Saturday, April 2

Faith Stories: The Missionary Zeal of Jim Elliot



It was only a year after Jim Elliot graduated from college at Wheaton that he heard of the remote Huaorani tribe of Ecuador (known at that time as the Aucas). He knew immediately that he wanted to be part of the effort to reach them with the gospel, and after a couple of years of preparation, he was in Ecuador.

It was September of 1955 when the the first Huaorani huts were located during a flight over the jungle. Jim Elliot and the four other men that joined him in the mission to the Huaorani began making flights over the village, dropping gifts and broadcasting a message of friendship in the Huaorani language. When the response from the villagers seemed to be friendly, the decision was made to begin landing the plane in hopes of making further contact.

On Sunday, January 8, 1956, the men expected some sort of contact to be made in the mid-afternoon, and they radioed to their wives that they would report back by 4:30 pm. That time came without a radio message, and a search began. The bodies of the five murdered men were found on January 13, 1956.

Only sixty days before his death, Jim Elliot explained why he had decided to go to the mission field to bring the message gospel to the Huaorani:
You wonder why people choose fields away from the States when young people at home are drifting because no one wants to take time to listen to their problems. I'll tell you why I left. Because those Stateside young people have every opportunity to study, hear, and understand the Word of God in their own language, and these Indians have no opportunity whatsoever. I have had to make a cross of two logs, and lie down on it, to show the Indians what it means to crucify a man. When there is that much ignorance over here and so much knowledge and opportunity over there, I have no question in my mind why God sent me here. Those whimpering Stateside young people will wake up on the Day of Judgment condemned to worse fates than these demon-fearing Indians, because, having a Bible, they were bored with it---while these never heard of such a thing as writing.


I was still a baby when these missionaries were killed, and I remember spending hours as a little girl pouring over the black and white photos found in books we had in our home--pictures of these men and what happened to them. One book was mostly pictures of Jim's wife Elisabeth and their daughter Valerie as they lived among the Huaoranis after Jim's death. Valerie was almost exactly my age, with similar blonde curls, and I couldn't help but feel a bit of a connection to her because of that.

My family lived at Wheaton (Jim Elliot's college) from 1961-1963--not many years after those 5 young missionaries died. I remember going to some sort of meeting while we lived there, and a couple of believing Huaoranis gave their testimonies via translator. Looking back, I can see that this would have been only a few years after the men were martyred. How amazing it is that God would work in his merciful way among people who had so recently killed his messengers!

You can read more of the story of the five martyrs--Jim Elliot, along with Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian--here.
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