Saturday is my day. Shall I be a fool on Saturday, April 1st?
Of all of the calendar stake-outs we accept – birthdays of presidents and sophisticates, religious milestones and moments, patriotic remembrances about battles and warriors – there is no passionate tie to the nameless oaf we’ll mention this weekend, with unhidden scorn. Happy April Fools Day.
Origins for the day are lost to history, but the remembrance of pranks and foolery – producing smirks and embarrassment – drives “friends” to the “ever worse is better” boundaries. What could you do to fool someone else, and have the charges dismissed by claiming the “April Fools!” forgiveness?
Jim Elliot was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He attended high school there, and went to Wheaton College for his undergraduate education. While there, he began to form the foundation for the future, through his studies and his academic progression.
Through exposure to Bible translation through Wycliffe Bible Translators, Jim’s course for calling pointed him south, toward a secluded tribal group in the jungles of Ecuador – the Huaorani – who had never been penetrated by purveyors of the Gospel.
Elliot graduated from Wheaton College in 1949; later that year, his journal entry – October 28th – was written as a personal reflection; he didn’t realize that he was editing his epitaph: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Along with four colleagues – Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and their pilot, Nate Saint – Jim’s vision was in play when Nate landed their Piper PA-114 bush plane on a river sand beach near the Huaorani village on January 8, 1956. They had preceded their arrival with gifts dropped down to the village, hoping to prepare the isolated aboriginals for their coming.
That day, their first live encounter with the Huaorani became their death sentence: 10 warrior men from the tribe came to the beach and killed the five missionaries, sending their bodies down the river from which they were later recovered.
Safe classmates back home in America might have received the news of their deaths with dismissal: what else could you expect when you take great risks with your life & comfort, only to be violently rejected by the people you tried to contact? A fool?
God’s story of redemption didn’t end on that beach, 61 years ago. In fact, the sacrificial deaths of those five brave young men – and their families’ reaction to their loss – galvanized the global mission to reach people groups who had never, after 2000 years, been introduced to the God who loved them through the sacrificial death of his Son, the Lord Jesus. Funding and recruitment for the frontiers of God’s Kingdom spiked from the story of heaven’s heroes being recounted among those who knew the love of God and the call of the Great Commission.
“And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”’Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”
May we be fools in the minds of our culture, but wise in the eyes of God…