Only two parts of the story left! I enjoyed writing this part of the story, because everything was coming together all at once, like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, going faster and faster and growing bigger and bigger.
(On a side note – we’ve crossed the 2,000 hits mark! 🙂 This little blog is going to be quiet for the next week, as I’m giving myself a chance to take a breath and spend some time figuring out the next plan of attack, as well as some time at the piano and sewing machine instead of the computer – I hope! And, I’m starting a new job on Monday, so that will be another new adventure!)
Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “The time is ripening fast. The men and the other wives and I spent long hours discussing this project of which we had dreamed for so many months and years. Olive Fleming remembered what she had read in Pete’s diary of his willingness to give his life for the Aucas. I reminded Jim of what we both knew it might mean if he went. ‘Well, if that’s the way God wants it to be,’ was his calm reply, ‘I’m ready to die for the salvation of the Aucas.’ While still a student in college Jim had written: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.'” These men knew that they were looking at the possibility of losing their lives in the attempt to make contact with the Waodani, but they were willing to take that risk so the Waodani might have the chance of hearing that Christ died for their sins.
Two gift flights were left before the actual ground operation was to take place. On December 23, when the Elliots and Flemings had gone to Arajuno to spend Christmas with the McCullys, Nate flew Jim over the Waodani settlement. As had become usual, the Waodani tied something onto the end of the line after Jim and Nate lowered their gift. It was the heaviest bundle yet, and they flew back to Arajuno and let the bark-cloth bundle down on the ground hard. Nate recorded the contents of the bundle:
Two or three little packets of peanuts
A couple of pieces of cooked manioc
A cooked plantain
Two squirrels, very apparently killed by the hard fall
One parrot, alive but a bit nervous
Two bananas in with the parrot
Two pieces of pottery, busted to bits in the fall
A piece of cooked meat and a smoked monkey tail
“This is by far the most all-out effort at a fair-trade arrangement on the part of the [Aucas],” Nate wrote. “We are all delighted.”
Elizabeth Elliot recorded, “Even though Pete had not made his final decision, he and Olive with three other couples who would be directly involved in the project were together on the 23rd for discussion. (Roger and Barbara Youderian still were on their station in the southern jungle.) The wives especially wanted to know what cautions the men were going to take for their safety. They decided that guns would be carried at all times, but hidden, and if things started to get out of hand, they would show the guns to let the Waodani know that the white man had the upper hand. If that was not enough, shots would be fired, but only to scare them.
Roger had drawn up a plan of operation. Jim was to be in charge of putting together sections of a house to put up in a tree so that it could be quickly and easily built once they landed on “Palm Beach”. Having a house up off the ground would keep them safe at night, especially if a lantern were used to light the ground at the base of the tree. Ed’s responsibility was collecting items for trade with the Waodani; Roger was to make up the first aid kit; Nate saw to the transportation and communication, Jim was in charge of the weapons and ammunition, and when later on Pete decided he would go too, he was to be responsible for helping Nate on the flights to and from Arajuno, for flights over the Auca houses when he would shout over the loudspeaker, and for keeping supplies on the beach.
The language material that Elizabeth and Jim had gathered in the previous weeks was memorized by each member of the party. Marj’s place was to be at the radio in Shell Mera, standing by at all times when the plane was flying, and keeping set schedules of contact with the men on the ground. It was decided that Barbara would stay in Arajuno, helping Marilou with the preparation of food which Nate was to fly daily to Palm Beach.
The men were not alone in this great project; their wives were every bit a part of it as they were. They knew the risk that their husbands were taking, and they had to be willing to take that risk along with them.
“The other wives and I talked about the possibility of becoming widows,” Elizabeth wrote. “What would we do? God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen His Word would hold. We knew that ‘when He putteth forth His sheep, He goeth before them.’ God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point. Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first – God and His work held first place in each life. It was the condition of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.”
Why did the men go? It was not the thrill of adventure that lured them on; their motivation came from a different source. Each man had a personal relationship with God, recognizing that he belonged to God, first of all by creation, and secondly by redemption through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. This double claim on his life settled once and for all the question of loyalty. It was not a matter of striving to follow the example of a great Teacher. To copy the the perfect life of Jesus Christ was impossible for a human being. To these men, Jesus Christ was God, and had actually taken upon Himself human form, in order that He might die, and, by His death, provide not only escape from the punishment which their sin deserved, but also a new kind of life, eternal both in length and quality. This meant simply that Jesus Christ was to be obeyed, and more than that, that He would provide the power to obey. The point of decision had been reached. God’s command ‘Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature’ was the [instruction to be obeyed, no matter what the men wanted or how they felt.] The question of their own safety was not important. The decision had been made, and the date was set. The day they would land on Palm Beach was Tuesday, January 3rd, 1956.
Monday morning, January 2nd, was a good day for flying. By this time Pete had decided to go, so Nate had planned to get Pete and Olive and the McCullys back to Arajuno from Shandia that day, (they had all been together at Shandia on New Years’ Day) and to bring Jim over on Tuesday. But that morning Nate told Jim over the radio that he thought Jim should get ready to go to Arajuno that day so they could take advantage of the clear weather. While the Flemings and McCullys were being flown to Arajuno, Jim hurriedly began packing, throwing anything he thought might be useful or amusing to the Waodani into an Indian carrying-net – a harmonica, snakebite kit, flashlight, yo-yo, and most importantly, the notebook of Waodani language material. Elizabeth helped him, all the while wondering if this would be the last time she would help him pack, or if this would be the last lunch he would eat in Shandia. When Nate returned with the plane, Elizabeth and Jim went out the door together. Jim did not look back. Out at the airstrip, he kissed her goodbye and then the little plane was off.
That night the men made a rough time schedule for the next day’s landings on Palm Beach so they could see if they could get everything set up on the beach by evening. They carefully made lists of every detail and laid out all of their equipment.
Nate didn’t sleep much that night. As before, the great responsibility he bore for the success of the mission weighed heavily on him. Everything seemed to depend on his first landing and take-off on Palm Beach.
The next morning, a delay caused by some brake trouble with the plane gave the men time for breakfast and prayer together. At the end of their prayers the men sang one of their favorite hymns, “We Rest on Thee.” Their voices rang with conviction as they sang the last verse:
“We rest on Thee, our Shield and Defender,
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
When passing through the pearly gates of splendor
Victors, we rest with Thee through endless days.”
Nate and Ed took off in the plane at 8:02 A.M. Fog over the Curaray River was breaking up, and as they got over the site it thinned so they could slip beneath it and make an approach. They flew low over the sand, checking it for sticks and other hazards, and pulled back up. On the second pass, Nate felt good with the approach and set the plane down on the sand. As the weight came down on the wheels, he could tell that the sand was soft, but it was too late to back out now. They landed safely, rejoicing that the first landing had gone well.
They ran up and down the sandbar, searching for the best course for a take-off attempt and removing any sticks that could puncture a tire. Ed took a movie camera to one end of the strip while Nate taxied the plane to the other end toward a take-off position. He tried taking off, but before he reached the end of the strip he felt the right wheel sink into the sand. Nate’s heart sank with it, and he cut the engine. Ed helped him reposition the plane and find some firmer places in the sand, and Nate tried taking off again.
This time he made it out, and went back to Arajuno, where he picked up Jim and Roger. Instead of their original list of supplies, they took with them only what was absolutely necessary and Nate let some of the air out of the tires at Johnny Keenan’s suggestion. That, along with the sun drying out the sand, made the second landing and takeoff much better.
The men at Palm Beach immediately began working according to plan while Nate made three more flights and brought in Pete and the rest of the supplies. When his flights were finished, he flew over Terminal City and called to the Waodani to come to the Curaray the next day. Over the next three days, the men settled in to their temporary home at Palm Beach, Nate and Pete continuing to keep watch over the Waodani settlement and encourage them to come to the Curaray. It was looking as though they might be on their way, and the men waited in anticipation, while keeping themselves entertained by working, keeping watch and calling Waodani phrases out into the jungle, reading, fishing, and floating in the river as a way to cool off and get away from the hundreds of bugs that plagued them.
On one of their flights over Terminal City, Nate and Pete saw a man on a platform the people had built there, kneeling in the direction of the camp site on the river and pointing with both hands. It looked as though a visit from the Waodani was not far away.