Obeying God’s rule of forgiveness
We’ve all heard stories of forgiveness, whether it be us forgiving a child for sneaking an extra cookie from the cookie jar or perhaps a spouse forgiving their other half for an extramarital affair.
On June 27, at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon, famed missionary-author-pilot-entrepreneur Steve Saint offered a story of forgiveness that goes beyond any other that I’ve ever heard.
Saint, 59, was born in Ecuador at a mission hospital, the second of Nate and Marj Saint’s three children. Nate Saint was a missionary pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship.
In 1956, when Steve was just 5 years old, Nate and four other missionaries were taking part in Operation Auca, which was an attempt to make physical contact with the Waodani (or Huaorani) people from the Amazonian region of Ecuador in an effort to spread the gospel. All five men, however, were brutally killed by a group of Waodani warriors using spears and machetes soon after landing on ‘Palm Beach.’
‘The only thing that was important to me at that time was growing up to be just like my dad. When Dad would fly off in his plane, I would wait and wait and wait for him to come home, to see that little plane on the horizon,’ Steve said. ‘On the third day after he didn’t come home, my mom sat me down on the bed and told me he was never coming back. I couldn’t compute that in my mind. If Dad was not coming back, I had nothing left to live for.’
A few years later, Nate’s sister, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as a missionary to live among the people who had killed her brother and continue his mission of serving the Lord. Two years after she arrived, Steve was on his way to live with the people who had murdered his father. Three years after that, Steve was baptized in the Curaray River near the site of his father’s murder by two of the men who had taken part in the massacre but had since converted to Christianity.
‘They had to be special people. Why else would my dad die for them, cause my mom to pray for them and my aunt to risk her life for them?’ Steve asked.
Today, Steve travels the world with some members of the Waodani and, in particular, a man by the name of Mincaye Enquedi, who killed Nate. Steve said he didn’t just consider Enquedi a friend, but family.
That statement became evident when, in 2000, Steve’s daughter, Stephenie, had just returned home from a trip and disappeared in the midst of a coming-home party. Her parents found her in her bedroom. She asked her parents to pray for her, for her headache to go away.
At that moment, Steve’s only daughter suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. After arriving at the hospital and seeing Stephenie on the stretcher, Enquedi grabbed Steve and asked, ‘Who did this?’
‘He was ready to kill someone. I honestly believe that,’ Steve said. ‘I had to explain to him that no one did it.’
It was at that time and as the young girl’s life slipped away that Enquedi’s eyes lightened as he came to a conclusion.
‘He said, ‘Now, I see it well,’ and he went around to the nurses and doctors and asked them if they would walk God’s trail so they could see this girl again in the afterlife,’ Steve said.
Steve Saint, who has two films ‘ ‘End of the Spear’ and ‘Beyond the Gates of Splendor’ ‘ about his and his father’s experience, never hated or judged the Waodani prior to their being led to Jesus Christ and their conversion to Christianity. He told a USA Today reporter that though Enquedi was the same body, he wasn’t the same man.
Steve Saint now has a company called i-tec, which stands for Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center, which spreads the gospel through the needs of indigents of the world. Five components of i-tec are I-Fly (a flying car that’s nearing FAA approval), I-Dent (which offers full-service dentistry in a 33-pound package), I-Med (brings health care services where care is not available due to government or non-government organizations), I-See (equips indigenous believers with skills needed to identify eye disorders and fit glasses) and I-Fix (provides training to maintain and repair small engines and equipment).
After his father was killed, Steve Saint could have gone on hating the Waodani, and he certainly would have had every right to do so. Instead, he answered God’s call to turn the other cheek and forgive, and the results have been absolutely amazing.
He’s grown up to be just like his dad.