When I was a brand new Christian in 1969 I heard the story of the five missionary martyrs in Ecuador. It had a powerful effect on my life, one that has never diminished.
Some years ago Steve Saint (Nate Saint’s son) and I became friends. He came to my home church within a week of the 50th anniversary of the death of those missionaries, and I interviewed him and Mincaye, the former warrior who speared to death both Nate Saint and Ed McCully. Steve McCully, Ed’s son, also came to our church that weekend, and after the service we all had lunch together at the home that Jim Elliot grew up in, here in Portland, Oregon. That’s where I met Bert and Colleen Elliot, who I later wrote about.
Mincaye came to Christ, and for many years now he has been a transformed man. He is a delightful brother who is a joy to be with. Of all the people I’ve met and spent time with, one I felt the most privileged to meet was Mincaye.
Steve Saint calls Mincaye “father” and Steve’s children call him “grandfather.” Years after the killings, Mincaye baptized Steve Saint and his sister, and then years later still, he baptized Jamie Saint and his brother. What can account for the reality of grace and forgiveness and transformation, and the closeness of these relationships, but the power of God and the gospel of Christ? There is no other explanation.
Here is an excerpt from that interview, with Mincaye urging us to walk God’s trail:
And if you’re interested, here’s the full video of the interview:
I recently read this update from Joni Eareckson Tada, sharing how earlier this year Mincaye, now about 90 years old (dates of birth were uncertain in his tribe), was fitted for a wheelchair by Wheels for the World, an outreach of Joni and Friends (a wonderful ministry EPM highly recommends). Thinking of time Nanci and I have spent with both Mincaye and Joni stirs my heart!
I’m Joni Eareckson Tada sharing a follow-up to Jim Elliot’s story.
You know the background well. In the mid-50s, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries, including their pilot, Nate Saint, left for Ecuador to evangelize the Huaorani, an ancient tribe never reached by man. They made contact with the tribe from the airplane using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts. After several months, the missionaries decided to build a base just a short distance from the village. Encouraged by one or two friendly encounters, they began plans to visit the Huaorani. Then in January 1956, they landed a plane on a small beach in the river near the village. At first, the Huaorani seemed friendly, but raising their spears, they attacked, and Jim Elliot was, that day, the first of the five missionaries to be speared to death, including Nate Saint, the pilot.
It was a tragic massacre, but the blood spilled by those martyrs provided a seed for the gospel to go forth, because not long after that, Mincaye, one of the Huaorani men who speared to death Nate Saint, he became a Christian. The word of God spread and many years later Mincaye became an elder in the village church. He later said of the change in his tribe, “We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God’s carvings (that’s the Bible). Then, seeing his carvings and following his good trail, now we live happily and in peace.” Years later, Mincaye met the young son of Nate Saint whom he had murdered. Steve Saint and his family had come to live among the Huaorani.
Because he had killed Steve’s father, Mincaye felt a special responsibility in helping to raise him. A kinship bond was formed and Mincaye adopted Steve as his tribal son. In 1995 when Steve was older and brought his family to live permanently with the tribe, Mincaye considered Steve’s children as his grandchildren. It is an amazing story of God’s healing, grace and mercy – this man, Mincaye, who was rescued from savagery and heathenism is part of Nate Saint’s family, the man he murdered many decades ago. I had the blessing of meeting Steve and Mincaye years later at a big event in Holland organized by Billy Graham. And, over the years, we’ve stayed in touch, Steve and I.
That is why, not long ago Steve Saint called our ministry at Joni and Friends. He let us know that Mincaye is now 90 years old with very weak legs, unable to walk and he needs a wheelchair. Steve asked: “Can you help us find a wheelchair that would be suitable for rugged terrain in Ecuador?” Well, I tell you what, our ‘Wheels for the World’ team was happy to provide just the right wheelchair for Steve to take with them to Ecuador for Mincaye. We normally don’t provide individual wheelchairs to people overseas, but this was an extraordinary case. And I’m so proud of our ‘Wheels for the World’ team because they bent over backward and worked so hard to provide just the right wheelchair.
If you’d like to see a photo of Mincaye in his brand new chair, I’ve posted it on our radio page today at joniradio.org. I am also posting a photo of the wonderful Wheels for the World team, our friends and our staff who put this wheelchair together. If the story of Steve Saint or Jim Elliot has inspired you over the years, then you know all about this remarkable man, Mincaye. Please pray for him as it is not easy to be 90 years old and live with pain, especially in a jungle. Pray that his spirits remain bright, and that the wheelchair will be a testimony of God’s grace and provision and that the church in that area will continue to grow. Pray for him and his congregation in Ecuador.