Monthly Archives: December 2010

There Was No Christmas

Jungle Pilot by Russell T. Hitt was one of those books that I picked up at the local thrift store and by reason of it’s cheapness, bought it. My philosophy on books is that they are an investment. They pay off in some measure, in the life of the reader. Therefore, if a book is well-written either on a subject that I’m interested in or that can help me better my life, the value of a book is practically limitless. That is in theory at least. I won’t be dropping anywhere close to triple digits for a book that will take up space on my shelf. Especially not for books like the standard fare that can be found on most Christian bookshelves. But something like a leather-bound, illustrated edition of Josephus: The Complete Works might be worth the price tag a book like that could command. And I’ll admit to considering the possibility of such a purchase…should I find it. But back to the Jungle Pilot…., I had bought about 6 books for a complete value of $4.50 when I was home in April. They weren’t new books but who cares? I’ll make those kinds of purchases in the future. And thanks to the modern world we live in, books of all kinds are readily accessible for anyone and, if one doesn’t mind the fact that someone else read the book prior to themselves, at bargain prices. Books are the something I miss, one of the things that lost out in the struggle for luggage space when I was making preparations to go to Paraguay.

Having said that, I say this. The Jungle Pilot has recently been a huge challenge to me as I read it. It’s moved parts inside of me that have long not been moved. Telling of one man’s enthusiasm for life, his inability to sit still and constant brainstorming of ways to make jungle flying safer for all involved, it steadily builds to the climax, which is January 8, 1956 at 3:12 PM at “Palm Beach” in the Ecuadorian jungle. That last sentence…we all have heard about it. How that 5 men, having dedicated themselves to taking the Gospel to a tribe of head-hunters, presented themselves as living sacrifices to the Almighty. I won’t go into more detail. It made headlines around the world and there are plenty of news archives if one wants to read more of the particulars. But in 1956, I was still a generation away and the Palm Beach sacrifice has always been a piece of history. Gripping and inspiring, yes but just that…history. But reading this book, it seemed like I entered into Nate Saint’s life, his childhood, the frustration of dreams being denied and finally finding his calling and his giving it all he had. Maybe it’s because my perspective is different because I’m in foreign land and supposedly on a front line. But with every page read and every chapter turned, one senses that, although Nate’s work of a supply pilot to the missionaries in the jungle wasn’t glamorous and fraught with danger, he has started a special ministry and would be instrumental to the Gospel being spread throughout the  jungle. His enthusiasm for life and his work springs from the page and bittersweet is the knowledge of what will happen to him. As the pages keep turning, they reveal more of his commitment to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Not just Nate but his fellow workers, Pete, Roger, Jim and Ed believed just as firmly the promise, that on the Great Judgment day, there would be representatives from the Waodani tribe, praising the Lamb and taking their place in Heaven, along with the rest of the redeemed. This is why they were on Palm Beach on January 8, 1956. They were fully aware of the Waodani’s reputation of savagery, that any and all invasion of their territory by the white man had been met by their dreaded black 9 foot lances. And when they were confronted by those same lances, I believe they still didn’t lose hope, that they believed they would see some of the tribe they died to reach in that same throng they were about to join. 

I wonder what they really thought in those last moments when they saw the Waodani warriors approach and realized their sinister intent. Did they feel fear and the human flee/fight response to a threatening circumstance? Did they wish they would have stayed in the States and pursued their respective careers, however good and promising those careers might have been, in the support of missions and never set foot in Ecuador? Did they wonder about their families and wish to have the privilege of seeing them grow into adulthood, a privilege that wasn’t to be theirs? Or were they like Stephen, seeing only a glimpse of the glory of their soon-to-be-seen Father? In a letter written home, Nate was sure that his group had the Lord’s blessing. He didn’t consider his life a waste but rather a joy to be expended in the Kingdom’s use. Man may call it a waste for 5 promising men to give their lives on a obscure sand bar at the hands of “savages”. Rather, being infused with Christian love, these men saw these “savages” as the zenith of fallen man. Of living in darkness rather than the glorious light of the Christ. Of living in fear and bondage rather than the liberating servant-hood we enter through the shed blood of the Perfect Lamb. We can’t imagine such fear and darkness. And at this time of year, we are reminded, once again, of Bethlehem and the “reason for the season”. But in the jungle of the Waodanis, there was no Christmas. There can’t be without the knowledge of Christ. However, today, because of Calvary and “Palm Beach”, that tribe can experience the joy of Christmas. And I think, if given the chance, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, along with their jungle pilot, Nate Saint, would gladly give their lives again if it meant that people would come to the knowledge of Christ and His saving power.


To be part of the spreading of the Gospel, what a privilege! To become saved as the result of someone spreading the Gospel, what liberating joyful knowledge! But, to live a life in spiritual darkness and physical fear and to die without any hint of hope, how unspeakably sad.

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These Have No Christmas

.but when it came to Christmas, I could not help noticing the fact that

none of us was in a jesting mood; not because we would miss being with

Christian friends and co-laborers in the gospel but because these

witnesses to two hundred silent generations who have gone to their pagan

graves without a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…these who have

never once known the name of Christ, these who survive by killing

and die by counter-killing…these have no Christmas.


Then as we become nostalgic, thinking of past Christmases…as

we weigh the future and seek the will of God, does it seem right that

we should hazard our lives for just a few savages? As we ask ourselves

the question, we realize that it is not the call of needy thousands. Rather

it is the simple intimation of the prophetic word that there shall be

some from every tribe in His presence in the last day and in our hearts

we feel that it is pleasing to Him that we should interest ourselves

in making an opening into the Auca prison for Christ.

As we have a high old time this Christmas, may we who

know Christ hear the cry of the damned as they hurtle headlong

into the Christless night without ever a chance. May we be moved

with compassion as our Lord was. May we shed tears of repentance

for those whom we have failed to bring out of darkness. Beyond the

smiling scenes of Bethlehem may we see the crushing agony of Golgotha.

May God give us a new vision of His will concerning the Lost and our responsibility


Would that we could comprehend the lot of these Stonge Age

people who live in mortal fear of ambush on the jungle trail…those to

whom the bark of a gun means sudden, mysterious death….those who

think all men in all the world are killers like themselves.

If God would grant us the vision, the word “sacrifice” would disappear

from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem

now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would

despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our

energies in the name of Christ. May God help us to judge

ourselves by the eternities that separate the Aucas from a

comprehension of Christmas, and Him, Who though He

was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might,

through His poverty, be made rich.


Nate Saint, in a letter written back home, 3 weeks before his death, excerpted from page 272, Jungle Pilot,

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The Aches

They came out of the jungle, 24 in number, scared and frightened by the world which was rapidly devouring the world in which they had lived from time unknown. Their numbers were being decimated by sickness and the struggle that always exists between jungle tribes and those who wish to develop said jungle for farmland. Recognizing the need to either embrace the modern world or become extinct, they chose the former. It involved more than just stepping out and living life. It meant leaving a lifestyle, which for hundreds of years, had been their lifestyle. Amongst the jungle, they were blissfully unaware of the 2 wars which mankind had fought, killing millions. Ignorant of the technological age which could contribute so much to their comfort of living, they continued in the only way they knew – the way that had been their fathers….and their fathers for centuries. They could have remained in the jungle and had the same fate handed to them as had been handed to so many other tribes, extinction and anonymity. And they were within 24 heartbeats from this fate when they made the decision to emerge and adapt to a world in which a 8 year old possessed more knowledge than the two dozen of them put together.

This was over 30 years ago. Today, where once had been jungle scarcely 20 years ago, thousands of hectares have been translated into fertile fields. For miles, the vibrant greenery of the early soybean crop can be seeing waving under the influence of a gentle breeze and bathed by a tropical sun. But amongst a stand of trees, there is a track beaten into the earth, leading into a poor, albeit clean, village of the Ache (pronounced as written with a pronounced ‘ch’. not like the English synonym for pain) Indian tribe. Out of the original 24, only 6 have passed on in these past 30 years. This can be attributed directly to modern medicine. At one point, there were 44 Indians and 44 shots of penicillin being given per day for a disease of which I now have no recollection. And not only that, but the Gospel has been brought to this people who many said were savages and who treated them no better than animals. They stand, some 130+ strong as a light to the other Ache communities. But sadly, amongst the other communities scattered through out 6 departamentos (Spanish for departments or states) of Paraguay, there is rampant immorality and drink enslaves many a Indian. These look to Naranjal for guidance and direction.

But what has been accomplished at Naranjal, the purchase of their own land, of modern farming equipment to cultivate their fields and the list goes on, is contributable to the hard work and sweat of a dedicated family. In a twist that God delights in, a alcoholic turns to God and dedicates his life to spreading the God-news. Through God’s leading, he and his family end up in the Chaco for missionary training. While there, they hear of this tribe and the Holy Spirit impresses on them to try to reach them with the Gospel. It was to be 6 years till they finally made contact with the leader(s) of this group. At the 2nd meeting, the Indians had planned to kill them (sounds like Palm Beach in Ecuador). The mission group that they were affiliated with gave them 3 years to establish a church. At the termination of three years, they were to pull out. Three years came and there was no church. The mission left but the family stayed. It was to be at least 21 years from first contact till the time of the first convert. Many would have given up. 21 years, or maybe it was 27…and, at times, speaking through 2 interpreters??? That’s a long time. That’s dedication. But the seeds had to be cultivated. Now, there is a church. Granted, native leadership is not strong enough to lead without guidance but for this group, it’s progress in a big way.

But challenges still face them. Technology, however wonderful, has drawbacks and lines must be established. Cell phones make the world smaller. Internet is now available where 20 years ago the jungle stood. There are other difficulties as well. A school system has been established, not just in Naranjal, but across Paraguay for the various Indian groups and communities. In this endeavor, they face opposition and legal trouble. The Enemy is at work, trying to hinder, trying to keep the Gospel from being spread. Through alcohol, he keeps many in bondage. But the Gospel is liberating and a preventive as well. As I mentioned, the Naranjal Aches are a light to their own communities and other Indian groups as well. But, this is because of the Gospel. The Aches themselves would say the same thing. The current missionary there, the son of the first one, related to us how these Indians tell others, when asked how life can be made better, to leave off drinking and to work in order to provide. That’s a refreshing blessing. These people see the practical benefit of Biblical teaching and they say this out of the result in their lives, not because it’s some canned answer by the missionary.

I was blessed to have instigated a visit to Naranjal for we workers here at the clinic. The Friday after Thanksgiving, yes we celebrated a form of Thanksgiving, we went for a all-day visit. Leaving here around 0700, we didn’t return till late afternoon. But the visit was worth it. The Indian children, shy at first, warmed up quickly and soon had their “favorites” amongst the clinic staff. Hearing Bernie F. tell us of the early days when his family came to serve and the work they pioneered amongst the Aches was rewarding in it’s own way. I think there’s something about a-mission-visiting-a-mission that is unique enough that it has to be experienced. It can’t be described. The opportunity to talk with someone who watched the mission develop as he grew up has a unique pleasure too. The time was time well-spent and I think we all left Naranjal refreshed and inspired once again to continue serving, continuing working, doing what we can where we are at, even if we don’t see the results in our terms of service here.

Here are some shots from the visit. The last was taken of them singing some songs in the Ache language. This was taken in their multi-use building.

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