Opening the Door


Our legends of origin say that our forefathers ascended to the earth from a hole in the Baliem Valley,” explained Loma, a man who had heard the gospel for the first time. “Then they migrated west until all the valleys were populated. As they were traveling across the high plateau, a bad storm came upon them, and the intense cold caused them to stammer and stutter, thus the origin of our tribal tongues—Dani, Damal, Moni, Ekari, Nduga and many dialects.” Loma was confused. “But the new talk brought by the strange white people came from the west! How can this be when all our legends indicate that man came from the east?”

Loma pondered long on these conflicting schools of thought as he tried to reconcile the gospel story with the legends told by the elders of his tribe. Surely the God who made heaven and earth told the truth! Therefore, the legends must be false.

But what changes this gospel would make in his way of life if he accepted it! No more shopping around for a second wife. No more stealing sweet potatoes, bananas or firewood when his supplies ran low. No more remembering old war debts and plotting revenge. No more killing pigs to placate the evil spirits.

Even so, Loma decided that he would follow the message of truth, and he gave his heart to Christ.

Now there were the Bible stories to learn and so many verses to memorize. How could one ever store up so many new thoughts in one’s memory? And how did the missionary manage to remember so much? Loma knew he must learn to read so that the papers would talk to him too.

So Loma began the struggle to learn the syllables. How very much alike all those funny marks on the paper were! Before the missionaries came, he had never even seen paper. He would pore over the syllable sheet for hours, asking help from any young boy who would sit with him for a while. Learning to read when one is over thirty can be difficult.

But Loma persevered until he reached the goal of being a reader. One evening as he sat reading the story of the crucifixion of his Lord, he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “Oh, to think that Jesus went through such suffering for me! He will never have to go through that again.” So he had not only learned the mechanics of reading but could also read with understanding.

Literacy is the handle which will open the door to the Scriptures. Mastery of the art of reading alone, however, is not sufficient to open the door of the men’s hearts. . . . The Holy Spirit must open the door of understanding. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

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