John Allen Chau. He Was No Fool.

8B8F2799-D1D5-406A-960F-1197A67318DCI have so many thoughts swirling around in my head.  We saw the tragic news of John Chau’s death 2 days ago.   Since then, it has been gaining momentum in my heart and mind.  To the point where I can’t sleep (it’s currently 4:15am). The best way for me to make sense of those thoughts is to write them down.  And what better place then my very own blog.

Also, as fellow missionaries, ORU Alumni, and the fact that our son & daughter in law knew John, it feels very real and almost close to home.

Before I go on, let me express my deepest condolences to John’s family and friends.  I have prayed for you often.  The only words I have are to say what you already know – Jesus is the comforter to the broken-hearted. As a fellow missionary, please know that I consider John a hero. And I am fully persuaded that his death will not be in vain.

“Reaching the Unreached” has been our ministry mantra or tag line since our ‘How to Write a Newsletter’ class in Bible School in 1997.

Yep, we’re that old.

But what does that really mean?  “Reaching the Unreached.  “REACHING THE UNREACHED”

What does reaching mean?  How do we reach?  Who are the Unreached? Where are the Unreached?

We have served as missionaries in Niger Republic for over 20 years.  I make that point to give some context to my words.  It truly has been our passion to ‘Reach the Unreached’.  There are several unreached people groups in Niger, and we have been fortunate to see progress made among them. Statistics in Niger are changing.  But that hasn’t come without sacrifices.

I admit that when I hear of someone moving to the mission field in an area of the world that is not unreached, I wonder.  I wonder why God is calling everyone to places that can reach their own nations, and even send missionaries themselves?

My short answer to that ‘wonder’ is that many of the unreached places are uncomfortable.  Hot. Undeveloped. Non English speaking. Far away. Filled with terrorism. Scary. Inaccessible. Just plain hard.

I, as most of the people hearing the news of John’s death, didn’t know him.  So many are weighing in with their opinions -positive and negative.  Which I guess is what I’m doing right now. And I’m sad to see so many who are criticizing him when the Great Commission is clear.  Mark 16:15 does not say, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to those who welcome you.”

John’s death has caused me to look again into the life, ministry and death of Jim Elliot.  Some of the parallels are amazing.  I’m even going to be bold enough to say this.  John Chau: A Modern Day Jim Elliot.

We see things through the lens of our own experience.  Here’s mine.

I have had the incredible privilege of taking the Gospel to people who have never heard the name of Jesus.  It’s pretty awesome.  I have experienced seeing how that Gospel message transforms lives, lifting them out of poverty.

I have had the even more incredible experience of seeing my children take the Gospel to someone who has never heard of Jesus.  But I have not had to see them die for that experience.

Some  say that we, our family, have sacrificed so much to go into all the world and reach the unreached.

But have we really?  We still have our lives.  And what sacrifice am I really willing to make?  Am I willing to lay down my life for another?  Because that’s what Jesus said we should do.  Was Jesus just saying we should lay aside our own comforts, dreams and desires, or did He really mean our actual lives?  Like be willing to die.

An even greater question…am I willing to watch my child to lay down his/her life for the sake of the call?  I’ve wrestled with that. What if my son told us he was called to reach the Sentinelese?  What if we even agreed.  He went, was attacked, but able to make it back.  I’m pretty sure at that point that I would say something like: “I’m proud of you and so thankful you obeyed God.  He brought you back. I’m sure you planted some good seed, and now God will cause it to grow.  Don’t go back again though.”  Because really, am I willing to sacrifice my child for the sake of the Gospel?

Even though there is crazy stuff going on in every nation bordering Niger, we have always felt safe here.  Yes, we’ve faced some things.  Quite a few things. Churches attacked and burned, multiple times. Accidents, sickness, even deaths.  I could go on.  But I can personally testify that in every one of those situations God has been faithful, and not one of them has ever caused us to want to ‘turn back’.

Which is why our experience this past week was so frustrating.  The T. Threat has been ramped up for sure in recent years, and even months.  I could name several ‘groups’ that have infiltrated Niger, but I won’t. We are not fearful, but we do know that we have to be on ‘high alert’ and walk in wisdom and discernment (which is why the prayers of our partners is so crucial).

Back to last week.  We were on our way out to do a water baptism in one of our newer church plants in a village about 1.5 hours away.  We’ve been there multiple times.  There are several police/security checks along the way, and the police usually recognize us and wave us through. At the checkpoint about an hour into the trip, the police stopped us.  They questioned us, asking where we were going.  They knew by talking with us in their language that we weren’t ‘newbies’ in Niger.  They expressed pretty emphatically though, that they did not want us to continue down the road.  We knew that there were security issues near the area we were going, but didn’t think they would be a concern for our brief trip.  The police told us that they were not going to forbid us to go, but would be very stressed if we did, and wouldn’t rest until they saw our faces again.

We had a decision to make.  It’s very rare for us to turn back.  And honestly, if it had just been Neal and I, I’m pretty sure we would have gone on and done the baptism.  But we had some guests from the US with us.  And that puts a whole other bent on the situation.  Being responsible for someone else.  So instead of going ahead, we thanked the police, and went to visit and encourage a church in a nearby village instead.

Not that our situations are even comparable, but here’s the HUGE difference between our decision, and John Chau’s decision to go to reach the Sentinelese in spite of the dangers.  The place where we were going had already heard the Gospel.  We were going to baptize believers.  They even had a pastor there.  So to do something ‘risky’ (I guess some are saying ‘adventurous) could even be considered foolish. Maybe even prideful.

But John was taking Jesus to a group of people that had never heard.  Ever. That is not foolish. Or adventurous. Or prideful. It’s obedience. That’s what Reaching the Unreached really is.

I don’t suppose that everything I read is true, but it sounds to me like John was making a very well-informed, Jesus led decision.  It wasn’t fool-hearty.  It wasn’t spontaneous.  And bottom line?  Go into ALL the world and preach the Gospel.

My experience is one thing.  But what does the Bible say about it?

Look at Peter and John in Acts 4.  They are threatened and told not to speak again in ‘that Name’. They replied, “We cannot help but speak what we have seen and heard.” They return to their friends and prayed.  Not a prayer of protection, but this prayer:

Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

Then they went right back to proclaiming that Name. Reaching.

In Acts 16, while Paul was on his 2nd missionary journey, he is prevented by the Holy Spirit from going to Turkey and the Aegean Sea.  Right after that, he has the vision of the man from Macedonia.  He immediately, without question, went there, knowing it was the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Who are we to say that the Holy Spirit didn’t call John to the Sentinelese?

And what about Acts 20? Paul said the Holy Spirit told him to go to Jerusalem, and also told him that prison and hardships are facing him there.  It didn’t stop Paul.

It didn’t stop John Chau either.  He knew the risks.  But I suspect that he said as Paul did: I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

I’d only be speculating, but I’ll bet there were those who tried to talk John out of what he was about to do.  Again, look at Paul.

The prophet Agabus tied Paul up and said the Holy Spirit told him that he would be bound ‘like this’ and handed over to the Gentiles. People begged Paul not to go.  After all, why walk into a situation you know is sure to end in disaster?

I wonder if John’s mom begged him not to go.  And I wonder if his answer was similar to that of Apostle Paul:

“Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

And what about the time Paul was stoned. Thinking he was dead, they dragged him out of the city.  He got up and instead of going to the hospital, he went straight back into the city.

Sounds like my hero, John. Ever determined to Reach the Unreached.

The message of the Gospel has not changed. The number of those needing to hear are still beyond our ability to reach. That means that we still have the same job as Paul & the other disciples had.

I believe John understood this and took it literally.  And we’re going to criticize him for it? How long has it been since you shared with someone face to face of the love, grace and eternal life that Jesus offers?  How long…? We are all called.

It’s our responsibility to ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel’. That’s not optional, it’s a command.  Just because someone doesn’t want to hear doesn’t negate the command.

What is not our responsibility is to decide for our hearer whether or not they receive the Gospel.  That’s all up to them.  But they can’t decide if they don’t first hear.   How will they hear without a preacher?

The Gospel is the only thing that will bring change to the Sentinelese people. And the point isn’t to change who they are, but simply to present Jesus to them so they have an option to accept or reject His gift of eternal life.

Anthropologists say, ‘let them be the way they are’,  ‘leave them in peace in their ecosystem’. ‘We protect them by leaving them alone’.  Almost like an endangered animal species.  But they are not animals.  They are God’s creation, made in His image.  And if we ‘leave them in peace’, they’ll have no peace at all.  If we don’t reach them, we won’t see them in heaven. And that will be on us. But their blood will not be on John Chau’s head.

Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but it it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24

John Chau’s death is a seed that has died.  I am very excited and confident about what is going to grow from that seed.  I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of a movement among the Sentinelese and all of the islands and unreached people in that region of the world.

Again, I may be speaking presumptuously… but I can see John up in heaven after receiving his ‘well done’ from Jesus.  He’s cheering us on with the cloud of witnesses.  Maybe he found Jim Elliot and said, “Hey man.  Do you remember the time you said, ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose?’ Everyone is talking about that.  And you were right.”

What do you have to lose?

23 thoughts on “John Allen Chau. He Was No Fool.

  1. Carla Smith

    “It’s our responsibility to ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel’. That’s not optional, it’s a command. Just because someone doesn’t want to hear doesn’t negate the command.”

    This is really speaking to me.


  2. PamperedScentsNaturals

    Wow! I am moved by this. I can only believe that this young man had to have heard God’s call. Surely No one would willing go into such a situation without being COMPELLED by the Spirit. If he was truly led by God, & he had a chance to preach even a little of the word, it may be like Stephen. And God promises that His word will not return to Him void, but WILL accomplish what it was sent for. This young man was willing, obedient, and will reap a harvest to his account, because he was obedient. And since God promises His word will not return void, what ever word spoken, will accomplish what God intended, even if this young man is not there to see it. Our job as a believer is to be obedient, plant the seed, even in the face of much opposition. I am praying for his mom, & family. In their minds, they’re probably saying, “I knew it! I told him not to go!” But God had a purpose. He will reap a huge harvest.


  3. Mrs Keith (Dorothy) Crook

    Oh, dear Danette, as I read your blog, my heart aches for John’s family and friends (including you and your family) having to deal with John’s tragic death!

    I looked up more info on Safari news about John’s death, which in my mind now I regret doing. As I was appalled at the insensitive comments people were posting! Ended up deepening the sadness and dismay for the shape Senegal and our world is in. 🙁

    I’m praying for God’s peace and comfort for you, Neal and your family as well as for John’s family and friends dealing with such devestating news!!! I praise God that John is HOME with our Heavenly Father!!!

    We love you!!


    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and prayer. I am very sure that this is only the beginning of the reaching of the Sentinelese people, and the people in that region. John was the seed.


  4. I am moved by John’s words written in his notes, “”You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think its worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”

    I have risked my life for missions and several members of my family are in situations right now that are potentially dangerous. I believe the Great Commission is worth the sacrifice.

    By the way, your daughter taught my son Caleb in second grade last year. Our family has been praying for you. I hope to visit Niger someday. May God bless and protect you and give you great fruit.


    1. Erin

      “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think its worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”

      But they didn’t speak English. Not much is even known about the island…How was he going to declare *anything* in gibberish? Not to mention the fact that he could have wiped them out with modern diseases before they even got to any kind of basic and mutual understanding of English or their native language. This is colonialism all over again. This is Europeans (I know he isn’t European. He *is* however from an imperialist, western society) wiping out indigenous people in the sake of the “gospel” all over again. When will Christians stop harming others in the name of Jesus?

      This poor man was well intentioned, but very much misguided. I feel quite sad for his family.


    2. Daniel King — how awesome that Tanika was your daughter’s 2nd grade teacher. It’s a small world, and it’s fabulous to see how the Lord is equipping and encouraging your child to fulfill the call into the next generation. Blessings to you! Ann Dunagan — Mission-Minded Families


  5. Carol belec

    Wow! So powerfully expressed! My own brother is one who did not support me in any way when I came to Niger. It is so sad to not know the compelling call of god and the joy that comes from obedience and seeing fruit.


  6. walnutshademom

    You told it like it is, Danette. Piercing, penetrating, and challenging me to wrestle with the gap between what I say I believe and how I live. Very uncomfortable, but nothing compared to what John Chau chose to endure.


    1. Walnutshademom — your comment is powerful too. “Piercing, penetrating, and challenging me to wrestle with the gap between what I say I believe and how I live. Very uncomfortable, but nothing compared to what John Chao chose to endure.”

      Thank you for sharing this article, Danette, and thank you to everyone who left comments.


  7. Hi, Neal and Danette: I thought your article is excellent! I’m also a missionary, and have similar feelings about it… Here are some comments from my journal I will copy/paste over… Thanks for your post!

    Dan’s Journal – fresh news from the front-lines…
    Nov. 28, 2019 (in 2 parts)
    #1 Special insights regarding the John Allen Chau massacre controversy
    ➢ There is much international news and legitimate concern over this recent trauma. Today I read a blog I would like to pass along for your consideration, and then also make some personal comments from my heart to you about it. This journal entry is exceptional, because so far I have written primarily about personal experiences and testimonials here in the Philippines. I thought this particular blog entry was noteworthy from a missions perspective, and am passing it along, because it is drastically different from the common, world-view. Of course Jesus wants us to be wise and use our head. Along with that being said, there needs to be freedom for everyone to do their best in personally rising up to obey the Great Commission without condemnation, or criticism by those may not be trying to fulfill it. Here are 3 articles as follows:
    ➢ 1) a link to the Fox News report of the incident
    ➢ 2) Another missionary’s Great Commission focused perspectives
    ➢ 3) Followed by my own personal journal entry about this tragedy (Dan’s Journal – Special insights regarding the Jon Allen Chau massacre controversy; Nov.28 #2)… “Was John Allen Chau a martyred hero or a fool?”

    Nov. 28, 2019 (in 2 parts)
    #2 Special, personal insights regarding the John Allen Chau massacre controversy: “Was John Allen Chau a martyred hero or fool?”
    ➢ Of course, none of us are God. It seems best for all of us to leave that decision to the courts of heaven to be the judge, in this case. As mentioned in my 1st journal entry, God’s perspective is generally drastically different from the common, world-view. Of course Jesus wants us to be wise, and to use our head. Along with that being said, there needs to be freedom for everyone to do their best in personally rising up to obey the Great Commission without condemnation or criticism by those may not be trying to fulfill it, or personally be willing to make sacrifices to do so.
    ➢ We met John and his parents at ORU a number of years ago, and are respectful of all of them, and their sincere hearts for the Lord. I’m quite confident that John Chau would not have been willing to take such life-threatening risks if he hadn’t felt he was being obedient to do what the Lord was putting in his heart to do, at the time.
    ➢ We do missionary work here in the Philippines. We also face major risks and danger at times, but just because there is imminent danger should not stop us from boldly doing what the Lord has called us to do, and continuing to be bold witnesses of the gospel to the unreached! We need to be faithful, even if that means laying down our lives, if necessary, to advance the kingdom of God and obey the Great Commission. In Rev. 12:11, we find that the overcomer’s “loved not their lives unto the death”.
    ➢ Let me share with you from our own personal experience. Over 5 years ago my wife and I were in a life-threatening holdup, A gunman entered the room where we were sleeping at our mission base on a remote island around 4:00-4:30 a.m. It was still very dark, (with no electricity). He had a headlamp mounted on his head, and with a loaded gun pointed directly at us demanded money, or he said he would kill us. (For more of that story, check previous journal entry). I won’t take the time and space right now to go into that whole story. I would just like to highlight several very significant things about it:
    o Just because there continues to be danger and threats in that location does not stop us from continuing to develop our missions base there. Of course there are real enemies, but “greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world!”
    o Regardless of what others might think or say, we need to faithfully continue to pursue our missions call from the Lord to penetrate isolated areas that desperately need the gospel.
    o Our dangerous trial of faith that morning didn’t catch the Lord by surprise. In fact, I was awake in early morning hours before the incident happened with a clear impression from the Lord out of Ps. 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed (rescued) from the hand of the enemy”. I dozed in and out of sleep, realizing the Lord was giving me a special verse to consider together with our devotional time with our mission team that morning. I didn’t realize at the time that when we would finally gather with our team after the holdup incident, several of us would have been wounded by gunshots from the hand of the enemy, but our lives were spared, and we thankfully gave the Lord praise.
    o Does the Lord promise comfort and ease, with no danger or risk. to those proclaiming the gospel? Of course not! But He does promise to be with us… (Matt.20:28; Heb.13:5,6)
    ➢ I would like to make some concluding comments in closing, for now. In Heb.11 there’s a listing of quite a number of hero’s of faith. Some of them were miraculously delivered. Some were not delivered, and even suffered death. Yet they were all people of faith, and faithful. I would like to think that John Chau was like one of them. The Lord only knows. We continue to trust the Lord in all these matters, and not our own understanding… (Prov. 3:4,5) May the Lord somehow work this tragedy together for good in His Sovereign plans, because we know that John Chau deeply loved the Lord (Rom. 8:28).


    1. Thanks Dan, for sharing. i really appreciated your views as well. And we agree! Just because there is danger does not mean we shouldn’t continue. In our experience, persecution always, ALWAYS grows the church. And I strongly believe that the sacrifice of John Chau’s life has started a new surge of missions among the unreached. The devil will so regret what he did… Thanking God for you!


  8. Pingback: My thoughts on Chau Massacre – Bridge to the Islands

  9. carolyn stafford

    Praying that someone or more than one will carry the Cross to these “lost” people.
    And God said “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I (Isaiah), Here am I:
    send me. John Allen Chau did not die in vain. He’s praising the LORD in HEAVEN!! He’s HOME!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s