Indonesia (MNN) — When missionary Don Richardson wrote Peace Child in the 70's, it was clear how huge a difference just two people could make with God's hand on their lives. But 50 years later, that picture has come into HD clarity.
In 1962, Don and his wife Carol moved to West Papua, Indonesia. With their 6-month-old son Steve in their arms, the Richardsons approached the Sawi tribe, not realizing that the very act of carrying their infant was a sign of peace to the 400 Sawi waiting to greet them.
As the Richardsons began to explain Jesus' story to the tribe, they realized that the Sawi were interpreting Jesus' betrayer Judas as the hero of the story. It turned out the Sawi idealized treachery. Sometimes they would even befriend a member of another village for the sole purpose of later betraying him to the death and having a cannibalistic feast.
In time, battles broke out between various villages over who got to be close to the Richardsons. When Don told them they needed to make peace or they would leave, a man brought his baby son to another tribe. The Richardsons were told that in the Sawi community, when one village wanted to make peace, they presented one of their children to another village. For as long as that "peace child" lived, there would be peace between the enemies.
After working hard to explain the Good News, Carol Richardson finally realized that this "peace child" act was a metaphor for the Gospel. A father would give his son to the enemy to restore peace and bring reconciliation.
Mission Network News was recently able to catch up with Don and Carol's son, Steve Richardson. Steve, who was a missionary to Indonesia before becoming president of Pioneers USA, recalls growing up with a tribe growing in their understanding of Christ.
After this "peace child" explanation of the Gospel, says Steve, "There was a breakthrough among the Sawi. They started recognizing that Jesus was God's peace child–the ultimate peace child."
"They began responding to the Gospel, and the Sawi eventually began reaching out in their own missionary efforts to tribes they had previously warred against," Steve adds.
Flash forward to today. This year is the fiftieth year since the Sawi first received and understood the life-changing news of Christ. But has that Good News stuck?
Steve says it's more than stuck: it's expanded. When his parents first went to West Papua, there were few people groups in the islands with the Gospel message. He says now, there are few who do not. The Sawi meanwhile have continued to spread the Truth of Christ to others.
For this jubilee year celebration, Steve, his brothers (who are both on the mission field), and Don are headed back to Indonesia. They are told 2,000 or 3,000 Sawi will greet them as they celebrate the coming of Christ to their community and baptize at least 50 new believers.
Steve says it's all a reminder of what God can do when just two people respond to His call. After the Richardsons left Indonesia, it was not just the Sawi who had been transformed. The Sawi have spread the message to others, for one thing. But their story has transformed hearts around the world through Don's book, Peace Child.
"So many people have said 'It's because of that story that I took my step into greater faith and obedience.' It's just fantastic to see the ripple effect of anyone out there who says, ‘Yes, God. I'm going to respond, and I'll do what You've challenged me to do.'"
The impact of just two people has been eternal and worldwide. What's God calling you to do?