KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A missions organization in Missouri is providing a defense in light of criticisms against American missionary John Chau, who was killed last month while seeking to reach an isolated tribal group on North Sentinel Island.
Pam Arlund of All Nations told Christian Today that the organization was aware that Chau was planning on traveling to the island in the Bay of Bengal.
“He came to us for our help and support nearly two years ago,” she explained. “It was his lifelong mission to reach the North Sentinelese people and share the love of God with them. We helped prepare and train him specifically in the areas of his long-term mission there.”
Arlund stated that Chau had extensive training in other fields as well, and reports state that he was an experienced survivalist and wilderness guide, and was a certified scuba diver and EMT.
“In addition to the training in language, culture, and sharing the gospel provided by All Nations, John had a wealth of other training,” she explained. “Before he came to All Nations, John had already completed a degree in health, exercise science, and sports medicine. He had also completed a wilderness survival certification and was an EMT.”
Additionally, Chau “had completed a summer of linguistics training at Summer Institute of Linguistics’ (SIL) at The Canadian Institute of Linguistics. He had also studied missionary classics like LAMP (Language Acquisition Made Practical) by Elizabeth Brewster,” Arlund noted. “All of this training helped John to be able to learn the language after he arrived there. That was a part of his plan for being on the island.”
Arlund also addressed concerns that Chau could have spread diseases to the Sentinelese, as well as contentions that he shouldn’t have made the journey because it was illegal to approach the island any closer than five nautical miles.
“In preparation for his mission, John Chau identified and tried to receive 13 different immunizations to try to make sure that he didn’t spread diseases,” she said. “We also know from his journals that he placed himself in a type of quarantine the last few days before his attempt to contact the North Sentinelese.”
“[T]he travel ban, called a Restricted Area Permit (RAP), was lifted in early August 2018 and included North Sentinel Island, among 29 other islands—allowing for people to visit these islands,” Arlund also outlined. “The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs lifted this RAP. John celebrated the opening of the islands.”
Some reports state that the restriction was only lifted in order to encourage anthropologists and researchers to visit the islands, and with authorization.
Regardless, many believe that it was noble of Chau to desire to take the gospel to those who had never heard the name of Jesus, and that the Sentinelese should not just be “left alone” to perish for eternity.
“We do not feel that honoring other cultures and leaving them alone are synonymous,” Arlund remarked. “We believe that all peoples everywhere have the right to hear about Jesus and His love, and make their own decisions about whether to follow Him or not.”
Chau had journaled about his mission, transparently sharing this thoughts, fears and motivations. He explained that he brought gifts for those on the island to show that he came in peace and a spirit of friendliness, and that he was able to preach and sing to them a bit.
“I sang them some worship songs and hymns, and they would fall silent after this,” Chau wrote. “Then two of them dropped their bows and took a dugout to meet me. I couldn’t tell if they were truly unarmed or not, so I still kept a safe distance away and dropped off the fish and gifts, and at first they poled their dugout past the gifts and were coming at me, then they turned and grabbed the gifts except for the shovel/adze. I paddled after them and exchanged some more gifts.”
“So I preached a bit to them starting in Genesis and disembarked my kayak to show that I too have two legs. I was inches from the unarmed guy,” he recalled.
A young boy soon shot an arrow at Chau, but it struck his Bible instead.
“I’m scared. There, I said it,” Chau journaled. “Lord, let your will be done. If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it. I think I could be more useful alive though, but to You, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens. I don’t WANT to die! [But] would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so.”
Some note that Chau’s story is reminiscent of that of missionary Jim Elliot, who was among five missionaries who were speared to death in 1956 while seeking to reach the Waodani tribe in Ecuador. One of the men that participated in the killing of the missionaries, Mincaye Enquedi, later became a Christian due to continued missionary work and became a preacher of the gospel to his people.
“We acted badly, badly, until they brought us God’s carvings (the Bible). Then, seeing His carvings and following His good trail, now we live happily and in peace,” Enquedi is reported as stating.