Some biographies can be long monotonous details of a person’s life that you have to push through to get the information. Other biographies you don’t want to put down, they put you through every gambit of emotion; laughing, crying, danger, adventure, happiness, sickness, etc. It is books of this second persuasion that will be introduced in this article.
Introduction to the man
The man in these biographies is an author, humanitarian, teacher, world-renowned missionary, linguist, statesman, a technical advisor to Montilone Indians and several Presidents of Colombia, South America and he has worn many other hats as well.
He is a man you can safely call a Hero. He is humble, serious, reserved and somewhat backwards in the American society. He is a man of great compassion and patience.
Bruce E. Olsson
His name is Bruce E. Olsson from St. Paul, Minnesota.
The following are excerpts from his books and a magazine article about him.
He went to Colombia, South American wanting to meet a certain group of people. The following is about his first meeting with them.
First meeting with the Motilones
“Suddenly all the Yukos stopped and raised their heads as if to sniff the wind. They stood like statues. I hadn’t heard a sound, but I stood still to, listening to my breath come hard and loud – too loud, I thought. I heard nothing else.
Then, as if in one motion, all the Yukos broke into a run, back the way we had come. I stood stunned for a moment, then, clumsily, ran after them, wondering what I was running for. I ran straight into some vines, tripped, and fell flat on my face, scrambled up, and got tangled in the vines again. Then a searing pain bit into my thigh, and my whole body went limp. I fell.” (Bruchko)
So you come as a friend?
After greeting him with an arrow and him pleading with them in several languages that he came as a friend. They removed the arrow and took him on a three-hour march back into Motilone Territory to die.
“…One of the men walked over to me. I cowered. He reached down to my leg and grasped the arrow by the shaft. Putting his foot on my thigh, he yanked out the arrow. I saw red, dancing stars, I couldn’t breathe. I looked down at my leg and saw a bit of my muscle trailing in the blood from where the arrow had been pulled.” (Bruchko)
Axe or Banana?
He is a linguist and as such he was interested in learning their language. There were no tapes or books from which to learn Motilone. In South America where most languages are not tonal, he discovered a tonal language.
“One morning I had a sore throat from yelling. I could hardly talk at first. Later, my voice was lower than usual. That afternoon I got hungry, when to Cobaydra, and asked for a banana. He went out and came back with an axe. I was puzzled. I was sure I had the right word for banana. So I asked for it again, and again Cobaydra handed me the axe.
Then a crazy thought came into my head. I pinched my nose and asked again in a high voice. This time Cobaydra got me a banana.” (Bruchko)
The Legend of the prophet
Interested in their culture he began learning their legends. This is an excerpt from when he discovered the meaning of one of their legends.
The legend was about “a prophet who would come carrying banana stalks, and that God come out of a banana stalk?
I couldn’t quite understand the idea behind the legend.
‘Why look for God to come out of a banana stalk?’ I asked.
There was a puzzled silence. It made sense to them, but they couldn’t explain it. Bobby walked over to a banana tree which was growing nearby. He cut off a section and tossed it toward us.
‘This is the kind of banana stalk God can come from,’ he said, it was a cross section from the stalk. It rolled at our feet.
One of the Motilones reached down and swatted at it with his machete, accidentally splitting it in half. One half stood up, while the other half split off. Leaves that were still inside the stalk, waiting to develop and come out, started peeling off. As they lay at the base of the stalk, they looked like pages from a book.
Suddenly a word raced through my mind. ‘Book! Book!’
I grabbed up my pack and took out my Bible. I opened it. Flipping through the pages, I held it toward the men. I pointed to the leaves from the banana stalk, then back to the Bible.
‘This is it!’ I said. ‘I have it here! This is God’s banana stalk.’” (Bruchko)
Nine month Colombian captivity
Because of his humanitarian work many different groups became interested in him. He was taken captive for nine months by the Guerillas of South America the following is one of the many incidents that occurred during his captivity.
“My executioners, 18 of them with submachine guns, lined up. There would not be much left of me, I thought, but at least it would be quick. I tried to concentrate on memories of the Motilones and my friends.
‘Take aim,’ the responsible ordered. Several men wept silently as they trained their weapons on me.
Shots rang out, but I felt nothing.” (Charisma and Christian Life Magazine)
Where you will find him now
Nowadays you will hear that Bruce Olsson is in the jungles of High Catatumbo, working off solar-energy on a portable computer with a mini-satellite antenna.
To read more about this interesting man and his life, check out his books; Bruchko and Bruchko and the Motilone Miracle.
You can contact him at:
7543 NW 70th Street
Miami, FL 33166