown in Bolivia's long history. Though
Beck thought the reforms went too fast and too far, they
dramatically reflected Ms long striving for the rights of the
Early in 1956 Frank Beck announced Ms retirement and
166 Adventurers for God
return to the United States. It was his third try at leaving
the clinic and the people he loved. The first was in 1944
when, suffering from arthritis of the spine, he was told he
would have to quit the high altitude. But, after seven months
in the States, word reached him that the burden had proved
too much for his successor. Beck hustled back to his clinic.
His second try at retirement was in 1950. A Texas mining
concern promptly offered him a job at $12,000 a year a
handsome sum for a man whose salary as a missionary had
not averaged above $750 a year, on which he and Mrs. Beck
had educated three of their own and two adopted children.
But he turned it down to serve with the Associated Medical
Missions office in New York, charged with certifying mission-
ary doctors. For two years he chafed under the desk routine,
brooded over how things were going in La Paz. Then his
second successor also resigned under the strainand once
again he happily headed back to Bolivia.
Before his last retirement, Dr. Beck took the precaution of
having his passport stamped with the "reingreso" visa, per-
mitting him to return at any time. "Just in case/' he said
with a grin.
The Becks were given a royal send-off, with many
speeches. U.S. Ambassador Gerald A. Drew asserted: "I have
served in many countries, but in none has one man done
so much to benefit the people of a land not his own."
An Aymara chieftain said simply: "He brought my people
back to life."
Frank Beck wound up his 44 years in Bolivia typically. On
the day of his departure, there were five operations to be
done. One of the last was performed on a 3-year-old Indian
boy whose tongue, horribly tumored and projecting inches
Bolivia's Most Unforgettable Character 167
from his mouth, had to be removed to save his life. The
child being an orphan, Beck had arranged for his 6-year-old
sister to stay in the room with him. After the operation he
found her there, one small brown hand smoothing the child's
forehead, while bravely she straggled to hold back the tears
streaming down her face.
I watched as Dr. Beck gathered the little form into his
arms, heard him say gently, over and over: Estard Men,
mania pequena" . . . "It's going to be all right, little mother.
It's going to be all right,"
In essence, this has been Frank Beck's lifelong message to
Bolivia's poor and oppressed.
All over Latin America thousands todav will affirm that
he went a far way toward making the promise come true.
Trevor Huddlesfon of Sophiatotm,
One September day in 1943 a 29-year-old priest of the
Church of England stepped off a ship into a South Africa
aboil with race tensions. Less than three years before, hand-
some Trevor Huddleston, scion of a noted British family, had
taken his vows in an Anglican monastic order called the
Community of the Resurrection, whose members are com-
mitted to bring to bear upon society the social implications
of the Christian gospel
Those implications were sorely needed in the Union of
South Africa, a fiery caldron of rising hatreds between the
country's two and a half million whites and ten million non-
whites. Busily stoking the flames was the Nationalist Party
leader who would become Prime Minister in 1948, Dr. Daniel
F. Malan, to whom white made right and whose twin slogans
were: "Africa for the Afrikanders" and "Keep the Kaffir in
his place.'' Malan's formula for achieving both aims was
apartheid., meaning race separation, and pronounced, signif-
Huddleston's appointment was to Sophiatown, a black
township in the city of Johannesburg. His mission station was
the one that novelist Alan Paton used as a setting for his
1948 best-seller, Cry, the Beloved Country, The young priest
One Man Against "Apartheid? 9 169
was appalled when he saw apartheid at work. Johannesburg's
white suburbs were lovely with beautiful homes and gardens;
its areas reserved for blacks were bleak, crowded shanty-
The color bar was high and forbidding; one could cross
it only at the risk of his life. Natives moved about knee-
deep in restrictions. Signs were up everywhere, sorting the
two races like an efficient machine. By day the native could
mine the white man's gold, wash his dishes, tend his garden,
mind his babies, empty his garbage cans. But at night the
races separated, one half proceeding to lovely homes in
the suburbs, the other to squalid shelters in the slums.
Apartheid, often enforced by police clubs, was breeding
envy, resentment and hatred in frightening proportions. One
sign at a street crossing was symptomatic: it had been
amended to read "Natives Very Cross Here!" And Johan-
nesburg's white citizens recognized the hatred by bolting
their houses at night, sleeping with revolvers under their
pillows. That first evening in Johannesburg, Huddleston
prayed with fierce intensity: "God, give me strength to fight
this evil thing!"
His crusade to break the shackles of Africans soon made
him a target for the revilings of racists. Frequently termed
an agitator, he replied quietly, <<r The Christian is always, if
true to his calling, an agitator." But the blacks, with whom he
was to Mve for 12 years, called him Makhalipile "dauntless
one." Soon the tall, spare figure striding through Sophia-
town, his cassock whipping about his long legs and a clutch
of youngsters at his heels, became a familiar sight.
From the first he resolved to identify himself completely
with the people of Sophiatown, their struggles, their hopes
170 Adventurers for God
and dreams. He did not think of them as black but as peo-
ple. Their response was immediate. They flocked to his
church. His compassion for them matched his indignation at
their treatment. He knew that morality and integrity were
not easy virtues in a society which denied all chance for
human dignity. It disturbed him to hear himself giving
counsel that 1 know I could not follow in the same cir-
cumstances." Yet, despite all that made goodness difficult
to achieve, he saw his people taking on spiritual stature.
His indignation flamed one day when he heard a Dutch
Reformed Church leader assert that "mixed worship would
scarcely be edifying." The word rankled in his heart as
he went that evening to hear confessions. He noted in his
diary, "Old Martha is beside me now. She used to work
in a white kitchen, but cannot now because of her arthritis.
Her hands, calloused from work in the white man's kitchen,
and gnarled with arthritis, are clasping a prayer book. I
kneel with her and indeed I am not 'edified.' I only want
to kneel and wash those old and weary feet!"
Of all the restrictions spawned by apartheid, none got
Huddleston's dander so high as the pass laws. To go any-
where, any time, the native must carry a pass. Easy to lose
or misplace and reissue made difficult by the deliberate
procrastination of officials the pass is the native's slender
right to freedom. To be without it is a crime punishable by
fine or imprisonment, often by police brutality, and some-
Of some 75,000 Negroes jailed each year in Johannesburg,
approximately two thirds are pass-law offenders. Trials
average less than two minutes each. "Pass-law crimes re-
quire no docket to be opened, no witness to be questioned.
One Man Against "Apartheid? 9 171
no statements to be taken/* a police official explains. "Non-
production of a pass, or a pass out of order, is generally
proof in itself that an offense has been committed."
Father Huddleston was soon devoting much of his precious
time and scant mission funds to helping pass-violators. An
employe or schoolboy at his mission would disappear. Nine
times out of ten he would be found in jail thrown in with.
hardened crooks, drug addicts, murderers, simply because
he'd left his pass at home.
Often a pass was no deterrent to police wanting to im-
press their authority on a native. One morning Father
Huddleston found Jonas, one of his schoolboys, in the jail
yard, charged with vagrancy. "Where was your pass?'* he
asked. "They tore it up/' the boy replied. The priest stormed
into the police station, found the torn pass in the waste-
basket. When he refused to surrender it, he himself was
arrested. A few days later the prison commandant apologized
to Huddleston, not to Jonas.
Many pass-law cases ended tragically, particularly if a
native defended himself in any manner that could be re-
garded as "cheeky." On one occasion, one of Father Hud-
dleston's flock died of a bladder injury after being kicked
in the stomach by police. The priest went to court with
affidavits from two doctors stating the nature of the in-
jury. The magistrate brushed him off. The verdict: the man
died of "congenital syphilis."
Huddleston saw that the pass laws caused more crime
than they curbed. The Africans reasoned: "If it's a crime to
be in the street without a bit of paper, and if that crime
is punished with a fine or imprisonment, why not commit
a crime that's worth while?" Consequently, Johannesburg
Adventurers for God
has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and black
Johannesburg is largely ruled by criminals.
To help beat back crime's rising tide in Sophiatown,
Father Huddleston addressed himself to what police caE "the
No. 1 problem in urban Africa" the tsotsis. These are teen-
age gangs who terrorized the streets with stabbings, rapes,
robberies. Huddleston, convinced that the high rate of youth
crime was greatly encouraged by the lack of recreational
facilities, started a club for the tsotsis, enrolled them as
acolytes in his church. His rooms were "open house" where
youngsters could come to read magazines, talk out their
hopes and fears.
When the Community of the Resurrection offered the
city council seven acres of church property for use as an
African recreation center, a white vigilance committee
moved in fast to defeat the project. Undismayed, Father
Huddleston wrote a letter to the Rand Daily Mail, pointing
out: "There are 12 public swimming pools and 3000 pri-
vate pools in Johannesburg for whites but none for Afri-
He boldly appealed for funds to build a pool at Orlando,
a jam-packed Negro "location 2 " near Sophiatown. It took him
three years to raise the money, but when the pool was
opened SOCK) Africans were on hand, and 600 black young-
sters leaped in, clothes and all, shouting and splashing.
Thenceforth delinquency took a sharp dive in that area.
He used the newspapers to call attention to another prob-
lem: the vast amount of starvation ("which we euphemis-
tically call 'malnutrition'") among African children. He
wrote: "Every white child is entitled to a free meal at school
which costs the state sixpence a day. African lads get noth-
One Man Against "Apartheid" 173
ing." The next day lie was deluged with offers of food,
Ultimately his pressure along with the help of a small
group of concerned European women resulted in the feed-
ing scheme being extended to all African schools, at the
rate of twopence per day per head. Wryly he commented
on "the strange anomaly of well-to-do European children
receiving a free meal at three times the value of that al-
lowed an African child/' but went ahead setting up centers
in every Negro township and 'location" until his project was
feeding 5000 children a day.
A new field beckoned one day when he discovered a 14-
year-old boy, inspired by a Louis Armstrong record, wist-
fully pining for a trumpet. Wangling an instrument from a
music shop, he persuaded an African trumpeter to give the
youngster lessons. Then, remembering a visiting musician's
statement that "J azz bands first breached the color bar in
the United States/' he begged and cajoled other instruments
for what became known as the "Huddleston Jazz Band."
He also formed a musical society in Sophiatown, and
encouraged top African artists to share their talents with
his people. And whenever a distinguished white artist played
in Johannesburg, Huddleston asked him to come to Sophia-
town. After Yehudi Menuhin had given a concert in his
mission, Huddleston noted in his diary: "A door was opened,
and my Africans marched through it into a new and en-
trancing world of sound."
The Johannesburg ban against entertaining colored peo-
ple in hotels or white homes was an evil which Huddle-
ston turned to good. Africans or -Asians of noteartists,
statesmen, lecturers traveling through Johannesburg were
174 Adventurers for God
welcomed at the mission, where they readily entertained his
In 1954 the Malan government issued a death edict for
Sophiatown. By an accident of history Sophiatown was one
of the few South African townships where natives had free-
hold tenurethe right to own their own homes. The area
had its shantytown regions, caused by packing 70,000 peo-
ple into space suited for 30,000; but it also had miles of little
red-roofed homes lining tree-shaded streets. Huddleston had
encouraged his people to improve their homes, dreaming
of turning the area into a model African suburb. But native-
owned homes were a denial of apartheid. So, under the ex-
cuse of "slum clearance,'* the Western Areas Resettlement
Act condemned the township to be razed. The natives would
be sent to an area where freehold tenure did not exist
February 10, 1955, was Removal Day. The streets were
filled with 2000 police and military lorries loading the peo-
ple's pathetic belongings. Huddleston stood helplessly with
Ms people, watching and weeping. "I do not weep for the
destruction of the material," he wrote that day, "but because
we Christians of Johannesburg have failed so utterly to
uphold principle against prejudice, the rights of persons
against the claims of power/'
In April 1955 the government dealt Huddleston and all
Christian mission schools an even bigger defeat. With, the
passage of the Bantu Education Act, all schools were put
under state control. For 100 years Christian missionaries had
pioneered in education for Africans; nearly every African
who could read or write had been educated in a mission
school. But the mission schools had made one fatal error:
they had taught the black man that he, too, was a child of
One Man Against Apartheid ' 175
God, who made "of one blood all the nations of the earth."
The Minister of Native Affairs, H. F. Verwoerd, charged
in the Senate: "The mission schools" curriculum and educa-
tional practice, by ignoring apartheid., have been unable
to prepare the native for service within the Bantu commu-
nity." The mission control of schools 5 therefore, would have
By now Father Huddleston, as provincial of his Com-
munity's order in South Africa, was also superintendent of
St. Peter's, a secondary boarding school for natives. Known
as the "Black Eton of South Africa," with many distinguished
alumni, St. Peter's was his pride. His dilemma was: Should
St. Peter's continue under the new regime, teaching a syl-
labus it considered un-Christian? Or was "Bantu education"
better than no education, as some religious leaders argued?
Father Huddleston decided on "death with honor." St.
Peter's would close.
Huddleston's chief sorrow today is not that he lost so
many of his battles against apartheid but that he had so little
help from his fellow Christians. To Afrikander leaders of the
Dutch Reformed Church, which has not only supported
apartheid but attempted to find a Biblical basis for it, he
once sighed, "The truth is, gentlemen, that we seem to wor-
ship different Gods."
Among churchmen of his own and other denominations
he has spoken out like a cymbal among the flutes. "It Is
my considered opinion," he says, "that unless the Christian
Church in South Africa really faces this issue honestly,
within the next generation or less it may well lose and de-
servedlythe allegiance of the African people.' 7
Under the present regime, any African asking for equal-
176 Adventurers for God
ity of opportunity and a measure of justice and brotherhood
is dubbed a Communist. It pains Huddleston to see Com-
munism "getting official credit for the most elementary ideals
of Christian democracy/' Therein he sees a clear and pres-
ent danger. "Will it be too surprising," he asks, "if Africans
become more and more curious about Communism as more
and more of their expressions of hope are labeled Com-
For all his defeats, Huddleston saw hope in the slow
stirring of the conscience of whites. One day his telephone
rang and a voice said: "You don't know me, Father. I'm
a South African of the third generation, so I suppose I have
all the usual prejudices. But could you use 100 for your
work?" And there were many others like him. Also, increas-
ingly heavy mail came in from unnamed whites who wrote:
"Keep up the good work, Father!"
Were all these people merely salving an uneasy conscience?
"Perhaps in some cases," he said. '"But I believe there lies
behind their action a deeper meaning the same which
drove Nicodemus out into the night to visit the Galilean
Early in 1956 his Community recalled him to England
to take charge of the training of novices, many of whom
had entered the order because of his example. The order
felt that Huddleston, in the face of almost insurmountable
barriers, could accomplish more outside the country.
Before leaving, Huddleston sat in the now-empty St.
Peter's and wrote a book, Naught for Your Comfort, which,
with rare eloquence, told the story of his 12 years in South
One Man Against "Apartheid 9 177
His Africans gave him a send-off such as had seldom been
seen in black Johannesburg. Proud in their new uniforms, his
"Huddleston Jazz Band" played for him. Speeches and trib-
utes were voiced by African leaders. Afterward, many of his
people came up to seize his hand and lass it. Everywhere
voices were lifted in the African goodbye: "Hamba kahle,
MdkJialipile 9 Ci Go well, dauntless one!"
When his departure became known in government circles,
Johannes Strijdom, who succeeded Malan as Prime Minister
in 1954, is said to have exclaimed, "Well, thank God, that's
the last well hear of him!"
Mr. Strijdom was never more wrong.
Leo Halliwell of Brazil
JMiecllcine M.an on me Amazon
The little wMte launch swerved out of the Amazon
mainstream and headed up a narrow tributary. Bravely flying
a pennant depicting a hand holding a torch aloft, it brushed
jungle growth on both sides. At the helm sat a stocky man
whose keen eyes searched the occasional clearings along the
banks. Suddenly, from a thatched hut a woman ran out,
frantically waving a towel. The helmsman nosed the boat's
prow into the bank, grabbed a black bag and leaped ashore.
In the hut a man lay screaming in agony. He had just
been bitten in the foot by a dreaded bushmaster, deadliest
of all Amazonia's snakes. Neighbors were hastily building a
fire, preparing to burn the foot until it was completely
charred usual treatment for snakebite in that remote region.
The man from the boat hastily loaded a syringe with anti-
venin, made an injection and saved another life.
This was Leo Halliwell, an American missionary with a
unique ministry. He had no medical degree, not even a phar-
macist's certificate, yet for 25 years he carried modern med-
icine to the Amazon Valley's neglected inhabitants. Steering
his aquatic clinic up and down the 1000-mile stretch of river
between Belem and Manaus, covering some 12,000 miles a
year, Halliwell treated more than a quarter of a million
Brazilians and Indians for a host of tropical and other dis-
Medicine Man on the Amazon 179
eases. He also gave some 50,000 smallpox vaccinations,
handed out literally tons of medicines and unguents, patched
up thousands of accident victims.
Best of all, he helped awaken the Brazilian government
to the fact that of the region's many rich resources its people
are the most important; their health may well decide whether
Amazonia's fabulous potential is to be developed or left
During his youth in Kearney, Nebraska, the notion of being
a missionary never crossed Leo HalliwelTs mind. With a tal-
ent for mechanical tinkering, he studied electrical engineer-
ing at the state university. But one day, four years after grad-
uation, he heard exciting stories told by a missionary to Peru.
On impulse he applied to the Seventh-day Adventist mission
board. In short order he and his graduate-nurse bride, Jessie,
were on their way to Bahia, Brazil,
In Bahia the mission leaders soon found they had a re-
cruit steaming with energy, imagination, ingenuity. "Just
looking for latitude," he would say when asked why he
so restlessly sought new fields. Ample latitude was provided
when, in 1929, he was asked to pioneer the mission's work in
The Halliwells realized how huge was their new field when
they reached Belem, near the Amazon's 207-mile-wide
mouth. Their parish included the whole Amazon basin, al-
most as big as the continent of Europe.
The Amazon itself was awesome: so deep that transat-
lantic steamers can go up it for 2300 miles, so wide that one
must go 400 miles farther before it narrows to the width of
the Mississippi at its mouth. And feeding into it is a mesh
of more than 500 tributaries, many of them more than 1000
180 Adventurers for God
miles long. Strung out along these endless waterways live
two million people; an estimated 300,000 are Stone Age
Indians, the rest a racial amalgam of Portuguese, Negro,
In Belem the Halliwells held evangelistic meetings, visited
from house to house, made a few converts, got a small school
going. But amid this work with city Brazilians, Halliwell was
increasingly haunted by the thought of the unreached river
people. Many were descendants of the hordes of adven-
turers who had flocked in during the rubber boom of 1900-12
and were now left stranded in this immense backwater to
eke out their precarious tenure in the jungle wilds. To make
matters worse, it was said, they bred like flies and many
of their offspring lived about as long.
After a few months in Belem, Halliwell went up the
Amazon by river boat and canoe to see his outlying par-
ishioners. He was dismayed by the people's poverty and
superstition, especially by their disease. Their strength was
sapped by malaria and malnutrition; their lives were short-
ened by smallpox, syphilis, leprosy; their existence was
threatened by poisonous snakes, alligators, jaguars and other
beasts; there wasn't a doctor in all the jungle wilderness.
To Jessie he said, "Isn't it one of our Adventist tenets that
'medical work is the right arm of the Gospel'?*' She nodded,
and he vowed, "I'm going to give that arm some exercise!"
He used his 1930 furlough in the United States for a six-
month course in tropical diseases. Jessie brushed up on mid-
wifery, nutrition, sanitation. They talked before church
groups and collected money for their "Amazon adventure."
Back in Brazil, Leo sketched a design for a shallow-draft,
30-foot boat with a 10-foot beam. He hacked out the hull
Medicine Man on the Amazon 181
by hand from Amazon hardwoods and installed the engine
and wiring himself. He christened it the Luzeiro (Portu-
guese for "Light Bearer"), stocked it with as much quinine,
Epsom salts, salves and bandages as he could buy or scrounge
and set out with Jessie.
Leo knew less about navigation than he did about doctor-
ing, and it took some harrowing experiences to accustom
him to the Amazon's treacherous currents and moods. Today
old river hands testify, "Nobody knows the Amazon better/'
The moods of the Indians were equally difficult. Most
of the tribes, fleeing the white man's advance, had settled
along the headwaters of the Amazon's tributaries. Living
a primeval existence, many fiercely resisted with blow guns
and poisoned arrows the encroachments of strangers.
At sight of the Luzeiro in the Andira River the Indians of
the Maues tribe fled in terror; they had never seen a "canoe"
like this. Halliwell brought out his victrola and put on a band
record. Presently the Indians crept out of the woods, crowded
around the instrument, chattering among themselves. They
were just as amazed by the miraculously quick effects of
quinine on malaria fever then raging in the village.
The Halliwells soon learned to begin their annual odyssey
upriver early in February, after the river had begun its
mighty rise (in some pkces as high as 60 feet). It reaches
full flood stage in May and June and that season supplies
the most water for easy access to the people; it also creates
the greatest needs. Floodtime is inevitably tragedy-time for
Amazon dwellers; the forest is inundated and homes are
washed away. On each voyage, Halliwell told the people
the approximate time of his return, asked them to hang
out a white cloth to signal their need. Soon every mile of his
182 Adventurers for God
journey was lined with Muttering cloths. For three consecu-
tive years, Mrs. Halliwell delivered the babies of the wife of
the mayor of a certain town. How did the blessed events hap-
pen to coincide with the Luzeirds visits? "I planned it that
way," said the wife.
Dangerous as was the constant threat from, jungle beasts
and reptiles, the swarms of flying and crawling things pro-
duced even more misery and death. An unbelievable variety
of insects flies, bugs, bees, ants, wasps, ticks, chiggers as-
sailed the people day and night.
The most serious menace to health in the Amazon was
malaria. At every stop Halliwell was greeted by listless,
half-alive people aflame with fever.
The throb of the Luzeirds motors became a song of hope
up and down the Amazon and its maze of waterways. Soon
he was treating as many as 300 malaria patients a day,
distributing up to 50,000 quinine tablets a year.
At one place the Halliwells were flagged by a man in
a canoe who led them to a home that was one large room
with a center pole supporting the thatched roof. From the
pole to the side walls, like spokes in a wheel, were stretched
22 hammocks. In each lay a victim burning with high fever.
By the time Leo had treated them, word had spread and
canoes by the score were arriving. Some bore sick, others
carried messengers begging him to come to relatives or
o oo o
friends. In one home he found a 10-year-old girl, whose
entire family had been taken by the fever. She had tried
to bury her mother, father and older brother, but was too
weak from fever to dig deep graves. When Halliwell ar-
rived, dogs had unearthed the bodies and were dragging
portions about the yard.
Medicine Man on the Amazon 183
In the beginning he used injections of quinine and methy-
line blue, then counted out enough quinine capsules to leave
with the patients for follow-up. Later, when such products as
atabrine, cloroquin and camouquin became available, he
used these in the same immense quantities.
When leaving medicines with the people, Halliwell learned
to make crystal clear his instructions for their use. Once he
returned after three days to be told by the wife of a patient
that her husband had taken all 67 grains of quinine in one
gulp. Halliwell inquired anxiously, "Did he die?" The
woman replied, "Oh, no. His ears rang a little, but it cured
him. He's out in the eld working!"
Another time his instructions went awry was when he
left some medicine for a small boy. "How will I know when
to give the doses?" asked the mother. "We have no clock."
Halliwell replied, "You have a rooster? When he crows
give him a dose/' When he dropped by days later to inquire
about the boy, the woman reported, "My boy's fine now
but the rooster died!"
Halliwell himself had been 15 years in the Amazon before
he got malaria. In a river town he had stopped off to help
a Catholic priest for two days, sweatily getting his brother
Christian's power plant in order. When he came back to the
boat, he was too tired to close the screens. The resulting ma-
laria kept him inactive for weeks. But on the whole, using
proper precautions and taking his own medicine, he and his
wife maintained exuberant health amid rampant sickness
of all lands.
At first the Halliwells had to purchase medicines from
their slender mission resources, then enlist young people of
the Belem church to put them in capsules and bottles. In
184 Adventurers for God
later years their medicine chest was kept supplied by doctors
and pharmaceutical houses in the United States, and by the
public health departments of the states of Para and Ama-
zonas. During World War II, when quinine was almost un-
obtainable, an American wholesale drug dealer in Argentina
called Halliwell to his office. He unlocked a large depository,
pointed to stacked piles of quinine and said, "Look closely."
On every wrapper HalliwelTs name was written. "That's
our entire stock," he said. "But I want you to have it!"
Governors of several Brazilian states soon were making
generous personal contributions to Halliwell. One said, "No
one is doing so much for my people. Please let me help."
Second only to malaria as a debilitator of the people,
Halliwell early discovered, was the hookworm. Fully 90 per
cent of the river dwellers had worms. A safe rule of thumb
was, "When in diagnostic doubt, give a dose of worm med-
In the early years, the Luzeiro carried huge stores of Epsom
salts and castor oil. The people took these remedies without
question, often begged for more whatever their trouble.
Typical was the old man who came one day to the boat
deck where Halliwell was busy injecting for malaria. The
old man had no fever, but his appearance shouted hook-
worms. Halliwell gave him a dose of salts, promising, "This
will make you 10 years younger." On the next trip, he found
the old man at the head of the settlement's waiting line,
spry and grinning. He wanted another dose. "I'd like to lose
another 10 years!" he said.
Skin troubles abounded. In Amazonia, the least abrasion
provides entry for blood-lapping vampire bats, larvae-hatch-
ing blowflies and screwworms that cause huge abscesses,
Medicine Man on the Amazon 185
yaws, ulcers. In one typical year, Halliwell used more than
1000 injections of penicillin for yaws.
Eye diseases, too, took their toll. On an island in the lower
Amazon he found a family of 12, all nearly blind with
trachoma. He left them a bottle of sulphathiozole tablets to
stave off the disease's progress, advised them to take the
next steamer to the city to consult a good eye doctor. Four
months later he stopped at the island to check, found that
all had completely recovered without going to the city for
As a rule, the Halliwells avoided treating complicated
diseases, making arrangements to send severe cases to the
nearest town. But jungle life is full of emergencies. One day
while passing down a river, they heard screams. An alligator
had seized a girl while she was washing clothes in the river.
Her brother hammered the beast over the head until it let go,
but the girl was horribly mangled. Halliwell bandaged her
wounds and saved her life. Today the girl is an Adventist
Another time, he had to treat a man who had just lost a
leg while asleep in a canoe. In turning over in his sleep, the
man stuck his foot out over the edge, and the 'gator had
snapped off his leg at the knee. Later killed, the reptile
measured over 20 feet long.
Halliwell believed that religious faith played an important
part in many of his more unorthodox healings. There was,
for example, the young man convert in a tiny village upriver.
His face horribly disfigured by leprosy, his body covered
with large sores, he had been forbidden by the other vil-
lagers to leave his house. Yet he had a burning zeal to be
a Christian evangelist. Halliwell obtained some chaulmoogra
186 Adventurers for God
oil, gave Mm a few treatments, then left a quantity with
careful instructions as to its injection.
A year later, he returned to discover the boy had not
only made big improvement but had converted nine other
persons having induced his sister to invite neighbors into
an adjoining room so that he could stand at his door to
preach to them. After hundreds of injections, mostly self-
administered, the youth finally recovered completely, has
23 certificates from public health authorities attesting to his
cure, is now devoting his life to helping other lepers along
The Halliwells never made any charge for their services.
However, in gratitude, the river people often brought little
gifts, shyly depositing them on the Luzeirds decka squash,
an egg, pieces of deer meat, small bunches of bananas.
Only rarely did Halliwell meet opposition from the medical
profession and never from Brazilian doctors. Despite his
lack of a medical degree, his aid and counsel were fre-
quently sought by medical societies.
Some Indians, however, did oppose him. The chief of the
Maues, Caetano, was willing to assign land for a school
which Halliwell started with the help of a Brazilian teacher,
but he disdained gringo medicine and religion for himself.
Then a smallpox epidemic ravaged the village. Caetano al-
lowed Halliwell to vaccinate every survivor except himself.
He refused to let the white man "puncture my arm." On
the Halliwells' next visit, months later, they found the old
chief in his hut, covered with smallpox. He gasped through
parched lips, "I wrong. When disease come, I only man to
get it. Please puncture me now/'
In 1955 Caetano accepted Christianity, quickly became
Medicine Man on the Amazon 187
a Help in spreading it among other tribes. Today the school
and church at the Manes village are thriving as are many
others started in Amazonia by the Halliwells.
Halliwell became the Indians' trusted friend. A few years
ago, when a promoter of rosewood distilling moved up the
Andira to establish a plant in their territory, five Maues
chiefs assembled the tribes, prepared 2000 poisoned arrows
to kill him and all his workers. They were on the point of
attack when Halliwell came up the river. To the chiefs he
said, "You have right on your side. But your action will
only bring more trouble. Go instead to the authorities at
Manaus." The chiefs nodded gravely, "White medicine man's
counsel is good. We do." And the matter was settled with-
In order to reach still more people Leo equipped the
Luzeiro with a generator that would provide power and
illumination for a sound projector. Using colored slides and
films with a Portuguese sound track, the Halliwells held
classes regularly in river-bank clearings. Such modern gadg-
ets at first startled then delighted the people. One woman,
upon hearing a soprano tuned in from New York on Halli-
well's short-wave radio, demanded, * What that?** When
told It was "a woman thousands of miles away singing to
us," she exclaimed, wide-eyed, "Mae de Deus y what a pair
Immense crowds came to look and listen, many people
paddling In canoes for hours to reach the Jungle classroom,
where they learned, among other things, about nutrition and
were encouraged to plant gardens to supplement their vi-
One day Halliwell noted several children with bleeding
188 Adventurers for God
gums scurvy. Near their hut were lime trees; he picked
some of the limes, juiced them in tea, wheedled the mother
into promising to give it to her children regularly. Returning
weeks later, he found the children's gums healed and a local
fad started for "liine tea/'
From an American friend in Manaus, Jessie collected
choice grapefruit seeds and distributed them. Today, all
along the river grapefruit trees abound and vitamin C defi-
ciency has notably decreased. Along the Amazon, too, there
are healthy babies, many of them named "Jess* 6 " and "Leo."
When the Halliwells first came, the infant mortality rate
in the Amazon Valley was 64 per cent. This has been im-
pressively reduced in areas they regularly visited, in one
region dropping as low as 10 per cent.
Among the Indians, Mrs. Halliwell learned, it was cus-
tomary for the wife to have her baby alone in the forest,
being considered unclean. She would take it to a stream
to wash it, then go back to work while her husband would
put a towel over his head, lie down in his hammock for
three days, groaning with the pangs of childbirth and coming
parenthood. Indignant, she shamed such spouses into more
responsibility and helpfulness. In some villages, as the result
of her crusade, the custom is now extinct.
The Halliwells also did much to revise hymeneal habits.
Among Brazilian nationals especially, they found matrimony
a free and easy affair. When smitten with the mating im-
pulse, a man and woman just moved in together without
benefit of ceremony. There being no divorce law in Brazil,
a couple fed up with each other simply separated and sought
more congenial partners.
Tests for Indian grooms were more stringent. For him the
Medicine Man on the Amazon 189
tribe would prepare a pair of straw gloves, inserting in each
a hive of poisonous insects capable of swelling a man's arms
to twice their size. Around his knees a string of small bells
would record any slightest quaking when the insects went
to work. Before him stood his intended bride, ready to re-
ject him at the bells' first tinkle. Survival of the test meant
the pair were duly wed and could hang up the gloves in
their home as their marriage certificate.
Since Brazilian law does not recognize a religious ceremony
alone as legal, and since the Amazon areas were exceedingly
shy of qualified officials, Halliwell spent years arguing about
"enforced immorality," finally talked the state of Amazonas
into supplying a "marrying judge" for each section.
The Halliwells made Christian as well as civil marriage
one of the first requirements of converts. Soon he was many-
ing people who had lived together for as long as 40 years.
On his later trips he conducted many weddings, among
them one for a couple whose oldest son, with a family of his
own, was best man. The Luzeiro, besides being a home for
the Halliwells, a church for the churchless, a hospital, clinic
and ambulance, was often a gaily decorated wedding chapel.
Leo Halliwell met nautical mishaps with ingenuity. He
had to: there were no machine shops between Belem and
Manaus, a 1000-mile stretch. His only drydock was the
shore. When something went wrong, he would pull his ves-
sel as close in as possible, wait for the tide to go down.
When the water receded, the Luzeiro settled on dry land
and he had several hours to work before the incoming tide
set him afloat again.
An ever-present danger was from logs floating just be-
neath the surface. One morning, while crossing the river at
190 Adventurers for God
a point several miles wide and 800 feet deep, there was a
sickening crash, and water began to pour in from a large
hole in the hull. Leo grabbed up a long strip of canvas,
called to Jessie, and the two passed a loop under the hull
and worked it over the hole, where the water pressure held
it in place until he could bail out the water and fasten a
board over the stove-in spot.
A sense of God's protecting hand gave him confidence,
made him fearless. One day several years ago, the Luzeiro
suddenly burst into flames. A careless boat boy had spilled
gasoline when filling the stove. Leo grabbed a woolen
blanket, rushed into the flaming galley, threw the blanket
over the stove, heaved both overboard. The fire burned the
spilled fuel on the floor without catching the wood "as if
put out by the hand of the Lord." That night, before they
went to sleep, Jessie opened the Bible and read aloud:
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.
When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be
burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
A flood-time hazard to reaching people who live along
smaller streams and on shores of backed-up lakes are floating
grass islands. Looking like great pastures adrift, these clog
channel entrances, require hours of work to pole them aside.
An incident shortly after starting his Amazon work taught
Leo never to pass up a place where he was expected, if it
were humanly possible to reach it. A convert named Ribeiro
had settled on a lake, separated from the river by a five-mile
channel, where dwelt some 60 families. He sent Halliwell
word that two weeks of meetings and medicines might
Christianize the whole village.
Arriving at the channel, Leo found it blocked, decided
Medicine Man on the Amazon 191
to pass on and make the visit next year. But next year, a
tearful Ribeiro met him at the channel's now clear mouth.
"It's too late," he cried. "The fever came and took them
all. I alone am left!"
Halliwell went up the channel to the lake, saw the aban-
doned homes whose emptiness seemed to accuse him, sor-
rowed for months that he had let "the river snatch these
souls from us."
At such times the river seemed an enemy, dark and
threatening an enemy not to be surrendered to under any
circumstances. But such moods were rare. The Halliwells,
for all its raw savagery, loved the Amazon even as they
loved its people. At evening, exhausted and weary, they
would turn into some quiet igarape, anchor beside a bank
bordering jungle a thousand miles deep and revel in their
During the day the jungle may possess a silence like
deafness. But when night comes down swiftly, without twi-
lightit breaks into sounds like no other on earth. These,
to the Halliwells, were the sounds of home. Beloved, serene,
secure. To preserve them, he made a tape recording some
years ago. And when away from the river on furlough or
business trips to far cities, he would close his hotel door to
the raucous revels of radio and television, uncover his re-
corder, put the tape on, and contentedly go to sleep to
Amazon night sounds the deep croak of frogs and the shrill
chatter of cicadas, the alligator grunts and monkey howls, the
stealthy sound of animals moving through the brush only
yards away, the gentle slap of the river against the boat.
Stimulated by the example of Leo and Jessie Halliwell,
other missionaries have come to the Amazon and volunteered
192 Adventurers for God
for launch duty. Today a fleet of eight carbon copies of the
Luzeiro are plying the river and its tributaries; during a
recent year 27,000 major medical cases were treated. Proving
Leo's thesis that "medical work is the right arm of the Gos-
pel," there are today along the Amazon 22 Adventist
churches with some 3000 baptized members and 56 Sabbath
Schools and 15 elementary schools teaching 1000 young-
sters. In the vast territory once tilled only by himself and
Jessie, his church today has 15 ministers, a score of teachers
The HalliweUs' long battle against the ravages of malaria
has also borne fruit. Today, through SESP (Servigo Es-
pecial de Saude Publica), a mutual aid program of public
health jointly sponsored by the United States and Brazil,
a huge malaria control program is under way. An American
doctor working with SESP told me, "If it hadn't been for
the Halliwells, it is not likely that this or any other agency
would have been set up. They proved what could be done."
Only recently Halliwell saw a long dream come true.
In 1942, completely on faith and without funds, he opened a
tiny clinic in Belem and called a Brazilian doctor to run it.
Now that clinic has metamorphosed into a fully equipped
One day in 1956, Leo Halliwell got word that he was
needed in Rio de Janeiro to supervise the work of all Ad-
ventist medical launches throughout South America.
Obliquely Halliwell put the matter to Jessie. Wasn't it get-
ting crowded on the Amazon, with so many launches and all
these workers and churches? Besides, now that they were
along in years, wouldn't the climate be a little easier in some
place like, say, Rio de Janeiro?
Medicine Man on the Amazon 193
Jessie smiled knowingly. "When do we leave, Leo?"
In July they turned the Luzeiro over to another missionary,
and headed south. Thus, at 65, when most people are ready
to retire, the Halliwells were starting all over again.
"Leo," said a colleague seeing them off, "is still looking
Emory Alvord of Southern Rhodesia
Tine Gospel of me Jrlo w
On an April evening in 1919, a husky young teacher
from Washington State was jolted out o a deep sleep by
the sound of jungle drums and weird chanting. Only that
day Emory Alvord, with his bride, had arrived at this remote
spot in Southern Rhodesia to begin work. He sat bolt up-
right, listening, then rushed outside. He came upon a sight
that shook him to his shoestrings.
Over an acre of stumpy, neglected farmland a milling
crowd of African men and women, led by whirling witch-
doctors, were prancing and shrieking appeals to the gods of
the soil. When they fell exhausted, black arms gathered
them in, revived them with gourds of potent native beer,
and what seemed like a wild orgy went on.
Alvord watched. So this was native agriculture. He had
been told what to expect. On the long, hazardous journey
to his station 7000 miles by ship, six days and 1628 miles
by train into the interior, and 14 days and 174 miles by
donkey-wagon to Mt. SiHnda Mission old Africa hands
had warned him that vigor was something the African
farmer had little of; voodoo was his tool.
Now, through the eerie firelight and the clouds of dust,
Emory Alvord thought he saw these people as they really
were. Lazy? No lazy man would expend such energy.
"The Gospel of the Plow" 195
Superstitious? Perhaps, but was not superstition itself a sort
of faith? Redirect that energy and faith, and . . .
Striding back to his mission station in the morning's chill
dawn, he mapped out a program which he dubbed "The
Gospel of the Plow." He was Africa's first agricultural mis-
Today, Emory Alvord's faith in the natives ("Bantu")
of Rhodesia has been spectacularly justified. Under his
tutelage they have literally changed the face of their country.
Vast numbers of them enjoy a sense of prosperity and com-
munity well-being unknown in other regions of the Dark
The pioneering instinct runs strong in Alvord blood. The
family settled in Connecticut in 1632. Emory's great-grand-
father went to Utah in 1847. His grandfather ran mule trains
through the new West, and was found murdered beside
his campfire. His father fought in the Philippines and did
construction work there and in Alaska.
Emory himself chose farming for a career, worked his
way through Idaho State Normal and Washington State
College. At both schools he captained the football squad
While washing windows in the gymnasium to help pay
his way through Idaho Normal, he lost his balance and fell
three stories, smashing his foot so badly that doctors said
he was through as an athlete. But when football practice
started, five months later, Alvord reported on crutches.
Exertions on the gridiron caused excruciating pain for weeks,
but they restored the crippled foot to partial use, though
he was left with a limp for four years. Even this had its
points: the limp gave him what sports writers called a
"plunging gallop," making him a tough man to tackle. Upon
196 Adventurers for God
graduation he received tempting offers to make football his
career. He chose instead to teach agriculture at Washington
Then in 1918 he began to look for a frontier for himself.
Gregarious, he wanted a frontier that was humanitarian.
He volunteered for life service as an agricultural mission-
ary. Asked why, he said, "The human race must stand to-
gether. The strong and qualified must help the weak. It
is my aim to teach Christianity through the unexcelled me-
dium of agriculture, full as it is of reverential objects which
remind us hourly of God and life."
The missionary idea of saving souls by saving soil was
comparatively new. He was assigned to Southern Rhodesia, a
self-governing British colony about the size of California,
deep in the center of Africa's southern tip. Sometimes said to
be the ancient site of King Solomon's mines, the land had
been fought over for centuries by Arabs, Portuguese and
others. Then, decades ago, the gold-seekers had departed
and the whole region sank into somnolence until Cecil
Rhodes and his British South Africa Company grabbed it for
king and country.
The mission at Mt. Silinda, begun in the early 1890's
on 30,000 acres granted by Rhodes, majored in Christian edu-
cation and handcraft. Agriculture, around which the whole
of native life revolved, was not stressed. When mission as-
sociates lamented that making converts was easy but keeping
them faithful was impossible when they returned to their
homes, Alvord asked: "What else can you expect? You
can't build a good society, let alone the Kingdom of God,
on eroding soil and eroding people!"
He promptly laid out six demonstration plots. At the first
"The Gospel of the Plow" 197
harvest season he invited the Bantu from miles around
to see the maize plants 12 feet high bearing 12-inch cobs
quite a contrast with the native plants two or three feet tall,
with cobs no bigger than a man's thumb.
Triumphantly, Alvord expounded the merits of proper
tillage. His bubbling spirits simmered down a bit when he
asked them if they understood, and they shouted, "Yes,
yes. You great witch-doctor!" Even the mission pupils who
had cultivated the plots under his direction were con-
vinced he had gone out during the night and sprinkled
He knew then that he must persuade the Bantu to put
his methods to work on their own plots, where all could
see that there was nothing supernatural. The Alvord formula
was simple: clear the land properly, water it, fertilize it with
kraal manure now being wasted, rotate the crops.
To the pitiable farmers on their pitifully worn-out plots,
he would say, "What is this land you have? It's a trust
for your children and your children's children. God has
loaned it to you to use, not destroy. He sends the rain and
warmth of the sun. All He expects of you is that you love your
land, nourish it, co-operate with it. God wants you and your
families to have the good things of life; He's given you the
raw materials to make a good life. He wants you to work with
He moved among the people as a fellow r -worker of the
soil, eager to help. In casual conversations he painted such
a beguiling picture that more and more natives volunteered
their land for his experiments. They found that plots properly
tilled would yield ten times as much as before. Even the
worst land blossomed under proper tillage. When in 1922
198 Adventurers for God
most Bantu crops failed completely, Alvord's students and
demonstrators produced good yields.
The witch-doctors and other bush-league dervishes, sens-
ing ruinous competition, heckled him at the demonstrations,
shouting to the people that the gods of the soil would
visit dire punishment on any African dabbling in the white
Word of his success with the natives reached government
officials at Salisbury. They promptly invited him to take a
job as government agriculturist. In 1926 he accepted, seeing
a chance to spread his Gospel of the Plow far beyond the
mission's confines. His appointment was vigorously op-
posed by some elements who resented a missionary, es-
pecially an American, in any job of importance in a British
colony. Many officials too had a dim view of doing anything
at all for natives, stuffily insisting that a government agricul-
turist's job was to aid European farmers. He finally got him-
self transferred to the Department of Native Affairs so
there would be no question about whom he was hired to
During his first year as government agriculturist Alvord
stepped up acreage production sixfold on demonstration
plots. His huge bulk packed behind the wheel of his small
British car became a familiar sight everywhere in the native
reserves. Sometimes he walked for miles through jungle or
open veldt to inspect demonstration plots too remote to
reach by car. Natives came to expect this white-thatched man
on his lonely safari, a bag of improved seed over his shoulder.
On Sundays he took his place in the choir of their little
churches, looking like a great white bear among dark cubs.
The next few years Emory Alvord seemed to be every-
"The Gospel of the Plow" 199
where at once organizing courses in missionary and govern-
ment schools, setting up more and more demonstration plots
and experimental stations, arranging gala farm shows, in-
troducing more diversified products, making soil surveys,
directing the installation of a vast irrigation system, laying
out model villages. By 1949 a total of 72,849 demonstration
plots had been set up; on them the average yield was seven
times what it was on adjacent fields.
Knowing the Bantu's fondness for personal decoration as
well as community prestige, Alvord developed an ornate
enamel badge, richly scrolled with "Master Farmer/* and
awarded it to those whose plots were consistently superior.
In some cases, there being no place to pin it, the badge was
worn on a string around the neck; others improvised head-
bands to properly display it, while one devised a way to
dangle it from his left ear. Eventually there were some
1200 "Master Farmers" throughout Rhodesia.
By 1950, the art of scientific farming, now a required sub-
ject in all schools for natives, was being taught to 170,000
pupils yearly. Almost half of all Bantu farmers were doing
their work under the guidance of trained government dem-
onstrators drawn from their own ranks. Eleven million acres
had been centralized into arable and grazing lands, and the
best methods of crop rotation, irrigation and soil conserva-
tion had been applied to hundreds of thousands of acres.
Seven large breeding stations were steadily improving
To oversee this skyrocketing program of native develop-
ment, initiated and personally directed by Emory Alvord,
the government of Southern Rhodesia maintained a staff
of 70 Europeans and 436 native experts in its Department of
200 Adventurers for God
Native Agriculture. In the beginning, Alvord was the whole
department. His work at first cost the government little;
he taught the Bantu how to carry the expense of their own
improvement, instilled in them a pride in doing so.
A village headman told him one day of the sickness that
periodically swept the village. Alvord led the headman over
to one of the "pole and dagga" huts, showed him how such
construction made for dampness, draftiness, the increase of
vermin. Then he drew a sketch of a thatched brick house.
"Wouldn't you like one like that?" he asked. Next day he
and the headman began work; the house became a show-
place for miles around.
Next he started teaching a group of young men in each
village the art of brickmaking, stonework, roof construction.
Pupils completing the course were given a Builder's Certifi-
cate; they in turn became contractors and teachers of others.
Today more than 58 per cent of Rhodesia's native population
live in improved houses designed by Alvord and built by
the natives themselves. Moreover, 1500 schools and churches
have also been built.
Alvord introduced corn from Iowa to replace the Kaffir
variety, and started the natives at raising cotton. Today
there are some 12,000 native cotton-growers, and produc-
tion has reached an estimated five million pounds of seed
cotton for 1950. Government-sponsored and native-operated
ginning mills produce yam. Thousands of African natives
are now clothed in cotton goods produced by themselves.
In 1935, during a severe famine, he was seized with the
importance of wide-scale irrigation. With no funds, but
plenty of official resistance, he decided to dramatize irriga-
tion's worth. At Nyanyadzi, an area particularly hard hit,
"The Gospel of the Plow' 201
all able-bodied men were away working for Europeans
to get money to buy food. Loaded down with picks and
shovels, Alvord came to Nyanyadzi with a flourish, sur-
veyed and pegged the canals, persuaded 26 women and
three old men to help him dig, and eventually reaped an
average of 48 bushels of grain per acre from land where
not more than five had ever been harvested before. When
the husbands returned they found their families fat and
flourishing and with more food than they could possibly
buy with the money the men brought back.
The demonstration impressed the government too. Funds
became available for more irrigation. Two years later,
Alvord and a host of willing volunteers together dug his
biggest canal in the same Nyanyadzi River district 4M miles
long, 10 feet wide, three feet deep. No gang boss, he seized a
shovel himself and helped dig, setting a pace for the workers.
The project consumed six months. At its official opening,
a feast day for the entire region, thousands of African
natives went wild with excitement as the headgates lifted
and the wave of water plunged into the canal. Men, women
and children, yelling and singing hymns, swarmed in, splash-
ing the muddy water on each other and lapping it up in then-
mouths. To Alvord the mothers explained: "Oh, N'kosi-
muchena (king with the white hair), we want to tell our
children when we grow old that we and they drank some of
the first water of life that came to bless our land!"
All this had to be done over bitter opposition. European
farmers felt Alvord's interest in Africans was an offense to
white dignity and a threat to the stability of the status quo.
He got threatening letters "You ought to be shot/' Corn,
they protested, was a white man's crop. Cotton-growing
202 Adventurers for God
by the natives was upsetting the whole economy. And there
were government officials who took the same view and were
obstructionists. Alvord went blithely ahead.
With improved farming methods and improved homes
came the need for better tools and better furnishings to go
with them. Alvord discussed with his Bantu friends the
special kind of cart they needed, with their help drew a
design, took to the government officials his idea for a small
plant. The plant was established, Alvord schooled 18 young
Bantu in cart-making, and within three years hundreds of
low-cost substantial carts were rolling across the farms and
veldts of Rhodesia.
When resentful white settlers used Alvord's American
citizenship as an excuse for opposing his program, he ap-
plied for citizenship in Rhodesia. In 1937 he was awarded
the King's Coronation Medal, and later was made an Officer
of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire.
Upon his retirement in 1950 Alvord sat through the lauda-
tory speeches, obviously ill at ease. But when a wizened little
old Bantu chief stood up and said, "Cecil Rhodes founded
this country but Emory Alvord has founded a people!"
Alvord wept unashamedly.
The retirement business over, his first act was to take his
wife to see Victoria Falls; they had been in Rhodesia 31
years, yet "just somehow never had found time" to visit
the famed tourist attraction. That done, they came back to
America for six monthsand traveled all over the States
by bus, picking up fresh ideas for transplantation to Rhode-
Just before he and Mrs. Alvord sailed back to Mt. Silinda
Mission in 1951, "to serve out the lifetime we originally
"The Gospel of the Plow* 203
pledged/' Alvord said: "I believe more firmly than ever in
the infinite potential in people any people, all people. But
their improvement must come always from within them-
selves. I have no faith in handouts of any kind, economic or
spiritual. Abraham Lincoln once said, 'You cannot help men
permanently by doing for them what they could and should
do for themselves/ We need to inscribe that statement
large across every plan we make these days and we're
making some big ones for aiding the earth's backward peo-
Toyohfko Kagawa of Japan
e Jr OOF
On a February morning in 1946 a little man in baggy
trousers and a borrowed frock coat strode brisHy into the
Imperial palace at Tokyo. His wife had pinned up the coat,
for it was several sizes too large; but it kept slipping and
from time to time he had to hitch it up onto his shoulders.
Emperor Hirohito, struggling to orient himself to his
suddenly acquired status of humanity, had invited this
man of the slums to "lecture" him on the finer points of
democracy, tell him how he, too, might become a man of the
The lecture, slated for a half hour, lasted three times
as long. The emperor listened intently. Finally the speaker
drew out a battered Bible and read: "'Whosoever will be
great among you . . . shall be servant of all/ A ruler's
sovereignty, Your Majesty, is in the hearts of his people.
Only by service to others can a man, or a nation, be god-
Thus did Hirohito, "Son of Heaven," come face to face
for the first time with Toyohiko Kagawa, son of a philander-
ing politician and a concubine.
The advice given his emperor that day was, in essence, the
credo Kagawa has been living and preaching for nearly 50
Leo Halliwell of Brazil at the wheel of his launch of mercy, the Luzeiro
(Portuguese for "light-bearer"). (Chapter IX)
A familiar sight on the Amazon's i coo-mile stretch from Belem to Manaus.
the Halliwells* aquatic clinic brings medicines and the Gospel to tens
of thousands of river-dwellers who have no other doctor or minister.
Trevor Huddleston, Anglican priest whose daring fight for the rights of
Africans in Johannesburg's Negro slums won him government hatred and
world admiration, making one of his stirring pleas against "apartheid"
in the Union of South Africa. (Chapter VIII)
Toyohiko Kagawa, renowned Japanese reformer and product of Christian
missions, with children of his Matsuzawa Church in Tokyo. (Chapter XI)
Servant of the Poor 207
years, during a career as fabulous as that of Francis of
Assisi, as turbulent as that of St. Paul.
Japan's most prolific author, founder of the empire's co-
operative movement, organizer and director of trade unions,
tireless proponent of farm reform, Kagawa has done a job
which has affected the face of Japan's social order in many
ways. More important, he has been chiefly responsible for
keeping that face from adopting the likeness of Karl Marx.
As early as 1921 he became a target for the Kremlin's
attacks, and he has remained so to this day. "Communism's
only power is to diagnose some of the pathology of dis-
ordered society/' says Kagawa. "It has no cure. It creates
only an infantile paralysis of the social order."
Born out of wedlock, Kagawa was legally adopted by his
father at the age of five and packed off to the untender care
of the philanderer's neglected wife and her indignant mother.
These two embittered women took turns beating the boy.
Only when he was sent away to school at Tokushima did
he learn that there was love and tenderness in the world.
For here he met two American missionary teachers, Dr.
Harry W. Myers and Dr. Charles A. Logan,
Observing the youngster's tortured loneliness, they took
him into their hearts and homes. They taught him to know
that all men are created by a God of love, and that any
person devoting himself to serving his fellow men can work
tremendous changes for good. They put into his hands a
Book that revealed the character of the Christian God. It
was while he was memorizing the Sermon on the Mount that
there was born in Kagawa the passion which became the
rudder of his life: to lift the downtrodden, love the loveless,
serve the oppressed.
208 Adventurers for God
When Toyohiko's family heard he had been baptized in
the Christian faith, he was promptly disinherited. With a
feeling of relief and almost gay abandon, he plunged fu-
riously into studying for the Christian ministry. He overdid
it, and in his second year at Tokyo's Presbyterian College
he was struck down by tuberculosis.
His friends got up a purse and sent him to the seashore
for a year. Sure that he was going to die, he devoted himself
to writing the first draft of a serious novel on assorted
scraps of paper and the backs of can labels. When he had
bundled up this decrepit manuscript he gave himself over
to racking hemorrhages.
But suddenly he decided that heaven would have to wait.
With superhuman effort he roused himself and somehow got
to Tokyo. Later he enrolled, sick as he was, in the Kobe
While studying there, Kagawa found that the seminarians 7
endless concern for technicalities of creed and doctrine palled
on him. Christian ethics to him meant Christian action.
Impatiently he would point to the parable of the Good
Samaritan and demand: "What is there to discuss? Isn*t
this plain enough?" And off he would go to Kobe's infamous
Shinkawa slums, whose tragedies were as poignant to him
as anything on the Jericho road.
Shinkawa was the last word in slums. Into its filthy alleys
and verminous shacks were sardined 11,000 persons, a mis-
erable motley of the poor and unemployed, liberally sprin-
Med with beggars, gamblers, thieves, pimps, and prostitutes.
Here was a laboratory for testing the validity of the Sermon
on the Mount If it would work here, it would work any-
Servant of the Poor 209
On Christinas eve, 1909, Kagawa carted Ms few possessions
from the seminary to Shinkawa's only vacancy, a six-by-six-
foot hut which was available only because it was reputedly
haunted. Here he was to live and work for 15 years. Here
he was to dream his dreams and bring them to life, here de-
velop the ideas and ideals which made him world famous^
here write most of his more than 100 books.
His neighbors were chary at first. Then, as it became plain
that he wanted nothing but a chance to serve them, they
moved in with him the sick, the poverty-stricken, the de-
ranged. When his "guests" ate up Ms monthly seminary
scholarship of $5.50, he became a chimney sweep and pro-
vided another $5 a month. When that was gone he watered
down Ms rice gruel to make it go around.
To occasional visitors he would proudly display Ms parish,
calling it "ray little kingdom of the slums/' When they
called him a fool, he amended it to "Christ's fool" and
gloried in the appellation.
Beggars of the baser sort caught on quickly to the poten-
tials of such a Christian in their midst. One asked for
Kagawa's shirt, and when he got it demanded also Ms coat
and pants quoting Scripture to back his expectations. Ka-
gawa gave them all. Whereupon a reformed prostitute came
to Ms aid with a woman's kimono, wMch he wore about the
streets for days, its flaming red lining arousing raucous mer-
Gamblers and ruffians demanded money of him, and when
he had no more to give they assaulted Mm with stones
and daggers, broke the windows of Ms hut. One knocked
out four of Ms front teeth.
Kagawa never struck back. He eschewed violence, for
210 Adventurers for God
whatever cause. Besides, beneath their filth and roughness
he saw these miserable ones not as degenerates but as
human souls who would respond to Christian love if given
In time they did, flocking to him with their problems,
bringing their children to his Sunday school held in a va-
cant lot, fighting off his attackers, contributing their mites
so that he could help others.
One day a publisher, visiting Shinkawa in search of copy,
called during Kagawa's absence. Poking around the hut he
found the bundle of scrap paper on which Kagawa had writ-
ten his novel while waiting to die. When Kagawa returned
he found a check for advance royalties. "Across the Death
Line" first run as a magazine serial and later issued in book
form, was an instantaneous best seller; some 250,000 copies
were sold in an incredibly short time.
With his first royalties Kagawa added a room to his
hut to serve as dispensary and hospital. To this day he uses
his income now some $50,000 a year to further his Chris-
tian projects, keeping only enough for frugal living.
Amazed that people would buy his writings, Kagawa now
drove himself relentlessly. Here was a way to tell the world
about the slums and fight for the correction of their evils!
But he had no place to work. So, waiting until his "guests"
were asleep, he would sit on the floor among them and write
Soon book after book had thrust him and his flaming ideas
into the Japanese consciousness. When in 1924 his govern-
ment moved to wipe out the slums in Japan's six largest
cities, his writings were given the main credit.
The evolution of Kagawa from simple servant of the poor
Servant of the Poor 211
into social reformer began in 1914 when his friends staked
him to two years of study at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Convinced that poverty made shims, and that the inequities
dealt the laborer made poverty, he entered the labor move-
It was a critical time. Japan's switch from feudalism to
the machine age had begun. But the shiny new machines
were installed in miserable sweatshops without light or air,
and the laborers worked long hours at pittance pay. Sporadic
efforts had been made to organize labor, but any union was
illegal and all agitators were promptly jailed.
Kagawa began writing on the evils of worker exploita-
tion and openly proclaimed, "Laborers are personalities,
not goods to be bought and sold. They must be given the
right to organize."
It was for this right, not for increased wages and shorter
hours, that in 1921 Kobe's thousands of dockyard workers
went on strike. Kagawa had opposed the strike, pleading
for peaceful negotiation. But when they surged up his
alley crying, "Lead us, Kagawa!" he accepted the challenge,
organized them into Japan's first full-fledged labor union.
The police seized him, tearing his clothes and beating
him with a saber, and dragged him off to jail. It was only
after his release, 13 days later, that he learned how effectively
the assiduous Communists had spread word among the
strikers that his insistence on nonviolence stamped him as an
idealistic foolor the employers' tool. The only way to break
down a capitalist was to break up his machines. Secret plans
had been laid for a march of destruction on the shipyards.
The next day some 35,000 men, armed with bricks and
crowbars, came surging down the road toward the largest
212 Adventurers for God
yard. There were no guards to stop them and only one ob-
stacle. Standing on a narrow bridge over which they had to
pass was a solitary figure, blocking their way. The mob
flowed up to the bridge, came to an abashed halt. The fig-
ure did not speak; he simply stood there, praying silently.
It was Kagawa. The men, ashamed, turned and went away.
In 1925, largely because of his influence, the law forbid-
ding unions was repealed.
Meanwhile the sad condition of Japanese farmers was
making fertile soil for Communists. Kagawa proceeded to
write the "farm problem" into his novels, lectured about it
up and down the land.
When in 1921 a deputation of farmers came to his hut to
invite his counsel, he formed them at once into the nucleus
of an agrarian reform movement. In a matter of days he had
started a new magazine, The Soil and Freedom. And in a
few months he had sparked an All- Japan Peasants' confer-
ence, at which was launched the Japan Peasants' union.
Central in this peasant awakening was Kagawa's fathering
of producers' co-operatives. The movement spread like a
brush fire, the flight from the land was arrested, and rural
living took on new dignity as well as some prosperity. BY
1935 virtually all of Japan's 5,500,000 farmers were mem-
bers of co-ops, which included not only wholesaler and con-
sumer groups but those providing medical services, credit,
rural housing, crop insurance.
The long war he waged against the militarists probably
brought him into more oflicial disfavor than his social re-
forms. In 1928 he boldly founded the National Anti-War
League of Japan, declaring flatly against the burgeoning
schemes of the war lords, and organizing an educational
Servant of the Poor 213
campaign in behalf of peace. This league at one time num-
bered tens of thousands of members. But when the military
clique launched the "China incident/' many supporters
fell by the wayside.
Not Kagawa. He flew to China and there, in the ruins of
a Shanghai church, tearfully apologized for the wrongs his
countrymen had done and pleaded for Chinese forgiveness
for himself and his nation. For this the militarists clapped
him into prison when he returned.
As the threat of war with America increased, Kagawa
frantically stepped up his peace efforts and was in and
out of jail repeatedly. The news from Pearl Harbor broke
his heart, and the years 1941-45 were the bleakest and most
tragic of his life.
His great network of co-ops,, with their millions of mem-
bers, were nationalized and regimented; his labor unions
were abolished; his rural rehabilitation projects were jet-
tisoned. Many of the institutions he had founded settle-
ments, orphanages, Christian service centers, chapels were
destroyed in bombing raids. The militarists persuaded him,
"in humanity's name/' to broadcast protests against Ameri-
can obliteration bombing. They made recordings of his
broadcasts, adroitly tacked on inflammatory propaganda,
and beamed them to America, which he had visited often
and where he had many admirers.
Following his doctored broadcasts he was attacked in
the Western press as a warmonger. Most of the jibes were
inspired by a searing attack made on Mm in the Pacific
edition of Stars and Stripes. Based on an interview shortly
after the war, the story carried the headline: ""Under Chris-
tian Guise This Jap Fostered War!"
214 Adventurers for God
Widely quoted in America, the broadside shook church-
men's faith in Kagawa, Its echoes are still being heard.
The attack falls into better perspective when one learns
that both the columnist who wrote the story and his manag-
ing editor were removed from their posts a few weeks later
on the ground that they were close followers of the Commu-
The end of the war found Kagawa, like Japan itself, ex-
hausted and stunned. But he gave himself immediately to
rallying the scattered Japanese Christian community, to
overseeing relief projects, establishing refugee camps and
orphanages, to helping write the chauvinism out of school
texts. And he went up and down the land on incessant
tours of evangelism, feeling that never in history had there
been such a chance to Christianize Japan.
Today, almost blind from trachoma (contracted during
his work in the Kobe slums) and never wholly free from
pain, Kagawa is nevertheless overflowing with energy and
ideas. His books are again best sellers. His co-ops are
stronger and more active than ever before. He directs three
factories turning out products for his co-ops, and has estab-
lished dozens of schools for workers. He sees in such factories
much of Japan's economic hope for the future, and is every-
where promoting small-scale manufacture, winter industry
for rural people, decentralization of urban industry.
Thus this diminutive giant is still preaching to millions
his gospel of love and brotherhood and co-operation. To
men and nations he offers his formula for rich and worthy
living. Rule One is: "Give yourself, freely and without re-
serve, to the service of others."
He has no Rule Two.
Gus Borgeest of Hong Kong
f ? IR JL
The history of mankind relects no principle more
strongly than this: The most potent force on earth for world
betterment is still one-man power. Just trace back to its
source any monumental good in life and see how often you
come to one person who, confronting some need, had the
gumption and imagination to do something about Iton
his own, and without any backing save the shove of his
own compassion. And one of the most striking examples
of this I know is a man named Gus Borgeest of Sunshine
Island, near Hong Kong.
I first heard of the incredible Gus while prowling recently
through the refugee-ridden city of Hong Kong. "A queer
duck, Gus/' said one of my informants. "Worries about peo-
ple." In Hong Kong 670,000 refugees are jammed Into
tiny, disease-breeding cubicles, or sleep in the streets, or
huddle hopelessly in tar paper shacks firetraps without
water, sewers or light. More than 300,000 can find no work,
are dependent upon emergency relief supplied by over-
burdened government and private welfare agencies.
When I asked: Is nobody trying to find more permanent
solutions? I began to hear one answer; "Well, there's Gus
Borgeest/' It was plain that he was something of a legend.
Faced with staggering human misery, he refused to wail
216 Adventurers for God
limply, "What can one man do?" He went out and did it.
Singlehanded and with his own slender funds, he set the
pattern for a government-sponsored rural resettlement
scheme that has brought rehabilitation to many refugee
families and promises hope for many more.
I went in search of the man behind the legend. A choppy
ride aboard a leaky sampan brought me to Sunshine Island,
seven miles west of Hong Kong. Gus was standing on the
beach, barefooted and sun-bronzed, and looking like a mod-
ern Crusoe in shorts and a floppy white hat.
"Welcome to the Isle of Hope'!" he shouted.
It seemed to be just that In striking contrast to Hong
Kong's squatter areas, the island was a humming, happy bee-
hive of activity. Whole families were at work in gardens,
harvesting cabbages, spinach, eggplant, sweet potatoes.
Others were shaping terraces up the rocky hillsides, putting
out fruit trees; still others were herding goats or tending
flocks of ducks.
At that time 23 families, comprising 110 persons, were
on the island. In a few weeks they would be ready for re-
settlement on farms of their own on the mainland, and
newcomers would arrive from the squatter camps to learn
how to turn "marginal" land into productive acres. All had
been drawn from the worst of the squatter camps, or had
sailed their sampans out of Red China via Macau. While
I was there, a small boat bearing a man and wife, four
children and grandmother and all their possessions arrived
after a hazardous escape from the Communists; they were
warmly welcomed and assigned garden plots.
A barefoot ball of fire, Gus Borgeest bounded through
the hills and valleys of his domain, shedding vitality with
Chinese Refugees 9 Best Friend 217
every step. Tagging Mm breathlessly, I thought how aptly
he had been described in Hong Kong: 4< a Simon Legree
whose whip is a vision of hope."
Gus Borgeest has known and loved the Chinese all his
life, hates fiercely the inhuman forces that have swept them
into chains. Born in Shanghai, he is the son of a British-
subject adventurer whose scrambled ancestry goes back to
the Italian noble family, Borghese. For 20 years, until the
Japanese took Shanghai in 1943, Gus worked as a produc-
tion expediter in a British textile factory. During his two-
year internment that followed, a book by Rufus Jones fell
into his hands. The great American Quaker's urgings toward
love and brotherhood fired Gus with what Quakers call a
"concern" of his own for the poor and oppressed. Released
in 1945, he joined the Society of Friends, took as his motto
"My neighbor is my business!"
Gus and his wife Mona were helping impoverished Chi-
nese families set up cottage industries when the Commu-
nists moved in and expelled him. Arriving in Hong Kong
in 1951 with two Hong Kong dollars ( about 34 cents ) , Gus
found work with the government's Vegetable Marketing
Organization and Social Welfare Office. This gave him a
closeup of the refugees' plight. Many, he learned, were
farmers who had abandoned land their families had farmed
for centuries, in deep revulsion against Mao Tse-tung's "agrar-
ian reforms." Centuries of misgovemment, even the Japan-
ese invasion, had not been enough to make them quit their
homes on lands their ancestors had fanned. Yet here they
were in the thousands.
He and Mona spent their spare time roving through the
squatters* camps, talking to the refugees. "What haunted
218 Adventurers for God
me most/' Gus says, "was what the years of dependence upon
charity was doing to their self-respect. Welfare, with the
best of intentions, was subtly enslaving them, as handouts
always do." He began to preach the self-help route to re-
habilitation. "It's never been beaten," he says, "either as
an economic measure or as a restorer of human dignity."
Only land to farm would make these refugees contented
members of society. But where was land? Colony officials,
long inured to frustration, viewed Gus's concern sympa-
thetically but without hope. But one who listened with hope-
ful curiosity was K. M. A. Barnett, District Commissioner
for the New Territories, a hilly area on the Chinese main-
land which was leased from China under an 1898 treaty.
But, as Barnett pointed out, most of it comprised rocky
hillsides or abandoned acres. And these were already sup-
porting 300,000 people. The remaining 305 square miles
not taken by farms and by the cities of Hong Kong and Kow-
loon were nothing but rocky hillsides, barren islands or
abandoned acres in the New Territories. "Marginal land,
we call it," said Barnett. "But I'm afraid it is over the mar-
Gus asked, "If I can find a spot to demonstrate that refu-
gees can be trained to make marginal land productive, will
the government provide land to resettle them?"
Barnett smiled. "Of course, Mr. Borgeest But what back-
ground do you have to teach farming?"
Gus grinned. "Twenty years in a textile factory!"
A few days later, returning from a mercy visit to a nearby
island leper colony, Gus and Mona passed a small abandoned
atoll which showed signs of having once been farmed. He
beached his sampan, paced its 160 acres. The sor was poor,
Chinese Refugees' Best Friend 219
but active springs betokened an adequate water supply. Ex-
citedly he called to his wife, "Mona, this is it!"
While negotiating for the island, Gus pored over books
on marginal-land farming, plagued experts in the Agricul-
ture Department, took counsel from everybody except those
who advised him to forget his dream. Finally, in May 1953,
government officials agreed to let him have the island for an
annual rental of HK$ 148. "We hate to take your money,
Gus/' they said. "Nobody can grow anything but failure on
that barren land."
Less than a week later Borgeest packed his wife, their five-
year-old daughter Naomi and two refugee farmers aboard
a rented sampan and headed for Sunshine Island. The pas-
sengers were wedged in between equipmenttents, cots, a
few tools, food for a week which had eaten severely into
the $700 he had saved during two frugal years as a govern-
ment employe. The first night on the island, four inches of
rain fell, but the next morning Gus and the two men set out
for the fields.
When a fisherman and his family, escapees from Commu-
nist China, put into the island and asked for asylum, Gus's
transport problem was simplified. Soon he took to shuttling
back and forth between the island and Hong Kong, add-
ing a few goats, chickens, geese and rabbits with each
All able-bodied adults put in eight hours in the fields or
helping construct housing. Evening discussions dealt with
farm techniques, sanitation and health, chic responsibility.
Each family was given a thatched hut, beds, soap, three
meals a day plus HK$ 50 a month. The wage did wonders
for the spirit of people who had not earned a dollar in
220 Adventurers for God
years. And hope and hard work in the sun did wonders
for their health.
Before accepting any family, Gus made it plain that Sun-
shine Island was no haven for the lazy. Two virtues were
needed: "yearning for a farm of your own, and a willingness
to work hard." He carefully selected only those who could
adapt themselves to the toil and exposure.
The early months were not easy. A typhoon roared across
the island, ripping off roofs, blowing away the community
kitchen, destroying goat houses and rabbit hutches. Gus
viewed the setback as a disguised blessing. "It brought
much needed rain for our gardens," he proclaimed, "and a
forceful warning that we must rebuild more adequately."
He promptly laid out plans for stone instead of thatched
houses. Only after all his families were settled in sturdy new
homes did he and Mona construct their own rough stone
cottage, grandly naming it "Villa Borghese."
Gus's savings were soon gone.
"Faith was the only operating capital we had," he says.
He set the women to cutting bundles of dry grass, to sell in
Hong Kong for fuel. He sold rabbits and poultry. After two
months his garden plots were producing enough vegetables
for the island. In four months he was saying, "Now I know
it can be done!"
As word of his valiant fight spread, individuals contributed
funds and supplies, offered him interest-free loans until the
island could be made self-supporting. The loans he paid
back meticulously, and to all contributors he rendered a
minutely detailed statement of income and expenditures.
Tin finding," he said, "that if you obligate yourself for
God's children, God will somehow provide." That did not
Chinese Refugees" Best Friend 221
mean idly waiting for miracles. "We can't expect manna
from heaven every 20 minutes; God expects us to do our part
When he ran out of money he ran out to tell more people
about Sunshine Island. Intrigued by his optimism, chic
clubs, social workers, newsmen and others began coming to
Sunshine Island, Proudly Gus displayed the gardens and
herds, the busy people in the fields. Students from Chinese
refugee colleges formed work camps, came to the island to
dig fish ponds, irrigation ditches and water reservoirs.
A contingent of Royal Air Force men gave long week-ends
to helping out.
When social agencies showed interest, Gus told them:
"Why not apply some of your relief funds to sponsoring a
family for training here? 7 * And so the "family sponsorship"
plan got under way. The cost: $27 a month, including the
wage paid. Soon individuals, churches and welfare agencies
were offering to sponsor families.
First to respond to his "family sponsorship 7 ' plan was
Colonel Fred Waller of the Salvation Army, who sent two
families (both are now successfully farming their own acres
in the New Territories). Others were sponsored by individu-
als, one by the Hong Kong welfare society. Most were suc-
cesses in rehabilitation.
But not all. Despite the most careful screening, Gus drew
some duds. Some families, with the best of intentions, could
not adapt themselves to his tough regimen. These he sent
packing. Others had been too long at the public feeding-
trough to resurrect their ambition. "It's a pity/* he told
Mona, **but we can't help people like that."
Kindly and helpful to the industrious, he was trigger-
222 Adventurers for God
tempered with any wlio slacked, often had to tell himself
"not to be so caustic but to pipe down and be more diplo-
To compound his difficulties, the government dragged its
feet in finding land suitable for resettling the trainees. After
more than a year on the island, four of his more promising
families became impatient and left in a body.
Not so discouraging were the number who stayed on the
island long enough to build up their health and self-reliance,
then left to carve out their own future. One, Teng Foo Sang,
acquired enough know-how to take a job as supervisor of
a large farm owned by a relative. Others were snapped
up by agricultural interests. A fisher family who had fled
Red China, its faith in free enterprise restored, earned
enough to buy a new boat and joined Hong Kong's big
fishing fleet at Aberdeen.
One of Borgeest's side projects, not strictly related to
prospective farmers, was his rehabilitation of drug addicts,
attempted suicides, post-tuberculosis cases, cured lepers in
need of reorientation before facing again the society that had
Visiting a Hong Kong hospital one day, Gus was shown
a little tailor. Fleeing Communist China, the man had lost
his family and possessions and, finding no work in Hong
Kong, had tried to poison himself. When the hospital al-
moner said, "I hate to release this poor fellow; he'll only
try again to kill himself," Gus replied, "Let me take him."
He put the man to work weeding the gardens, doing odd
jobs, gradually pumped new hope into his mind. After six
months, the tailor was set up in his own shop in a village
in the New Territories, happy and prospering. Says Gus;
Chinese Refugees' Best Friend 223
"Contact with friendliness., good food and the good earth
turned the trick.'*
Another would-be suicide, a formerly prosperous sugar
merchant from Shanghai who had lost his family to the
Communists, also received the successful Borgeest treat-
ment; he was soon completely rehabilitated,
Drug addicts were tougher to rehabilitate. With dope
plentiful in Hong Kong, many disheartened refugees turned
to it for release from their misery. Gus's prescription for
those who wished to conquer the habit; "Hard work, sweat
and sleep in that order."
Those who took his cure found it worked. For example,
there was the stevedore who had lost both his job and his
family because of opium-smoking. Desperate, he paddled
seven miles to the island, told Borgeest, "I must master this
thing!" Gus assigned him to the heaviest work he had, dig-
ging irrigation ditches from early morning till dark. The man
stayed three months, gradually sweated the poison from his
system. He became a skilled farmer, producing more and
better products than any other, and now is happily settled,
with his family, on a farm of his own.
Another case was an elderly lady, 20 years an addict. Her
daughter, a student nurse in a Kowloon hospital, said, "She
shames me," begged Gus to accept her on the island. Bluntly
Gus told the mother, "You must promise to stay here for six
months and work hard ever) 7 waking minute."
The old lady snapped, 'This is jail! I go back."
Gus shrugged, "As you like, madam. We have no police;
nobody will stop you. But if you go, I've told your daughter
to have no more to do with you."
The old lady mulled it over, finally said, "All right. I
224 Adventurers for God
stay." She did for over a year; conquered her habit, even-
tually paid her own board and lodging. At her daughter's
graduation, they clasped each other, said in the same breath,
"I'm so proud of you!"
Gus's remarkable success with such cases could have
changed the whole character of his work, if he had let it.
Special welfare agencies, swamped with maladjusted per-
sons, continually besought him for help. His reply: *Tm glad
to take them when we have room. But I must stick to my
original purpose resettling refugees. I've got a point to
By September 1954, after an almost superhuman struggle
to keep his project alive, Gus received word that his success
had been closely observed in Hong Kong. Private and public
agencies had devised a sweeping refugee program based on
three points: (1) financing, (2) training of refugees, (3)
permanent resettlement. Sunshine Island, which had showed
the way, was to be the prime implementer of the second
Church World Service, backed by funds from Americans,
was first to act, placing 11 sponsored families on the island
for six months' training. The United Church of Canada
With every private gift or unexpected bonanza he brought
in another family or introduced a new planting project.
When a cynical friend groused that "y ou>re wasting your
time trying to help those down-and-out refugees," Gus took
him to the island, showed him what was going on and
the doubter left behind him enough money to put in a
grove of 1000 papaya trees.
Meanwhile the government speeded its survey of land
Chinese Refugees' Best Friend 225
available for resettlement. To his friends and sponsors, Gus
sent out a lilting bulletin: "What we have been struggling
toward for so long is about to come to fruition . . ." On
Sunshine Island new housing and gardens, orchards, water
systems and fish ponds sprang into being. With his refugees
now wresting rich harvests from the unpromising soil, the
"island earnings" item in his reports showed a sharp up-
turn. When sponsors objected that nothing was charged out
for "administration," Gus voted the Borgeests a salary of
$33 a month and promptly put it back into the island kitty
under "anonymous donation/'
To be sure his trainees would have a place to go, he
constantly needled Colony officials to complete their survey
of resettlement acreage, spent days traipsing through the
New Territories, conferring with village elders in likely sites.
By the end of February 1956 the first group of sponsored
trainees, with other families he had nourished on his own,
were ready for resettlement on government-selected land in
the New Territories a plateau called Cheung Sheung. Two
acres were set aside for each family, and each was supplied
with a cow, farm and domestic equipment, seed and fer-
tilizer and a small cash allowance.
Like a tough but solicitous top sergeant curious to know
his squad's battlefitness after rugged basic training, Gus
accompanied the families to Cheung Sheung, helped them
get settled, went back weekly to check their progress.
Even he could not expect more. In a few weeks they had
their acres cleared and tilled, orchards planted, permanent
stone houses built, and were eating their fill from food
their own hands had coaxed from the rocky soil.
Moreover, the newcomers revived hope in the area's old
226 Adventurers for God
settlers. Eager to keep up with the new Joneses, many of
these fell upon their fields with renewed zeal. One who had
been on the verge of heeding Communist pressure to move
to Red China, said, "My new neighbors' example made me
lose face. The fault was not in the land but in me." Today
he is Cheung Sheung's ablest exponent of "capitalistic farm-
Under Gus's direction the settlers created their own village
organization to represent them before the government. Their
first victory: winning the promise that their acres, for which
they paid a rental of HK$ 8 a year, would become theirs
forever after 10 years of successful occupancy.
In May, 1956, Hong Kong's governor, Sir Alexander
Grantham, visited Cheung Sheung and was amazed at what
he saw. He and his staff plied Gus with questions, began to
wonder if marginal-land farming might not be the most
encouraging answer to the refugee problem. They estimated
that Hong Kong Colony, for aU its limited space, could in
time resettle at least 1000 families.
District Commissioner Barnett told me, "There is a Chi-
nese fable about an old man who had to cross a hill every
day. Each day he took a stone in each hand from the top of
the hill to the bottom. Asked why, he said, Tm moving
this hill. Not in my lifetime, perhaps not in my son's, but
in time, by doing what we can, this hill will be gone/ That's
the lesson Gus Borgeest has taken to heart.
"Our problem, as Gus sees it, is a problem of human be-
ings and of the earth. Neither submits easily to master plans,
but both respond to love and tender care. Hasn't Gus proved
that his approach succeeds where more ambitious schemes
Chinese Refugees' Best Friend 227
One of the new settlers gravely told the governor: "Sir,
owning one's own land, managing one's own affairs, does
something to a man. Such cannot be achieved, or even under-
stood, by those who are content to let the government fill
their rice bowls for them."
One of the many Americans who have visited Sunshine
Island is Prof. Theodore Herman of Colgate University. He
reports: "Sunshine Island is such a small drop in a vast sea
of despair that it may seem to have no measurable impact
on the refugee problem. But I keep remembering that every
vision and act that has caught the allegiance of others began
with one personnot with a committee, a society, or a con-
gregation. Sunshine Island by itself may never solve the re-
fugee problem anywhere, but if Gus can keep going finan-
cially and physically, his demonstration of faith in that part
of God within every man might convince more humans to do
likewise or even to help solve human problems before they
cause more refugees.
"Gus Borgeest does not differ from most of us in believing
that God calls us to a life of loving service. He does differ
from most of us in having acted on that belief."
Five Missionary Martyrs in Ecuador
(jrafes 01 Splendor
On January 9, 1956, teletypes in newsrooms all over the
world began clacking out the first fragmentary accounts of
one of the most daring Christian missionary exploits of mod-
Reported missing were five young American missionaries
who, deep in Ecuador's tangled jungles, had been carrying
out a secret and ingeniously planned campaign to make
friendly contact with one of the most savage Stone Age tribes
left on earth the Auca Indians. Three days before, they had
made that contact, the first white men ever to do so. They
had radioed their base, "This is a great day for the advance
of the gospel in Ecuador!"
A few days later, when rescue parties finally reached the
camp the missionaries had set up on a Curaray River beach
in the heart of Auca territory, the five bodies were found-
pierced by spears and strewn like driftwood amid the river's
debris. On their bodies and scattered over the shambled
beach were water-soaked diaries detailing their adventure.
The story, occupying front pages for days, quickly took
on the flavor of an epic. It was an inspiring reminder that
the peculiar power and God-given courage which historically
have spread Christianity to earth's every remote corner are
still very much alive. And still triumphant.
Through Gates of Splendor 229
"Operation Auca," as the five had dubbed it, began on
a brilliantly clear day back in September 1955, when the
pilot of a Protestant missionary air group serving a string of
jungle mission stations in Ecuador took off on an emergency
call. The missionary at Arajuno had radioed that he had a
sick Quechua Indian boy and needed an injection syringe-
As he swung his tiny plane away from his base at Shell
Mera, 100 miles south of Quito in the Andes foothills, Nate
Saint noted with satisfaction the unusual clearness of the sky.
Visibility, normally much limited by haze, was at least 75
miles an ideal day to go exploring.
Thirty minutes of flying brought him to the pencil-thin
slash in the jungle that was the Arajuno station. Strapping
young Ed McCully, in charge there, was waiting for Mm.
A football and track star back at Wheaton College in Illinois,
McCully had been president of his senior class, and was
studying law at Marquette when he felt called to missionary
Ed grinned. "Sorry, Nate," he said. "Looks like I brought
you out here for nothing. Emergency's past."
Nate shrugged; it was all in the day's work. But when the
routine supplies and mail were unloaded, he pulled McCully
aside from the Quechuas mining about the plane.
"Say, Ed," he whispered, "how about going to look for
'the neighbors'?" McCull/s brow went up. "Right!" he said
"The neighbors" were the Aucas, a tribe so vicious that
even the head-hunting Jivaros feared to enter their territory.
Exactly where and how they lived, nobody knew for sure.
Books and articles mentioning them were a confusion of
230 Adventurers for God
contradictions. Well known, however, was the fact that they
hated all strangers, that they went through the jungle like
vengeful wraiths, flinging their needle-sharp hardwood spears
with deadly accuracy, spreading terror among other tribes.
Masters of ambush, they had a long and bloody record of
The government left the Aucas severely alone; attempts to
reach them had cost too many lives. Only missionaries felt
any urge to get near them. But among the missionaries the
desire to win the Aucas had for years been a passionate pre-
occupation. To Christian pioneers who took seriously the
command "Go ye ... to every creature," the Aucas' very
unreachability, as well as their "lostness" without Christian
light, was a continuing challenge.
Neither Nate Saint nor Ed McCully had any idea how the
tribe could be reached. On hundreds of flights to the mission
stations he served Nate had searched in vain for some sign
of Auca habitation. But now, on a crystal-clear day like
this . . .
Nate and Ed leapt into the Piper and took off. They headed
east for 50 miles, then north toward the Napo, one of the
Amazon's headwaters. Faces pressed against the plexiglass,
they peered down into the endless stretches of jungle,
Suddenly, just as their gas was getting low, Nate caught
sight of a blemish in the jungle pattern. The blemish grew
into a well-defined pockmark, then into a good-sized clear-
ing. He nudged McCully, jabbed a forefinger downward.
Circling, they counted 15 small clearings and as many houses.
It was the first Auca settlement they had ever seen, and it
left them breathless with elation.
Through Gates of Splendor 231
A few days later they confided their find to two other
young missionaries: Jim Elliot, whose station was at Shandia,
and Pete Fleming at Puyu Pungu. Both had shared the "Auca
dream" with Saint and McCully.
On September 29 Nate made four other exploratory flights,
hoping to find a settlement nearer Arajuno. On one he took
along two Quechua Indian guides, not telling them the
purpose of the flight. Suddenly while zigzagging through a
jungle valley he spotted some clearings, drifted down for a
closer look. The Indians immediately cried, "Aucas!" Terror
tinged their voices.
To himself Nate said exultantly, "This is it!"
By October 1 he had made enough trips over the region to
mark the spot as unquestionably a sizable Auca settlement
and only 15 minutes by air from Arajuno. That night the
young missionaries got together at Shell Mera and sprawled
on the living-room floor with a big map spread out before
them. They had decided that "the Lord's time" had come to
do something more than talk and dream about contacting
The excited planning went on most of the night and pro-
duced some firm decisions. The first was: strict secrecy. They
would finance the project from their own pockets, not draw
on mission funds. Only members of the team and wives were
to be in the know. Their reasons were sound: if word of
the operation got abroad, droves of explorers and adven-
turers, newsmen and photographers might try to get into the
act. Then at the first sign of Auca hostility someone would
start shooting "and set back the missionary effort among
these people for decades."
There had been tragic precedents which made the mis-
232 Adventurers for God
sionaries wary of joining forces with men who had no love
or special regard for the Aucas. Five years before, an expe-
dition led by a Swedish explorer and a Columbia scientist-
accompanied by newspaper fanfare and employing a mission-
ary guide had come to grief. As the party approached on
their balsa rafts, it was ambushed at a narrow bend in the
river. At first sight of the Aucas, a Quechua porter had
opened fire. Several in the party had been wounded when
the Aucas routed it with flying spears.
To further insure secrecy the five young missionaries de-
vised code terms, for use when others were around or when
communicating over the missions' short-wave radios. The
Aucas were to be called "the neighbors/' their region <c the
neighborhood." The Auca settlement was to be "Terminal
City"; the beach where the missionaries would land and set
up the contact camp, "Palm Beach." Moreover, each man
would carry on his regular mission work up to the last min-
ute to avoid arousing curiosity among the Indians and other
To soften up Auca hostility, they would start with a long,
cautious campaign of air-borne friendliness. Regular weekly
flights would be made over the Auca village, low enough
to drop gifts and shout friendly greetings but high enough
to outrange Auca spears. For that, the small Piper Family
Cruiser would be ideal.
"The Shell Company people once tried dropping gifts,'*
Nate commented. "But the Aucas, apparently scared by the
2000-horsepower transport roaring over at low level, threw
lances at the plane. Captive Aucas later explained that they
thought the gifts fell from the plane's stomach as a result of
being wounded by the lances."
Through Gates of Splendor 233
For bestowing their gifts Nate Had developed a tricky
technique. He called it "the spiraling-Hne method/' After
long search for some simple way of making a sustained air-
ground contact, he discovered it one day in 1500 feet of
fishing line and a small canvas bucket. Experimentally pay-
ing out the line while circling at 1000 feet, he found to his
amazement that he could make the bucket hang vertically
and almost motionless. Then, by gradually spiraling lower,
he could set it down with reasonable accuracy. He had
already used this method for lowering medicines and mail
to jungle clearings, and for picking up messages from mis-
sionaries on the trail.
Once he had astounded a missionary in a remote jungle
village by lowering a field telephone in the canvas bucket.
The village was being swept by a highly contagious disease,
and when the incredulous missionary picked up the tele-
phone Nate asked for details of the situation. Then, using
his plane radio, he called a mission hospital 150 miles away,
asked for diagnosis and instructions, and lowered the pre-
scribed medicines then and there. The whole operation took
a matter of minutes and the epidemic was stopped.
This simple 'life line from the skies" had proved a great
boon to mission outposts. Now it seemed to be "God's an-
swer" for Operation Auca.
But how about communication with the Aucas? So far as
was known, there was only one member of the tribe available
who remembered the language a girl named Dayuma, who
years before had fled from the tribe after seeing her father,
brother and baby sister hacked to death in an intertribal
row. The girl knew the Quechua tongue, so Jim and Betty
Elliot, who spoke it fluently, were assigned to assemble from
234 Adventurers for God
her a stock of Auca words and phrases, then drill the others
in their usage.
The first gift drop was scheduled for Thursday, October 6.
To understand their powerful compulsion to reach the
hitherto unreached with the Gospel or die in the attempt
it is necessary to know these men more intimately.
Nathaniel Saint, at 32, was the "old man" of the group.
Also, he had been longest in Ecuador: seven years. He re-
ceived a thorough religious training from his father, Law-
rence B. Saint, noted muralist and stained-glass artist. Sig-
nificantly, Nate had been his father's model for the window
in Washington's National Cathedral depicting a small boy
bringing his loaves and fishes to Christ for the feeding of
the multitude. At 13, stricken with osteomyelitis, young Nate
promised God that "if He would let me live, my life would
henceforth belong to Him." Recovered, he kept his bargain.
Planes early became his passion. In high school he worked
afternoons and Saturdays to earn money for flying lessons,
and during World War II he served in the U.S. Air Force.
When he went to Wheaton College to prepare himself for
foreign-mission service his only regret was that it meant
forsaking his first love flying. Then one day news came that
some ex-service airmen in California had formed a group
called the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, and were recruit-
ing pilots who were also mechanics for air supply-line service
to missionaries in bush and jungle. To Nate the news was
the voice of God. He dropped his college course and hurried
to California. "The Lord called me from aviation to Him-
self," he said later "and then sent me back to aviation for
Through Gates of Splendor 235
The Missionary Aviation Fellowship needed a man to pio-
neer its program in Ecuador. Nate, with his wife Marjorie,
flew down in September 1948, established a base for his small
plane at Shell Mera, on the edge of the jungle. He soon had
a network of landing strips and radio communications (with
Marj at the base radio hookup and in touch with him con-
stantly), and in a matter of months had transformed life for
the mission stations. Where missionaries once had been iso-
lated and remote, sometimes bedridden for weeks with jungle
diseases, they now were within a half hour's flying time of
transportation between stations or ambulance service, and
got quick delivery of mail, medicines, supplies.
Nate developed extraordinary skill in getting in and out of
jungle airstrips, many scarcely wide enough to keep his wing
tips from brushing the trees. He had no illusions about the
dangers of such jungle-hopping. "Every time I take off," he
said, "I am ready to deliver up the life I owe to God." He
came close to delivering it up one day when, in taking off
from the Quito airport, a sudden downdraft from the moun-
tains hurled his light Stinson plane to the ground. In the
crash his back was broken, his eyes blinded. Yet, when his
sight returned a few weeks later, he hastened back to his
work while still encased from neck to thighs in a cast. Mean-
while, from his hospital bed, lest his accident prove a setback
for missionary aviation he had made a tape-recording for the
people back home:
"It's only logical," he told them, "for conservatives to say,
'Lefs quit this foolish risk of life/ They would see it differ-
ently if they knew the chances taken for God every day by
these missionaries in the jungle. We in missionary aviation
must always take the safest and sanest course, never being
236 Adventurers for God
reckless. But we cannot be less courageous than these brave
people in the field. 57
Nate Saint had his theories on expendability, learned dur-
ing the war. "God Himself set the pattern/' he said, "and
if He did not hold back His own Son, why should we hold
back our own little lives for the sake of security? We are
and must always be expendable." And in his diary he wrote,
"The Aucas kill on sight, but someone must take the Gospel
to them. Beyond their territory are other souls for whom
Like Nate Saint, the others were young, full of vigor and
spiritual drive. There was nothing ascetic or anti-life about
them. In college all had been campus leaders, top scholars,
Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming and Ed McCully had many
things in common. They were all products of homes where
religious faith was daily bread and spreading the Gospel
a divine duty; they were members of the same fellowship
(Plymouth Brethren), arrived in Ecuador the same year
(1952), were sponsored by the same foreign-missions group
(Christian Missions in Many Lands).
Before coming to Ecuador this trio's paths had crossed
often, as youth leaders on campus and in Christian youth
activity. They developed a common feeling for Latin Amer-
ica as a place to invest their lives, and all felt, soon after
arrival in Ecuador, a God-impelled urge to "get to" the
Of the three, Jim Elliot was first to contract "the Ecuador
itch/* and shortly passed the enthusiasm along. Unusually
handsome and well-built, and only 28 when he died, he had
an exuberant zest for living. "Wherever you are, be all there,'*
Through Gates of Splendor 237
he once wrote; "live to the hilt every situation you believe
to be the will of God." At Wheaton College he was a cham-
pion wrestler, a star debater and public speaker, the out-
standing spiritual leader on campus, and he graduated with
highest honors. He went to Ecuador in February 1952,
and there later married Betty Howard, daughter of a former
At jungle mission stations, Erst at Puyu Pungu, then at
Shandia on the banks of the Napo River, Jim and Betty not
only spread the Gospel but in addition did medical and first-
aid work: splinting broken arms, treating malaria and snake
bites, teaching the Quechuas sanitation. They also compiled
textbooks in the Quechua tongue, then taught the Quechuas
to read and write their own language.
But Jim Elliot was preoccupied with the Aucas, and had
frankly talked over with Betty the hazards of reaching them.
He loved life, had once written effusively, "I love thee, Life
not because thou art long but because I have thee from
God." He had often preached to his Quechuas, "When it
comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!"
The last entry in his diary read: "God, send me soon to the
Youngest of the team was Peter Fleming only 27 when
he died on the Curaray beach. Fervently religious, he was
more introspective than the others. He had an impressive
knowledge of the Bible. Beside his picture in his high-school
yearbook he put this slogan: "I don't know what the future
holds but I know Who holds the future." At the University
of Washington he was an honor student. He loved the lan-
guage sciences, in 1951 took his M.A. in English. At his
mission station at Puyu Pungu he quickly mastered the
238 Adventurers for God
Quechua dialects, and with his wife, Olive, had a lively lit-
eracy program going among the Indians.
But Pete, too, became intensely interested in getting to
the Aucas. In college he had been a conscientious objector,
seeing no way to reconcile the Christian doctrine of love
with the killing of one human being by another. Yet he had
no fear of death for himself; his dedication to Operation
Auca was complete.
Of the four, Ed McCully had the best reasons for sober
second thoughts over the Auca enterprise. For over a year
he and his wife, Marilou, had been working with the Que-
chuas at Arajuno on the very doorstep of Auca-land. Ara-
juno was an old Shell Oil camp, abandoned when it was
found that more blood than oil flowed from the site.
The Auca attacks did not subside with Arajuno's switch
from oil to Gospel base. To lessen the danger, McCully had
cleared the jungle growth back from the mission house,
erected an electric fence to discourage raiders, put up a
battery-operated light that could flood the area at first sound
of approach. Yet, despite all these precautions, a half dozen
Quechuas had been slain by the Aucas during his stay. It
was the Aucas 5 hostility, in fact, that made Ed McCully anx-
ious to reach them with news of God's love.
Such, then, were the men who, in a spirit lifted right out
of the Acts of the Apostles, fashioned their bold odyssey to
They were not perfect, these men. They freely acknowl-
edged their weaknesses and foibles. Nate Saint had his
battles with frustration, Pete Fleming his bouts with a ten-
dency toward too-hasty judgment of others. Jim Elliot was
prone to plunging in where angels feared to tread not
Gus Borgeest, indomitable Quaker, stands on the shore of his "isle of
hope" in Hong Kong to welcome another family of escapees arriving by
sampan from Communist China. (Chapter XII)
Borgeest inspects a vegetable field on Sunshine Island,
where refugee Chinese find a haven and a new life.
A month before landing on the Curaray
River deep in the Auca territory of Ecuador,
the participants in Operation Auca were in-
troduced to the savage tribe by photographs
dropped from the missionary plane. The
"insignia of the operation/' a sketch of the
yellow Piper Cruiser, appeared on the pic-
tures, and the missionaries were photo-
graphed holding gifts received earlier from
the Indians. (Chapter XIII)
Through Gates of Splendor 241
always pausing to consider whether the angels had good
ground for their fears. Ed McCully fought "pride of accom-
plishment'' and "thoughts of sin" which, he found, "Satan is
ever ready to inject at every idle moment, perhaps right at
the close of a very intimate period with God."
But if they were not perfect, neither were they petty. In
all the accounts of Operation Auca there is no hint of any
jousting for leadership, any panting for preferment, any
pouting over position. Their consecration to their task was
constant. And they were eager to profit from any mistakes as
they went along. As Nate Saint put it: "If we humbly seek
His will in any matter, crucifying our own desires, and ven-
ture by faith and not in fear, we can't go wrong."
It was with high faith, and not fear, that Nate Saint and
Ed McCully took off from Arajuno, early on October 6, to
make their first gift drop. On the Arajuno strip Ed was wait-
ingwith the first gift for the Aucas, a small aluminum kettle
with a lid. Inside were about 20 brightly colored buttons
"obviously not for their clothes, since they don't wear any,
but they do make good ornaments." Having read that the
Aucas had no salt sources of their own, Nate insisted on
adding a little sack of rock salt. "If they know what the stuff
is good for, we're sure to make friends." To the gifts they
attached some yard-long streamers, brightly colored.
They loaded their emergency equipment, rigged the spe-
cial gift-drop gear, made a test run to be sure they could
get the rig overboard and took off. In 15 minutes they were
over "Terminal City." Keeping to the downstream edge of
the Auca territory so that if they had a forced landing they
could escape by water, they eventually found a cluster of
242 Adventurers for God
buildings that interested them: a large thatched house sur-
rounded by several smaller ones. 'The main house/' Nate
reported later, "was about 40 yards from the stream, fronting
a sand bar perhaps 75 yards long and 15 yards wide. A path
showed they used this bar frequently it would be our
target. There was not a living person in sight."
Nate slowed to 55 m.p.h. while Ed lowered the gift over
the side. It was an aluminum kettle, to which were attached
some yard-long, brightly colored streamers. The line dropped
straight and clear, and Nate began circling. The gift drifted
in a small, lazy circle below diem, the ribbons fluttering
There was still no sign of life below. "If no one's watch-
ing," Ed shouted, "we'd better put it in an obvious place."
They started spiraling down. There was considerable wind
drift from the north, and the hills behind the stream were
covered with tall trees. They made six attempts, gradually
lifting the bucket against the wind until it was over the bar.
Then Nate rolled into a steeper turn and the gift hit the
beach right on the path to the main house.
The automatic release mechanism Nate had developed
worked perfectly, the line floated free -"and there was our
messenger of good will, love and faith, below us on the
sand bar! We had delivered the first Gospel message by sign
language to a people a quarter of a mile away vertically,
50 miles horizontally, but continents and wide seas away
culturally and spiritually."
Back home, exuberant at their success, Nate and Ed met
some good-humored skepticism when they confessed they
hadn't seen a soul. Were they sure they hadn't deposited the
gift in a deserted village? But the pair's enthusiasm was
Through Gates of Splendor 243
damp-proof. They knew that, at long last, a start had been
Their second trip, a week later, dispelled any notion that
Terminal City was without habitants. They immediately
checked the sand bar where they had left their first offering.
The kettle was gone.
This time the gift was a new machete an item so coveted
by the Aucas that they had killed to get it and their target
a house upstream from the first one. "We figured that if we
specialized on any one house, the others might get jealous."
When they got to the target-house, they spotted four canoes
pulled up on the riverbank in front of it. Obviously, someone
must be nearby.
They began circling and Ed lowered the machete, which
was canvas-wrapped so that no one would be cut, and decked
with gay streamers. Ed watched its descent through binocu-
lars. Suddenly, as Nate described it later, "He let out a yell
and all but crawled out the open door to get a better look.
We were seeing our first Auca. tie was running around but
not hiding. Pretty soon there were three of them out in
front of their big leaf house.'*
They could see the Aucas watching the dangling gift as it
came down. The machete fell into the stream, and instantly
an Auca dived for it. Soon half a dozen of them were on
the bank examining the prize. Apparently the gift idea had
caught on in a hurry.
There was other evidence that "the neighbors" were inter-
ested. Back at Arajuno, Nate and Ed found the Quechuas
milling about excitedly. They had found in the brush near
Ed's house a number of footprints, obviously Aucas'. Said
Ed, "Could be that these came from Terminal City, after
244 Adventurers for God
our first visit." Said Nate, "They probably hid out there in
the brush to look you over last night!"
Immediately the two fell to work making a wooden model
of the plane, put it on a pole outside the McCully house, to
identify for any future visitors McCully's connection with the
Their third visit a week later revealed larger numbers of
Aucas, increased excitement among them and no signs of
fear. Coming down to a lower altitude than before, Nate
circled each of the four main houses of the village while Ed
snapped pictures of the Aucas running up and down the
stream bed laughing and shouting, apparently trying to guess
where the gift drop would be made this time.
A snappy northeast wind made accurate spotting of the
machete difficult Several times when the gift was lowering
near them, the Aucas would scramble helter-skelter in that
direction, then off to another as it drifted out of reach. They
laughed and shouted, obviously considering it a game.
Finally, after a couple of near misses, Ed set the machete
down within 10 feet of the main house's front door. The
Aucas had it immediately, holding to the line for several
minutes while untying the machete. Ed shouted, "Hey, get
this thrill-holding onto a line held on the other end by an
Auca!" Nate rolled out of a turn and reached over, gave the
line a couple of light tugs. "Man, that's fishing!" he shouted
The line pulled in, they circled down lower than they had
been before. The idea was to fly past the Aucas to give them
a close look at their faces for purposes of identification
later. At 200 feet they tossed out a piece of ribbon, "and
a brown man had it like a spider takes a fly." A few of the
Through Gates of Splendor 245
villagers ran for cover as the plane came so low, but reap-
peared waving as the Piper circled slowly higher and higher
before leaving the site.
The two returned home jubilant, "May God continue to
put His good hand on this project," Nate wrote in his diary
that night, "and may we abandon it when not fully assured
of His direction. At present we feel unanimously that God is
Now they were prepared to try out verbal communication.
Nate rigged up a public-address system in the plane, and
Jim Elliot, who had drilled himself in Auca phrases learned
from Dayuma, the fugitive woman, went with Nate for the
Before making their gift drop they circled slowly over the
settlement, while Jim called over the speaker, "We like you.
We are your friends." This time they left several gifts a
machete, a ten-inch aluminum kettle filled with ribbons,
trinkets, a shirt. The Indians converged on them with obvi-
ous delight, and one Auca cupped his hands as though call-
ing something back. The missionaries were making faster
progress than they had believed possible.
On the next trip their reception was even more favorable.
McCully manned the mike to call out, "We like you. . . .
We like you. . . . We have come to pay you a visit." The
Aucas danced about eagerly, and though the plane came
down low no one ran away, none showed the slightest fear.
When Ed held out both hands in a gesture of open friend-
ship, some of the Aucas imitated the gesture, shouting and
Thus encouraged, the team began to consider the next
step the actual landing in Auca territory, the face-to-face
246 Adventurers for God
contact all had dreamed of. And from then on significant
signs of friendliness were certainly not lacking.
On the sixth trip "the neighbors" received their gifts with
great excitement, waving and yelling at the plane circling
above. When Nate and Ed pulled in the line, they discovered
that the Aucas had tied something on it. It was a beautifully
woven headband, made of cord and brightly colored feath-
ers. And on the next trip the Aucas sent up two sets of combs
made of palmwood, whittled and woven intricately with
native cord. Even more surprising was the appearance of a
model airplane mounted atop one of the houses. Perhaps it
was fashioned after secretly observing the model plane at
Arajuno. In any case it indicated good will and a craftsman-
ship hitherto unsuspected among such primitives.
The team noted the Aucas' reaction to bright colors. So
they rifled their own wardrobes for the fanciest haberdashery
available: a red-and-black checked shirt, gaudy shorts, red
swimming trunks. These the Aucas donned upon delivery,
and paraded proudly about the clearing. "These fellows/'
commented Nate wryly, "will be diked out like dudes before
we get to meet them on the ground!"
To an elderly man who stalked like a potentate about a
separate clearing of his own, accompanied always by two
women, they dropped a T-shirt and a pair of Jim's pants.
On the next trip Nate suggested, "Let's go by and see how
the old boy liked his new pants." As the plane came over,
the old man strode out into the clearing, clad in the pants
and T-shirt, and saluted gravely. His wives stood stolidly
by, dubiously eyeing their man's sartorial get-up. "One wore
a baby, the other nothing," Nate noted.
The Aucas now even attempted to match the missionaries'
Through Gates of Splendor 247
bounty in kind. When Nate and Ed sent down a live rooster,
the Aucas came back the following week with a large black
bird, and later sent up two parrots. When the missionaries
lowered several small packages of food, the Aucas sent back
cooked fish, packets of peanuts, a piece of smoked monkey
The unique trading went on for another five weeks. To
make their identity unmistakable, the team took photos of
themselves wearing or holding the Auca gifts, made 6x9 en-
largements tinted in lifelike colors. In the corner of each
print they put the "insignia of the operation/' a drawing of
the yellow Piper, and dropped them along with their next
Meanwhile the Aucas, noting the difficulty of making drops
among the tall trees, felled the trees around their houses to
make clearings. Going even further, they erected large plat-
forms about 15 feet from the ground palpably to aid the
missionaries in getting closer stationed a "traffic director"
on each, and here displayed their gifts for the pickup.
Shortly after this development Aucas appeared at Arajuno.
Early one morning a mission Quechua named Fermin sud-
denly spotted one of them, naked and armed with a lance,
at the end of the garden path. As they saw each other, the
Auca ran away. Fermin dashed back to the mission and
beat on Marilou McCully's window (she being alone there
at the time save for Indian helpers), yelling for ammunition
for his gun.
Marilou took the gun, which fortunately was not loaded,
from Fermin's shaking hands. Then, with a machete for a
gift, she headed down the path, calling in Auca phrases:
"We like you. . . . We like you." Fermin came after her,
248 Adventurers for God
shouting in Quechua, "You're crazy, you're crazy. They'll
Around the path, freshly pressed grass indicated the re-
cent presence of a number of Aucas. Marilou tossed the ma-
chete to the ground, called out more friendly phrases, and
returned to her agitated flock. There was no doubt about it:
Aucas were definitely around.
Nate and Ed, hastily summoned from other stations, flew
in and saw in the visit a lost opportunity to contact the
Aucas. They also realized that a shooting by one of the
Quechuas would ruin all they had built up so far.
The incident underscored the desirability of making an
early ground contact with the Aucas. Despite elaborate pre-
cautions to keep the operation secret, the Quechuas had by
now shrewdly guessed what was going on. Two of them
had even found one of the gift bags, and remarked testily,
"Why you give all that good stuff to Aucas?" Their jealousy
was aroused, and they would certainly gossip. Action was
advisable before the secret leaked further through the jungle.
And after nine increasingly successful gift drops the time
Early in December Nate called the team together for a
conference. They agreed that every consideration, including
the weather, seemed to be catapulting them toward their
D-day with now-or-never exigency. Within a month the
rainy season would start, flooding the rivers and making
landings impossible. The ideal time for establishing their
beachhead in Auca-land would be early January during the
full of the moon.
They set the date for Tuesday, January 3, 1956.
Through Gates of Splendor 249
The only possible landing sites were sand beaches along
the Curaray River. After days of exploration, Nate and Ed
had found one that looked likely, some four miles from the
Auca village. It was only about 200 yards long, and the ap-
proach and pull-out would be steep until they could fell a few
trees. But it was possible, and the sand seemed firm and
pebbly. This, then, would be "Palm Beach."
Should they carry in firearms? It was a delicate question.
They knew that the first shot fired would scuttle the entire
project. Yet it would be criminally naive to go in totally un-
It was claimed that no one carrying a gun was ever at-
tacked; the Aucas apparently had a healthy regard for this
strange weapon. "The handier the revolver," Nate argued,
"the less chance of a hostile encounter." The team finally
agreed to take guns along but keep them out of sight, use
them only in direst emergency, and then only to frighten
the savages if attacked.
They planned to allow five days for the beachhead effort
If it failed in that time they could leave by air, barring
floods, in which case a crew of Quechuas could come down-
river for them in canoes. They would bring in a prefabricated
tree-house and stock it with food for two weeks. This would
allow a few days' margin if a state of siege developed.
Another thing: they needed a fifth man. Once the beach-
head was established, one should guard the tree-house at all
times, two should patrol the beach, another should attend
to the supplies and cooking, with Nate on whatever in-and-
out flight duty was required.
Marj Saint produced a list of available missionaries in the
area. The team pored over it. Nate's finger ran down the list,
250 Adventurers for God
stopped at the name of Roger Youderian, of the Gospel Mis-
sionary Union. "What about Roj?" he asked.
Raised on a Montana ranch, former paratrooper, a veteran
of the Battle of the Bulge, later chosen as a member of
General Eisenhower's honor guard, Roger Youderian was a
man who would not duck danger in any form. He had not
ducked it in Ecuador. No emergency that arose and there
had been a lot of them at Macuma, his mission post deep in
the domain of the head-hunting Jivaros had ever been too
perilous or too difficult for him to meet with resolution and
The team recalled a dozen exploits of Roger's. One had
happened only a few months before when, after calling Shell
Mera for penicillin, he had tramped two days through the
jungle to an outstation called Paid where an epidemic
threatened the Jivaros, hacked out an airstrip for Nate to
land, seized the medicine from the plane before its wheels
had scarcely stopped rolling and halted the epidemic in
And there was the time a Jivaro worker, helping clear a
new airstrip, had been struck by a falling tree. Roger, 18
miles away, had heard the news, called Nate for help at 10
A.M., and set out on foot to cover these 18 tortuous miles
by 4 o'clock, when he had requested the plane to be ready
to bring the Indian out.
Said Nate, "When I got over the narrow cut in the matted
green that was the airstrip, there was Roj, signaling OK on
the strip's condition. Haggard, his shirt in shreds, scratched
and bruised, he helped me load the mangled Jivaro into the
plane and we got him to Shell just in time for the doctor
there to save his life."
Through Gates of Splendor 251
"We could use a fellow like that," said Jim Elliot, "if he'll
The "if" was redundant. When invited, Roger grinned
cheerfully and welcomed the opportunity to share in the
On Monday, January 2, the team members and their wives
gathered at Arajuno. All day they worked making ready for
the beachhead, preparing food, packing equipment. Before
they were through, the mission grounds looked like a D-day
At nightfall, wives and husbands withdrew in couples to
be alone together. Wrapped in the jungle fastness of the
isolated station, they frankly faced the risks, soberly dis-
cussed their futures and what the morrow might bring.
Did the young wives intuitively sense what lay ahead?
That this might be their last night together? Perhaps. In any
case, they were ready.
To Roger, Barbara Youderian whispered, "Remember the
verse we chose as ours when we started life together? 'Being
confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a
good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus
Christ.' Hold our verse close to your heart, Roj!"
Betty Elliot told her husband, "I've been privileged above
any woman in having such a husband, Jim. I shall thank
God always for the two years of perfect happiness He has
granted us. If there is to be no more, what more fitting way
is there to die at the height of your manhood, with your
dearest friends, and in the attempt to reach the people so
near to your heart for so long/'
Olive Fleming, her head on Pete's shoulder, expressed her
faith in a prayer-verse loved by them both;
252 Adventurers for God
I am the Lordsyet teach me all it meaneth,
All it involves of love and loyalty,
Of holy service, absolute surrender
And unreserved obedience to Thee.
"When the Lord gave us the desire to reach unreached
Indians/' Marilou McCully reminded Ed, "the first place he
laid on our hearts was Arajuno, right here where no mis-
sionary ever lived before us. We were confident of that lead-
ing, Ed. Now the Lord has put the Aucas on our hearts
too. With that same confidence we can follow His leading
Of the five wives, only Marjorie Saint was not at Arajuno
that night. Hers was the duty to man the "radio central" at
Shell Mera. But between her and Nate no further covenant
was necessary. Days before, shed said: "Nate, you've always
told me that every believer should be willing to give his all
for Christ even his life, if God's mysterious purposes re-
quired it. During all these years, we've faced many dangers
together for Him. We are in God's will and care."
As for the men, they had already faced up to the dangers
ahead. Nate spoke for all when he told his wife, "There is
no doubt in my mind that we should go ahead. The stakes
Thus, after the most careful preparation, and in complete
unity and magnificent dedication, Operation Auca had come
to its D-day.
Next morning the young couples held a brief prayer serv-
ice. And, just before leaving, they sang together the hymn
which became the theme song for Operation Auca:
Through Gates of Splendor 253
We rest on Thee, our Shield
and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall
be the praise;
When passing through the gates
of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee,
through endless days.
At 8:02, only two minutes behind schedule, Nate lifted the
Piper into the air. A few minutes later, after hazardous land-
ing and equally hazardous take-off from the beachhead sand,
he had left Ed McCully (who had drawn straws for the priv-
ilege ) as the first occupant of Palm Beach. Then he returned
to Arajuno for another load. Altogether he made five trips to
the beachhead that day, ferrying in the men and supplies.
There was not time for a sixth, so Peter Fleming had to re-
main at the mission overnight.
Next morning, Wednesday, when Nate and Pete flew to
the beachhead, they circled over Terminal City on the way
and, using the loud-speaker, invited the Aucas to visit their
camp. The Aucas waved in a friendly manner and seemed
to understand. An hour later, when they again circled over
the village to repeat the invitation, Nate saw that all the men
had disappeared. Were the Aucas already on their way?
At the beach, where the tree-house had now been set up
and routine organized, the missionaries made every possible
gesture of friendliness. They mounted a model airplane on
a pole, placed a gift machete at the edge of the jungle, and
at intervals throughout the day marched up and down the
beach shouting Auca phrases of welcome.
254 Adventurers for God
But no Auca showed up. From the jungle came only
strange bird calls and the protesting squawk of parrots.
"Perhaps they'll come tomorrow," Pete said. And remem-
bering the absence of men from the village, he added, "It's
plain that the Aucas are looking for us somewhere."
Thursday, however, was equally unrewarding: flights over
Terminal City still revealed no male Aucas; the calls into
the jungle still brought no response. Yet the gift machete
left out the night before was gone, and the men felt sure
that, from behind that thick jungle curtain, "we are being
Slowly the day passed, with intervals of fishing and swim-
ming, reading, making notes. By 4:30 that afternoon all
agreed that the Aucas probably were not coming that day.
Yet they were determined to "sweat it out" until the savages
could locate their camp and show themselves.
That evening Nate and Pete went back to Arajuno to sleep,
since the tree-house was uncomfortably crowded for five
people. On their way they flew over the Auca settlement. As
they spiraled down, an Auca climbed up on one of the plat-
forms, knelt toward the direction of the camp site, pointed
with both hands. It was an encouraging sign, and that night
Nate wrote in his diary: "We find we have a friendlier feeling
for these fellows all the time. We must not let that lead us
to carelessness. It is no small thing to try to bridge between
the 20th century and the Stone Age. God help us to take
care. . . . But may we see them soon!"
See them soon they did. The long-awaited contact occurred
the next morning, Friday, January 6.
Confident now that a delegation of some sort was on its
Through Gates of Splendor 255
way, the team had arisen early to begin the verbal bombard-
ments of the jungle. At midmorning Ed McCully was on one
end of the beach, Jim Elliot on the other, with Roger You-
derian, Nate and Pete in between all taking turns shouting
phrases and waving gifts.
Suddenly, from directly across the river, a strong mascu-
line voice boomed out, and immediately three Aucas stepped
out in the open. They were a man and two women one
about 30 years of age, the other a well-formed girl of about
16. They were naked except for G-strings about the waist
and large wooden plugs in distended ear lobes.
The missionaries, temporarily struck dumb by the surprise
appearance, finally managed to shout simultaneously, "Ptw-
n#ni/" Auca for "Welcome."
The Auca man replied with a verbal flood, pointing fre-
quently to the girl. His language was unintelligible, but not
his gestures. "He's offering the girl for trade," exclaimed
Pete, "or maybe as a gift"
Jim Elliot yelled, "I don't know what they've come for.
But they've come and that's enough for me!" He yanked
off his outer clothes and began wading across the shallow
At Jim's impulsive plunge, the Aucas shrank back a trifle
toward the jungle. But as he approached them, hands ex-
tended, the girl edged forward and stepped off a log into the
water. The man and the other woman followed slowly. Jim
seized their hands and led them across.
With broad smiles, many puinanis and much reference
to their phrase books, the five conveyed that their visitors
had "come well" and need not be afraid. The Aucas' uneasi-
ness fell from them, and they began jabbering happily to
256 Adventurers for God
themselves and the men, "seemingly with little idea that we
didn't understand them/'
Roger brought out some paring knives, which they ac-
cepted with cries of delight. Nate presented a machete and
the model airplane. The others, suddenly remembering the
guns in the cook shack and tree-house, went back to hide the
weapons beneath their duffel. They dug out cameras and
shot dozens of photos, while the women looked through a
copy of Time magazine and the man was being doused with
insecticide to demonstrate civilization's way of dealing with
the swarming insects.
Presently the girl drifted over toward the Piper, rubbing
her body against the fabric and imitating with her hands
the plane's movement. The Auca man followed. He was
completely unafraid and self-possessed but obviously curi-
ous to know more about the "big bird." The missionaries
promptly named him "George," and the girl "Delilah."
By sign language George made it plain he wanted a ride
in the Piper. Finally Nate agreed, and the Auca eagerly
climbed in. Nate taxied down the strip and took off, with
George shouting all the way. Suddenly Nate realized his
opportunity to use his passenger for propaganda, and headed
for Terminal City. George chortled with delight, leaned
out to wave and yell at his fellow villagers, whose mouths
fell open at sight of him in the plane.
Back on the beach, the missionaries demonstrated for
their guests such modern marvels as rubber bands, balloons,
a yo-yo; served them lemonade and hamburger with mus-
tard. Then they tried to get across the idea that an invita-
tion to visit the Auca village would not be scorned. For this
notion George displayed no enthusiasm.
Through Gates of Splendor 257
"Why is it he's so reluctant whenever we broach the
subject?" one of the five demanded. Another replied, "Maybe
he lacks the authority to invite us on his own."
As the day wore on, Delilah showed signs of impatience.
Once when Jim Elliot left the group to go to the tree-house
she leapt up and followed. She seemed downcast when he
turned and rejoined the others.
The rest of the day was spent in rampant friendliness.
When the Aucas showed signs of wanting to spend the
night on the beach, the missionaries hospitably offered
them a small beach shack they had constructed, motioning
that it was theirs to occupy if they wished.
Suddenly Delilah wheeled and walked off down the
beach. George called to her, but she kept going. He fol-
lowed her into the forest, and the older woman left later.
When Nate and Pete got back to Arajuno that night, they
held the waiting wives agog with an account of the day's
adventures. They were in high spirits. Months of prayerful
preparation and years of dreaming had brought their re-
ward. The three days* nerve-racking vigil on Palm Beach
had paid off. For today they had accomplished what no white
men had ever accomplished before them: they had stood
face to face with the fearsome Aucas and on friendly terms.
The next day, Saturday, was anticlimactic. They waited
hopefully, expecting the Aucas to return momentarily with
an invitation to their village. But none came.
During the day Nate made three calls over Terminal
City. On the first he was puzzled to see the women and
children run for cover. Only two men appeared, and they
seemed frightened. But when he called over the loud-speaker,
"Come . . . come . . . come!" and threw out gifts of a
258 Adventurers for God
blanket, a pot and a pair of nylon shorts, "they seemed
On the second trip over, the Aucas manifested less fear.
This time there were several men in the clearing "George"
among them. An old man pointed toward Palm Beach "and
seemed friendly, though not exuberant."
On the third flight all evidence of fear seemed to have van-
ished. Nate reported, "I got some good smiles from 'George*
and another young man who, one can imagine, probably
aspires to ride in tie plane."
That night, again at Arajuno, Nate tossed sleeplessly, in
hindsight thinking of devices they might have used to detain
their Friday visitors. But Sunday morning before taking off
he confided to Pete, "I have a hunch that things will happen
He and Pete climbed into the Piper at 8:45. Pete called
to the wives: "Good-by, girls, pray for us for I believe to-
day's the day."
Back at Palm Beach, they found that Ed, Jim and Roger
also had spent a restless night. They, too, sensed somehow
that "today things will happen."
When nothing had happened by midmoming, Nate took
off to scout the situation. Over the Auca settlement, he
again saw only a handful of women and children no men.
On the way back, however, he suddenly spotted figures
moving along a river beach. He came down for a closer
look, counted ten Auca men. They were heading toward
"I believe they're coming, fellows!" Nate shouted before
his wheels had stopped rolling. The four set up a yell. They
had a brief song and prayer service, ate a quick lunch and
Through Gates of Splendor 259
fell to work arranging the beach and shack for company.
Promptly at 12:35 P.M., their prearranged radio-contact
time, Nate transmitted the tidings to the wives. Breathlessly,
and still using their code words, he told of spotting "a com-
mission of ten" on the way from Terminal City, adding,
"Looks like they'll be here for an early-afternoon service.
Pray for us. This is the day! Will contact you next at 4:35."
The contact was never made. Before 4:35 that afternoon
all five had fallen beneath the lances and machetes of the
Aucas, their lif eblood mingling with the soft sand and muddy
waters of the Curaray.
Along the Curaray all was quiet. Yet hovering over the
scene were a host of unanswered questions. When did it
happen? The only clue was Nate Saint's damaged wrist
watch, found on his spear-pierced body days later. It had
stopped at 3:12.
Had there been a struggle? Later examinations of the
beach and the tree-house offered no such evidence. Had the
ten Aucas first feigned friendliness, then turned on their
unwary victims? It would seem so, for all were slain on the
beach indicating that even the one set to cover any ap-
proach from the tree-house had come down.
The little yellow Piper stood forlornly on the beach,
pierced by several spears, its yellow fabric stripped as
though the Indians, regarding the plane as some evil bird,
had felt they must kill it too.
But even more mysterious than what happened is: Why?
Why did the savages, who had shown such cordiality during
the gift exchanges, and again two days before in face-to-face
encounter, revert to type? Had "George" returned to the
260 Adventurers for God
village with, accounts of that friendliness, with perhaps urg-
ings to pursue it only to be overruled by the headmen of
the village whose ingrained fear of strangers had not yet
been quite conquered? Or had the Aucas been affronted
by the missionaries' rejection of Delilah in the form she had
obviously been offeredand come to avenge the insult?
One can only speculate. The questions remain.
Back at the mission stations that Sunday afternoon the
wives waited eagerly for the 4:35 contact. When it didn't
come, they concluded that perhaps the men were busy
entertaining the Aucas, or maybe having trouble with their
transmitter. Then, at Shell Mera, Marj tried calling. No
The hours dragged by. The wives remained glued to their
radios. Said Marj Saint wistfully, "This is the first time since
Nate started jungle flying in '48 that we've been out of con-
tact for even an hour."
The suspense was the sharper because most of their mis-
sionary friends in the network were unaware that Opera-
tion Auca was in progress. Should they call for help, and
thereby divulge the secret? They decided to wait until they
were sure something serious had happened.
Early Monday morning Johnny Keenan, Nate's team-
mate at Shell Mera, who had been in on the operation from
the beginning, took off in his Piper for Palm Beach. Pres-
ently he radioed that Nate's plane seemed to be stripped of
its fabric, and that there was no sign of the men. The wives,
quickly flown to Shell Mera from their isolated stations,
conferred with heavy hearts. Something, plainly, had gone
terribly wrong. By midrnorning they'd made their decision:
Through Gates of Splendor 261
they would appeal for help. Marj relayed the facts to radio
station HCJB at Quito, known as "The Voice of the Andes,"
which then put the news on the air.
Search operations were begun at once. A detachment of
Ecuadorian soldiers, missionaries and Quechua Indians
was dispatched to the spot; planes and a helicopter were
sent over. But the searchers could report only tragedy a
rifled camp, a stripped and broken plane, spear-pierced
bodies floating in the river. Four of the bodies were recov-
ered. Ed McCully's, brutally mutilated by a machete slash,
was seen and identified by a party of Quechua Indians who
had come down the river ahead of the search party; but it
disappeared beneath the muddy waters, and was never
That afternoon the wives were informed of the day's grim
discoveries. Observers were moved at the quiet fortitude
with which they received the news. "We expected hysteria,"
one reporter commented. "We are seeing instead an eloquent
testimony to the power and beauty of the faith for which
these men gave their lives."
At the request of the women, their husbands' bodies
remained at the site and were buried in a common grave
dug beneath the tree-house. One said quietly: "There they
lived for six wonderful days. There they preached, by
word and action, the gospel of God's salvation for all even
Aucas. There they should rest until the Resurrection."
The day after the burial, the five women asked to be
flown over Palm Beach. From the plane, looking down
through tears at the beach, they saw the rough mound
beneath the tree-house. "It's the most beautiful little ceme-
tery in the world," murmured Marj Saint.
262 Adventurers for God
While the plane circled over the site, they read from II
Corinthians 5, then knelt together on the corrugated floor
of the plane, commending their loved ones to God, pledging
in prayer that "we too may be faithful in all that God asks
Someone started singing the "theme song" they had sung
with the men on that last breakfast together. The others
picked up the refrain:
We rest on Thee, our Shield
and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall
be the praise;
When passing through the gates
of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee,
through endles days.
And as the C-47 began its slow upward circle away from
the site, they stared down at the receding beach, saying
no more, each wrapped in her own thoughts, thinking not of
themselves but of their men. One opened her Bible to read,
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with
thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee . . "
From her purse Betty Elliot took out a frayed piece of paper;
it was a little poem Jim had written five years before:
The tide of night has washed away
The littered shore of yesterday,
And I discover at the dawn
A fresh-swept beach to waTk upon.
Through Gates of Splendor 263
During that harrowing week the big rambling mission
house at Shell Mera, which Nate and Marj had built with
their own hands, swarmed with guests. They were partici-
pants in the search and rescue operation, armed forces
personnel, mechanics servicing the planes, press and radio
correspondents, missionaries come in from distant stations
to do what they could.
At first the wives were overwhelmed by the public con-
cern that flowed over and around them. For the first time,
their humble doings in this remote corner of earth were in the
blazing light of publicity. But they quickly adjusted, merci-
fully were kept busy caring for their children, feeding and
bedding down the scores of guests coming and going.
A puzzled U.S. airman watched them a while, then com-
mented, "There's a well, a sort of radiance about those
women that gets you. How do they do it?" His companion
drew him to the door of the temporarily evacuated living-
room. He pointed to one of the widows at the piano; think-
ing she was alone, Barbara Youderian was running her
hands over the keys, softly singing. The airman strained
his ears, caught the words: "Were the whole realm of nature
mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing,
so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.*
On February 16 Dr. Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, President
of Ecuador, posthumously awarded the slain missionaries
the "Order of Merit in the Rank of Commander" for "sac-
rificial service in behalf of the inhabitants of the eastern jun-
gles" the highest recognition ever given Protestants in
Ecuador. And in the United States a fund was started to
provide emergency aid for the five wives and education for
their nine children. Money flowed in, and within a few weeks
264 Ad-venturers for God
an impressive sum was subscribed most of it in small
The death of the five did not end Operation Auca. Within
three weeks Johnny Keenan, Nate's companion pilot at Shell
Mera, was continuing the flights and gift drops over the set-
tlement. Meanwhile, mission groups back in the United
States were processing a score of applications from fliers
anxious to take Nate Saint's place. The effort to reach the
Aucas, far from being abandoned, now promised to be
The weeks immediately following the tragedy brought
astonishing response. Evidence quickly accumulated to prove
that the drama on the Curaray was shaking the Christian
Church back in the United States as it had not been shaken
in a generation. From widely spread colleges more than
1000 students volunteered to enter the foreign-mission field.
Mission boards announced new plans to reach not only
Aucas but others of the yet-to-be-contacted tribes such as
those in New Guinea, the Philippines, Indo-China, the Ama-
zon Valley, north central Africa.
A news commentator observed, "I'm no missionary, but
for years I have been watching them and this I know: The
Aucas are marked men marked not for extinction but for
conversion. As such, they haven't a chance. Missionaries,
especially those touched by martyrdom, are hard to stop,
The blood of martyrs seems still to be the seed of the
Even more astonishing were the reactions at the mission
stations the men had served. Attendance at schools and
church services reached record levels. From Shatndia, Betty
Through Gates of Splendor 265
Elliot reported that within a few weeks more Indians had
come into the Church than in many months before the five
died. One of the converts had turned into an evangelist
of exceptional talents "a long step toward Jim's greatest
desire, namely that spiritual leadership here would one day
devolve wholly upon the Indians themselves."
Two Christian Quechuas at Arajuno, formerly as fearful
of their "neighbors" as the rest of the Quechua tribe, vol-
unteered to devote their lives to converting the Aucas. From
Macuma, Barbara Youderian reported that when Roger's
sacrifice became known to the Jivaros, ten stepped forth to
say they loved their Lord enough to die for Him in like man-
ner. One Jivaro, whose father had been a witch-doctor re-
sponsible for many raids on a rival tribe, volunteered to
go at once to the enemy with a message of Christian good
will. He did so, bringing the first peace between the tribes
To the wives, such results, so much greater than they
or their husbands had dared dream, were a revelation of
God's larger design.
At Shell Mera, Marj Saint said humbly: "His plan seems to
have reached much farther than the Aucas for whom alone
the fellows were willing to die. That He should use this to
His greater glory is none of our doing.
"But isn't that His way/' she added: "using the small
things to confound the mighty?"
In that simple attitude and expression is summed up the
dauntless faith that has moved all missionaries, crowned all
martyrs, since their Master first said, "Go ye ... for lo, I
am with you alway, even unto the end."
Hall, Clarence Wilbur, 1902-
Adventurers for God. New York, Harper c!959:i
265 p. 22 cm.
"Articles -which originally appeared in somewhat different form
in. the Reader's Digest."
I. Missions Addresses, essays, lectures. i. Title.
BV2035.H2 266 59^-5219 J
Library of Congress