Lords of the Earth is a gripping account of Christian missionaries, Stanley Dale and Bruno de Leeuw, and their first contact with the Yali tribes-people of the high mountains of Irian Jaya (Dutch New Guinea). The Yali were a hard-edged warrior dominated society that eked out a primitive existence in the steep walled valleys that protected them from civilization. These occasional cannibals had their world and cosmology utter shaken by the appearance of the two RBMU (Regions Beyond Missionary Union) missionaries and native guides that trekked into their valleys in 1961. Over the next decade, these people saw their warring sectarianism replaced by a loving peace taught by the Christian gospel.
Stan Dale is the main protagonist of this hard-to-believe true story. Starting from very humble beginnings in Australia, he fought his way into becoming a smart, strong, but often equally brash soldier. His conversion to Christianity was followed shortly by a call to the mission fields of Papua New Guinea. However, his sternness and treatment of others led him to being let go from not one but two different missionary societies. But when in his third stint on the island he went to the Yali people, he finally found the field God had prepared him for.
This account is filled with some absolutely cringe-filled moments as Stan charges into situations that he had no understanding of the underlying context. The greatest lesson this book imparts is that God can use anyone and their foibles for His work. Richardson’s portrayal of him – drawn from many firsthand accounts and his own acquaintance – paint a fair picture of the man. Sometimes this is to his detriment, but also the reader sees how he was uniquely suited for this challenging assignment. His supporting cast of missionaries and native tribesmen are impressive in their resolve to break the power of spirit worship. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it truly is amazing from where it starts to where it ends.
The thing I loved most was the view into this primitive people’s lives. Their beliefs, their thoughts, the way the villages are arranged appeal deeply to my anthropological curiosities. These black pygmy cliff dwellers reveal their humanity even in the most uncivilized ways. The reader feels drawn to them in the same way the missionaries were.
The book on a whole isn’t as strong as Richardson’s autobiographical account in his book Peace Child, but those who love to read compelling stories of Christ’s work will enjoy this. The events in this story are barely fifty years old. They should be an inspiration to many.
7 stars out of 10