Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Savage Redemption

What happened to the Waodani? By the next October, 1958 Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, Betty Elliot, and Betty’s three-year-old daughter, Valerie, were living in the Waodani village. One by one the Waodani put their faith in Jesus Christ. The five men who had murdered the missionaries became not only Christians but also spiritual leaders of the Waodoni people.

What brought about such change in these once violent people? Only the power of love – God’s love. However, the Waodani did not even have a word for love in their language. Speak to them about love and they would not have understood at all. But show them men who could have, and perhaps should have defended themselves and did not, men who were willing to die to bring something to the Waodani, men who counted something more important than even life itself, and they could understand that.[i]

There was another extraordinary occurrence that happened as these five men were being speared to death. Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot learned of this occurrence some time later as they were talking with Dawa[ii], a Waodani women about the events that had taken place on Palm Beach the day their husbands were killed. When the men were dead and their bodies lying on the beach, the Waodani heard singing. Dawa was in the woods and others on the beach when they looked up over the tops of the trees and saw a large group of people singing. They described it by saying it looked like “a hundred flashing lights.”[iii]

At the time,
they had had no idea they were seeing angels, and they were understandably frightened by the vision. Had their actions brought on this strange vision, they wondered? Only years later, when they had heard and understood the gospel, did the Waodani realize what they had seen.

Dawa later told Rachel that it was that vision on the beach that had first persuaded her to believe in God, and Dawa had become the first Christian in the tribe.

Pete, Ed, Roger, Nate, and Jim had given their lives trying to reach the Waodani. At the time, it may have seemed that they had failed. In fact, many American’s response to this incident was most interesting. Upon hearing of the five men’s death, many said, “What a waist.” Others said, “It’s not right that we let people go to such savage areas of the world. For their own good, missionary activity in such areas should be prohibited.”[iv] But time would depict something on the contrary. Nine years later, in June 1965, two of Nate Saint’s children, Kathy and Steve, were baptized at Palm Beach by two of the men who had killed their father.[v] Thirty-six years after the killings, the Waodani Indians celebrated having the entire New Testament in their own language. The Waodani president said at the ceremony: “We no longer want to live as the old ones who killed each other and outsiders. We want to live by what God says. Ever since I was a small boy in this community, I have heard that we were going to get this book; now we have it!”[vi]

Imagine yourself as a thirteen-year-old child being baptized by the very men who brutally murdered your father.

Think of the different dynamics alive. What images of love, redemption, forgiveness and transformation can you find in this story?

“23-Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24-I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25-The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26-Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:23-26 NIV)

Meditate on the follow passage. What are the different ways the story of the five missionaries and what transpired afterwards help us understand the power of the words by Jesus?

“The world cannot always understand one's profession of faith,
but it can understand service.”


[i] Winkie Pratney, Fire on the Horizon, (Ventura, California: Renew Books, 1999), 191.
[ii] Susan Martins Miller, Jim Elliot: Missionary to Ecuador, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, Inc.), 194-1996.
[iii] Olive Fleming Liefeld, Unfolding Destinies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 235. and Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor, (New York: Harper and Row), 1957.
[iv] Ibid., Winkie Pratney, 191.
[v] Russell Hitt, Jungle Pilot, (Grand Rapids: Discovery, 1997).
[vi] “Dedication of Auca New Testament,” Catalyst, Vol. 6, No. 2-3 (1995), 8-9.

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