There has been quite a lot of excitement going on around the Seminary with respect to a documentary and a movie that has just recently come out: End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Both productions are about the story of 5 young men and their young families who went to be missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. There they learned of a tribe called the Aucas, which had a reputation for killing everyone “from the outside” that they had historically come into contact with. This group of visionaries had met at a conservative Christian institution of higher learning, had learned Greek and Hebrew together, graduated and married, before moving to Ecuador. They knew the Aucas were head hunters and very pointedly felt led to evangelize them. Of special concern to them were the spear killings the Auca’s practiced amongst themselves, to the point where practically no-one died of old age. Everyone died of disease or spearing. Yet when the young men made contact with the tribe, it wasn’t but a little while later that all 5 were speared to death by the tribe. In response, the widows of these men went to make contact with the tribe. They and their children were taken in, fed and taught the language and in turn they evangelized the entire tribe. The result was that the killings stopped immediately.
The evangelical world has long since held these men up as heroes of the faith. And heroes they are. Yet all the more their wives are even more-so, heroes. Within the Christian faith, men and women have always expected to die for the faith. Some more noble than others. Laying down one’s life in sacrifice for another obviously being more noble than dying in the war with the Moors (and taking a few infidels with you) in the name of the Lord, in order to gain the Holy City. I believe the later to be a deceived sacrifice. Paul, in the scriptures, points us to give it all we’ve got for the sake of the gospel, for it is the only cause worth finishing well, even if we must suffer and die for it. Acts 20.24.
The buzz here at the Sem has partly been because a current professor is the nephew of Elizabeth Elliot, the widow of Jim Elliot, one of the five men. Everyone I know reveres these men of great faith and fortitude. They are examples of how we should live our lives. But hold on a second…Examples? Why are Christians not flocking to dangerous places in droves for the gospel of Christ? Why, when I decided to go to an unknown place, possibly precarious situation, in Mexico last year, were many good Christians attempting to discourage me for reasons of safety? I had a mission not too unlike these heroes.
Yet it was telling, while I was watching the documentary, that the parents of one of these young heroes didn’t even know their son was venturing into possible danger, when the group set out to make a second and fatal contact with the Aucas. The news reporters were on the parents’ doorstep with questions before the parents knew their son was even in potential danger. These young men hadn’t even told their parents to pray for them, which is wide-spread evangelical tradition, when someone needs extra support. My read on the matter is that the men and women likely did not tell many people (including their parents) about their mission for the same reason I quit telling people about mine: for reasons of the pleading of good-willed well-intentioned, sensible people who would keep them from fulfilling their heart-call.
Does this maybe expose the fickle nature of people, even evangelicals, who sing praises to their heroes and then forbid their children to be like them. I doubt that these men would have been heroes in the eyes of their family and church had they revealed their bold intentions in the moment. Back then they would have been stupid. Yet now they are brilliant, valiant and heroes.