“What a brutish master sin is, taking the joy from ones life, stealing money and health, giving promises of tomorrow’s pleasures, and finally leading one onto the rotten planking that overlies the mouth of the pit.”
Jim Elliot (October 8, 1927 – January 8, 1956), American missionary, who was one of five missionaries killed during an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. (Berean Call)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
For more than 20 years we have supported Garo evangelists from northeast India through our Asian Workers’ Fund, as they have taken the Gospel to unreached people groups in their part of the world.
Often, Christians are unaware of the origins of many of the songs we love to sing. In this brief email we would like to share the little-known background of one famous song: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”
In the hills of northeast India live the Garo tribe, who number more than one million people. For centuries they were feared as a primitive head-hunting tribe, but in the most recent Indian census, over 95 percent of the Garo declared themselves to be Christians. Here is one reason why…
In the late 1800s, many missionaries came to Assam in northeast India to spread the Gospel. They succeeded in converting a man named Nokseng, his wife, and his two children. Nokseng’s faith proved contagious, and many villagers began to accept Jesus.
The village chief, angry at the prospect of losing control, summoned all the villagers. He demanded Nokseng’s family to publicly renounce their faith or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Nokseng said: “I have decided to follow Jesus.”
Enraged at his refusal to deny Christ, the chief ordered his archers to shoot the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the ground, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife also.”
But Nokseng replied: “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered Nokseng’s wife to be shot with arrows. In a moment she joined her children in death. Now the chief said for the last time: “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.” In the face of death, Nokseng did not waver, and made his final memorable statement:
“The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back.”
He was killed like the rest of his family, but a miracle took place. The chief was moved by Nokseng’s faith and he wondered, “Why would Nokseng and his family die for a Man who lived in a far-away land some 2,000 years ago? This God must have remarkable power, and I too want to taste that faith.”
In a spontaneous confession, the chief declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Later, Nokseng’s words became a beloved song of the Garo Christians, and was later translated into English and sung around the world.
May the Lord Jesus bless you as together we serve the Church in Asia,
“My name is Ramesh, and I was born into a middle-class family. Despite having Christian parents, I always protested their faith and cursed them for leaving our ancestral religion. I was anti-Christ.
Whenever I saw a Christian, intense anger welled up in my heart. I beat many believers, threatened them, burned down their homes, dragged them out of the village, and spat on them. I even used to sit and wait for Christians on their way home from church so I could rob them.
Over time I led a gang of anti-Christian thugs, who did evil activities each day. Because of our violent acts, many persecuted believers moved away from our village.
No matter how much I mistreated the Christians, my parents continued to pray for my soul, asking God to humble me so I would accept Jesus Christ. One day I had to travel to Kathmandu, and on my way out the door my mother said she would pray for my safety. I angrily scolded her and told her to stop praying. On my way home, the bus I was riding in collided with a truck, and our vehicle plunged over a cliff. There were 43 passengers on the bus, and 42 died. I was the lone survivor.
I knew that God had spared my life thanks to my mother’s prayers, and I realized the power of Jesus Christ is real. When I returned home, I immediately thanked my mother and repented of my sins. I cried out to the Lord Jesus and submitted the rest of my life to serve Him.
Today, I minister among many of the believers I once persecuted. They forgave me and accepted me as a member of God’s family, and after I had learned more of the Bible, they asked me to become their pastor.
The Living God has greatly blessed me. My wife and I adopted a beautiful daughter, and we want to win as many souls as possible into the kingdom of heaven. We are now reaching out to several mountain tribes with the Good News of salvation.
Thank you for supporting me. No matter what hardships may occur in the future, I know that my second chance in life is a gift from God, and I owe everything to Him.” Source: Asia Harvest
Many believers have recently told us they are struggling, with Covid lockdowns and economic stress causing them to feel confused and fearful of the future. In this newsletter we want to share a remarkable testimony of how the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to a young missionary, Caleb Byerly, who comes from a small town in North Carolina. Through a series of incredible events, God used him to reach a previously unknown tribe, the Tinananon, who dwell deep in the mountains of the southern Philippines.
We hope you will be greatly encouraged, and God will remine you of His matchless power and grace. If He put together such a loving and detailed plan to reach this small tribe, He certainly has not forgotten you, your family or your community! Keep trusting the Lord and study His Word each day. He has everything under control!
After reading our brief summary, please scroll down and watch the links to two videos, which show Caleb personally telling the remarkable testimony.
In 2013, Caleb Byerly woke up from a vivid God-given dream and began to furiously write everything he saw in his journal.
In the dream, Caleb was looking out across a mountain and he saw a tribe he had never seen before. In the dream he asked who they were, and the people replied: “We are the Tinananon!” Then a chief walked toward him carrying a strange musical instrument. Caleb happens to make instruments, so he carefully studied the designs of the instrument he saw in the dream, which was unlike anything he had seen before. He said:
“It had 30 strings going all the way around the top of a golden bowl, from the outside, crisscrossing in the middle of the instrument. I suddenly got a full download of everything about this instrument, its dimensions, what material it was made of, and even how it was tuned and played. The tribal chief took two small sticks and began to play it, and the whole tribe rejoiced and worshipped the Living God. It was as if heaven and earth collided. After that I woke up from the dream.”
Caleb wrote down all the details he had seen, and the name of the Tinananon tribe. He then made detailed drawings of the bowl and its dimensions and materials. He then searched online for any reference to the Tinananon people but found nothing. They still do not feature on any mission or Bible translation lists of people groups.
As a professional instrument maker, he was intrigued by the idea of recreating the instrument he had seen in the dream, but the task proved too complicated. In frustration he put the whole thing aside and gave up on the dream.
About six months later, Caleb took a mission trip to the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. As he was traveling in the back of a jeepney (a kind of open van widely used in the Philippines), a man sitting opposite Caleb and couldn’t stop staring at him.
Caleb engaged the man in polite conversation, and discovered he was a Christian, and his name was Manigos. Caleb felt the Holy Spirit impress on his heart: “Ask him about the Tinananon tribe.”
After initially resisting, Caleb finally mustered the courage and asked the man, “Do you know the Tinananon?”
The man’s eyes immediately grew large and his mouth fell open. He leaned forward and said, “Hey, they are my tribe! I am a Tinananon! How do you know about my people?”
Manigos explained that his tribe lives in a dangerous and remote mountainous region of Mindanao that people from the outside world rarely enter. Caleb invited Manigos to come to the place where he was staying, and he showed him his journal entry with the word Tinananon.
Manigos began shaking his head, and tears streamed down his face. He said, “Remember earlier on the bus when I kept staring at you? I knew I had seen you before, and now I know where. I also saw you in a dream!” He explained that he left the Tinananon area as a young man, and later met Jesus Christ while living in the large city of Davao. Some time later, God called him back to his tribe through a dream where he saw himself returning to evangelize his people–with Caleb!
Both men were filled with awe at the way God brought them together, and they worshipped and prayed together for several days. Manigos invited Caleb to visit his tribe, but he first had to return to the United States. While there, Caleb went into his workshop and cried out to God, asking Him to give him wisdom and insight so he could make the instrument. The Lord helped him, and when he put the strings on it for the first time he said: “I tuned it the way I heard it in the dream. I got the two little sticks and I started to play it. It was the same sound that I heard in the dream, and I was really excited.”
Caleb bought a plane ticket and left the next day for the Philippines, taking the instrument with him. Along with a friend, Caleb met Manigos and the three of them rode on one motorcycle into the mountains, heading for the Tinananon area. After many trials and dangers, they finally arrived at the edge of a Tinananon village, and Caleb again sensed the Holy Spirit prod him, “I want you to take the instrument to the chief.”
They asked how to find the chief’s house, and learned he lived another three and a half hours away, on the other side of the mountain. By the time they reached the chief’s house it was almost dark. Mud covered their clothing as they approached a small wooden hut and knocked on the door.
The chief opened the door and was shocked to see a white man. Caleb told him: “I have come here to give you a gift,” and he held the instrument in his outstretched arms, covered by a blanket.
When Chief Suhat took the blanket off he was speechless and kept asking, “Where did you get this instrument?”
“Well, I made it,” Caleb replied.
“No, no, I’m serious. Where did you get it from?” the chief repeated.
“Well, if you really want to know, last year I had a vivid dream, in which I heard the name of your tribe, the Tinananon, for the first time. I also saw this musical instrument, and I felt like my God showed me how to design it.
The chief shook his head in disbelief as he carefully examined the instrument, asking questions about it. He summoned other tribal leaders and they walked around it incredulously, pointing at it and saying the word: “Salimbaa.”
Finally, the chief motioned to them and said, “I need to show you something.” They walked down a small pathway to a structure called a Paluvaran, which means ‘house of prayer’ in their language.
This was the place where the Tinananon people worship, and it also served as a storehouse where pottery, metalwork, weaving, and other artefacts are retained as evidence that their tribe has been in existence for many centuries.
The chief said they had different musical instruments for each of their gods. They had a god of trees, a god of stones, and a god of the river. Caleb noticed that one spot was empty on the wall between the other instruments. The chief said that between 100 and 150 years ago there was a tribal war, and their most valuable musical instrument that worshiped the God of all gods had been taken away from them.
In response, the Tinananon people created a lament which they had sung ever since, which says: “The Salimbaa was taken away from us, but the God of all Gods is going to return it one day so we can worship Him.”
They excitedly said, ‘Today, you have returned the lost Salimbaa to us!’”
A gathering of tribal leaders was arranged, and when they saw the instrument and heard it being played they all cried out, “This is it! This is the Salimbaa!”
They told Caleb of a legend they had long held. In the last days, the God above all gods, who they call Manama, would come down from heaven, and would gather all righteous people to Himself. The leaders began praying to Manama, and they dedicated the instrument back to God.
Caleb with the Tinananon chief and the Salimbaa.
As a sign of special honor, the chief placed a headpiece on Caleb’s shoulder. “We now consider you a chief of the Tinananon tribe,” he said. “Whatever you believe God is calling us to do, we will follow you.”
Caleb was humbled by the gesture, but he had to leave the village after spending three days praying for the chief. He returned a few months later to find the chief had an encounter with the Lord Jesus, and he had given his life to serve the true God.
On the second visit, the chief asked if Caleb could help translate the Bible into their language. A team of translators met with all 50 chiefs and elders of the Tinananon people, and the process began.
Chief Suhat passed away in 2015, shortly after the translation began. Since then, four churches have been planted among the Tinananon, with Manigos being used by God to help his own people come to know the Lord.
Caleb adds, “It’s amazing how the chiefs have opened the door for the Gospel among their tribe. In 2019 we again visited the Tinananon and found that Manigos had led the small group of believers well, and now it has grown to hundreds of Christians!”