John Allen Chau

John Allen Chau - Christian Martyr

John Allen Chau

John Allen Chau

Who is John Allen Chau?

John Allen Chau is the Christian martyr whom God used to begin the evangelization of the North Sentinel Island. A 26-year-old American missionary, John Allen Chau (above right) died by arrows on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean on November 16, 2018. His martyrdom received worldwide attention, put North Sentinel Island on the world missions map, and inspired a new generation of missionaries to rise up for Jesus and the Gospel.

North Sentinel Island

Who are the Sentinelese?

The Sentinelese (above and top left) are the indigenous people of North Sentinel Island, which is one of the last places on earth untouched by "civilization." Estimated to number between 50 to 500, the Sentinelese live on what God provides for them in and around the North Sentinel Island but have never heard the name of Jesus, let alone His Gospel. And they have reacted so violently to attempts by outsiders to reach them that the Indian government gave up in 1991 and has since declared North Sentinel Island a no-go zone not to be approached within 5 kilometers (3 miles).

Why did John Allen Chau go to North Sentinel Island?

John Allen Chau was raised in Vancouver in the state of Washington and attended Vancouver Christian High School, where he began to express a desire to evangelize the Sentinelese, and graduated from Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma in 2014.

Between 2015 and 2018, John Allen Chau made several trips to the Andaman Islands, which include North Sentinel Island, and confided to a fellow missionary his desire to live with the Sentinelese, learn their way of life, share the Gospel with them, and eventually translate the Bible into their language.

On October 16, 2018, John Allen Chau returned to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands, and began to make his preparations. On November 14, 2018, he hired five local fishermen and their fishing boat to take him and tow his kayak to North Sentinel Island. They slipped out of harbor at night to avoid detection by the Indian coast guard and reached the vicinity of North Sentinel Island around midnight.

At daybreak on November 15, 2018, John Allen Chau paddled his kayak toward the island but retreated after being met by arrows from the Sentinelese. Later that day, he paddled back to the island, this time with two large fish as a gift and crying, "My name is John. I love you and Jesus loves you... Here is some fish!"

This time, he was able to make contact with the Sentinelese. They accepted his gift and he spent about an hour with them on the beach trying to communicate with them and learn some of their words. When he began to sing to them a song about Jesus, however, they became violent, broke his kayak, and shot arrows at him. John Allen Chau swam back to the fishing boat with arrow injuries.

At this point, most modern missionaries would have turned back and returned home. After all, a valiant effort had been made and death had been barely evaded. But John Allen Chau realized that if he returned home and the Sentinelese remain isolated, they will continue to die and go to hell. To him, their eternal destiny was more important than his earthly life. So he decided to lay down the rest of his life, however long or short it may be, for the Sentinelese. Early morning on November 16, 2018, he wrote what would be his final letter (below) to his family, gave it to the fishermen, told them to return to Port Blair, and headed back to North Sentinel Island, knowing that there would be no way for him to return.

As he emerged ashore, the Sentinelese again shot arrows at him. The fishermen looking through binoculars saw the arrows hit him but he kept walking toward the Sentinelese until he was martyred. Heaven recorded what he said to them and to the Lord with his final breaths, which may have echoed the words of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who also was promoted to heaven by a hail of projectiles:

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

Did John Allen Chau want to die?

The evening before his martyrdom, aboard the fishing boat and with arrow injuries, he wrote in his journal, "Watching the sunset and it's beautiful - crying a bit... wondering if it will be the last sunset I see... I'm scared... God, I don't want to die."

Courage often isn't the absence of fear but the presence of determination that overcomes fear. John Allen Chau's fear and desire to not die was surpassed by his love for the Sentinelese and Jesus, and his desire to obey Jesus' command to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)

Then did John Allen Chau fail?

Had he been accepted by the Sentinelese, he may well have spent the rest of his life with them, sharing the love of Jesus, evangelizing, and translating the Bible into their language. And that would have been great. But in martyrdom, he accomplished even more than that.

What did John Allen Chau's martyrdom accomplish?

The world map of every major missions organization now has a bull's-eye painted on North Sentinel Island (below) and thousands - millions - of Christians around the world have begun to pray for the Sentinelese, whose conversion is only a matter of time now.

Even more importantly, John Allen Chau's love for Jesus and people, his passion for missions and his martyrdom will inspire a new generation of (young) missionaries to rise up, as Jim Elliot did when he was martyred in 1956 by Ecuador's Auca tribe, which now worships Jesus, who said:

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24)

John Allen Chau Letter

"You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed. Rather please live your lives in obedience to whatever He has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil. This is not a pointless thing - the eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can't wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states. I love you all and pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria*,
John Chau
11/16/18  06:20
Written from the cove on the southwest-ish (more like west) of North Sentinel Island"

* Latin for "Glory Only to God"

North Sentinel Island

North Sentinel Island