From Jim Elliot to John Allen Chau: The Missionary-Martyr Dilemma

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by Lucy S. R. Austen

Until recently, few in the US had heard of North Sentinel Island, where young American John Allen Chau was killed with arrows by members of an isolated tribal group.

But as the story spread—first the tale of a 26-year-old adventurer and world traveler, then of a Christian missionary willing to risk his life—people around the globe responded with swift and sometimes scathing reactions.

Many considered Chau a fool, or worse, criticizing him for breaking Indian law and endangering the isolated Sentinelese, who have no immunity to many common diseases. Others called Chau an inspiration, even a martyr. Some immediately drew parallels to late missionary Jim Elliot.

Sometime between Friday, November 16, when Chau wrote his last journal entry, and Saturday, November 17, when the fisherman who had brought him to his destination saw his body on the beach, Chau was killed by the people…

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