Jim Elliot and four other missionaries – Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and their pilot, Nate Saint – began an effort to contact a remote tribe in the Amazonian portion of Ecuador in the 1950s. This tribe was known to other tribes as the Auca, which in their language means “savage.” Apparently, these people were more savage than the average Amazonian tribesman.
Nate Saint found their village by air and began making contact with the tribe by dropping gifts in a basket. Included in the gifts was a model airplane to make the missionary airplane less strange to the primitive people. Brother Saint (what an appropriate name) found a large sandbar on which he could land the airplane. The missionaries called it “Palm Beach.”
The five men began shuttling in to “Palm Beach” and established a base there. They built a tree house for safety, and had a gun to protect themselves from animals. They then made personal contact with the Aucas. On January 8, 1956, ten warriors from the tribe arrived at the sandbar and killed the five missionaries. The men would not use their weapon against the unsaved pagan warriors.
Unlike the media today, the murder of the missionaries made national news. Life Magazine, a preeminent publication of the time, made the murders the lead story in their January 30, 1956 issue. They devoted ten pages to the missionaries and their wives who waited for the recovery of the bodies of their husbands. (Life Magazine is viewable on Google Books.)
Later, the wives of the slain men went to the village. Because they were women, they posed no threat to the natives and were allowed to live among them. The missionary wives of the men taught the natives, who called themselves Waodoni, about the Creator God and Jesus. The wives brought salvation to the Waodoni.
Again, in the May 20, 1957 issue, Life Magazine devoted nine pages to the successful efforts of the missionary wives. Personally, I believe that the coverage of this sad, and yet remarkable, event was orchestrated by our Heavenly Father. He wished to honor the sacrifice made by five Christian men.
There was an earlier event honoring the martyrdom of these Christian brothers. The natives who were there at the sandbar during the killings described seeing a “huge crowd of people dressed in shining white.” There was also a sound that they could not describe in their language.
Years later, one of the warrior party had become a Christian and was a forgiven friend of the American missionaries. The missionaries were playing a cassette recording of a choir singing a hymn. The Waodoni Brother-in-Christ exclaimed, “That is the sound we heard.” (There was no word in their language to describe a choir singing prior to this.)
The warriors saw and heard an angelic assembly welcoming the five missionaries Home. Praise God! I do not deserve such a welcome, but I do look forward to going Home. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!