It was the first week of January, 1956, that Operation Auca finally began to come to fruition for five missionary couples in Ecuador: Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Roger and Barbara Youderian, Nate and Marj Saint, Ed and Marilou McCully, and Pete and Olive Fleming. On January 8, one of the men radioed the wives back at their stations, “Pray, girls: today’s the day!” On this date, January 9, the scheduled radio contact did not come and a missionary friend flew over the area where the men had been camped and saw their airplane stripped of fabric but saw no one. It was two days later that the first bodies were found. The men had been speared to death on January 8.
I can only imagine what it was like for those five women to go through those days with hope but no word and then to finally learn that their husband were gone and they were alone thousands of miles from home.
Yet, as many of you know, God used this incident to greatly impact both the Aucas (now know as Waodani or Huaorani) and the rest of the world. Later Rachel Saint (sister to Nate) and Elisabeth Elliot and her daughter Valerie were invited to come and live with the Aucas, and eventually many of them were led to the Lord: one of the killers even became a surrogate grandfather to Steve Saint’s children.
And not til eternity will we know the full impact of these men and their wives. Many lives have been touched, stirred, and inspired. Sometimes we still wrestle with why things happened as they did, but there is no doubt God used them.
A good post on the impact of Jim Elliot in particular is Today Jim Elliot was Killed. If you ever have the chance, see the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor. It is in four parts on Vimeo (Part 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I found the audio a bit hard to hear even turned all the way up.
In June for Carrie’s Reading to Know Book Club I’ll be hosting the reading of Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot’s book on the five families, what led them to Ecuador, and how their families coped in the aftermath of the men’s deaths. But when I realized this was the anniversary of that time, I couldn’t let it go by without acknowledgment.
I’ll leave you with some excerpts someone put together of the wives’ testimonies from Beyond the Gates of Splendor.