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****End of the Spear

by Steve Saint

Reviewed March 5, 2006.
Tyndale House Publishers, New York, 2005.  338 pages.

Available at Sembach Library (MCN 986.6 SAI).

I haven’t yet seen the movie based on this book, and it’s hard to imagine that it could include as much as the book does.  Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, one of the five missionaries killed by the Waodani tribe (known as Aucas—“savage killers”) back in 1956.  He tells the story, not only of the Waodani and how they “learned to walk God’s trail,” but also how in modern times, they asked Steve and his family to come live with them and help them get along with the modern world.

The request came when Steve went back to Ecuador for his Aunt Rachel’s funeral.  She had spent her life with the people who had killed her brother.  Steve had grown up there, too, and was considered one of them.  After all, he could shoot a blow gun and speak their language. 

Also at his aunt’s funeral, Steve Saint found out more about his father’s death.  He learned that a man he loved as a second father had been the one who did the spearing.  He shows the tremendous transformation in the lives of the Waodani.  They admit themselves that they were doing so much killing, they would soon have died out if they hadn’t learned about God’s way.

It was nice to read this book after reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, where the author accuses the missionaries of exploiting the natives for the sakes of the oil companies.  It’s true that there’s a good chance the oil companies would have killed or driven out the Waodani if things had continued as they were.  But the missionaries brought life and hope, not exploitation.

In 1995, Steve Saint and his family moved to live among the Waodani.  They wanted help relating to the modern world full of people who did want to exploit them.  The Waodani built an airstrip and built their own light aircraft to be able to fly medical missions.  They learned how to do their own medical care.  Steve was careful to have them build their own community buildings and such, so they would not feel they belonged to the missionaries.  He was interested in equipping them to be independent of him as their culture had to have more dealings with the rest of the world.

Steve Saint weaves in his father’s story, the stories of the Waodani whom he loves, and what it meant to him to move back to the jungle.  Especially powerful is when he shows that his father’s death—which of course caused him great pain—ended up being used to bring thousands of people closer to God.

This is a powerful and interesting story.  Steve Saint’s love for his Waodani brothers comes out on every page, and we can see how much wisdom they have of their own, even if they don’t know how to program a computer.  This book will move, inspire, and challenge you.

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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