New old stuff is always coming into the Archives. Just last month, in July, the Archives received a fascinating document. It was a copy of a letter written by Elisabeth Elliot in 1958, just days after she went, with her daughter Valerie, to live in a Waorani village on the Tiwaenu River in Ecuador.
One of the best known and most compelling narratives among American Evangelicals is that of the so-called "Auca Incident." In early 1956, five American missionaries put into practice a plan they had long been developing - to bear witness to the Christian Gospel among the Waorani people. The Waorani live in a remote location and had a reputation for violence and suspicion The neighboring tribes called them the Aucas, a disparaging term that meant "savages." Missionaries Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Peter Fleming had learned more about their culture from Dayuma, a young Waorani woman who had fled her home and come to live near Shell Mera, where the Elliots were based. In January of 1956, the five men went by plane to the Waorani village and set up camp nearby. There was some initial friendly, curious contact with people from the village but then suddenly on January 8, several Waorani men speared all the five missionaries to death.
The shocking murders drew major news coverage in the United States, among the general population as well Evangelicals. But the story did not end there. In October 1958, Jim's widow, Elisabeth Elliot (along with
her 3 1/2 year old daughter Valerie); Rachel Saint, the sister of Nate Saint went to live among the Waorani, to continue the mission of their loved ones. They were accompanied by Dayuma. As a result of their efforts, a Christian community was planted among the Waorani. Elisabeth Elliot would tell the story in her 1961 book,
The Savage My Kinsman.
The letter was given to the Archives by a relative of one of the men who was killed. It is is a copy, made by persons unknown, of a letter she sent to Marj Saint and Marilou McCully, widows of two other of the murdered missionaries. She had arrived in the village on October 8. This letter was written between October 13 and 28. It describes her initial reactions, her meetings with the men who killed her husband, and scenes of typical life in the village. It testifies both to her commitment to be a model of the Christian Gospel and her fascination with the Waorani way of life. The letter is in folder 2 of box 1 of Collection 278 in the Archives
Click above to read the entire letter. For more information on the so-called "Auca Incident," visit the exhibit, To Carry the
Light Farther: A Story of Faith, Sacrifice and Cultural Conflict in the Jungles of Ecuador (added 11/16)
See also the guides to these collections in the BGC Archives:
Collection 599: Ephemera of the "Auca Incident"
Collection 277: Papers of Philip James Elliot
Collection 278: Papers of Elisabeth Howard Elliot
Collection 136: Records of Mission Aviation Fellowship (Nate Saint was a pilot with MAF)
Take a look, too, at these pages on the BGC Archives web site:
The attendance of two of the Waorani men, with Rachel Saint as interpreter, at the 1966 World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin, Germany
Letters that Jim and Betty Elliot wrote to their supporters in the United States
Nate Saint's letter volunteering for Mission Aviation fellowship