You may recall hearing of the martyrdom of missionaries Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Peter Fleming in Ecuador almost 50 years ago, in a remote area known as Palm Beach. It was the subject of the book Through Gates of Splendor, written by Elisabeth Elliot, Jim's widow. The article Piper quoted in his sermon was written by Steve Saint, Nate's son, entitled "Did They Have to Die?"
In a word, yes.
Saint, who returned to Ecuador and interviewed the men who murdered his father, writes, "As they described their recollections, it occurred to me how incredibly unlikely it was that the Palm Beach killing took place at all; it is an anomaly that I cannot explain outside of divine intervention." Saint understood that the incident was not a random tragedy. It was all part of God's ultimate plan.
The murders eventually brought Rachel Saint, Nate's sister, and Elisabeth Elliot back to live among the Aucas, where they shared the gospel with the very men who took their loved ones from them. Those men became followers of Christ. Steve Saint writes that one of them "has repeatedly asserted that all he wants to do is go to heaven and live peacefully with the five men who came to tell him about Wangongi, creator God."
Saint came to the conclusion that everything worked out just as God had planned:
- Dad strove to find out what life really is. He found identity, purpose, and fulfillment in being obedient to God's call. He tried it, tested it, and committed himself to it. I know that the risk he took, which resulted in his death and consequently his separation from his family, he took not to satisfy his own need for adventure or fame, but in obedience to what he believed was God's directive to him. I suppose he is best known because he died for his faith, but the legacy he left his children was his willingness first to live for his faith.