On the Death of John Allen Chau

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CT: From Jim Elliot to John Allen Chau: The Missionary-Martyr Dilemma

The stories of the two men diverge in important ways, as well. Prior to attempting contact, Elliot had undergone intensive linguistic training with Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL), one of the foremost programs in the field at that time. He had been living with the Kichwa people, neighboring the Waorani, in the forests of eastern Ecuador for three and a half years. He learned Spanish and Kichwa so well that he was able to preach in both languages without a translator. With Elisabeth and a core team of other missionaries, he was reducing Kichwa to writing, teaching their neighbors to read, doing Bible translation, and helping in the growth of a small church.

Several members of this same core group worked together on preparations for contact with the Waorani. They had the opportunity to learn phrases in Wao Tededö from a Waorani woman who lived outside the Waorani community, which meant they had some means of communication. And because one of the core families worked for Missionary Aviation Fellowship, the team had an opportunity to offer gifts to the Waorani, speak to them in their own language via loudspeaker, and observe the reaction from a safe distance over a period of months, avoiding personal contact until they felt they had received a clear and consistent welcome.

Jim's picture

10 Lessons From the Death of John Chau

We need loads of training

Not going to hard mission fields is not an option. We must go, but we must strategize. We need to be ready. We need teams and we need training. It isn’t an option to just pack up and leave. We must train. Doctors train years before they ever do their first surgery. Lawyers train for years before they ever stand before a jury. In an even more serious way, missionaries must train for years to prepare for the mission field. Seminary is not an option for those who seek to bring the Gospel to other countries. At the very least, one of the members of the team must be seminary trained in order to be ready to start a church. It’s not enough to have a few verses and songs memorized–that’s enough to have a gospel conversation, but not enough to start a church.