“Greatest Story of Forgiveness"
Gregory J. Rummo
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000
Gregory J. Rummo graduated from Iona College in 1977 with a B.S. in chemistry. He also holds an M.S. in chemistry from Fordham University and an M.B.A. in finance from Iona College. He's a businessman but his other passion is journalism. His articles and photographs have appeared in newspapers and magazines since the 1970s. Since 1999, seven of his columns have won journalism awards including the second prize in the 2001 Amy Writing Awards Contest for his Record column, “Prime-time Debauchery Makes Mockery of Fidelity.” In April, 2005, the New Jersey Family Policy Council presented Rummo with the "Defender of the Family Media Award" at its annual banquet. Currently, he is taking a short sabbatical from writing as he learns Spanish at Bergen Community College in New Jersey. When he’s writing full-time, his commentaries appear Sundays in the New Jersey Herald on the editorial page and are syndicated by The Amy Internet Syndicate. He may be contacted through his website, GregRummo.com
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Today marks 50 years since five American missionaries were brutally murdered in the Amazon rain forest by a tribe of savage Indians then known as the Aucas. At the time, it was difficult to discern what good could possibly come from these violent and apparently senseless deaths. Yet, what happened as a result was nothing short of miraculous.
Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully and Roger Youdarian were American missionaries working in Ecuador. They had learned of a savage tribe of Indians that had killed several Shell Oil company employees. Violence was a way of life for the Aucas. Six of every ten adult deaths were homicides by spearing.
Fearless, the missionaries initiated contact through an ingenious method of lowering a bucket of gifts from a small airplane. As Nate Saint flew the bright yellow single-engine Piper PA-14 overhead, banking it in a tight circle, a bucket was lowered on a long rope. It remained nearly motionless, just long enough for several curious Aucas to help themselves to what was inside.
This continued for several months.
Thinking they had gained their trust, the missionaries landed their plane on a sand bar in the Curaray River. Over the ensuing days, they made several friendly face-to-face encounters and even gave one of the Aucas, Naenkiwi, a ride in the plane. But on January 8, 1956, all five of the missionaries were attacked and brutally murdered.
The world recoiled in horror.
The images of the mutilated bodies, recovered from the Curaray River, appeared in newspapers across the county. LIFE Magazine ran a 10-page story on the incident. It seemed to be nothing more than a tragic loss.
But God would soon roll back the dark clouds of despair, allowing the world a providential glimpse into his often mysterious ways. God was about to make the wrath of man praise him.
Two years later, in what could be considered one of the greatest acts of forgiveness in the 20th century, Elisabeth Elliot, Jim Elliot’s wife and Rachel Saint, Nate Saint’s sister, went to live with the tribe, now known as the Waodani.
The women studied the tribe’s language and learned their culture. Their demonstration of forgiveness to the men who murdered their loved ones so moved the Waodani, they were given the opportunity to share the greatest story of forgiveness—Christ’s death on the cross.
Many members of the tribe were converted to Christianity. The murder rate among the Waodani dropped 90%.
Years later, Nate Saint’s son, Steve moved his family from Florida to live with the Waodani. His children now call Mincaye, a tribal elder and the man who speared Steve Saint’s father to death, “grandfather.”
Last year, a 2-hour documentary, “Beyond the Gates of Splendor,” was released on DVD. It recounts this story of forgiveness that sprang from martyrdom. It is both riveting and poignant and includes interviews of Elisabeth Elliot, Rachel Saint and the other wives and colleagues of the five missionaries. Many of the Waodani also appear in the documentary, which contains original footage shot in the jungles of Ecuador.
On January 20th, “End of the Spear,” will open in 1200 theaters across the country. The movie stars Louie Leonardo (“Law & Order,” “ER” and “Charlie’s Angels”) as Mincaye and Chad Allen (“St. Elsewhere,” “My Two Dads,” “Our House” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”) who plays both Nate Saint and his son, Steve. “End of the Spear” tells the story from the Waodani’s point of view, showing how this extraordinary act of forgiveness led to an end of tribal violence and deep, caring friendships for the children of the men that were murdered.
On October 28, 1949—Jim Elliot wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
In a little more than six years and two months, he was called on by God to make good on those words. In so doing, he demonstrated by his death the words of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
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