My Favourite Stories #90

Bruce Olson and the Bari people.

When Bruce Olson (a Scandinavian American Christian missionary) was 19 years old, he went into the jungle on the border of Colombia and Venezuela to bring the gospel to the Barí tribe. The Barí were a primitive, aboriginal people isolated in the dense jungles of South America. They were known for their fierce fighting ability and their violent, barbaric tactics when they warred against other tribes. Bruce was unfazed by their brutal reputation and, if necessary, was willing to give his life to share the gospel with them. He spent weeks trying to win their confidence. No Westerner had entered their territory before. Slowly, over time, the Barí learned to love this gentle, caring foreigner. As Bruce shared the gospel with these primitive natives, they experienced new life in Christ. The all-powerful Creator changed their lives. This once warlike, violent tribe became a force for peace in the entire region.

Just as Bruce was making real progress for the gospel, the unexpected happened. Colombian guerrillas kidnapped him and held him in a secret hideout deep in the jungle. Subsequently, the Colombian army attempted to recruit the Barí to war against the guerrillas. The Barí refused, saying, “Violence only engenders violence.” Bruce was held for 9 months in inhumane conditions; yet, he was able to rise above the horror of his circumstances. He won the confidence of his captors. Eventually they gave him a Bible. Day after day he shared God’s Word with them. More than 100 of these rebel fighters accepted Christ and broke with the guerrilla force, laid down their weapons, and re-joined society as productive Colombian citizens. Despite the evil forces marshalled against Bruce Olson, the all-powerful Creator had a plan for his life, and all the powers of the enemy could not destroy it. Our Creator not only had a plan for Bruce Olson’s life—He has a plan for our lives. But it even gets better. Our Creator not only has a plan for our lives, but through the Holy Spirit, He will guide us into His plan.

Current estimates are that 70% of the Barí people are now Christians. Olsen died in 2014 at the age of 81. A Columbian citizen.

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