It was 50 years ago, when Steve Richardson was 7 months old, that his parents Don and Carol Richardson moved deep into the jungles of Papua, Indonesia and made their home among a small tribal group called the Sawi. His dad learned the language and his mom treated the sick, all with the purpose of telling the people about Jesus.
The Sawi were headhunters and cannibals. They lived in a constant state of war and they did not respond to the Gospel as the Richardsons had hoped and prayed. As time passed, his parents began to wonder if the gospel would ever take root. They were faced with the decision to stay or leave. Finally, Don explained to the people that if they kept fighting they could no longer stay. The Sawi were desperate to keep them around, so they finally agreed to make peace with each other. In order for that to happen each Sawi, village gave an infant, a baby boy, to their enemies. This child became known as the “Peace Child.” It was through this unexpected exchange, ingrained very deep in their culture, that his parents were given a unique, perfect opportunity to explain to them that God sent His very own “Peace Child,” Jesus, to make peace with us.
Twenty-five years later, Don and his three sons, Steve, Shannon and Paul, went back to visit the Sawi to see how they were doing. It was an amazing reunion. The people rolled out the red carpet. Hundreds and hundreds of people from five tribes came to welcome them.
Walls have been broken down by virtue of the Gospel’s impact on the Sawi people. They are sharing leadership in the church services, they are intermarrying amongst tribes. Where once they were constantly fighting, they now love each other. It is no longer a place of war but a place of peace. It is a safe place to live now. In an obedient step of faith by Don and Carol Richardson 50 years ago, a legacy of God’s grace is truly visible. People who used to be mortal enemies now see themselves as almost as one. They share a sense of significance.
The villages are committed to staying faithful to the Gospel. The younger generation is really thriving. They have lots of challenges but they are aggressive in progressing and making an impact on others around them. What an incredible privilege it was for the entire Richardson family to join God in His journey to the nations. But they can’t help but wonder how many other people around the world are still waiting to experience what the Sawi’s experienced – hearing the Gospel?
Steve Richardson became president of the Pioneers missions agency in 1999, after serving as a missionary to one of the world’s largest unreached people groups in the world. For more than 35 years, Pioneers’ passion has been to see God glorified among those who are physically and spiritually isolated from the gospel of Jesus Christ—from Bedouins in the deserts of North Africa and animist villagers in the jungles of South America to secular humanists in Eastern Europe and middle-class Buddhist urbanites in the sprawling cities of East Asia.
RBC currently supports 13 missionaries with Pioneers, all with the passion of sharing God’s Word to the lost. Would you take a minute to thank God for the work He has done in the Sawi tribes and in the lives of the Richardson family? Please also pray with us for our Pioneer missionaries across the nations.