Faithful Heroes: Nate Saint, Piloted Missionaries Killed in Operation Auca

Nathaniel Saint was a Christian missionary pilot to Ecuador, who was killed while attempting to spread the word of God.

He was born on August 30, 1923 in Hershey, Pennsylvania and had a sister named Rachel and a brother, Sam. The Saint family was raised in Church and to develop a relationship with the Lord.

He came from a very unique family, who built a roller coaster in the backyard and sleeping patio on the roof of their home.

He was seven years old when he and Sam went on their first plane ride. Both brothers discovered a love for flying and Sam would become a commercial pilot.

When he became a young man, he joined the U.S. army for about a year, but a leg injury from a sledding accident caused some issues.

Nate Saint with a native

After his discharge, he learned to live life to his fullest, after he almost died while climbing a mountain at Yosemite National Park.

On February 14, 1948, he married Marjorie Farris. The could would go on to have three children, Kathy, Steve and Philip.

Nate loved flying so much that he invented a number of devices that are still in use by missionary pilots today.

He joined the Missionary Aviation Fellowship in September 1948 and flew short distances to supply missionaries with medicines, mail, etc.

Saint and his teammates found an Aucas {or Huaorani} settlement by air and in September 1955, they lowered gifts to the from a bucket tied to the plane.  This became known as Operation Auca.

Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, Jim Elliot

The tribes were excited to receive the gifts and gave some back. This was very unusual because they desired to be left alone and often used force to attack and kill intruders.

On January 3, 1956, the group of missionaries, which included Nate Sain, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming and Roger Youderian, landed using the beach as a landing strip.

They made initial contact on January 8, 1956 and the entire team were later killed by spears.

The Huaorani much later stated that they were fearful of a trap and it was only much later, after the men’s death, that they realized these men were their friends and meant them no harm.

Roger Youderian

The five men became famous when Life magazine published a ten page photo essay of the story and it was picked up and covered by numerous other publications, including Reader’s Digest.

Saint’s sister, Rachel, continued his mission efforts to the Huaorani. A small school in Shell, Ecuador bears the name Nate Saint’s. She and Elisabeth Elliot returned to the Huaorani settlement in February 1959.

Mincaye, who reportedly killed Nate, but later converted to Christ. Mincaye baptized Nate’s oldest son, Steve, when he visited as a child. Mincaye felt a great responsibility for Steve, because he killed his father, and adopted him as his tribal son and considered his children his grandchildren. Steve Saint and his family lived for a short time with the tribe after the death of his aunt Rachel Saint in 1994.

Mincaye and Steve Saint

Steve Saint and Mincaye traveled the world, preaching the gospel and working with the Huaorani people together.

The 2005 documentary Beyond Gates of Splendor and 2006 movie, End of the Spear recount the story of these brave missionaries, Steve Saint and Mincaye. The story is also told through two different angles in the book Through Gates of Splendor which tells the story from the angle of Life Magazine and the 2013 DVD The Grandfathers, which tells it from the POV of Nate Saint’s grandson.

In 1994, Christianity Today announced that the plane Nate Saint flew had been recovered.

The Huaorani tribe is now known as the Waodani tribe.

Steve Saint said in an interview with USA Today, ““I have personally paid a high price for what happened, but I have also had a front row seat as the rest of the story has been unfolding for half a century. I believe only God could have fashioned such an incredible story from such a tragic event,” he says. Because those five men were willing to die, everyone else in the tribe had a chance to live.”



God continues to use the death of 5 missionaries in Ecuador for his glory even today #faithfulheroes #heroesofthefaith Share on X



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.