November 15, 2013
By Brittany Tedesco
Kon Tiki raft setting sail in 1947
A few months ago, I watched a fascinating movie called Kon Tiki, which was based on the real-life adventure of Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, who wanted to prove that Polynesia was settled by Peruvians. To do this, he constructed a raft from materials that would only be available to South Americans in the pre-Columbian era and set sail with five of his Scandinavian friends from Peru to the Pacific islands in 1947.
The raft was a conglomeration of bamboo, balsa, and other types of wood, held together by hemp ropes. Despite his fear of drowning and the abundance of sharks teeming below the rustic boat, Heyerdahl refused to utilize modern technology.
In the movie, one of Heyerdahl's crew begs him to use the metal chains he brought to better secure the raft, as he worries the hemp won't last for the entire journey. But Heyerdahl, in a dramatic display of bold determination, grabs the chains from his friend and hoists them overboard. His entire theory hinged upon his using the exact same method of travel that the natives, as he speculated, did centuries earlier. The method was everything—and in this case, it meant reverting back to primitive ways.
Gabriel Barau, a native Nigerian ministry leader I wrote about in a previous post, testifies to the importance of the method--not in proving a theory, but in building God's Kingdom. In his case, it also meant reverting back to a primitive way of life to become like the natives he was trying to reach.
Koma children, as discovered by Gabriel Barau in 1983
In 1983, Barau entered a community of Koma people, a tribe who ate grubs and lived naked in a jungle. In today's mission lingo, they were “unengaged,” meaning not one person among them had ever heard the gospel message. Researchers estimate that approximately 3,000 people groups in the world today are still unengaged...requiring someone from outside their ethnic circle to share the Good News with them.
Barau, born into the Tarok tribe, crossed ethnic borders to enter Koma territory. Yet despite the difference in tribal heritage, he was still a Nigerian villager—he just happened to live in a more civilized community, which he willingly left behind to live among the Koma, adopt their customs, integrate into their culture…and win their hearts to Christ. In 1989, the first ever Koma missionaries began evangelizing their own people.
In going to the Koma, Barau had fewer barriers to cross than someone from outside his country—or continent—but there were still barriers, which is why his method of going was so critical to the tribe's receptivity of his message. It took thought, strategy, sacrifice, and faith.
The Kon Tiki explorers knew their theory rested on their method of going. It's an understanding shared by many a native missionary in a country containing unengaged people—only they're not dealing in theories and rafts, but in salvation and souls. With stakes this high, the method of going is critical...and their methods have been effective.