What could happen in Ecuador that would cause two shy children in Calgary to sense God’s call to be missionaries?
The answer can be found in the book ‘Through Gates of Splendor’ by Elisabeth Elliot. It’s the story of five ordinary men who loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. God brought them together as missionaries in Ecuador.
The book gives a background on each man’s history. It shows how God led them to the point where they each made the decision to go to Ecuador, and how God used their individual skills to become an effective team. It also gives a background on each of their wives and how they were an integral part of the team. They were Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Pete and Olive Fleming, Ed and Marilou McCulley, Nate and Marj Saint, and Roger and Barbara Youderian.
They started off in a variety of places in Ecuador. They all needed to initially spend time settling into a new culture, learning Spanish and some of the Indian languages, and working with a variety of other missionaries and native people.
As they progressed in their various ministries, they sensed very strongly that God was leading them to reach out to the Auca Indians. This group of people had a long history of hating the white man. Jim, Pete, Ed, Nate and Roger wanted to introduce them to God’s love and gift of salvation.
So, the main portion of the book goes into the details involved in preparing to reach these people.
“September 1955 was the month in which Operation Auca really started, the month in which the Lord began to weave five separate threads into a single glowing fabric for His Glory (page 99, Through Gates of Splendor).”
Nate Saint was the pilot of the small yellow Piper plane, and he invented a basket that could be lowered to the ground with gifts inside. He made many flights over Auca territory and dropped gifts. Eventually, the Aucas began to send gifts up to them. There are many pictures in the book that help to visualize the people involved and the efforts made to connect with the Aucas.
Finally, the time seemed right to make a major effort to contact the Aucas. The men set a date, January 3, 1956, to establish their beachhead in Auca territory. They were all aware of the risks involved. They were all willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Before going, they prayed and sang one of their favourite hymns, ‘We Rest on Thee’ to the tune of ‘Finlandia.’ They sang the last verse with deep conviction:
“We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender,
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.”
They flew to their beachhead, named ‘Palm Beach,’ and set up their camp. They waited for Aucas to come. Eventually, some did and the team had some good interaction with them.
But when Marj Saint switched on the radio receiver for their scheduled contact at 4:30 pm on January 8, there was only silence. After days of searching, the bodies of the five men were found. The Aucas had speared them to death. This news sent shock waves throughout the global Christian community.
The Call to Missions in Calgary
I was a child of nine when our pastor shared the news in church. I’ll never forget his question to us all: “Who will go in their place?” I immediately sensed God calling me.
At the same time, another child in Calgary had the same sensation about this event which happened on his 10th birthday. Brian later became my husband, and we shared this calling to become missionaries. We thought it would be to Ecuador, but God closed that door and instead opened the door for us to go to Kenya, then on to Singapore, then to Japan and later back to Singapore for an overseas total of 28 years.
Only eternity will reveal how many other people were called to be missionaries because of the sacrifice of Jim, Ed, Pete, Nate and Roger, and only eternity will tell how many people became believers through them. Today, there are many believers among the Aucas (now called Waodani).
As Jim Elliot very aptly said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Written by Mary Cummins