MF Behind the Scenes
The Second Tragedy Among the “Aucas”
wood.JPG (4591 bytes)In the annals of mission history, few events have become so memorable and recognizable to evangelical Christians as the tragic deaths of five missionaries in Ecuador in 1956. It is an epic story of commitment and sacrifice that has become a powerful and inspiring standard by which many of us gauge our own commitment to Christ.
We ask ourselves,“Am I so committed as to be willing to die for the Lord like Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Ed McCulley and Roger Youderian did so that every tribe and tongue may come to know and worship Him? Whatever our answer to that question, we hold high their willingness to pay the ultimate price so that the “Aucas,” more properly called the Huaorani, could come to know Christ.
Many of us have heard how Elizabeth Elliott (a widow) and Rachel Saint (a sister) went in after the killings to bring the Gospel to this people. Wycliffe Bible Translators has even put the story into a dramatic presentation called “Dayuma.” But few of us have heard the story of what has happened in the 40-plus years since these dramatic events took place.
We have just assumed that the tribe accepted Christ and everyone lived happily ever after. But this is no fairy tale.
Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, explains all this in the interview starting on page 8 and his article that follows. What happened after the five were killed and the Gospel went in is the second tragedy of the “Auca” mission.
The second tragedy is that after 40 years of much Christian attention and missionary effort, the Huaorani were still unable to reach their own people. They had no indigenous church planting movement in their midst. They were still dependent on missionaries and outsiders.
In some ways, this story is more disturbing than the events of 1956. The Huaorani killed out of ignorance and fear, but the dependency created by well-meaning, but misguided missionaries threatens the survival of the Huaorani as a people and threatens to nullify all that these five missionaries died to achieve.
This story forces us as evangelical Christians to take a hard look at our attitudes, methods, strategies and willingness to sacrifice as we seek to establish a self-propagating, self-governing and self-supporting church planting movement within every people. Unfortunately, this tragic story of dependency among the Huaorani is being repeated in thousands of peoples all over the world. It has got to stop! Whatever we are doing wrong, we must recognize it, face up to the problem and change whatever needs changing.
We focused on this problem of dependency last year with most of our emphasis being on the misuse of money, but as it is pointed out in both Steve Saint’s and Glenn Schwartz’s article, the attitudes and actions of missionaries also play a critical role in creating or preventing dependency. (See Glenn Schwartz’s article starting on page 20.)
Steve Saint, by his example, shows us some of the essential elements required to plant a self-reliant church. The lessons of his experience should not be missed. By means of love, respect, encouragement, patience and a willingness to be their servant and identify with them in their struggles, he is helping them to learn how to survive in a world that has all too often taken advantage of them because of their lack of technical know-how. But Steve is now giving them the tools by which they, themselves, can become self-reliant and expand the Church among their own people. As Steve Saint says,
Missions is not to go in and create and control a church for other people nor be the church for them. It’s not our job to insure that it functions. It is simply and only to plant the church in every people group and nurture it until it is able to propagate, govern and support itself.
We must come back to a basic rule of missions: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.”
A New Look for Mission Frontiers
Many of you may be surprised to see color on our cover and three other pages in the magazine. I assure you that this is not a reflection of an abundance of income. A friend of this ministry gave us a designated gift to cover the cost of this small upgrade. We thank God for this gift and trust that you will also help us to reach out with the vision of reaching the unreached peoples. Your gift this month will help us do that and will be greatly appreciated, too.