American missionary John Allen Chau killed by Sentinelese

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Jim's picture

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/american-goes-protected-sentineles...

"He lived in Alabama, US. He is some kind of paramedic. He was on a misplaced adventure in prohibited area to meet uncontacted persons. People thought he is a missionary because he had mentioned his position on god and that he was a believer on social media or somewhere online. But in a strict sense, he was not a missionary. He was an adventurer. His intention was to meet the aborigines," Andaman DGP Dependra Pathak told TNM.

Joeb's picture

This is a question not a statement. It’s my understanding per the Indian Gov these Islands and group of people were off limits to any visitors from the outside.  It’s also my understanding that outsider contact could infect the native people with diseases that the natives have no natural defense against.  Hence contact could kill all the islanders or a good amount of them.  This issue should not be in question.  History has proven time and time again this is true. 

Being illegal to go there and maybe a death sentence for all involved does this make John Chau’s efforts within God’s will to lead them to Christ.   In an opposing view was John Chau motivates for personal reasons and personal elevation and not for the cause of Christ.  

I personally was split on this whole situation.  

Bert Perry's picture

....I'm leaning towards "well intentioned adventurer" at this point, as I don't see any indications of any particular training, affiliations, and such that would make him effective as a missionary.  Plus, what Joe notes about "does he realize that he could end up killing all these people with something that doesn't particularly bother him?"  Those who have been to developing countries, especially in Asia, are well aware that there are a lot of things that will "get" you, physically speaking, over there.   (actual quote from a friend of mine in Malaysia when I noted I was taking antibiotics for a sinus infection--"Keep taking them, we see a lot of Americans getting really sick over here."  I did and did fine)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Do not expect the secular media to understand or appreciate the concept of Christian Missions.  They don’t. 

David R. Brumbelow

David R. Brumbelow's picture

We do not know what was in this missionary’s heart. 

Some may have considered Jonah a self-appointed missionary.  Or maybe a thrill seeker.  And he could have easily been tortured and killed. 

Virtually every one of Jesus’ 12 disciples eventually died as a result of their missionary work.  A missionary dying does not necessarily mean failure. 

Perhaps God calls some to go and die.  We should be careful to judge. 

Sometimes we are to hide from danger, or protect ourselves from danger; sometimes not. 

When a people are in danger of going to Hell, some are willing to take heroic measures to save them.  Reminds me of --- Jesus. 

David R. Brumbelow

TylerR's picture

Editor

My criticism of this man isn't in his heart; it's in his methods. He died because of the way he chose to reach these people. The Indian government successfully established limited contact with these people for decades. It took time, patience and perseverance. This Christian had zeal, no doubt - but I don't understand how anyone can applaud his methods. They were not prudent, and they resulted in his death. 

I understand some will be upset by these sentiments. Christians are often reluctant to criticize evangelistic methods. Some Christians may point to the Apostle Paul, and note that he returned to the city to preach to the folks who stoned him. I respond in all honesty - I wouldn't have done that. I'm glad some people could. I can't. I would have left, and washed my hands of them, in the spirit of Mark 6:7-13. 

Does this mean I shouldn't be a pastor? Does this mean I'm not a decent Christian? I'm not sure. I don't think it does. I wouldn't have done what Nate Saint did, either. To each his own. 

Here's an example:

  • We're planning to put on a "What is Christianity About" class at a public library in the Olympia area around Easter. We'll take 45 minutes to explain the story of the Bible, and allow 45 minutes for any questions. We'll also distribute Bibles and literature to everyone who comes.
  • In this area, in a state as blue and secular as Washington, this may be an equivalent kind of foolishness, to some people. We're going to do it anyway.
  • Most churches around here seem to take the passive, "let's do events just to show people we're nice" approach. There is often no Gospel and no literature distributed. I don't like that approach, and think it's well-meaning cowardice with a pious gloss. The only other church in this area I've ever seen do deliberate evangelism is a KJV church, and good for them! 
  • My point is that we're all a bit "mad" in our own way, I suppose! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Babylon Bee: Local believer Michael Frederick, who has never shared the gospel with anyone in his entire life, posted a Facebook comment Monday in which he criticized recently martyred missionary John Allen Chau's "lack of wisdom" in how he approached the violent North Sentinelese people.

Full disclosure; our church gave away several hundred Gospels tracts yesterday in Olympia's annual Christmas parade, so this doesn't apply to me! Our church was behind the "City Pride" float ... 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Despite the need for effective entry methods to a people group, Eitel said, sometimes a missionary may be called to attempt bold evangelistic campaigns that imperil their lives.

"If you can't contact anybody" in the group you're trying to reach, Eitel said, "then try to only venture in when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that even if it costs you your life, that this is what God wants you to do."

If God called Chau to make such a sacrifice, Eitel said, his death may inspire other missionaries to reach the Sentinelese and other uncontacted UUPGs for years to come.

http://www.bpnews.net/52019/crazy-or-called--missionarys-death-debated

David R. Brumbelow

PS – Glad to see the NYT interested in contacting missionaries about this subject. 

Jim's picture

John Allen Chau: 'Incredibly dangerous' to retrieve body from North Sentinel

Indian officials should abandon efforts to retrieve the body of an American missionary reportedly killed by an endangered tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, a rights group says. Survival International says any attempt is "incredibly dangerous" for both the Sentinelese tribesmen and officials.

Opinion: John Allen Chau: A martyr and a fool

But perhaps one of the strongest arguments for the truth of Christianity are the martyrs who keep dying. Stephen was stoned. John Huss was burned at the stake. Nate Saint died at the end of a tribesman’s spear. All are martyrs for Christ and their deaths, a testament to the truth of Christianity. Add to the list John Allen Chau. That 27-year-old missionary tried to make contact with tribesmen on North Sentinel Island and convert them to Christianity. The tribe is primitive, cut off from the rest of the world, and hostile. He was not successful. ... Chau’s body is moldering somewhere on a tropical island as a result of his efforts. He didn’t make much of a plan. He didn’t have a support team. He couldn’t even speak the language, shouting instead a few lines of Xhosa, a South African dialect spoken thousands of miles away, upon first contact. In short, he needed a miracle that never came. Sentinelese have a reputation of hostility toward outsiders. A fisherman was killed in 2006 when his boat accidentally ran ashore there. For the better part of a century, outsiders met similar fates. Chau is only the latest. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way. Chau could have followed the example of Saint and company, for instance, as told in the book Through Gates of Splendor. Those more rational missionaries slowly and incrementally made contact with the Waodani tribe of Ecuador, learning the language before sharing the Gospel. They ended up martyrs, yes, but they did not throw away their lives. Chau, on the other hand, was dead the moment he stepped on shore. Now the international community struggles with whether or not they should recover the remains. Initial efforts have faced resistance on and off the island. The tribesmen have rebuffed a recovery team and experts warn that further contact could actually doom the tribesmen because their immune systems are not equipped to rebuff modern microbes. Chau's example is still inspiring. He was wrong to risk everything so recklessly. He was right to love the Sentinelese tribe, men and women he had never met. Chau believed the Scripture. In a way, he was crazy. Perhaps his body should remain on the island as a testament to that fact.

Jim's picture

John E. wrote:

I wrote an article for PJ Media about John Chau.

https://pjmedia.com/faith/why-are-christians-ganging-up-on-missionary-jo...

Why Are Christians Ganging Up on Missionary John Chau, Who Paid the Ultimate Price for Sharing the Gospel?

So Chau (who's heart was right, I've concluded) on the beach declares "Jesus loves you" in English to a tribe that understands not a word of English; how is that "sharing the gospel". 

Perhaps we should just drop some "Are you saved?" tracts from a helicopter!?

 

 

josh p's picture

My understanding was that he communicated in some other language that was neither English or their language. 

John E.'s picture

For one thing, my editors came up with the title. For another thing, since no one was there, we have no way of knowing what Chau said or did while on the island. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

As I said (somewhere above), I think we're all a little "mad" in our own evangelistic way. Some people would consider the evangelism method I described (somewhere above) as foolish and a waste of time in the hyper-secular climate of Olympia, WA. But, I did it anyway. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Shaffer's picture

I have a very mixed view of this tragedy.  If history proves to be correct, John Chau's death in attempting to bring the gospel to the Sentinelese, those who follow Chau in reaching the Sentinelese will do the many years of grunt work in learning the language and culture. They will learn the importance of patience, and they will do extensive medical research in how to contact the Sentinelese without bringing disease to them. And God, in his sovereignty, will use this tragedy for his glory. Let me draw a parallel from tribal missions in the 20th century. In the 1940's, 5 men from New Tribes Mission attempted to reach the Ayores Indians in Bolivia that were known for their violence towards outsiders. Similarly to John Chau, they were immediately killed. However, a self-proclaimed missionary flunky named Joe Moreno took their place and spent several years learning the culture and leaving gifts for them, which the Ayores reciprocated. Eventually after building up trust with them, they invited him into their village. He learned the language and more of the culture and the gospel penetrated this tribe. But it was a 10 year process.   

By the way, I am all for risk-taking for the sake of the gospel. As an urban missionary making disciples among gang members and drug dealers, I have put my life on the line breaking up gang fights, my life has been verbally threatened several times, and I have had a gun (with its laser scope) pointed at my head. But during the 28 years of my missionary experience, I have also learned the importance of patience. Patience means more than just waiting. It includes long-term preparation for ministry and the long-term planting and sowing so that there is a harvest. There needs to be a balance between risk-taking and patience. Several years ago, I read a quote that applies to this situation. "A refusal to risk is a denial of the worth of Christ. A refusal to be patient is a denial of God’s provision." My concern is that the risk-taking of this short-term missionary (John Chau) who knew neither the culture or language of the Sentinelese will be elevated and valued over Patience, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit and the first word to describe (by the apostle Paul) what it means to love (1 Cor. 13:4). That is why it is also important to critique Chau's methods-for those missionaries who will follow in bringing the gospel to difficult and violent places in the world.  

Bert Perry's picture

here's the wiki article on the Sentinelese.  More or less, nobody but them knows their language, there are only a few hundred of them, and as a result, one epidemic could basically wipe them out.  I would dare say it's a touch of a harder nut to crack than a lot of the tribes New Tribes contacts that way.  It also appears that Chau did, contrary to my previous thought, have some training and partnership through All Nations, and their statement of faith appears to be broadly speaking baptistic.  Chau had apparently a lot more missions experience than other news reports suggest.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

John E. wrote:

... we have no way of knowing what Chau said or did while on the island. 

We know this:

  • His log / journal from his first encounter. Don't have it in front of me but in essence (in English (a language the tribesman do not speak) "Jesus loves you")
  • We know he brought gifts (ball ... et al) (from journal)
  • We know he was not trained to speak to them in their native language

 

 

 

 

Jim's picture

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/11/27/john-allen-chau-bod...

An anthropologist who visited the remote Indian island where police say a remote tribe killed an American missionary using a bow and arrow formed a kind of relationship with the isolated Sentinelese people between the 1960s and '90s. 

T.N. Pandit, now in his 80s, was a part of gift-giving expeditions to the hunter-gatherer tribes of the Andaman Islands decades ago, when the trips were sanctioned by police.

After several trips nearing the island bringing gifts including coconuts, Pandit and the team were able to make close contact with the isolated people. He told The New York Times in a previous interview that encounters weren't always friendly – describing how the tribespeople did show initial hostility, armed with bows and arrows.

But, he told BBC's World Service, his team always backed away when they were threatened by the people he believes are generally "peace-loving." 

"I feel very sad for the death of this young man who came all the way from America," Pandit told the BBC about the death of John Allen Chau. "But he made a mistake. He had enough chance to save himself. But he persisted and paid with his life."

John E.'s picture

None of us know everything that transpired on that island before he was killed. And even if the only thing that he managed to do before he was killed was saying "Jesus loves you" in English, I am still thankful for his charitable courage in attempting to share the gospel with sinners. 

Joel Shaffer's picture

It's not surprising that the mainstream media and non-Christians criticize Chau, but the criticism and even vitriol directed at Chau by professing Christians baffles and saddens me. 

John E, I have a few questions for you pertaining to your article.  

1.  You are pretty adamant that Chau was obeying Jesus when he attempted to evangelize the Sentinelese people.  But can you really be obeying Jesus with the Great Commission when you are doing it outside the authority of the church?  Consider Christian Historian Jonathan Couser's view:  "I don't consider Chau a true missionary. The term itself means "one who is sent" (from Latin, missus). That implies authorization, commission from a sending church....So far as I understand, no church SENT Chau. He got it into his own head to undertake a lone-wolf mission to an isolated people."   

2.  Are you ok with the unintended consequences of Chau's actions of attempting to share the gospel?  A couple fisherman that he bribed are still in jail for taking him to the island.  The authorities responsible for retrieving his body have been threatened as they've attempted to look for the body.  Does the ends justify the means when doing evangelism as long as one sacrifices everything for Jesus?  

And if every Christian waits until he or she has attained a level of expertise as dictated by others before sharing the gospel, the gospel will be preached even less than it already is. 

3.  Is your statement historically true when it comes to tribal missions?   There is a reason why NTM (now called Ethnos 360) and other mission organizations that reach out to remote tribes with the gospel require several years in language/linguistic and anthropology preparation as part of their missionary training.   And because Ethnos 360 missionaries take time to figure out the language and culture (and work together in teams/small groups rather than lone-wolf), they actually communicate the gospel with remote tribes leading to church-planting movements among tribal groups.   Whereas Chau's attempt to communicate Jesus with the Sentinelese people amounted to a bunch of gibberish without any meaning and then he immediately died.   It really comes across as if Chau's impatience and eagerness to share the gospel with the Sentinelese ignored over a hundred years of missionary history and wisdom and experience that he could've drawn from.    

    

John E.'s picture

The overarching fact is that a young brother in Christ valued sharing the gospel with sinners more than he valued his own life. Whether or not we would have preferred him to do things differently should submit to that fact.

He wasn't a lone wolf. He was a missionary with All Nations. Their statement of faith is orthodox, although I'm not a fan of their ecclesiology.

Quoting my own article, "Are there better ways and methods to make contact with unreached people groups? Yes, of course." But, as heathens pour contempt on Chau for loving the gospel more than his life, I will use the platform I have to stand with my brother in Christ.  

Paul J's picture

https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2018/11/28/slain-missionary-john-chau-prepared-much-more-than-we-thought-his-case-is-still-quandary-us-missionaries/?fbclid=IwAR1x_REH313nPj6DohqleyW-kBQ-9VIK1PsNNzlZGHOGIHmvVfJ7QIaaaWU&utm_term=.0fda231cce33

Since John Allen Chau was killed earlier this month while trying to evangelize the isolated inhabitants of a remote Indian island, his story has stirred intense emotions, many negative. While both Christians and non-Christians have raised profound questions about the biblical and ethical appropriateness of pushing into places where you’re not wanted, much criticism of Chau has focused on what appeared to be his lack of preparation.

In his journal, Chau used the word “holler” to describe what he did after sneaking onto the beach of the remote North Sentinel Island in a kayak. The scene of the young American yelling, in English, “My name is John. I love you, and Jesus loves you,” before being killed by a bow and arrow isn’t the most sophisticated image of missionary outreach in 2018.

But new information released Wednesday paints a more complicated picture of Chau, including an interview with Christianity Today. In the interview, Mary Ho, who leads All Nations (the agency that sent Chau on missions), indicated that he was heavily vaccinated and even quarantined before going on the mission.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that Chau also undertook linguistic and medical training to prepare for the outreach. These new reports at a minimum challenge the simplistic image of an adventure-seeking zealot willing to recklessly risk the lives of a remote group of islanders.

Certainly, all of this needs more investigation and analysis. There are still medical and legal questions, but this new information does focus the debate more on the question of the central goal of evangelizing and less on the preparation for doing so.

Chau’s intent -- according to others I’ve spoken with who knew him, went to school with him and helped him prepare -- was to live among the North Sentinelese, learn their language, attend to their physical needs and then seek to share his faith with them. Obviously, the long-term strategy did not work, and Chau will become not only a topic of debate but of study for missiologists, people who train missionaries. That’s my field. I have a PhD in the subject and have trained missionaries to go to many places, including India. I am also the dean of the mission school at Wheaton College, where we unapologetically and enthusiastically train missionaries to engage their own cultures, as well as cross-culturally, from their culture to another.

...

According to reports published in several places, Chau prepared several years for this mission, including training as an EMT and in sports medicine, both functions that might be helpful in an isolated missions endeavor. Much of this new reporting shows that the North Sentinelese were a long-term focus for Chau.

For some, the very idea of trying to convert others to a certain faith and taking any risk to do so is simply abhorrent. But Christians worldwide genuinely believe that people who hear and respond to the gospel are better off when they do.

After Chau’s family and friends have mourned and the media attention has died down, mission agencies need to consider the lessons from this moment. There are things that I, as a missiologist, and others prefer Chau would have done differently.

For example, when Jesus sent his disciples, he instructed them to pray and then go, while showing them how to honor the dignity and humanity of others’ choices. He also sent his disciples out two by two. The Bible has much to say about the importance of teams and community. Teams bring collective discernment and provide a safeguard against unwise attempts at missionary endeavors. According to Ho, there was a team willing to go with Chau, but he chose to go alone.

 

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