Friday, February 10, 2006

Bio by David Yonke

Jim Elliot, Missionary to Ecuador

“God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus” this quote was from a journal entry Jim Elliot wrote in college. Jim Elliot was born in Portland, Oregon on October 8 1927. He was the third child of four. He had two older brothers, Herbert and Robert, and he had a younger sister named Jane. His father, Fred, was an evangelist. His father couldn’t finish school because he had to work. His mother, Clara, finished her studies and opened a chiropractic practice in their home to support the family. At home missionaries from all over the world would come and stay with them. He liked to hear their stories of far away lands and peoples. He had a happy childhood. As a boy he enjoyed sledding on the mountainside for excitement. His parents encouraged them to grow fruits and vegetables. They also taught their children to get along with animals. They encouraged their children to have hobbies as well. Jim liked to collect stamps, read, and make models. Although Jim’s father was an evangelist he wasn’t strict or overbearing with his children. He would read the bible to them every day and pray for them. When Jim was 6 he told his mother that he was saved after a meeting. He spoke of his relationship with God very naturally to his family and friends.

At the age of 14 he switched high schools and attended Benson Polytechnic High School. He decided to take architectural drawing as his main subject. He had an artistic flair and enjoyed different shapes and colors. At school he was very active in extra circular activities. He wrote editorials for the school newspaper. He participated in the School Theater by taking many lead roles in dramatic productions. His drama teacher was so impressed by his acting ability that she subjected he should go into the theater for his career. He also belonged to the public speaking club.
In high school he would carry a small bible with his other schoolbooks. At lunch he always said grace before eating in the school cafeteria. He began to preach at this time. When the war broke out he thought about it carefully and decided that he would be a conscience objector. It was not an easy decision because patriotism was very high in the country at that time. When the school dance came around he decided not to buy a ticket to it reasoning ” I am in the world, but not of it.” Although he made some unpopular decisions he was nonetheless elected vice president of his senior class. In order to make money Jim and his brother Bert would work odd jobs after school. Sometimes instead of going home from school he and his friends would take supplies and go camping in the Oregon countryside. His father didn’t mind him camping with his friends, but just insisted that he didn’t miss church on Sunday. Jim loved the outdoors. He took long hikes, canoeing, and often went camping with his friends. In 1945 Jim graduated from high school and decided to attend Wheaton College in Illinois. He would live about 2000 miles from home and money would be tight. He had to support himself through odd jobs, his friends help and scholarship money. When he wanted to visit home for the holidays it wasn’t easy getting home. He couldn’t fly because flying was a luxury and way too expensive. Sometimes he didn’t even have enough money to take the train home so he would have to hitch hike. In 1948 he started keeping a journal of his daily thoughts and meditations. One of his most famous quotes is “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” At college he dedicated himself to his Christian commitments. He majored in Greek because he thought this would be helpful on the mission field when he would have to translate the bible into another language. Although his parents wanted him to stay in America and preach he decided to go overseas because he felt that was the greatest need. In order to keep his body strong for the demands of the mission field he joined the wrestling team at school. In the summer of 1947 he and a friend hitchhiked down to Mexico, to stay with his friends parents who were missionaries there. He spent six weeks there, and begun to study Spanish. He wrote a letter to his parents saying in it “Mexico has stolen my heart” and “Missionaries are very human folks, simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt somebody.” Pg 29 He liked college but sometimes he thought he was wasting time there when he could be out on the mission field. But despite this feeling he did his best at college. He had a routine of studying prayer life, bible study, physical exercise that left very little leisure time. It was at this time that he met his future wife, Elizabeth. They liked each other but they decided not to get serious or think of marriage until God gave them the sign to marry. For now Jim and Elizabeth decided that they would put God’s priorities first before they’re own relationship. It would be another 5 years before they would get married on the mission field in Ecuador. Jim enjoyed going home for the holidays and participating in all the festivities. But Christmas 1948 he wrote his parents and told them that he wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas because he would attend the Student Missionary Convention at Illinois University. It was here that he felt called to be a missionary to South American jungles to work with the tribal community there. He wrote Elizabeth saying ” I am quite at ease about saying that tribal work in the South American jungle is the general direction of my missionary purpose.” Pg41 Toward the end of his college career he wrote in his journal that he had felt a “renaissance” He said he created a false barrier between the more spiritual students like those part of the Foreign missions group and the less spiritual like those who were more interested in sports. This allowed him to take part in more activities then he usually would have. For instance he dressed in a Victorian costume and sang funny songs at the wrestling banquet. He went on outings and other activities with many students. He mentioned this in his journal saying “The Lord has freed me from many things-good consecrated attitudes, priggish little laws whereby I used to govern my conduct…I experience new fellowship, new freedom, new enjoyment,” he also acknowledged “I love to be with a gang. Fellowship with the gang is enticing fun.” pg 42 In the spring of 1949 Jim graduated with honors from Wheaton College. His parents drove out to see his graduation. His older brother Herbert had already gone out into the mission field with his wife in the high Andes Mountains of Peru. Jim didn’t have a practical, long-term plan for his life at this point except that he wanted to serve overseas as a missionary in South America. He wrote in his journal “I feel that three month’s building would prepare me more for the mission field than another three months in the books.” pg. 45 He was going to help his brother Robert build a house for him and his wife. At home from college he had a lot of free time which was totally different then the busy days he spent at college. He couldn’t work on his brother’s house because of local zoning issues that came up. He didn’t have a way to actualize his vision of being a missionary in South America yet. At home he filled his time with reading biographies of other missionaries, secular books, bible study. He especially liked to read Amy Carmical’s biography. He empathized with her. He did odd jobs, and he was a substitute teacher at a Christian school. In January of ‘50 he was accepted at Camp Wycliffe for the summer to study Linguistics, in order to help break down native language into written symbols. The course lasted 10 weeks. There he met a man who worked with the Quichuas of Ecuador, and he told him about the Auca Indians who lived there also. He told him there was an abandoned mission station there and was available for use. Jim was fascinated and prayed earnestly for 10 days to see if this was God’s mission for him. He wrote in his journal ” I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish.” Jim prepared to make arrangement to go to Ecuador. In 1951 he traveled through the East Coast talking to fellowships of his church about the unreached tribes on South America. He applied for a visa, and he sought another co-worker’s to go with him. time he met 10 days with Dr. Tidmarsh whose family was serving the Quichia Indians. The Quichia Indians are the largest population group. He confirmed his mission to Ecuador through this meeting. In October of ’52 he met with Elizabeth and she would be going to Ecuador for mission

Ecuador is a beautiful land. The high Andes Mountains cut through the county. Also the mighty Amazon river flows through the mountains. There are thick tropical jungles, and green grassy plains. It is hot as it borders the equator.
In January of ‘53 he recieved money from 5 different sources in 24 hours. This money was enough to cover his trip to Ecuador. The money came from people he met months earlier. This was God’s provision for him. On February 4, 1953 he and a coworker, Pete Fleming, set sail for Ecuador on the Santa Juana. They shared a cabin together. Finally after a long two years of waiting and preparing Jim’s vision of serving the unreached tribes of South America was being realized. He was full of excitement and praise to God for his faithfulness. On the ship they practiced their Spanish with the other passengers. They were amazed at all the new sights they saw. They stopped off in Mexico, and San Salvador where they rented a car and went to look at the new sights. They were also invited on a fishing trip with the captain. It took about 17 days to reach Ecuador. From the dock they flew to Quito. There they met Mrs. Tidmarsh and her son Rob. At that point he realized that he had a language problem, and quickly started studying Spanish. After 5 months he gave his first message in Spanish. Although it wasn’t perfect he grew in confidence. They stayed in their homes a few days. From there they went to stay with the Shorts, another missionary couple, in San Domingo. San Domingo was more primitive then the city of Quito. The only way to get there was a long and hard trip in a pickup truck. There Jim helped out in little ways like taking care of the kids, washing dishes, or driving. In April 1952 Elizabeth came to Quito, Ecuador to study language, tropical diseases, and medical work. Jim so this as God’s providence in his life. They toured the city, went to a bullfight with friends, and talked about their mission life together. In mid August they had to separate again. Jim and his friend would move deeper into the jungle. They took a crowded bus up a steep mountain to Shell Mara. This was an abandoned oil-prospecting town. There were just a few remaining old, abandoned buildings around. They met Dr. Tidmarsh at the Aviation Fellowship base. From there they had to reach Shandia, the outlaying station, where the Quichua Indians were. There were no airstrips there so they were dropped off as close as possible. From that point they had to trek three hours through thick, lush rain forest to reach the Shandia. When they arrived with Dr. Tidmarsh men and women of the Quichua met them. They were physically tired, but exhilarated on reaching them. Now a new problem arose. They had to learn a new language of the Quichua Indians. In his journal entry he asked God to help him learn it quickly. Life was simple. They lived in a bamboo house that was on stilts. They had a simple curtain to divide the sleeping and living quarters. Each day an Indian would sweep out the bugs and mud. They couldn’t study well because the Indians had an easy going attitude and would always disturb them when they were studying. The would sell them food, ask for directions on clearing the airstrip, or ask for pay at any time they felt like it. Jim tried to teach them volleyball, but team sports were foreign to them. Jim participated in their sports and they liked him for it. Their diet consisted of a lot of fruit, occasional meat when the Indians went hunting. Sometimes they would eat fish if the Indians went fishing by the riverbank. Occasionally they even ate roasted ants. Sometimes they went on healing missions. Usually this consisted in helping in childbirth. It wasn’t unusual for new born’s to die in such conditions. Often death was looming near through childbirth, snake bites, tropical disease. Life was fragile among them. There were few comforts for them. Jim and his associates longed to share the hope of the gospel with them. The work of building the clinic and widening the airstrip was slow. He wrote in his journal ” O God, Life is slow, for all the action is shows” pg.73 In January of 1953 he was engaged to Elizabeth in Quito. Quito is a large city in Equator. After his engagement he returned to Shandia. The rainy season was the worst it had been in 30 years according to the Indians. The rain was so intense that the river swelled and destroyed Shandia. A full year’s work had been washed away. The three buildings they had repaired, the two new ones they had constructed, and part of the airstrip was gone. They sought a new place to build but decided to rebuild Shandia, and some small out post stations to effectively reach the Indians.

An Indian named Atanasio, who had 15 children, asked them to come to his village in Puyupungu and build a school. Jim saw this mission as one that he and Elizabeth could do together. At this moment he asked Elizabeth to marry him. They had a simple civil ceremony in the Quito Registry office. It took 10 min. They honeymooned in Panama and Costa Rica. After restocking they went back to the jungles and arrived at the village in Puyupungu together by canoe with their supplies stacked high. Atanssio, and other men from the village came out to meet them on the river in their canoes.
There new home consisted of a thatched hut, which they had to move out of because it became infested with roaches. They moved into a tent. For the first month Jim came down with a mysterious fever and couldn’t due anything. After recovering they made a nine-hour hike through the jungle to catch a plane to spend Christmas with his other co-workers. The rain didn’t seem to let up through December to April. On April 1 Jim noted this down in his journal “Pause late on a rainy afternoon. Gratefully settled in our home for a week now…God has been faithful, though Satan has fought us to discouragement through long weeks of rain” pg94 Jim’s work consisted of building, teaching, instructing young Indians to take over a church, translation of the bible, and healing missions of mercy. This was using his limited medical knowledge to help the Indians. Yet preparations were in the works to make contact with the savage Auca Indians, even though they had recently heard that the Indians had killed a mother and her two children. Arajuno, was a small town set up by Shell Oil to produce oil. IT had been abandoned, and now was overgrown by the jungle. Yet it would be a perfect base to reach the Auca Indians since it set next to the Auca territory. Shell had left when the Auca’s killed some of its personnel. Jim went to build a house from the left over material there. In September 1955, the missionaries spotted the first houses of the Auca Indians while flying over their territory. In order to establish friendly contact with them they began to drop gifts down to them from the plane. One time they dropped a machete to them and they saw an Auca Indian come out and pick it up and wave it around his head. Eventually the Indians lost their fear of the plane and started to come out and wait for the gift to drop. From that point they started to fly the plane lower and shout out phrases to the Auca Indians: “We like you, We are your friends”

In order to communicate with them Jim learned a few phrases from an Auca woman Indian who had run away from the tribe many years ago during a tribal feud.
On January 3, 1955 there were 5 missionary families working together to bring the word of God to the unreached Auca Indians. On this day Jim and the 4 other men began to load their small plane with supplies that they would need at Palm Beach. Palm Beach was a strip of beach along the river where they would set up their base station to meet the Auca Indians face to face. They were all aware of the danger and took some practical steps to protect themselves. They loaded handguns with them, and they planned two escape routes just in case things got out of hand. Following breakfast they prayed together, sung a hymn and took off. The landing strip was narrow and dangerous to land on, but Nate, the pilot, pulled it off perfectly. In all he made 5 trips in and out to bring in all the missionaries and supplies. Palm Beach was like paradise except for all the millions of insects. On the beach they built a tree house for shelter and to hold their supplies. They made a make shift stove, and received food from the base station flown in by Nate on daily trips. Nate flew over the Auca houses and motioned for them to come down to the river. A few days latter, Auca Indians, a male and two females stepped out of the jungle across the river. They didn’t wear anything except a string around their waists, wrists, and legs. The missionaries smiled and exchanged gifts with them. They gave them food and repeated Auca phrases saying “we are your friends. We like you” The next time they took “George” a male Auca Indian they nicknamed on an airplane ride. They flew over his village, and he waved to his friends calling out and laughing. They continued to have more contact. But they wanted to make contact with the older Auca Indian elders. They tried to show them that they wanted to build an airstrip in their village with a model plane, and sticks to represent trees. About a week after they first made camp they flew over the Auca village and noticed that only a few women and children were there. They felt that it would be the day they would meet the leaders of the village and be invited back with them. They radioed back to their wives in the base station of Anjuro asking for pray and told them they would again contact them at 4:30 that afternoon. That call never came. A search party from the US army in panama found 5 bodies of the missionaries. Apparently they were ambushed. The Acua Indians speared them to death. They buried them together on the beach shore in a common grave. This made worldwide news at the time. Their death was not in vain. God would use it to open the door to the Auca Indians through their wives. All of the widows continued the mission that they had been called to and in which Jim and his co-workers had given their lives.


All quotes taken from Jim Elliot’s journal were found in

the following book.

Kathleen White, Jim Elliot, Men of Faith Series. Bethany House Publishers 1990.

Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Jim Elliot,
Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian (8 Jan 1956)

In the dense rain-forests of Ecuador, on the Pacific side of the Andes Mountains, lives a tribe of Indians who call themselves the Huaorani (“people” in their language, Huao), but whose neighbors have called them the Aucas (“savages” in Quechua). For many generations they have been completely isolated from the outside world, disposed to kill any stranger on sight, and feared even by their head-hunting neighbors, the Jivaro tribe.

In 1955, four missionaries from the United States who were working with the Quechas, Jivaros, and other Indians of the interior of Ecuador became persuaded that they were being called to preach the Gospel to the Huaorani as well.

Nate Saint was 32 years old (born 1923), and devoted to flying. He had taken flying lessons in high school and served in the Air Force in WWII. After the war, he enrolled in Wheaton College to prepare for foreign mission work, dropped out to join the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, established a base at Shell Mera (an abandoned oil exploration camp in Ecuador) in September 1948, and flew short hops to keep missionaries supplied with medicines, mail, etc. Once his plane crashed, but a few weeks later he returned to work in a cast from his neck to his thighs. He was married to Marjorie (maiden name??).

The other threee, Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, and Peter Fleming, all Plymouth Brethren, came to Ecuador in 1952 to work for CMML (Christian Missions in Many Lands). Ed McCully was ?? years old (born 19??). He had been a football and track star at Wheaton College, and president of senior class. After Wheaton, he enrolled at Marquette to study law, but dropped out to go to Ecuador. He and his wife Marilou (maiden name?) worked with the Quechuas at Arajuno, a base near the Huaorani. Half a dozen Quechuas had been killed at the base by Huaorani in the past year. Jim Elliot was 28 years old (born 1927), an honors graduate of Wheaton College, where he had been a debater, public speaker, and champion wrestler. In Ecuador, he married Elisabeth Howard. They did paramedic work, tending broken arms, malaria, snakebite. The taught sanitation, wrote books in Quechua, and taught literacy. Peter Fleming was 27 years old (born 1928), from the University of Washington, an honor student, a linguist, married to Olive (maiden name?). They ran a literacy program among the Quechuas.

Nate and Ed found a Huaorani settlement from the air in late September, 1955. Nate made four more flights on Thursday, 29 September, and found a settlement only 15 minutes from their station. They told Jim and Pete, and the four planned their strategy. They would keep the project secret from everyone but their wives, to avoid being joined by adventurers and the press, with the chance that someone not dedicated to the mission would start shooting at the first sign of real or imagined danger, and destroy the project. They had one language resource, a Huaorani girl, Dayuma, who had fled from her tribe years earlier after her family was killed in a dispute, who was now living with Nate’s sister Rachel, and who spoke both Huao and Quechua. From her they learned enough of the language to get started. They would fly over the village every Thursday and drop gifts as a means of making contact and establishing a friendly relation. Eventually they would try for closer contact. Nate had discovered that, if he lowered a bucket on a line from the plane, and flew in tight circles, the bucket remained almost stationary, and could be used to lower objects to the ground. He had devised a mechanism to release the bucket when it touched down.

On Thursday 6 October, one week after locating the village, they dropped an aluminum kettle into an apparently deserted village. On the next flight, several Huaorani were waiting, and they dropped a machete. On the third flight, they dropped another machete to a considerably larger crowd. Beginning with the fourth flight, they used a loudspeaker system to call out friendly messages in Huao. Soon the Huaorani were responding with gifts of their own tied to the line: a woven headband, carved wooden combs, two live parrots, cooked fish, parcels of peanuts, a piece of smoked monkey tail…. They cleared a space near their village, and built platforms to make the exchanges easier.

After three months of air-to-ground contact, during which they made far more progress than they had hoped, the missionaries decided that it was time for ground contact—that they could not keep their activities secret much longer, and that delay risked a hostile encounter between the Huaorani and some third party. They decided that the expedition needed a fifth man, and so brought in Roger Youderian (married to Barbara ???), from rural Montana, a former paratrooper who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge (major German offensive in Belgium in the last stages of WWII), and had been in General Eisenhower’s honor guard. Roger had been working with the Jivaros, and was thoroughly at home in the jungle, accustomed to living like the Jivaros, and blessed with acute survival instincts. They located a beach that would serve as a landing strip, about four miles from the village, and decided to go in on Tuesday 3 January 1956. After some discussion, they decided to carry guns, having heard that the Huaorani never attacked anyone who was carrying a gun, and having resolved that they would, as a last resort, fire the guns into the air to ward off an attack, but would shoot no-one, even to save their own lives.

On Tuesday they flew in and made camp, and then flew over the village to invite the Huaorani to visit them. The first visitors showed up on Friday, a man, a woman, and a teen-aged girl. They stayed for several hours in apparent friendliness, and then left abruptly. On Saturday, no one showed, and when the plane flew over the village, the Huaorani seemed frightened at first, but lost their fright when presents were dropped. On Sunday afternoon, 8 January 1956, at about 3pm, all five missionaries were speared to death at their camp. A search party the next day found no signs of a struggle, and the lookout who was to be stationed in a tree-house overlooking the camp at ground level had come down, so it appeared that the meeting had originally seemed friendly, and that the attack had been a surprise. Ed McCully’s body was seen and identified, but was swept away by the river and not recovered. The other four, at the request of their wives, were buried at the site of the camp where they had died.

The effort to reach the Huaorani was not abandoned but rather intensified. Within three weeks, Johnny Keenan, another pilot of the Ecuador Mission, was continuing the flights over the Auca village. More than twenty fliers from the United States promptly applied to take Nate’s place. More than 1000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in deirect response to the story of the Five Martyrs. In Ecuador, at the mission stations, attendance by Indians at schools and church services reached record levels, and the number of conversions skyrocketed. A Jivaro undertook to go at once to another Jivaro tribe that had been at war with his own tribe for years, bearing the Christian message, and his visit brought peace between the two tribes. Truly, as Tertullian said 1800 year ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. In less than three years, Rachel Saint (sister of Nate Saint) and Elisabeth Elliot (widow of Jim Elliot) had not only renewed contact but had established permanent residence in a Huarani settlement, where they practised basic medicine and began the process of developing a written form of the language.

Why did the Huaorani suddenly turn hostile? Much later, one of the Huaorani who had helped to kill the five martyrs explained that the tribe, who had had almost no contact with outsiders that did not involve killing or attempted killing on one side or another, wondered why the whites wanted to make contact with them; and while they wanted to believe that their visitors were friendly, they feared a trap. After the killings, they realized their mistake. When they were attacked, one of the missionaries fired two shots as warnings, and one shot grazed a Huaorani who was hiding in the brush, unknown to the missionaries. It was therefore clear that the visitors had weapons, were capable of killing, and had chosen not to do so. Thus, the Huaorani realized that the visitors were indeed their friends, willing to die for them if necessary. When in subsequent months they heard the message that the Son of God had come down from heaven to reconcile men with God, and to die in order to bring about that reconciliation, they recognized that the message of the missionaries was the basis of what they had seen enacted in the lives of the missionaries. They believed the Gospel preached because they had seen the Gospel lived.
by James Kiefer
Missionary works to help the tribe that killed his father
Steve Saint was not quite 5 when his father and four other Christian missionaries were speared to death by Ecuadorian Indians. Forty-seven years after the attack that shocked America, Saint said he has never forgiven his father’s killers — not because of bitterness, but because he doesn’t feel it’s necessary.

“The only reason to forgive somebody is that you’ve been wronged by them,” Saint said. “The Waodoni (Indians), yes, they killed my dad. But it was because they didn’t know how not to.”

The story of the Jan. 8, 1956 slayings of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian has been told many times, most notably in the best-selling book, “Through Gates of Splendor,” by Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth.

A documentary of the same name is due for release this spring and a major Hollywood production is now being filmed, said Saint, who now lives in Orlando.

Today, Saint, 52, is working to help his father’s killers by bridging the educational and technological gulfs that separate them from modern society.

“My biggest responsibility is to be a cheerleader for them, to convince them that they are capable of helping their tribe physically and spiritually,” Saint said.

The Waodoni, formerly known as the Aucas, which means “naked savages,” are very slow in adapting to modern society, he said.

“Their culture is so radically different than the outside because for the last 10 generations it has been based on survival,” Saint said. “And to be good at killing anybody who might come to kill you, you need to be good at being secretive and keeping your whereabouts hidden.”

The Waodoni, who move their villages throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon, are one of the most egalitarian societies ever studied, Saint said. They have no chief, no elders and no property. Their only social structure is the extended family.

For centuries, the tribe lived in constant fear of murderous attacks from their enemy tribes upriver, who would sneak up on their villages in the dark of night, crouch under the stilted houses, and spear their sleeping victims through the bamboo floors.

“The reality of their lives was that they would either spear others and live or be speared and die,” Saint said.

That is why he feels no anger toward the Waodoni for killing his father and the other missionaries.

“My earliest recollections were memories of my dad,” Saint said. “My dad was my hero. ... And I do remember when Mom told me that my dad wasn’t coming back, and my initial shock at that.

“And later, when my mom told me that my dad had gone to live with Jesus, I knew that that’s what we all looked forward to. We talked about it, sang songs about it.”

After the slayings, Saint said he and his mother stayed in the same house for a year until another missionary family arrived, then moved 150 miles away to a mission hospital.

Several years later, he returned to the Waodoni region with his aunt, Rachel — his father’s sister — and began living with the primitive tribe in their Amazon village.

Mincaye, one of the Waodoni hunters who killed Nate Saint and the other missionaries, “adopted” young Saint, teaching him to hunt with a blowgun, climb trees, and use spears.

“Up here we have this formal concept of adoption,” Saint said. “But down there, they don’t distinguish.” Relatives often take in a young child from another tribal family, he said.

Last year, Mincaye and Saint joined Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman on a tour, sharing their experiences and giving an evangelistic message.

Saint said that over time, the missionaries’ efforts to reach the Waodoni began to have an impact.

“It’s kind of like salt,” he said. “The Waodoni never used salt. But when my Aunt Rachel brought in salt and they tasted it on meat once, it’s not hard to convert them to be salt eaters. A few might not like it. Some might like it a little bit. But salt is a pretty attractive thing.

“In a society where people lived in abject fear and virtually constant anger and hatred — and I would say that those are three primary characteristics of the tribe’s emotions — they were glad to learn that they don’t have to live like that all the time.”

He remembers waking up one night as a child, lying on the bamboo floor of his house, and hearing Waodonis yelling loudly because they thought they heard upriver tribesmen sneaking into their village.

He asked his Aunt Rachel what the Waodoni were yelling.

“She told me, ‘They’re saying, “If you want to spear us, come and spear us. But we won’t spear you back. We’re following God’s trail. We’re living in peace.” ’ ”

“And I said, ‘Well, Aunt Rachel, do you agree?’ I was thinking that wasn’t such a good plan.”

When the missionaries first arrived, there were about 200 Waodoni, Saint said. Today there are around 2,000. “Once the killings stopped, there has been a huge population explosion,” he said.

He estimates that about 20 percent of the Waodoni are now Christians, or “God followers,” as they call themselves.

Saint moved to the United States in 1994 and founded an organization called I-TEC, which stands for Indigenous Peoples — Technology and Education Center. The organization takes ready-made tools and “reinvents” them to fit the needs of the churches that minister to primitive societies.

“One of the biggest barriers preventing indigenous churches from growing to maturity is their continuing dependence on the welfare of outsiders,” Saint said.

By DAVID YONKE, Toledo Blade

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Elisabeth Elliot Interview

The Heart of a True Missionary

An Interview with Elisabeth Elliot by Russell G. Shubin

Elisabeth Elliot talks about cross-bearing Christianity, the immaterial wealth of her mission heritage, and what has given her strength in the face of adversity.

In a great number of North American evangelical homes today, Elisabeth Elliot is a household word. Her radio program, “Gateway to Joy,” is broadcast on some 250 English-speaking stations and some 250 more in translation. She speaks of “soldierly qualities” and the need for a cross-bearing Christianity. She reiterates the need for wives to be submissive to husbands. She challenges outright the dating practices of our youth. Simply put, she advocates a Christianity that is a striking contrast to much of what fills the “bestseller” section in Christian bookstores today.

But Elisabeth Elliot may be best-known as the surviving wife of Jim Elliot, the 28 year-old missionary speared to death in 1956 with four of his co-laborers-Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Edward McCully. Along with their wives and children, these five men were in the early efforts of reaching the Auca tribe (now known as the Huaorani) in the dense jungles of northern Ecuador. They were nervous but optimistic as they landed their small Piper aircraft on a shallow part of the Curaray River.

Elisabeth Elliot’s riveting account of this story and the follow-up to it-Through Gates of Splendor and The Savage My Kinsman-quickly became standard missionary fare and remain so today, over 40 years later. The event itself-known as the Palm Beach incident for the shallow beach where the plane landed-continues to have a riveting impact on successive generations of young people. Countless youth have been called to service in the fields of the harvest as a result. All have been called to live lives of increasing sanctification.

A prolific writer of over 20 books who has moved well beyond the pale of specifically mission-focused material, Elliot’s writing efforts over the last 20 years have covered a range of topics-including God’s plan for the Christian family, suffering, loneliness and a re-evaluation of Christian dating. While some find her a bit harsh and dogmatic, she has articulated a spiritual passion in the face of all of life’s hardships that has given many a more upright spiritual posture.

Elliot’s immediate response to the Palm Beach incident placed her, along with co-laborer Rachel Saint (Sister of the slain Nate Saint) in the memory of evangelicals as modern-day saints. Shortly after the incident, she returned to the tribe to continue the church planting work among the Huaorani. They made it clear that they did not want to prosecute the murderers. Today, the numerous Huaorani followers of Wnagogi (“creator God”) may well be her most profound legacy. The sweet though costly irony was illustrated most poignantly as Stephen Saint, son to martyred Nate Saint was baptized by a Huaorani pastor-one of the spear-wielding Indians who took part in the slaying of his father years earlier. The living testimony of Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint’s work amongst the Huaorani is a superb example of the vital and strategic role of women in the frontier mission task.

In addressing her preparedness for the initial tragedy Elliot attributes her strength in adversity to her upbringing-one that had missions at its very core.

“I grew up in a very strong, missionary-minded home. We had dozens, perhaps hundreds of missionaries visiting in our home. I have my mother’s guest book that has 42 countries represented in it. Therefore, I had read missionary books, we had looked at thousands of missionary slides, heard many missionary stories and we knew that there would be hardships.

“Of course, I didn’t know what the nature of mine might be and I didn’t expect it to be quite so soon.” She notes that in each of the major blows to her faith that first year in Ecuador, it was a return to the cross of Christ that provided the deepest counsel. But she recognizes that there are precious few who have a similar background and its component part-preparedness for adversity-with which she was so blessed. “So, when I have the opportunity to speak to prospective missionaries, I do want to emphasize an encounter with the cross. I think it takes a deep, spiritual encounter with the cross before we’re really qualified to call ourselves missionaries.”

While hesitant to generalize too broadly, Elliot sees in the younger generation an aversion not so much to the grand cause of martyrdom but to the mundane discipline of yielding to Christ’s lordship in the small things. Her words to prospective cross-cultural workers: “I would take them first to the foot of the cross and just ask them if they understand what the cross was all about and what it means in our daily life. If Jesus told us that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him, in what tiny little ways might we experience this?

“These students do know that five missionaries were killed in 1956 and that was a very dramatic event that is still in the minds of many. I am amazed at how many decades have gone by and it seems as though more people are acquainted with that story now than when it happened.

“But the great question is the tiny, little things which are not dramatic and not heroic, but those are the ways the cross is going to be presented to us. I often ask a group, ‘In what ways do you expect the cross to be presented to you?’

“Well, the chances are not very great that it is going to be anything dramatic or heroic; it is probably going to be, as John H. Newman put it, ‘the carrying on of small duties which are distasteful to us.’

“My impression is that they have not had the same kind of earnestness and preparation for suffering. America loves comfort and fun. And we need to face squarely the words that ‘If we endure, we shall also reign with Him’ (2 Tim. 2:12).

“I don’t run across very many people who have the depth of understanding that we were given. I am very deeply aware of the privileges that I had. I want to do my best to pass on to younger people those soldierly qualities and necessities that we have to learn. Jesus spelled it out very clearly that, if we were going to follow Him, there was going to be suffering. It’s not going to be different.”

While writing and speaking on a wide variety of subjects, center stage on her agenda has been the sad state of the North American family (e.g. Passion and Purity and The Shaping of the Christian Family). For Elliot, the connection of the deteriorating family structure with the impact on the message we export through the mission enterprise is not a difficult one to make. This is highlighted by recognizing that the family structure of many “pagan” peoples we attempt to reach is-shall we say?-much more Biblical.

“I did come from a strong missionary family. We ate, lived and breathed missions. My parents had been missionaries and five out of the six of us kids became missionaries. This whole thing of divorce just becomes so endemic that it can’t help but have a tremendous impact on missions. If we are sending that kind of message around the world it undermines the Gospel itself.

“I want to do everything that I can to strengthen the Christian family. I’ve written a book on that subject and I’m often asked to do seminars on the Christian family. It takes a strong father, a submissive wife and obedient children. But there was never any question in our minds that our parents were perfectly serious when they laid down the rules of the house. What they said, they meant, and what they said, they meant the first time. These were all factors that gave us self-discipline.”

One of the fundamental flaws that Elliot recognized in North America upon returning to the States was the carefree practice of dating-which presented a striking contrast to her early years with Jim Elliot. “It became very obvious to me back in the 70’s that this whole business of courtship and dating-actually, it wasn’t called courtship at all, it was just called dating, and it was simply taken for granted-became more and more dangerous as all the old rules were discarded.

“So, I felt duty-bound to just tell my own story of how Jim Elliot and I made up our minds long before we ever fell in love, that we did not belong to ourselves, but to God Himself; and this body in which I live is holy, it belongs to God until God gives it to somebody else. So, Jim and I were perfectly clear about that independent of each other and then, when he came along and confessed to me that he was in love with me, he followed that immediately with saying, ‘I’m not asking you to marry me. You go ahead and go to Africa and I’ll go to South America, and if God wants to bring us together, God knows how to do it.’

“I thought I was going to Africa, but in various ways, God indicated that it was South America. And so, we waited 5 ½ years for each other. That, of course, is another tremendous lesson in sacrifice. Young people today, it is my impression, are not prepared to sacrifice. They want what they want and they want it now. They’re going to get what they want, any way they can get it. When you start at the foot of the cross and lay yourself totally at God’s disposal, there are a whole lot of pitfalls that are avoided.”

Elliot’s hard language of placing oneself “totally at God’s disposal” is a striking contrast to the rights language so prevalent in both secular and Christian media today. But it is the depth of her conviction on a number of matters that has emboldened many in their own calling to Christian work. She calls for unadorned, sacrificial living directed by a simple tenet: “Keep going back to the Old Book.”

The Bible, she says, is simply “our authority. There is no other way except the way of the cross. Jesus made it so crystal clear. He simply said, ‘If you want to be my disciple…,’ and that stands just exactly the same way today. He is saying that to each of us, ‘Do you want to be my disciple?’

“If the answer is ‘yes,’ then there can be no question about the willingness to fulfill the three conditions of discipleship which is [first of all] to give up your right to yourself-and that flies in the face of everything that the world is saying. When the world is saying ‘be good to yourself, work on yourself, do your own thing,’ that is the absolute opposite of giving up your right to yourself. You can’t take up the cross until you’ve given up your right to yourself.

“The second condition is ‘take up your cross,’ and that certainly means suffering of one sort or another. And the third thing, of course, is ‘to follow.’ And that means a determined obedience, from here to eternity.

“You don’t tell God you will do two years of missionary work, period, and consider that you have done your job. Following means one step at a time, one day at a time, but we have a Leader who will show us the way.”

Elliot is now living near Massachusetts Bay in Massachusetts-by her own admission a long way from the jungles of Ecuador. Her acquaintance with grief, however, did not end upon her return to the States. After Jim Elliot, she would lose a second husband (Addison Leitch) in a tough battle with cancer in 1973. Today, she is married again-to Lars Gren, who serves as a manager for Elliot’s personal ministry.

Elliot certainly doesn’t hold herself up as one who deserves any special awards of merit for having borne heavy burdens. She insists her lot is no more difficult than the numerous others who have lost husbands-including the recent example of Gladys Staines who lost her husband and two sons while serving in India.

Reflecting again on the Palm Beach incident, she recalled how she knew it was very serious when Jim Elliot and crew turned up missing. “And when we got the word that they were all dead, what can you do except turn to Christ and say, ‘Lord, you are in charge, I accept this.’ The great principle that Amy Carmichael taught was ‘in acceptance lieth peace.’ We cannot change what has happened, we cannot be angry at God because then there is no other refuge. I’m always aghast when I hear anyone say that he’s mad at God, because where else can you turn?”

This interview first appeared in Mission Frontiers, August 1999.
Elisabeth Elliot is a speaker, radio host, former missionary and prolific writer. She has written many books including Passion and Purity, Through Gates of Splendor and A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. Find out more about her ministry and radio program “Gateway to Joy,” at

Friday, January 20, 2006

Triumph From Tragedy - David M. Howard Jr.

Triumph From Tragedy
Five missionaries’ murders were not the end of the story.

Friday, January 20, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

On Jan. 8, 1956, five American missionaries were speared and hacked to death by a group of Auca Indians in the deepest jungles of Ecuador, making headlines around the world. A movie commemorating the 50th anniversary of the event—and the stranger-than-fiction tale that followed—is being released today. “End of the Spear,” based on a 2005 book by Steve Saint, the son of one of the slain missionaries, will be shown in 1,200 theaters across the country.

The five missionaries—Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian—were young men eager to bring the Gospel to this savage tribe (known today as “Waorani”), who routinely killed any outsiders they encountered. The five prepared to make contact with the tribe for months, even learning Waorani phrases from a tribe member who had escaped years earlier. Nate Saint flew a small, single-engine plane in circles over the tribe’s territory every Saturday for 12 weeks, trailing a long line behind the plane to which he attached gifts; the Indians reciprocated, tying gifts of their own onto the line.

On Jan. 3, the group landed on a sandbar in the Curaray River, where the men set up camp. On Jan. 6, three Waorani came out of the jungle, and there was a friendly exchange for several hours. But two days later, several Waorani warriors burst out of the jungle and killed the five with spears and machetes. Though the missionaries had guns, they shot their weapons into the air rather than defend themselves, an action they had decided upon beforehand and one later confirmed by their attackers.

The news was excruciating for the five widows, but it was not the end of the story. They all shared their husbands’ vision, and three stayed in Ecuador after the deaths, working with other tribes and waiting for the opportunity to make another contact with the Waorani. Less than two years after the massacre, in November 1957, two Waorani women—who had opposed the killings—walked to a settlement of Quechua Indians, in an attempt to escape their own tribe and find the white men. There they encountered Elisabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot. Within a year, the Waorani women invited Elisabeth, her daughter Valerie and Rachel Saint, sister of Nate Saint, to come back to the tribe with them. The missionaries accepted.

The women learned the Waorani language, eventually translating portions of the New Testament for the tribe; “God’s carvings,” the Indians called them. The women also taught the natives rudimentary medicine. Elisabeth and Valerie lived with the tribe for four years, but Rachel remained until her death in 1994.

The ministry of these women resulted in a remarkable change. In this 250-person tribe, characterized by some anthropologists as the most violent ever encountered (the homicide rate even within the tribe was more than 60%), the killings stopped. Today, there are about 2,000 Waorani and a third of them are Christian.

Over the years, Steve Saint visited his Aunt Rachel many times, and he was “adopted” by the Waorani as one of their own. As a teenager, he was baptized in the river by two of the men who had speared his father; he calls one member of the tribe, Mincaye (who is still alive today), his second father. After Rachel’s death, the tribe asked Steve to come live with them to continue her work. It was a radical request, but Steve and his family soon headed to Ecuador. They built a house hewn from trees in the jungle, and helped the tribe procure medicine and taught them the skills they needed to interact with outsiders.

My own interest in this story is deeply personal—Elisabeth Elliot is my aunt (my father’s sister), Valerie is my cousin and Jim Elliot was my father’s best friend. I often think about the sacrifices the five missionaries and their families made.

The explanation for the behavior of these men and women is not easily apprehended in our time. All these principals had a worldview that transcended the material world: In college, Jim Elliot wrote in his journal that “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” The religious faith of these men also demanded from them an almost unimaginable empathy. Nate Saint explained in his diary: “Would that we could comprehend the lot of these stone-age people who live in mortal fear of ambush on the jungle trail . . . those to whom the bark of a gun means sudden, mysterious death . . . those who think all men in all the world are killers like themselves. If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts.”

The Waorani today are thankful that Elisabeth and Rachel came to them, in spite of everything. Mincaye says: “My ancestors didn’t know God’s carvings. How could they walk God’s trail if they didn’t see God’s carvings?”

For years after the initial massacre, the Waorani marveled at the fact that the victims did not use their guns to fend off the attack. Why was this so? Because, as their diaries show, the five men believed that they were ready to meet their maker while the Waorani were not. Such tales of selfless love are rare today, and worthy of celebration. Why not Hollywood?

Mr. Howard is the dean of the Center for Biblical and Theological Foundations at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.
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