A READER'S JOURNAL
Walking His Trail
Signs of God Along the Way
Steve and Ginny Saint
ARJ2 Chapter: Evolution of Consciousness
Published by Tyndale House/IL in 2007
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2012
Walking His Trail
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We watched the movie "The End of Spear" in 2006 shortly after it was released and now six years later we were on a Crystal Serenity cruise ship when it was being shown. As we watched, we realized we had seen this movie long before, but this viewing was different — the young nine-year-old boy Stevie portrayed in the movie, whose dad was speared to death by Mincaye, a Waodani tribesman, was going to be lecturing about the movie the next day. This time we found the movie riveting and tears filling our eyes as it came to an end.
The next day I was wearing Del’s baseball cap with “Property of SAINTS” on it because our NFL football team was playing a playoff game against Detroit Lions that night. As Steve Saint told the story about his sainted father, Nate Saint, who gave his life to help stop the cycle of violence in the primitive Waodani tribe, I realized that the cap I had on belonged to Steve, and, with Del's permission, I approached Steve after his lecture, took off the cap and gave it to him, saying, "Steve, I think this belongs to you." He gave me a warm embrace of thanks, and donned the hat. Later in the cruise he mentioned losing his favorite cap a day earlier, so he wore the Saints cap the rest of the cruise. On the last day, after watching the third lecture by Steve, Del went up to him and Ginny to thank him for his work, and I asked if I might have some contact information and the only piece of paper he had on him was this book which he autographed to me and Del. We were both walking God's trail and our paths had finally crossed.
This book records key events in Steve and Ginny's lives, how they found each other and how they went back to live with and came to love the people who killed Stevie's dad. Not just the Waodani tribe, but the actual men who did the killing. Steve is now the adopted grandson of Mincaye and they are best friends. Once in a visit to New York City for interviews and speaking engagements, Mincaye told Steve, "See those trees over there? They're filled with fat squirrels. Let go get us some." The trees were in Central Park and their method of getting squirrels involved two 8' long blowguns with poisoned darts. Steve tried to talk Mincaye out of the hunt, explaining what jail was like, but Mincaye thought jail sounded like fun — keep one's wife away for a while, free food, talking pictures on screen on wall, etc. Then Steve remembered how blasé New Yorkers are, so they donned their brightly colored tribal hats, shouldered their blowguns and began walking across traffic to Central Park. No one even noticed them. "Just two more guys with blowguns." In the park, they shot at several squirrels, hitting none — without being stopped — but when word of a nearby Park Ranger reached them, they decided to go back to their hotel. One guy recognized them from the CNN interview the night before and had walked along into the park with them, taking a home movie on his phone which was shown during Steve's lecture.
Ever meet someone who doesn't believe in God? Steve did, a young man Pablo, who challenged Steve to provide proof of God's existence. The finding of a watch in the middle of a forest is a long-used metaphor of proof for intelligent design of the cosmos because it can make us realize that a working watch presumes an intelligent being who designed and built it. Steve however imagined a sand castle on the beach and confronted Pablo with it.
[Page xii, xiii Introduction] "Pablo, let's suppose you are stranded like Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island. Desperate for company, you search the small island repeatedly, looking for another human. Finally, after exhaustively searching the entire island, you resign yourself to the fact that you are totally and completely alone. Then one morning you walk down to the ocean, and there on the beach you find a finely detailed and elaborate sand castle. Now what would you believe? Would you prefer to believe that some rogue wave from the last receding tide created the castle, or would you decide that in spite of your belief to the contrary, there must be other intelligent life on the island?"
Pablo looked as though he felt trapped, but he didn't hesitate long. "I would have to believe that someone else was on the island," he responded. "Waves don't make sand castles; people do." Then with an intense expression that hinted at defiance but spoke clearly of a deep-seated yearning I have often felt myself, he demanded, But where are life's sand castles? Where are the signs of God along the way?"
Steve realized that Pablo didn’t want logical proofs of God’s existence, but rather Steve's own stories of God's intervention in people's lives — that people were God's sand castles!
In the parts of books left unread by most people, the Author’s Note, Introduction, Preface, Prologue, etc, are stories of the sand castles that authors found along their way which led them to write the book. In Steve's Introduction we discover the inspiration for the book's subtitle, "Signs of God Along the Way". If you are walking a trail, like skeptical Pablo, and looking for signs of God along the way, this book is a great place to start. If you wonder why bad things happen to good people and think God has senselessly let them die, read how Nate Saint and his friends have helped changed the world for the better as a result of the bad thing which happened to them.
When I listened to Steve lecture, he quoted a passage from the spiritual writer, C. S. Lewis, who began his life like Pablo, a skeptic, found signs of God along the way, and became known famously as "apostle to the skeptics". Death can only be understood meaningfully if it works backwards to create life. That's my summary of Lewis who writes eloquently thus, "There is a magic deeper still which the Witch did not know . . . When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead . . . Death itself would start working backwards.(1)" I have looked for signs along my way for an insight which came to me decades ago, and Steve and Ginny Saint have given me a book of signs for that insight: There are no innocent victims or meaningless deaths. Rightly understood, the words innocent and meaningless reveal our present lack of knowledge of spiritual realities, up until now.
In the Chapter Miracle Wife Steve relates the story of how he met and came to marry Virginia Lynn Olson, his wife Ginny of thirty-three years now. His plea for a wife and companion was met so amazingly that he finds it hard to explain, and knows it was no coincidence, but rather that Ginny was one of His carefully designed and crafted sand castles.
[page 116] Why God chose to answer my plea for help so wonderfully and explicitly I cannot tell. I have called out for help and direction often. I know He still guides me, but never again have I discovered a sand castle so intricately detailed and custom built on my beach. Mostly I see fainting marking in the sand now and again, but I recognize the origin and know I have company on my island.
I could write a chapter about my Miracle Wife of thirty-three years, Adele Ruth Richards, known to all her friends as simply Del, and, if I did, it would have to begin with the story of writing down my goal to "Fall in love three times before Spring". This unusual plea came about because my wife of five years had decided to stay behind in New England after I had moved back to my hometown of New Orleans at age 36. Unexpectedly I had become a bachelor for the first time in my lifetime, having been married to my high school sweetheart at age 20, then divorced and immediately re-married to my new sweetheart. I was in a new job, in a new city (as an adult), and had to make new friends and learn to date women for the first time. After about six months, I had dated a handful of women, some more than once, and I had become the very model of a bachelor, that is, a man who drives to work from a different direction each morning. But I hadn't met anyone I could say that I loved. So, one August day, I was writing down my goals as was my habit to do from time to time, and this one goal came off the tip of my pen, much to my own amazement, "To fall in love three times before Spring." I was aghast at the thought and the very impossibility of that prospect overwhelmed me. But a goal is a goal, I thought, and maybe that's what I need. I had really only been in love officially twice before, to my wife at the time, so the idea of it happening again, three times, in such short order was a tall order! So, I put the goals away and was invited to a picnic one afternoon in September and met a dark-haired beauty named Terése. I was smitten. We spent a lot of time together and we were happy, but in about six weeks, we had split and a blonde named Lucy grabbed hold of me and there I was smitten again. We dated, lived together, I met her parents, and at a party around Christmas I met a redhead named Nancy and soon she was riding on the back of motorcycle everywhere with me and I was in love again. I had forgotten about the silly goal by now, even though it seemed to have come true, because what happened next was meeting Del at a mutual friend's house. We hugged as we greeted each other, as thirty-somethings did in the 1970s, and that hug was warm and friendly and open and seemed like it could last forever. Later I would tell people it was "love at first hug". But we were friends first, then lovers, then married, and then lifelong friends. Often, when we are together, it seems like we just met the day before. All the things I wanted in a wife and companion, Del came ready and able to provide. She was my Miracle Wife, a beautiful sand castle of God's on the beach I happened to be walking by. She is the person I tell things to, and who is the first reader and copy-editor of all my writings today. Oh, and by the way, it was Spring when I met Del. I had fallen in love and out of love three times before Spring when Del arrived. Be careful what you wish for, what you pray for, what you set goals for — these ideas of the future may be the very sand castles that God has planned for you.
In his Chapter, Business As Un-Usual, Steve writes about May, 1981 when home loans were 15 percent and even people in luxury cars couldn't afford to build or buy homes. On one day as Steve was bemoaning the lack of construction business, he prayed for a signed contract for a house by noon. Thinking it to be unlikely, soon a broken-down car dragging its muffler pulled into his office's parking lot. An old grandmother came inside with her grand-daughter, saying to her in Spanish, "Ask him what kind of houses they build." Steve answered her in Spanish, easy for Steve who grew up in Ecuador but rather unusual for a blond-haired gringo in Minnesota, "We build any kind of house you want." She wanted a government-subsidized house and Steve never built those because of the red tape and long delays to approval. No chance of getting a signed contract by noon! About 10:30 Steve made the call to FHA about the highly unlikely loan. The woman in the FHA office became excited when Steve explained about the old Spanish lady, and after a flurry of questions, she told Steve to get down to her as quickly as possible because they were due to lose their funding if they didn't get a valid application for their subsidized loans by noon! The grandmother quickly got FHA to add funds for a driveway, brick trim, a garage, and a second bathroom as the FHA clerk pushed the paper through. Steve left from the big hug the grandmother gave him, and, as he drove to his office, he noticed the time was exactly 12:00, noon! Be careful what you wish for. Steve's contracting business became the busiest one in town, so much so, that Rep. Vin Weber was asked to investigate him because his fellow contractors thought surely he was doing illegal things. Steve was cleared of the bogus charges which reflected on the morality of those lodging the charges.
Timbuktu — is there any place which more symbolizes the end of the Earth? If you are known in Timbuktu, there would be no place where you were not known. Steve didn't know anyone in Timbuktu when he hopped an airplane ride there, but he soon found his flight back was filled with doctors and he would have to stay. He knew no one, spoke no one's language, and he walked around this dust-laden Saharan desert outpost trying to figure out what to do in the 110 degF heat. He tried to hire a truck and got only the answer, "No road, only sand". Steve prayed, "I'm in trouble here. Please keep me safe and show me a way to get back. Please reveal Yourself and Your love to me the way You did to my father." No answer came, but he followed up on a thought to find a telegraph office. False alarm, only out-going wires and no assurance anyone will receive the wire on the other end. Finally he remembered a story about a famous mosque with a tiny Christian church beside it. He found the little church, but it was vacant, only an ominous sign posted in French, "And by His stripes we are healed." Later a young man named Nouh approached him and led him to a missionary who offered to translate for Steve, who asked Nouh, "How did you come to have faith?" Nouh said as a young boy he stole some carrots from the church's garden and was afraid of being killed as he had been told that white men eat nomadic children. Instead the man gave Nouh some cards with Bible verses on them and said if he learned them, he'd give Nouh a Bic tick-toc (A clicking ballpoint pen). Nouh's life was in danger because he had become a Christian and so the missionary had to find a way to help Nouh survive.
[page 78, 79] "It can't have been easy for you as a teenager to take a stand that made you despised by the whole community," I said. "Where did your courage come from?"
"The missionary couldn't take me in without putting my life in jeopardy. So he gave me some books in French about other Christians who had suffered for their faith. My favorite was about five young men who willingly risked their lives to take God's Good News to Stone Age Indians in the jungles of South America." His eyes widened. "I've lived all my life in the desert. How frightening the jungle must be! The book said these men let themselves be speared to death, even though they had guns and could have killed their attackers!"
The missionary said, "I remember that story. As a matter of fact, one of those men had your last name."
"Yes," I said quietly. "The pilot was my father."
"Your father?" Nouh cried. "The story is true?"
"Yes," I said, "it's true." The missionary and Nouh and I talked for a long time. When they accompanied me back to the airfield that afternoon, we found that the doctors weren't able to leave Timbuktu after all, and there was room for me on the UNICEF plane.
As Nouh and I hugged each other, it seemed incredible that God loved us so much that He'd arranged for us to walk His trail and meet "at the ends of the earth." Nouh and I had gifts for each other that no one else could give. I gave him the assurance that the story that had given him courage was true. He gave me the assurance that God had used Dad's death for good. Dad, by dying, had helped give Nouh a faith worth dying for. And Nouh, in return, had helped give Dad's faith back to me.
Pete was the last of the five men to join Nate Saint's final journey into the rain forest to make friends with the Waodani tribe. Pete had three options, A, B, and C, and either A or B would have kept him alive — yet, he chose to die along with his fellow missionaries. Even the Waodani admitted after the fact their puzzlement, "Why, not shooting us, did they just die? Why did the one who had not been speared just stand there and call to us when he could have fled and lived?" That was Pete, and no one knows why. Steve hints that God's plan involved all five men, without which the story would have been incomplete and not spread as it has to the literal "ends of the Earth."
[page 88, 89] For fifty years, I have unintentionally served as verification that the story of the five Ecuadorean martyrs is true. Total strangers come up to me all the time in church, at camp, even in WalMart, to ask if I am Steve Saint, son of the martyr Nate Saint. This has happened thousands of times — no, it has to be tens of thousands of times by now.
When I acknowledge that I am Nate's son, they invariably describe for me the impact this story has had on their lives. I have been to some pretty unusual places — Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Canada, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia (before the split), Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Cuba, Nigeria, Senegal, and even Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa — and everywhere I've gone, people have told me how they have been encouraged to live for their faith by these five men who were willing to die for theirs.
I have never tried to keep track of all the stories that have been relayed to me, but most of them share a common theme: "It was worth it for me; the price you paid is paying dividends in my life and through my life to the lives of others."
Steve held the question about Pete's death as an unanswered question for many years and finally settled on this providential explanation: ". . . if any one of the men had lived to tell what had happened, the world's reaction to the story would have probably been very, very different." Different in that Steve would not be interrupted by people all over the world telling him how his father's story changed their life, but these people's lives would not be as full as they are because of Nate, Pete, and the other three men.
[page 89] This story would not have been "this story" if Pete had stayed with Plan A or even Plan B. Even though Plan C ended in his own death, Pete was willing to follow that path because he trusted God's leading completely.
God wrote His story, using the lives of these five men and their families, as a sand castle for people far beyond Waodani territory, beyond Ecuador, and even beyond South America.
Pete changed his plans. I don't think God did. I suspect this was what He had planned all along.
In interviewing the five widows for the filming of the movie, Steve had the most difficulty with his mother because she would always start off in answering his questions, “As you know, Steve, . . .” Some other member of the team replaced Steve for that interview. When Steve asked Pete’s wife, Olive, to recall the events, Olive said she dreamed the night before that she saw Pete's lifeless body in the river, still, she did not try to talk Pete out of his trip. The producer of the movie asked another widow, Barbara, about her reaction to the loss of her husband "When you asked God why, what did He tell you?" She paused for a long time before answering, "Well, I guess it just never occurred to me to ask God why." Steve sums up Barbara's response on page 105, "We all knew we had just heard a profound example of faith." When Steve's mother died, the hospice nurse recognized her name and confessed that she and her husband had become missionaries because of what Steve's mom and dad had done with their life. Steve says, "Sand castles are not the cathedrals we build for God but the evidences we see when God personally reaches out to remind us of His existence and His love for us. . . . we can jot the stories down in a journal — whatever it takes to pass them on to the generations that follow us." (Page 113)
Steve's Aunt Rachel was a key person in the process of bringing the Waodani to peace. She was called Star by some and Nemo by others of the natives, and Kimo spoke of her this way, "Teaching us to walk God's trail, Star came." In the filming of an expensive and all-important scene when Rachel's coffin was being nailed shut, the verisimilitude of the entire scene overwhelmed one of the natives, Dyuwi, who unexpectedly and off-script began praying loudly to God. Suddenly the actress who was playing the role of Dayumae started to cry, deep heaving sobs, so moved she was by Dyuwi's spontaneous flow of emotions. The real Dayumae went over and gave the actress a big hug, saying, "That is just how I cried when we really buried Nemo." In the coffin, the woman Sara who was playing Aunt Rachel had also begun to cry and after they quickly pried up the coffin lid, she didn't make a move to get out, she was simply joining in the overflow of emotions which Dyuwi had kindled.
When the script was ready for The End of the Spear Steve had located an original Piper matching his dad's plane in everything but its color and its N-number, the universal aircraft identifier. The minor overhaul of the engine and the re-rounding of the wing tips were done, the color problem was being solved, and now Steve wanted his dad's original N-number. After many calls he discovered it had been re-issued to a flying club and he got the phone number to call the woman in charge. But he delayed, trying to come up with a script which would convince her, first, to listen to his story, and second, to agree to part with that number. Finally he calls and barely gets his name out, when the woman tells him an incredible story which ends with this revelation, "I thought to myself, I'll bet Steve wants his dad's N-Number. So Lois and I decided to try to find a away to get in touch with you, and here you are calling me instead! You want that N-Number, don't you?"
The End of the Spear was a standing room only hit at the United Nations when it was shown. Diplomats who arrived late couldn't get in. This is how a woman, who had just seen the movie, asked to have it shown at the United Nations, "We keep trying to change how people act, but here [in the movie] the change comes about because the people's hearts are changed. That is what we need to do, change people's hearts."
Steve met one man at the UN whose father had also been killed by a man, but that man was in prison. The son of murdered father was hurt deeply and he wanted the killer to be hurt. Unfortunately the man was hurting himself more. As Steve puts it on page 207, "I once heard someone say that hatred is suicide on the installment plan." That son was an example of what hatred does to the hater. When the UN wanted Steve to speak at the reception after the movie showing, he was concerned about upsetting some sensitivities, so he chose to speak as he had heard Mincaye speak of Waengongi, his name for Creator. "Before, no one ever having shown us the Creator's markings, we did not know how to live. Hating and killing, we lived furious and afraid all the time. But then, seeing the Creator's markings, some of us decided to follow the trail He marked with His Son's own blood. That is a very good trail. Now, walking Waengongi's trail, I live happily in peace."
There are many other stories in this amazing book of stories, and the one of how Ginny lost her dearest child, her Stephenie, at a young age to a cerebral aneurysm, is the most poignant and heart-tugging. Ginny says on page 220, "I remembered the verse God had given me during that surgery: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything." (Philippians 4:6)
People who are looking for signs of God's existence everywhere, hoping to find proof which will overcome their skepticism, will never find what they are looking for because the evidence lies in people themselves! People are the sand castles on the beach of the deserted island of Earth which prove the existence of God, and when we as humans long ago lost our direct sight of spiritual realities, God sent his Son as a sand castle, a unique and loving Sand Castle to remind us that we are not alone on this seemingly materialistic island. This is the theme which Steve evoked in me by his eponymous metaphor of finding a sand castle on a deserted island. If someone can't find the sand castle, they are looking for things instead of people, for people are the signs of God along the way.
~^~For More Information on Steve Saint's work to help Indigenous Peoples everywhere, including Portable Dental Equipment, Medical Work, Eyesight Corrections, and a Flying Car for reaching remote locations, and even more, Visit www.itecusa.org.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. Quoted on page 198 of this book and originally written as Aslan's words in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: Harper Collins, 1950) page 163.Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne
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