Remembering Mincaye: “To die is gain, and heaven has gained.”

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By Jonathan Pifer
(Image credit: ITEC)

On April 28 a great warrior both in physical and spiritual battle went home to be with the Lord. Grandpa Mincaye was one of the spearing party in 1956 that took the lives of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully as they tried to share the gospel with the Waorani people. Grandpa Mincaye will always be remembered by the world as the man who killed five missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador — but not by me, and not by those who knew him. I will always remember him as the kind man who laughed and smiled and loved Jesus with all that was in him.

When I was a child, my mom ran the guest house here in Shell, and Grandpa Mincaye used to come out of the jungle with Steve Saint (son of Nate Saint) periodically and spend time with us. My family had a trampoline and I remember his excitement as he was propelled up and down by the springs of the trampoline. He was also fascinated by my remote-control car that I used to drive all over the compound where we lived.

As I reflect on his life and how it changed when Jesus entered it, I see that it is never too late for anyone to come to know Christ as their Savior.

I remember a man who had a great affection for my father and would bounce up and down with joy every time that we went into the jungle to see him. My dad helped Steve Saint with building his house in Nemonpare. He also helped by selling Waorani goods, so every couple of months we would use the profits to send in big bags of rice and things that they needed in the jungle. I remember my family bringing in a team of college students and Grandpa Mincaye showing them how the Waorani would climb trees with their blowguns in hand to be closer to the monkeys. I also remember him accepting my challenge as I grabbed my blowgun half the size of his, and raced him up a neighboring tree. I am sure I was peculiar to him, having been a skinny, short, white kid with glasses, but I never felt anything but love and acceptance from him.

I remember the man who held me in safely at his lap while we watched The Jesus Film in the Saints’ house in Nemonpare. I remember the man who baptized new believers with conviction and prayed that they would never stray away from this decision that they had made to follow Jesus (Itota) and that the Lord would call them home before they could ever turn away. That impacted me in a huge way, hearing Grandpa Mincaye literally asking God to end someone’s life rather than allowing them to turn away from Him…. He truly believed that living with Jesus was more important than having any sort of life without Him. He believed what he learned from the Bible to be true. 

As I reflect on his life and how it changed when Jesus entered it, I see that it is never too late for anyone to come to know Christ as their Savior. This man killed people in cold blood because he came from a culture that sought revenge for every death, not just murders. Every death created a blood debt that needed to be covered with more blood. When Mincaye heard that Jesus’ blood covered all blood debt, it changed him in such a way that there was no going back. I see the legacy of faith he has left, through his children, grandchildren and his great grandchildren, many of whom are walking well with Jesus. That is a legacy that I think we should all strive to leave behind. Since his death, I have had the opportunity to speak with many who knew him only very little, but they all had the same thing to say about him, “I am better for having met him even for a little while.” Grandpa Mincaye lived his life as Paul said in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To die is gain, and heaven has gained.    

I can’t wait to hear about the reunion that happened upon his arrival on April 28, but I am pretty sure it was a really big party filled with rejoicing of the arrival of one of God’s good and faithful servants. Grandpa Mincaye, thanks for being a part of my life and for showing me Jesus through yours. I am a better man for having known you.

To learn more about Mincaye and read other memories of his life, visit ITEC.

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Jonathan Pifer

Jonathan Pifer is a missionary in Shell, Ecuador where he ministers to the indigenous peoples of the rainforest. He was born and raised in Ecuador by missionary parents who served there for 22 years. Upon graduating from Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador Jonathan moved to South Carolina where he attended North Greenville University. He met his wife, Bekah, his first semester at school and the two were married in the summer of 2012. Jonathan then attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he graduated with an MA in Christian Ministries in December of 2016. His son, James, joined the family in 2019. Please pray for the Pifer family as they minister in Ecuador.

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