'Beyond the Gates of Splendor' shown in chapel
In a change from usual practices, Bryan College this week (Feb. 7 and 9) is showing the documentary Beyond the Gates over two days in chapel.
Set in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, Beyond the Gates tells the story of the Waodani, one of the most violent tribes the world has ever known. The primitive customs of this isolated tribe demanded that the Waodani kill not only their enemies and outsiders, but their fellow tribes-people. Fueled by fearful superstition, they sometimes even buried their own children alive.
The Waodani were the most violent society ever documented. Six of every 10 deaths of Waodani adults were homicides.
In late 1955, five young American missionaries attempted to make peaceful contact with the notorious tribe. Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian lowered buckets carrying gifts from their small airplane to curious tribe members on the ground below. Eventually the Waodani even returned the gesture by placing their own gifts into the bucket.
The young missionaries took this exchange as a positive sign and decided to go further – they wanted to meet the Waodani face-to-face. So the five men made camp on a small riverside sandbar they called “Palm Beach.”
On Jan. 7, 1956, three members of the tribe ventured out to meet the missionaries. They seemed friendly, and the men eagerly anticipated a friendly exchange with more Waodani on the following day. But it was not to be. The Waodani returned to Palm Beach on Jan. 8, and speared all five missionaries to death.
The news of the brutal murders made headlines around the world. But the violent end of the missionaries’ lives was only the beginning of the Waodani story.
Shortly after the killings, the wife of one of the fallen men and the sister of another went into the jungle to live with the Waodani. Two years later, their message of peace and forgiveness had transformed the tribe – the homicide rate fell by 90 percent.
Nearly 40 years after the death of his father, Steve Saint returned to the jungle to live with the killers of his father. Steve, his wife Ginny, and four children left the comforts of North America for the wild unknown of the Amazon. His new life with the tribesmen answered many childhood questions about his father’s death. He now clearly understood the transformation in the lives of this once savage people.
In Beyond the Gates, the great irony of this powerful story is fully revealed. The very same Waodani who killed the five missionaries in 1956 now share their incredible story of how their lives – and those of their people – have been changed forever. Hear the story from the people who lived it.
Click here to view a video clip and learn more about the documentary.