The five men on “Palm Beach,” a strip of sand on the Curaray River, Ecuador, knew that there was danger. But they took the risk for a chance to make friendly contact with the Huaorani (Auca) Indians. Missionaries Ed McCulley, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian, had landed on the makeshift airstrip in their “modern missionary mule” (a Piper Cruiser).
Back at Shell Mera,on January 8, 1956, Marj Saint and the other wives waited for word. The short wave radio crackled. Marj listened as her husband, Nate, told her that “a commission of ten” was on its way from Terminal City. “Looks like they’ll be here for the early afternoon service. Pray for us. This is the day! We’ll contact you next at four-thirty.”
Excitement was intense. Months of efforts were about to bear fruit! The “commission” was a group of Huaorani men. Terminal City was the code name the missionaries had given to a Huaorani village they had spotted from the air. If Nate spoke in code words, it was because he did not want Ecuadorians with guns pre-empting the mission’s friendly overtures to the natives. The Huaorani were sturdy forest dwellers who had fiercely resisted all efforts to subdue them, killing many people who ventured into their territory.
Four thirty rolled around, time for the planned radio contact. Eagerly Marj switched on her radio back at base. Nothing! Had the men been invited to the Huaorani houses? She waited. There was no sound. The minutes passed, and lengthened into hours. Silence. Johnny Keenan flew over Palm Beach on Monday morning. He reported to Marj that he had spotted Nate’s plane, stripped of its fabric. On Wednesday he saw the first of the bodies from the air. Then another. Soon it was evident all five men were dead.
Fast forward 56 years and marvel at the sovereign hand of God as Nate Saint’s son, Steve Saint, stands with one of the men who murdered his father. How is this possible? Two words, The Gospel. The driving force behind the Gospel is the sovereign hand of God working in ways that, sometimes, can only be seen after years have passed by. Even still, there are some circumstances or events that demand the vantage point of eternity in order to begin to satisfy the question “why:”
… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).
So while we wait for eternity, let’s marvel at the power of God’s sovereignty in the lives of people like Nate Saint and Mincaye.
Watch as Mincaye hears of an accident that Steve was in while testing the Maverick Sport flying car designed to help missionaries reach some of the most hard to reach areas. Saint, 61, founded the Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Ministry Center (I-Tec), which develops products to aid in reaching remote tribes. Marvel at the heart Mincaye has for Steve and his wife, Jenny. The families of the men murdered in Ecuador 56 years ago had no idea that this cruel act would not be an end, just a different type of beginning made possible by the sovereign grace of God.