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Behind the Scenes

with Mart Green, Steve Saint | January 5, 2006

Imagine befriending your father's murderer. That's exactly what today's guest, Steve Saint, and his family have done. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey hears a remarkable story of reconciliation as told by Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, one of five men killed in January 1956 when trying to reach the Auca Indians for Christ. Joining Steve on the broadcast is Mart Green, founder of Bearing Fruit Communications, which has turned Nate's life into a film called End of the Spear, and Mincaye, the Auca Indian who killed Steve's father years ago and who is now Steve's beloved brother in Christ.

Imagine befriending your father's murderer. That's exactly what today's guest, Steve Saint, and his family have done. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey hears a remarkable story of reconciliation as told by Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, one of five men killed in January 1956 when trying to reach the Auca Indians for Christ. Joining Steve on the broadcast is Mart Green, founder of Bearing Fruit Communications, which has turned Nate's life into a film called End of the Spear, and Mincaye, the Auca Indian who killed Steve's father years ago and who is now Steve's beloved brother in Christ.

Behind the Scenes

With Mart Green, Steve Saint
|
January 05, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

 Well, just a few years ago, Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint, one of the martyred missionaries, went back to the tribe and spoke to some of the men who had been present on the beach the day his father was killed.

Steve: They had been mystified for all these years about why some of the things that happened there at Palm Beach happened, and they finally said, "Why did they react this way?"  And why did this one, who could have fled, he got all the way to the other side of the river, Pete Fleming, they said, "Why didn't he flee into the jungle?"  And I said, "What good would that have done?  You would have just followed him and speared him."  They said, "No, no, you don't understand.  First, we spear and are angry and furious."  And he said, "Then, immediately, our anger turns to fear, and then we flee from our enemies who are now going to come and spear us."  And I said, "You mean, if he had gone into the jungles, you wouldn't have speared him?"  They said, "Surely, nobody would have followed him."

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we will hear the unfolding story of what took place 50 years ago this week on the banks of the Curaray River in Ecuador.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know, over the last several years, we have had opportunities to interview some heroic people.  I'm thinking of – well, Heather Mercer and Dana Curry, the two young women who were captured by the Taliban and lived in a Taliban prison back in 2001.

Dennis: We stood in awe of their story, too.

Bob: Yeah, we really did, and I think of Gracia Burnham, whose husband was shot as they had been captured by a group in the Philippines, a terrorist group in the Philippines that kept them captive for 10 months.  And, you remember, after we did those interviews, we reflected on the story that happened in 1956, 50 years ago this month, the martyrdom of five American missionaries in Ecuador that actually captured national attention in the same way that Gracia Burnham and Heather Mercer and Dana Curry were all on the news.  This story was a feature article in "Life" magazine in January of 1956.

Dennis: Yeah, and we also interviewed the widow of one of those martyrs, Elisabeth Elliot, and anyone who has read the book, "Through Gates of Splendor" has wept as you've heard the story of how five young men, all under the age of 30, who flew planes, went into reach a group of – well, what we would call today an "unreached people" group, and share their faith with them.

 And we have a unique privilege today to have the son of one of those who gave his life, Steve Saint joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Steve, welcome.

Steve: Hi, Dennis, thank you.  Bob.

Dennis: Steve is a missionary and author and founder and president of I-TEC.  We also are joined in the studio by Mart Green, founder and CEO of Bearing Fruit Communications out of Oklahoma City.  Many of our listeners probably know of Mardell Christian Bookstores and his leadership in that.  Mart, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Mart: Thank you, Dennis, Bob, I enjoy being here today.

Dennis: And we also have our first warrior – we've had spiritual warriors, but Mincaye joins us on FamilyLife Today, who is actually one of the tribesmen who took the life of Nate Saint and Jim Elliott and three others, and Mincaye joins us on FamilyLife Today as well.

Mincaye: [speaks in Waodani]

Dennis: We're glad to have you here.  Last evening we had a chance to have a – well, I guess, the premier viewing of "The End of the Spear," which really is a story of the heroic faith of these five men and their wives and their families and, Mart, I guess we'd have to say that you're really to blame for that movie.  You got a vision for that, of all places, in a Wal-Mart parking lot?

Mart: Yeah, that was October 14th of 1998, and I actually was listening to the tape of Mincaye speaking, and he made the statement, "We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God's carvings.  Now we walk His trail," and I just wept and wept, and I called my friend and said, "Man, this is going to be a movie someday, and it won't focus so much on the 10 American heroes, as you pointed out.  It will be what happened to the six guys who speared the five?  The most violent society ever recorded – what happened to them?  And I felt that would be the story.

Dennis: The irony of that is how many movies had you been to at that point in your life?

Mart: Zero.

Bob: You'd never been to a movie theater? 

Mart: I was raised – or advice to members was not to go to movies, so I'd never been to a movie theater.  So when I got that passion on my heart, I just assumed the Lord would move on a moviemaker to make the movie from that side.  I had no thought that I would be a part of the process.

Bob: And as you watched it being screened in a movie theater last night, what did you think?

Mart: Well, it was quite emotional.  It's been a seven-year journey, and we had about 300 people there – a lot of leadership people, you all were there, and …

Dennis: Tell them how it ended – not the movie.  What did the audience do?  It was pretty cool, wasn't it?

Mart: Yeah, first they started clapping, and then they all stood, and I bent over weeping.

Dennis: I think we were all weeping, too.

Mart: They were.  It's a powerful story.

Dennis: And I told this to you before we came on air, unfortunately, there have been some cheesy films made in the name of Christ, I mean, really second-rate.  There is nothing second-rate about this movie.  It is powerful, it is well done, and I'd have to say it's pretty good for a guy who has never been to a movie.

Mart: Well, we appreciate that.  The Lord brought an incredible team together, and it was an incredible process.

Bob: Steve, I need to ask you, because some of our listeners have not read "Through Gates of Splendor," or they may just be barely familiar with your father's story.  Can you give us a synopsis of that story and what we saw last night?

Steve: I'll try, Bob.  It started 50 years ago in 1956.  My dad and four of his friends decided that they should try to make a friendly contact with a group of people in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungles who had never had friendly contact with the outside world.  Dad and his friends knew that they were killing habitually and rampantly amongst themselves, but they also were at risk because the oil companies back in those days, Shell Oil Company, was moving into their territory, and this tribe had been oil company employees, and so the oil company had gone to the Ecuadorian government saying, "Hey, if you want us to find oil, you need to get rid of these people."

 So they made an attempt, they made contact first from the airplane using a technique that my dad had developed to lower a bucket on a long string and gave the people presents while they were flying above, and these people that everybody called "Aucas," their real name is Waodani, realized whatever that was up there – they didn't know – but they started returning gifts, and so they exchanged gifts for about three months.

 Then Dad found a little sandbar, landed on it, they had a face-to-face friendly contact.  The first one that's ever been recorded, and it looked like everything was go, continuing friendly contact with the tribe.  But two days later, another group, another delegation from the tribe came back and speared my dad and his friends to death.  That was the first chapter.  Then two years later miraculously the door opened up, and my Aunt Rachel, my dad's sister, and Elisabeth Elliot, I call her "Aunt Betty," were invited by members of the tribe who also fled from killings within the tribe, found out that there were some people on the outside that lived without killing and hating and asked Aunt Betty and Aunt Rachel to go back in with them to teach them how to live in this new way.

Dennis: To live in the midst of the people who had taken their husbands lives?

Steve: I know it must seem strange, but Aunt Rachel always considered that that was God's reward to her – to go at the risk of her life to share the Gospel with the Waodani.  Now, that was the next chapter.  Then in 1994, my aunt died of cancer, had lived the rest of her life, from 1958 to 1994, in the jungles with the Waodani and wanted to be buried there with this new family that had taken her in.  So I flew down to help the tribe bury her, and then they said, "Okay, now we say you come and live with us."  And I won't go into that, but that began another chapter that's now 12 years old.  So that's about as short as I could make it – 50 years.

Bob: And it's my understanding that until you went back into the tribe the great mystery was what had happened and why had it happened, right?  Nobody knew what had been the motivating factor for the Waodani to spear your father and the others.

Steve: Yes, there was – the people that were there, the Waodani, they knew what had happened, and, of course, we knew on our side why they hadn't fired their guns, but nobody had ever told the Waodani – why did these people with guns not shoot us?  Aunt Rachel had never asked the Waodani for details of what happened because in the Waodani culture, if somebody kills somebody in your family, then it's not only your right, but it's really your responsibility to go kill somebody in their tribe or their clan, or, if you're smart, just go try to kill the whole clan so there's nobody left to carry on the vendetta. 

 So she never asked, and she didn't want me to ask, and so that's just the way it was until we buried Aunt Rachel.  And then the Waodani came and started asking me questions, you know, "Why did they react this way?  And why did this one, who could have fled, he got all the way to the other side of the river, Pete Fleming, they said, "Why didn't he flee into the jungles?"  And I said, "What good would that have done?  You would have just followed him and speared him."  They said, "No, no, you don't understand.  First, we spear and are angry and furious."  And he said, "Then, immediately, our anger turns to fear, and then we flee from our enemies who now are going to come and spear us."  And I said, "You mean, if he had gone into the jungles, you wouldn't have speared him?"  They said, "Surely, nobody would have followed him."

 I don't know, that's God's plan, I think, but they had been mystified for all these years about why some of the things that happened there at Palm Beach happened, and they finally said, "Okay, now Star is dead," so they asked me.  So I thought, "Well, they're asking me those questions, I'll ask them," and little by little I began to put the pieces together, and as they described who speared who and gave physical descriptions of the ones in different locations on the beach, I began to realize, "Okay, that must be Jim, okay, that had to have been Roger – oh, that was my dad."  He was the one that they seemed to recognize best, because he was the one who was always in the plane when he flew over the village.

Bob: And the man sitting to your left was there on the beach that day.

Steve: Yes.

Bob: And speared your father?

Steve: Yes.

Dennis: How do you sit next to him?

Steve: Ah, he's Grandfather Mincaye.  We have been family for a long, long time, and I not only love him, but our kids love him, and our grandkids actually have grandchildren whose legal names are tribal names – named for these very people.  And my son, Jamie, given name – he's named for my father, Nathaniel, and he is named for Mincaye, the man who killed my father, who now really has become a grandfather to my children.

Dennis: Undoubtedly, you have visited the scene where your father was stabbed by him.  Have you questioned him about that, and what your father did and how he died at that point?

Steve: Well, yes.  I didn't ask Mincaye specifically.  I asked the group that asked me to come back and live with them when Aunt Rachel died, I asked them as a group, and they answered as a group, and finally somebody said to me privately, "Him crying because he did it.  He doesn't want to say."  So I've never asked him specifically, "Did you actually spear my father?"  The other ones told me, but he has told me in a thousand ways that he loves me and cares for me.

Bob: Mart, I know in making this film, one of the things that you wanted to make sure of was that it was as historically accurate as possible, and I know as we sat and watched it last night, we asked questions.  We said, "Did that really happen?  Was there really a picture with a cowboy hat that was found years later?"

Dennis: It was a picture of Steve that his dad was carrying on the plane.

Bob: Was there really a scene on the beach like we see at the end of the movie?  Is what we saw last night, as far as you know, even to the point of the tribal natives checking Steve out to see if he was a boy or a girl?  Did that all happen?

Mart: To tell you the truth, not all that did happen.  We had – in the movie, we did a documentary of this that's out that tells the true story.  In the movie, we had to combine characters.  Like the picture is a great example.  We know that Nate was thinking about Steve.  Any father who was going in who had children had to think, you know, because they knew the risk that was involved and stuff, so, but how do you make that internal external?  And so we were able to take pictures and different things.  So, yes, we took some licensing in things, but we think the emotional truth of the story is there and that the documentary can support that and the different books and things like that.

Dennis: Mart, what is your ultimate vision for this movie?  What are your dreams and I know you said at the beginning that half the profits are going to be used to fund further missions groups that need translated materials on the Bible, but I also know part of your vision is additional great stories of faith and bringing some of the issues of our day to cinema in a compelling way to call audiences to step forward in the battle.  But what's your dream for this movie?

Mart: For this movie specifically, I think it gets down to one word, and the one word for the movie, if I had to say, it's reconciliation.  I think that's an incredible issue for our world and stuff, but what I want people to take away, if I had to get down to one word again is adventure.  You know, I think God has called us all to an adventure, and we take that adventure, it's risky, there's a lot of – I've had higher highs and lower lows since I've done this movie, but when you go on the adventure with God, and I want people to go on the adventure.  If they don't know the Lord, I hope they get to know the Lord.  If they know the Lord, I want them to go on that adventure, because He's calling all of us to something bigger than ourselves, and that's really my story here.  I'm in a Wal-Mart parking lot and never been to a movie and to see God do what He did in this film knows that it wasn't me that did it, it's going on the adventure with Him.

Bob: Steve, when the tribe asked you to come and take the place of your aunt after her death, you had to face that adventure and say, "Do you mean me, Lord?  Is this what our family is supposed to do?"

Steve: Actually, I didn't want to go.  I mean, I wanted to live with the Waodani.  I love living down in the jungles.  You know, I was born and raised down there.  I'm Ecuadorian, but I am also married, and we had four children, and I made an excuse.  I told the people – you know, they were saying, "We say come, what do you say?"  And I said, "Well, speaking to Wygnongi [ph] the Creator – God – speaking to God – in other words, praying about it, if God wants me to come, then I'll come."  My tribal grandmother turned to the people, and she said, "Already having spoken to God, I know He sees it well."  So I thought, "Okay, we need a better excuse."

 Well, they might be able to speak to God, but they can't speak to my wife, Ginny.  So I said, "Speaking to Wygnongi and to Ongyancamo [ph]", that's what they call Ginny, I said, "If they both see it well, then surely I will come."  And I knew I had them then.  Dawa [ph] turned to the people, and she said, "People, Ongyancamo being a true God-follower, if God sees it well, how can Ongyancamo not see it well to come."  And when Ginny said, "What are you going to do?"  I said, "Well, the only thing I know to do is to pray.  What could we possibly do for the Waodani that other people haven't tried to do?"  And I finally asked the Waodani, and they said, "Bavay [ph], all the foreigners want to come and do for us.  Doesn't God's carving say that all God-followers should teach others to follow His trail?"  I said, "Yes, that's true."  And they said, "What about us?"  I said, "What do you want me to do?"  They said, "Bavay, you teaching us to do things like the foreigners do, just like we taught you to do the things that you didn't know how to do when you were a boy so you could live out here.  We say now you, having lived with the foreigners, you teach us those things, and we ourselves will teach our people to follow God's trail."

Dennis: That's pretty tough logic to confront, isn't it?

Steve: Unless, to give into it means to leave your business and your home and schools and everything and move back to the jungles.

Dennis: And we really are talking about jungle.  We're not talking about a home and a house like we all know it in Western civilization.

Steve: I don't think you can picture what it was.  We were talking about going out to a new area that was centrally located in Waodani territory, days from the nearest road.  Totally isolated, no communication, no television, no telephone, no cell phones, and starting to try to figure out a new paradigm in which the Waodani could meet their own people's needs and, in the process of doing that, could share the Gospel with them.

Dennis: You talk about an adventure, Mart – I'm glad, Mart, you used the word "adventure," because I think there are many in churches today who fill the pews of America who never know the intoxicating privilege of encountering Christ using them in another human being's life.  And although it was kind of dirty pool for them to turn the logic back on Steve here the way they did, saying "We taught you as a boy how to live and how to survive in the jungle, now will you teach us how to survive in the 21st century spiritually?"  But that really is where the adventure begins, isn't it, Mart?

Mart: Yeah, and it does for everybody, and I believe it's a point that just doesn't really make sense, just like it didn't make sense for him to move his kids that are in college and high school down to the jungle.  But in your heart it doesn't go away and at some point you have to say yes to that adventure or no, and many of us say no.  I want to encourage people that others have done it, and God has shown up.  It's not always an easy answer.  Here's five guys who died, left five widows and nine children, but I think all of them would say, "This is the trail we would go again if we were asked to."

Bob: As we were walking out of the movie last night, you were praying that God would use this film to raise up the next generation like this generation, right?

Dennis: I left that movie emotionally moved.  Like everybody else who was there, because what's not known today is missions in America is in a dramatic decline, and I think for many this is going to be the genesis.  My prayer would be of a new generation of World Missions for the church.  So, Mart, Steve, Mincaye, I believe you're up to something that my prayer is God is going to take way beyond what any of us believe, and, you know, what if it was used to recruit a million, a million warriors, spiritual warriors for Christ.

Mart: Wouldn't that be something?

Dennis: To go to the world.  You know, there aren't that many places like we saw in that movie last night that don't have electricity, don't have running water.

Mart: Nobody gets run over by cars, either.

[laughter]

Bob: There's some safety there, that's right.

Dennis: They do get almost eaten by jaguars, and you have to wait 'til the movie to see that.

Bob: Yeah, but you're not going to have to wait long, because the movie is scheduled to be released in many cities two weeks from now.  I think opening night is January 20th, and if you'd like more information about the release of the movie, we've got it on our website at FamilyLife.com.  You can also go there for more information about the book that Steve Saint has written that tells the story that will be told in the movie.  It's the book called "The End of the Spear."

 In addition, we have a DVD of a documentary that has been made that tells the story of the martyrdom of the missionaries.  It's called "Beyond the Gates of Splendor," and any of our listeners who want to contact us to get a copy of the book, "End of the Spear," and the DVD of the documentary, "Beyond the Gates of Splendor," we will send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation today with Mart Green and Steve Saint and with Mincaye.

 You can go online for more information, FamilyLife.com.  Click the button at the bottom of the screen that says, "Go," and that will take you right to the page where you can find out about the DVD, about Steve's book, other resources that are available on this same subject.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.  Your choice, either the website, FamilyLife.com or 1-800-FLTODAY.  Someone on our team can help you with information about how to have these resources sent out to you, and then make plans to attend the movie when it opens in a city near you which, for many of us, will be two weeks from now in a theater in our neighborhood.

 Let me quickly say thank you, Dennis, to the many listeners who we heard from during the final days of 2005, folks who got in touch with us in December to help support this ministry and help provide for our financial needs.  It was a great encouragement.

 Now, perhaps you're a regular listener, and you've not made a contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Well, last week we aired some of the top programs of 2005, and one of those featured Emerson Eggerich talking about the need in marriage for love and respect, and this month we want to offer as a thank you gift to those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today the two-CD series that features Emerson Eggerich speaking about that subject.  It was one of our most requested resources during the year 2005, and we want to make it available as a thank you gift to you this month if you are able to help us with a donation of any amount.

 If you're donating online, as you fill out the form, there will be a keycode box, and if you're interested in getting the CD set, just write in the word "Love," or the word "Respect," your choice.  Or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the CD series, and we'll send that out to you as well.  Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your support of this ministry.  We are listener-supported, and we depend on those contributions to continue the work of FamilyLife Today on this station and on stations all across the country.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to hear how the story of the martyred missionaries became a major motion picture, and I hope our listeners can be with us as we talk about that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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