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End of the Spear is a gripping true story that in 1956 shook the world. Five missionaries (Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian) went to the Waodani people of Ecuador, and were fatally speared to death. This is the story of one of the men’s son and his father’s killer. The film begins with a tragedy, but the plot continues through the eyes of Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, one of the five who were murdered. The story follows the remarkable and unbelievable story of Steve Saint as he returns to the tribe to find the man who killed his father. As Steve deals with the conflict of revenge versus making peace in Jesus name, we learn what drives him to finally make peaceful contact with Mincayani, the man responsible for the death of his father.
End of the Spear, directed by Jim Hannon, was one of the few films produced by a Christian independent company that grossed over $1,000,000 in the first three weekends of being in theaters. A great Christian film, its message of divine forgiveness sets this film in a category all in its own. The film could have taken a number of perspectives to tell the story from, but End of the Spear is told from the perspective of a narrative still being lived out today, that of Steven Saint (Nate Saint’s son).
It is with Steve in his boyhood with his family in Ecuador that you’ll begin, seeing them in their well distanced life from society, endeavoring to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the tribesmen of the Waodani. We learn what keeps them there in pursuit of getting into contact with the tribesmen, and their missionary heart. When they landed to make contact, it is exactly what they wanted, but more than they bargained for, as their lives would be taken from them shortly after landing. How they died on that beach, would prove poignant and a reminder to the tribesmen later in their lives, mainly that they didn’t fight back. They had weapons. The five missionaries were armed, but they chose not to fight.
A light in the story is lit when Dayumae believes in Christ and talks to her people about the word of God. It is here I want to aid the viewer in a detail you might miss in the film. When watching the film you’ll hear her mention the “carvings of Waegongi”. Waegongi means God in their language. A parallel was created by explaining that Jesus Christ was God who came down and was speared, but did not retaliate; same as the five missionaries. This proved a crucial point for them as they realized that by withholding revenge they could stop the cycle of violence, and could stop living and dying by the spear.
The story could be told in many ways, but the beauty of the film is found in its emphasis on forgiveness, and laying down their rights for revenge. Justice would have had this story play out differently, but because of the life of Jesus Christ modeled in love and in grace, they had a better way out; one of cancelling the cycle of violence, cancelling the cycle of hate and revenge, and instead choosing the model of Christ to each other. No easy feat to be sure, but when a person avails their hearts to the work and will of the Father, absolutely beautiful things can happen. Reconciliation. Peace. True life discovered. Enlarging of the kingdom of God. Receiving of true life. Things that Jesus said he came to bring, when he said he came to give life, abundantly wonderful life in full measure.
The radical message of forgiveness in this great Christian film, is told in a way unrivaled by any other story, and was filmed in a way that highlighted the role of the Gospel message well. It could have lingered more on the lives of the missionaries, allowing us more of a glimpse into their worldviews that brought them so far away from the comforts of western society. There were stories that weren’t told in this film that might have proved powerful. Still with the way the story was told, viewers will walk away with a more than sufficient impression of what radical forgiveness looks like.
As you watch, don’t let the end of the movie be the end of an opportunity to discuss and struggle through what this movie might mean for you, and those around you. As Steve found strength in God to be able to forgive his father’s killer, who might God be asking you to forgive?
Forgiveness in place of revenge. It’s a theme that will remain relevant to humanity as long as we have sin in our world. May the film remind us what manner of model we have in Christ to stop and cancel our cycles of violence and hate.
If this movie impacted you, found it inspiring or even life changing, share it. Share with your friends and family. Suggest it to be shown during missions week at your church. Share it on your Facebook or Twitter feed. Help spread the message of forgiveness that is in the work of Christ.
End of the Spear was rated PG-13 for the scenes of violence and may not be appropriate for ages under 13. There is spearing but cuts away, and the sound effects of the spearing are dampened so as not to be too overwhelming. There is no profanity or sex in this film. There are scantily clad men shown. Dove.com gives it 4/5 doves, and IMDb has 7/10 stars.
End of the Spear was released January 20, 2016. It was produced by Every Tribe Entertainment, directed by Jim Hannon (who also directed “Through Gates of Splendor” which is another retelling of this story). It was shot on location in Colon, Panama. Opening weekend it grossed more than $4 million, and continued to earn $20 million in sales and rentals, earning it one of the fastest grossing independently Christian made films.
The incredible story of Steve Saint and Mincayani.