Imagine you believe that when your loved ones die they do not leave this earth. Instead they stay here and are involved in the daily lives of you and your family. They will bless and protect you when you show them the proper respect; they are your representatives in the spirit world. However, if you ignore or offend them, they will not stand for it. They will storms to destroy your house, they will cause your children to be sick, and they will demand that they receive the proper worship!
We see this in animistic cultures across the globe. Altars are built and incense is offered to deceased relatives to show respect and plead for help. Every aspect of the animist life is filtered through the thought of how their actions will be perceived by the ancestors. On the one hand they feel safe to have spirits looking out for them, on the other hand, they are always afraid of making a mistake. The ancestors demand a lot, and it is the responsibility of every family member to pay their proper dues, or else…
Do you know the name of your great grandfather? How about the names of your great aunts and uncles? An animist could easily give this information, after all, if their child is sick they need to know who to offer sacrifices to in order to make amends for whatever wrong they may have committed. The Bisorios of Papua New Guinea will sacrifice a pig and go through the name of every ancestor they know of, starting with the most recent death and moving backwards. This way they insure that the angry spirit will be appeased and stop causing whatever calamity they have brought on.
Now imagine trying to introduce the concept of Hell to someone with this belief system. You would have to realize the ramifications this truth would have on their world. Those whom they have been praying to, relying on, and having an ongoing relationship with, are all really absent and under judgment. These are people they cared about, and an important part of their community. Some they only knew by stories but some they knew personally. They had been expecting to join the spirits when they died, and enjoy the veneration of the living. They had been relying on their ancestors for protection from evil spirits, they had been appeasing them to heal their sicknesses. Every aspect of their culture, from the way they built their houses to where they go to the bathroom, is designed to keep the ancestors happy.
It takes extreme care in introducing concepts like this to the animist. We cannot simply say “believe or be damned” as soon as we can put the words together in their language. They have to be exposed to truth bit by bit in order to change their view on reality. First, introducing them to God their Creator and Ruler. They have to understand the ramifications the fall had on man; their separation from God and the curse of creation. They need to know that Satan sets out to deceive man and keep him in darkness.
Even with these truths established Hell is still a bombshell dropped on their world, but hopefully they will have the basis of truth to look to the promises of God.