Title: Torches of Joy
Author: John Dekker
Major Themes: Missionaries
Synopsis: After they heard the word of God and turned from their old superstitions to the living God, the Dani people of New Guinea took the gospel to other tribes.
Torches of Joy is a very challenging, encouraging book. It is challenging in that it clearly lays out the responsibility of the believer to spread the Gospel; it is encouraging in that it shows how lives are changed by the Gospel.
In 1960, John and Helen Dekker went to New Guinea to live among the Dani people. The Dani lived in superstitious fear of the spirits and of each other. Their villages were filthy. John began sharing the gospel with them and the people began to respond to it. Within two and a half years, a new church was organized with 150 baptized believers. The people had cleaned up their villages of their own accord and were rethinking their age-old ways of doing things. Many people had learned to read and write. Only nine years after John went to live with the Danis, the Danis themselves were sending out missionaries to other tribes on the island. The entire Dani people group had successfully transitioned from the Stone Age to the Information Age.
The key to success in Torches of Joy was John’s attitude of working himself out of a job. He did nothing that the Dani were able to do for themselves. He taught a few key men the truths from the Bible, and sent them out to teach the rest of the people. He taught one or two groups of people to read, and they taught other groups. He made the Dani responsible for running the new church and making decisions. He did not impose Western culture—in fact, he was very careful to keep his own culture out of the picture as much as possible and let God’s spirit do all the changing that needed to happen. I was very impressed again (this is my third reading of the book) with what God was able to do among the Danis.
WARNING: Page 39 mentions a man shot full of arrows; page 41 mentions children’s fingers being chopped off. Page 95 mentions marital relations. Page 104 mentions fornication. Page 161 describes a man being killed.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults