January 8, 1956 is a day that will live in famy – or whatever the actual opposite of ‘infamy’ is. On that day, five Christian missionaries and heroes, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Ed McCulley, Jim Elliot and Peter Fleming, died at the spear-tips of the Huaorani people that they were trying to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the sacrifice of those five men and the grace of their wives (and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel) to forgive and persist in the gospel-mission) paved the way for many Huaorani to come to faith in Jesus.

(L-R: Pete Fleming, Jim Elliot, Ed McCulley, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian. Martyred in 1956)

If you know any mission’s history, you’re probably familiar with Jim Elliot, the leader of the Aucan Five. He was a man of blazing passion for Jesus and a decided willingness to give his life on the mission field for the glory of God. His journals are filled with inspiring thoughts and quotes, such as:

““Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” – Jim Elliot

“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!” – Jim Elliot

“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”- Jim Elliot

Interestingly, the quote that Elliot is most famously known for, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose,” was not originally spoken by him. That thought, or something very nearly like it, was actually written down almost 300 years prior by the nonconformist preacher Philip Henry, father of famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry. Philip Henry’s quote originally went like this, “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose” Note: this is not to imply any sort of shenanigans on Elliot’s part – his famous quote comes from his journal (not meant for publication) and Henry’s quote was fairly well known among missions-students of the time.But this post is neither about Jim Elliot, nor his quotes. It is actually more focused on Nate Saint, Jim’s good friend and the missionary pilot that carried the men around in Ecuador. Approximately three weeks before his martyrdom, and one week before Christmas, 1955, Nate Saint wrote the following Christmas letter to his family.

As we weigh the future & seek the will of God, does it seem right that we should hazard our lives for just a few savages? As we ask ourselves this question, we realize that it is not the call of the needy thousands, rather it is the simple intimation of the prophetic Word that there shall be some from every tribe in His presence in the last day & in our hearts we feel that it is pleasing to Him that we should interest ourselves in making an opening into the Auca prison for Christ.

As we have a high old time this Christmas, may we who know Christ hear the cry of the damned as they hurtle headlong into the Christless night without ever a chance. May we be moved with compassion as our Lord was. May we shed tears of repentance for these we have failed to bring out of darkness. Beyond the smiling scenes of Bethlehem may we see the crushing agony of Golgotha. May God give us a new vision of His will concerning the lost and our responsibility.

Would that we could comprehend the lot of these stone-age people who live in mortal fear of ambush on the jungle trail . . . those to whom the bark of a gun means sudden, mysterious death . . . those who think all men in all the world are killers like themselves. If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions & charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ.

Nate Saint

Hat tip to David Sitton, of “To Every Tribe,” who posted the letter above on Facebook this week.