This is the second blog in a series about historical missionaries who stood firm in the faith.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot
Jim Elliot listened intently as a former missionary told him about the Auca tribe in Ecuador. The natives were considered dangerous and violent, even killing members of their own tribe.
For years, Jim knew he wanted to be a missionary, taking the gospel to those who had never heard of Jesus. But he wasn’t sure where he was called to go. When this friend told him about the Auca people, Jim’s heart began to be drawn to Ecuador. Despite the dangers of engaging this unreached people group, Jim felt a call to reach them.
In 1952, Jim and his friend, Pete Fleming, left the U.S. and traveled to Ecuador. They were followed by Jim’s soon-to-be fiancée, Elisabeth. Jim and Elisabeth married in 1953, and their daughter, Valerie, was born two years later.
The Elliots served together in Ecuador to evangelize the Quichua people, but Jim still wanted to reach the Auca tribe. Jim teamed up with Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian to find this remote tribe. Nate flew a plane above the jungles of Ecuador until he found signs of the natives and a sandbar on the river near where they lived.
The missionaries spent several months flying over the site and trying to make contact with the tribe members by shouting welcoming phrases in their native language. In January 1956, three Aucas—a man and two women—emerged from the village and met with the missionaries. The five missionaries spent the day talking with the trio of natives, showing them items they brought with them. Nate even gave the Auca man a quick flight on the plane. The Aucas returned to their village that evening, and the missionaries were thrilled with the initial encounter, praying this tribe would come to know the gospel.
A couple of days later, the five missionaries were hoping to make contact with the Aucas again and visit their village. They were supposed to radio back to their main base at 4:30 p.m. with news of how the day went. Hours went by, and the radio remained silent. Eventually, the missions base sent a search party and found that the missionaries had been speared to death.
Jim and four other missionaries died a martyr’s death trying to share the good news with an unreached people group. They gave their lives for the gospel, being killed by the people to whom they wanted to give a live-saving message. (But this was not the end of the story for the Aucas.)
Jim wanted to reach the Auca tribe despite knowing this people group’s violent behavior. He knew the trip could cost him his life, but he also knew the cost of someone not knowing the gospel was greater.