The Davis Indian Story
Angels Prepare the Way for Gospel to Reach Indians in South America
By Bob Norton
This is a story I have pieced together from talking with the descendants of Chief Auka and tribal leader Francisco. Also I've read in Francisco's diary. It is a story of God reaching out to a remote people so they could know about Jesus and the Bible truths.
Auka lived in the late 1800 to early 1900's. (See photo at left, which was taken in 1912, probably by National Geographic, as he's dressed differently than his usual attire. I have found two copies in the hands of his family, probably the only photos of this Chief.)
Chief Auka ruled over the Indians in a large part of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. Wanting to make things better for his people and be a better ruler Auka asked the Big Spirit for help, and in answer to his plea he began receiving visions.
The first time Auka went into vision the people thought he had died, but yet he was still standing up. They tried to lay him down but couldn't move him. Then they discovered that he was still breathing, but very slowly. Something strange which had never happened before was occurring. After coming out of vision, Auka told his people what God had shown him. He explained, "A person like a bright light came and talked to me, telling me things we should do."
Auka received many visions, and as he traveled around governing his people he would teach them about the God in Heaven and things we can read in our Bibles. Auka, the name he came to be known by because of the visions, means "shining light." In these visions he was taught many things, including abstaining from eating unclean meats, the seventh-day Sabbath, and prayer. Angels taught him songs and multi-part harmony so they could sing as a choir. One of the songs they learned in English was "Shall we Gather at the River." Auka spoke English, Spanish, and several Indian dialects.
He was also told not to rule by force and killing, but not knowing how else to rule, Auka asked God to tell him. So the next time a big problem came up, instead of fighting he had a special bed made to lay on while he waited for the Angel to tell him what to do. While lying there he would go into vision and an angel would give him guidance on how to fix the problem. Every time Auka needed help he would go lie on this special bed and wait for the angel to talk to him. Each time he would receive a vision and then would do whatever the angel told him to do. It always worked!
Auka told his people, "An angel has told me that a white man will come with a black book to teach us more about God's ways." Eagerly Auka waited for the man of his vision to appear. Before he died he told his people not to give up, that soon a white man would come and teach them more.
Elder O.E. Davis was a missionary living and working in Georgetown, Guyana. One day a man who worked as a miner came into town with a note for Elder Davis. On the piece of paper was written a request that he go out to where these Indians lived and teach them about God. This message troubled him, but he was too busy to leave his work and travel that distance not even knowing where to find these Indians.
Sometime later this miner again came to Georgetown bringing a similar note. Elder Davis asked the miner who was giving him the notes with the request to come. The miner told him, "A big man sent them, but that's all I know." (I've not been able to find out who sent the notes, but think it was probably an angel.) As time passed Elder Davis accumulated many of these notes, and he felt troubled about how to respond. One day his wife found all these notes in one of his pockets and asked her husband about them. After Davis explained how he received them she stated, "You must go." Her husband agreed.
Shortly afterward, Elder Davis left to go find these Indians (about 1910). During the journey, before arriving at Mount Roraima where he would find the Indians, he became ill with malaria and stopped at a miner's camp to gain his strength back. One day as he was sitting outside reading his Bible he saw a group of Indians running toward him. The miner yelled, "Run!" then took off.
However, Davis just stood there with his Bible behind his back, trying to protect it. As the Indians ran up and circled him, Davis quickly realized that they didn't want to hurt him. Instead they seemed happy to see him and asked him to show them his black book. Davis, afraid these Indians would take away his precious Bible, was reluctant to show it to them.
When Davis showed them his Bible they rejoiced. "We have been waiting many years for you to come!" they exclaimed.
"How did you know I would come?" Davis asked.
"An angel told Auka our Chief that a white man with a black book would come and teach us more, so sit down and teach us now!"
Even though Elder Davis tried to put them off until later, they insisted that they had waited long enough and wanted to know more now. "Sit down right now! We want to hear from the black book."
Davis had no choice but to sit down, and he began with the plan of salvation and the simple Bible truths. "No," the Indians declared. "We know all that. Tell us more."
Next Davis started to share about the Bible Sabbath, but again he was interrupted. "No. We understand about the true Sabbath. We know all that. Tell us more."
So Davis went on to the Sanctuary and it's meaning, only to discover that these Indians even knew that! Eventually he found things they didn't understand. How long this group of Indians stayed with Elder Davis studying the Bible I don't know. Hours? Days? They were traveling and on their way back to their village when they'd come upon the white man with the black book. They returned to tell their village people about the white man with the black book. Elder Davis returned to Georgetown to get well, but promised he would come back as soon as he could.
Elder Davis did go back and spent more time teaching these Indians, but again he became sick and never made it back home. His grave is at the base of the great Mount Roraima, where it can still be seen today.
There are several stories about why Davis died, perhaps of malaria. However, I have discovered that he liked to fix his own food while living with the Indians, and suspect that he got bitter yuca thinking it was the sweet yuca. The Indians make cassava bread with the bitter yuca, but must be sure to squeeze out all the juice because it is poisonous. It's my theory that's what caused Davis' death. Incidentally, they are now known as the Davis Indians.
During the last weeks Davis was with the Indians before he died, two young boys were put in charge of helping him and to learn all they could from him. One of these boys was Francisco, probably the son of another chief. Auka was the last big chief over such a large part of the country. Francisco's father was a chief over a much smaller section.
Francisco grew up traveling around with his father and was very well liked by the people. His father was forceful, but Francisco was kind. When his father was old and nearing death he begged his son to take over and become the next chief. Francisco didn't want to be chief. He just wanted to teach others about the Bible and of Jesus who would soon return.
His father continued begging him until finally Francisco accepted the position of chief and put on his father's ring. After his father was buried he took off the ring and threw it away saying, "I will not be the chief. I am going to travel and teach others about the Bible. However, he was respected and treated as the chief by his people.
During this time there was a lot of persecution by the Catholic Church and the National Guard, who were given their orders by the church. One day as Francisco was traveling with a companion he came over the top of a mountain and exclaimed, "This is the mountain!"
"Which mountain?" his friend asked.
"The one in my dreams," Francisco replied.
"And how do you know it is?" his companion persisted questioning.
"Because there are three smaller humps. Yes, I know for sure because look, here in the valley are three hills in a row which I also saw in my dream."
"So, what is the meaning?"
Francisco answered, "I'm not sure, but I've been looking for somewhere to start a village where we can build a church where the Catholics and National Guard won't come bothering us. I think God is telling me that this is the place."
Seeing a small hut down below the men made there way to it and inquired of the man living there if he'd seen the guards or a Catholic priest. "No, they don't come and bother us out here," the man assured his visitors. Then Francisco asked if he could stay there for awhile to rest as he wasn't feeling well. Also he explained about his desire to build a church and have a village where people could worship God in peace.
The man agreed to allow him to stay, and it was during this time that Francisco received visions. He was very sick, coughing up blood. While he rested, trying to get well, Francisco would pray. One night he was shown in a dream or vision a mountain with a bright light coming up from it, lighting up the sky. Several times he had this vision and asked God to show him what it meant. "God, I know you are trying to tell me something, but I don't get the message. You need to make it clearer. What does this light mean?" (See picture above drawn in his diary).
Then one night the vision came again, but this time after the light came up from the mountain to the sky it formed the letters E N D, and then the letters came down with the light into the valley. (Francisco spoke Spanish and English as well as other dialects) "Thank you God," he prayed. "Now I know that this place is going to be a great light in the end times to all around this area!"
Francisco arranged for a village to be built, making the people promise that the first building to be erected would be a church. He drew up the plans on how to lay out the village with the church at the end of the main street (see picture at left).
Francisco was getting worse, so friends decided to try to find help. Carrying him in a hammock they headed for Georgetown. Francisco didn't make it out to where he could get medical help, but died on the trail after two weeks of travel. (From what I've found his illness was caused from a spider. Some woman had given him something to drink with this certain kind of dried spider ground up in it, causing a long, slow hemorrhaging death.)
It is the mountain which is standing behind the school and in front of AMA base which Francisco saw in his dream. The village was built, and like the people promised, the church building was first. The place where the hut Francisco stayed in is just off the end of the air strip. I have seen and photographed his diary, which is written in English and Piman. I have also talked with his youngest daughter who is still living and now an old grandmother..
For awhile before we could build our house we rented a little house from this Grandmother. I say rented, but we couldn't tell her that we were renting because she would get very upset. "I just want you to stay here," she'd tell us. So we would give money to her daughter, who would give it to her mother as money to help her. That was okay.
One day she told us, "I was one of Alfred Cott's students. I was just a little girl, but I still remember well how we kids would gather and he would teach us. (Alfred Cott came to teach these Indians after Elder Davis died.)
One day this Grandmother came to see us at her house where we were living, bringing her daughter along to translate. She doesn't speak Spanish, just Piman and a tad of English. "Sit down, my kids, (that's what she calls us) I have something to tell you. So we all sat down and she began. "I want to tell you about a dream I've had. In my dream I saw a well kept clearing with a big spring of water. The water was good -clear and clean. People came from all over to drink from the spring. I saw a big pool of water where they would come and fill containers. The spring I saw in my dream is right where you have started building your house. I don't know what my dream means, but I just wanted you to know about it." Well, the house is completed and we are living in it now.
Grandmother desperately wants to fly with me in the plane, but her children are afraid she'll have a heart attack so they won't let her. Smiling, she motions to me with her hand about wanting to fly. "I want to go way up and dive down, then swoop up again like a bird," she chuckles. But since I've sternly been told not to tell her that I will take her flying she will have to wait until Jesus returns and gives her wings.
Today AMA is endeavoring to continue the purpose God had when He gave visions and dreams to the Indian leaders. As Grandmother's dream seems to indicate, our base here is to be a source of water to those thirsting for something better. Because of the airplane we are able to save weeks of travel and transport lay workers with "the black book" to teach others about Jesus.
Learning about Chief Auka and how angels instructed him makes one realize that God will use His messengers to finish His work, but He also uses people who are willing to give their lives to carry the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Thank you for your prayers and support for Adventist Mission Aviation.
In His Service,