Bridge of Blood

January 8th, 1956 – Death of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully by Auca spears.

About two months ago, I was privileged to act in a small stage production of the play called “Bridge of Blood”. It is based on the story of Jim & Elisabeth Elliot and the four other couples that went with them to minister to the Auca Indians.

The story became much more than a mere “story” in my life through being part of the play. I had known my whole life about the story, I knew it was a true story, it was impacting to hear the way they willingly gave everything to love these unloved people–to give even their very lives, and yet…somehow, it was still “just a story” to me in so many ways.

I remember the first time I heard that Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, Nate Saint’s sister, had gone back to the tribe that mercilessly killed their husband and brother. I was astounded that they would go back. They faced evil with the love of Jesus, and His name was glorified in that tribe. Some of the men who committed the murders became mighty preachers of the gospel and said that they couldn’t wait to go to heaven to be able to thank the men they killed for being willing to give their lives to share the grace of God with them. What love is this! What a mighty God is this!

I played the part of Barbara Youderian in the play, and personally felt the grief as I watched “Roger” unknowingly, but willingly, go to his death for the sake of Christ. Before the men departed from the mission house to head out to meet up with the Aucas, they gathered together with their wives and sang We Rest On Thee.

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

Tears filled my eyes when we sang this song together as we knelt on that stage, knowing what was next, feeling the grief already, …I can’t properly describe how real it all became. The faith and trust they had in God became tangible, the wives and the struggles and strengths they went through in releasing their husbands to the care of a mighty and trustworthy God was brought blatantly before me. The reality that God WAS and IS mighty and trustworthy–even though I already knew the end of the story, and it wasn’t what they were expecting.

I stood in center stage and chokingly read these lines from the pages of Barbara Youderian’s journal:

Tonight the captain told us of finding the bodies in the river. God gave me this verse two days ago. Psalm 48:14, “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” As I came face-to-face with the news of Rog’s death, my heart was filled with praise. He was worthy of his homegoing. Help me, Lord, to be both mommy and daddy. I’ve explained to Beth that Daddy is now in heaven living with Jesus, but she can’t understand why he won’t come down and play with her once in a while. I wrote a letter to the mission family, trying to explain the peace I have. I want to be free of self-pity. It is a tool of Satan to rot away a life. The Lord has closed our hearts to grief and hysteria and filled them with His perfect peace.

Is this my response to grief and horror? Horror beyond what I can even imagine, and her words are “as I came face-to-face with [my husband’s] death, my heart was filled with praise. He was worthy of his homegoing.” This is obviously an outflow from a heart filled with God–to praise in the face of calamity, to immediately be on guard from self pity, to be filled with His perfect peace. Oh Jesus, You are good!

Their grief was real, the pain was real, and reality of being widows after barely being married at all was real, the horror was real–I’m not trying to diminish any of that. But Jesus was there in the midst of it! The Lord and all of who He is is real. He does not leave us comfortless, He comes to us. What joy, what trust!

“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy into it. Maybe He’ll send me someplace where the name of Jesus Christ is unknown. Jim, I’m taking the Lord at His word, and I’m trusting Him to prove His Word. It’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket, but we’ve already put our trust in Him for salvation, so why not do it as far as our life is concerned?” -taken from a letter Ed McCully wrote to Jim Elliot in 1950

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” – Jim Elliot

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3 thoughts on “Bridge of Blood

  1. Your words are so deeply moving, and brought tears to my eyes as I read. The story of these missionaries has always been known to us – my brother is named after Jim Elliot. But the story never grows old. Their passion, their willingness to give their lives was so challenging! But for the women who were left alone, they are such women of strength and honor as well. I so loved your words here… and I would have loved to see the drama take place! How exciting you were able to be a part of it. xoxo

  2. Thank you so much for writting this Grace. I do not know much about Barbara Youderian, I have always seen this story through the eyes of Elisabeth Elliot. It is so powerful getting a glimps of the peace of God that filled her life during a time of tragedy. To see the life of one who has her hope so confidently in Christ, that nothing is able to shake her faith. It causes me to declare to my soul once again that there is no greater thing than knowing Jesus! There is nothing greater than knowing His voice and following wherever He leads. I don’t want to waste my life!

  3. Well said, Grace. I agree. When I think about that story, it makes me just wish I knew those people. They lived with such purity and simplicity of faith! And then, I think about how amazing it would be to know them, and it makes me realize even more so how extraordinary it is that I get to know the One who gave them faith in the first place. : )

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