Martyrdom and forgiveness
In the 1950s, there was a tribal people group in Ecuador, South America who were isolated from the rest of the world. Other tribes called them the Auca, meaning ‘savage’.
MAF Pilot Nate Saint was one of five young American missionaries who wanted to share their faith with the violent Auca; bringing peace to the people. Because there were no roads, Nate used a small yellow plane to fly over their isolated villages.
Flying in small circles overhead, Nate and his friends lowered buckets of gifts down to the Auca people for many weeks. One day, Nate and his friends felt they were ready to meet their new friends.
On 3 January 1956, they landed their plane on a sandy area they called Palm Beach, and waited for someone from the tribe to meet them. On 8 January, two women and a man came out of the jungle and were welcomed by the missionaries. They made friends, and Nate even flew the Auca man over his village!
After several hours, the three tribespeople left the beach, but on their way home they met ten Auca men. The men thought the missionaries had attacked the villagers, so they went to Palm Beach for revenge.
When they arrived, the ten tribesmen attacked the missionaries with their spears, killing Nate and his four friends. They then ran off into the forest.
But although they were really sad, Nate’s wife and the other men’s families didn’t want to punish the attackers. Over the following years, the women befriended the tribe and shared the Good News with them. It took time, but they eventually became friends and forgave them for their husbands’ deaths.
Within ten years, hundreds of Waodani (the Auca’s tribal name) became Christians, and their murderous way of life changed. One of the converts was a man who’d helped kill Nate and the others. He made friends with Nate’s son Steve, and the two worked together as missionaries.