Title: Lords of the Earth
Author: Don Richardson
Major Themes: Missions, Missionaries
Synopsis: With determination to share Christ with as many people as possible, Stan Dale dared to get in contact with an unreached head-hunting, cannibalistic tribe in inland Irian Jaya, even though he knew it could be dangerous to do so.
I’ve enjoyed books by Don Richardson for several years now. The stories he tells have a point; besides just chronicling a portion of someone’s life, he also has an overall worldview that is intriguing. Lords of the Earth is a book I’m sure I won’t forget anytime soon.
Like Peace Child, this book starts out with a description of what the Yali culture looked like before Christianity came in. Then Stan Dale comes on the scene, a young man with a troubled past and a desire to love and serve the Lord with everything he had. After serving in the Second World War for a few years, Stan developed an army-sergeant attitude that would propel him through his missionary life with vigor. After several failed attempts at being a missionary in different locations—when colleagues had one reason or another to ask he be moved to another field—Stan finally found his spot on the map. The distant ranges of inland Irian Jaya called him, with unreached tribes who still hadn’t heard of Christ living in the harsh terrain. So, armed with faith and a fierce determination to do or die, Stan headed into Yali territory, ready to take on the challenge of bringing hope to a hopeless people.
Though Lords of the Earth is a true story, I wasn’t fully prepared for everything that happened in this book. It was a great reminder that we might not always get things the way we want them, even if they are what we would deem best for the gospel to be spread. The Lord has a much, much bigger plan than what we think. I was inspired by this story to reach out more to those around me—I don’t have head-hunting, cannibalistic neighbors after all! I was also challenged to lay down my life more for others; seeing others’ needs, and being willing to go against my selfish nature to serve them.
My favorite part of Lords of the Earth was seeing how God acted through different ones to work out His purposes in the end. Often, we go into situations expecting to do great things for God, but sometimes that’s not what He’s called us to. Seeing lives faithfully lived out—in whatever circumstances the different individuals found themselves in—was a blessing to me. I, too, would love to do great things for the Lord, but right now I believe my “great things” are being faithful in the little place where I am now. So it was encouraging to see others being faithful, and seeing their labor being rewarded in the long run. God’s work, done God’s way, will not lack His provision—and this book beautifully illustrated that. In all, this was an excellent story that encouraged me, and made me think—both things I value. Recommended for older audiences.
WARNING: In chapter 1, page 21, there are frequent mentions of the spirits the tribespeople served and what they made the people do. This is a common occurrence throughout the book, and especially part one is pretty graphic in how much death the spirits demanded to be appeased. Also in chapter 1, pg. 24 and 26 mention cannibalism. Page 27 tells of some of their “clothing”, which was designed to emphasize certain features of the human body, also tells of a boy having to go through a coming-of-age ritual. Page 35 tells about a girl that “had” to be killed; later, on pg. 38-43, the girl is killed because of an ancient custom required by the spirits (graphic). In chapter 2, page 49, women are killed in a raid (graphic), pg. 51 tells of a man who breaks his leg, pg. 52 has discussions about cannibalism, on pg. 54-55, a man is killed and there is cannibalism (graphic), pg. 57 tells of a woman’s suicide. In chapter 3, throughout the chapter there is divining, and people decide a man must die (even though his “sin” was only presumed, not proven). In chapter 4, a whole family is killed to appease the spirits (graphic). Chapter 5 tells of the priests, some of their rituals, and their fear of spirits. In chapter 6, page 87, a man is killed because he broke the rules (somewhat graphic). In chapter 9, page 133, an ambush is made and a man is killed (somewhat graphic). In chapter 10, page 139, several women are killed in a raid, and page 140 describes some travelers who were killed. In chapter 15, pages 249-251, there is a stand-off between the priests and the missionary, and people almost end up getting killed. In chapter 16, pg. 269, a young man is shot and killed (very brutal), and another man is killed (somewhat graphic); pg. 276 tells of a man who was shot a lot, almost dies from his wounds, and someone else is killed in the encounter. In chapter 17, pg. 299, people are setting ambush, there is talk of cannibalism. Later, on pages 304-305, missionaries are shot repeatedly with lots of arrows, later, they die, and are beheaded on pg. 307. The rest of the chapter tells what happens with their remains, including discussions about cannibalism (graphic). In chapter 18, people are shot and some killed in an encounter.