Rich Bruce, now a teacher at New Tribes Bible Institute in Michigan, worked for years with the Yanomami people group in South America. He was eyewitness to many violent acts of hatred, jealousy, and fear. Rich talks of how it was not hard to see the darkness of mankind’s heart in such a harsh and challenging environment. The following is one of these stories.
Manuel was unusually fidgety and nervous. Normally my Yanomami tribal friends were friendly and amicable when they were hanging around my house. He kept looking back toward the shack that he lived in with his three children. Manual’s first wife died giving birth to their third child. He was then left to provide for himself and his three children alone. For a stone age tribal man, this meant scavenging the woods every day for anything he could find. He had to do the work of two people and rely on his family, who mostly hated him, to care for his children. He couldn’t trust his family with his oldest daughter, so Manuel’s life was filled with painful drama and excruciating work.
Then he met the girl of his dreams. This girl was from our area but had been married off to a distant village. She was thrown away (divorced) from that distant village because of repeated bouts of malaria and for being uncooperative with that clan. They abused her continually until she finally ran away and found the man of her dreams, Manuel. Wow, they were so happy together, and were soon living together as husband and wife. I can imagine them laughing together and talking about their future. Manuel would build her a new house and life would be perfect.
Unfortunately, as he was nervously looking back at his house, Manuel’s wife’s birth family was planning on kidnapping her and taking her away from Manuel forever. Her clan hated Manuel’s clan, and the thought of them together drove them all into an enraged fury. That day around two in the afternoon, Manuel was suddenly gone from my house and we heard screaming and crying from the village. I heard from other Yanomami that the two clans were angrily “pulling” Manuel’s wife.
“Pulling” is the Yanomami cultural method of resolving issues like this. Typically, they would play tug of war with the girl’s body and the clan that “won” would carry her away and she would serve that village by being an obedient daughter or wife depending on who she ended up with.
Manuel desperately tried to save her. He pulled and begged and pleaded for hours with the family to please let him have her. The girl was tossed around like a rag doll and the skin on her arms and legs became blackened and bruised. Manuel’s family who was usually hostile toward Manuel found an opportunity to make the clan they hated suffer, so they came to Manuel’s aid.
They pulled and yelled and vented their anger for hours until around ten that night, when members of the girl’s birth family reached down and strangled the poor girl because they were losing the fight. Frantically, Manuel’s family came to the missionaries’ houses to see if we could help the dying girl. We ran down to the village only to find her lying dead at the feet of dozens of
Yanomami. I looked into the faces of the people gathered around and I saw the lifeless eyes of hatred, jealousy, bitterness and years of pent up rage. Manuel’s wife was gone.
Who Will Answer Our Questions?
We are left with questions. The anger that Manuel felt – was it put in there by the death of his wife, or was there already anger in Manuel’s heart and the death of his wife brought it out? Where does violence come from? Why? Where was God? Does God care? Why didn’t He stop it? What now? Didn’t God want Manuel and his wife to be happy?
We must also look in the mirror. How is it decided if I am a good person or a bad person? Why would I not doubt everyone and everything? Is anything truly good? Why do I want to do bad things at times? Where do my dark desires come from? How can I ever trust anyone with my heart if my heart is the problem?
How we respond to these questions will have a monumental impact on our life. We desperately need the correct answers.
When we do a careful study of God’s Word from beginning to end, we begin to understand that the heart of man is hopelessly sinful. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else; and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (NASB).
This is actually a healthy realization.
It is healthy to be realistic about the fact that I, as a human being, am not good. My heart is desperately sick and infected with sin, just like those in Manuel’s life.
Mankind is plagued with a desperate sickness, a wickedness that pervades our souls. We are the source of depravity and evil in this world.
Knowing this leads us to more questions: Is there salvation from this mess? Am I destined to be evil? Can I ever be good? Who will provide the solution to this problem of evil? Is there a solution? Can I ever have hope of escaping myself, or the darkness of my own heart? Can I trust people around me?
These questions and more must drive us to God’s Word, the only source of truth, where we will find the answers, and more importantly, the “who” behind the answers: God Himself.