RICHARD N. OSTLING, The Associated Press
The Missions Institute of New Tribes Mission specializes in evangelism among the 3,000 indigenous groups in the world’s remotest tracts, places that remain isolated from the outside world and thus untouched by Christianity. Most operations are in Latin America, Southeast Asia and West Africa. New Tribes, based in Sanford, Fla., has assembled one of the largest missionary forces in the world: 3,200 workers in 17 nations, two-thirds of them Americans.
Teams of five or six missionaries leave the modern world and its conveniences behind to spend years living among tribespeople, learning their language and culture in order to translate the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament into tribal languages, most of which have never before been reduced to writing. The workers then teach reading and writing, and establish churches to be run by tribal converts.
Survival International, the London-based tribal rights champion, and many academic anthropologists criticize incursions by missionaries. But Greg Sanford, the sophisticated but plainspoken director, vigorously defends New Tribes practices. He insists that the missionaries help preserve tribal cultures rather than undermining them, and are humanitarians who provide literacy, basic medical treatment and other helpful knowledge. >> continue