…or would you choose to stay? Now that is a question. You see, it’s not the question, but it is merely a question. Are you confused yet?
Born deep in the jungles of Ecuador, Steve Saint grew up surrounded by leafy greens and rainy days. For the first four years of his life, he lived a happy, somewhat normal life, besides the fact that he was living in a little cabin in the rainforest… millions of miles away from civilization.
When his fifth birthday rolled around, Steve’s life changed drastically. Before his birth, Steve’s parents, along with four other families, were called to be missionaries in Ecuador to the tribes hidden in the forest.
The Waodani Indians aka. the Aucas, were natives living nearby in the jungles. Brutal and vicious, these people were merciless to those who trespassed on their land. Anyone who strayed onto their land had a 0.01% chance of coming out alive. Hardly any of these tribe members died of natural causes, but it wasn’t because of some jungle medical phenomenon, but because no one lived long enough to die naturally. Over 60% of the tribe were murdered by someone else in the tribe. The homicide rate of these jungles were sky high.
See those big ear lobes...?
The Waodani used to stick giant corks into their ears as fashionable earrings.
Now, there was an oil company who needed to drill for oil in the jungles close to where the Waodani Indians lived. Like always, the Waodani would attack and kill anyone who came to their land, including those who worked for the oil company. This is where Nate Saint, Steve’s father, and the other missionaries come in.
The Elliots, McCullys, Saints, Youderin and Flemings were called to go to the jungles of Ecaudor to try to resolve this problem between the oil company and the Waodani before the oil company took matters into their own hands. But how to approach this head-hunting tribe? Lucky, living along with the five families was a young Waodani girl named Dayuma, who ran away from the tribe years ago. She was their guide to the Waodani culture and language.
The five men decided to fly a small plane over the Indians and dangle a basket full of small gifts – gifts that could be useful to the tribe, such as a aluminum kettle and a machete - and fly in tight circles above, yelling into a microphone, hoping that the Indians would get the idea and take the gift. After the third time this was done, the Waodani surprised everyone by returning a gift to the five missionaries. After around three months of initial contact, they decided it was time for a face-to-face meeting. They found a long strip of beach that would be ideal for a plane landing and prepared for their trip. For a couple days, they would fly in and out of the village, inviting the Indians to come and visit them along the beach. Their first initial contact was with a man, a woman and a young girl. They talked for a couple hours, apparently friendly, and even gave the man, whom they dubbed “George” at the time, a ride in their plane; but the three Waodani left as suddenly as they came. The missionaries were encouraged by this encounter, dubbing the day “Friendly Friday” and began making plans immediately for further contact.
However, little did they know that the “friendly” man, George, had lied to his tribe about the missionaries’ intentions. On Sunday, January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming prepared for another day of encounters with the Waodani and flew off towards the beach. Upon landing, they discovered three Waodani women who stepped out of the jungle towards the men. Jim Elliot and Peter Fleming began walking forward while the others hung back as to not scare the women. Suddenly, a group of six Waodani men rushed at the missionaries, about to attack. Jim Elliot was speared first and then the rest of the missionaries. Their bodies were speared and hacked and thrown into the river to be washed away or eaten by fish and turtles. One of the bodies was never found.
Now this story would suck if it ended right here, but luckily, the legacy of these men did not die along with them. Their wives and children continued living the life of a Christian and ministered to the Waodani people. To this day, Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, the pilot who was killed by the Waodani, is close friends with Mincaye, one of the Waodani warriors who participated in the murder of his father. The Waodani were transformed by the grace of God and the relentless work of the families of the five deceased missionaries who gave up their lives as a testimony of God’s unfailing love for these Indians. In the posts to come, you, the reader, will see how Steve Saint exhibited genuine, saving faith according to the book of James.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” – Jim Elliot.
How great is our God.
L & B