How John Chau Followed the Great Commission to His Death

How John Chau Followed the Great Commission to His Death

John Allen Chau knew since high school he was called to live out the Great Commission to reach the unreached for Christ. On Nov. 17, 2018, he lost his life doing exactly that on the remote North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean. Follow the story of this 26-year-old missionary from the people who knew him from his college years to his training for the mission field. Listen to what Christian leaders are saying about John 's motives and the future of missions. Find out how John's story will challenge believers to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

49 Minutes • 21 days ago

Episode Notes

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Greenelines with

Dr. Steve Greene

Special Episode

 

Dr. Steve Greene: This is the story of John Allen Chau, a young missionary who loved life, yet gave his to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. John’s heart was to share Christ with the most isolated people on the planet. You’ll hear from people who knew John and what drove him to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this special podcast, we honor a life well-lived.

 

The Voice of the Martyrs is a Christian missions organization dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide and leading other members of the body of Christ into fellowship with them. We are so honored that they have chosen to sponsor this podcast.

 

The Voice of the Martyrs was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In 1965, they were ransomed out of Romania, and soon thereafter they established The Voice of the Martyrs. For more than 50 years, The Voice of the Martyrs has equipped Christians to fulfill The Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for just sharing the gospel. They do this through persecution response, Bible distribution and front-line worker support. You are encouraged to subscribe to The Voice of the Martyrs’ free monthly newsletter at persecution.com. You will be moved by testimonies of Christians who are persecuted for their faith. You will also learn how to pray for them and discover practical ways in how to get involved in helping them advance The Great Commission around the world.  

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Some, including Oral Roberts University President Dr. Billy Wilson, have compared John Allen Chau to Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in Ecuador in 1956 along with four other men, including Nate Saint, whose story was told in the book and movie End of the Spear.

 

John Allen Chau on Charisma

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Dr. Billy Wilson: I think we had a really good moment in chapel, the last chapel of the year around Christmas. We talked about John’s story. We compared it to Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, the missionaries who gave their lives in the Ecuadorian jungle that ultimately led to The Gates of Splendor book, Beyond the Gates of Splendor movie and the End of the Spear movie that many of us have seen, and let them know that John’s life will have repercussions for a long time. It’s going to be studied, talked about, his method, what he tried to do in his preparation. They can be proud of one of their alums that probably has become the most famous alumnus of Oral Roberts University in our history. I think more people probably know of John Allen Chau around the world than any other alumnus ever. It’s pretty startling and amazing.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Joshua Johnson is executive director at All Nations, Chau’s mission organization.

 

Joshua Johnson: The similarities between Jim Elliot and John Chau are that they both went into an uncontacted tribe, and they both got shot with arrows and died. But, we don’t know the extent of this story with the North Sentinel people yet. We are praying that the results would be similar because we know the tribal people in Ecuador accepted Christ and said they wanted to follow Jesus and others were accepted into the tribe. The man who killed Jim Elliot and Nate Saint actually baptized Steve Saint, Nate’s son. That’s a beautiful story. We just don't know the end of the story with John Chau yet. But we're hoping and praying that Jesus would encounter them.

Dr. Steve Greene: David Shibley, founder and international representative of Global Advance, also sees similarities between John and Jim Elliot.

 

David Shibley: Like Jim Elliot, John didn't live to see his 30th birthday. Like Jim Elliot, who died with the poison tip spear in his back, John died evidently in a flurry of arrows. And, like Elliot, he was attempting to get the gospel to one of the most remote tribes in the world. In other words, John was just taking the Great Commission very seriously. Oswald Smith, the great missionary statesman of many years ago said, “why should anyone hear the gospel twice? until everyone has heard it once?” Young people are impassioned by a sense of injustice. And I think the greatest injustice is that a person can live on this planet and not hear the gospel. The most basic of all human rights is the right to hear the gospel, the right to know that God loves these people and that Christ died for them. I honor the life of John Chau. … We need to remember our Lord’s promise. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus said, be faithful unto death and I will give to you a crown of life. I'm very confident that John Chau receives that crown.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. John Korstad teaches biology at ORU.

 

Dr. John Korstad: There is probably not a class that goes by at least once during the semester that I’ve shared about Nate Saint and Jim Elliot. The quote just haunts me in a good sense: ‘He is no fool that gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ I’ve been quoting that for decades. Yes. I didn’t know them, of course. But it’s just the spirit in that, sensing that when they were at Wheaton and then answering the call. John Chau, I think of in the same way, not to try to immortalize him or to martyr him. But that is real. He knew what God was calling him to do, and he did it cheerfully and willingly and lovingly and humbly.

 

(Dr. Billy Wilson segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: I’m really honored to have someone that I know very well. I’ve worked with him. He’s been my boss. I love him. And I love the university in which he is the president, Oral Roberts University. He’s President Billy Wilson. Dr. Wilson, welcome to the podcast network.

Dr. Billy Wilson: 
Thank you, Dr. Greene. Great to be with you. ...

Dr. Steve Greene:
… Unfortunately, we’ve been through so much of this at ORU, we’ve lost some really good students over the years through their mission work. Recently we’ve lost John Allen Chau and I know it broke your heart. It’s broken the hearts of our readers and many of us who have ties to ORU knew him. Tell us, in your understanding of the story, how we lost John.

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: John was a 2014 graduate of Oral Roberts University. He was a stellar student here and a stellar person. … He had a burden since he was in high school, even before he came to ORU, to reach out to the unreached peoples of the earth for Jesus Christ, and really felt called to missions. He felt called to go to the most isolated unreached groups in the world. John identified what he thought was the most isolated people group in the world related to the gospel of Jesus, and that was the Sentinelese people on North Sentinel Island, which is under the domain of India, just off the coast of Thailand, sort of in the middle of nowhere. And John set about over a course of about six years to make contact in some way with these people. The Indian government has a restriction that it’s illegal to go to this island. John tried to work some legal way to do this. But when that was not possible, he went by himself because it was considered very dangerous and tried to reach out to these people.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What do you know about how John left this earth?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: Somewhere around the morning of November 16 and 17, right in that time frame, John made his final trip to North Sentinel Island. He had made connection a couple of times before. The day before he had been shot at by a young man he describes as about 10 years old. The arrow hit his Bible. Overnight, John went back to the boat that was off the shore of the North Sentinel Island and considered coming home, but from what we can tell he felt like he would abort what God had called him to do if he was to leave his mission at the time. John knew about this isolated group, and for several decades no one had the courage to cross over and try to reach them for Christ. He knew that if he came home, maybe no one else would go back and he felt like God called him to do that. He knew it could mean his death or could possibly mean his death. When he went back on that last morning, it seems from all accounts we can find that John was killed, dragged along the beach. buried by the Sentinelese people and martyred for his Christian faith and for his attempt to reach this isolated tribe.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: But John was ready in many ways to encounter this tribe, wasn’t he?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: John had prepared himself in a thousand different ways. He had taken vaccinations because the people on the island could be in danger by an outsider, their health, from some disease. He had done about 11 vaccinations and isolated himself for several days to make sure he wasn’t sick. He had done training in the wilderness in order to help him cope with what it would be like to live on this kind of isolated island. He had done reenactment kinds of things of situations he might face there. He had read over 200 books in the last year alone about missions, about the Sentinelese. He had studied linguistics because no one in the world knows the language of the Sentinelese people except them. He was trying to find linguistic patterns to be able to communicate with them. And on and on it goes. According to one friend who’s very involved in missions and knew John very well, John was the most prepared missionary he had ever met in the world. And that seems to be true.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: President Wilson, I also know that you are a pastor, that you have pastored a lot in your background, and so you had to pastor some students, faculty and staff through this. You’ve had a very moving chapel where you dealt with some of this. How have you personally tried to shepherd your campus through this loss?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: Obviously our students are shaken, but I believe they are shaken and stirred spiritually in other ways. The vision of ORU given to our founder in the 1960s at a dinner with Pat Robertson in which Oral wrote the vision on a napkin, at dinner if you can believe it, that’s carried the university over 50 years now was ‘Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen, my voice is heard small and my healing power is not known even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. And then God told Oral their work will exceed years and in this, I'll be well pleased. In many ways, John Chau lived out this vision to its fullest. He heard God’s voice, he went where the light was dim or not seen it all. The voice of God could not be heard or heard small and God’s healing power was unknown. And definitely, North Sentinel Island is the uttermost bounds of the earth. And so he did what we call our students to do in our vision statement.

 

(John Korstad segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: We also talked with biology professor Dr. John Korstad, who had John Chau in class at ORU. Tell us how you met this young man.

 

Dr. John Korstad: I probably met John in 2009 when he came with his family from Vancouver, Washington for his older brother’s graduation from ORU and then when John started at ORU in 2010. He applied to be in the honors program when I was director. I interviewed him and accepted him right away and he also took, I think, two classes from me when he was here at ORU.

 

Dr. John Korstad: … He started in pre-med and then he finished within the health science major. His heart really was, at that time, not to go in medical school like his older sister and brother and his father. His father, by the way, graduated from ORU med school in 1988. John just a focus on what he sensed God was calling him to do.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, do you believe that he was also academically gifted he was bright enough to do about anything you wanted to do?

 

Dr. John Korstad: Very much so. He could have applied to med school and gotten in easily.

 

(Ryan Bush segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: John Chau was ORU’s soccer team manager for several years. Coach Ryan Bush developed a strong friendship with John, who had both a big personality and a caring heart for those on the team who might not know Christ.

 

Ryan Bush: … He just had a certain charisma about him. He was a very joyful young man. And I think that's why the guys wanted him around all the time. He just lightened every situation and obviously, sports are intense, so whether you win, lose or drew, or whether you were at training getting yelled at, whenever he was there his attitude was contagious. He was always excited to be wherever he was whether or not there was a reason to be excited. …

 

John was very confrontational with the guys on the team and their relationship with Jesus. He was like, I understand that you’re saying you’re a Christian or you're religious in this way, but he was like, I want to talk to you about your relationship with Jesus. For it for an 18-year-old kid that's dealing with a 22-year-old athlete … People think, well, you’re at ORU and that’s a Christian environment, that’s actually not an easy thing to do. But he was very forward with the guys on the team and he would have conversations with me, he would come in the office and he was like, I just want to make sure that every single player has an individual conversation about who Jesus is and their relationship with Jesus.

Dr. Steve Greene: Do you think that sports helped him to root himself in his mission? Was an entryway, a door opener for him?

 

Ryan Bush: … With soccer being an international sport, I think it helped him with his mission because obviously everywhere you go culturally, soccer is the accepted sport around the world. So, that they can help him get in. Ultimately, the mission was first and foremost to spread the love of Christ and soccer was kind of avenue to get them there.

Dr. Steve Greene: Didn’t he also coach overseas some? He actually had teams he coached?

Ryan Bush: He did. He ran some clinics and camps in the overseas and he also went to South Africa as well and he worked with an outreach there that does actually send some kids to the United States to play soccer. He helped teach English there and he coached soccer while he was there and then he had a Burmese outreach here Saturdays that he ran with our soccer guys and they were refugee kids. He facilitated that when he was here and he got all of our guys actually to come on Saturday. They would all volunteer one Saturday. We never asked them to do it, but they just did it because they loved John.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: I want to ask you, coach, how you’ve dealt with it. How are you personally handling this great martyr?

Ryan Bush: I lost a great friend. … I don't have a lot of friends that are just on fire for God and that you know are going to go the distance. I’ve been doing this for a long time. So, there's a grieving process. I lost a friend, I lost a battle warrior, somebody that was going to stand and fight for the same things that I was. Then obviously you have a lot of questions on why, which will get answered at some point.

 

(Joshua Johnson segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Joshua Johnson’s organization, All Nations out of Kansas City, Missouri, helped prepare Chau to minister to the tribe he was committed to reach.


Joshua Johnson: 
All Nations trained John Chau at our training and church planting experience, training him in October 2017. We helped him in a lot of the disciple-making and the church-planting aspects of what would happen if he got accepted onto the island and into the tribe. … How can you learn their language? How can you learn their culture and speak in a way that they can understand the gospel? How can they understand Jesus, become a disciple and become disciplemakers?

 

Dr. Steve Greene: How do you speak to your people about John and what he did?

Joshua Johnson: Right now, at All Nations, it is a very sensitive subject because it’s raw, it’s emotional and it’s new. It’s a hard thing to go through a loss of a life, but we count the cost when we follow Jesus. We are called to lay down our lives. That sometimes means to lay down our lives even unexpectedly. But we know that the story is not yet over, that many people now are praying for the North Sentinel people. The island is known throughout the world and Christians around the world are saying, “Jesus come and speak to these people.” We know that John’s death is not in vain and we're praying that good will come of it. But it is a very difficult time for us to do that in a raw and emotional season. When you lose somebody, it’s hard to take an eternal perspective, a long-term perspective. But we know that John was an incredible young man that loved Jesus and wanted to obey Him. We know from his journal entries at the end that John still said, “Thank You, Jesus, for choosing me to reach these people.” It is an incredible testimony that he would say that at the very end.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: … He really tried to count the cost, don't you think?

Joshua Johnson: John counted the cost and he even knew that this tribe was violent, but he also knew that he was taking some positive steps in the right direction for this tribe to accept him. In his journal, he wrote that he believed there were positive things about the first encounter when they accepted some of his gifts. He believed that going on foot on an island would be a good chance to make that successful contact. But he did count the cost and said that he was willing to do whatever it took.

 

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(Mat Staver segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Like Joshua Johnson, Mat Staver also saw how committed to missions John Chau was. Mat, who is founder and president of Covenant Journey, got to know John through a Covenant Journey trip to Israel.

 

Mat Staver: I met John Chau on a Covenant Journey trip in August 2015. He was from Oral Roberts University. He was 23 years old at that time and he had gone on several missions’ trips to South Africa, and even to India.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: You’ve seen a lot of mission young people come out of college. What did you think of this young leader?

 

Mat Staver: … John was one of those Gideon’s army that God was raising up. And to see someone of that talent use his skills and dedicate his life and be able to communicate with others and just enjoy life but also enjoy Jesus to share it was very encouraging. John was someone who used soccer to also communicate the gospel and to develop relationships. At ORU, he became one of the managers of the soccer team. And he also worked with soccer groups, teaching young boys around the world and the United States as well. And that was a way for him to develop friendships so that he could ultimately share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was also an amazing outdoors person. He became an ENT. He was someone who led amazing hiking and camping trips throughout the Pacific Northwest. His Facebook is filled with amazing adventures in which he prepared himself for those moments. And really, when you look back, everything he did, his time at Oral Roberts University, his studies in sports science, his preparation to be an ENT, his ability to survive out in increments places, his ability to just be athletic and to communicate the gospel and to develop friendships. All of that was preparing him for this mission that God had put on his heart since he was in high school.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: John’s approach to this isolated tribe is not without controversy. Some are calling him a colonizer with cultural imperialism in his veins, while others describe him as insanely arrogant. Joshua Johnson has seen the media reports that see John Chau as extreme.

 

Joshua Johnson: We know that John Chau was probably one of the most humble, soft-spoken learned young men. He was very determined. He really loved others well, he loved Jesus well. One of my favorite little testimonies is from one of our fellow All Nations missionaries that was training with John that said that his son would come up to John and play with him and sit on his lap. John was the type of man that you know young children would come up to because he was so kind and gentle. Really the stereotype of what is written, what is portrayed out there was really not the core of John’s character. It’s hard for other people. He walked humbly, he was merciful and he was able to do justice in this world. He wanted the world to know the North Sentinel people, he wanted them to have love and respect, representation, health care so that they can be lifted up as a community and society in take their rightful places of children of God.

 

(Dr. Scott Moreau segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. Scott Moreau is a missiologist at Wheaton College outside of Chicago who has thought through some of these objections.

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: … I think that the general media assumption is here's another adventuring young idiot who does whatever he wants to do and nobody's going to stop him and he dies as a result. The media see this as a mixed, almost a tragic comedy if I can use that word together because it’s stereotypical in terms of their idea of what missionaries do. It's tragic in terms of what happened, but also I'd say enough media would consider it misguided. The people I've talked with in media and interviewed with have been very empathetic, and they really do want to understand what the motivation was. They don't fight when I tell them this is a Christian orientation, and this is what we believe. But at the same time, when I'm looking at the comments on all of the blogs and the websites that are going up, there's a lot of vitriol of people who think that we have no right to tell anybody anything about religion. And I would say that's a more contemporary message that didn't exist 40 years ago. And so that's one of the things we're seeing that's fueling some of the very strong reactions.

 

More of the Story

Dr. Steve Greene: One question reporters and missionaries alike are asking is: Was John’s contact with the tribe legal? Joshua Johnson isn’t certain it was, but Mat Staver thinks we need a kingdom perspective on that question.


Joshua Johnson: The only thing that we knew at All Nations was in October, in one of his last newsletters that John sent to his supporters, said that the restricted access permit was lifted and it was now legal to go to the 29 islands. That included the North Sentinel Island. That was the last thing that we knew at All Nations. Once he got the grounds, we didn’t have any contact with him. We don’t how he was able to go, whether what he did was legal or not.

Mat Staver: If you look at whether or not it’s legal and you say, if it’s illegal, you shouldn’t go, you don’t understand scripture. It was illegal for Daniel to pray. And yet he did it anyway. And he ultimately found himself in the lion’s den. It was illegal for the three Hebrews to bow down and they wouldn’t do it. They found themselves in the fiery furnace and God rescued them. It was illegal, the disciples were told some of them, you can get out of jail, but don’t preach in the name of Jesus anymore. And Jesus, of course, ultimately was crucified because the people who he was ministering to didn’t like what he was saying. Throughout the years of our life in our history as Christians and going back to the Old Testament, people have shared God and the gospel of Jesus Christ from the New Testament on at the risk of their lives. So, whether it was legal or not, John wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to these people. However, now whether it should be legal or not, this is a debate that’s going on. There was some in the 1990s tourism and they ultimately impose these restrictions on visiting these islands. And then they lifted some of those restrictions in August of 2018. However, you may still have needed a permit to visit this particular island because of the isolation of these people. And there is this pro-indigenous group that says just leave them alone. But even from a secular standpoint, think of this: Who are we to say that that young boy or young girl who sits on the shore of North Sentinel Island that looks out over the horizon, wondering what is on the other side? Who are we to say they don’t have a choice? Who are we to say that they all would be better off if they have low-life expectancy? John could not, and he commented in his journal, see any elderly people there. Why are they not there? We don’t know. How can people make these snap decisions that it’s better for them not to have any contact with the outside world when we don’t know about what’s going on? If they kill people like John, what are they doing to their own people? What is their health like? What about the young boy who climbs a palm tree and falls down and severely mangles his leg? Is it better to just to doom him to death or pain rather than bring someone there who can provide medical treatment to them? And besides the secular, the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. And if you look at New Tribes Mission, their first five missionaries were martyred because they were going to an unreached people group. They couldn’t speak the language. And that’s what happened to Nate Saint and Jim Elliot. They were martyred. But Steve Saint continued to minister to that on unreached people group in Ecuador and even baptized the very people that killed his father. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. It brings light to darkness and sets the captives free. And that was the mission of John Chau.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Considering the danger, should John have gone to this tribe? Dr. Scott Moreau weighs in.

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: I would say a few things. Number one it’s always wiser to go in teams and yet at the same time a team might have been more threatening. You don't have to initiate conversations from minute one. Be aware of some of the things that you're doing, the type of gift exchange and pay attention to signals. Being shot at is not a positive signal. And does that mean he should have continued to try and reach? Maybe he should have waited a couple of weeks. I think continuing to go and present the same level of threat to them that clearly they perceived him to be was a mistake that he made. But again, I have the benefit of hindsight. And I can't say with absolute certainty that I could give him, here are 15 steps you should have taken. But I would say for most Americans, time is on our side and we don't have to reach them today. It can be tomorrow, it can be next week. It can be next month. The reality is patience is a huge virtue that might be missing, especially the younger a person is.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. Moreau, in what way do you think he was prepared and then the inverse, how was he not prepared?

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: I've seen a lot of criticisms of him getting vaccinations and trying to isolate himself, and yet then going with a group of fishermen, so that the entire idea of isolation was lost when he went out with a group of people who had not isolated themselves. So, I think the intent was good. He was aware of the reality of communicable diseases that the people would not have been exposed to. He took steps as best as he understood him [them], but his understanding was limited. I say It was said that he had medical training, will he had EMT training, he wasn't a medical doctor, he wasn't an epidemiologist, someone who studies the transmission of disease. It would have been helpful for him to find out from somebody what are the right protocols to take. Now that's on the disease side.

 

In terms of the gospel message, the reality is the language, as I understand it right now, people don't even know what language they speak and shouting out to them in [inaudible], well, it is an African language and apparently they are African descended. There are over 1,000 languages in Africa and who knows what direction that could have come from? You've got a lot of things like that, that again I can look at. Sometimes, some of those things are simply silly mistakes. Sometimes, they have deadly consequences. And clearly going back to the island and having been shot at was a mistake with deadly consequences that I have the advantage of hindsight and looking at and saying I wouldn't have done it that way.

 

And I understand again from reports I've been seeing that there were people who were willing to go with him. But he wanted to go by himself. Perhaps going with a second person, perhaps doing nothing more than sitting out in the boat for day after day for a week and not making any moves on the island so they got used to his presence. You can think of 100 different things he potentially could have done differently. The challenge is, we have to look at what he actually did, and you can find mistakes in it. But I would have to say that if you looked at my time in missions, I was a missionary for 10 years, you would find just as many mistakes. They just didn't have deadly consequences.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: David Shibley of Global Advance is sometimes bothered by believer’s reactions to John’s choices.

 

David Shibley: I am not disturbed by non-Christians who have been sometimes very caustic and I believe cruel om their remorse concerning the choice that John made. I understand that because they simply don’t get it. They don’t. They don’t understand the different worldview that we have as followers of Jesus Christ.

 

What is concerning to me is that the questioning of John’s motives among some believers, even some missiologists, some that are friends of mine. It’s very important because there have been accusations kind of bringing John into a guilt by association of a supremacist attitude that some missionaries have carried in the past, and certainly, that is part of the mixed bag of missionary history. We need to acknowledge that. But, the very supremacist attitude the missionaries are accused of is often present in the attitude that is willing to let groups like the Sentinelese slowly die and become extinct because we’re not willing to grant them access to those life-saving measures that could not only extend their life but extend the viability of them as a tribal people. So, there is a lot to talk about in days ahead. But, right now I think we certainly need to honor the life of John Chau and ask, “Lord what would you have me to do?” I'm praying for a great response among Christian young people, as there was in 1956, to say we will take their place and we will do our part to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Mat Staver also knew the Chau family. We wanted to know how the family is coping in the wake of John’s death.

 

Dr. Greene: How are they doing and what do you feel they’re thinking these days? What what's the future like for them?

Mat Staver: John’s dad is a psychiatrist. John was born while he was in a residency in Alabama. His mother is an attorney. Obviously, like any family, they’ve been very close. His brother, Brian, and his sister, Mandy, all were very close knit. They had to spend Thanksgiving for the first time wondering what happened to their son, their brother. His mother has had a difficult time, as any parent would, just wondering if there is that glimmer of hope that possibly he is still alive. And that’s why I think it’s important that John’s body ultimately be returned to the family so that they can have closure. Anybody who loses someone, that they can’t see them and finish that grieving process, it just makes it more difficult. However, I do know this. That it is their Christian faith that has ultimately brought them through.

 

Amazingly, in John’s journal, the letter that he wrote to his mom and dad and his brother and sister says, “Don’t be mad at these people or at God, but live your lives in obedience to Jesus Christ.” They posted shortly after this that they forgive the very people that took their son’s life, their brother’s life. It’s their Christian faith that’s getting them through. John's legacy is going to live on as it continues to go around the world, to raise up a generation of men and women even now who will go to North Sentinel Island to share the gospel and other places. I think (his story) has encouraged missionaries around the world. And for me, I think like many people, it’s caused me to ask for what would I do? Would I love Jesus that much that I would lay down my life as John did for the Sentinelese people? It really has been very impactful for me personally. And I think it's doing that for people around the world.

Dr. Greene: … For all of our listeners who hear John’s story, speak to us about how we make it relevant. What do we do with it in our day-to-day life? What should we believe about what he did, and how should it affect our lives?

Mat Staver: I think it should affect our lives by just even listening to John Chau. Let me just read what it says, to his mom and dad. “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it. To declare Jesus to these people, please do not be angry at them, or at God if I get killed. Rather, please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to, and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil.” He concludes his letter by saying it’s not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe are at hand.

 

I can't wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Revelations 7:9-10 states. I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.” I think that speaks volumes. And that speaks to all of us, wherever we are, whether we’re going to an isolated tribe, whether we’re at home, whether we’re in the work environment, in the community, in our neighborhood at church. Those words reverberate through history. John’s words literally will continue to echo around the planet.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: We all want our lives to count. John Allen Chau’s life on this earth was a mere 26 years. We know his life continues into eternity, but, Dr. Shibley, what can we do to see that John’s life was relevant in his dying? That his life was necessary, that it was important, that it had significance?

 

David Shibley: I think there are several things we can do. First of all, John requested some things of us in his diary you see that should he die, he requested several things. He requested that this not be laid to the charge of the Sentinelese people and so we need to honor that request. He requested prayer for their eventual evangelization and turning to Christ. We need to honor that. In his writings, evidently just days, and possibly even hours before his death, he was asking us the question, “I know what I am to do in response to the Great Commission. What are you doing? Have you responded to that? Each of us needs to ask ourselves that question.

 

John wrote something about you guys might think I’m crazy, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. I think we need to go back and church history and ask, was it worth it for Francis Xavier to die face down on a beach in order in an endeavor to evangelize one more island? Were those five missionaries in 1956 in Ecuador crazy or, in fact, did they lift the whole vision of the church worldwide to its evangelistic and discipling mandate? That’s what they did. We need to honor that.

 

Paul was clear not only about our Lord who gave the Great Commission, but Paul said we’re debtors to everyone to get the gospel to them. In Romans 1:14, Peter said, God isn't desirous that anyone perish, but that everyone come to repentance. I believe that John was acting fully within a biblical framework.

 

What we can do for John is to ask ourselves those same questions in light of the fact that we, as followers of Jesus, are under the same mandate John Chau was under to make disciples of all nations, to get the gospel to every person. Are we obeying the assignment that the Lord has given to us and that greater context of world evangelization? I want to honor him for that.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: … What do we do now with the Sentinelese? Do we go back? Do we try to help? He wanted them to meet Jesus.

 

David Shibley: A great question, and I believe that is one of the big questions out of this. They remain an unevangelized tribe. Therefore, they remain our responsibility to some degree. When I say our, I'm talking about the body of Christ surround the world. We need to explore the very best ways to get to them. Some are saying that John may have been there illegally, although there is new information coming out that would dispute that. Again, we need to remember that we’re under a higher mandate. And until the Great Commission is rescinded, and the great missionary Amy Carmichael called it the great unrepealed commission until that commission is repealed, we are under mandate to get the gospel to these dear people.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What if John’s body is never recovered? Dr. Korstad believes something spiritual will happen through John’s physical body on that remote Indian Ocean island.

 

Dr. John Korstad: John’s flesh may be buried there, but his spirit, and I really sense this, is strong. The blood of Christ flowing through John and his own physical blood, that’s powerful. We don’t know what’s going to happen. I believe that it is already impacting the people there in ways that we don't know.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Every tongue, tribe and nation will worship Christ on the throne. John Allen Chau chose to lay down his life so that the last of the unreached may live into eternity. How will you honor John’s sacrifice? What will you choose?

 

Greenelines Host Information

Dr. Steve Greene is the Publisher and Executive Vice President of Charisma Media. Dr. Greene received his Ph.D. in marketing from Memphis State University. He has worked in television station management and worked directly with over 80 stations throughout the United States. He has worked in marketing capacities with McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, and Stanley Steemer. He has owned restaurants, a national advertising agency and a syndicated marketing research firm. Dr. Greene has served as the Dean of the College of Business and professor of marketing at Oral Roberts University. He is also the author of Love Leads, which dispels the myths and misconceptions many have come to accept about leadership.

To learn more about Dr. Steve Greene, connect with him on social media!

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Episode Notes

This episode is sponsored by

Voice of the Martyrs

 

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For this entire podcast, please visit cpnshows.com.

 

Greenelines with

Dr. Steve Greene

Special Episode

 

Dr. Steve Greene: This is the story of John Allen Chau, a young missionary who loved life, yet gave his to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. John’s heart was to share Christ with the most isolated people on the planet. You’ll hear from people who knew John and what drove him to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this special podcast, we honor a life well-lived.

 

The Voice of the Martyrs is a Christian missions organization dedicated to serving persecuted Christians worldwide and leading other members of the body of Christ into fellowship with them. We are so honored that they have chosen to sponsor this podcast.

 

The Voice of the Martyrs was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned for 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In 1965, they were ransomed out of Romania, and soon thereafter they established The Voice of the Martyrs. For more than 50 years, The Voice of the Martyrs has equipped Christians to fulfill The Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for just sharing the gospel. They do this through persecution response, Bible distribution and front-line worker support. You are encouraged to subscribe to The Voice of the Martyrs’ free monthly newsletter at persecution.com. You will be moved by testimonies of Christians who are persecuted for their faith. You will also learn how to pray for them and discover practical ways in how to get involved in helping them advance The Great Commission around the world.  

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Some, including Oral Roberts University President Dr. Billy Wilson, have compared John Allen Chau to Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in Ecuador in 1956 along with four other men, including Nate Saint, whose story was told in the book and movie End of the Spear.

 

John Allen Chau on Charisma

·         All Nations, ORU Grieve Reported Death of Missionary John Chau

·         Despite Media’s Disdain, John Allen Chau was a True Modern-Day Martyr

·         WATCH: Footage Surfaces of John Allen Chau’s Bold Message to Believers

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: I think we had a really good moment in chapel, the last chapel of the year around Christmas. We talked about John’s story. We compared it to Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, the missionaries who gave their lives in the Ecuadorian jungle that ultimately led to The Gates of Splendor book, Beyond the Gates of Splendor movie and the End of the Spear movie that many of us have seen, and let them know that John’s life will have repercussions for a long time. It’s going to be studied, talked about, his method, what he tried to do in his preparation. They can be proud of one of their alums that probably has become the most famous alumnus of Oral Roberts University in our history. I think more people probably know of John Allen Chau around the world than any other alumnus ever. It’s pretty startling and amazing.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Joshua Johnson is executive director at All Nations, Chau’s mission organization.

 

Joshua Johnson: The similarities between Jim Elliot and John Chau are that they both went into an uncontacted tribe, and they both got shot with arrows and died. But, we don’t know the extent of this story with the North Sentinel people yet. We are praying that the results would be similar because we know the tribal people in Ecuador accepted Christ and said they wanted to follow Jesus and others were accepted into the tribe. The man who killed Jim Elliot and Nate Saint actually baptized Steve Saint, Nate’s son. That’s a beautiful story. We just don't know the end of the story with John Chau yet. But we're hoping and praying that Jesus would encounter them.

Dr. Steve Greene: David Shibley, founder and international representative of Global Advance, also sees similarities between John and Jim Elliot.

 

David Shibley: Like Jim Elliot, John didn't live to see his 30th birthday. Like Jim Elliot, who died with the poison tip spear in his back, John died evidently in a flurry of arrows. And, like Elliot, he was attempting to get the gospel to one of the most remote tribes in the world. In other words, John was just taking the Great Commission very seriously. Oswald Smith, the great missionary statesman of many years ago said, “why should anyone hear the gospel twice? until everyone has heard it once?” Young people are impassioned by a sense of injustice. And I think the greatest injustice is that a person can live on this planet and not hear the gospel. The most basic of all human rights is the right to hear the gospel, the right to know that God loves these people and that Christ died for them. I honor the life of John Chau. … We need to remember our Lord’s promise. In Revelation 2:10, Jesus said, be faithful unto death and I will give to you a crown of life. I'm very confident that John Chau receives that crown.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. John Korstad teaches biology at ORU.

 

Dr. John Korstad: There is probably not a class that goes by at least once during the semester that I’ve shared about Nate Saint and Jim Elliot. The quote just haunts me in a good sense: ‘He is no fool that gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ I’ve been quoting that for decades. Yes. I didn’t know them, of course. But it’s just the spirit in that, sensing that when they were at Wheaton and then answering the call. John Chau, I think of in the same way, not to try to immortalize him or to martyr him. But that is real. He knew what God was calling him to do, and he did it cheerfully and willingly and lovingly and humbly.

 

(Dr. Billy Wilson segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: I’m really honored to have someone that I know very well. I’ve worked with him. He’s been my boss. I love him. And I love the university in which he is the president, Oral Roberts University. He’s President Billy Wilson. Dr. Wilson, welcome to the podcast network.

Dr. Billy Wilson: 
Thank you, Dr. Greene. Great to be with you. ...

Dr. Steve Greene:
… Unfortunately, we’ve been through so much of this at ORU, we’ve lost some really good students over the years through their mission work. Recently we’ve lost John Allen Chau and I know it broke your heart. It’s broken the hearts of our readers and many of us who have ties to ORU knew him. Tell us, in your understanding of the story, how we lost John.

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: John was a 2014 graduate of Oral Roberts University. He was a stellar student here and a stellar person. … He had a burden since he was in high school, even before he came to ORU, to reach out to the unreached peoples of the earth for Jesus Christ, and really felt called to missions. He felt called to go to the most isolated unreached groups in the world. John identified what he thought was the most isolated people group in the world related to the gospel of Jesus, and that was the Sentinelese people on North Sentinel Island, which is under the domain of India, just off the coast of Thailand, sort of in the middle of nowhere. And John set about over a course of about six years to make contact in some way with these people. The Indian government has a restriction that it’s illegal to go to this island. John tried to work some legal way to do this. But when that was not possible, he went by himself because it was considered very dangerous and tried to reach out to these people.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What do you know about how John left this earth?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: Somewhere around the morning of November 16 and 17, right in that time frame, John made his final trip to North Sentinel Island. He had made connection a couple of times before. The day before he had been shot at by a young man he describes as about 10 years old. The arrow hit his Bible. Overnight, John went back to the boat that was off the shore of the North Sentinel Island and considered coming home, but from what we can tell he felt like he would abort what God had called him to do if he was to leave his mission at the time. John knew about this isolated group, and for several decades no one had the courage to cross over and try to reach them for Christ. He knew that if he came home, maybe no one else would go back and he felt like God called him to do that. He knew it could mean his death or could possibly mean his death. When he went back on that last morning, it seems from all accounts we can find that John was killed, dragged along the beach. buried by the Sentinelese people and martyred for his Christian faith and for his attempt to reach this isolated tribe.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: But John was ready in many ways to encounter this tribe, wasn’t he?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: John had prepared himself in a thousand different ways. He had taken vaccinations because the people on the island could be in danger by an outsider, their health, from some disease. He had done about 11 vaccinations and isolated himself for several days to make sure he wasn’t sick. He had done training in the wilderness in order to help him cope with what it would be like to live on this kind of isolated island. He had done reenactment kinds of things of situations he might face there. He had read over 200 books in the last year alone about missions, about the Sentinelese. He had studied linguistics because no one in the world knows the language of the Sentinelese people except them. He was trying to find linguistic patterns to be able to communicate with them. And on and on it goes. According to one friend who’s very involved in missions and knew John very well, John was the most prepared missionary he had ever met in the world. And that seems to be true.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: President Wilson, I also know that you are a pastor, that you have pastored a lot in your background, and so you had to pastor some students, faculty and staff through this. You’ve had a very moving chapel where you dealt with some of this. How have you personally tried to shepherd your campus through this loss?

 

Dr. Billy Wilson: Obviously our students are shaken, but I believe they are shaken and stirred spiritually in other ways. The vision of ORU given to our founder in the 1960s at a dinner with Pat Robertson in which Oral wrote the vision on a napkin, at dinner if you can believe it, that’s carried the university over 50 years now was ‘Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen, my voice is heard small and my healing power is not known even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. And then God told Oral their work will exceed years and in this, I'll be well pleased. In many ways, John Chau lived out this vision to its fullest. He heard God’s voice, he went where the light was dim or not seen it all. The voice of God could not be heard or heard small and God’s healing power was unknown. And definitely, North Sentinel Island is the uttermost bounds of the earth. And so he did what we call our students to do in our vision statement.

 

(John Korstad segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: We also talked with biology professor Dr. John Korstad, who had John Chau in class at ORU. Tell us how you met this young man.

 

Dr. John Korstad: I probably met John in 2009 when he came with his family from Vancouver, Washington for his older brother’s graduation from ORU and then when John started at ORU in 2010. He applied to be in the honors program when I was director. I interviewed him and accepted him right away and he also took, I think, two classes from me when he was here at ORU.

 

Dr. John Korstad: … He started in pre-med and then he finished within the health science major. His heart really was, at that time, not to go in medical school like his older sister and brother and his father. His father, by the way, graduated from ORU med school in 1988. John just a focus on what he sensed God was calling him to do.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: So, do you believe that he was also academically gifted he was bright enough to do about anything you wanted to do?

 

Dr. John Korstad: Very much so. He could have applied to med school and gotten in easily.

 

(Ryan Bush segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: John Chau was ORU’s soccer team manager for several years. Coach Ryan Bush developed a strong friendship with John, who had both a big personality and a caring heart for those on the team who might not know Christ.

 

Ryan Bush: … He just had a certain charisma about him. He was a very joyful young man. And I think that's why the guys wanted him around all the time. He just lightened every situation and obviously, sports are intense, so whether you win, lose or drew, or whether you were at training getting yelled at, whenever he was there his attitude was contagious. He was always excited to be wherever he was whether or not there was a reason to be excited. …

 

John was very confrontational with the guys on the team and their relationship with Jesus. He was like, I understand that you’re saying you’re a Christian or you're religious in this way, but he was like, I want to talk to you about your relationship with Jesus. For it for an 18-year-old kid that's dealing with a 22-year-old athlete … People think, well, you’re at ORU and that’s a Christian environment, that’s actually not an easy thing to do. But he was very forward with the guys on the team and he would have conversations with me, he would come in the office and he was like, I just want to make sure that every single player has an individual conversation about who Jesus is and their relationship with Jesus.

Dr. Steve Greene: Do you think that sports helped him to root himself in his mission? Was an entryway, a door opener for him?

 

Ryan Bush: … With soccer being an international sport, I think it helped him with his mission because obviously everywhere you go culturally, soccer is the accepted sport around the world. So, that they can help him get in. Ultimately, the mission was first and foremost to spread the love of Christ and soccer was kind of avenue to get them there.

Dr. Steve Greene: Didn’t he also coach overseas some? He actually had teams he coached?

Ryan Bush: He did. He ran some clinics and camps in the overseas and he also went to South Africa as well and he worked with an outreach there that does actually send some kids to the United States to play soccer. He helped teach English there and he coached soccer while he was there and then he had a Burmese outreach here Saturdays that he ran with our soccer guys and they were refugee kids. He facilitated that when he was here and he got all of our guys actually to come on Saturday. They would all volunteer one Saturday. We never asked them to do it, but they just did it because they loved John.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: I want to ask you, coach, how you’ve dealt with it. How are you personally handling this great martyr?

Ryan Bush: I lost a great friend. … I don't have a lot of friends that are just on fire for God and that you know are going to go the distance. I’ve been doing this for a long time. So, there's a grieving process. I lost a friend, I lost a battle warrior, somebody that was going to stand and fight for the same things that I was. Then obviously you have a lot of questions on why, which will get answered at some point.

 

(Joshua Johnson segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Joshua Johnson’s organization, All Nations out of Kansas City, Missouri, helped prepare Chau to minister to the tribe he was committed to reach.


Joshua Johnson: 
All Nations trained John Chau at our training and church planting experience, training him in October 2017. We helped him in a lot of the disciple-making and the church-planting aspects of what would happen if he got accepted onto the island and into the tribe. … How can you learn their language? How can you learn their culture and speak in a way that they can understand the gospel? How can they understand Jesus, become a disciple and become disciplemakers?

 

Dr. Steve Greene: How do you speak to your people about John and what he did?

Joshua Johnson: Right now, at All Nations, it is a very sensitive subject because it’s raw, it’s emotional and it’s new. It’s a hard thing to go through a loss of a life, but we count the cost when we follow Jesus. We are called to lay down our lives. That sometimes means to lay down our lives even unexpectedly. But we know that the story is not yet over, that many people now are praying for the North Sentinel people. The island is known throughout the world and Christians around the world are saying, “Jesus come and speak to these people.” We know that John’s death is not in vain and we're praying that good will come of it. But it is a very difficult time for us to do that in a raw and emotional season. When you lose somebody, it’s hard to take an eternal perspective, a long-term perspective. But we know that John was an incredible young man that loved Jesus and wanted to obey Him. We know from his journal entries at the end that John still said, “Thank You, Jesus, for choosing me to reach these people.” It is an incredible testimony that he would say that at the very end.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: … He really tried to count the cost, don't you think?

Joshua Johnson: John counted the cost and he even knew that this tribe was violent, but he also knew that he was taking some positive steps in the right direction for this tribe to accept him. In his journal, he wrote that he believed there were positive things about the first encounter when they accepted some of his gifts. He believed that going on foot on an island would be a good chance to make that successful contact. But he did count the cost and said that he was willing to do whatever it took.

 

·         The Inside Story of a Christian Marytr

 

(Mat Staver segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Like Joshua Johnson, Mat Staver also saw how committed to missions John Chau was. Mat, who is founder and president of Covenant Journey, got to know John through a Covenant Journey trip to Israel.

 

Mat Staver: I met John Chau on a Covenant Journey trip in August 2015. He was from Oral Roberts University. He was 23 years old at that time and he had gone on several missions’ trips to South Africa, and even to India.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: You’ve seen a lot of mission young people come out of college. What did you think of this young leader?

 

Mat Staver: … John was one of those Gideon’s army that God was raising up. And to see someone of that talent use his skills and dedicate his life and be able to communicate with others and just enjoy life but also enjoy Jesus to share it was very encouraging. John was someone who used soccer to also communicate the gospel and to develop relationships. At ORU, he became one of the managers of the soccer team. And he also worked with soccer groups, teaching young boys around the world and the United States as well. And that was a way for him to develop friendships so that he could ultimately share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was also an amazing outdoors person. He became an ENT. He was someone who led amazing hiking and camping trips throughout the Pacific Northwest. His Facebook is filled with amazing adventures in which he prepared himself for those moments. And really, when you look back, everything he did, his time at Oral Roberts University, his studies in sports science, his preparation to be an ENT, his ability to survive out in increments places, his ability to just be athletic and to communicate the gospel and to develop friendships. All of that was preparing him for this mission that God had put on his heart since he was in high school.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: John’s approach to this isolated tribe is not without controversy. Some are calling him a colonizer with cultural imperialism in his veins, while others describe him as insanely arrogant. Joshua Johnson has seen the media reports that see John Chau as extreme.

 

Joshua Johnson: We know that John Chau was probably one of the most humble, soft-spoken learned young men. He was very determined. He really loved others well, he loved Jesus well. One of my favorite little testimonies is from one of our fellow All Nations missionaries that was training with John that said that his son would come up to John and play with him and sit on his lap. John was the type of man that you know young children would come up to because he was so kind and gentle. Really the stereotype of what is written, what is portrayed out there was really not the core of John’s character. It’s hard for other people. He walked humbly, he was merciful and he was able to do justice in this world. He wanted the world to know the North Sentinel people, he wanted them to have love and respect, representation, health care so that they can be lifted up as a community and society in take their rightful places of children of God.

 

(Dr. Scott Moreau segment)

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. Scott Moreau is a missiologist at Wheaton College outside of Chicago who has thought through some of these objections.

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: … I think that the general media assumption is here's another adventuring young idiot who does whatever he wants to do and nobody's going to stop him and he dies as a result. The media see this as a mixed, almost a tragic comedy if I can use that word together because it’s stereotypical in terms of their idea of what missionaries do. It's tragic in terms of what happened, but also I'd say enough media would consider it misguided. The people I've talked with in media and interviewed with have been very empathetic, and they really do want to understand what the motivation was. They don't fight when I tell them this is a Christian orientation, and this is what we believe. But at the same time, when I'm looking at the comments on all of the blogs and the websites that are going up, there's a lot of vitriol of people who think that we have no right to tell anybody anything about religion. And I would say that's a more contemporary message that didn't exist 40 years ago. And so that's one of the things we're seeing that's fueling some of the very strong reactions.

 

More of the Story

Dr. Steve Greene: One question reporters and missionaries alike are asking is: Was John’s contact with the tribe legal? Joshua Johnson isn’t certain it was, but Mat Staver thinks we need a kingdom perspective on that question.


Joshua Johnson: The only thing that we knew at All Nations was in October, in one of his last newsletters that John sent to his supporters, said that the restricted access permit was lifted and it was now legal to go to the 29 islands. That included the North Sentinel Island. That was the last thing that we knew at All Nations. Once he got the grounds, we didn’t have any contact with him. We don’t how he was able to go, whether what he did was legal or not.

Mat Staver: If you look at whether or not it’s legal and you say, if it’s illegal, you shouldn’t go, you don’t understand scripture. It was illegal for Daniel to pray. And yet he did it anyway. And he ultimately found himself in the lion’s den. It was illegal for the three Hebrews to bow down and they wouldn’t do it. They found themselves in the fiery furnace and God rescued them. It was illegal, the disciples were told some of them, you can get out of jail, but don’t preach in the name of Jesus anymore. And Jesus, of course, ultimately was crucified because the people who he was ministering to didn’t like what he was saying. Throughout the years of our life in our history as Christians and going back to the Old Testament, people have shared God and the gospel of Jesus Christ from the New Testament on at the risk of their lives. So, whether it was legal or not, John wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to these people. However, now whether it should be legal or not, this is a debate that’s going on. There was some in the 1990s tourism and they ultimately impose these restrictions on visiting these islands. And then they lifted some of those restrictions in August of 2018. However, you may still have needed a permit to visit this particular island because of the isolation of these people. And there is this pro-indigenous group that says just leave them alone. But even from a secular standpoint, think of this: Who are we to say that that young boy or young girl who sits on the shore of North Sentinel Island that looks out over the horizon, wondering what is on the other side? Who are we to say they don’t have a choice? Who are we to say that they all would be better off if they have low-life expectancy? John could not, and he commented in his journal, see any elderly people there. Why are they not there? We don’t know. How can people make these snap decisions that it’s better for them not to have any contact with the outside world when we don’t know about what’s going on? If they kill people like John, what are they doing to their own people? What is their health like? What about the young boy who climbs a palm tree and falls down and severely mangles his leg? Is it better to just to doom him to death or pain rather than bring someone there who can provide medical treatment to them? And besides the secular, the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. And if you look at New Tribes Mission, their first five missionaries were martyred because they were going to an unreached people group. They couldn’t speak the language. And that’s what happened to Nate Saint and Jim Elliot. They were martyred. But Steve Saint continued to minister to that on unreached people group in Ecuador and even baptized the very people that killed his father. The gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives. It brings light to darkness and sets the captives free. And that was the mission of John Chau.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Considering the danger, should John have gone to this tribe? Dr. Scott Moreau weighs in.

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: I would say a few things. Number one it’s always wiser to go in teams and yet at the same time a team might have been more threatening. You don't have to initiate conversations from minute one. Be aware of some of the things that you're doing, the type of gift exchange and pay attention to signals. Being shot at is not a positive signal. And does that mean he should have continued to try and reach? Maybe he should have waited a couple of weeks. I think continuing to go and present the same level of threat to them that clearly they perceived him to be was a mistake that he made. But again, I have the benefit of hindsight. And I can't say with absolute certainty that I could give him, here are 15 steps you should have taken. But I would say for most Americans, time is on our side and we don't have to reach them today. It can be tomorrow, it can be next week. It can be next month. The reality is patience is a huge virtue that might be missing, especially the younger a person is.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Dr. Moreau, in what way do you think he was prepared and then the inverse, how was he not prepared?

 

Dr. Scott Moreau: I've seen a lot of criticisms of him getting vaccinations and trying to isolate himself, and yet then going with a group of fishermen, so that the entire idea of isolation was lost when he went out with a group of people who had not isolated themselves. So, I think the intent was good. He was aware of the reality of communicable diseases that the people would not have been exposed to. He took steps as best as he understood him [them], but his understanding was limited. I say It was said that he had medical training, will he had EMT training, he wasn't a medical doctor, he wasn't an epidemiologist, someone who studies the transmission of disease. It would have been helpful for him to find out from somebody what are the right protocols to take. Now that's on the disease side.

 

In terms of the gospel message, the reality is the language, as I understand it right now, people don't even know what language they speak and shouting out to them in [inaudible], well, it is an African language and apparently they are African descended. There are over 1,000 languages in Africa and who knows what direction that could have come from? You've got a lot of things like that, that again I can look at. Sometimes, some of those things are simply silly mistakes. Sometimes, they have deadly consequences. And clearly going back to the island and having been shot at was a mistake with deadly consequences that I have the advantage of hindsight and looking at and saying I wouldn't have done it that way.

 

And I understand again from reports I've been seeing that there were people who were willing to go with him. But he wanted to go by himself. Perhaps going with a second person, perhaps doing nothing more than sitting out in the boat for day after day for a week and not making any moves on the island so they got used to his presence. You can think of 100 different things he potentially could have done differently. The challenge is, we have to look at what he actually did, and you can find mistakes in it. But I would have to say that if you looked at my time in missions, I was a missionary for 10 years, you would find just as many mistakes. They just didn't have deadly consequences.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: David Shibley of Global Advance is sometimes bothered by believer’s reactions to John’s choices.

 

David Shibley: I am not disturbed by non-Christians who have been sometimes very caustic and I believe cruel om their remorse concerning the choice that John made. I understand that because they simply don’t get it. They don’t. They don’t understand the different worldview that we have as followers of Jesus Christ.

 

What is concerning to me is that the questioning of John’s motives among some believers, even some missiologists, some that are friends of mine. It’s very important because there have been accusations kind of bringing John into a guilt by association of a supremacist attitude that some missionaries have carried in the past, and certainly, that is part of the mixed bag of missionary history. We need to acknowledge that. But, the very supremacist attitude the missionaries are accused of is often present in the attitude that is willing to let groups like the Sentinelese slowly die and become extinct because we’re not willing to grant them access to those life-saving measures that could not only extend their life but extend the viability of them as a tribal people. So, there is a lot to talk about in days ahead. But, right now I think we certainly need to honor the life of John Chau and ask, “Lord what would you have me to do?” I'm praying for a great response among Christian young people, as there was in 1956, to say we will take their place and we will do our part to get the gospel to the ends of the earth.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Mat Staver also knew the Chau family. We wanted to know how the family is coping in the wake of John’s death.

 

Dr. Greene: How are they doing and what do you feel they’re thinking these days? What what's the future like for them?

Mat Staver: John’s dad is a psychiatrist. John was born while he was in a residency in Alabama. His mother is an attorney. Obviously, like any family, they’ve been very close. His brother, Brian, and his sister, Mandy, all were very close knit. They had to spend Thanksgiving for the first time wondering what happened to their son, their brother. His mother has had a difficult time, as any parent would, just wondering if there is that glimmer of hope that possibly he is still alive. And that’s why I think it’s important that John’s body ultimately be returned to the family so that they can have closure. Anybody who loses someone, that they can’t see them and finish that grieving process, it just makes it more difficult. However, I do know this. That it is their Christian faith that has ultimately brought them through.

 

Amazingly, in John’s journal, the letter that he wrote to his mom and dad and his brother and sister says, “Don’t be mad at these people or at God, but live your lives in obedience to Jesus Christ.” They posted shortly after this that they forgive the very people that took their son’s life, their brother’s life. It’s their Christian faith that’s getting them through. John's legacy is going to live on as it continues to go around the world, to raise up a generation of men and women even now who will go to North Sentinel Island to share the gospel and other places. I think (his story) has encouraged missionaries around the world. And for me, I think like many people, it’s caused me to ask for what would I do? Would I love Jesus that much that I would lay down my life as John did for the Sentinelese people? It really has been very impactful for me personally. And I think it's doing that for people around the world.

Dr. Greene: … For all of our listeners who hear John’s story, speak to us about how we make it relevant. What do we do with it in our day-to-day life? What should we believe about what he did, and how should it affect our lives?

Mat Staver: I think it should affect our lives by just even listening to John Chau. Let me just read what it says, to his mom and dad. “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it. To declare Jesus to these people, please do not be angry at them, or at God if I get killed. Rather, please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to, and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil.” He concludes his letter by saying it’s not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe are at hand.

 

I can't wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Revelations 7:9-10 states. I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.” I think that speaks volumes. And that speaks to all of us, wherever we are, whether we’re going to an isolated tribe, whether we’re at home, whether we’re in the work environment, in the community, in our neighborhood at church. Those words reverberate through history. John’s words literally will continue to echo around the planet.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: We all want our lives to count. John Allen Chau’s life on this earth was a mere 26 years. We know his life continues into eternity, but, Dr. Shibley, what can we do to see that John’s life was relevant in his dying? That his life was necessary, that it was important, that it had significance?

 

David Shibley: I think there are several things we can do. First of all, John requested some things of us in his diary you see that should he die, he requested several things. He requested that this not be laid to the charge of the Sentinelese people and so we need to honor that request. He requested prayer for their eventual evangelization and turning to Christ. We need to honor that. In his writings, evidently just days, and possibly even hours before his death, he was asking us the question, “I know what I am to do in response to the Great Commission. What are you doing? Have you responded to that? Each of us needs to ask ourselves that question.

 

John wrote something about you guys might think I’m crazy, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. I think we need to go back and church history and ask, was it worth it for Francis Xavier to die face down on a beach in order in an endeavor to evangelize one more island? Were those five missionaries in 1956 in Ecuador crazy or, in fact, did they lift the whole vision of the church worldwide to its evangelistic and discipling mandate? That’s what they did. We need to honor that.

 

Paul was clear not only about our Lord who gave the Great Commission, but Paul said we’re debtors to everyone to get the gospel to them. In Romans 1:14, Peter said, God isn't desirous that anyone perish, but that everyone come to repentance. I believe that John was acting fully within a biblical framework.

 

What we can do for John is to ask ourselves those same questions in light of the fact that we, as followers of Jesus, are under the same mandate John Chau was under to make disciples of all nations, to get the gospel to every person. Are we obeying the assignment that the Lord has given to us and that greater context of world evangelization? I want to honor him for that.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: … What do we do now with the Sentinelese? Do we go back? Do we try to help? He wanted them to meet Jesus.

 

David Shibley: A great question, and I believe that is one of the big questions out of this. They remain an unevangelized tribe. Therefore, they remain our responsibility to some degree. When I say our, I'm talking about the body of Christ surround the world. We need to explore the very best ways to get to them. Some are saying that John may have been there illegally, although there is new information coming out that would dispute that. Again, we need to remember that we’re under a higher mandate. And until the Great Commission is rescinded, and the great missionary Amy Carmichael called it the great unrepealed commission until that commission is repealed, we are under mandate to get the gospel to these dear people.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: What if John’s body is never recovered? Dr. Korstad believes something spiritual will happen through John’s physical body on that remote Indian Ocean island.

 

Dr. John Korstad: John’s flesh may be buried there, but his spirit, and I really sense this, is strong. The blood of Christ flowing through John and his own physical blood, that’s powerful. We don’t know what’s going to happen. I believe that it is already impacting the people there in ways that we don't know.

 

Dr. Steve Greene: Every tongue, tribe and nation will worship Christ on the throne. John Allen Chau chose to lay down his life so that the last of the unreached may live into eternity. How will you honor John’s sacrifice? What will you choose?

 

Greenelines Host Information

Dr. Steve Greene is the Publisher and Executive Vice President of Charisma Media. Dr. Greene received his Ph.D. in marketing from Memphis State University. He has worked in television station management and worked directly with over 80 stations throughout the United States. He has worked in marketing capacities with McDonald’s, Jiffy Lube, and Stanley Steemer. He has owned restaurants, a national advertising agency and a syndicated marketing research firm. Dr. Greene has served as the Dean of the College of Business and professor of marketing at Oral Roberts University. He is also the author of Love Leads, which dispels the myths and misconceptions many have come to accept about leadership.

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How John Chau Followed the Great Commission to His Death