Fifty years ago today, tribesmen in Ecuador speared five American missionaries. The deaths of Peter Fleming, 27; Jim Elliot, 28; Ed McCully, 28; Roger Youderian, 31, and Nate Saint, 32, made headlines for weeks, and produced a bestseller.
Auca (awqa in Quechua) means “savage”. They comprise almost 4,000 inhabitants and speak the Huaorani language, a linguistic isolate that is not known to be related to any other language. Their ancestral lands are located between the Curaray and Napo rivers, about 50 miles (80 km) south of El Coca.
Based on actual events from 1956 in which five male missionaries were speared by a group of the Waodani tribe, the movie tells the story from the perspective of Steve Saint (the son of Nate Saint, one of the missionaries killed in the encounter), and Mincayani, one of the tribesmen who took part in the attack.
In 1966, Marjorie (Marj) Farris Saint married Abe Van Der Puy, president of HCJB World Radio. Van Der Puy died in 2003, and Marj died in 2004, from cancer. She is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, south of Ocala, Florida.
The similarities to our stories depart here, because Jim Elliot was killed shortly after by the Auca tribe in Ecuador, leaving Elisabeth a widow with a 10-month-old baby. She continued her mission work as a single mother, eventually leaving a decade later to begin a career of speaking and writing.
Traditionally, the Huaorani people sustained themselves on a mix of hunting, gathering, and growing a few crops like manioc, plantains, and sweet potatoes. As a result, their diet consists of the crops they grow, forest fruits they collect, and meat.
Today, Steve and Ginny live in Ocala, Florida, and continue to make regular trips to Ecuador.
What’s the Tip of the Spear? Traditionally, the term is used by military strategists, tacticians, and historians to describe the sudden and overwhelming use of combat force to pierce an enemy’s first line of defense. It’s the first and most meaningful action in an offensive.
A feature film telling the true story of missionary Graham Staines, whose grisly murder by religious extremists made worldwide news in 1999, is in the works from a Texas entertainment company delving into movie production and distribution for the first time.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This famous quote is from Jim Elliot’s October 28, 1949 journal entry, written the autumn after he graduated from Wheaton.