This month is Missions Month at my Church and last night at Church I saw "End of the Spear." This is a dramatisation of the well known story of five American missionaries attempting to reach the Huaorani (Waodari) people of Eucuador in 1956. After initial contact, some of the stoneage tribesmen killed the five Americans. After that, instead of returning to America, the wives and other family members of the missionaries lived among the tribe, planting a Christian witness among that people. The wife of one of the missionaries, Elizabeth Elliot, told the story in "Through The Gates of Splendor."
This film is not for entertainment. Its depiction of violence is brutally frank. Its portrayal of a people caught in an escalating cycle of death and revenge and the encompanying despair is very well done. The mood is not one of triumph but of the staggering seriousness of the commitment to the Gospel expected by all disciples and the high cost of that commitment displayed by the five. Yes, the Gospel made its impact, and is still continuing to do so among the Huaorani, but the pain experienced by both the tribe and the missionaries and the missionaries family was not sugar coated. Whenever the Gospel penetrates a culture, it is not introduced without a painful clash between those who are saved and the culture that claims them as its own. Recently I heard a Christian worker who debates Muslims implore Christians not to hesitate to reach out to Muslims because of the persecution and pain that those who convert from Islam face. Those who have suffered so consider the pain worth the price. The last line of the movie sums up this attitude well. The narrator, an actor playing Steve Saint, the son of one of the five missionaries, Nate Saint, said this concerning the outcome of the efforts to reach the Huaorani: "Over the years many people have sympathized with us over our loss. But very few of these people ever understood what we consider gain." (My paraphrase.)