Dave and Melissa Williamson are glad they and their co-workers are learning more about the Nagi people, but they are not always happy with what they learn.
“Our team is making great progress in gaining insight into the Nagi peoples' worldview and animistic belief system,” the couple wrote. “We truly feel that we've moved beyond being the new, novel, foreigners … to becoming more a part of the village and are sensing our relationships and the trust level the people share with us deepening.”
But the more they learn, “the sadder we become as we realize the utter fear that the Nagis live with every day of their lives. In fact, fear of sickness and death dictates almost every action in their lives.”
It controls the way they cut down trees, what food they are allowed to eat, and who can touch their newborns.
“It amazes us to learn the complexity of their belief system – and the degree to which they will go to in order to please the spirits that they are so afraid of,” the Williamsons wrote.
The aftermath of a recent killing demonstrates that.
One Nagi man suspected another of working sorcery on and killing his child, so he killed the other man. The relatives of the dead man have not yet decided how the killing will be avenged. To the Nagis, there are three options: the death of the killer, a payment, or cutting the killer’s thumb and forefinger so he cannot shoot an arrow ever again.
Since the killing has not been avenged, “the Nagi-speaking people believe that [the dead man’s] spirit is roaming around ready and waiting to cause people to get sick and die if they interact with, eat with, or even see the [killer] face to face.”
Fear is keeping them from gathering their staple food from the jungle, or going to the village where the killer lives, or interacting with anyone who has interacted with the killer.
“The only way the people are to be released from this [curse] is for the murderer to do whatever is decided by the victim's family in order to repay for the death,” the Williamsons wrote. But that’s not the end.
“At that point, in order to satisfy the spirits of the dead man and his dead relatives, a certain ceremony must take place,” the couple wrote. The killer must provide a pig that will be killed and shared with the victim’s family. The pig’s fat is mixed with water, and the killer must take the mixture into his mouth and spit it out forcefully on the relatives of the dead man.
“Once this is done, and only then, will their belief system allow them to live their lives as they normally would,” wrote Dave and Melissa.
The Williamsons asked for prayer for the Nagi people. “God's Word presented in their language in a culturally relevant way is our goal, and we realize more and more that this is only possible by [God’s] power poured out into weak vessels such as ourselves and our team members.”