This Week's Story

John Chau: a disturbing story embedded in fact and surmise!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Questioning of John Chau

November 2018: stories were popping up on Internet about a killing on a remote island. A 26-year old American man, John Allen Chau, a Christian missionary, was killed by arrows, while trying to reach a hostile tribe on North Sentinel Island, India. Fishermen reported seeing his body being dragged and buried in beach sand.

His mission and death have raised international arguments about the worth of his mission. One critic wrote, “Chau’s decision was uninformed, arrogant, and self-serving. He has reinforced the stereotype of all missionaries as brash young colonizers trying to tame ‘primitive’ tribes.” Other sources are describing his preparations as meticulous and based on a legitimate desire to share the message of Jesus Christ.

In high school John Chau read that the Sentinelese people were perhaps the most isolated people in the world. He began telling friends, “I’m going there.”

John grew up in Vancouver, Washington and was the youngest of three children. His mother was a lawyer and his father a psychiatrist.

He graduated from Oral Roberts University with a bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science, Sports Medicine. He did volunteer work in several refugee camps. There he often organized soccer tournaments which helped to build healthy relationships among refugees.

He refused to take full-time jobs, so he would have more time to prepare. He stated, “I want to immerse myself in the Sentinelese culture and live with the people for years. I hope to learn their language and translate the Bible into it. I wish to help them with their medical needs and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.”

As he did not know the difficult Sentinelese language, he completed a summer course at the Canada Institute of Linguistics, to help him hear and transcribe sounds.

October 2017 John began missionary training at the All Nations headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended lectures, spoke to anthropologists, and participated in village simulation exercise. He also attended a missionary boot camp.

A team was willing to go to the island with him, but he felt that the trip was too dangerous for anyone to go with him. Sentinelese wanted no contact with outsiders. Previously they had killed visitors. The Indian government had declared it illegal to go to the island without permission from the Indian government.

John worked to prevent himself from getting sick. He knew that the islanders would have no immunity to outside sickness. The common cold could destroy them. He was heavily inoculated and went through a quarantine period.

He made preliminary trips to the islands near North Sentinel, and then hired five fishermen to take him near the island. He assembled a collapsible kayak and went to the island. There he was killed by Sentinelese.

After his death his family wrote, “He loved God, helping those in need, and had nothing but love for the Sentinelese people.” His family described him as a Christian missionary, an international soccer coach, a mountaineer, and an Emergency Medical Technician.

Now people argue: Should isolated tribes be left alone? Do Christians have a right to share their Christian faith in areas where it is illegal to do so? Should people have the right to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ?

This is Barbara Steiner with a disturbing story embedded in history and surmise.

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