Today, New Tribes Mission is one of the largest in the world. In November, 1942, they sent out their first team, a group of ten men and women with six children. They sailed for Bolivia. Five of the men would never return.
When they arrived in Bolivia, the team decided to open work with the Ayoré tribe, known to Bolivians as barbarians. Because of encroachment on their territory, the Ayoré were infamous for savage attacks on intruders.
As the missionary team worked their way toward their destination, they shared the Gospel. The team even converted 100 Bolivians to Christ before they reached their place of work! In June, 1943, the men left Roboré, the last outpost of civilization. Soon they were chopping their way through South America's "green hell"--the jungle. They wanted to make contact with the Ayoré in the jungle, away from areas where the "barbarians" had been killed or captured in the past. Although the missionaries had guns, they carried them only for hunting and protection from jaguars. They had made up their minds to send the weapons home as soon as they found themselves near the Ayoré, not wishing to risk killing any Ayoré.
Attacked by thorns, insects and malaria, they pressed on, willing to lay down their lives if only the Ayoré might hear about the glorious Christ. When they found a creek that they believed the Ayoré used, they sent their guns home. Dave Bacon, Cecil and Bob Dye, George Hosback and Eldon Hunter pressed forward, hoping to tell the Indians about the Jesus who left majesty to die for them. "If you don't hear anything inside a month, you can come search for us," said Cecil to the two men who were taking the guns back.
A month came and went without a word. Searchers set out, but did not find the missing men. Later in an Ayoré camp, they found personal items belonging to the men. It would be eight years before the facts were known.
The remaining missionaries continued to try to contact the Ayoré, leaving gifts for them. Eventually they made friends. On this day, August 12, 1947, a group of Ayoré laid down their weapons and came out of the jungle.
In 1950, an Ayoré man who had been present told what happened to the five missionaries who never came back. The missionaries had walked into an Ayoré camp and left gifts in front of the surprised natives. Because one warrior wanted a bigger gift, the five Gospel-bearers were killed.
The chief was away at the time. Upon his return, he rebuked his men for the killing. Clearly the white men were not enemies. He buried them in the camp.
Were their deaths a waste? Other New Tribes missionaries looked at them as five seeds. As Cecil Dye had written before his death, "...perhaps more Christians at home would become more aware of their responsibility to lost men and less concerned over the material things of this life if the expedition failed and we lost our lives."
- Johnston, Ken. The Story of New Tribes Mission. Sanford, Florida: New Tribes Mission, 1985.
Last updated July, 2007