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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Where Angels Fear to Tread (not about the book) (09/08/11)

TITLE: Of Spears and Forgiveness
By Lisa Johnson


Of Spears and Forgiveness

One of the most violent societies known to anthropologists, the Waodoni tribe lived in the rainforests of Ecuador. Living by the spear, they were known for their deadly violence, against both their own people and any outsiders who entered their territory. A neighboring tribe, the Quechans, called them “Aucas” or “enemies”, a derogatory term.

In September 1955, five missionaries began to feel God-directed to make contact with this unreached people group. “Operation Auca” was born, with the hope of evangelizing the Waodoni. With the help of Nate Saint, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian began making regular flights over the Waodoni territory, dropping gifts whenever they found a settlement.

On January 3, 1956, the five men made camp at “Palm Beach,” a sandbar on the Curaray River, not far from a Waodoni settlement. They had spent months dropping gifts on this settlement, and had high hopes of being well received, despite warnings about the tribe's fierceness. They were encouraged on January 6, 1956 when they made peaceful contact with three Waodoni from the settlement.

On January 8, 1956, all five men were attacked and speared by a group of Waodoni warriors. There were no survivors. The civilized world was shocked and horrified by the slaughter of these men of God.

No one would have expected it, and many people thought them foolish and misguided, but from the fall of 1958 through the winter of 1959, Elisabeth Elliot, Jim's widow, and Rachel Saint, Nate's sister, returned to the rainforests of Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Befriended by a Waodoni woman named Dayuma, they moved into a Waodoni settlement and lived among the people. Sharing God's love and message of forgiveness, Rachel Saint, Elisabeth Elliot and little Valerie Elliot ( who was only ten months old when her father was killed) were not viewed as a threat. This eventually led to the conversion of many of the tribe, including some of those Waodoni who were involved in the killing of the five men.

Steve Saint, Nate's son, was only ten years old in 1961 when he first went to live with the Waodoni. He stayed with them for many summers, and was befriended by a warrior named Mincaye... one of his father's killers. Steve was baptized in the Curaray River by two of the men who had been involved in the killings.

Conversion to Christianity ended a fierce war between quickly shrinking clans of Waodoni, decreasing their homicide rate by over ninety percent. It was a war that had threatened to wipe out the Waodoni all together. Once a tribe feared by all, the Waodoni no longer live by the spear, but by the Spirit of God's love and forgiveness.


If you would like to know more about this story, I highly recommend reading
"Through Gates of Splendor" written in 1957 by Elisabeth Elliot

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Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen09/19/11
Well written retelling of the sad murder of the five missionaries in Ecuador and the amazing forgiveness of their families and the miracles God brought about through it all.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/19/11
This was fascinating as well as educational.