The Story Behind End of the Spear: Part 2 of 2
Announcer:The 21st century has ushered in events and issues that cause us to ask, Where is God in today's world? In response, Dallas Theological Seminary presents DTS Dialogue - Issues of God in Culture: End of the Spear. The events that took place among the Waorani tribe over fifty years ago have been used by God to propel thousands into cross-cultural missions. Thanks for joining us as we discuss the true story of sacrifice and forgiveness behind the film, "End of the Spear," part 2.
Mr. Mark Yarborough:One of the questions...well, the movie raises several questions and several theological questions: issues of protocol. Let's talk about that. I know this is getting pretty specific but the movie itself raises tension from the very beginning of should they be going.
It's almost a stealth operation of how it is portrayed on the big screen. And that begs for some good discussion on did Nate Saint actually break protocol by not reporting to the mission agency his intention of contacting them.
In the movie, it is very short and brief. It is this issue, "This is our one moment. This is our opportunity and let's not miss it. We got to go." And they start building a relationship.
We've talked about their original contact that they made. Is that a historical issue and has that impacted mission agencies and mission boards, in terms of evaluating what you do and how you do it?
Dr. Michael Pocock:Sure, I think anybody who goes to work and anyone with a pioneer spirit, which is the same as an entrepreneurial spirit in the business world in a way, but this is a spiritual, entrepreneurial spirit is going to be impatient with bureaucracy.
What happens here in this story of Waorani has happened and it has other versions in other parts of the world, where an individual worker says, "I got to get to work. I've got to cut red tape. We need to get this job done and if I tell them what I am doing it is going to take another year or two before they do something."
That is probably a bit of the feeling that he had. They are aware of the fact that this tribe is killing each other and that is what is giving them this sense of urgency. I do think the movie also does portray that pretty well. These constant killings are decimating the tribe and if they don't act now there will be nothing to stop this.
He obviously is going against ordinary protocol. I'd say, and I'm sure plenty of other people with me, that all things being equal, it is a good thing to talk to the rest of the believing community that has anything to do with any operation that you are contemplating.
You look at the Apostle Paul, he doesn't really begin his cross-cultural work until Antioch in chapter 11 of Acts. They are all gathered, worshiping, praying, thinking and the Holy Spirit then indicates to them that Paul and Barnabas are the ones that should go on this missionary trip.
I think you can trust groups of spiritually minded people like mission boards to act in a pretty timely way. They are in this same business of trying to reach people with the gospel. Maybe he should have trusted them. It would have slowed things down a little more.
I think he did break with protocol. I am sure they had principles about not initiating new works without consulting with their mission board before they did it.
Dr. Mark Young:You know, it is interesting one of the trends that developed in working with tribal peoples, both in Latin America and Southeast Asia, as well, was that women would often be received as non-threatening and a lot of women became first contact.
Obviously, that is what happened with this tribe as well. The first peaceful or enduring contact occurs once Rachel sang...
Mark Yarbrough: They painted that very well in the movie.
Mark Young: There are hundreds of stories like that, aren't there Mike?
Mike: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Mark Young:So it could well have been that the mission was, perhaps wanting to move more timidly and, perhaps, move in families as opposed to five men who may have created an illusion of some type of a more threat like a rubber expedition that had been violent against them.
I think that it is true that the story, as it is told later after Betty Elliott's book, does seem to indicate that some felt they had acted hastily. And if you look at it from the perspective of what the outcome was then that seems to be a proper assessment that there was a hastiness to it.
Thankfully, our Sovereign God takes our mistakes, doesn't he? And he multiplies the blessing and benefit from our, perhaps, indiscretions in ways that we could never have predicted.
Mark Yarbrough:Great theological question that I know is covered in a variety of courses and things that you all deal with on a regular basis. Let's talk about the contextualization of the gospel. It is one of those...I don't want to use the word weakness, but I want to say struggle in the movie again.
Obviously, that it is not covered. It just all of the sudden, when they are making contact and the door was there you start talking about this God of the tribe that you really don't know anything about, from a normal moviegoer. And you clearly pick up on this context that he has a son and an individual believes and begins to at least listen as perceptive to that issue. Can you talk about that and how it relates not just in the movie but in general, the contextualization of the gospel?
Mike: Within the movie you can hear various terms being used, like the "carvings." Carvings to us would be the Word of God on paper. They are not saying, "Let me tell you what the Bible says." They are talking about the carvings of God.
They are already using phraseology that is familiar to an indian who has never seen paper, or Bibles, or things like that. Death, apparently to them especially an honorable death, is "jumping the water boa." So you thing, "That is interesting." To us, we say that he is "crossing the Jordan"; we have our own metaphors for wonderful deaths. To them, a heroic death would be "jumping the boa."
So, that is clear and I think missionaries become use to those phrases and use those phrases, not their own stock phrases, to communicate the gospel. Because after all is said and done, what you want to do is make sure the gospel is truly understood in its essence and you are not changing the essence of the gospel.
But you have to put in terms or forms that are familiar and make sense to the people that you are dealing with. I could see that they were attempting to do that.
Mark Young:I think the most substantial form of contextualization is exactly what Rachel Saint and Betty Elliot did. Contextualization can't be anymore poignant than when you go and become like the people to whom you are ministering.
You live with them. You eat their food. You live in their ways, to the degrees so that you can continue to survive. This of course is the essence of the incarnation of Christ, where an abstract concept called God, takes on flesh and blood, and lives among people so He can be known in ways that He could not be known. So contextualization is really a parallel of incarnation, in that, it makes knowable that which is essentially unknowable to a group of people.
Mike:I think these people too, these missionaries really grasped what Jesus said to His own disciples in John 20:21 "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." In another words there is a similarity in the objective of Jesus' mission. The idea of being sent by God, into a situation to do something to remedy it, something redemptive. As in the case of Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world. So Jesus says, "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." Many people like John Stott have really encouraged us to look at this as our incarnation of the gospel, we have to incarnate the presence of Christ.
He comes into a world tremendously vulnerable, he's born in a stable, and a manger, people are trying to kill him before he's three years old. Who knows what the motivation is of the people to whom Jesus is coming. In another words, Jesus comes into a situation very, very similar to what these missionaries are moving into at the microcosm level. They suffered what Jesus suffered, and they were ready for that. They understood that if you follow Jesus, and are sent on a mission, as He was, then you may have to give your life. As Jesus said, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." And these fellas, those verses would be ringing in their ears.
Mark Young: Absolutely.
Mike: That's what they would understand their own lives to be.
Mark Young:It's interesting, isn't it Mike? Some people get all excited and wonder whether the message is compromised when God is call Ygandi and the Bible is called God's carvings. All along the way we have to realize everything we do as North Americans, is a contextualized expression of the truth of God. The fact that we use the word "God" is a contextualized expression of the one true ultimate, divine being. Everything we do in church, everything we read in our scriptures, the fact that we use our own language, we are experiencing contextualization. Giving missionaries the freedom and the privilege to do that in ways that seem very odd to us, is nothing more than what we enjoy.
Mark Yarbrough:Yeah, well phrased. Another great question that comes, there is a very emotional scene in the movie itself, which seems to be historically based. Steve Saint is asking his father, as he's getting in the plane, getting ready to fly off, this issue of would he defend himself in the event of an attack? The response by Nate Saint goes something like this, "No because they are not ready to go to heaven, and we are."
You're sitting out there and watching that, as a father of four I'm sitting here and I'm thinking of my kids. It's very emotionally gripping. I'm thinking a lot of people are sitting out there watching this movie. One of the things they hear on a regular basis is that one of your greatest responsibilities is to your family, as a father and as a mother to protect and provide. Here I am watching this issue where I already had this tension of should he be going or should he not be going. Here is a father giving a very loving response to his son which you hear and you're caught in that tension because you admire it and on the other hand, you think you're getting ready to risk it all. Now that we know the outcome, because we see what happens and we read historically the events, how can you interact with that? That begs the question of this issue of "Why did they go?" And we've already talked about that, can you spend some more time specifically?
Mark Young:That's a very, very powerful question. It comes about, I believe, because we have begun to misunderstand our goal in parenting. Let's assume that our goal as a parent, and I think that in a right sense, is that our children will live a life that honors the Lord Jesus Christ when they become adults. Our goal as a parent is too see our adult children become fruitful and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ, loving Him even more than we do, and giving to Him in service even more than we can. Ask yourself this question, did Nate Saint succeed as a father if this is the goal? Obviously he did.
Our problem is that we tend to confuse, I believe, issues of protection, and provision, and assume that its only as we protect ourselves and bring our family in close around us, and take no risks for the sake of anything larger than ourselves, that we're fulfilling the role of the Father. I would submit to you, that that is an impoverished view of the family, an impoverished view of being a father.
Mike: And looking at it from the other side, and say what about my view of God and what am I teaching my children about God. If I teach them that there is nothing that I would do that would ever compromise the safety of the family or our well-being. Even God can't ask me to make those sacrifices then I've basically have said that the family is God. I've enthroned the family as an idol. It seems so worthy, so acceptable to say, especially in a day when families are fragmented and there is all kinds of difficulties, to say I'll do anything necessary to guard the sanctity and well being of my family, including disobeying God. Well that's a bad message to send to your children. What's the point of being a Christian, if your not going to teach your children that God is superior to us all, including me, including you my dear children, my wife, there are no demands that he can't make of me.
That is essentially the way faith was focused for Abraham by God, when he said, "I want you to go sacrifice your son." That was a request that on the face of it looks immoral even inconsistent with what the rest of the Bible says about those things. Yet Abraham said if you tell me to do something, I'm going to do it. He didn't have to make that ultimate sacrifice, but his heart was there was nothing that God couldn't ask him to do. That's where Nate Saint is on all this, that's where all these fellows were in relative to the safety of their family. They loved them, but it wouldn't have been more constructive to prove to them, or to show to them that they were more important than God.
Mark Yarbrough: What an enormous topic because it just, it hits on the issue of, who are we, why are we here?
Mark Young: That's right.
Mark Yarbrgouh: When Jesus says, "Come and follow me," we dare not build a heaven on earth.
Mark Young: It's a huge paradigm shift.
Mark:It is a huge paradigm shift. I'm so glad Mike mentioned basically what would be called, "the cult of the family." It is a particularly North American disease that, unfortunately, we are exporting as Christians to other parts of the world that essentially says, "My goal in life is to be a good parent." That's not your goal in life. Your goal in life, and in fact, I would argue, being a good parent is to demonstrate to everyone, including your wife and children how marvelous it is to do everything for the sake of the gospel and the person of Christ.
Mark Yarbrough:Well. Wouldn't you say that's just a huge issue for the western church? I'm thinking of the wonderful discussion that will come out of even just that one episode of the movie because it does, it faces every one of us because just about the time you think you've conquered it, and we can all say it, preach it, and read the right text...
Mark Young: That's right.
Mark Yarbrough: ...there we fall prey to it.
Let's move on to another question, the actions of faith, stepping out in the unknown. It kind of goes back to this issue of tension. Where then is this issue of making a distinction between "faithful actions" and "foolish decisions?" What kind of guidance or suggestions can you give in that regard? Not just on this topic, but on any bold act of faith. You know, where is that line?
Mike:Well, I think it's very, very difficult to say where that line is drawn between faith and foolishness. I mean, these men had prayed extensively about it this is the culmination of a life, of lives that have been committed to doing this, so it's clear that they know what the dangers are. You read the other books that go before this film and you realize they do know, they do know what they're doing. I think we're just going to have to settle on the fact that the world at large, or conventional human wisdom is going to view what they did as foolish.
Mark Young: Right.
Mike:And that's exactly what scripture talks about when it says, "The foolish, the gospel is foolishness to those who don't believe it and don't know it. But unto us it's the power of God to salvation." So you look at what these people do, did, and from the perspective of conventional wisdom it's foolish. It doesn't make sense.
Mark Young:It interesting, we had a personal taste of this, and many missionaries do, from those who don't share the values of missionaries, when we decided to move to Poland in the late 1980's when it was still a Communist country. I had an uncle, in fact, who said, "Let me get this straight. You're going to take your wife and your two kids and go live in a Communist country." And I said, "Yes." He said, "You're a fool" straight to my face, and so there were many who perceived that decision was somehow over the line of foolishness, and wasn't an act of faith.
I think, once again, it gets back to our sense of end and purpose. For those who see as their purpose in life the privelege of living out the testimony of the gospel, they don't seem like foolish acts. They're acts of faith and belief of the providence of God. For those who don't share that end they seem foolish.
Mike: These questions don't come up just once in your life.
Mark Young: No.
Mike:Well, years after having gone to Venezuela, and now teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary, on our first sabbatical, my wife and I went back to live in Latin America. And as part of that we would be living for two months in Venezuela and two months in Columbia, where everybody knows, that there is a major guerrilla involvement in Columbia right now and has been for close to 30 years. And so we got letters from the State Department that said, "You need to know that this is an unacceptable level of risk, and we are not assigning State Department people to Columbia at this time, and so you know, think about this, if you go, you're doing this on your own recognizance."
So I sat down with my wife, Penny, and I said, "What do you think of it? Does this scare you?" She said, "Well, yes. It does scare me a bit." I said, "Would it make you feel too uncomfortable to go to live in Bogota under these circumstances? I'm not going to take you there. I'm not going to make you go." She said, "Well, Michael there's believers that live in the middle of this day in and day out, there's missionaries that are making big sacrifices to be there. This is what our life is about. I don't see how we can do anything less. Let's just trust God to take care of us and we'll go."
Mark Young: Yes.
Mike:I appreciated her bravery, but we did sit down and talk about it. I didn't just stuff that State Department letter under the bed and say, better not show my wife this or she won't want to go with me.
Mark Young: Right.
Mike: That to me would have been foolishness and also heartlessness.
Mark Yarbrough: Sure.
Mike:And so we went. God did protect us. We saw a lot of violence, but also I've never been in a place that was so absolutely open to the gospel as Columbia in those days, and still continues to this day. We had a very, very fruitful time. I even wrote back to the faculty at one point, because we do have to make a report during our sabbatical. I said, "Folks, if only you could be for one time in your life where God's really at work, you'd just be thrilled.
Mark Yarbrough: Right.
Mike:When I came back I had to answer the question of, well what do you think's going on at the Seminary? But it is, it's a place where manifestly it's hardest time, it's in the midst of a period of real struggle and violence that touches almost everybody's life.
Mark Yarborough:Dr. Pocock, Dr. Young, thank you very much for your time, that wonderful discussion. Obviously we would all be saying that you know, providentially we trust that the Lord is going to take the movie and more importantly the historical events behind that, there's a lot of questions that are going right now, and we pray that even some of this discussion will benefit others, and that they can take that and have fruitful discussions about what the Lord wants from each and every one of us. Let's close with a word of prayer. Mike would you lead us?
Mike:Sure. Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that in your soverign grace you sent your Son into the world to bear our sins and to give to us a new and abundant life, and in that movie, "The end of the Spear," we also saw that you, Lord Jesus, are still in the business of redeeming lives that are bent on bitterness, violence, and revenge, transforming them and turning them around. Lord, give us grace, we pray, to be willing to be involved with people who are in the midst of violence, whether it's in Latin America, the Middle East, the Far East, or portions of Africa, parts of Europe. Lord, there's so many places in the world today that are upset. We pray that by your grace your people would not be fearful to walk in, and even to make ultimate sacrifices in order to bring the gospel of the transforming grace of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Mark Yarbrough: Amen.
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