Look on the map of South America and find the place where Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil meet. Can you find here the name of Mount Roraima? Those who now visit this place stand with bowed heads before a little mound of earth which marks the spot where lies the body of the first white man who carried the gospel to the Indians living there. This man’s name was O. E. Davis. Because he laid down his life in opening the gospel door to these natives, they have ever since been called “The Davis Indians,” but their real name is the “Carib Indians.”
It was in the year 1911 that this missionary started on his long, lonely journey from Georgetown, Guyana, to Mount Roraima. His only companions were two Indians, one to act as guide, the other as interpreter. But the privilege of hunting out other Indians who had never seen a missionary and who had never heard about Jesus filled his heart with hope and joy, for he believed that God would open the way to establish a mission among them.
The journey during the first few weeks was taken up a river in a little rowboat. When the river became too small for the boat, a canoe made of a log hollowed out carried the company seven miles farther. The rest of the three months’ journey had to be traveled on foot. For eleven days they pushed their way through forest and glen, over hill and valley, under the hot tropical sun and through drenching rains, sleeping at times in some wayside hut, and again out under the stars, wherever night overtook them. It was a truly heroic journey, for danger lurked at every turn. Only faith in God and a love for souls could lead even a brave heart over such a path.
At last, they reached the country where the Indians lived. Mr. Davis called the Indians from the surrounding towns and told them of Christ. During the few months that he was among them he started three missions, the last one at Mount Roraima. The Indians and their chief listened with wonder to the story of Jesus, the Son of the only true God, Who loved them and gave His life to save them. They learned of God’s law. They learned how important it is for every child of God to obey his Creator.
With great joy the chief and one hundred thirty of his people accepted Christ and promised to obey God. To those who made this covenant with God, Elder Davis gave Christian names. He named the chief Jeremiah. Gladly these Indians provided a building in which they could come and learn more about God. It was large enough to seat two or three hundred people. Faithfully did Elder Davis teach these people who were hungry for the bread of life.
Elder Davis had been with them but a few short months when he became very ill with blackwater fever. His Indian friends did all they could to help him, but his work was done, and one day out in that lonely place with no white friend near, he breathed his last in the hut of Chief Jeremiah. Loving Indian hands dug a grave and laid the body of this noble missionary gently down to rest. For a long time his friends did not know about his death. His wife was waiting and watching for his return. It was on her birthday that the American consul brought her the sad news.
A short time after this a white man found the grave and learned the story of the sacrifice that Elder Davis had made. While he was taking a picture of the spot, the Indians gathered about the grave of their loved missionary, singing one of the songs he had taught them—“Jesus knows all about our struggles.” Did Jesus really know all about their struggles? Oh, yes, Jesus knows and cares. They had lost their dearest earthly friend, but they had learned about their heavenly Friend.
Chief Jeremiah held meetings with his people and did his best to help them. But after a while, the good chief died. Then the Indians were like orphan children. Poor Indians! They longed to hear more about Jesus, but they had no one to teach them. They were like sheep without a shepherd, and after a time they gave up their religious meetings.
When the people in Georgetown heard of the death of Elder Davis, they wanted to send someone else to teach the Indians. But year after year passed, and there was no one to send. Anxiously the Indians watched and waited. But they waited and watched in vain. Fourteen summers came and went, and still no “Davis men.”
One bright day in autumn, nearly fifteen years after Elder Davis had first visited them, they heard several signal shots fired not far away. Looking in the direction of the sound, they saw two white men with several strange Indians coming toward them. The Indians met these strangers and kindly took them to a shed where they might rest.
“Who are these white men?” they questioned among themselves. “What if they are the ‘Davis men’!”
They determined to find out. One young man went to the shed where the strangers were resting.
“I want to be a good man,” he said in broken English, but very earnestly. Then he began to sing, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus.”
The strangers joined in the singing. Other Indians came. In a few moments the shed was filled with them. Men and women crowded in and surrounded the shed, and all joined in singing. With earnest, hopeful faces, they sang, “Jesus knows all about our struggles.”
The song was finished. There was a short pause. Then an Indian woman began to sing, “Shall we gather at the river?” All joined, “Yes, we’ll gather at the river.” After that, another song, “Jesus is coming again!”
When the strangers joined in singing the songs that Elder Davis had taught the Indians, they exclaimed, “The ‘Davis men’ have come! The ‘Davis men’ have come!”
Their joy knew no bounds. They stroked the faces of the men. They patted their cheeks. They took their faces between their hands. They put their arms around them. They did all they could to express their love and happiness.
They had no telegraphs, no telephones, no post offices, no railway trains, no automobiles, but these Indians knew how to make known such glad tidings to their people. Three runners were quickly sent to the different Indian towns to carry the news.
“The ‘Davis men’ have come! The ‘Davis men’ have come!” they shouted as they reached the towns.
Some of these towns were distant half a day’s journey, but groups of Indians were soon on their way to welcome the “Davis men.” With earnest faces they pleaded that these men come to their town and teach their people more about Jesus.
The visitors remained with the Indians only a few weeks, but every day they were busy teaching and helping them. At last, the time came when it was necessary for them to say good-bye. The Indians could hardly let them go. Some of them went with the visitors on the way. Three times the visitors said good-bye before the Indians turned back. Even then, an hour later, they, with the other Indians, twenty-four in all, caught up with the visitors, this time with their hammocks and food just to go a “piece way.” To show their love and goodwill they went a distance of eight days’ march.
Then sadly they said their last good-bye and with sorrowful hearts returned to their mountain home to pray that God would soon send other “Davis men” to live among them. And God heard the prayers of these humble, earnest Indians who are seeking after Him.
True Education Series, Book 5, 1933, 307–311.