Security is structuring my life around that which cannot be destroyed or taken away.
By Steve Withrow
Pastor, Editor – Charlotte, NC
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” So wrote the young Jim Elliot in his journal as he contemplated investing his life for the cause of Christ. Jim was a young firebrand who early on purposed to structure his SECURITY around eternal things. He determined that he would follow the Lord wherever He might lead, regardless of the cost, and trust Him to prosper Jim’s investment. Jim and four of his companions ended up paying the ultimate price of martyrdom for their convictions, and the price they paid in blood was used by God to reap a great harvest of souls.
“[He makes] His ministers a flame of fire,” Elliot wrote during his college years at Wheaton. “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. But flame is transient,” he wrote, “often short-lived,” and he followed these words with a profound question to himself. “Canst thou bear this my soul – short life?” Yes, he decided, he could bear the thought of a short life, and this was why. He continued, “In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him.” Jim’s ultimate SECURITY was posited in the One who dwelled within him.
Following his education at Wheaton, from which he graduated with highest honors, Jim actively sought the Lord’s guidance for his life in numerous protracted prayer sessions. He emerged with a conviction that the Lord was sending him to Ecuador, and set sail with his friend, Pete Fleming, in the winter of 1952 with a vision to reach the Aucas with the gospel. Auca means, “savage,” and they were so named by the neighboring tribes who had encountered them. For 400 years the Aucas had fiercely resisted all attempts to subdue them, and had recently murdered five workers from the Shell Oil Company, causing Shell to abandon the area. A confrontation with the military was inevitable unless they could be reached with the gospel.
Upon locating the tribe by air, Elliot and the four other members of his team, pilot Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully, carefully prepared for their first personal contact with the tribe. In October, 1955, they began making weekly drops of gifts from their plane. They made thirteen trips over the area, using a battery operated speaker to broadcast words of friendship in the Auca language as they dropped gifts such as buttons, a kettle, a machete, and photographs of each man on the team. They found they could suspend a bucket from the plane, and by flying in a tight circle could keep the bucket relatively stationary, enabling them both to give, and receive, gifts. The Aucas responded by sending back a parrot and feathered headdresses. The time seemed right for personal contact.
Jim Elliot’s journal entry dated October 28, 1955
hey selected a sandy beach on the Curaray River and landed on January 2nd, 1956. After four more trips to bring in supplies and a radio, they began shouting Auca phrases into the jungle. Throughout this time Jim kept in contact with his wife, Elizabeth, and the other wives and support team by radio.
On the fourth day three Aucas, two women and a man, emerged and appeared friendly. The next day, Saturday, was quiet. On Sunday, January 8th, the men radioed their wives at 12:30 p.m., telling them that they expected contact by mid afternoon, and promised to radio back four hours later. But there was no communication.
A ground search-and-rescue team reached the beach five days later, and found all five men, murdered by wooden lances and machetes. Nate Saint’s watch had stopped at 3:12 p.m. The thin cloth skin of Nate’s plane had been shredded. The world was left to wonder what had happened.
The remnants of Nate Saint’s plane.
If that were the end of the story it would be a noble account of Christian sacrifice and martyrdom, but there is more, much more, which demonstrates that the faith and SECURITY of Jim Elliot and the others was well placed. God had so ordained that their witness for His sake would be “something that could not be destroyed or taken away.” Unknown to the world at that time was that the Auca had killed out of fear, they were afraid of a trap, and afraid that the white men might kill and eat them. Even more importantly, they were unnerved by the way these missionaries had died. Guiquita,the leader of the 9-man Auca attack party was haunted for months by the memory of Nate Saint as he murdered him. Nate had held out his hands with the gifts he had brought, and said the only Auca word he knew: “Maempo.” Maempo is a term of respect and endearment that is roughly translated, “Father.” Another disturbing fact was that the missionaries carried guns but chose not to use them. One of them had fired two warning shots. This proved that they could have killed their attackers but had CHOSEN not to do so.
As the Holy Spirit performed His silent work in the hearts of these killers, he moved in more dramatic ways throughout the region and the world. More than 1,000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in direct response to the story of the Five Martyrs. In Ecuador, church attendance by the Indians reached record levels and conversion rates skyrocketed. More than twenty pilots volunteered to take Nate Saint’s place, and the effort to reach the Auca intensified.
Jim Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth, and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel returned in 1958 and reaped a great h arvest. They lived among the Aucas and through their witness the entire village that had been involved in the killing, and a large portion of the tribe converted to Christ. Seven of the nine attackers converted, and Rachel personally led Guiquita, her brother’s killer, to Christ. Kimo, another member of the spearing party became a pastor. Another, named Tona, was martyred in an attempt to carry the gospel downriver to an enemy clan. Another, named Mincaye is a vibrant Christian, and Nate’s grandchildren affectionately call him “Grandfather.”
Mincaye. Photo taken in 2000.
When the Auca heard that God’s Son had come down from heaven to reconcile men to God, and had died at the hands of those He sought to save in order to effect that reconciliation, they recognized that this message had been acted out in real life by the missionaries they had killed. “They believed the Gospel preached because they had seen the Gospel lived.”
A Final Thought About Security
It is clear that Jim Elliot, and his four companions were willing to die for the sake of the gospel because they possessed a SECURITY that transcended earthly existence. They were confident that in life or in death God could work an eternal good that would remain forever. They were SECURE in their relationship to Christ and were prepared to die. Jim had written in his diary five years before, “When it comes time to die, make sure all you have to do is die.” That is good counsel for us all.