Fifty years later, ‘Peace Child’ tribe still following Christ

By June 21, 2012

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?

10 Comments

  • Jim Kliewer says:

    Hello Richardsons, Don and Steve

    My family and I met all of you while teaching in PNG.
    We met Steve on a flight from LA to FLA.
    I have been asking individuals to watch the 50th anniversary video.
    A new couple came to our church recently and his wife is from Indonesia. They watched your 50th video. I was shocked when she said she understood some of the language. The “Peace child” story
    is very captivating. Don, you stayed at our house in Bakersfield, CA
    when you introduced the Peace Child movie.
    May God continue to bless your family for all your endeavors.
    Jim and Nancy Kliewer (1968-69 PNG -Wycliffe)

  • Dear Don Richardson.
    You and your family were guests in our home in 1978. We would love to re-establish contact with you and Carol if that is possible. We live in Garden Grove California.

    Kitti Coburn

    • Hi, Frank and Kitti Coburn. I’m 5 years late finding this MNN website, so this may not reach you; but if it does, feel free to contact me at my mission e-mail address noted below. My late wife, Carol Joy, succumbed to cancer and went to Glory in early 2004. 17 months later I married my present wife and partner in ministry, Carol Joyce. She and I just celebrated our 12th anniversary.

      I am scheduled to speak in 20 or more cities of southern California this Fall. If you wish to re-connect and/or wish to attend one of the Bible translation fundraising banquets, please check out this link: https://www.wycliffeassociates.org/get-involved/banquets/california.
      Hoping to see you again, Don

  • Dear Richardson Family, as I was turning a corner above the U.S.Center for World Mission campus, my car stopped and the steering stopped too. But heroes to the rescue, your son and a friend came and took control of a car out of control. How they were able to help me in this difficult situation, I don’t know, but what they did worked. I could only pray for them to effect change anywhere they went and to get things moving that had quit. Can’t quite recall what year that was but the young men were teens. My greeting to you all in Jesus Name! Let’s all keep going to the bitter end of this old evil world (systems) and rejoice together as the time of His Coming draws nearer….remember many prophecies have yet to be fulfilled about the Millinieum. Respectfully, Joan Hobbs

  • I am looking forward to reading the book again and having my 11 yr old read it also. We served on the mission field about the same time as you and it was something that I will treasure forever. My heart longs to go back and see how things have changed and how the tribes have grown through the kingdom work there over the years. I have lost track of the Rashers(Spelling?) but Chip used to be like a big brother to me and would drive me around on his motor cycle. Love the memories of serving our King.

  • Ashley Singh says:

    Dear Don Richardson
    I would like to know what is a peace child and if it is written in your book.I have never read you book.

  • Please forward this message to Steve Richardson (of Peace Child fame).
    I attended PBI with your brother Shannon.
    I must apologise & seek forgiveness from him.

  • Don,

    I knew your wife, Carol many years ago in NJ when we were young people. Someone from Wycliffe gave me a copy of “When God’s Word Speaks” and I read one of the stories that was written by you. It brought Carol to my mind and I have often thought of her during years past and wondered where she was. I never knew she was serving the Lord on the mission field.

    Olive Daggett

  • Dear Mr Richardson, I read your book shortly after it was published. It has remained a reference often when I am sharing the gospel with someone, and the wonders of how God moves to bring everyone to himself. After becoming Roman Catholic, I was even more amazed at the analogy of the peace child being given from one warring tribe to another, especially when the receiving tribe ate the child, so that he would be within them and physically one of them. This morning in my devotions a prayer reminded me again of the powerful way that God has given us to remain one with him in spirit and in body: God our Father, you feed your children in abundance with the bread of life, the Body and Blood of your own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is so beautiful and amazing to me to be able to consume Him in the physical act of Holy Eucharist as well as in spirit and soul as I did for 42 years as a Protestant, through his word and prayer. Thinking of you and the marvelous and selfless work you and your wife gave for our Lord and the beautiful lasting results! Praise be to God!
    Cheri Cardine

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