I’m currently in Taiwan speaking at a conference so the next few posts will be reposts.
Looking over the Orinoco River to Columbia
Earlier this month I had the incredible privilege of visiting the Amazon jungle in Venezuela. Many of those living there were tribespeople recently out of the jungle where they still live very primitive lives. While there, I met a man named Ricardo who told me a remarkable story about an extraordinary woman missionary named Sophie Muller. Here is a part of her story in (more or less) Ricardo’s own words.
“In the early 1940’s a young woman in her early twenties came to Columbia from North America. Her name was Sophie Muller. At that time this area consisted of virgin jungle. There were settlements of a few tribal houses scattered throughout the jungle often many days’ journey by canoe apart. The nearest town of any size (Puerto Ayacucho) was not built until 1947.
“Sophie, a reporter for the New York Times, had become a Christian following an outreach in a New York street. She had seen a group of people singing and preaching on the sidewalk and, out of curiosity, had responded to their invitation to join a Bible study. Over time she opened her heart to Christ. She became interested in working with unreached peoples and so went to the New Tribes Mission. She wanted to go somewhere no one had ever been before, and looking at a map, chose the Amazon jungle.
“In 1944 she went to Columbia and, via Bogota, to the jungle. She came to the Guainia region where the Curipaco tribe lived. At that time, witches and sorcerers were in charge of the jungle. There were many strange rituals that included drinking and drugs and wild partying. But there was a legend that had been passed down through the years. Someone had had a dream that a strange-looking person would come with a power greater than that of the witch doctors.
“With her white skin and blue eyes, Sophie certainly fit the bill of looking strange to the tribespeople. So the chief witch doctor prepared a spiritual ritual in the jungle as a test. He made a chicken stew and added to it Caribbean stick poison—the strongest poison known in the jungle. It will normally kill a person within five minutes. As she ate the stew, everyone watched her intently, waiting for her to die. She did not die, but did throw up a little. Some of the village dogs lapped at her vomit and a chicken pecked at it. They fell over and died immediately. But Sophie herself was unharmed.
“The witch doctor who had prepared the stew converted on the spot. She became known as a daughter of God and was allowed to go wherever she wanted in the jungle safely.
“My grandfather was the head witchdoctor of the region. Around that time he saw in a vision that there was a more powerful spirit than the one over the jungle. The story of Sophie passing the poison test had spread far and wide throughout the jungle. So my grandfather sent my father to find Sophie and investigate her. My father paddled his dugout canoe for one month to find her.
“When my father arrived, he made friends with Sophie. She was particularly interested in him because he came from a different (Puinave) tribe and spoke a different language. The two tribes have different languages and the majority of the Puinave could understand the language of the first tribe. Sophie evangelized my father in the Curipaco language. He soon received Christ and they started working together. They would paddle for months at a time to different communities in the jungle to evangelize.
“Sophie and my father worked together for fifty years. When Sophie finally left the jungle, she was an old woman. She had started several hundred churches.