Friday of last week, January 8th, marks the 60th anniversary of the tragic death of Jim Elliot in Ecuador. Five Auca Indians killed Jim and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the gospel to the Auca tribe of sixty people.
Six days earlier the 29-year-old Jim Elliot jumped out of bed, dressed as quickly as he could, and got ready for the short flight over the thick Ecuador jungle. This was a day he had been waiting for most of his life. Almost three years of jungle ministry and many hours of planning and praying had led to this day. Within hours, he and the four other missionaries would be setting up camp in the territory of a dangerous and uncivilized Indian tribe known then as the Aucas (Ow-cuz), known now as the Waodani (Wah-o-dah-nee). The Aucas had killed all outsiders ever caught in their area. Even though it was dangerous, Jim Elliot had no doubt God wanted him to tell the Aucas about Jesus. In fact, he believed that the only way to stop the Aucas from killing was to tell them about Jesus.
Months earlier, Nate Saint, a missionary supply pilot, came up with a way to lower a bucket filled with supplies to people on the ground while flying above them. He thought this would be a perfect way to win the trust of the Aucas without putting anyone in danger. They began dropping gifts to the Aucas. They also used an amplifier to speak out friendly Auca phrases. Eventually, the Aucas even sent a gift back up in the bucket to the plane. Jim and the other missionaries felt the time had come to meet the Aucas face-to-face.
But on that fateful day the Aucas did not bring gifts. Their expected greating turned out to be a group of Auca warriors with their spears raised, ready to throw. Jim Elliot reached for the gun in his pocket. He had to decide instantly if he should use it. But he knew he couldn’t. Each of the missionaries had promised they would not kill an Auca who did not know Jesus to save himself from being killed. Within seconds, the Auca warriors threw their spears, killing all the missionaries.
His journal entry seven years earlier expressed his belief that work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life. Also written in that entry was Jims now famous quote,
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
In less than two years after Jim’s death, his wife Elisabeth, along with her daughter Valerie, and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) were able to move to the Auca village. Many Aucas became Christians. They are now a friendly tribe. Missionaries, including Nate Saint’s son and his family, still live among the Aucas today.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24