January 8, 1956: Five Missionaries Martyred

Greg Strand – January 8, 2013 7 Comments

Today is the anniversary of Jim Elliot’s martyrdom: January 8, 1956. Jim along with Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian were committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the propagation of the gospel among the unreached Auca Indians, more properly referred to as the Huaorani, in Ecuador. On this date all five men were martyred, leaving behind wives and families. As tragic as this was, in the wake of these deaths and in the providence of God, many were drawn/called to missions. It is a true yet often unexplainable way God works. Like Jesus, the Master, the gospel advances through death – certainly spiritual and at times physical.

All of these men played an important role in this ministry. Jim appeared to have a more prominent role, not because of importance but because of his pen through which he was able to write simple yet profound truths. Those statements came to light through Elisabeth Elliot, Jim’s wife, who wrote two books in particular that the Lord used, and continues to use: Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. Many of us have been touched and moved by those statements. For Jim these were words that bore witness in his life. For those of us who are moved by those words he uttered, it is easy for those words to remain great quotes without it being reflective of our lives. This reminds us that truth must not remain vicarious, i.e. truth for someone else, but it must be personally appropriated.

The Lord used these books, these incredible accounts of living all of life to the glory of God with heart, soul mind and strength, significantly in my life many years ago as a young believer seeking to take the Lord Jesus Christ’s commands for discipleship seriously. He still uses them today. What about you?

Were you living at the time, or shortly after this happened?

  • If so, do you remember this event, and what of it do you remember?
  • How did the Lord use it in your life, or does He, perhaps, still use it in your life?

Were you not living at the time or too young to remember, but have read these accounts?

  • How has the story of how the Lord used these men and their wives (and families) influenced/affected you?
  • What difference has that made in your life?

Are you unaware of these martyrs and have you not read these accounts?

  • I encourage you to do so!
  • Be prepared to be moved, and pray to be open to learn from the ongoing “cloud of witnesses.”

May this serve as another reminder to all of us to live all of life by God’s grace and for His glory, and then may we be willing to go and serve likewise.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

7 responses to January 8, 1956: Five Missionaries Martyred

  1. I have the privilege of knowing Steve Saint, Nate’s son. It is remarkable to me how God used the tragic and violent deaths of five young men to not only transform and save a people group but to establish ongoing ministries that continue to impact the region. The sobering aspect in all of this is that being totally sold out to Jesus may cost my life. But, to quote Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

    • Ross, in God’s mercy, his work and plan did not end in the death of these five missionaries. Their wives and children carried on a ministry, in their own ways, using their own unique grace-giftings. One of those is Steve Saint. The way in which God used Steve with the Huaorani is an ongoing testimony of God’s transforming grace through the power of the gospel. Steve also founded the Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center (I-TEC) to build on the vision of his missionary-pilot father. Last September, while testing an experimental wing mounted to a vehicle , Steve suffered a serious accident in which he was paralyzed. The way in which he was undergoing this new chapter was another testimony of God’s overcoming grace, not in that he was healed, but that in the midst of the paralysis he was seeking to honor and glorify God.

  2. Robert (“Bob”) Lloyd Russell January 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    The Five have impacted thousands of lives for Christ. The most important record of the five to me is “The Journals of Jim Elliot” which provides great insight into Jim’s thinking and deep understanding of spiritual matters. (“Jim Elliot: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You” also contains Jim’s own words. I had the priviledge of editing that book.)
    Yes, I was living at the time–I knew the entire Elliot family well and even lived with the family for a short while when I was a boy (Jim was at home at the time.)
    My most vivid recollection was not the tremendous world wide news coverage but rather the steadfastness of Fred and Clara (Jim’s parents) in their confidence that God was in control and knew what He was doing.
    Blessings to you and your ministry.
    ~ BloggerBob

    • Bob, how wonderful that you knew the Elliot family. And as will all mere mortals, they were only human, and I am certain, from all I know about them, they would be the first to claim this truth. However, in the providence of God, he uses means, not only to further his purposes and to bring glory to his name, but also to serve as examples to others, fellow pilgrims on the way. Thank you for filling in the back story of the Elliot family to shed further light on Jim Elliot’s story. Though there is no guarantee that if parents believe, live and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ with their children that their children will also believe, live and teach the gospel. But believing parents and godly families are important means God uses. From what you shared It is also important to note that Jim and Clara did not make their children their end goal or the ultimate purpose of their lives. Though they loved their children and would have given their lives for them, their ultimate goal was to live for and to bring glory to God, which was evidenced in their response of ongoing faith and trust in the good and sovereign providence of God after Jim’s death. This was another incredible testimony of God’s grace, though a lesser-known one.

  3. MeredithVanDerWerf January 9, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I remember hearing of this tragic event while I was in my 20’s and it left a deep impresion on me. Missions has always been an area where I want to focus my prayers and financial support.

  4. This is one of my favorite missionary stories. I got called to be a missionary when I was nine, and since then, missionary biographies and stories make up over half of my library. While I was not alive during the time (I am not out of my teen years yet), this story has had a big influence on my life.

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