One of the most feared tribes in Papua New Guinea that once murdered missionaries and practiced witchcraft has turned from its evil ways and is now following God.
In August, the Yali tribe located east of the Baliem Valley in the Papuan highlands graciously accepted 2,500 Bibles delivered by plane from Mission Aviation Fellowship. Once an enemy to the Gospel, women and children were waiting for the plane celebrating and chanting in their local tongue.
Some tribe members even walked an entire day’s journey in order to reach the villages where the Bibles translated into their own language were being distributed. Dave Ringenberg, the MAF instructor pilot responsible for delivering the Bibles, said “it felt like we were on holy ground.”
Among the Bibles delivered, 1,400 were children’s Bibles transported by one of MAF’s eight Papua New Guinea-based aircraft. The arrival of God’s Word was celebrated with dancing, songs, and speeches.
The Yali tribe was once seen as the most feared people group in Indonesia’s Snow Mountains. They used their bows to shoot down other tribesmen and consume them. People were seen as a source of food rather than a community. Few who entered the snowy mountains escaped.
In the 1960s, Missionaries Stan Dale and Phil Masters began reaching the Yali people with the Gospel. Along with their first convert, a man named Luliap Pahabol, Dale translated the book of Mark into the Yali language — the first step in a Yali Bible Translation that took 30 years to finish.
In 1968, Dale and Masters were tragically killed after two Yali warriors chased the missionaries from their territory because they were spreading a message that went against the tribe’s witchcraft and beliefs. Dale and Masters were hit with 200 arrows before they died.
Three months later, a Yali tribe member, who was against murdering missionaries, sheltered the pilot of a second MAF plane crash until a rescue party arrived.
The Yali saw this second visit as a positive sign and decided to listen to what the rescue party and the pilot, Paul, had to say about the Gospel. They allowed the missionaries to live among them and teach them the message of Christ.
Today, the Yali have abandoned their violent traditions involving witchcraft, murder, and cannibalism in order to follow Christ. The obedience and dedication of MAF has had a tremendous impact on the Yali people.
“Because God in His far-reaching love, worked through a killing, a plane crash, faithful missionaries, translators and organizations like MAF, these Yali tribes no longer walk the path of darkness,” said Dave Ringenberg’s wife, Linda. “Their path is lit by the Word of God.”
The testimonies of the Yali speak volumes of what the Word of God and faithful followers of Christ can accomplish.
“From now on we will be using the Bible as our tool. This will be our fresh water,” said one Yali woman. “Now we can read it in our mother tongue.”
Another Yalu tribe member said, “I still remember the day when the first missionary arrived here. It made a big impact. Without MAF, we might still live in our old way of life.”