Jungle Pilot to the Aucas
Nate Saint and his wife, Marj, had served in Ecuador since 1948. He was an experienced pilot with Missionary Aviation Fellowship. His flights had often taken him over the foreboding jungle of the elusive Aucas Indians, and he had prayed that their small villages could one day be located and that they could be reached for Christ.
Toward the end of 1955, Nate and four other missionaries made plans for fulfilling that prayer. Prior to this, every encounter with the Auca had ended in death, from the sixteenth-century conquistadors, to seventeenth-century Jesuit missionaries, to nineteenth-century gold prospectors and rubber hunters, to twentieth-century oil seekers.
But Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pet Fleming, and Roger Youderian with the support of their missionary wives were convinced that the time was ripe to share the Gospel with these primitive and violent people. In fact, they believedwith good reasonthat if they didnt bring the civilizing Gospel to them, they would be wiped out in further encounters with the outside world which was encroaching on their territory to find oil and would no longer tolerate their savagery.
It was with this concern in mind that the missionaries planned "Operation Auca," which Nate described as "high adventure as unreal as any successful novel." Once the Auca villages were located, he flew over and delivered gifts designed to assure them of the missionaries friendly intentions.
All seemed to go well. The gifts were received, and the Aucas responded eagerly whenever they heard the yellow plane coming near. The day for a personal encounter was set.
On January 3, 1956, Nate and Ed McCully took off in their small Piper for "Palm Beach," the riverside sandbar where they would land and set up camp to meet the Aucas. All went well for the next five days as they ferried the other missionaries in to Palm Beach and established camp.
On January 7, a radio operator at the North Pole overheard Nates radio message to his wife excitedly reporting that they had finally made contact with the Aucas.
The next day the same man listened again with his radio at the appointed time to get the latest report, but no one ever heard from the five missionaries again. Search parties were quickly dispatched. They finally found the plane, ripped to shreds and the bodies of the five men scattered about the beach or floating in the river.
It was shocking news to the whole world. But the story of the five missionaries killed in the jungles of Ecuador on Sunday, January 8, 1956, may have inspired more young people to dedicate their lives to Christian service in the last half of the twentieth century than any other event.
Today, the Auca peopleknown more correctly as the Huaorani, meaning, "the people,"are predominantly Christian and live in peace. In large measure, this is because Nates sister, Rachel Saint, and Jim Elliots wife, Elizabeth, returned to the tribe two years after the massacre to begin the slow process of sharing the love of Jesus with them.
© 1998 Dave and Neta Jackson