Ordinary Missionaries Have Extraordinary Impact
I’ve pondered for years why the death of the five missionaries at the hand of the Ecuadorian Auca Indians on January 8, 1956, would so impact the Body of Christ. Many missionaries before and after their deaths have been martyred, yet their deaths were barely noticed. Why the seismic impact on the Christian community from these five missionary men?
Kathryn Long, chairman of the history department at Wheaton, also wondered what kept that story alive, while other missionaries were unsung martyrs. “One reason was that they epitomized post-World War II evangelicals, who rejected fundamentalist isolation and joined mainstream culture. In the narrative of their lives and deaths, the five Ecuador missionaries…were captured in time as forever young, forever–self-sacrificing, and forever triumphant in their Christian commitment.” [PG]
“Ordinary people can serve extraordinary purposes. God isn’t recruiting superheroes. The distinction of the five men and the five women is simply that they cared about other people and were willing to give their lives so that other people could live.” ~Steve Saint
Michael Hamilton, chairman of the history department at Seattle Pacific University, adds, “The deaths signaled an end to evangelicals’ naïve assumption that they could bring the gospel and depart without unintended cultural consequences. Evangelicals started to have a much more sophisticated, anthropological view of other cultures.” [PG]
Missionaries with Anthropologist Affects
James Boster, an anthropologist from the University of Connecticut, studied the tribe’s history of revenge murders and concluded that their Christian conversion prevented self-extinction. Christianity brought nonviolence to their tribe when Rachel Saint (sister of slain Nate Saint) and Elisabeth Elliot (widow of Jim Elliot) came to live among them. [PG]
The two unarmed women (along with Elisabeth’s small daughter) were not perceived as a threat as they accompanied a once estranged tribal member as she returned to their tribe. It was the first sustained peaceful contact between outsiders. While Elisabeth lived with them for two years, Rachel lived with them for the rest of her life (35 years). [PG]
[Reference Point: Before this time, the Auca tribe was known for killing anyone without any reason, including their own tribe members. They were considered violent and dangerous.]2
Regarding the martyrdom of the five men, Elisabeth Elliot once said,
“They went simply because they knew they belonged to God, because He was their Creator and their Redeemer. They had no choice but to willingly obey Him, and that meant obeying His command to take the good news to every nation.” ~Elisabeth Elliot
“After moving to the village, Elisabeth began to teach the Auca Indians from the Bible. Her forgiveness and acceptance of the tribe are what led them to accept Jesus Christ. She taught them to forgive fearlessly and love tremendously, which forever transformed their way of life.” [Pena]
“Today, a large majority of the Auca tribe are Christians. The impact that these five missionaries made is insurmountable. Their deaths brought life to a tribe that seemed to be utterly lost without any hope.” [Pena]
Thankfully, Steve Saint (martyred Nate Saint’s son) and his family lived with the tribal people in such a way as for them to keep their independence, yet to interact with outsiders in such a way so their way of life is protected (government kept foreign entities from stealing their land resources).
Everyday Extraordinary Acts of Love
I want to speak of everyday ordinary acts of love
- A mother tending to her little children
- Children caring for their elderly parents
- Neighbors reaching out to their neighbors
- Clients being kind and courteous to business owners and employees
- Picking up trash in the parking lot because we can and it is needed
- Smiling, shaking hands, and other acts of kindness
These everyday acts of kindness speak value to the recipient. Not everyone is called to be a martyr, but all of us are called to love. Scripturally speaking, we need to let our love flow to those we come in contact with every day – whether family, colleagues, neighbors or strangers.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 WEB)
“Jesus said to all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’” (Luke 9:23 WEB)
“Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him.” (Colossians 3:17 WEB)
Everyday ordinary acts of kindness become extraordinary in the hands of God Almighty because of who He is. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to live and move through us – extraordinary things happen.
This is day two of Devotional Thoughts and Ponderings 28-Day Writing Challenge Devotional Thoughts and Ponderings 28-Day Writing Challenge – Strength with Dignity
Day One is Longing Leads to Great Gain if it’s for Christ Longing Leads to Great Gain if it’s for Christ – Strength with Dignity
1 Ecuadorian Tribe Transformed after Killing of 5 Missionaries. [PG] Published January 7, 2006. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/movies/2006/01/08/Ecuadoran-tribe-transformed-after-killing-of-5-missionaries/stories/200601080177
2 Pena, Madeline. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot: Devotion to the Unreached. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://bethanygu.edu/blog/stories/jim-and-elisabeth-elliot/
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