He was born into a violent “Stone Age” culture in the Amazon Rain Forrest of eastern Ecuador, South America.
Mincaye, whose name means “Wasp,” died April 28, 2020 at home in the tiny village of Tzapino of natural causes related to old age. He was between 88 and 91 years of age. Mincaye is survived by his wife Ompodae (Otter), thirteen children, fifty some grandchildren, many many great grandchildren and tens of thousands of people who saw him as proof of God’s redeeming and transforming power.
When “Grandfather Mincaye,” as we affectionately knew him, helped five other Waodani warriors spear my father Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian and Ed McCully to death on a river sandbar in 1956, there was no reason to believe anyone outside of his small clan and the five bereaved families would ever take note of that incident.
Nevertheless, millions of people in North America and Europe followed radio news releases that five North American missionaries were missing in the Ecuadorian jungle. For most of a week there was no word of their fate. When a search party finally found their five, spear-riddled bodies the question was, “Why?”.
The term “Tragedy” accompanied virtually every radio, newspaper, and magazine article as the news of these vicious and seemingly senseless killings spread. But sixty-four long years later, it seems clear that Genesis 50:20 was about to come true again. “What man meant for evil, God meant for good.”
There has been no greater ambassador of that message than the life of Grandfather Wasp. Mincaye is also the main character in the feature film, “End of the Spear.” When “End of the Spear” in book and movie form became available, Mincaye traveled around the United States and Canada telling his life story. This amazing jungle warrior who counted only up to twenty on his fingers and toes, personally impacted hundreds of thousands of people in audiences as large as forty-five thousand. The movie in which his life plays the leading role has now been translated into the mother tongues of approximately one quarter of the world’s population.
Mincaye’s most frequent speaking theme was, “We lived angry, hating and killing, ‘ononque’ (for no reason), until they brought us God’s markings. Now, those of us who walk God’s trail live happily and in peace.” Then he would often ask, “How long did you have God’s Markings before you brought them to us?” “Waa, iñinamai” (well, I don’t know). “Maybe if we had known sooner that ‘Waengongi’ (the Creator) did not see it well that people should live angry, hating and killing for no reason, we could have walked God’s trail sooner.”
There are people who question the motives of the five missionaries who made contact with the Waodani in 1956. There are some who question Mincaye’s motives in participating in 10 speaking tours to the U.S. and Canada, trips to Europe, Panama and even India. I can only answer that I was Mincaye’s traveling companion on all of those trips. We traveled together, ate together, shared the same room, and spoke together. I have known Mincaye since I was a little boy when he took me under his wing and had his sons teach me to blowgun hunt. He was one of my dearest friends in the world. Yes, he killed my father, but he loved me and my family. One of my grandsons is named Mincaye.
We will miss you, Maemae Mincaye, but we hold onto the certain hope that we will soon see you again (John 3:16).