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The crowd in the echoing hall of the airport ebbs and flows like flotsam and jetsam in a dirty river. I keep my eye on the red feather in the bird-breast headpiece worn by an elfin man. He still seems more legend than reality. I am following Mincaye, a leader of the formerly "stone age" Waodani people of Ecuador's Amazon jungle. He is following Babae, Steve Saint. Steve's baseball-capped head bobs up and down with his gait, like that of a lanky teenager. I think Mincaye would follow him anywhere, but here, in Hyderabad, India, Mincaye follows especially closely.

This is the latest chapter in a story that began 50 years ago on a remote sandbar in the jungles of Ecuador. Then Mincaye and fellow tribesmen used spears and machetes to slaughter Saint's father, Nate Saint, a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilot, along with missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian.

The story, first recounted in Life magazine and now retold in End of the Spear, a motion picture released this month, has inspired many Christians to consider a missionary calling and sparked dozens of books (including Elisabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor), movies, radio programs, and articles. More importantly, the violent, short lives of the Waodani—called "Auca," or savages, at the time—were transformed. Mincaye, once a murderer of missionaries, has become a missionary himself. That's why he is here.

Also remarkable is how well Mincaye represents where the missions movement is headed.

"I came to speak God's carvings," Mincaye says, as Steve translates from Wao tededö into English. "Carvings" is the term the Waodani use for the Bible. "God tells us to teach the other people."

From 'Stone Age' to Today

While death by ...

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In the Magazine

January 2006

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