First Christian convert in tribe that killed Jim Elliot and four other missionaries dies

Dayuma Caento has passed away aged around 80 years old, almost 60 years after Elliot and his contemporaries first made contact with the Waodani tribe in Ecuador.

Published 15 April 2014  |  
Steve Saint (l) with Mincaye, a tribesman who killed a group of missionaries that include Saint's father, Nate. He later found Christ and formed a close bond with Steve

Dayuma Caento, the first Christian member of the Waodani tribe in Ecuador – a group made famous for killing Jim Elliot and four other missionaries in 1956 – has died, aged around 80.

The Waodani language community, also known as the Huaorani, were once one of the most violent known people groups on earth, who regularly practised homicide and fiercely defended their territory against those wishing to exploit the rich Amazonian land.

In 1955, Dayuma – who had escaped from the tribe to live with the Quechuas, another indigenous ethnic group – met Elliot, Nate Saint and other missionaries from the US who felt called by God to share Christ's teaching with the Waodani. Dayuma then began teaching them the hidden language of her people.

The Americans were thus able to initiate contact with the elusive tribespeople, first by dropping gifts down from a plane flown by Saint, who was a pilot, and later establishing a camp not far from the Waodani settlement.

In January 1956, however, the five men were killed by members of the tribe as they approached them in person for the first time with the hopes of sharing the Gospel.

The story generated worldwide news coverage, and Elliot's wife, Elisabeth, has since written a bestselling book entitled 'Through the Gates of Splendor' about her husband's journey. Jim's journal, which famously features the quote "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose", has also been read by thousands of believers around the world.

Amazingly, Elisabeth and Saint's sister, Rachel, were introduced to the Waodani just two years after the missionaries' murder through Dayuma, and were invited to live among the tribe. They did so for several years along with Elliot's young daughter, and Saint is now buried in Toñampade in Ecuador along with her brother and his martyred friends.

Through this friendship, Dayuma became a Christian, and helped share the message of Christ among her people, even assisting Rachel in translating the New Testament into their complex language. Many more also came to faith, and the world watched in shock as the Waodani community was transformed.

Dayuma lived with the community until her death on March 1 of this year, and Wycliffe Associates – who trained Elliott and his contemporaries – have asked for prayer for the tribe as they come to terms with her loss, and for their faith going forward.

"Pray that they will continue to serve God, whom they know as Waengonguï," the organisation said.

"May they remain faithful to the study of his word."

Today, Nate Saint's son, Stephen, who was just five years old when his father was killed, travels extensively with members of the tribe who have become Christians, sharing their testimonies with churches worldwide. He is particularly close with Mincaye Enquedi – Dayuma's cousin - who murdered his father.

Watch his story below:

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