Rachel Saint always wanted to be a missionary when she grew up. Do you know what a missionary is? Somebody who travels to another country and tells people who have never heard of Jesus, all the Jesus stories. Why do you think they would do a crazy thing like that? Because Jesus commanded us to go to all the people in the world and teach them everything he taught us – but only if they want to hear about it. If you get there and the people aren’t interested, that’s OK, Jesus said just move on to a different place. But everybody in the whole world should at least get a chance to decide for themselves if the teachings of Jesus are true or not.
Natives and problem of violence
Rachel wanted to tell Jesus stories to the Waorani Indians of Ecuador. Of all the people in the world, why do you think Rachel wanted to tell the Waorani Indians stories about Jesus? (1) No missionary had ever been there before. The Waorani had never even heard the word “Jesus. (2) The Waorani had a big problem, a “cycle of violence.” Here’s how a cycle of violence works. Your friend hits you. So you get your brother and hit him back. Then, he gets his big sister and she hits you back. Then, you get your big brother and he hits her and her brother. And it just goes on and on and on. Except the Waoranis didn’t just hit each other. They killed each other with spears. Even little boys were taught how to kill people with spears if they did something to hurt your family. Rachel thought, maybe if the Waorani people learn about not taking revenge, they will have a happier life.
Men and Women and child
Rachel worked for an organization called the Wyclyffe Translators. Her part of the job was to learn the Waorani language and make a dictionary of all their words. Then, after she learned their language she would re-write the whole Bible in their language and give it to them as a gift. The Waorani people could decide for themselves if they believed it or not. Rachel wasn’t alone. There was a team of 5 missionaries who were working together to make a Bible for the Waoranis. One of them was her brother, Nate. Nate’s job was to fly the airplane into the jungle and drop off food and supplies. Nate was married and had a little 5 year old boy named Steve.
Steve and readiness to die
Steve didn’t like that his Dad was a missionary. Every time he saw his Dad get in a plane, he was afraid it would crash. Or, he was afraid the Indians might spear his Dad to death. Steve had heard about how the Indians were good at killing people with their spears. But Steve’s Dad said, “Son, I am ready to go to heaven any time God wants me to come. But the Waorani are not ready yet. So I have to go make friends with them.” He began a gift exchange with them. Jim Elliot, another member of the missionary team put it like this, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Plane airdrop, Heavenly Vision
One day Steve’s worst fear came true. His dad and 4 other men landed their plane near the Waorani tribe and all of them were speared to death. But a funny thing happened to the man who killed Steve’s dad. His name was Mincaye. After Mincaye killed Steve’s dad, he suddenly knew this was a holy man, and he felt remorse.
Women Move In
After the five men were killed, two of the women made a courageous choice. Steve’s aunt, Rachel, and Jim Elliot’s wife, Elizabeth, continued the gift exchange until the Waorani invited them to come live with their people. Maybe women were less threatening. It also didn’t hurt that Elizabeth Elliot had a two year old daughter.
It took years for the women to learn the language, the cultural context, and create an alphabet. Finally, the day came when they assembled a team of volunteers to help them translate the New Testament from Greek, and then the Old Testament from Hebrew. One of the first things the volunteers noticed about following the “trail of Jesus” is that he teaches his followers to never take revenge.
One By One
One day, when the men were organizing a revenge killing, one of the translators refused to participate because he was beginning to have faith in Jesus. The other men ridiculed, ostracized and persecuted him, but the translator held firm. At the next revenge killing, a second man refused to participate. Everybody ganged up on him, too. To make a long story short, the cycle of violence stopped. The Waorani people went from one of the most violent cultures in the world to one of the most peaceful.
While all these wonderful things were happening to Rachel, Elizabeth, and the Waoranis, Steve was growing up with his single mom in Florida. Steve wished he had a dad like all the other kids. He grew into an angry teenager. Aunt Rachel had an idea. Why don’t you let him come live in the jungle with me for a while? Steve’s mom thought that was a great idea.
Do you remember the name of the man who killed Steve’s father? It is pronounced min-kie-yay. How do you think Mincaye felt when he heard that the son of the man he killed was coming for a visit? Mincaye knew what he had to do. He asked Steve to meet him alone at the very spot where Steve’s dad was murdered. He brought his spear. Steve never forgot that moment when his father’s killer told him exactly what happened that day ten years ago. Mincaye said, “Your father was a holy man. I have regretted what I did every day since. It is our custom that when I murder an innocent man, the son has the right to kill me.” He handed Steve the spear. Steve said he would not actually spear somebody, but in his heart he truly wanted to.
Mincaye asked Aunt Rachel, “What is wrong with Steve? He doesn’t know how to climb a tree or track animals. He doesn’t even know how to use a blow gun!” Aunt Rachel said, “Steve doesn’t have a father to teach him.” Mincaye replied, “I took away his father, so I will be a father to him.” He taught Steve how to use a blow gun, to track animals, to fish, and to climb trees. Steve forgave Mincaye. What do you think happened to all that anger in Steve’s heart? It melted away.
Every year after that, Steve would visit Mincaye. Sometimes Mincaye would visit Steve in Florida. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw an American grocery store! Other than that, he said people are the same underneath. When Steve got married and had children, they called Mincaye “grandfather”. Mincaye loved playing with the children. Guess what he taught them to do? Climb trees and track animals. You can’t use a blow gun in Florida.
Steve started I-TEC, a company that invents helicopters and other machines to help jungle missionaries get in and out safely. On June 13, 2012, he was seriously injured by a falling piece of equipment while testing it. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down. Mincaye flew up and cared for him in Florida. To this day, Mincaye has been a father to Steve and Steve has been a son to Mincaye.
Many people I know think that it is wrong for missionaries to go to a different country and tell people about Jesus. They say missionaries will ruin their culture. And, who are you to think your religion is better than theirs. What do you think? What do you imagine the Waorani think?
Benge, Janet & Geoff, Nate Saint: On a Wing and a Prayer, YWAM Publishing, Seattle, WA, 1998.
By Nancy’s Testimonials at Nancy’s Hero Stories