BY RUSTY BENSON | AFA Journal Associate Editor
In an epilogue to the 2005 edition of the best selling Through
Gates of Splendor, author Elisabeth Elliot writes that she has
sometimes wondered if audiences tire of hearing the true story of
five American missionaries including her former husband Jim
Elliot who were killed by primitive tribesmen in the jungles
of Ecuador in 1956. Apparently they do not.
On the 50th anniversary of the historic martyrdom, the remarkable
story is the subject of a major motion picture from Every Tribe
Entertainment titled End of the Spear. The movie was scheduled
for release January 20 on 1,200 screens nationwide.
The movie is based on a new book, also titled End of the Spear,
by Steve Saint. Saint is the son of Nate Saint, the missionary pilot
who was killed as part of the mission team working to bring the
Gospel to the notoriously violent Waodani Indians.
A documentary version of the story, Beyond
the Gates of Splendor, is also available on DVD.
The new movie, documentary and book all tell the story from two
new perspectives: that of Steve Saint, who has maintained a close
relationship with the Waodani, and from the view of the tribesmen
While the elements of a great movie are in place an
enthralling story, a competent cast, an exotic backdrop and high
production values Christian audiences may find two weaknesses.
First, the authentic and passionate Christ-centered motive of the
missionaries is lacking, rendering an incomplete portrayal. In contrast,
Elliots book clearly documents the Gospel zeal that drove
the mission endeavor.
Second, Christians may be ambivalent at the choice of Chad Allen
to portray both Nate Saint and a grown-up Steve Saint. Allen is
an out-spoken gay activist who crusades against a federal marriage
Despite the movies shortcomings, it makes an important contribution
to the understanding of the events surrounding the killings and
to the changes that took place in the tribe in the years after.
In addition, the human drama of a son losing his father, as well
as the ongoing close relationship between Steve Saint and the Waodani
are well done.
Hopefully, the new movie will create a renewed interest in the
people and events that first shook the world a half-century ago.
Still, Christians are most likely to find Elliots book the
most satisfying account.
Available at AFA
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
$6.15 in paperback
Beyond the Gates
of Splendor: A True Story DVD video $17.58
End of the Spear by Steve
Saint $20.23 in hardcover
End of the Spear by Steve
Saint $29.03 audio book on CD