I suppose we each have a different picture in our head that we see when we hear the word. Super heroes, Bible heroes, history heroes, real life heroes, family heroes– the list could probably go on and on. While I believe that our Lord, Jesus, is the only real hero worth imitating 100% of the time, I do believe that there have been men and women who have gone before us who have paved a path worth following, either by their courage, determination, integrity, and personal conviction to do right no matter the cost to themselves.
We have been studying some traditional heroes in our school time, but at times have been somewhat disappointed when we’ve learned that some of these heroes of history, while they accomplished great things for the world, did not always reflect a character that is worthy of imitating. So, for a breath of fresh air, we have taken some side trails, and we’ve gotten to know some delightful people–heroes for us. We have found ourselves looking forward to these side days (once per week) the most, and that’s a unanimous vote!
The people we’ve studied this year so far have been Nate Saint and we’re working our way through a book about Jim Elliot. We can thank Aunt Alison and Uncle Jay for sharing the books that have created the “spark” to know more!
When we started to read about Nate Saint’s life, we liked the story. However, when we came to the last three or four chapters, when we knew that the end of his life was near, we found it so exciting that everything in the house stopped so that we could finish the book! I had to read through lunch, because the story was that electrifying! But, why? Why did we find it so exciting that this man and four others DIED? We’re not morbid people. We cried at the end, but in the tears that flowed there was an excitement to know what made these men and their families tick. Why would they willingly put themselves in danger? It was for love of people that they wanted to reach for eternity! They were not perfect, but they had such a love that we wanted to know more. So, when we came to the end of the book, the boys started rattling off who we could learn about next–Rachel Saint, who is Nate’s sister, Jim Elliot, and, of course, his wife, Elizabeth Elliot. We could be busy for quite some time just studying out the lives of the missionaries connected with the Auca tribe in Ecuador! That’s OK with me!
I watched The End of the Spear, which is a movie based on the life of Nate Saint. It was interesting, but, personally, I found it way too violent–for myself, and to show to the boys. You can’t deny the Auca people were violent in the extreme, but I prefer for that to be left to the imagination, not displayed on the screen. The movie did, however, create even more of an interest in the key “players” in the true drama. We sought out the older Through Gates of Splendor documentary, and the boys and I watched it to get a look into the life in the Auca tribe.
But, we all still wanted to know more…
So we started Jim Elliot. A different perspective, a different road, but the same end in the same place. I have been so pleased with how interested these stories have been, not only to myself, but to the boys! We haven’t wanted to stop learning! It has led us to quite a trail of learning experiences about Nate Saint’s family and Jim Elliot’s family, and what the families chose to do after their men died.
We came naturally also to the testimony and life of Steve Saint, who is Nate’s son, who was five when his father was killed. Steve’s story is also fascinating, because through his life, you can see how he went from living in the Auca village just because his family was living with there, to him making a deliberate choice to go back with his own family, and how that shaped his life. Through several personal tragedies, Steve’s life is still a testimony to how God can carry you through pain and sorrow and loss of dreams. I found his interview very refreshing!
I can’t say enough good things about our experience in learning about the lives of real-life heroes.
Now, for some links, in case anyone else is curious about our rabbit trails of learning.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot
The first link will take you to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) page where the book, Nate Saint, On a Wing and a Prayer can be found. This company has many wonderful biographies of missionaries.
Here is a nice little unit study on the life of Jim Elliot. Comes with activities, study questions, and some coloring pages. We really enjoyed it!
Click to access TorchElliot_Guide.pdf
This site has has coloring pages and activity sheets on lots of missionaries, from the books, Christian Heroes, Then and Now Series.
This video is a nice short summary of the mission of the five missionary martyrs.
Another video that is really important in knowing about the life of the missionary families after they died is Through Gates of Splendor, by Elizabeth Elliot. It’s old, but honest jungle footage.
This next video we really enjoyed and gives a real picture into the missionary kid’s life as well as the perspective of an Auca/Huaorani man who came to the United States, and his experience here. It’s the best one that we watched!