The last words John Allen Chau wrote to his family were, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people.” On November 17, 2018, he was brutally murdered by the very people he was trying to reach.
I first learned about what happened from a text I received from friend and Crossroads’ missionary, Mat Staver. John Chau had been part of a ministry Mat founded called Covenant Journey. A ministry that helps college students strengthen their faith by taking them on immersive trips to the Holy Land. Students from over 300 colleges and universities have participated in Covenant Journey since it’s inception.
“When I heard the news of John’s death, I couldn’t believe it. I was numb. John loved people, and he loved Jesus. He was willing to give his life to share Jesus with the people on North Sentinel Island,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Covenant Journey and Liberty Counsel. “Ever since high school, John wanted to go to North Sentinel to share Jesus with this indigenous people,” said Staver.
“John loved his parents and his family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. While we grieve, John is celebrating eternal life with Jesus, whom he loved dearly,” said Staver. 1
The North Sentinel Island is part of the Andaman Islands which is under the jurisdiction of India. The Sentinelese are an isolated tribe that have had very little contact with the outside world. And, even though they have murdered several people who have come to their island, no one has ever been prosecuted for it.
Baptist Press reported, “The Sentinelese are an isolated people group known to rain down arrows on outsiders who visit their home island in the Bay of Bengal. Though he knew the danger, Chau, 26, went as a missionary to the Sentinelese because they are reportedly among the world’s 400-600 unengaged unreached people groups (UUPGs) that have no contact with the outside world. In all, approximately 3,200 of the world’s 11,576 people groups are defined as UUPGs.”
“On the night of Nov. 14, Chau, who served with the missionary organization All Nations, paid a group of fishermen to take him to North Sentinel, according to media reports. For two days he used a kayak to travel the half mile from the boat to the shore and make preliminary contact with the Sentinelese. At one point a child reportedly shot an arrow at him that pierced his waterproof Bible. Chau apparently offered the Sentinelese fish and other small gifts before they killed him.” 2
We should emulate their faith and faithfulness, being willing to do whatever it takes to see others come to know Christ.
Ed Stetzer, in an article for Christianity Today (11.28.18), said, “New information released yesterday has shaped a much more complex picture of this man who was killed on the beaches of North Sentinel Island. In an interview for Christianity Today, Mary Ho, Executive Leader of All Nations (the missions agency that Chau was affiliated with), shared that Chau was intentionally preparing for many years by getting a degree in sports medicine, training as an EMT, and studying at a respected linguistic institute in order to learn this previously undocumented language. Furthermore, it appears that Chau was not unaware of potential health risks his presence could pose to the tribe (which has been a major point of criticism) and planned his trip accordingly. According to the interview, Chau had received multiple vaccinations, and intentionally quarantined himself for many days prior to his multi-day trip to the island.
“Chau was not a rogue individual, cavalierly traveling to a protected island as an adventure stunt. According to Ho, he was an intelligent, educated, humble, and gentle man who intensely focused over years on one, singular goal: to reach the North Sentinelese with the message of the gospel.” 3
The last reported sighting of American missionary John Allen Chau was Nov. 17. Fishermen off the coast of India’s North Sentinel Island spotted what they thought was his lifeless body being dragged across the beach and buried by members of the Sentinelese tribe. 4
WHAT WOULD CAUSE SOMEONE TO DO THIS?
The same thing that motivated John G. Payton when he took his young wife to the New Hebrides Islands, a place no missionary had ever gone before. His wife gave birth to a new baby on the beach and both died there. Payton buried them on the beach and slept on top of their graves to keep the cannibals from eating them. Years later he wrote in his journal, “I came to the sound of cannibal drums. I leave to the sound of church bells.”
The same thing that fueled the passion of five young men, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian, to try to reach the Auca Indians on an Ecuadorian beach on the Curaray River where they were all killed. Their story was the subject of a 2006 movie called End of the Spear.
JESUS said the reason why He came was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). His final words were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
I’m not suggesting we should all follow in the footsteps of people like Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, John G. Payton or John Chau and do what they did. But surely we should all emulate their faith and faithfulness, being willing to do whatever it takes to see others come to know Christ.
What would you be willing to do?
Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
1 “John - Public.” Home - Public, www.covenantjourney.org/John.
2 Roach, David. “'Crazy' or Called?: Missionary's Death Debated.” Baptist Press, 26 Nov. 2018, www.bpnews.net/52019/crazy-or-called--missionarys-death-debated.
3 Stetzer, Ed. “John Chau, Missions, and Fools.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christianity Today, www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/november/john-chau-missions-and-fools-part-1.html.
4 Roach, David. “'Crazy' or Called?: Missionary's Death Debated.” Baptist Press, 26 Nov. 2018, www.bpnews.net/52019/crazy-or-called--missionarys-death-debated.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.