New creatures in Christ

Touched by the love of God, two men on different continents experienced the love of God that changes lives through the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The first man’s story began in the 1950s deep in the jungles of Ecuador. In 1956 the men from five young missionary families reached out to the Auca Indians – a tribe shrinking into extinction with its culture of revenge killings and philosophy of “kill or be killed.”

The five men made several tentative gestures of friendliness to this stone age tribe before they flew to a beach on the river near the tribe. They set up their camp, spoke with their families at home and then radio silence followed.

The five were found dead from wooden spears. They had guns, but had not used them.

The story of their deaths and their families’ responses went round the world in headlines, in a best selling book “Through Gates of Glory” and a later movie of the same title.

After the massacre, some of their surviving family members finished their quest. They eventually lived with the Auca Indians and taught them about the love of God. Steve Saint lived with this father’s killers during his early teens. He learned their language and hunting skills in the years before he left for college, married and established successful businesses. He returned to Ecuador for the burial of his aunt Rachel Saint who had lived with the Aucas until she died.

Forty years after his father’s death, Steve Saint picks up the biography of the tribe in his book, “At the End of the Spear.”

Only after Rachel’s death did the Aucas and Steve begin conversations that revealed the names and faces of his father’s murderers. The man Steve had come to love, trust and consider his grandfather had killed his father.

Later, the murderer found “God’s trail,” put down his spear and declared he would no longer kill.

After Rachel’s death, the Aucas asked Steve to come and help them move out of the stone age and into the space age. Saint lived with them one year to assess their situation and what he could do to assist them into independent life in the space age. He visits often, but always seeks to develop ways to teach the Aucas cultural independence in the 21st century – without hand-outs from richer, more modern cultures.

The man who killed Steve’s father has traveled with Steve to tell his story at mission conferences. Steve has seen thousands from around the world stand to testify that the deaths of the five men, and their families’ subsequent decisions, greatly influenced their decision to reach out and spread God’s love through missions.

Steve still misses his father but says that what Satan did to try to stop the Gospel, God used to spread His message around the world.

In another biography, “Out of the Black Shadow,” Stephen Lingu tells the story of God’s love changing him over night from an angry 22-year-old terrorist into a preacher of the gospel of Christ.

After his parents abandoned him early in life, Lingu lived for years in his aunt’s chicken coop hoping she would feed him. He spent his teen years to the age of 22 living alone under a bridge. He supplied his needs from the trash bins of the wealthy or by stealing.

He grew up hungry, cold, uneducated and very angry. By the age of 22, he led a group of young terrorists. One night, they planned to join others in a night of terror. With bags of small bombs in their hands, they entered a tent filled with people planning to toss those explosives into the crowd at a set time.

But God had another plan.

Waiting for the time, Lingu stopped inside the tent, sat down in back and listened to a young woman singing of God’s love. And he kept listening (waving his followers to hush) as the speaker talked of God’s awareness of individual sins and love for the sinner.

Before the preacher finished speaking, Lingu ran to the front crying. He wanted to know how he could experience this love. Instead of leading his gang in tossing their handmade bombs; he embraced the love of Christ and became a follower of Him. The next day he stood up on a bus and told everyone he had found real love, a life changing love. Three of the men on that bus who responded to his uneducated, untrained message went on to become pastors and missionaries – as did Lingu.

Through the loving discipling of others, Lingu learned to read and study the Bible, to live in a house, eat politely, dress for the occassion and live in a multi-cultural society. God used him to reach others: first a few in his city and country, then in bordering countries and finally he has traveled around the world with the Gospel of Christ.

He found his divorced parents. He welcomed his mother into his home with his wife and children. She, too, was changed by the Gospel of Christ and began sharing God’s love with others. Years later, he found and welcomed his much-older father to live out his life in the Lingu home.

It is an old story told anew many times in the lives of believers through the years. Both stories reflect the reason for the season. “Thanks be to God for His wonderful gift,” II Corinthians 9:15.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at