Tales Of Flying Missionaries
By ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
Steve Saint spoke about "End of the Spear", a movie scheduled
for release in January 2006 last week in the Vette Theater at the
EAA Museum. The two-hour movie covers 50+ years beginning when his
father, Nate Saint, was a missionary in Ecuador.
The movie ends present day but concentrates on the first ten
years or so. Condensing fifty years into two hours is no easy task
but Saint says "The script is very true to the story."
According to Saint, his father sought to "combine his love for
aviation and his desire to be of service to others. Especially to
help meet their spiritual needs as well as physical needs."
In 1946 the elder Saint joined an organization, then known as
Missionary Aviation Fellowship, located in Southern California.
When a Fellowship plane and missionary were lost in Ecuador, Saint
was asked to marry his girlfriend early and head to Ecuador. Marge,
the soon -to -be Mrs. Saint was all for the idea. "You betcha" was
The Saint's flew a Stinson Voyager and set up a base at the edge
of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Six months later while trying to
transport a native for medical attention, the Stinson hit some
windshear and was put out of commission. It was replaced by a PA14,
like the one in AeroShell Square last week. That PA14 at AirVenture
is a duplicate of the plane flown by Nate Saint.
Saint's mission of Christianity and medical transport continued
without incident for seven more years until the outside world came
knocking. Shell Oil had come in to find oil. Saint knew of a tribe,
then known as the Auca or Waodani as they are now called, who
killed trespassers. Several members of neighboring tribes had been
killed as well as more than 20 Shell employees. Saint realized if
he didn't do something the tribe would be wiped out.
Saint recruited some fellow missionaries to help him try to
establish friendly contact with the Waodani. The danger of
trespassing on Waodani territory on foot was obvious. The decision
was made to use a bucket drop from the PA14 with the plane circling
low so the Waodani would associate the gifts with the people in the
airplane. On the third drop the Waodani put some gifts back into
the bucket. Believing they had made peaceful contact, Saint found a
sandbar and landed. The five men built a tree house and waited.
Three days later a man and two women from the Waodani spent the
day with the missionaries. In two more days, on January 8, 1956
another delegation came. Saint had radioed his wife to let her
know. That was the last communication with Saint and the
The following day another missionary flew by the location and
saw the PA14 stripped of fabric. Later, a search party found the
five missionaries speared to death. Young Steve Saint was now
fatherless. A couple of months later Mrs. Saint took a job in Quito
and moved there with her son.
Some months after Mrs. Saint and her son left for Quito, two
Waodani women came out of the jungle. They feared retribution on
them and the tribe for the killings. The women were given sanctuary
and by luck met up with another Waodani female, named Dayuma, who'd
left the tribe years before and had been living with Nate Saint's
sister Rachel Saint at the edge of the jungle. Young Dayuma
explained to her Waodani 'sisters' that not all foreigners kill and
they follow the 'Creator' who says do not kill.
Realizing that their tribe was in jeopardy of extinction from
progress if they didn't adapt, the three Waodani returned to their
tribe to explain about the foreigners and the words of the
'Creator'. The Waodani were very much interested in the stories of
the 'Creator' and they invited Rachel Saint and Betty Elliot (the
widow of one of the five missionaries that were speared) to live
with them and teach them.
The Waodani decided to walk a new trail of peace. Rachel Saint
managed to convince her sister-in-law to allow her to bring the
then eight-year-old Steve Saint to live in the Waodani tribe with
Rachel. Another bit of convincing was done with Mincaye, the
Waodani who killed Steve Saint's father. Rachel Saint persuaded
Mincaye to be a father figure to the youngster. "I myself will
teach him how to grow up." Mincaye promised.
Saint spent his years with the Waodani then returned to the US
for college. When Rachel Saint died in Nov 1994, he returned to
Ecuador and the Waodani to help with the burial. The Waodani
insisted Saint return to live with them permanently. Saint says "I
made excuses but I realized this was serious." He realized "They
were feeling threatened, the oil companies were moving in again,
anthropologists, environmentalists, even missionaries, who didn't
have their (the Waodani) best interest at heart."
The Waodani needed independence; to learn basic medicine,
dentistry and flying so they could take care of themselves. "These
people had been family to me." says Saint. He talked to his wife,
sold his business and moved to the jungle with their four children.
The elder two returned to college in the US after the summer and
the other two remained.
The work began building a new village, an airstrip, houses and
planting gardens. That was the easy part. The challenge was
teaching people who can't read or write dentistry, basic medicine
I-TEC was born in 1995, Indigenous People's Technology and
Education Center. The main focus is "helping indigenous God
Follower's and missionaries in frontier areas. To train and equip
believers in these frontier churches with innovative tools and
training so they can more easily explain Gods love and
The literacy gap was conquered with pictures and video. Saint
recalled from growing up with the Waodani that the children were
not taught, "The kids would watch and that's how the kids would
I-TEC began to create non-verbal training videos. They used
harsh sounds and thumbs down for no and smiles, thumbs up and
pleasant sounds for yes. The Waodani understood. Along with the
training programs portable dentist equipment was designed, which
could double as a medical table for exams or even delivering
babies. A simple plane was chosen for use as well.
In 1999, an Oklahoma gentleman, Matt Green, heard Saint and
Mincaye speak around the time of the Columbine killings and a surge
in road rage killings. Green felt the message of reconciliation
should be told. Saint and the Waodani agreed to be part of the
project once Green agreed to tell the real story.
A documentary and movie were made. The documentary "Beyond the
Gates" will be available in stores this October.
Saint has written the book, "End of the Spear", telling the tale
as well. The book is due to be published the end of 2005 or early
2006. The items will be available on the website as well as in
stores. If the movie is successful, half the profits will be used
to help people like the Waodani to be self-sufficient.
Saint does all the flying in the movie, no computer graphics, no
stunt pilots. It will be up to movie goers to see if there will be
a happily ever after, profit-wise to continue doing even more good