Bruchko a book for short-term missionaries – An amazing story for those who would be missionaries, short-term missionaries and for Christians everywhere
Would you ever consider hopping on a plane to Venezuela, with only a few dollars in your pocket and no missionary assistance or Spanish-speaking skills whatsoever? I bet Bruce didn’t even expect that he would. But that is what happened, and that is the story of the amazing book, “Bruchko.”
This is the inspiring and true story of Bruce Olson, which you can read more about in his book. Or if you are anxious to begin, part of his story can be found on Bruce Olson’s site, http://www.bruceolson.com. [Note that since Bruce continues to live amidst the Motilone (Bari) people, the site is rarely updated. He is now 74.] This is a great book for short-term missionaries, missions classes, and there is even a study guide at http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-bruchko/#gsc.tab=0
Bruce grew up scoffing at the church, and disliking their “judgmental God.” But at 14, he came to Christ through a friend and began attending church regularly. Deeply touched by a visiting missionary’s sermon, he felt drawn by God (at 16) to go to the Indians of South America.
Bruce applied to a few mission agencies, but he was rejected by all of them. He tried to take it as a sign that God was closing the door, but he still felt called to the mission field. Opposed by his friends, the church and his parents, Bruce dropped out of college, and at age 19, bought a one-way ticket to Venezuela with only a few dollars, no missionary assistance, or Spanish-language skills.
A missionary was supposed to meet him when Bruce got there, but never showed up. Bruce was taken in and fed by a Communist student, and started studying South American tribes at a university in Venezuela. Bruce ended up hearing about the Motilone (Bari), a violent tribe living on the borders of Venezuela and Colombia that were having violent clashes with oil company employees who wanted to drill on their land. No one else from the outside world knew anything about Motilone culture, their language, or their life. Bruce felt a strong pull towards making contact with the Motilone.
The Motilone believed in one God, but also that evil spirits dominated their world. They also believed that God had rejected them long ago. The tribal tale was that a prophet had come to them, Sacamaydodji, promising to take them to a better land. So they left God in Eden and followed the man, but soon realized that he was a false prophet, and they were now lost, far away from God. Since this all happened a long time before, the Motilone did not know the path back to God. However, they also had a prophecy that a tall man with yellow hair would one day come with a banana stalk, and God would speak to them out of the banana stalk.
Olson thought he’d found the Motilone when he stumbled across an Indian tribe at last. After a year of living with the tribe, he realized he was actually in the midst of the Yuko tribe, who were terrified of the Motilone. They agreed to take him halfway to the Motilone, and then he was on his own. Bruce’s first encounter with the Motilone wasn’t what he had expected. After getting shot in the leg with an arrow, he was taken prisoner in the Motilone camp. They didn’t want to kill him because he was very sick and they were afraid his spirit would stay among them and cause problems. So they tried waiting him out, ignoring him, expecting him to die. In the book, you will read about his many trials and tribulations, how he began to live with the Motilone, and how he slowly learned their culture and language. Bruce got his nickname “Bruchko”, from the tribe since the Motilone couldn’t pronounce his name.
Although he slowly started understanding their language and even accompanying the men on hunting trips, he was discouraged by not being able to share the gospel. He decided to try and help them in other ways until he could find a way to tell them about Jesus. Within the tribe, Olson formed a pact with a young man named Bobarishora (nicknamed Bobby), becoming adoptive brothers with him. When Bobby became leader of the tribe, it opened up more opportunities to help the tribe.
The tribe was slowly dying by disease, food shortages, and people from the outside world seeking to steal their land/destroy their way of life. In the meantime, Bruce befriended the tribe’s medicine woman. Knowing that she would be offended and threatened by him healing someone through modern medicine (when her methods failed), during an epidemic of pink eye, he asked her about her cure. She told him that she chanted and prayed, but God would not listen to her, since the Motilone had deceived him. He attempted to give her an ointment that would cure pink eye, but she refused it since it wasn’t their way of doing things.
Bruce tried a different path, and found a man with a bad case of the disease. He then smeared some of the man’s pus into his own eye. He quickly developed pink eye himself, and went back to the medicine woman. After she chanted over him, Olson gave her the antibiotic ointment, and suggested that since he wasn’t part of the tribe, the old chant wouldn’t work for him. The medicine woman tried a new chant and also applied ointment on him, and the pink eye cleared up. She used this “new way of healing” with the others, and became highly regarded by the tribe since it worked for them as well.
Some of the Motilone wondered if Olson might be the tall man with yellow hair from the prophecy, but he didn’t have a banana stalk, so they dropped that idea. One day in 1965, Olson found some of the Indians digging in a hole to search for God. He took it as an opportunity to tell them about Jesus. He opened his Bible, which looked like a banana stalk falling to the ground and splitting open. He retold the Motilone legend that he had learned about a Motilone man wanting to help a group of ants build a good home, but because he was so big and different, the ants scattered in fear. The man was then transformed into an ant, and as an ant, he was able to show the other ants how to improve their home. Olson used that story to describe how God became man, and “walked our trail.” Olson told them of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and told the Motilone that his bible, made from a “banana stalk”, told him the story of Jesus.
Many nights afterward, Bobby “tied his hammock strings into Jesus” and began a new life with God. Months later, at a large tribe festival, Bobby was challenged to a singing competition. He and his opponent climbed into their hammock, and started to take turns singing. Bobby sang about how the Motilone had been deceived by the false prophet, and how Jesus had walked their trail to find them and lead them back to God. The song lasted over ten hours, but it resulted in the entire tribe accepting the truth of song about Jesus. The song then spread to other villages, and other festivals. It wasn’t long before nearly the entire Motilone people had accepted an enculturated version of Christianity in their own language.
After that, Bruce helped them establish a written language, schools, community health centers, and worked with the Colombian government to protect Motilone territory. He was involved with many international organizations, speaking for the Motilone culture. It’s estimated that about 70% of the Motilone tribes are now Christian. It’s amazing how God used one young man to change a murderous tribe of South American Indians into a God-loving community!
Since that time the Motilone (Bari) have not only survived, they have thrived and been recognized by the Countries of Venezuela and Columbia, as well as the United Nations. Some Motilone have also become attorneys and returned home to protect their lands and tribal ways from poachers. The Bari also generate all their own income creating businesses, like chocolate cooperatives, which they use to support the tribe, their medical outreach serving other tribes, and the education of their own children. Bruce has frequently opposed traditional missionary methods, and espouses “going native.”
But the story doesn’t end there! Check out the sequel to Bruchko, where Bruchko gets kidnapped by guerillas/Communists! In 1988, the National Liberation Army (ELN in Spanish) kidnapped Olson and threatened to shoot him if he did not join their cause. He refused, enduring nine months of grueling captivity—and witnessing the execution of five fellow hostages—before the guerrillas relented and set him free.
In 2007, Charisma magazine ran a story about Bruce Olson. You can read it here.
According to Charisma, “In 1997, Olson was abducted again, this time by a splinter guerrilla group known as the Popular Liberation Army (EPL). ‘I was in my old ’79 Toyota, driving on a dirt road from Tibú to Bucaramanga to pay the bills of the students at the university. I was stopped, and 30 guerrillas came out of the underbrush.’
Olson suffered three gunshot wounds in the attack.”
InJesus.com states the following fruit/results from young Bruce Olson’s life and ministry:
1. Today there are more than 50 Motilone-Bari Health Centers in the jungle, staffed with native doctors.
2. Additionally, the Motilones operate 28 Medical Health Stations staffed by their own graduate nurses.
3. 45 bilingual Schools serve every age group. 42 Agricultural Centers staffed by Motilones teach agronomy, animal husbandry, forestry, and soil management.
4. More than 250 Motilone graduate-missionaries are actively preaching the gospel in twenty-two different Latin American tongues. Two have completed advanced theological studies in Bogota.
5. Trained Motilone lawyers successfully represent the Tribes legal needs before Colombia’s National Courts.
6. Educated Motilone Business Administrators staff eight jungle Community Cooperatives.
7. The Motilone newspaper, AsocBari, reports news about evangelism and community development from 18 different tribal fronts.
8. The Motilones made peace with the Yuko tribe, their centuries-old enemy, and evangelized them. Some 18 other tribes have been converted and convinced that violence is wrong. Peace has come to these jungle people.
9. The daughter of Bruce’s Motilone friend, Bobarishora, and two other youths, graduated from Colombia’s National School of Pedagogy and are bilingual instructors to a host of other students.
10. Fidel Waysersera, a Motilone, has been chosen by the Northeastern Colombian tribes to represent them in the State Assembly. He is the first native Indian in the history of Colombia to achieve political status.
11. Roberto Descarara, a Motilone, is a graduate of the Free University in Law and the first indigenous director of the Office of Indian Affairs for the National Government in Northeast Colombia. He, with Fidel Waysersera, attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as representatives of South America’s Indian Tribes. When the Summit ended they preached to other Brazilian Indians.
12. In 1999, when Colombian earthquakes left 180,000 homeless, a Motilone medical team of 4 physicians and 20 nurses gave assistance to more than 5,000 victims.
13. Through Bruce’s efforts, the Government of Columbia has permanently set aside 108,909,000 square meters of land for exclusive protection and use of the Motilone-Bari people. White settlers can no longer steal their land-as was happening when Bobarishora was killed.