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.
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27 replies on “Repost: The Amazing Story of Sophie Muller”
This was fantastic, has Sophie’s story been written up in more detail anywhere? I tried “Sophie Muller” on Googe but didn’t get anything useful.
I have one of her books, “A Cry in the Wilderness,” but perhaps it is out of print? She was a dear friend of Jack Wyrtzen’s, and it may been through his ministry that she came to faith in Lord Jesus.
The Title is actually “His Voice Shakes the Wilderness”
How fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been inspired by her life for a number of years now.
The only useful site on Sophie Muller I have found is http://www.urbana.org/wtoday.witnesses.cfm?article=79
(I did a google search on her name plus Curipaco.) The more personal stories I heard from Ricardo were not on there. A few details differed too. For example, Ricardo told me that he thought she arrived in Columbia in the late 1920s, but doing the math, I am sure the 1940s date is right.
I plan to post at least one more of her stories when I have it written up.
Sophie did actually go to Colombia in the early forties. She had been a commercial artist. She wrote several books on her ministry in Colombia and illustrated them with her drawings.
She was an amazing person, whom I had the privilege of knowing during my 25+ years in Colombia.
She wasn’t an ordinary person, or she would not have been able to live so many years under primitive conditions, but she was a very quiet person and hard to get to know.
Her full store has yet to be told, but she would not have liked it. She did not like publicity in any way.
I first met Sophie Muller in 1957. By that time she was already a legend. My parents worked in the printshop that printed all the Scripture portions she translated. I spent many hours turning the memograph handle to print these portions. In all God used her among 7 different languagage groups in Colombia and Venezuela. Her best work was done in Curipaco along the Isana river as that is the only language she actually learned. In the other languages she would use Curipaco who had married into the other languages.
There are many stories about her, but she never told them herself. We would hear them from the tribal people who traveled with her. by the 1960’s she spent all her time traveling from one Bible Conference to the next. She would make a three month loop through the department/province of the Guainia, and another 3 month loop thru the departments/provinces of Guaviare and Vichada. Then repeat the same two trips the next semester. She spent the long hours traveling in a canoe-originally using paddles, but later a small 5 hp outboad-translating the Scripture portions. She would pass by our place in Venezuela to pick up the printed portions of Scripture for the manuscripts she had left on the previous trip.
She had asked the Lord for Him to give her 50 years of service, and after 50 years, she retired and returned to the USA. Three months in the USA she died of stomach cancer.
I would be interested to know if any of you who knew Sophie Muller personally have any kind of rough guess as to how many churches she started. I have seen one report that claimed 500 and another of 200. Ricardo thought it could have been as many as 500, but that many of them did not survive. He is currently trying to revive her work by training people to send back into the jungle.
Sophie Muller, who I knew personally wrote a book on herself in 1988 called “His Voice Shakes the Widerness”. You can see if NTM has it to sell by writing to: email@example.com
Since Sophie was such a legend and knew my husband as a kid and his family,I felt blessed that when we were still single in missionary training, she approved of our upcoming marriage.
After 50 years of service, she died in her sister’s arms of cancer in the States. She died “with her boots still on.”
My husband and I are missionaries with NTM. I was adopted out of the Puinave tribe and my father is Ricardo’s father. (so my grandfather would have been the head witch doctor who saw the vision of a spirit greater than the spirit of the jungle) I am so thankful for Sophie’s life… that she was willing to live sacrificially for Jesus Christ. It was through her that my Indian family came to know Him. It’s just a reminder that we need to give our lives to Jesus… we never know how far reaching one life can be.
Look up Dan Nuesch, who is a director of the Word of Life Bible Institute in Argentina.
He and his wife were friends of Sophia Muller and have had her in their home.
Thank you for posting all these wonderful comments on Sophia Muller, as I knew her indirectly we ccould say.”Sophia” in Spanish. I saw her at a distant when she visited Palabra de Vida Argentina, a Bible Institute in South America back in 1995. By this time Ms.Sophie was ready to soon end her mission in the jungle and she was looking for men of God to continue this great work among the indigeneous people. Fortunately, NTM was sending more missionaries during this time until now we could say with the unfortunate happenings with Chavez. But I can share with you all that out of her work of many years along other missionaries, the Bible has been translated into all these different dialects and now the same indigeneous groups have their own “missionary leaders” who are carrying out the Great Commission.I remember that little old, skinny, short lady with a skirt and her sneaker boots shying away from the spotlight of the students but in search of servants who had the calling of serving God in the middle of the jungle. God knew then what would happen now and her mission there was accomplished.
I met Sophie about 15 or so years ago in Atlanta , GA. I had an art school and her niece, Caroline Denniing, was my painting student. Caroline told me she had a very tallented aunt, who used to paint, and was visiting her from S. america. She thought I “might” want to meet her, but maybe not since she was one of those “born agains”. Then I really got excited and said I am one, too! I spent a day with her, she told me her story, showed me pages and pages of her large drawings that she used early on to show demons, and Christ and other things they could understand by pictures before they had a language. I also saw many of her erly paintings from before she was a missionary that were hanging in the niece’s home. She gave me her book, which I treasure. She was fantastic and it was one of my favorite days in my life.
I have a question for anyone out there I want to find the niece, Caroline Denning, whom I have lost touch with. I painted an oil painting portrait of her with her son. I want to be back in contact with them!!!
She moved with her husband and son back to NY.
I want to hear from her the story of the last of Spophie’s life. The niece offered to give me some of Sophie’s original art work, which I would love to have.
Can anyone help?????????
When I was a teenager my parents were missionaries with New Tribes Mission. We lived for a time in Berrocal, a Puinave village on the Colombian side of the Orinoco river. Sophie Mueller had a small, one room, thatch roof house there which she would come to once in a while to rest from her constant travel up and down the rivers.
As a teenager I hated God and Christianity. I wasn’t even sure God existed. I was in Berrocal because my parents took me there. One day my Dad made me go out and mow the weeds and wild grass around our house and Sophie’s house next door. As I finished Sophie came out of her little house and handed me a hundred peso bill. I tried to refuse it because I only did the job since my dad made me. But Sophie said, “Well God told me to give it to you!” There didn’t seem to be any way to argue with that. This event was one of a series of things that God used to turn my heart around. I returned and worked with the Puinaves myself as an adult, living in Morichal and Puerto Inirida where Sophie visited once in awhile. I now teach Bible and Spanish in a large Christian High School, but my former partners, the Cains and the Richardsons, are still working with the Puinaves, completing Bible translation and training elders. Other New Tribes missionaries are still working with the Guahibo tribe as well.
Sophie founded churches that I know of in Puinave, Curipaco, Guahibo, and Guayabero tribes, and probably in others as well. The actual count of churches is probably impossible to determine as in that remote area of the jungle nobody was counting. Her story has been partly recorded in the book “His Voice Shakes the Wilderness” and also in her book, “Jungle Methods.” Both were published by New Tribes Mission and are probably available through their web site.
Shocking, I have seen a photo of Sophie in the Israel My Glory Magazine and thougth, I’ve seen my great-aunt! A splitting image, then discovered her name was the same as my grandfather’s. ( Muller with 2 dots over the vowel u).
Can anyone lead me to any descendants of her here in the US. I originally came from Czech Republik, back then was Czechoslovakia. My grandfather passed on and was one of 9 children and I’ve lost contact with relatives there.
Hana (Lisická/Zbavitelová) Tyler
I haven’t come across any of her relatives. My impression is she wasn’t married. It sounds like she has a niece (if you read through the comments). Sorry I cannot help more.
I ran across your articles on Sophie Mueller and have enjoyed them. I have an old photo of her that I scanned when we were missionaries in Venezuela. A pastor and friend was making trips into the jungle working with the Curipaco and Piaroas. He was visiting with a pastor and asked if anybody had ever seen a photo of her. The man replied I have one and pulled an old wrinkled photo out of his billfold and loaned it to the pastor to take back to the city and see if he could copy it. I tried to enhance the one we scanned and got a little clarity out of it. There is a Brazilian flag in the background. I have used it in teaching Venezuelans and others about missions.
What an demonstration of the power and protection of God in response to sacrificial obedience and love. Wow! What a great spiritual heritage.
[…] more information about her from people who knew her, check out the comments on the post, “The Amazing Story of Sophie Muller.“) Again, this is in Ricardo’s […]
great, cultural mutilation, thank you sophia for eliminate the ancestral culture of colombia, its colombia not columbia
Don’t patronise the indigenous population. It’s up to them what to believe. If they accept the “God News” then they are free to do so. Don’t treat them as children.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It
teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live
self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who
gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for
himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11 Sophie apparently spent lotsa time in the word. Mark Berardelli
I was so glad to find this post! Not many people have ever heard of Sophie or this story – I want to find a book about her.
Sophie Muller wrote a book about her life in the Amazon up to the 1980s. “His voice shakes the wilderness”
Publisher: NEW TRIBES MISSION; FIFTH PRINTING edition (1994). There is a website with extracts: https://urbana.org/go-and-do/missionary-biographies/forty-years-jungle-part-1 Check also part 2.
There is also an article about her life by an academic: http://www.colombianistas.org/Portals/0/Revista/REC-43/43-7-Ensayo_Rausch.pdf Note that footnote 44 incorrectly refers to the author of a blog about the life of Sophie Muller – Felicity Dale- as the granddaughter of a shaman. Felicity Dale in fact is retelling the story of Ricardo, an indigenous man who Felicity Dale met in a trip to Venezuela.
Sophie Muller wrote an account of her life in the Amazon up to the mid 1980s called “His voice shakes the wilderness” published by New Tribes Mission (1988). There is a summary available at: https://urbana.org/blog/sophie-muller Please note there is also a part 2. There is an account of her life by a scholar: http://www.colombianistas.org/Portals/0/Revista/REC-43/43-7-Ensayo_Rausch.pdf Also note that there is an error in footnote 44 where the author incorrectly refers to the author of a blog – Felicity Dale- as the granddaughter of a Shaman (witch doctor). Felicity Dale is in fact a white lady who is recounting a story of Ricardo, a native of the Amazon whose granddad met Sophie Muller and after conversion helped Miss Muller. See:
Muller, Sophie. His Voice Shakes the Wilderness. Sanford, FL: New Tribes Mission, 1988. Sophie describes her conversion, her call to Colombia, and reviews 40 years of ministry. – Highlights are available online at: https://urbana.org/blog/sophie-muller And Part 2: https://urbana.org/blog/sophie-muller-0
A story about this woman appeared in El Tiempo today, 2 Nov 2016, we’ve been missionaries in Colombia 18 years and never heard of her. To find an extensive story about her with quotes from people who knew her, go to eltiempo.com and search for her name spelled Sofia Mueller.