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Jim Elliot students make the most of film about namesake

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Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006 10:00 pm

January 8, 1956, Ecuador.

That was the day five Christian missionaries, including Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, were killed by members of the Huaroni Indian tribe. Their mutilated bodies were found shortly after the massacre, but there were few witnesses to their final moments.

Friday morning in Lodi, more than half a century later, some 200 students from Jim Elliot Christian High School sat to watch "End of the Spear," a movie depicting the life and death of their school's namesake and his companions. The movie was released Friday in theaters nationwide.

The entire Jim Elliot student body was treated to the first showing of the biopic at Lodi Stadium 12 Theaters. The movie, directed by Jim Hanon, follows the American men and their families, who returned after the killings to continue missionary work.

After the movie, students returned to Jim Elliot to participate in a series of workshops related to the famous moment in religious history and the lessons that can be drawn from it today.

"The message is that people can change," said sophomore Bekah Elliott after seeing the movie. "It was really heavy."

Dottie Henry, Jim Elliot dean of students, said most students know the story and have read biographical texts on the Elliot's life. Seeing it on the big screen, Henry added, just makes the story that much more memorable.

"They'll be able to relate to it on a different level," Henry said. "Movies certainly peak your emotions more than other kind of media."

The workshops allowed students to talk about what they thought of the film and how it may have differed from the texts they've read throughout high school.

Many agreed that Elliot's role was not as prominently featured as companion Nate Saint and Mincaye, the Indian who killed Saint.

Jim Elliot Christian High School students get ready and seated to watch a private screening of "End of the Spear" on Friday at the Lodi Stadium 12 theater. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

Still, they said, the movie echoed history pretty closely - though they pointed out the indian is called Mincayani in the film.

Elliot, Saint and others moved with their families to Ecuador in 1955. They tried to befriend a violent tribe of indigenous people and had minimal success with a few. Shortly after they made contact, other tribesmen attacked them. They willingly submitted to the massacre.

Sophomore Matt Howen is no stranger to the scenes shown in the movie. The son of school board members who founded and named the site after the famed missionary, Howen knows the story like the back of his hand.

"I've seen lots of documentaries and movies about it," Howen said. "Everyone knows, more or less, what the story is."

In 2002, Howen and his family visited Ecuador with Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint. They spent five days in the jungle and met members of the Huaroni tribe, including Mincaye and others who would be featured in the film.

Junior Lauryn Phelps looks at a picture of a plane for ideas to illustrate what kind of sequel she would like to follow the movie "End of the Spear," which all of the Jim Elliot students had just returned from previewing Friday. (Angelina Gervasi/News-Sentinel)

In one workshop, Howen and older brother Dan Howen, an alumni of Jim Elliot School, showed video footage of their trip and talked to the class about their experiences.

In another room, upperclassmen engaged in a debate on whether it was a part of God's plan for the missionaries to be killed, or if the South American tribe might have found God anyhow.

"No matter what, God will always triumph," senior Cody Milne told students in a clear, even voice.

"End of the Spear"

Director: Jim Hanon.
Release date: Jan. 20, 2006.
Running time: 108 minutes.
Local cities showing: Lodi, Stockton, Sacramento.
Language: English/Spanish.
Rating: PG-13 for intense violence.
Cast: Louie Leonardo as Mincayani, Chad Allen as Nate Saint/Steve Saint, Sean McGowan as Jim Elliot.
Genre: Drama.
Source: Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com

His opponent, junior Elaina Overby, used biblical passages to frame her argument that, yes, the deaths of the missionaries were part of God's plan to bring Christianity to the tribesmen.

Jim Elliot Principal David Couchman said Friday afternoon he hoped the events relating to "End of the Spear" would get kids thinking not about Hollywood or press releases, but about the transcendence of Jim Elliot's legacy.

"We tried to make it a learning experience and not just a movie," Couchman said. "We just thought this was too good to pass up."

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

This story was updated at 12:50 p.m. Jan. 23, 2006, to correct Dottie Henry's job title.

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