*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 11th of February 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
In 1997, Gikita Waewae- a member of the Huaorani tribe on the Amazon in Ecuador, died. Only five years prior, the first New Testament was translated into his native language- for Gikita, this was a miracle.
It had been 41 years since Gikita had led members of his tribe to murder five missionaries who had come to learn their language and translate the Bible for them. This, of course, is the story of Operation Auca- the “Jim Elliot” story (although five guys died- Jim’s wife Elizabeth became the focal point for much of the media, and thus the death of Jim is sometimes elevated).
The story makes one of the most remarkable tales of foreign missions, evangelism, and martyrdom in the modern age. We’ve touched on it before- today, let’s look at it from the perspective of Gikita.
First, a note on sources- many missionary tales take on quasi-legendary status, in part because remote and foreign stories don’t have the documentation we expect with other accounts. However, this story is remarkable because the missionaries took pictures and made extensive notes. And of course, some of the slain missionaries’ families came to live with the tribe, and thus we have sources- we remain historically critical- but this helps a lot.
Gikita was a member of this Ecuadorian tribe called, pejoratively, the Auca, which means “savage.” Anthropologists who studied them and other tribes noted the extreme violence amongst the Auca (or Huaorani).
The tribe had been isolated and in a constant state of fear. The arrival of the Dutch Shell Oil corporation in the region threw things into a state of instability. Tribes were moving, the land was being taken, and the Huaorani had reason to be skeptical. The 5 Missionaries and their families were able to get close to the tribe because the oil company settled parts of Ecuador, but it also made them suspect to the natives.
When the missionaries wanted to make contact- after 13 weeks of dropping supplies and gifts- Jim’s wife Elizabeth suggested she, Jim, and their baby daughter be the ones to make contact. The men rejected this idea, although it would have led to a different outcome. When the men met Gikita and the tribe, they wondered if they should take firearms. They agreed to take a gun only to shoot in the air if necessary- their thinking was they would not shoot any native as the reasoning went: they aren’t ready for heaven, but we are.
A young member of the Huaorani- Dayuma- had left her violent tribe and met the American missionaries while staying with neighboring natives. The aptly named Rachel Saint- sister of slain pilot Nick Saint- and Elizabeth Elliot who made contact with the newly Christian Dayuma. This eventually led to learning the language and working with the so-called “Auca.”
Gikita led the attack on the five men on the bank of the Amazon in 1956. He killed the pilot- Nick Saint, which made him wary of Nick’s son Steve. Steve, according to the Huaorani, would naturally want revenge. When he didn’t, and when he explained how someone’s death could lead to life, Gikita took to Steve as if he was one of his sons. In 1958 many of the Huaorani were baptized- the violent tribe on the verge of self-destruction would grow and flourish. Gikita became an elder in the local church and remained such into the 1990s. When Steve returned to Ecuador when his Aunt Rachel died, he made the trek to see Gikita. Gikita was unable to make the trip back for Rachel’s funeral but told Steve:
“being old, I, too, am soon going to die. Going to live, then, in God’s place. I will wrap my arms around your father, whom I speared first. There we will live happily together.”
Gikita went to “God’s place”- his heavenly reward on this day in 1997.
The Last Word for today comes from James chapter 5:
13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 11th of February 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man for whom February 11 means one thing and one thing only: the birth of one Burt Reynolds. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by… listen. It’s Friday. The game is Sunday. I’m nervous and not nervous and go sports. And Go Rams. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.