Thursday, January 19, 2006

Riveting Redemption

When I was a newly baptized senior in college in 1983 I heard Elisabeth Elliott speak at a Campus Crusade for Christ conference in Kansas City on her husband Jim’s martyrdom in 1956 at the hands of a primitive tribe in Ecuador whom he and a missions team had tried to reach with the gospel. It was a riveting and inspiring story and one that I have learned more about in the ensuing years.

Elliott was one of those people whose Christian passion was awe-inspiring. While a student at Wheaton College he wrote: “God makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God, deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame.”

Eventually Elliott discerned that God was calling him to the mission field, particularly to South America. “Why should some hear the gospel twice (i.e., in America) when others have not heard it once?” he asked. In corresponding with a former missionary to Ecuador he heard of a violent tribe – the Aucas – that had never been reached with the Christian message. Indeed, they had killed several Shell Oil company employees who encountered them. Several years passed as Elliott worked with the Quichua Indians while planning a mission to the Aucas, and married Elisabeth. Finally in 1955 he and one of his team members, missionary pilot Nate Saint, began dropping gifts from the plane, attempting to befriend the hostile tribe, and in January 1956 their five-man team landed on a beach of the Curaray River in eastern Ecuador. They had several friendly contacts with the tribe, but two days later all five were speared and hacked to death by Auca warriors. It was a huge news item at the time; Life magazine featured a ten-page article on their mission and death.

Paul declares in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things to work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” What happened later brought to life this great promise.

Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister; Steve Saint, his son; and the widows all risked their lives to travel into the Amazon basin and finish their loved one’s mission.

This is where the new movie, End of the Spear, opening in theatres this weekend, spends much of its time. Can you imagine Steve Saint meeting his father’s killer, a Waodani (formerly Auca) named Mincayani? Can you imagine many in the tribe accepting Christ and the tribe turning from its violent ways? Can you imagine Mincayani becoming a grandfather figure to Steve’s own children? It is all true, and it gives us a much needed reminder of the power of the gospel and of the transformative and life-changing nature of the love of Christ manifesting itself through forgiveness and reconciliation.

I have seen a documentary featuring Steve and Mincayani and theirs is a deeply inspiring (and funny) relationship. I am confident the movie will be worthwhile and that you will be challenged and blessed by seeing it. Just as with Chronicles of Narnia, make sure to see this not just because it is a good film, but because doing so will help convince the industry that there is a receptive audience for Christian oriented movies like this.


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