Yelling and throwing fish at people is no way to bring them to Jesus

Yelling and throwing fish at people is no way to bring them to Jesus December 1, 2018

Missionaries, according to numerous sources, are re-evaluating the methods used in attempts to Christianise ‘heathens’ in the wake of the death of John Allen Chau, who was slain on North Sentinel Island last month by a protected tribe.

On learning from Chau’s 13-page account of his illegal attempt to make contact with the Sentinelese by shouting at them and throwing – presumably not in cans – expert Scott Moreau, dean of Wheaton College’s graduate school and a scholar of mission work and intercultural communication, said Chau’s approach sits on the “naive end” of the missionary spectrum.

John Allen Chau via Instagram

According to Chau written account, he shouted:

My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you.

He then threw a fish at the Sentinelese and fled.

Said Moreau:

If I had been training him, I would be appalled at what he appeared to do based on his diaries. To go stand on a beach and holler at them … it just seems unwise, to say the least.

Chau returned the next day bearing gifts including fish, scissors and a safety pin. When a tribesman wearing a crown shouted at him, he sang worship songs and hymns until a boy shot an arrow that stuck in Chau’s waterproof Bible.

He retreated again, but returned one last time, telling the fishermen he would be fine staying on the island overnight. When they returned, they saw several Sentinelese people dragging his body down the beach.

Chau’s relatives since have said that they forgive his killers and that Chau:

Loved God, life, helping those in need and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people.

Moreau suggested that Chau could have tried sitting on a beach quietly and waiting for an islander to approach rather than hollering at them. Yelling, he said, can be interpreted differently in various cultures, and:

Typically it’s not very positive.

Image via YouTube

But Mary Ho, above, international executive leader of All Nations and one of Chau’s trainers, doesn’t believe that Chau was being stupid or irresponsible. She said Chau spent years preparing for his mission. He majored in sports medicine at Oral Roberts University and received training as a both a missionary and a wilderness EMT. He also reportedly had been vaccinated and quarantined himself in preparation for contact with people who would have no immunity to many common diseases.

Ho said:

We train our All Nations missionaries to obey authority and to respect laws.

And the missionary trainer defended Chau’s tactics, arguing that his presentation of a fish as a gift was “very, very appropriate”. She also said she was “proud” of him for shouting his name in English because it was a “relational” move, even though the Sentinelese language remains unknown.

Buts she didn’t rule out re-evaluating he outfit’s approach to indigenous people.

We are now still grieving, and I am sure that we will take time to reassess, to re-evaluate the events of the last week.

Craig Greenfield, founder and director of Alongsiders International, said he’s seen the negative effects of more traditional approaches to missions during his time living in Asia for more than a decade. He has written about new approaches to that work and believes the word “mission” now comes with so much baggage it is no longer helpful.

Missionary work has historically been guilty of a great many things – as they were part of the broader colonial movement. But there were also positive impacts such as education and science that were spread through missionary work. So it’s only fair to note that it has been a mixed bag.

Moreau also acknowledged that mixed legacy. And he knows that some critics see missions work as a form of colonialism. Still, he says, many Christians believe their faith compels them to convert others anyway.

I understand the criticisms and critiques of mission work because I teach them, but that doesn’t mean we stop altogether because there is an eternal issue at stake.

I don’t see this dying off unless Christians completely change their convictions.

Meanwhile Hello Christian reported that Chau, 26, wrote that he was “scared” before landing on the island, and wondered whether he’d get to see another sunset. He wrote:

Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?

"I’m not trying to justify whatever is meant by that scripture. I’m sure it can ..."

Barmy Brexit Baptist castigates The Rocky ..."
""he served at local parishes Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Our Lady of the ..."

Former Catholic priest likely to die ..."
""Would there be such willingness to engage in such public mockery of the person of ..."

Barmy Brexit Baptist castigates The Rocky ..."
"I LOVE Chester, it's a lovely little city! I'd go buy tickets right now if ..."

Barmy Brexit Baptist castigates The Rocky ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • vaiyt

    It doesn’t matter which methods he used to preach. He knowingly breached a naval blockade set up specifically to prevent people like him from being killed by the Sentinelese. Their hostility is a well known fact. He got in over his head with the typical arrogance of Christian preachers who believe their message is so self-evident that anyone who hasn’t willingly rejected it will be converted instantly.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    “and to respect laws.” Pure 100% BULLSHIT. He knew damned well it was that what he was doing was Illegal. But WTF, since when have xtians ever cared one whit about truth or facts.

    Lies lies and more lies. That is all these evil twits ever have.

  • Broga

    They should be locked up if they attempt to step ashore. The criteria for sectioning under the Mental Health Act i.e. placing in psychiatric care, in the UK is; a danger to oneself or to other people. They fulfil that.

  • Raging Bee

    Ho said: “We train our All Nations missionaries to obey authority and to respect laws.” And the missionary trainer defended Chau’s tactics…

    …which included disregarding laws and bribing people to help him dodge and evade the authorities. What a disgraceful gaggle of fraudsters.

    Chau, 26, wrote that he was “scared” before landing on the island, and wondered whether he’d get to see another sunset. He wrote: “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

    He was scared of them because he’d been taught to think of them as almost literally demonic, long before he met them. How can he, or any of the bigots who “educated” him, possibly claim to love or care for others when they’re teaching each other to demonize them? It’s hypocrisy and doublethink all the way down with these “missionaries,” innit?

    Oh, and their brilliant answer to the bad image missionaries have these days? Just find a different word. Typical Christian non-answer.

  • Graham Heron

    The new suicide.
    Suicide by cop, now suicide as missionary.
    Mission accomplished.

  • Stephen Harvie

    I’m sure the zombie carpenter will explain to this christstain where he went wrong

  • John Dowdle

    The living embodiment of Darwin’s survival of the species.
    Mary Ho “taught” him how to get himself extinguished as a person.
    Even if he had inoculations, he could still act as a carrier of disease.
    Why do Chau and Ho think they know better than local experts?
    Stupidity or arrogance on their part – or both combined?

  • thatotherjean

    If Mary Ho says their organization’s missionaries are taught to respect authority and obey laws, WHAT WAS JOHN CHAU DOING THERE? North Sentinel Island was off-limits to everybody, according to the Indian government, yet Chau broke the law keeping people away, bribed fishermen to take him there, and evaded the Indian government’s patrol boats.

  • barriejohn

    “Throwing fish at people is no way to bring them to Jesus.”

    Maybe he should have done some research first:

  • thatotherjean

    Shouting at people who don’t understand your language and you don’t understand theirs, and throwing fish at them, seem almost certain to be taken for hostile acts. That seems like a remarkably stupid way to try to convert people, even if they were not hostile to you to begin with–which they were.

  • Rational Human

    It’s just CYA public relations. The “great” commission transcends man’s laws. Missions organizations also train people how to go covertly into unfriendly cultures as ESL teachers, and how to smuggle bibles into places where they are forbidden. They get a real charge out of the whole cloak and dagger for Jesus schtick.

  • Occam

    Yelling and throwing fish may work to prevent a Bear attack, but it doesn’t seem like an effective ‘first contact’ tactic.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Not to forget the Sentinelese. To the extent that they had a system, Chau deliberately violated their laws as well.

  • Christian missionaries never respect authority or obey laws. Lots of countries have laws against missionaries or proselytizing. Christians set up fake companies or get in on educational grounds as a pretense to spread their propaganda in China and other countries

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Evangelical Christians seem pathologically averse to admitting they could be in error. Chau’s mistake was one of tone (Moreau) or branding (Greenfield), but not of substance. Also, Chau never did anything wrong (Ho). Being the vessel of immutable and infallible divine knowledge and wisdom is corrosive to self reflection, as any counterfactual claim is not an isolated challenge, but confronts a whole worldview of belief and their personal identity.