The introduction places the missionary-Waorani story within the context of the history of American evangelicalism. The iconic narrative of the five men slain in Ecuador stands in a tradition of two centuries of missionary zeal and sacrifice memorialized in print that began with David Brainerd (1718–47). His diaries, edited by Jonathan Edwards as An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd, inspired generations of believers. Other memoirs followed, establishing the missionary narrative as an influential genre of religious biography. Such books presented missionaries, especially those who died in pursuit of their calling, as saints, heroes, or martyrs. They also were products of their times. The Triumph of John and Betty Stam, about a missionary couple murdered in China in 1934, included a note of victory that reflected the influence of Keswick holiness. Widespread interest in the “Ecuador martyrs” twenty-two years later, demonstrated the staying power of the missionary narrative and the increased cultural visibility of theologically conservative Protestants as they left separatist fundamentalism for a “new” evangelicalism. The missionary-Waorani encounter also had an unexpected, almost miraculous sequel that became part of the accepted history even if elements of it were romanticized and misleading.
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