Paul Fleming at desk

In 1942 a missionary to Malaysia named Paul Fleming contracted cerebral malaria and returned home. While recovering he spent hours talking with pastor Cecil Dye about the need for reaching remote tribes for Christ. They formed an interdenominational agency named New Tribes Mission, and soon Dye, his brother, and three other men arrived with their families in Bolivia to establish a ministry among the Ayoreo, a wild tribe of Indians. Bolivians warned them of danger, but the men nonetheless moved their families into the heart of the jungle and established a base. From there the five plunged into the thicket in search of Ayoreo.

A month passed, and a search party set out along a rocky path over the hills. They found nothing but a cracked camera lens, a sock, a machete, and some other personal items. A second search found more effects at an abandoned Ayore site. Army troops prepared to invade the area in retribution for the apparent murders, but a mission representative stopped them, saying, “Don’t go! We want to reach them for Christ.”

Years passed, and the women moved deeper into Ayore territory, still hoping their husbands were alive. Then in 1948 a band of naked Indians appeared at the camp, took proffered gifts, and disappeared. Later they returned for more gifts and told the women their husbands were dead.

Gradually more details emerged: On November 10, 1944 the five missionaries had approached an Ayore village, creating great excitement. An impatient warrior had released an arrow, wounding one of them. Another missionary pulled out the arrow, and the five walked rapidly away. Upoide, an enraged warrior, led a band after the men, and one by one the missionaries were clubbed, speared, and killed.

The wives soon learned that it was Upoide himself who had approached their camp, telling the story. When he sensed the women would forgive him, he confessed his involvement, repented, and came to Christ. A permanent Christian settlement was soon established among the Ayores as a base for other missionary activity, and a fruitful ministry to South American aboriginals continues to this day.

The Lord is my strength, the reason for my song, because he has saved me. I praise and honor the Lord—he is my God and the God of my ancestors. The Lord is his name, and he is a warrior! (Exodus 15:2,3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Nov. 10.

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