Sunday, May 18, 2008

Steve Saint

A couple years ago, I met Steve Saint and Mincaye. Steve is a super-nice and very humble guy. Mincaye constantly had a big smile on his face, and he gave me a big hug (as he was hugging me, I thought to myself, "I'm being hugged by a murderer...a man who has murdered many people by spearing them and/or cutting them up with a machete." Of course, now Mincaye is a born-again Christian, and no longer a murderer.) I bought a copy of "End of the Spear" at one of the tables that was selling them. Steve signed my book, and Mincaye put his inked thumb print on it (since he cannot write or speak English). Then, after driving away, I drove back, wanting to buy a copy for my mom and one for my sister. By the time I got there, they were closing up, and all the books were gone. I found Steve and double-checked with him to make sure there were no more books left, and he said he had a few left in his truck. So I walked with him and Mincaye to Steve's truck, and he gave me two signed copies. I tried to pay him, but he refused payment, and said to consider them his Christmas gift to me (it was Christmas time).

The below video features Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, one of the five missionaries murdered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956; and Mincaye, one of the Auca tribesmen who killed the missionaries. The woman in the video is Ginny Saint, Steve's wife.

Nathanael "Nate" Saint (August 30, 1923 – January 8, 1956) was an evangelical Christian missionary pilot to Ecuador who, along with four others, was killed while attempting to evangelize the Waodani people through efforts known as Operation Auca.

In September of 1955, after the arrival of teammates Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, and Peter Fleming (Roger Youderian would join them a few months later), Saint found a Huaorani settlement while searching by air. In order to reach the remote tribe, Saint and the team lowered gifts, including machetes and clothing, to the Huaorani in a bucket tied to the plane. The Huaorani were a widely feared tribe, because of their chronic fear and anger. They tended to attack and kill any outsiders without provocation. Nevertheless, the tribe displayed excitement on receiving the gifts, and soon gave back gifts of their own. After three months of successful air contact, the missionaries decided to attempt to meet the people on the ground, and on January 3, 1956, they set up camp four miles from the Auca settlement, using a portion of the beach as a landing strip. Their initial personal contact with the Huaorani started out encouraging; however, on Sunday, January 8, 1956 the entire team was killed on the beach when armed Huaorani met them. Saint's body was found downstream. He was 32 when he died.

Saint and the other four men became famous worldwide as a result. Life Magazine published a 10-page photo essay on the story, which was also covered in Reader's Digest and many other publications. The story is credited with sparking an interest in Christian missions among the youth of their time and is still today to find Christian missionaries working throughout the world who claim to have been inspired by it. Today, a small school for missionary children in Shell, Ecuador bears Nate Saint's name.

Rachel Saint, Nate's sister continued the mission efforts to the Huaorani, which eventually came to fruition.

The son of Nate Saint, Steve, now works with the Huaorani Indians and often travels around the world preaching the gospel, often accompanied by, Mincaye, one of the killers of Palm Beach. In 2005, a documentary based on the story was released entitled "Beyond the Gates of Splendor." The following year, a feature film entitled "End of the Spear" was released on January 20, 2006, a week and a half after the 50 year anniversary of the killings. Saint wrote a book about his experiences, also titled "End of the Spear," to coincide with the release of the film.

Obviously, the willingness of the five missionaries to die for their faith—and to refuse to shoot at their attackers—looms large. Equally as heroic, however, were the actions of these missionaries' wives and relatives, who, according to one interviewee, "were in this thing just as much as the men were." Despite being hesitant to allow her husband to venture into Waodani territory, missionary wife Barbara Youderian says she realized, "I can't keep my husband home just because I have a fear." Another wife, Elisabeth Elliot, joins up with Steve's aunt, Rachel, in staying behind after the killings to forge a lasting relationship with the Waodani. Their efforts ultimately curb the imminent self-extinction of the tribe, as noted by anthropologists and Waodani alike. In fact, one older tribesman says his people "were almost down to two people. ... If [Rachel and Elisabeth] had not come, there would have been no one left."

Prior to their interaction with the missionaries, the Waodani had no method for resolving conflict, which led to numerous unnecessary deaths. Theirs was an individualistic society with no concept of acting for the good of the group. The consistent love—through action—of Rachel Saint and others helped effect change on this social setting, leading to a 90 percent reduction in the Waodani homicide rate in only a few years.

At the core of this transformation, this documentary shows, are the elements of forgiveness and redemption. Rachel, Elisabeth, Barbara and the other families continue to love the very people who murdered their husbands and brothers. Later, Steve follows suit and leaves his life in the United States to return to the Waodani with his entire family. His children end up calling their grandfather's killer, Mincaye, their own grandfather. Steve's sister is even baptized in the same water her father had been killed in—--by two of the men who had killed him. "All I knew was that I really loved these two guys," she says.

Just as Rachel Saint and others helped effect the Waodani's social changes, they also influenced the spiritual culture, inviting the tribesmen to live in the peace, forgiveness, hope and love of Jesus Christ. Though they included a creator God called Waeumi, the Waodani's ancient spiritual beliefs were based around "jumping the great boa." The ultimate test in death that they spent their lives preparing for was to climb a trail upward and jump over the great snake. If they failed, they would fall back to the ground and become termites. Because of this, the Waodani believed life's purpose was to become as strong as possible—--which, in their eyes, included (and somewhat excused) killing each other.

Anthropologists Clayton and Carole Robarchek describe the Waodani as one of the most violent people in human history, and the stories told by several natives undergird this (along with the culture's 60 percent homicide rate). We hear of relatives speared, drowned, cut into pieces or hacked across the neck and face with machetes. A mother is said to have strangled her young daughter so she could be buried with the mother's dying husband (as was the custom).

To convey the notion of God's Word, the Waodani are told that "if they followed His carving while they were alive, then they would find His house when they died." These "carvings" included the instruction to not kill. Dayumae, a native Waodani girl who was taken in by Rachel at an early age, comes back to teach her tribe the Bible on Sundays, which she says is God's day.

Mincaye is the one who murdered Steve's dad, and yet Steve grew up among the Waodani, after his dad was killed. Once the Waodani tribe members became Christians, Mincaye 'adopted' Steve and raised him as his own. Steve considers Mincaye part of his family now. Such is the power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ; not to mention the power of the Holy Spirit to change a primitive tribe of murderers into loving followers of Christ Jesus.

The other man in the video who doesn't say anything is Randy Alcorn, an American Christian author and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to teaching an eternal viewpoint and helping the needy of the world. Eternal Perspective Ministries owns the royalties to his books and 100 percent of them are given away to support missions, famine relief, pro-life work, and other ministries.

For more information, see:


thekingpin68 said...

Very good write up. On both of my blogs, in comments, Chucky left a useful link.

thekingpin68 said...

I have not been able to sleep very much tonight with the heat and humidity in my loft and new increased pressure with my CPAP machine. I wrote a short article relating to science on thekingpin68.

Jeff said...


I have been turning the thermostat down to between 64 degrees and 67 degrees at night, because when its warm here, its hard for me to sleep. I also take Melatonin at night, which is not a sleeping pill, but is a natural substance that your body produces when you are in the stage of deep sleep. Sometimes, when I'm laying in bed and just can't go to sleep, I will get up and read the Bible. After that, my mind is calm and relaxed, and I can often get to sleep with no problem.

Sometimes I recite verses to myself such as,
"I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)


"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." (Psalm 4:4)

Working as a Graphic Artist and sitting at the computer all day, and then sitting at my computer at home at night, or watching TV, my body does not get physically exhausted as it would if I were doing hard manual labor all day. This is another reason that its not always easy to go to sleep at night, I think.

Ever since I got a computer, back in the late 80's or early 90's (my first computer was a Mac, but now I use a PC at home, though I use a Mac at work), that caused me to stay up late at night.

However, even back in 8th grade, when I rode in a semi-truck from Miami to Iowa (normally a 3-day trip, but which took 5 days with all the pickups and deliveries in out-of-the-way cities), and I lived with my grandparents for 1 1/2 months (and worked with my granddad, who was a brick mason), I would stay up late at night watching "Creature Feature" on TV. Many times, the TV, which was basically just past the foot of my bed, would stay on all night, until my grandmother came in and turned it off, while I was asleep.

Now, having a computer with Internet connection, plus a TV, plus PS2 (which doubles as a DVD player), plus a VCR, it is easy to stay up late.

Years ago, I gave up TV for 5 years. At that time, I didn't have a computer. All I had was books. During those 5 years, I got more reading done than probably ever before. After the 5 years, however, my neighbor gave me a small black-and-white TV for free, and it was all downhill from there.

thekingpin68 said...

I also take Melatonin at night, which is not a sleeping pill, but is a natural substance that your body produces when you are in the stage of deep sleep.

I take Melatonin too.

Greg said...

Hey, Jeff. I saw the "End of the Spear" tag, while making my previous comment and wanted to read the post. I think it's awesome that you got to meet Mincaye and Steve.

We just watched the movie for the first time a couple nights ago. It was more violent than it needed to be, but an amazing true story. My favorite part was at the end, when Mincaye confessed to Steve that he took his dad's life. Steve, overcome with emotion, tells him that no one took his father's life; he gave it.

Still, I think it was pretty stupid of them to go in there without a proper translator. Also, the movie depicted all the guys as way too light-hearted about minstering to this dangerous tribe.

Life can be dangerous for missionaries who travel in remote areas. Farrah read a biographical novel about a British woman who was a missionary to China, during World War II (her name just escapes) to our son (for homeschool), and we have friends who are missionaries to South America. She and I have talked about weighing the responsibility of raising a family vs. the risk of spreading the Gospel where you're not welcome. But if the Lord calls you, you know it will end well, even if you don't live to see it.

Jeff said...


Thank you for the continued comments.

I think the "End of the Spear" story is one of the greatest stories of humans forgiving other humans I have ever heard, along with Corrie Ten Boom's forgiving the Nazi soldier who had tortured her and the others, when she met him years later, in "The Hiding Place.'

As far as a translator, I believe they were the first missionaries to ever make contact with that tribe, and, other than the oil workers and other natives around there who were attacked and speared by the Waodani, the first humans who had ever made contact with them. So I don't believe any translators existed.

As far as their lighthearted attitude, you're right. They confessed in their writings that they had a carefree and jubilant attitude, and noted that, even if they were to die in the attempt, that was fine with them, because they knew they were going to Heaven. And they were criticized by many after their deaths for going in too quickly. However, look at the result! One of the greatest human stories of salvation and forgiveness I have ever heard!

When I was very young, they had the original book, with the original black-and-white photos showing the actual bodies of the missionaries floating down the river with spears in their backs, in the parsonage library. I looked through it and read a little of it, never realizing that, years later, some of the people involved, along with their relatives, would become famous, and I would see two movies about it and meet two of the people involved.

Though a missionary's work and life is not necessarily as hard as it used to be, because of much improved travel and communication (radio, film, and planes have made things far easier than they used to be, and the missionaries can now accomplish things far, far more quickly than they used to be able to, say, 100 years ago or more), you're right that life as a missionary can be dangerous, and when a wife and children are involved, you have to weigh the options and dangers, count the cost, and pray about it.

Have you ever read "Bruchko?" That is another EXCELLENT book about a 19-year-old missionary (Bruce Olson) who went on his own to evangelize South American Indians, and he almost died more than once. That is one of my favorite books about missionaries.