In November, 2018, John Allen Chau, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, lost his life on a remote island in the Indian Ocean. John was fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus in Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
John was a 26-year old missionary who had been trained through the group All Nations, and was committed to taking the Gospel message to those who have never heard about Jesus. Anthropologists agree that the Sentinelese tribe, who live in the Andaman island chain, east of India in the Bay of Bengal, are one of the few aboriginal tribes that still survive in our modern world.
Did you know that John’s humble actions have drawn global resistance? Christian missionaries believe they have the mandate to tell the whole world about Jesus. The Apostles in the book of Acts, set a precedence for us today. Many churches have energetic missions’ programs that send missionaries all over the world. Believers draw inspiration from the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:9), and believe that Christ will Return when all have heard the Good News (Matthew 24:24).
So where is the resistance coming from? Obviously, Satan is doing everything he can to stop the presentation of the Gospel. Believers know that and are willing to proceed anyway. Nothing Satan does can stop us from preaching that Christ is the answer to every problem the world faces, and that Salvation is in Christ alone.
But there is another “resister.” Many governments have banned missionaries from ministering within their borders. As an example, the government of India, has banned all outsiders, Christian or otherwise, from visiting the Sentinelese Tribe. They worry that outsiders will bring deadly diseases that could devastate the unvaccinated population. Further, the government wants to preserve the centuries old culture of this aboriginal tribe. Question: How do we answer these arguments?
One comparison has been drawn to what happened to the Native Americans of the Great Plains. They had lived unobstructed for centuries until explorers from the colonies expanded West. While these new neighbors brought education, medicine, and weapons, they also brought a new religion and exotic diseases. One such disease was smallpox.
It is thought that over 100,000 Native Americans died as a result of the smallpox epidemic of 1837-38. Especially hard-hit were the Mandans. The Mandan Chief Four Bears (Mato-tope), spoke openly that this disease was being used by the United States government to destroy his people, and all Native Americans. When smallpox broke out among the Arikaras and the Hidatsas, they tried to attack Fort Clark but were defeated. Eventually, the dreaded disease infected the Lakota, Assiniboine, and Blackfoot tribes. Smallpox also struck the “Five Civilized Tribes”—Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.
The unproven rumor that the military used smallpox to control the Native Americans survives to this day. But those who oppose evangelism to aboriginal tribes, often site the damage done to the Native Americans. The church must prepare an answer to this charge if we are to continue to move into unchartered territory.
Please continue to pray for our beloved and noble missionaries. They have many adversaries. I do not have a satisfying answer at this point to the question posed above. Perhaps you do. I would like to write on this again, but desire someone with missions’ experience to provide some good insight to these concerns. Thank you in advance.