"Well, I’ve been shot by the Sentinelese …
by a kid probably about ten or so years old, maybe a
teenager, short compared to those who looked like adults. Let me
first back up: after that initial contact ....." - John Allen Chau final letter
John Allen Chau was an American missionary who foolishly attempted to spread Christian beliefs to a remote and uncontacted tribe of indigenous people. Despite being greeted with a barrage of arrows, Chau rowed his foldable kayak closer to the North Sentinel Island, where its inhabitants quickly killed him and "dragged his body along the beach."
"Adventure awaits. So do leeches." This was just one of the hundreds of quotes John Allen Chau posted on his social media accounts. He would usually end each post with a selfie photo in an exotic place and several hashtags showing his love for Christianity. #solideogloria, meaning "Glory to God alone."
Chau had always felt a calling to spread his beliefs to others. Growing up, the youngest of three children, John wanted to chisel his own path in life and not follow his expected route of studying law, like his mother, or psychology, like his Chinese father.
Instead, John Allen Chau took to the woods and became a certified Wilderness EMT, an avid outdoorsman, and an AmeriCorps volunteer.
On his blog, Chau claimed he is a missionary and proudly post "Following the Way of Jesus".
At a young age, John Allen Chau admired other Christian evangelist, Bruce Olson being his ultimate hero. Olsen is well known in the Christian community for successfully spreading religious ideologies to 70% of the Motilone people, a tribe that once dismissed him and his beliefs.
John Allen Chau yearned to be the next Bruce Olson, and as a teenager, he knew that there was only one way it could be done. He needed to spread the Word of God to the last 'unmolested' tribe on the remote North Sentinel Island.
“Having a conversation with John was like having a conversation with someone who reached out their hand and put it on your heart to feel the way it beats,” said Nicole Hopkins, a college friend.
“When he looked at me, it was like someone really saw me,” she said, “like I could take off any mask of who I pretended to be.”
John Allen Chau graduated from the fundamentalist Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“[Chau] was a really chill, down to earth kind of guy, what you see is what you get,” says Ramsey, 22, who met his friend on the Israel tour. The two quickly grew close, as both lived in Seattle at the time and both had participated in missions around the world. “I guess I would say he’s a calculated risk taker,” says Ramsey. “He was a good planner.”
In the Book of Matthew, the resurrected Jesus says: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Christians know this passage as the ‘Great Commission,’ and its message guided John Allen Chau's every step.
The North Sentinel Island is in the Bay of Bengal and is controlled and owned by India. It is a small island of only 5 miles long and less than 5 miles wide.
The North Sentinelese arrived on the island 50,000 years ago and still live as hunter-gatherers, surviving on what they can catch in the waters and find in the forest that surrounds them. Experts believe that they still do not know how to make fire, but keep a constant ember burning from lightning strikes.
“My folks tried to talk him out of it,’’ said John Ramsey, a friend. “He said it was what he felt called to do, and he was pretty made up in his mind already, so it didn’t seem like persuasion would do a lot of good anyway.”
For months, John Allen Chau worked out his body, his interpersonal skills, and his mind to visit the inaccessible North Sentinel Island.
Chau joined All Nations, a Christian Outreach Organization who has since vehemently denied knowledge of their member's ill-fated trip.
Just months before his trip, All Nations blindfolded Chau and dropped him off in a remote part of Kansas. There he walked until he found a mock village in the woods. Covered in an indigenous tribal attire, these missionaries threatened John Allen Chau with fake spears and yelled at him in gibberish language. His purpose was to spread the word of God.
Mary Ho, the international executive leader for All Nations, the organization that ran the training, said, “John was one of the best participants in this experience that we have ever had.”
On November 14th, John Allen Chau embarked on his kamikaze mission. He paid two local fishers 25,000 rupees ($350 USD) to break the law and row him close to the forbidden island.
There he unfolded his kayak, jumped from the small rowboat, and headed for his death.