Title: From Fear to Freedom
Author: Marjorie Pethybridge
Major Themes: Missionary Stories, Papua New Guinea
Synopsis: When Ivor and Marjorie felt a call to go to the Duna tribal group in Papua New Guinea, they had no idea of the wonderful ways the Lord would provide for them and work to bring more people to light in Christ.
I don’t remember where I got From Fear to Freedom originally; I think it was borrowed from friends years ago, and never got returned…but I finally pulled it off my shelf a while back, realizing that I should get it read and back to them. Since that time, I’ve tried to be a lot more prompt about getting books read and back to people—with limited success—but I did enjoy getting the chance to read this story! It was written by one of the missionaries that the events happened to; she was a Brethren missionary from New Zealand, which I enjoyed seeing because I’ve been somewhat involved with the church groups here that she would have been part of back in the day. This wasn’t the most gripping missionary story ever, but one that I think is worth reading if you can get your hands on it.
After some time of being missionaries in another area of Papua New Guinea, God gave Ivor and Marjorie Pethybridge a vision for reaching out to the Duna people. They’d never been introduced to the Gospel before, and still lived in sin with a very real fear of the spirits. After meeting with the people, they were able to share some of the gospel with them—and soon they were invited to move in. Nothing is simple, however—the airstrip took a good while to find and create, and their accommodations were less than perfect for a long time. But through God’s strength, they persevered and reached out to the people as well as they could. And then one day, God seemed to move—and many started coming to the Lord. But even after that, there was still much to do.
From Fear to Freedom was not the most gripping or, possibly, memorable read ever. But, being a true story and telling the acts of God, I think this is one that is an excellent read if you are interested in seeing how He has worked around the world. I loved the feeling of immediacy in this book; it was written less than five years after most of the events happened. I really enjoyed that aspect!
I also really appreciated the challenge the author gave about prayer—along with some practical ideas to help in praying for missionaries. That was probably the part of the story that most resonated with me. At one point, she’d been relating a story about a young man that started out very angry, found the Lord, and then became a leader of his tribe. Then she said, “For a while he ran well. Recently he has stumbled.”—her next words were what made me pause to think—“(I wonder—do you pause to pray as you read of people like this man?)” Later on, she also gave some practical tips for prayer life: Take an active interest in people’s needs. Write them down where you’ll remember them. Choose a few specific people or instances to especially pray for, instead of trying to cover everyone all the time. As someone deeply interested in missions, I found her words encouraging and inspiring. I believe this is a part of God’s heart, too—developing a rhythm of loving care for those doing heavy kingdom work, instead of just skimming over a list of names we’ve been given.
Overall, From Fear to Freedom was a bit of a letdown—I found it difficult to keep my interest up through most of the story. It was good, but not one I’d necessarily read again. But her thoughts about supportive prayer—that was the real gem of the book. I’m already implementing some of her concepts—I love it when people give us practical ideas for our walk with the Lord and His people!
WARNING: In ch. 1, “Prologue”, pg. 10, a witch doctor’s paraphernalia is described. There is a description of how the tribal people used to remove infected teeth in ch. 2, the section titled “To Pori—January-July, 1962”, pg. 39. Later in the same section, pg. 48, there is a mention of a partially naked woman. In ch. 3, pg. 51, there is a story of a woman who found her daughter murdered, and later on pg. 55, the reason for the murder was told. Later in ch. 3, under the section “One Day at a Time”, pg. 67, there is a short description of a woman with breast cancer. Under “Early Reactions”, pg. 80, there is a bit of a discussion about what the evil spirits made people do to disrupt meetings, and how a woman, under the power of a demon, committed suicide. In ch. 4, in the section “In Sickness”, pg. 83, there is talk of spirit appeasement by killing pigs and how multiple children died; later, on pg. 85, there is a description of what some fathers did to children who stole things as well as the tribe’s (painful) “remedy” for headaches. In the last pages of ch. 4, the last two sections detail different tribal customs from before Christianity came to the people. On pg. 88, there is a story of a demon-possessed woman who was trying to commit suicide; on pg. 89, she set a house on fire and her husband didn’t treat her very well. On pg. 97, there’s talk about polygamy, and how women would often suckle their children as well as the all-important piglets, if needed. On pg. 98, a girl’s ear is torn after she made a decision without consulting her father. On pg. 100, there is some description of an inter-tribal fight, and on pg. 102, there are descriptions of how a husband would force his wife to do what he wanted her to do. In ch. 5, section “First Fruits”, pg. 106, a father asks his son to cut him with an ax—so he could presumably die; pg. 108 tells of a man who was addicted to gambling; and pg. 110 mentions “love-houses”, which were sinful places.
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults