Operation Auca: The Power of the Gospel

Only a single generation ago, the Waodani people of Ecuador, were a people of the spear.  They  killed each other with very little reason because they knew no other way.  Over the previous five generations, six out of every 10 deaths were homicides.  Then something changed.

In 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian made contact with the Waodani in an effort to share the gospel.  Initially, these missionaries dropped gifts from the air and eventually they were able to land on a small beach along the river in the jungle.  Three Waodani (a man and two women) met with them on the beach and they were even taken for rides in the air plane.  It seemed that this survey trip was going very well until a band of Waodani warriors speared all five missionaries to death.

Shortly there after, Elisabeth Elliot (Jim Elliot's wife) and Rachel Saint (Nate Saint's sister) returned to Ecuador and soon returned to the Waodani tribe to live among them.  Elisabeth also took her young daughter.  Over time, these ladies were successful in bringing the gospel to the Waodani people and the homicide rate dropped to nearly nothing. Many came to saving faith in Christ and now they walk the trail of Jesus by following his "markings" (the Bible).  

But this is not where the story ends.  If it were not already surprising enough that Elisabeth and Rachel returned as missionaries, about two years later Nate Saint's children, Steve and Kathy Saint, entered the tribe with their aunt Rachel.  Looking at nine-year-old Steve Saint, Mincaye, the man who killed his father knew that it was Steve's obligation to one-day avenge Nate Saint's death.  However, Steve had no clue how to make spears or hunt.  The Waodani man who killed Nate Saint took Steve under his care and trained him.  That man came to be called Grandfather and eventually came to America to see Steve Saint's son graduate from college.  Kathy Saint was baptized in nearly the same location, in the same river where her father died.  Standing on her right and left, baptizing her, were the men who threw the spears into Nate Saint, her dad.

This is an amazing picture of the transforming power of the Gospel.

A documentary titled Beyond the Gates of Splendor tells this story from the wives, children, and even the repentant killers.  It is outstanding and I highly recommend it.