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Beyond The Gates Of Splendor - True Story of the Ultimate Sacrifice


Steve Saint with Mincaye, the Waodani tribesman who murdered his father and later became a grandfather figure to him - only because Steve was able to forgive him

Beyond The Gates Of Splendor: A True Story of the Ultimate Sacrifice

by Waitsel Smith

 5 Stars - Best Documentary 2004 - direction and screenplay by Jim Hanon, based on the best-selling book, Through Gates Of Splendor, by Elisabet Elliot

Profound Look at Love and Forgiveness in the Jungles of Ecuador

At the end of World War II, as oil hungry companies try to move into the jungles of Ecuador, one isolated tribe, the Waodani, tries to hold them at bay with only spears, and many lives are lost on both sides. At the same time, the tribe is killing each other off at an alarming rate because of unchecked anger and a lawless culture that settles its differences at the end of a spear. Into this primitive society come five young missionary men determined to convert the people to Christianity. It's the ultimate test of courage and faith. Even though it seems they are making progress in their contact with the people, in 1956 they are speared to death as the result of a tribal feud. The men have guns, but refuse to use them, reasoning that they were prepared for Heaven but the Waodanis were not.

Now the wives of the slain men must decide what to do. Two of them - Elisabet, wife of Jim Elliot, and Rachel, wife of Nate Saint - determine to pick up where their husbands left off, believing the tribe will treat women differently. They contact two women who have fled the tribe, and with their help move their children and belongings into one of the villages. There they teach them the Bible - God's carvings - and eventually befriend the very men who killed their husbands. The people repent of their life of unchecked killing and decide to follow Christ, causing their homicide rate to drop 90%. One of the tribesmen - the one who led the 1956 attack on the five missionary men - becomes a grandfather figure to one of the missionary children, whom he helps raise; and one of the missionary daughters, when she is baptized, insists on having the ceremony take place in the river where her father was killed and between two of the men who killed him.

This is an endearing documentary of the power of forgiveness and how the love of Christ can transform a people. Director Jim Hanon, who also wrote the screenplay, did a superb job marrying still shots, actual home movies from the time, vintage film clips, new footage and dramatizations into a coherent whole. He based his script on the best-selling book, Through Gates Of Splendor, by Elisabet Elliot. One may ask the question, "Why did those men have to die?" But I believe the film shows that they were the seeds that brought forth the harvest of an entire people, and gave witness to the world that there is something more precious than one's own life. Their story will appear again as a feature film in January, 2006 called End Of The Spear.

Just a note: I got to hear composer Ron Owen - who wrote the music for this film, as well as that of End Of The Spear - speak at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival this year, and to speak with him briefly. He is a self-effacing man with a heart for God and outstanding musical ability. The score for End Of The Spear is wonderful, as I believe the film will be. I love the hearts of those five men and their families, who sacrificed everything for a people they didn't even know; as well as the hearts of these filmmakers. Please pray for them, and that God will raise up others like them.

Rated PG


Waitsel Smith, November 6, 2005

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Text © 2005 Waitsel Smith. Image © 2005 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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