One of the most rewarding parts of visiting other countries for me is the people I meet and hearing their stories and learning about their culture. Though several years have passed, now seems like a good time to share about two real life heroes from Brazil who courageously risked it all to save a life. One I learned of through reading about the history of the Wai Wai Tribe while preparing to visit one of their villages, and the other I met in person in Boa Vista at a missionary base. I have intentionally withheld their names for privacy, and I share this to the best of my recollection. Here are their stories.
but what makes him a hero in my book happened many years earlier when he was a young boy.
Many years ago, missionaries working to reach indigenous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon encountered a village of Wai Wai warriors where they endeavored to learn their language and build relationships in order to share the gospel message. Their biggest helper was a powerful witch doctor who accepted Christ and renounced the evil spirits he would call upon. His story is quite miraculous, but what makes him a hero in my book happened many years earlier when he was a young boy.
Moved by his courage and love, his mother’s heart softened and she decided to keep the baby.
He wanted to have a little brother, and he was so happy when he learned his mother was expecting. But as her belly grew, he became concerned. When his mother and father talked about the birth, it was clear that they wanted the baby to be a girl. In his culture, when a baby arrived, if the parents didn’t want the baby for any reason, they would kill it. So when his mother went into labor, he was nervously waiting to see what would happen. It was a boy and both his parents were disappointed. His mother laid the baby on the ground which was their way of announcing that they didn’t want the child. A close family member like a grandparent or aunt could choose to pick up the infant and adopt it as their own. But as he feared, no family member came to rescue his newborn brother. His father picked up a heavy club and drew it back to strike. In a desperate and courageous act, he threw his own body between his baby brother and his father’s death blow. Badly injured himself, he found the strength to pick up the baby and face his father. Moved by his courage and love, his mother’s heart softened and she decided to keep the baby.
It’s important to understand that his father could easily have killed both him and his baby brother without any community repercussions. Or he could have been shunned by his village for defying his parents. He risked everything to save the life of his baby brother, and he grew up caring deeply for others. When he decided to become a witch doctor, it wasn’t to use that power to hex or curse people and make them fear him but because he wanted the power to heal the people he loved. When he renounced the evil spirits he called upon as a witch doctor, God blessed him by showing him he could heal others through the power of the Holy Spirit. And because of his witness, his entire village accepted Christ. Thankfully, his heroic act as a child didn’t cost him his life, but it easily could have.
She lived for several years in a village learning their language so that she could help translate scripture in their native tongue.
The second hero is a Brazilian woman who answered a call to missions work and began serving among the Yanomami. She lived for several years in a village learning their language so that she could help translate scripture in their native tongue. This became her home and the villagers her family. One of the women in the village gave birth to a baby girl. For whatever reason, she and her mate decided they didn’t want the baby, and no family members agreed to adopt her. Without hesitation, the missionary scooped up the baby and fled with her. There was a small plane that had just brought supplies to the village preparing to take off, and she was able to take the baby aboard and escape.
She risked her own life, because the villagers would have certainly killed her had she not been able to board the plane. She also risked arrest by the Brazilian government for interfering with village affairs. She risked her future ministry with the Yanomami to save the baby girl. And now what would become of the child? She kept the baby and began raising her alongside her own daughter. This was a big challenge because she was a single mom, and now she had two little girls to care for. She faced an uphill battle to be able to adopt the baby girl because of her indigenous status. At the time I met her, she had not been able to return to her village home because she would have been immediately killed. But as the years have passed, God has worked on the hearts of the girl’s parents and the other villagers. A few years ago, she was able to make a trip back to the village and safely introduce her adopted daughter to her biological parents. God has blessed her for her bravery and selfless act to save a life, and now her two girls are nearing their teen years and are beautiful young ladies.
In our culture today we celebrate people for all sorts of reasons. I can think of no better reason to celebrate an individual than to commend them for risking it all to save the life of another. I can’t help but think what a different world we would be living in if more people had the same courage to save a life. You never know when you may be called upon to take action to save another, knowing that to do so may mean the risk of great loss. I pray for courage and love for the days ahead that each of us will do all we can to preserve the lives of those in danger. Remember, your actions will do more than save a life, because you will also be impacting all those who will be affected by that life. You may never find yourself in a situation where you actually risk your life to save another, but each of us will likely have an opportunity to impact the decisions of someone considering actions that could affect their life or the life of another. And the best way to impact and influence that individual will flow out of a heart full of love that has no room in it to express judgement.
“Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
“This is my command; Love each other.” John 15:17