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DVD Review – The Yali Story

Until the 1960’s, the Yali tribe of Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) existed much as they had for thousands of years. An adventure web site says the following of the tribe. “Yali tools have not changed in a thousand of years [sic] – stone axe of pointed shards wrapped tightly onto a wooden stick, net carrying bags supported from the forehead, thick bows five or six feet long, and arrowhead carved to a purpose -broad and flat for large game, a triple barb for birds, notched and tapered black for setting tribal disputes.” They truly were a Stone-Age people who had existed in isolation from the industrialized world. They had very little knowledge of anything beyond their own villages. They were warriors, cannibals and lived in constant fear of evil spirits. Revenge was an admirable trait in their culture which, not surprisingly, knew little peace.

But in the 1960’s a group of missionaries entered their world and brought with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once language barriers had been crossed, the Good News was received with enthusiasm and a type of revival swept the tribe. Men who had once been medicine men became teachers of the Word of God. People who had once lived in fear of evil spirits now placed their trust in the Creator. The people, men and women alike, were educated and taught to read and write.

This DVD presentation, which is roughly a half hour in length (and is available in several languages) features three of the missionaries who were involved in evangelizing the tribe, Bruno de Leeuw and both of John and Gloria Wilson. The video documents the amazing transformation of this people as God changed their lives through the Scriptures. It tells of the long but rewarding process of translating the Scriptures into the native language.

The most amazing moment captured in this presentation, and one of the most powerful things I have witnessed, was the joy of the people as they received the first translations of the Bible into their own language. The New Testament was completed in the ’90s and the entire Bible in the year 2000. To watch the Yali people jump and dance and sing and celebrate over something we take so for granted was both powerful and moving. It quite literally moved me to tears. How I wish we, in the Western world, could experience that excitement and joy.

There is some bonus material included on the DVD. This includes “Lessons from the Yali Story” (a discussion of missions, a music video, two shortened versions of the main documentary, some commentary and John Wilson’s story of surviving cancer.

The Yali Story is a fascinating story and one that has served to encourage many Christians. I highly recommend this DVD for church, public or private libraries.

The Yali Story is available from Vision Video (800-523-0226). It can also be purchased through

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