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African labor leader Obam, who has just been elected to his country's mostly white legislative council, is reviled by his brother Kanda, the leader of the labor party's radical bloc. On the night of the governor's ball, Obam's wife Renee asks him to remove his handkerchief, which bears the hawk, the symbol of the labor party. "The hawk" is also the translation of Obam's name, and Kanda has been hanging dead hawks on the porches of the local whites to insinuate that Obam is aiding him in violent uprisings. At the party, the appearance of Bruce and Barbara Craig, American Christian missionaries newly arrived from their post in China, prompts British colonist Steve Gregory to complain that it is religious men like Bruce who, by educating the native population and filling their minds with ideals, are responsible for the uprisings. As Bruce asks the governor why the government practices favoritism for whites while the church teaches social justice, Obam asks the leader of the African church, Matthew Amugu, why Kanda was expelled from their school. Matthew introduces Obam to Bruce, and although Obam, who earlier was banned from the church on a false allegation of Communist leanings, distrusts Bruce, he is cordial. Later, Gregory flirts disdainfully with Renee, but before Obam can react, the partygoers receive news of a rebel raid, during which a white man was killed. The next day at a council meeting, Gregory implies that Obam was behind the raid. Obam denies the allegation, then declares that if his people saw progress toward self-government, they would not listen to the radicals. He asks for the right for all Africans to vote on their representation, but the council leader refuses, stating that the Africans should be happy for the civilized influences Westerners have brought. Later, while Renee joins Barbara working in the hospital, Obam stirs up the locals, asserting that the white men are denying them their freedom. Matthew, upset by Obam's new opposition to the white government, counters with a speech declaring that not all white men are bad, and that "those who achieve in violence are fit only for rule by force." He then brings Obam to his mother's tent, where he counsels against violence, declaring that they stand not with the white man but with Jesus and the seven million Christians throughout the world. Meanwhile, Gregory and his friends, fearing Kanda's group, arm themselves. As the local police try to dissuade them from vigilantism, another church leader, Sandar Lal, similarly advises Kanda to renounce violence, adding that Kanda can always turn to him for help. At home that night, Obam tells Renee that he is torn between the desire for peace and the dream of African liberty, but when Kanda confronts him and demands he help return his people to their tribal roots, he demurs. After Kanda leaves, Bruce arrives, and when Obam accuses him of being a foreigner who cannot understand, Bruce tells him of his past in China: Bruce and Barbara adopt a sick ten-year-old orphan, Ming Tao, and raise him as their own son. For three years, they teach him, along with many locals, about Christianity, but soon the Communists take control of the region and slowly revoke their rights. Eventually, the police imprison Bruce for years in a small cell with little food or exercise. He is questioned for months at a time in an attempt to make him denounce the doctor who runs the local church, but although Bruce grows weak and confused, he refuses to capitulate. One day, he discovers that a brainwashed Ming Tao is a soldier at his prison, and when they are allowed to speak in private, the young man spouts the party dogma. Bruce reminds his son of his love of God, however, and soon Ming Tao admits that he has seen too much bloodshed to believe in Communists ways. As soon as the guards outside hear him, they grab Ming Tao, who tells his father that he will persevere "through Him that loves us" before he is shot. In the present, Bruce concludes that loving Christ is the greatest gift he can offer, and though he failed his son, he will not fail Obam. Inspired, Obam races out to find Kanda, but is too late to stop a rebel raid on Gregory's compound. Bruce also rushes there, and when Gregory and the other heavily armed whites refuse to back down, the missionary walks into the yard, shouting to the rebels that they will be slaughtered. Although Obam proclaims that Bruce is their friend, the rebels shoot the missionary, and the ensuing shootout ends only when the police arrive and arrest the Africans, including Obam. Before being led away, Obam cradles Bruce, who murmurs "through Him that loves us" before dying. The wounded Kanda turns to Sandar Lal for help, and days later, it is rumored throughout the town that Kanda will testify against Obam to save himself. On the day of the trial, however, Kanda denies that Obam is guilty, stirring his brother to declare that he is guilty only of yielding to hatred, but he will never again walk in violence, or walk alone.