Monday, May 16, 2011

The Legend of the Precious Gift


Don Graham shares this story -- No one knows when the legend began, but generations of people called the “Sayang” have waited for its promise to be fulfilled. For more than five centuries, they eked out their existence on a remote South Pacific island -- virtually cut off from the outside world. The Sayang have survived as farmers, growing crops on rocky soil nearly too poor to farm. Rain has been the only source of fresh water. They’ve had no electricity or phone service…not even a doctor. Twice government troops have tried to force the village of 10,000 to relocate -- once at gunpoint. But the Sayang refuse to leave because they are bound by the legend’s promise -- the arrival of a foreigner bearing a precious gift. In 1967, a German tourist stumbled upon their village. He was the first foreign visitor in the history of the village of “Yang Jauh.” He left behind his signature and photograph but nothing more. Then in 1986, a Japanese scientist came. She, too, left only her signature and photograph. Nearly 20 years would pass before Yang Jauh village saw another outsider, a Christian worker “Michael Martin.”

“Agus” remembers Martin’s arrival vividly. His father had taught him the legend as a boy, and it was his father’s voice that echoed in Agus’ mind as he hurried to the house where Yang Jauh’s elders had gathered to receive their latest visitor. Martin sat waiting. He’d heard about the village by chance, through a Sayang student who attended one of the English classes Martin taught in town. As far as Martin could tell, these people weren’t on anybody’s map except God’s. As he spoke with Agus and the elders, Martin worked up the courage to ask a question that had bothered him since his arrival. Why did these people live in such an inhospitable place in the middle of nowhere? Agus gazed intently into Martin’s eyes and replied, “Our village has a story that has been passed down through generations. My father told it to me as a child and his father told him...that one day a foreigner with white skin will come to our village and reveal something precious to us.” Silence filled the air. Martin could feel goose bumps race down his back. Agus and the elders stared expectantly at him, waiting. “I was afraid something got lost in translation…this was too good to be true,” Martin remembers. “I know a lot of people probably would have jumped on that and laid out the plan of salvation. But I wanted to learn more about this story and the culture. Their worldview, their mindset, is very different from ours.” Little by little, though, Martin shared the Gospel with Agus. Then one day Martin got the news he’d been praying for -- Agus had surrendered his life to Jesus, becoming the first Christian in Yang Jauh’s history.

Since his conversion, Agus has been working to help Martin convince others that Christ is the precious gift the Sayang have been expecting. But it hasn’t been easy. Many in Yang Jauh…even Agus’ younger brother…believe the legend refers to some sort of financial gain. Others have lost faith in the story altogether. But the ministry among the Sayang is still in its infancy. So far, the language barrier has kept Martin from spreading the Gospel on a broad scale, though it hasn’t stopped Agus from sharing one-on-one. Martin believes the Sayang are open to the Gospel. He is finding ways to communicate the Lord’s message with them. “We’re on the verge of this people group being able to hear the Gospel in their heart language on a large scale for the very first time,” he says. “Each time I go out to the village someone new has had a dream and has questions about who Jesus is, why we’re coming and what this precious thing is that we have to share with them. “God’s plan for the Sayang started hundreds of years ago before I ever showed up. I’m just glad to know that I can be a small part of it.”


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