The Yali Tribe in Papa New Guinea, which used to kill missionaries, practice witchcraft and engage in cannibalism, is now following God and graciously accepting 2,500 Bibles flown to them.
In August, the Yali people received 2,500 Bibles delivered by plane from Mission Aviation Fellowship. Some tribe members walked an entire day’s journey to reach the villages where the Bibles were being handed out. Before the plane landed, women swayed and chanted to celebrate the arrival of the Bibles.
“It felt like we were on holy ground. It was a holy moment — one to be remembered,” said Dave Ringenberg, the MAF instructor pilot and director of Papua operations, told MAF.
One-thousand four hundred of the Bibles were children’s Bibles, while the rest of them were regular Bibles. The Bibles came from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a Christian organization that flies Bibles to areas that cannot receive them in other ways.
One of the Yali Tribe’s church ordered the Bibles after there were not enough to give to the Yali Tribe’s village, MAF reports. The Yali tribe were waiting for the plane to land and the women and children were celebrating by chanting in their local tongue and dancing.
This flight took place 55 years after the tribe was first discovered by Mission Aviation Fellowship in a flight survey in 1965.
The arrival of the Bibles was marked by a celebration complete with dancing, songs, and speeches. Many people might have thought this scene impossible just 52 years ago.
The Bibles handed out to the tribe were translated into southern Yali. After 32 years, the translation was completed in 2000. World Team missionary, Stan Dale, and a Yali man named Luliap Pahabol worked together to complete the Gospel of Mark, the first book to be completely translated.
Dale was working on the book of Acts when he and colleague Phil Masters were tragically killed in 1968.
Two of the tribe’s warriors ambushed the missionaries as they were scouting out a place for a new airstrip in order to share the Gospel with a “particularly hostile Yali tribe,” MAF reports. The tribal warriors attacked the missionaries because they were spreading a message that went against the tribe’s witchcraft and beliefs. The two missionaries took more than 200 arrows before they died.
Then, a second Mission Aviation Fellowship plane crashed and the pilot, Paul, stumbled out and was found by one of the Yali tribe members who was against murdering missionaries. The tribe member kept Paul safe until a search party arrived.
The tribe considered this second visit a sign and listened to what the search party and Paul had to say, and slowly more and more members of the Yali tribe came to Christ.
There are now more than 100 churches among the Yali people.
The Yali are major tribal group in Papua, Indonesia, and live to the east of the Baliem Valley in the Papuan highlands. The Dani word for “lands of the east” is “yali”, from where the Yali took it, without it being a self-identification for their tribe.
The Yali were once known as the most feared tribe in Indonesia’s Snow Mountains. Short and aggressive, they used their bows to kill other tribesmen and eat them. Even when the tribe wasn’t at war, they hunted people for meat. Few who entered their mountains returned.
The tribe didn’t know people existed outside the mountains of Papua New Guinea, or of a way to live without killing each other.