Missionary work continues among the Aucas, the Ecuadorian Indians who, 24 years ago this month, killed five American missionaries: Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Nate Saint. Assistant news editor John Maust recently visited the jungle clearing where Wycliffe Bible Translators began, and maintains its Auca outreach.

Al Meehan is navigating Wycliffe’s Helio Courier airplane through heavy rain-clouds en route to the jungle airstrip clearing that is Tiwaeno. Bad weather has delayed the 45-minute flight from Wycliffe’s jungle center of operations, Limón Cocha. Meehan seems relaxed, despite the fact that he is behind schedule.

He is among those whose lives were changed by the martyred missionaries. While a policeman in Baltimore, Maryland, Meehan read Russell Hitt’s biography of slain pilot Nate Saint and was inspired to attend Moody Bible Institute’s Aviation School. Now as a Wycliffe pilot in Ecuador, he makes deliveries of people and supplies to at least a dozen jungle airstrips.

Meehan eases the small craft into a landing pattern. The narrow, grassy clearing doubles as a soccer field, and Auca children interrupt their game long enough to back off. When the plane touches down, they chase after it like an errant ball.

Wycliffe personnel approach the plane. Translators Catherine Peeke and Rosi Jung expect a parcel of roofing nails for their new hut. Jim Yost, the bearded anthropological consultant, his wife Kathie, and three children, hope for mail. This time Meehan’s only shipment is an American journalist.

All seem happy to see Al, their airborne (and only) link to the outside. They wave as the plane takes off, then return to their work.

Mere mention of the word “Auca” ...

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