“By His strength we take the challenge. By unflinching determination we hazard our lives and gamble all for Christ until we have reached the last tribe regardless of where that tribe might be. Our work is to fill in the gaps where the Gospel has not yet gone.”
This proved to be a tremendous challenge indeed. In 1944, five men were killed as they tried to reach the Ayoré people with the Gospel of Jesus, leaving behind their wives and families. In 1949, the mission’s first plane crashed on its eighth trip, taking with it all 15 people who were on board. Shortly after, money was raised to buy a second plane and more people joined the mission to take the gospel to those “distant and unevangelized” tribes. Four months after the death of their husbands in the first crash, Edna and Donna, who “wanted to follow and finish the goals of their husbands, to bring the Message of salvation to the unreached peoples of South America,” along with their children boarded the second plane. NTM’s missionary founder Paul Fleming was also on board as he planned to speak to Christians of “the needs of the unevangelized peoples around the world.” This second plane was on its first NTM flight when it crashed into a mountain, taking with it another 21 lives, including Paul Fleming and those two families. These tragedies all happened in the first few years of the mission, yet the missionaries persevered through it all.
In the history of NTM, many people have lost their lives for the sake of Christ, yet their love for the Lord and passion for the unreached tribes to hear the good news of the gospel spurred them on no matter what length was needed to do it. These men and women were committed to serving the Lord no matter what the cost. Mel Wyma, one of the first missionaries to Bolivia, puts it this way:
“The record of the early history of NTM was of men and women that sensed the urgency & the mindset of: ‘whatever it takes’ we must go now. An outstanding quality of the early builders of NTM was the fire in their hearts for the lost. As we lose the spirit of urgency, we become more concerned about our reputation, our abilities and in being safe and comfortable in doing the job.”
Situations have changed since then. New Tribes Mission is now known as Ethnos Canada. The world keeps changing, and there are many things to leave us stumped, discouraged and off track. However, God has not changed. And, there are still unreached people in remote places who have never heard of the gospel. Obstacles may look different. Challenges are still hard to face. But may each of us take courage from the men and women who have gone before, that “whatever it takes” we will continue to go forth and bring the gospel to those in the remotest parts of the earth.