Watch the honest and faith-filled sharing of the wives of the five missionaries who were killed by the Aucas in 1956: Women of Faith.
And here’s the story:
Five Missionaries Speared To Death In Jungle
Many people thought it was a tragic waste of a life when Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries died trying to contact the unreached Aucas.
Yet, how many Christians would risk their life for an opportunity to share the gospel? Jim Elliot, a young modern martyr, gave what he could not keep and gained what he could not lose.
A ‘missions’ statistic that profoundly challenged Jim was, “There is one Christian worker for every 50,000 people in foreign lands, while there is one to every 500 in the United States.” Early in 1952, Jim Elliot sailed for Ecuador. The plan was to locate in an old oil station that was abandoned because it was considered too dangerous for oil personnel. It was close to the Auca tribe and had a small airstrip. In February 1953, Jim and Elisabeth met in Quito and then on October 8, 1953 they were married. Their daughter, Valerie, was born two years later. Jim and Elisabeth worked together in translating the New Testament into the Quechua Indian language at the new mission station. The Aucas were a violent and murderous tribe and had never had any contact with the outside world. Jim wanted to bring the gospel there so he started a plan which was called Operation Auca. Besides him and his wife, his team consisted of five more missionary couples.
‘NOT A LONG LIFE, BUT A FULL ONE’
The men discovered the first Auca huts with the help of a missionary jungle pilot, Nate Saint. The first attempt to contact them was by airplane. They would fly around the camp shouting friendship words in the Auca language through a loud speaker and dropping down gifts in a basket. Encouraged by this progress, after three to four months of gift dropping, they decided to make a base on the Curray River, ‘Palm Beach’. After they had set up shelter they eventually made contact with the Aucas. After a little persuasion, they were able to convince some to come into their camp. Encouraged by this visit, the men felt that it was time to go in and try to minister to them.
One morning, after numerous songs of praise and considerable prayer, the men radioed their wives saying that they were going to go into the village and would radio them again later. ‘Operation Auca’ was under way. The next day, a group of twenty or thirty Aucas went to Palm Beach. “Guys, the Aucas are coming!” As soon as the others heard that, they flew into action straightening up their camp. Little did these five men know that this would be their last few hours of life. The last radio contact they made was Jim calling his wife saying, “We’ll call you back in three hours.” Jim Elliot’s body was found down stream with three others. Their bodies had been brutally pierced with spears and hacked by machetes.
After Jim’s death, Elisabeth, her daughter and another of the missionaries sister, Rachel, moved to work with the Auca Indians. The love of Christ shown through their forgiveness allowed them to have amazing success with the once murderous Indians. Jim’s life was not a waste, in fact, God used his death to bring life through salvation to many Aucas and encouragement and inspiration to thousands of believers worldwide.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am reading a new biography of Hudson Taylor, one of my two all-time favorite protestant missionaries. Hudson was a missionary to China in the late 19th century. It isn’t my favorite biography of him, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the title: It is not Death to Die. That line is a quote from Pilgrim’s Progress. When, at the end of Valiant’s life, he crosses over to the Father’s House, “all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. IT IS NOT DEATH TO DIE.” We’ve had a lot of deaths affect us in our house in the last six months: residents at our Emmanuel Houses, the death of a very good friend, a sister of one of our Sisters, the mother of another one. We have been staring death in the face constantly these days. The title of the Taylor biography is a good reminder of the truth, that in Christ, death is really only apparent. It is not death to die.
And that reminded me of the title of a biography of my other favorite protestant missionary, Amy Carmichael. Elisabeth Elliot write a life of her named A Chance to Die. In the preface to her book, Elisabeth writes about the debt she owes to Amy Carmichael–I feel a similar debt–how she “met” her at age fourteen by reading her books. From her preface:
The first of her books that I read was, I think, If, which became her best-seller. It was not written for teenagers, but for seasoned Christians with the solemn charge of caring for the souls of others. It was from the pages of this thin blue book that I, a teenager, began to understand the great message of the Cross, of what the author called “Calvary love.” I saw the chance to die, to be crucified with Christ was not a morbid thing, but the very gateway to Life. I was drawn–slowly, fitfully (my response was fitful, but inexorably. (emphasis added)
I pray to be drawn even more inexorably into this frame of mind, looking for those chances to die to self, confidently knowing that it is not death to die.