The Tribes of Sumatra


In the 1850s, the tribes of the Sumatra interior were fierce enemies of the first missionaries. Von Asselt, of the Rhineland mission, pioneered the way among the Battaks. (I abbreviate the story printed in a religious paper in Germany.) There was a darkness that could be sensed round about. More than once the missionary and his wife rose in the night to pray God to send His angels to be with them; so keenly they felt the presence of peril. Then they moved inland, where a tribe was more kindly. One day a chief came to see the missionary from the place where he had first settled. At last the chief said to Von Asselt:

"I have yet one request."

"And what is that?"

"I want to see your watchmen."

"But I have no watchmen."

"I mean the watchmen that you station round your house at night."

"But I have none. I have only a herdboy and a little cook."

The man looked unbelievingly at the missionary. "May I look through your house?" He asked.

"Yes, certainly," said the missionary laughing.

The chief searched everywhere in vain, then he finally explained: "When you first came to us, we resolved to kill you and your wife. Night after night we went to your house to do it. But when we came, there always stood round about watchmen with glittering weapons. Then we hired an assassin, and he laughed at us. 'I fear no God and no devil,' he said. 'I will get through those watchmen easily.' So we all came together in the evening, and the assassin, swinging his weapon about his head, went on before us. As we neared your house we remained behind. The assassin went on alone. But in a short time he came running back hastily, and said, 'No, I dare not risk it to go through alone; two rows of big strong men stand there, and their weapons shine like fire.' So we gave it up to kill you. Now, tell me, teacher, who are those watchmen?"

By W. A. Spicer, Signs of the Times, January 28, 1941. Source: Signs of the Times, Copyright (c) January 28, 1941. With permission from Dale Galusha dalgal@pacificpress.com

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