The Missions Legacy of Don Richardson

Modern missions pioneer and advocate, Don Richardson, passed away on December 23, 2018, at the age of 83.

Modern missions pioneer and advocate, Don Richardson, passed away on December 23, 2018, at the age of 83.

In 1952 at the age of 17, the young Canadian from Prince Edward Island gave his life to Jesus Christ at a Youth for Christ rally. In 1962, after graduation from Prairie Bible Institute and Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Institute of Linguistics, Don and his wife, Carol Joy, followed the Lord’s call to Netherlands New Guinea under the auspices of Regions Beyond Missionary Union.

The Pioneer’s website says, “Don’s unwavering commitment to the cannibalistic Sawi tribe transcended the fierce opposition that living among them presented. During their 15 years on the field, Don and Carol slowly found ways to contextualize the gospel. They also translated the New Testament into the Sawi language and saw more than half of the tribe come to Christ.”

The task was more difficult than most would imagine because, within the context of their worldview, the Sawi understood Judas to be the hero of the Gospel story and “Jesus was the dupe to be laughed at.”

Instead of direct translation of Scripture, which the Sawi clearly misunderstood, Richardson looked for something he called “a redemptive analogy” – something in their culture that might illustrate the substitutionary atonement of Christ in a meaningful way.

He discovered the Sawi concept of the Peace Child. When warring tribes decided to make peace with each other, leaders from opposing villages would exchange children with each other as a sign that their fathers could be trusted.

Don wrote and published Peace Child in 1974. It became a national best-seller in the United States and gained special status as a Reader’s Digest Book-of-the-Month. The book has been responsible for awakening many Westerners to the needs and the trials of reaching the unreached and recording the changes that Jesus Christ makes in the lives of individuals, families, and entire communities.

The publication of Peace Child, the story of how the Gospel changed warriors, cannibals, and headhunters in people of peace and goodwill, also changed the course of Richardson’s journey. In 1977, Don became World Team’s minister-at-large. He traveled to all 50 states and 36 foreign countries sharing the message of missiology in churches, at conferences, and on college campuses.

Following Peace Child, Don wrote six more missions-oriented books, the most notable of which are Lords of the Earth and Eternity in Their Hearts.

Lords of the Earth tells the stories of several fellow missionaries and the Lord’s work among the Yali tribe who live in the same province as the Sawi.

Eternity in Their Hearts is distinctively unique, telling true stories of how the Lord actually prepared several cultures to receive the Gospel far in advance of anyone arriving with the good news.

The amazing video (15:46), “Never the Same,” shares the story of Don’s return to the Sawi people in December 2012.

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