Roger Youderian – Operation Auca
1923 – 1956
Go Ye and Preach the Gospel. Five did, and Died. This was the title of the January 30, 1956, Life magazine article that told of five missionaries who lost their lives while striving to accomplish the command given in Mark 16:15. Operation Auca was an attempt by those five missionary families from the United States to make contact with the Huaorani people of the rainforest of Ecuador. The Huaorani, also known as Aucas (a modification of awqa, the Quechua word for “enemies”), were an isolated tribe known for their violence against both their own people and outsiders who entered their territory. With the intention of being the first Christians to evangelize the previously unreached Huaorani, the missionaries began making regular flights over Huaorani settlements in September 1955, dropping gifts. After several months of exchanging gifts, on January 3, 1956, the missionaries established a camp at “Palm Beach,” a sandbar along the Curaray River, a few miles from Huaorani settlements.
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Several years after the death of the men, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, and the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel, returned to Ecuador as missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International) to live among the Huaorani. This eventually led to the conversion of many, including some of those involved in the killing. Only eternity will tell how many lives have been impacted around the world for the cause of Christ because of the obedience of these missionaries to surrender their lives to preach the gospel. Artist note: Pictured left to right: (Row 1) Pete Fleming, Nate Saint and Jim Elliot; (Row 2) Roger Youderian and Ed McCully