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Wheaton College Announces New Plaque Wording to Carry Forward the Story of Five Missionaries

May 24, 2021

New wording honors missionaries Jim Elliot ’49, and Ed McCully ’49, who—along with Nate Saint ’50, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming—were slain in 1956 in Ecuador.

Wheaton College is pleased to announce updated wording to replace the plaque in the lobby of Edman Chapel that honors missionaries Jim Elliot ’49, and Ed McCully ’49, who—along with Nate Saint ’50, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming—were slain in 1956 while endeavoring to carry out the Great Commission with indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

The reworded plaque will carry forward the memory at Wheaton College of brave missionaries and their sacrificial witness, while at the same time respecting the Waorani people with whom they shared the gospel of the love of Christ. The College plans to dedicate the new plaque in the lobby of Edman Chapel this fall.

The original plaque was donated in 1957 as an act of deeply felt remembrance by the Wheaton College Class of 1949 to honor their fallen classmates and their colleagues.

This spring, the College’s Senior Administrative Cabinet appointed a task force led by Wheaton College Alumni Association President Beverly Liefeld Hancock—the daughter of the wife of Pete Fleming, Olive, from her subsequent marriage. The committee was charged to review the wording of the original plaque—which used the word “savage” to label indigenous peoples—and to make specific recommendations for its careful rewording and replacement, subject to a final decision by the Senior Administrative Cabinet, in consultation with the Board of Trustees.

“In the 64 years since the College received this gift, we have continued to grow in our understanding of how to show God’s love and respect to people from every culture,” said Wheaton College President Philip Ryken. “We have also learned much more about God’s ongoing work among the Waorani. We welcome this opportunity to ensure that we tell this unforgettable story in ways that reflect the full dignity of people made in the image of God.”

Members of the task force included a faculty historian, a faculty missiologist, a graduate student, and an undergraduate student.

“We are deeply grateful to this remarkable team for their thoughtful work to continue the legacy of five missionaries who gave their lives to spread the gospel,” President Ryken said. “We have been further blessed by the strong support for this project from members of their families, from their class peers, and from Wheaton College alumni who have gone on to be missionaries after being inspired by these brave pioneers.”