Missionary Stories

 Jim Elliot & the Auca Indians (Equador)

    From Missionary Stories with the Millers, Chapter 11

     By Mildred A. Martin


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot was a boy who loved Jesus. One day a friend of his parents asked him if he was going to be a preacher when he grew up. “I don’t know,” Jim replied. “But I would like to tell someone about Jesus, that never heard of Him before!” And that is just what happened.

When Jim grew up, he and his wife Betty were missionaries to the Indians in South America. They met a missionary from Ecuador, who told them about the needs of the Indians in that country. There were several different tribes of Indians living in the jungle. Some of them were being taught by missionaries already. Others had never heard of Jesus. One of these tribes was a wild and savage people called Aucas!

The Aucas were great hunters in the jungle. They hunted wild pigs, monkeys, and jaguars with their spears and bows and arrows. Auca Indians always went barefoot, and they could recognize another person’s footprint like we recognize the faces of our friends!

But the Aucas didn’t know about Jesus. Their lives were dark and sad and full of fear. They had many cruel customs. If they saw anyone in the jungle who was not of their tribe, they would sneak up and kill them with their spears. They also speared each other, killing their own friends and relatives during the slightest quarrel.

When a man killed another man, the family of the dead man would hunt for the killer and spear him too. Often parents killed their own children, just because they were tired of taking care of them. Everyone was always afraid of being suddenly killed! That is how people live, when they don’t know anything about Jesus or God’s laws or how to be kind.

Jim and Betty Elliot and their friends felt sorry for the Auca Indians. They wanted to help them learn about Jesus, so they could be free from their darkness and fear. But how could they get into the Auca’s village without being killed?

Several missionary families built themselves houses in the jungle. They lived with the friendly tribe of Quichua Indians, across the river from the Aucas. They learned the Indian language, and preached to them about Jesus. Many of the Quichua Indians became Christians.

But Jim could not forget about the poor sad Auca Indians. He wanted to tell them about Jesus, too! There was one Auca girl who lived with the friendly Quichua Indians. Her name was Dayuma, and she had run away from the Aucas several years before when someone was trying to kill her. Now the missionaries talked with her, to learn the Auca language.

The missionaries decided to try flying their little plane over the Auca village, and dropping gifts to the Indians. They hoped that this would be a way to make friends with the Aucas! They would put the presents in a bucket at the end of a strong fishing line, and lower it down from the open door of the plane. Nate Saint, the pilot, experimented until he found a way to release the bucket from the line and set it on the ground.

The first gift was a shiny aluminum kettle with a lid. Inside they put twenty brightly colored buttons, not for the Indian’s clothes, because the Auca Indians didn’t wear any clothes! But Jim thought the Indians might like to string the buttons and use them for decorations.

The first time Nate and Jim flew over the Auca village, the people were all frightened and hid inside their houses. A brisk wind buffeted the small plane as Nate tried to hold it steady over the group of thatched houses. Cautiously Jim reeled out the line. The kettle almost got caught in the trees, and he pulled it back a little. . . then set it down gently right in front of the biggest house!

The next time Jim and his friends brought the gifts to another house, so the Aucas would not get jealous of each other. And this time when the Indians heard the plane coming over, they ran out of their houses! They watched excitedly as the gift was lowered from the plane. A gust of wind blew the gift-bucket toward the river, and splash! It dropped in. Then, quick as a wink, there was another splash! as an Indian dived in for the treasure. They soon found it, and stood around talking happily. Jim saw a sight that thrilled him: an old man waving with his arms as if to say, “Come down!” As the plane turned and flew away, Jim prayed: Lord, send me to the Aucas!

Every week after that, the missionaries made another flight to drop gifts to the Auca Indians. They gave them shirts, knives, and plastic cups, candy and a flashlight. They began to fly lower and lower above the Auca village, and would lean out the door of the plane to shout at the Indians: “We are your friends! We would like to visit you!”

On the sixth flight, after the Aucas had taken the gift bucket, they held onto the line for a few minutes. When they let it go, it came up with a present for the missionaries: a headband woven of feathers! The next time they sent a basket back up on the line. In the basket was a beautiful tame parrot, with a banana for the parrot to eat! Jim and his friends praised the Lord. It seemed like the Aucas were becoming friendly.

Other people said, “You fellows are crazy to waste all that good stuff on the Aucas. They will be just as mean as before.” But the missionaries kept praying that God would make the Auca Indians friendly, so that they could tell them about Jesus.

After about two months of flying over the Auca village with gifts, the missionaries decided it was time to land on a little beach beside the river, close to where the Aucas lived. They would build themselves a tree house to live in, and try to talk to the Aucas.

There were five men altogether: Jim, Nate, and three others named Pete, Roger, and Ed. They prayed and talked with their wives for a long time before they made the decision to move into the Auca’s country. All of them knew very well that it was dangerous. But they loved God and knew that they belonged to Him. They were not afraid to die and go to heaven.

So they landed their plane beside the river and built a house in a tall tree. Some of the men flew over the Auca village again, calling: “Come down to the river! We want to visit you there!” Then they camped and waited.

On the third day, the men were sitting in their camp, when suddenly they heard a shout from across the river! Their hearts jumped as they turned to look. Three Aucas were stepping out of the woods: a man and two women. Calling out, “Welcome! Welcome!” in the Auca language, Jim waded across to meet them. He took their hands and helped them back across to the missionaries’ camp. The five missionaries tried hard to show the Aucas that they wanted to be friends. They gave them food and gifts, and smiled and talked.

They soon nicknamed the Auca man “George”, and when “George” asked for a ride in the plane, they were happy to give him one! They flew the plane low over the Auca village once more, and George laughed with delight as he recognized his home. He leaned out to wave and yell at the other Aucas.

When the plane landed back at camp, the five missionaries gave thanks to God out loud, looking up toward the sky so that the three Aucas could see what they were doing.

That night the three Aucas returned to their village. They did not invite the missionaries to come with them, so Jim and his friends stayed at their camp. That was on Friday. On Sunday, Nate called his wife on the radio to say that a big group of Auca men were coming. “Just in time for a church service!” he told her excitedly. “This is the big day! I’ll call you back this afternoon and let you know what happens!”

So the missionaries’ wives waited eagerly that afternoon. They were hoping to find out if the men had been able to visit the Auca’s village. But the afternoon passed, and the men did not call as they had promised. Night came on and the women began to worry. What could have happened? Were the missionaries safe?

The next day more men took another plane and flew over the camp. They brought back sad news: Jim and Nate and their friends were all dead. The Auca Indians had killed them with their spears!

The five missionaries had guns with them in their camp, but they did not use them to fight the Indians. When the Auca men came toward them with their spears, they did not shoot back with their guns. They knew that if they would shoot the Indians, they could probably save their own lives. But then they would never be able to teach the Aucas about Jesus! So they chose to let themselves be killed, and let the Aucas have another chance to become Christians.

The Aucas always remembered those five strange white men who had been so kind to them and had not tried to kill them. And so a year later when more missionaries tried again to speak to the Aucas about Jesus, they were ready to listen.

Several of the men who had helped to kill Jim and his friends with their spears now became Christians. One of them gave his testimony at a meeting. He counted on his fingers and said, “I have killed twelve people with my spear! But I did that when my heart was black. Now Jesus’ blood has washed my heart clean, so I don’t live like that anymore.” God’s love had changed his life!

Historical Note: The death of these five brave missionaries happened on January 8, 1956 Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming did much for the Kingdom of God. Not only did the Aucas learn about Jesus’ forgiveness and love, but many other people all over the world decided to serve the Lord too after they heard the story.

To order this wonderful book, Missionary Stories with the Millers, please contact Don L. Martin at Green Pastures Press.

Email: greenpastures@emypeople.net

Phone 717-436-9119


Copyright 1993. All Rights Reserved. Published on this website by permission of Green Pastures Press. No part of this chapter may reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher.

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