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Nate Saint and fellow missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian had set up camp on a little sandbar in hopes of making contact with the primitive Aucas, known for their fierce infighting and hatred of outsiders. The five missionaries had a deep burden to share the gospel message with a South American people known only for hunting and killing. Their first friendly contact ended in death by spearing.

Why didn’t the missionaries defend themselves with their guns? Why did they leave five young women widowed, nine children fatherless?

Less than three years after the massacre, Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) and Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, were living with the tribe. They practiced basic medicine and began to write out their language in hopes of someday translating the Bible. But why would they do it?

Even the Aucas did not understand what happened on that little beach in January of 1956. As they repeatedly discussed the raid, one question haunted them: why hadn’t the missionaries used their guns to defend themselves? Two of the Indians had been wounded. But the Aucas were certain that the superficial wounds were unintended, since one was hit only after his mother grabbed a missionary’s arms and the other knew no one saw where she was hiding.

These wounds, actual evidence that the missionaries were capable of defending themselves and chose not to, were a major factor in the Aucas agreeing to allow Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot to live with them. The killers had to know why would the outsiders let themselves be killed rather than kill, as any normal Auca would have done?

Citation: Christianity Today International / Christianity Today Magazine Vol. 40, No. 10, Page 20 © 1996

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