A Young Man was Recently Martyred as He Tried to Share Christ
On November 16,2018, a young American man was shot and killed by remote primitive tribesmen with bows and arrows as he was trying to share his Christian faith. John Allen Chau, an American from the state of Washington, and a graduate from Oral Roberts University was just twenty-six years old. He felt that God was calling him to bring Christianity to a remote primitive tribe that lived on North Sentinel Island, one of the islands near India.
North Sentinel Island is a place so shrouded in mystery that the Indian government says that no outsiders know the language or the customs of the warlike people living there. It seems that these North Sentinel islanders reject any contact with the civilized world. They are hunter-gatherers who will kill to protect their isolation from all outsiders. And in the past, they have murdered anyone who has ever tried to set foot on their island. The Indian government has declared the North Sentinel Island “off limits”.
John Chau knew how dangerous it would be for him to go where no one else could go, but he felt that God was calling him. He loved these people and believed that they would become Christians and that they would be with him in heaven.
John flew to India in early November 2018 and hired five local fishermen to take him in their boat to the forbidden island, but he told no one. He didn’t want to put others at risk with the Indian government. He knew his mission was illegal. That his helpers would have to maneuver their boat to avoid the Indian authorities who patrolled the waters around North Sentinel Island. But on November 14th, the fishermen with John set off in their boat by night across the dark waters toward North Sentinel Island to avoid detection by the Indian government.
On November 15,2018 they arrived in the area and the fishermen let John Chau off a half mile from North Sentinel Island. They feared being shot by arrows from the angry islander’s if they brought their boat any closer. John paddled in a kayak to the remote island and went ashore smiling and offering gifts of fish, scissors and safety pins to the islanders. He sang worship songs to them and tried to make friends. For a while the naked tribesmen surrounded him speaking in high-pitched sounds and gestures. But then one of the men shot at John and the arrow went through his Bible. Others raised their spears to attack.
John ran away and swam back to the fishermen’s boat, anchored the half mile out in the harbor. Disappointed and torn by fear but urged on by faith, he prayed asking God for guidance. What should he do? Should he go back and try again to reach these people tomorrow? “I’m scared,” he wrote the evening of November 15th in his diary. “Watching the sunset and it’s beautiful – crying a bit…wondering if it will be the last sunset I see. I think I could be more useful alive…but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” And then he asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.” He left 13 pages written in pen and pencil with the fishermen who had transported him to the island.
John was galvanized by the feeling that he was God’s instrument to these lost people. He so wanted them to know Christ. And he believed that the Lord was with him. “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your Name?” he wrote in his diary that last night.
And then the next morning, November 16,2018, John made his final trip to the forbidden island. The fishermen watched from their boat as he disappeared into the forest. And then they watched anxiously all day and all night. But there was no sign of John Chau. Then on the morning of the following day, November 17th, the fishermen sadly watched as tribesmen could be seen dragging Chau’s body along the beach and burying his remains. Chau was apparently shot and killed by arrows, but the cause of his death cannot be confirmed.
John Chau is a modern- day Christian martyr. He joins the ranks of all the other Christian martyrs. Down through these last two thousand years, millions of Christians have been killed for their faith in Christ. Steven might have been the first known martyr who was stoned to death because he was leading others to Christ. James, Jesus’ disciple, was killed by the sword. And most of Jesus’ disciples lost their lives because they were spreading the gospel.
In the book of Revelation in the Bible it says: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the Word of God and for the testimony which they held.” (Revelations 6:9) These martyrs were praying for justice and God gives them white robes (representing righteousness and victory) and tells them to “rest a little longer”.
Jesus calls all His followers to go into all the world and spread the gospel – the good news that Jesus will give us eternal life. Christ calls us to go and lead others to Him. Here are Jesus’ words. “Then Jesus came to the disciples and followers and said, ’All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) This is the “Great Commission”.
Some people think that John Chau was wrong to visit this remote island tribe. That the tribe was harmed by John’s visit. But John’s faith and prayers for this tribes’ salvation may be answered in ways that we cannot understand. There is a spiritual side that we can only begin to see by faith. The early Christians were forbidden by Rome and by the Jewish religious leaders to spread their faith. If the early Christians had obeyed their rulers, Christianity would not have spread and we would probably be heathens today.
In 1954 or 1955, five young missionary couples from Wycliffe Bible Translators traveled with their children to the jungles of Ecuador in South America and prayed that they might share God’s Word with the Aca Indians, who lived there. The Aca tribe, like the tribe on North Sentinel Island, were warring primitive people who did not trust their civilized neighbors. After sending gifts to the Aca’s and praying and preparing, the five missionary men set out through the jungle to meet these people. Nate Saint, one of the missionaries, promised his wife Marge that he would call her on their two- way radio that evening. His call never came through. When the authorities sent troops into the jungle to find the men, they found their five bodies in the jungle, brutally cut to death by the Aca’s swords and spears.
Elizabeth Elliott was one of the five young missionaries who was left a widow when her husband, Jim Elliott, was martyred along with Nate Saint and the three other missionaries. Elizabeth loved the Aca Indians and believed that her husband and the other men did not die in vain. She believed that God wanted the Aca Indians to become Christians. She cried and prayed and traveled through the Ecuadorian jungle to the Aca Indian village along with Marge Saint. These two women were taken into the Aca village where they loved on the people who had savagely murdered their husbands. Over a period of several years these women learned the language of the Aca Indians and shared Christ with them. Soon, the whole Aca Indian tribe accepted Christ and became Christian. Many photos were sent back home of Elizabeth and Marge along with the Aca Indians all praising God together.
Elizabeth Elliott wrote the book, “Through Gates of Splendor” telling the amazing story of how the whole Aca tribe miraculously became Christian. Elizabeth believed that in some way, God used the deaths of her husband and the other missionaries to open the hearts of the Aca Indians to Christ. We will never know.