I peeked ever so gently over the edge of the hammock, not wanting to disturb the little bundles inside.
As I gazed down at these two little black-headed sleeping beauties all of the sudden I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was on holy ground. Like I should take my shoes off because in front of me were two miracles of life that God Himself had knit together in the womb of this young Matis Indian woman.
When He did so, He knew that twins were taboo. That to gift this family with two babies birthed at the same time from one womb was to offend their culture and test their conscience. He knew that because He made their culture.
And the story is not simple.
Not long before I had the privilege just to look upon these two boys, Marcos Mayoruna sat on the floor with the father, Ian.
“If you don’t want to keep these babies, I have a place. You say the word and we will give them a home (referring to the home in Manaus that Richard recently visited that was established for this very purpose). But I need you to know that these are from God. He created these little humans and they are not evil. The time to decide is now,” Marcos, an infanticide survivor in his own tribe, spoke boldly. And those words must have been heavy for this man, a leader in his tribe. He knows his people, his culture, and the weight of this decision should he decide to keep what has for so many generations been considered a curse to his people.
“I will keep them,” he responded.
But the story goes deeper.
For years, Marcos has been building up a relationship with Ian, a witchdoctor. In fact, when we first met Marcos back in 2010, we met Ian and his wife as well. One of Ian’s sons, Tumi, was discipled through Marcos’ program and has become a strong believer and dedicated follower of Christ. They have faithfully lived out the Gospel in front of them and shown that there is another way.
There is still more to this story, though.
Ian agreed to allow his sons to live because of one, sovereign circumstance in his life. You see, he has two wives and for many years his second wife has not been able to conceive. He decided that the birth mother would raise one of the sons and the other wife would raise the other.
For the first time in the history of this tribe, twins would live.
Oh, please don’t let your rejoicing with us cease. So many missionaries and believers would mourn this as a loss. ‘What a tragedy,’ they would say, ‘that these children will grow up in this environment!’
But, no, we should rejoice all the more!! Not because of the practice of polygamy but because of God’s redemption of it. Were it not for this unbiblical practice, two little lives, knit together by God’s own hands would have been snuffed out.
God in His sovereignty has allowed a pagan practice to save the lives of two boys that may one day be the voice of the Gospel to their people.
Praise His Name!
As they shared this story with me, I stood there humbled at what a God we serve. We “white people” are gifted in the art of “divide and conquer”. We often make it our responsibility to save the lost, to change their culture. To make them look like us, live like us, act like us.
We see it all. the. time. down here.
And all the while we unintentionally and even perhaps unknowingly take God completely out of the equation. We forget that this is His party and He invited us.
So we do things like go in villages and preach that a man must only have one wife, forgetting that God told us to do nothing more than to preach the Gospel and make disciples. The Spirit will do the work. (Oh, how we love to preach the law!!)In our ignorance and pride, we forget that these women are dependent on their husband and to tell him to pick one is to leave the others helpless, hopeless, homeless. Widowed women and orphaned children.
We long so badly for raised hands and numbers to report and stories to tell that these natives become nothing more than a people group for us to conquer and add to our evangelical lists of “reached”.
God help us.
We ignore the requests of the very people we say we want to reach, disrespecting their intelligence and culture, entering their land without permission or invitation. Meanwhile, solid, faithful Indigenous Believers who know the culture, know the language, know the Gospel and know how to present it in a relevant way to their own people are left in the wake of our rush to “reach the unreached” trying to mend broken relationship and retell the Gospel truth as it applies to their people.
Forgive our selfish ambitions, Lord.
As I listened more to this story, Marcos’ wife, Josi, said something that struck a cord in my heart.
“Several missionaries tried to take these twins. They thought if they could just take them and raise them that it would be another problem solved,” she shared with me, clearly disheartened by these attempts. “But it was an indigenous believer, Ian’s own son (who was discipled by Marcos) who said to his father, ‘No, you must keep them. They are yours. It is time to stop this practice of killing the innocent.’”
She continued, “If we don’t teach them, they will never know. We can’t intervene every time and expect change.”
Immediately my mind went back to the time several months ago when Marcos told us something else that I will never forget.
Sitting in the floor of his home, listening to his wisdom, he said, “We are not in a hurry. Foreigner Believers want to come in here and make things happen. They want to see people converted and whole tribes transformed. The reality is, we may never see that in our lifetime. And we don’t have to.
We are working on God’s timeline, not our own.”
God, help us to stop trying to save the world and just be faithful disciplers as you have called us. Help us to lose sight of the timelines and numbers that cloud our view from the miracles that are happening all around us. Lord, may we stop preaching law and start preaching grace, knowing you are bigger than our sin. So big, in fact, that you can use it for your glory.
God, help us to put down the Jim Elliot biographies and pick up your Word, genuinely seeking Your will and our role in Your story, not an fantasized version of the glory days.
Help us to make You the Savior. Not us.