Monday, January 08, 2007

Operation Auca (2/4)

The first contact with the Huaorani was in September 1955. The team, which at that point was made up of Nate Saint, Ed McCulley, Jim Elliot and Johnny Keenan decided that the best way to initiate contact with the tribesmen was by regularly giving gifts to them. Nate Saint, meanwhile, learned some of the Huoarani language from a friend of his sister. It was decided that the best way to hand over these gifts would be from the air, using a fix wing aircraft and lower goods like kettles, buttons, salt, machetes and clothing on to the ground. This approached was used because of the difficulty and danger of meeting the Huoarani in the jungle. Eventually a clearing was identified and the first gifts were dropped.

After several trips to the Auca village, which the missionaries had called 'Terminal City' they saw that the tribesmen seemingly recieved their gifts positively, on some occasions even sending gifts back up to the plane by tieing them to the rope that their gifts had come down on. It was decided at this point that it was time to make face to face contact with the tribesmen. Nate Saint identified a sandbar about four miles away from Terminal City, which they christened 'Palm Beach', where they could land and set up base. They decided to take some firearms with them, but only to shoot into the air if they were under attack. By January 2nd 1956 Roger Youderian and Peter Fleming arrived in Ecuador, and the five started to set up camp at Palm Beach. By January 4th they were settled on their sand bank, and Saint had flown over Terminal City with a loudspeaker, asking the natives to visit the missionaries camp.

On January 6th the first tribesman arrived. A young man and two women, apparently a couple and their chaperone visited the camp, seemingly against the wishes of their compatriots. They exhcnaged gifts and became relaxed in eachother company, talking freely. The man, named Nankiwi started to show an interest in the plane (one of the gifts he had bought was a model plane) and Saint took him aboard and flew him around the camp. On their second trip they flew over Terminal City and Nankiwi hung out of the plane, shouting to his fellow villagers below. Later that afternoon Nankiwi and the younger woman grew restless in the camp, and left without any real explanation...the older woman was happy to stay and talk, and she ended up staying at the camp most of the night.

Meanwhile back in the village, a group had recognised Nankiwi from the plane and had decided to make for the camp. In the early hours of the 7th of January they found Nankiwi and the girl, returning without their chaperone. This enraged the girls brother, Nampa, and to deflect the attention away from himself, Nankiwi said that the missionaries had attacked them, and that they had lost their chaperone whilst fleeing. A senior member of the group Gikita, who had had bad experienced with outsiders beforehand recommended that the missionaries be killed. Even the return of the chaperone and her positiva account wasn't enough to dissuade them from their course of action.

January 7th was a quiet day in the camp, the five had expected to make more contact with the tribesmen. Nate made several flights over Terminal City, and the next morning reported that a large group of people was on their way to the camp. He radioed this information to his wife at 1230, promising to contact her again with more news four hours later. The Huoarani arrived at 3pm, and split into two different groups. Three women went one way, two of whom waded into the water. They were met by two of the missionaries, one of whom was speared from behind by Nampa, and the other killed whilst trying to make it known again that their motives were friendly. The other tribesmen, lead by Gikita, killed the rest of the missionaries before they had the chance to report the attack on the radio. They threw the bodies into the river and ripped the fabic from the plane. Fearing retribution they fled back to their village and burnt it to the ground to remove all trace of themselves. Some tribesman described hearing strange music and seeing lights in the sky, an experience they described as supernatural.

Marj Saint was immediately concerned when she did not recieve the promised four thirty call, but she did not share this news until later that evening. The next morning Johnny Keenan flew over the camp, and reported to the wives that the plane had been stripped and the men were not with it. Soon after a search team was gathered, including other missionaries and miliatry personel. The first two bodies were found on January the 12th, and later that of Ed McCulley's was found by tribesmen. They left the body were it was, and it was later washed into river and carried downstream. On the 12th two more bodies were found, and despite initial hopes, McCulley's was not among them. All five men were dead.

So what are we to make of this story? God is good and God is soveriegn. And He is always good, and always soveriegn. So how to explain the death of these five men? We'll look at that later on. But just to imagine what it must have been like for the men, for the wives, to have such a sense and passion of the glory of Christ, that you are willing to give away everything for it...and then to actually do takes your breath away. The only way to really end the story of five young men dieing thousands of miles from home, in the mission field for Christ is to let someone else do it.

This is what Barbera Youderian, wife of Roger wrote that night in January 1956:

'tonight the captain told us of finding four bodies in the river. One had tee-shirt and blue jeans. Roj was the only one who wore them...God gave me this verse two days ago, Psalm 48:14 'Gof this God is God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death'. As i came face to face with news of Roger's death, my heart was filled with praise. He was worthy of his homecoming. Help me, Lord, to be both mummy and daddy'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that this is one of my fav storys what the men did for God just is amazying.