Jim Elliot–“He Is No Fool.”
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Elisabeth Elliot, widow of slain missionary Jim Elliot, talks about the events of 1956 when members of the notoriously violent Waodani Indian Tribe, known as the Aucas, killed her husband along with four of his friends as they tried to reach them with the gospel on the shores of their native Ecuador.
Elisabeth Elliot, widow of slain missionary Jim Elliot, talks about the events of 1956.
Jim Elliot–“He Is No Fool.”
Elisabeth: One day in October of 1955, Nate Saint flew into our station to tell us that he had discovered the Auca houses. Within a very short time, Ed McCully, that politician from Wisconsin; Jim Elliott from Oregon; and Nate Saint instituted a program of dropping gifts to those Indians with the hope that they would be able to break down their hostility and prepare the way for an attempt to reach them. You can imagine our excitement, our trembling, the prayers that went up.
And on the evening in January of 1956, just before these men left to go into the edge of Auca territory – by this time they had been joined by Roger Youderian and Pete Fleming – they sang together that hymn – "We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and our Defender." A week later they were all speared to death.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition – Wednesday, January 4th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey. I'm Bob Lepine. This Sunday, January 8, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the martyrdom of those missionaries in rural Ecuador, and, I don't know, do you remember where you were the first time you heard the story of those five missionaries?
Dennis: Bob, I was almost eight years old in Southwest Missouri, and I do not recall hearing about it as a little boy.
Bob: It did make the news.
Dennis: It did?
Bob: It was in "Life" magazine and other periodicals. But you didn't hear about it until later in life?
Dennis: I heard about it finally in college, and it was through reading Elisabeth Elliott's book, "Through the Gates of Splendor," and, for me, as a college student, to get that book and have it be such a page-turner – I had just given my life to Christ, and I think what made it compelling reading for me, as a collegian, was that I was 20 years old, I was looking at life with eyes that were alive to the spiritual work of God in human beings' lives, and I had freshly given my life to Christ, and His Lordship of all the areas of my life, and so here is a couple, Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, who had given their lives to Christ and his Lordship, and Jim Elliott gave his life, literally, was martyred for his faith, and then Elisabeth, his wife, went into that tribe after he had been murdered by them to love them, speak with them, learn their language and customs and ultimately share her faith in the Gospel and his forgiveness with them.
Bob: That book that you mentioned, "Through Gates of Splendor," is a book that God has used over the years in remarkable ways to not only tell the story but to talk about what it really means to live with Christ as Lord, and I think it's probably stirred the hearts of a number of people who have ended up involved in world missions in some foreign field, carrying on the legacy of Jim Elliott and Nate Saint and the others who were killed on the beach on January 8, 1956.
Dennis: And I'm glad, Bob, there's now been a full-length feature movie that has been made called "The End of the Spear," that's going to be released here in a couple of weeks. It's a great movie. You and I have seen it together and, personally, I think what's going to happen as this film comes out is the very thing we've been talking about here – I think there's going to be a generation of young people who see this story and who, all of a sudden, start evaluating their faith.
Now, I think adults are going to do the same, but I think there's going to be a generation of young people in youth groups, in junior high, high school, and college, and they're going to evaluate what they're living for and who they're living for. And as a result, I think we're going to see a fresh crop of missionaries head to the world. At least that's my prayer as this film comes out.
Bob: You were in the audience in Kansas City in 1983 when Elisabeth Elliott addressed a crowd of students who had assembled there for an event that Campus Crusade was sponsoring called "KC '83," and she talked about those five young men, who were all in their 20s. They were at the beginning of their adult life, and they had headed off to the field. She described their lives, and I think what she did was she painted a picture so that everyone in the audience could go, "That could be me."
We wanted our listeners to hear how she described the lives of those five men who were martyred that day 50 years ago this week.
Elisabeth: Once upon a time, before you were born, there were in Ecuador, a tribe so-called "savages." Not very much was known about these people. They were naked, they used stone tools, and they killed strangers. Nobody had ever gone into their territory and come out alive. Missionaries had been praying that God would enable them someday to take the Gospel to these Aucas, but it had never happened, and it wasn't until 1956 that the first Operation Auca was attempted.
Five young American men banded together to do this. I want to tell you a little about who they were and how they got there. First, there was Nate Saint from Philadelphia, one of the founders of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. He inaugurated the program of jungle flying in the Eastern jungle of Ecuador. Pilots who have watched film footage of some of Nate's landings on those canyons of green trees in the jungle have said that it's impossible. Nate was a genius; he was a rather slightly built blond guy with a terrific sense of humor; a creative imagination; and an almost fanatical discipline and caution as a flyer.
Then there was Roger Youderian, a cowboy from Montana. He went into World War II as a paratrooper; was wounded; and somehow he ended up in the Eastern jungle of Ecuador working with the Jivaros, those Indians that you've heard of who used to shrink people's heads and put them up on poles around their houses or wear them on their belts – really nice guys.
The next man was Pete Fleming from Seattle, Washington, an earnest, scholarly type who had a master's degree in literature and planned on an academic career. God had another plan for Pete, and Pete ended up in the jungle of Ecuador working with the Quichua Indians reducing their language to writing and beginning the rudiments of Bible translation.
Ed McCully was a guy that I knew in college, and when I think back, there is hardly anybody who seemed less likely to me to become a missionary than Ed McCully. He was handsome – good looks can open a lot of doors, but I don't think they'll get you very far on a mission field. Doesn't it seem like kind of a waste? I mean, here was this guy, six-feet-three, football player, track star, president of his class, and when the Hearst newspaper chain sponsored a nationwide oratorical contest, there were 20,000 entrants. Just picture everybody that's at KC '83 entering that oratorical contest. Ed McCully won first place.
He was smooth. We thought he'd make a great politician. That's what he was going to be. He had charisma, and he went to law school. But God changed his mind after he got into law school and somehow he, too, ended up in some God-forsaken corner of the Eastern jungle of Ecuador – again, a missionary to the Quichuas. Why would a guy like that bury himself in the jungle? Couldn't he find more fruitful ways to use his gifts? All those talents that God had given him? Wasn't that an awful waste?
Well, yes, it was, if, what matters to you is self-image, fame, money, success, a terrible waste. The backwoods isn't really a very auspicious place to pursue those kinds of things.
Then there was the fifth man, one I got to know pretty well. His name was Jim Elliott.
Bob: We're going to hear more from that message at KC '83 in just a few minutes but, of course, Jim Elliott, the one that Elisabeth got to know was her husband for a little more than two years. He had been president of his class at Wheaton College. He was from Portland, Oregon, and she tells the story of her romance and her marriage to Jim Elliott in her book, "Passion and Purity," which has been read by hundreds of thousands of people.
But these five men – Jim and Roger and Pete and Ed and Nate – they are heroes, do you think?
Dennis: They are, and when Elisabeth Elliott spoke in KC '83, which was a gathering of college students from all across the country – it was spitting snow outside, but it was warm inside. It was a huge, cavernous, almost like a warehouse, but they had set up this convention with Elisabeth Elliott speaking to these collegians, and she shared how these young men gave their lives for their faith.
Elisabeth: You don't just decide one Tuesday morning that you're going to be a hero of the faith. There has to be a period, a long period, maybe years, of learning to walk humbly in obedience with God. You put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, one day at a time, year after year beginning now.
Is it worth it? One day in October of 1955, Nate Saint flew into our station to tell us that he had discovered some Auca houses. Within a very short time, Ed McCully, that politician from Wisconsin; Jim Elliott from Oregon; and Nate Saint instituted a program of dropping gifts to those Indians with the hope that they would be able to break down their hostility and prepare the way for an attempt to reach them. You can imagine our excitement, our trembling; the prayers that went up.
And on the evening in January of 1956, just before these men left to go into the edge of Auca territory – by this time they had been joined by Roger Youderian and Pete Fleming – they sang together that hymn "We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and our Defender." A week later they were all speared to death.
Man: The Waodani are killing so many people, the government is under pressure. They're going to bring in troops. We have one chance to reach these people now – this is it.
Man: When a life is taken, we call it a tragedy.
Child: Will the Waodani attack? Will you use your guns?
Man: My life is freely given, a sacrifice.
Elisabeth: Why? Two of the men who killed them are friends of mine now. Their names are Mincaye and Kekita [ph], and they made tapes for me telling me everything about what had happened that afternoon on the beach, and they said they thought the men were cannibals.
Man: Ninkiwi [ph] and the young woman that was there at the friendly contact, and Ninkiwi wanted to marry her. Nampa [ph] really didn't want that to happen. When they found them coming back from the friendly encounter, the tribe flew into a rage. They wanted to kill Ninkiwi, Nampa certainly did. The Akita [ph] saw this, the Ninkayani [ph] saw this, Jewi [ph] saw this, and they redirected the anger, which is something about their culture. You get angry, you're out of control. The way you affirm control is to kill. So they redirected their anger toward the missionaries, and that was ultimately why they attacked and killed the five men.
Elisabeth: Why would God allow a thing like that to happen? He was their shield, their defender, and He let them get speared to death. What had happened? Can your faith cope with a set of facts like this? There is a mystery here, but it is not unprecedented. Go back to Hebrews 11 – and following all those wonderful triumphant accounts, we read, "And others were tortured." They faced jeers and flogging, fetters and prison bars, they were stoned, they were – listen to this – sawn in two. Talk about endurance.
Is it worth it? Is it worth it? How many things can you think of that are worth suffering for? There is nothing worth living for unless it's worth dying for. Have you made up your mind? The world is stunned when the news of the death of the five men hit the headlines. People did not know that there were still stone-age savages around. I suppose that's one of the reasons they were impressed. And then people realized that there could still be ordinary young men for whom obedience to Jesus Christ was quite literally a matter of life or death.
There was plenty of editorializing about it. The secular press called the blankety-blank fools. The Christian press did a lot of very glib explaining of why God would allow a thing like this to happen. The verse that brought assurance to me was 1 John 2:17 – "The world in all its passionate desires will one day disappear, but the man who is following the will of God is part of the permanent and cannot die."
Bob: As Elisabeth was retelling the story of the death of those missionaries, we included some of the sound track that comes from the movie, "End of the Spear," that's being released – I think it's two weeks from Friday the movie is going to be released, and that movie portrays the events of 1956 and actually takes you back before 1956 to tell about the Waodani tribe and then brings it up to date. It brings you to the point where Steve Saint, one of the children of those martyred missionaries goes back and makes contact with the tribe and finds out how the spearing took place, why it took place, and actually finds out who it was that killed his father, and that man becomes his friend. That man is now a Christian. It's a powerful story.
Dennis: Steve Saint ended up going back to live among that tribe as well. Frankly, Bob, you and I have interviewed a lot of folks where you just kind of feel like, you know, I felt unworthy. I've given my life to following Christ in 35 years of vocational ministry, but you meet somebody like that, who left the comfort of living on the East Coast and taking his family and going back into the jungles of Ecuador and living with the tribe and, as you said, befriending the man who ended up murdering his father is just a remarkable story of faith.
One of the things we've done is we've put together, from a number of sources, some of the descriptions about Jim Elliott by his wife, Elisabeth, and his faith, and we thought you'd enjoy hearing this montage of audio clips, as Elisabeth Elliott describes the man who gave his life for Christ.
Bob: And our intent here is not to single out one of the five missionaries, but because of her writing and speaking, we probably know more about Jim than we do the other four. But, again, all five of them are heroic and courageous.
Elisabeth: I want to tell you a little bit about that missionary, Jim Elliott. I knew him when he was a college student. He had made up his mind that he wanted two degrees – a bachelor of arts, which the college was qualified to confer; and an AUG, which the college was not qualified to confer. The one he wanted most was AUG, "Approved Unto God." He got that out of the Apostle Paul's letter to Timothy, and he had made up his mind what he wanted to live for.
Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, endured a cross. Making light of its disgrace and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. He made Himself nothing. Jim Elliott wrote in his diary when he was 22 – "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Were those men really out of their tree to do what they did? In Hebrews 12 it says, "What of ourselves? With all these witnesses surrounding us like a cloud, we must throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling, and run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus on whom faith depends from start to finish.
Jim Elliott was a man with tremendous gifts; a man who could undoubtedly have been a great success in probably quite a few different professions; a man whose friends and relatives thought he was crazy to go burying himself in some God-forsaken corner of the jungle just to talk to a few ignorant Indians when he had such a powerful testimony and a great "ministry" in this country among young people. But Jim's life was not his own. The verse that he wrote in my yearbook was 2 Timothy 2:4 – "A soldier on active service does not entangle himself in civilian affairs. He must be wholly at his commanding officer's disposal." Him was disposable.
And here is the crux of the matter – and, by the way, did you know that the word "crux" means cross? Did you know that the word "crucial" comes from the same root? Until the world and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone to accept His Lordship.
God is saying, "I have something infinitely better for you than you can imagine. Will you trust me? Will you wait? Will you obey me?"
Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me with Thy Holy Spirit, use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever."
What do you live for?
Bob: Once again, that's Elisabeth Elliott reflecting on her husband, Jim, who, along with four other men, was martyred in 1956, 50 years ago this week, and we felt like it was important for listeners to hear that story again, maybe some for the first time. There are probably some folks who have been unaware of this story and will want to get either a copy of Elisabeth's book, the one that you read when you were in college, "Through Gates of Splendor," or the DVD of the documentary that is called "Beyond the Gates of Splendor." We have both the book and the DVD in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and the easiest way for listeners to become acquainted with all that took place in those events is to get the book and get the DVD.
You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," right in the center of your screen, and that should take you to a page where you can get more information about these resources. And if you order both the book and the DVD, we'll send you at no additional charge, the CD audio that features the excerpts we've been listening to this week from Elisabeth Elliott.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, click the button in the middle of the screen that says "Today's Resources," and go there to find out more about the documentary, "Beyond the Gates of Splendor," about the book, "Through Gates of Splendor," and there is a link on our website as well that will give you more information about the movie that's coming out in a couple of weeks called "End of the Spear." You can watch a trailer for that movie, get more information about the release of it. I think it is January 20th that it's going to be in theaters, and we hope families will attend that movie, "End of the Spear." 1-800-FLTODAY or, again, the website is FamilyLife.com.
And, once again, Dennis, I want to say thank you, I know you do as well, to those folks who pitched in at year-end and made a contribution to us here at FamilyLife. We heard from many of our listeners, and I know our team is still going through and trying to open up some of the mail that we received so that we can issue a formal thank-you note to those of you who contributed at year-end to FamilyLife Today. We really do appreciate your generosity, and I think it is safe to say at this point that we were successfully able to meet the match and take full advantage of the $350,000 match that we had in December – so thanks to all of you who pitched in. We appreciate you standing with us and appreciate your ongoing support of this ministry. Thanks for helping keep us on the air here in this city and in cities all across the country.
Tomorrow we have a special guest joining us. He is the son of one of the men who was martyred as a missionary 50 years ago this week. Steve Saint is going to be with us along with the man who helped make the movie that tells the story of Steve's dad's martyrdom, the movie, "End of the Spear," Mart Green, is going to be here as well. And we have a surprise guest who is going to be here with them, and we hope you can be back with us.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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