Peace Child

Sawi Christmas

“In 1962 the Sawi people of New Guinea still lived in relative isolation.
They were head-hunting cannibals. Their culture could not be more
different from that of Don and Carol Richardson, and yet these
missionaries strove to become an incarnate presence among the Sawi. In
fact, three Sawi tribes, fascinated by the Richardsons, moved their
villages right around the missionaries’ jungle home. After a long and
trying period of learning the language, Don Richardson finally climbed
the ladder into the Sawi man-house. Surrounded by the skulls of the
victims they had cannibalized, he began to share the gospel with them.
He began by telling them about the Jews, the promised Messiah, and the
sacrificial Lamb of Judah. The Sawi were bored.

“Don became frustrated, discouraged by his inability to communicate and
find a point of contact. He was also discouraged by the 14 civil wars he
had already counted right outside his front door now that the two rival
Sawi tribes lived side by side. Such fear and frustration finally led
the Richardsons to plan to leave. However, the Sawi response surprised
them: ‘If you’ll stay, we promise we’ll make peace in the morning.’

“The next morning the Richardson’s awoke to see the most amazing ritual,
the most passionate ceremony they had ever witnessed. The two tribes
were lined up outside their house, on either side of the clearing. An
air of tension floated between the two tribes. On the one side, people
milled about waiting anxiously. Finally, one man standing there dashed
into his hut while his wife was looking away. He grabbed his newborn
baby, took the child in his arms, and ran across the meadow. His
expression betrayed absolute agony. His wife ran after him, screaming and
begging him to give the baby back to her. When she couldn’t catch him,
she fell to her knees in the mud, moaning for her baby.

“Her husband ran over to the other tribe and presented the baby to them.
‘Plead the peace child for me. I give you my son, and I give you my
name,’ he said. Shortly, someone from that tribe performed the same
agonizing sacrifice with the same intensity and passion. Richardson
found out later that as long as those peace children remained alive, the
two tribes were bound to each other. They were bound not to war but to
peace for the lifetimes of those children. If the children died, then
literally all hell would break loose –cannibalism, murder, civil war.

“While this amazing scene unfolded before him, Don suddenly realized that
this was the point of contact, the redemptive analogy. When he climbed
the next time into the Sawi man-house, still surrounded by skulls, he
told the elders of the perfect Peace Child, given by God to mankind. They
sat riveted on his every word. That very day some of the Sawi became
Christians. Richardson went on to develop an entire theology based on
the peace child in Sawi tradition. As he and his family modeled the
person of the Peace Child, droves of Sawi came to know the Lord. This
continued until one day, hundreds of Sawi from every tribe (tribes that
had warred and cannibalized each other for many years) gathered together
for a feast for the first time.

“A Sawi preacher stood up and read in his own language what few people in
the history of the world have ever understood so clearly: ‘Unto us a
child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon
His shoulders, and He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). It was the best
Christmas the Richardsons had ever experienced. It was the best day the
Sawi had ever known. It was Christmas in more ways than one.”
[Adapted from Peace Child by Don Richardson]

Author Unknown