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The Missionary Who Returned with Her Toddler to the Tribe That Killed Her Husband

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 26, 2023 3:03 am

The Missionary Who Returned with Her Toddler to the Tribe That Killed Her Husband

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 26, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Elisabeth Elliot waited for a radio report from her husband and four other missionaries. The call never came, and the five men had been speared to death by the people they were trying to contact. Later, Elisabeth - and her daughter - went to live with the same people and share the Gospel.

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Exclusions apply. And we continue here on Our American Stories, and we love to tell stories about every facet of American life. And periodically, those are faith stories, because we know that faith animates so many Americans in their walk and in their day-to-day lives. Elizabeth Elliott has been described as one of the most influential Christian women of the 20th century. Let's get right into the story.

Here's Greg Henglin. Through Gates of Splendor is a 1957 bestselling book written by Elizabeth Elliott. Upon release, the book was so popular that it competed with John F. Kennedy's profiles and courage in terms of sales. Through Gates of Splendor tells the story of Operation Alka, an attempt by five American missionaries, Jim Elliott, the author's husband, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, pilot Nate Saint, and Roger Udarian, a participant at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, to reach the Alka tribe of eastern Ecuador.

All five men were killed by the tribe. In 1967, a documentary film, also titled Through Gates of Splendor, was narrated by Elizabeth Elliott herself. Thanks to the folks at Vision Video, we are about to hear this story. Here's Elizabeth Elliott. The Republic of Ecuador, 3,000 air miles due south of New York City, is one of our friendly South American neighbor nations.

Quito, its capital city, is just below the equator, 9,000 feet up in the Andes. This is where the story began. At one time or another, all of us jungle missionaries stayed with Nate and Marge Saint in their rustic and thoroughly functional house. Marge managed to find time to take care of her three children and supply the jungle missionaries with everything from fresh beef and fruits to screens and nails. Whenever Nate took off with supplies, it was Marge who bought, stored, packed, weighed, and even helped Nate load them into the plane. She kept his ground log, knew his position in the air, and stood by at all times with shortwave radio. The friendly Quechua's, with whom Jim, Pete, and Ed worked, all knew Nate's little yellow plane and weren't afraid of it. They even begged for rides.

Even some of the well-known tribe of head-shrinkers called jiberos had heard the words of the Lord Jesus from Marge and others, and some had come to believe. Nate was very ingenious. He invented a sort of pod on the wing struts which would release a parachute with supplies. When Jim and I were just married, we opened a new station at a place called Puyo Pungo.

In five months, we had no airstrip, and Nate dropped some of our supplies to us by parachute. When the airstrip at Puyo Pungo finally passed Nate's testing procedure and he made his first landing with us, we were as excited as the Indians. It gave us hopes of opening more stations, of getting around more often to visit the Indians. There was one group of Indians no one had ever visited and come out alive. They were the Aucas, feared even by neighboring Indian tribes. One day when Nate had flown into Arahuno, where Ed Mary Lou lived, they decided to make another search. Everyone knew they were there, somewhere in the jungle. Aucas had killed a Quechua Indian near Ed's station only a few months before. The five fellows had talked and prayed a lot about reaching these people, but it seemed a very remote possibility until that day in September 1955. Ed and Nate were just about to turn around and fly for home when they saw the house. They didn't see any people, but there was no question about it.

It was an Aucas house. Long before this, Nate had devised an air-to-ground exchange by means of a bucket suspended on a long cord from the plane. He even dropped a telephone so we could talk back and forth with the plane. As the plane circled slowly in the air, the bucket dropped to the vortex of the cone.

Don't ask how he figured it out. Aviation experts are still trying. This, the boys decided, was just what they would use to try and contact the Aucas. Years before, when the shell plane had dropped gifts, the Aucas thought they had fallen from the stomach of the plane because it had been wounded or frightened by the lances they had thrown. So it was important that the Indians see that the new visitors had the power to give or withhold the gift right up to the moment of delivery. For 15 weeks, they made regular flights over the village, dropping gifts free-fall with streamers attached so the Indians could find them easily. When the boys began to make bucket drops, the Aucas even built a platform so they could get up nearer the plane. You can imagine the excitement when one day the Indians sent back a roasted monkey in the bucket. Subsequent flights brought feathers, combs, even a live parrot. Encouraged that the Aucas had accepted the gifts and returned offerings of their own, the men searched constantly for some clearing where the plane might land and they could carry out their mission of meeting the Aucas face to face. Each trip, the men planned and prayed, and each trip contributed something to their meager store of knowledge as to the habits and attitude of these primitive people. Finally, the day came when they believed God's time had come for them to go and meet the Aucas.

Nate had explored the Kurarai River and discovered a patch of beach on which he could land. They called it Palm Beach. Back at Shalmera, Marge had regular contact with the party on the beach, taking down the messages in a code we had devised because we wanted to keep the operation quiet until the men had made the first successful contact. While so far they had seen no Aucas, they believed they were in the area. We're probably watching their every move as the missionary party made camp on the beach.

A shaft with ribbons was stuck in the ground so the Aucas would identify the men as those who had dropped gifts from the air. Jim had prefabricated a treehouse with his electric saw in Shandia. Nate had flown it in piece by piece, and they worked all day getting it up so that they would have a defensible position in case of sudden attack. While Jim and the fellows were on the beach, I was at home in Shandia listening every chance I got to the radio messages between Palm Beach and Marge.

Marge was indispensable. Whenever Nate was away, she knew where he was every hour. She knew how much gas he had on board. She'd run outside, take a look at the sky, and let him know just what kind of weather he could expect for landing.

Without radio, the flying program would have been impossible. On Friday, January 6, 1956, after three days of waiting on the beach, three Aucas appeared. The fellows called the young man George. Of course, neither party understood the other, except for a few words that Jim had learned from an Auca girl who had left her tribe. George seemed completely at ease, loved our insect repellent, and even asked by signs for a ride in the airplane.

The younger girl, promptly nicknamed Delilah, was fascinated with the texture of the plane, rubbing her body against the fabric and imitating with her hands, when she wasn't scratching, the plane's movement. Then, late in the afternoon, they left. The men waited for them to return. On Sunday at noon, Nate radioed Marge. Looks like they'll be here for the afternoon service. Pray for us. This is the day. We'll contact you at 4.30.

But at 4.30, there was only silence. And when we come back, we continue with this remarkable story, and you're listening to Elizabeth Elliot herself. We love it when we can find material pulled from archives and hear directly from voices that are from the past. Elizabeth Elliot's story continues here on Our American Stories.

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Learn more at Music And we return to Our American Stories and to Elizabeth Elliott. And again, we're going to go back to her storytelling and hear her concluding words from our last segment. On Sunday at noon, Nate radioed Marge. Looks like they'll be here for the afternoon service. Pray for us. This is the day.

We'll contact you at 4.30. But at 4.30, there was only silence. That is until the January 30, 1956 issue of Life Magazine hit the newsstands. The magazine cost 20 cents. Life Magazine circulated to 8.5 million American homes every week. But on page 10 of this issue, there's a stark black and white photo of five young women sitting around a kitchen table.

It takes up almost the entire width of the oversized two-page spread. There are half-eaten sandwiches on the plates in front of them, and toddlers are wiggling in their laps and on their shoulders. They're listening to a man with his back to the camera. The man is telling them about the search party that found the dead bodies of their five husbands. The Alka had speared them, all of them, to death. The man has just told them that they are now widows. The headline reads, Go ye and preach the gospel.

Five do and die. Within days, the story of their sacrifice had circulated around the world. People were amazed. In an era of peace and prosperity, that Christians were still willing to pursue something bigger than money or the American dream. The story of sacrifice and surrender for the sake of reaching a remote tribe with the gospel was compelling even to those who questioned or mocked the faith of the missionaries. And they weren't done. Notably, Elizabeth Elliot and Nate Saint's sister, Rachel Saint.

Here again is Elizabeth Elliot. I went back to Shandia where Jim and I had lived and continued to work with the Kichwa's. People all over the world began to pray for the Alka's. I prayed too, but it seemed a faithless prayer at times. I asked God to open a door somehow, but I had no idea what to suggest. I asked him to send somebody in there, somebody who could tell them what the five men had wanted to tell them, that the God who made them actually cared about them and that he was worth trusting. I told the Lord I was willing to go if he wanted me to, but that seemed absurd too. If five men had been killed, who would ever succeed? I knew that God could do it if he wanted to, and that was the reason for prayer.

Prayer is not a vain thing. In November 1958, two Alka women came out of their tribe right into a Kichwa village. I met them, and they came back to Shandia to live with me. Dyuma, the Alka girl who had given Jim some help on the language, had been with Rachel Saint, Nate's sister, for several years now. And Rachel had some valuable language data which she shared with me.

I used this as a basis and began to study with Mintaka and Mankamo, the two who were with me. One day when the three got together, Dyuma, Mintaka, and Mankamo, they said, we're going home. So they went, and Rachel and I waited for them. When they returned, they invited the three of us, including my little girl Valerie, to go and live there. We had prayed for this. Others were praying for it too. We knew that this was God's doing. We went.

It took us three days by foot over jungle trails and streams, by canoe down the Kurarai and up the Anyangu rivers, and then by foot again to the Tiwano. Here, we came face-to-face with Aukas. The first one we saw was Delilah, Dyuma's younger sister, the very one who had been friendly to the five men on the Kurarai beach two days before they died. I had to keep reminding myself that these, these very people, were the ones who had killed the men. They were called one of the most savage tribes in the world. What made them savage? They were human beings. They laughed and played.

They bathed. They showed no hostility to us. And yet I learned they had their own strict ideas about right and wrong, even if they were different from ours. They believed it was wrong to kill people, except under certain conditions. Some of them said they thought the five men were cannibals.

All outsiders were cannibals, in fact. And so, of course, if they were coming to eat the Aukas, the obvious thing to do, the noble and right thing to do, was to kill them. But now, Mintaka and Mankamo and Dyuma had succeeded in convincing them that there were outsiders who were quite all right, that these foreigners would come and live in the village and tell them stories about a man named Jesus. He was a good man. They should listen to these stories and learn to talk to Jesus, to pray. So, just as Mankamo had promised me months before, her people said, yes, let them come.

We won't need to kill anymore. And so I took up life with the Aukas. We decided that the best we could do was simply to live as much like them as we could, to share what they ate and the things they did. They were kind to Valerie and me. They gave Rachel a place to sleep in one of their shelters. They turned over a whole house, they called it a house, to Valerie and me. When the roof began to leak, they mended it for me. None of the houses was any more than a roof.

There were no walls, no floors, no doors, and no privacy. The problem of communication was a constant one. I couldn't put together more than a sentence or two, and those were very short ones. Rachel and I never ceased trying to analyze and classify the language data, trying to reproduce it verbally with the proper intonations and nasalizations and all the other things which make a foreign language, and especially an unwritten language, difficult. Just try pronouncing a W with your tongue flat in the front of your mouth. They do it in a word like mimic, and both the vowels are nasalized besides.

Valerie had no trouble. She did better with a three-year-old's memory and mimicking ability than I did with all my language files, tape recorder, and systems of mnemonics. She showed them picture books and taught them how to hold a crayon and draw.

This was the best kind of language study, the attempt to understand and to be understood. The Aucas rarely counted above three, but Thayuma explained that one day in seven was God's day, and on that day she was going to talk about him. Everyone was told to come and sit down and be quiet.

She told them simple stories from the Old Testament or stories of Jesus from the New. Thayuma told them that Jesus says we must not kill, so right away some of the men stopped making spears. There were occasions when they needed to spear a wild pig, so with careful explanation to us about what they were for, they made new ones. These men received us as their own relatives.

They were the same ones who killed Jim and Nate and Rog and Pete and Ed. They had their reasons. God had His for allowing it to happen when five men had asked Him to guide them and had trusted Him for this guidance and protection.

They had sung before they left home that last morning the hymn to the tune of Finlandian. We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender. We go not forth alone against the foe, strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.

We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go. They succeeded, not in converting the Alcas, not even in speaking to them of the name of Jesus, which the Alcas had never heard. The Indians could not have imagined the real reason for these white men being on that beach. They simply took them as a threat to their own way of life and speared them. But the men succeeded. They did the thing they had set out to do. They had obeyed God. They had taken literally His words. The world passeth away and the lust thereof. But He that doeth the will of God abideth forever. And great job catching that and snagging it.

That's Greg Hengler catching that piece. And you were listening to Elizabeth Elliott. And what a faith story indeed in the end. So much of a faith walk, if you've had one or taking one or thinking about taking one, has to do merely with obedience and doing what your God commands you to do. And sometimes those are hard things. Terrific storytelling indeed about faith.

Elizabeth Elliott's story here on Our American Stories. I'm Malcolm Grandpa. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.

And you know what scares me? That feeling of finding myself stuck on the side of the road. But now all of us can avoid that pain by getting our vehicle the part it needs before that breakdown oh-no moment. With eBay Guaranteed Fit and over 122 million parts and accessories, you can make sure your ride stays running smoothly. For the parts and accessories that fit your vehicle, just look for the green check. Get the right parts, the right fit, and the right prices. Let's ride. Eligible items only. Exclusions apply.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-26 04:41:44 / 2023-05-26 04:50:50 / 9

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