Waciri grew up listening to stories from his grandmother about Leo and Jessie Halliwell, the medical missionaries who brought health and hope to the people of the Amazon jungle. They traveled up and down the Amazon River on the mission boat called the Luzeiro, a Portuguese word for “light bearer.”
Waciri’s grandmother told how her father, the tribal chief, made the first contact with Leo Halliwell. At the time, they could communicate only using signs, because the tribal people had their own dialect and did not speak Portuguese. But the chief understood that the Halliwells had come to help the people, and welcomed them into his tribe.
A special friendship and trust developed between the chief and the Halliwells, and little by little the chief introduced the Halliwells to neighboring tribes. He told the other tribes, “These people have come to help the community; they haven’t come to kill anyone. They want to give life to the people.”
One item of special interest to the villagers was a hand-cranked gramophone. When the Halliwells first entered a village, they set up their gramophone and played recordings of Christian hymns. The people loved the music, and word about this special machine spread quickly to other river villages.
Sometimes the Halliwells traveled to remote villages without their friend, the tribal chief. On one such occasion the Luzeiro was headed into a dangerous community, known as the “head cutters”—a tribe known for their cruelty.
As the Luzeiro approached the village, a young man helping the Halliwells on the boat caught sight of some of the tribesmen along the shore. The men were pointing at the Luzeiro, then pointing to the side of their heads. They repeated this gesture, and the young man was certain they were preparing to cut off the Halliwell’s heads.
Running to the Halliwells, he pleaded, “Let’s not land here! They’re going to cut off our heads! Let’s go back!”
“No,” said Leo Halliwell, knowing that they needed to enter this village, too. “Be calm,” he told the young man as the Luzeiro pulled up to the shore.
Stepping off the boat, Leo Halliwell greeted the tribesmen, who kept pointing to the side of their heads. Suddenly he realized that they were pointing to their ears—they wanted to hear the gramophone!
Quickly he set up the gramophone. As the hymns began playing, the people gathered around with smiles spreading across their faces. The way was opened to reach even this feared tribe with the Adventist message of hope and healing.
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