On Missions in Papua, Indonesia

If you want an informative, God-glorifying, and faith-strengthening missionary story, I recommend The Amazing Danis by David Scovill.  This book is one missionary’s account of his work in Papua, Indonesia (New Guinea – or PNG) starting with his childhood on a farm in Northern Minnesota (when gas was just 13 cents a gallon!). David Scovill (a Baptist missionary) and his wife Esther moved to Papua in 1960 and spent the next 40+ years of his life preaching the gospel as well as explaining (and translating) scripture to a people who had never heard the good news before.

Specifically, Scovill preached to the Danis tribe – people who lived in the mountains of PNG and had almost never come into contact with the Western world before Scovill arrived.  They were an average tribal people, with superstitions (animistic), habits, and customs that Scovill had to deal with in a biblical and Christian way.  How he does so makes the story quite captivating.  How do you tell people that the cicadas in the bushes at night are not spirits?  How do you tell a tribe that they don’t have to go to war over pigs?  How do you minister to them while overlooking their views on hygiene that are totally foreign (and gross) to many Westerners?  How do you plant indigenous churches in such a way that they plant churches (without much outside help)?  And the questions go on.  I appreciated Scovill’s explanation of these things and the way he and his mission team handled them.

Here are a few highlights worth mentioning.  First, after some time of teaching and explaining God, Scripture, Christ, and Christian living, a group of the Danis said this to Scoville and the mission team:

“We, as a people, have made a decision to do away with our life of killing one another and worshipping of the spirits; we want to live the way that Big Book tells us to live.  To do that we must destroy our weapons and fetishes immediately.”

After much of the translation work of the Bible to the Dani language was finished, one Dani man said,

“God’s Word, in my own language, speaks louder to me than any of the other languages I have learned.”

I could go on.  Trust me when I say this is a captivating book – especially for those of you who are interested in missions and church planting.  Whether you get it on Kindle or paperback, it is worth every penny.  In fact, as I review it here, I’m beginning to want to read it again!  Scovill wrote this book in such a way that the spotlight was not on himself, nor on the Dani tribe, but on God and his gospel of grace.

David Scovill, The Amazing Danis.

shane lems

4 Replies to “On Missions in Papua, Indonesia”

  1. Hi Shane,
    Your review reminds me a little of John G. Paton’s autobiography. I never got all the way through it (only the first of two parts), but I found it quite interesting and moving. Banner of Truth publishes a nice edition of the book. It reads a bit “19th Century” at times, but it is definitely edifying.


  2. Another amazing and inspiring missionary’s story to the same region is Peace Child by Don Richardson – have you read that? I published a review on it on my site about a month ago.


  3. Nevada – Paton’s autobiography that you mentioned is sitting on our little church library shelves – I’ve wanted to read it.

    IAB – I’ve not heard the one by Don Richardson, but it sounds good! I put it on my wishlist.



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