CLARK COUNTY, WA (KPTV) - A Clark County native was reportedly killed this month by tribal members of a remote and isolated island hundreds of miles off the coast of India.
Indian authorities said 26-year-old John Allen Chau traveled onto North Sentinal Island, a protected area forbidden to travelers and visitors, with the goal to preach the Christian faith to the natives.
According to Chau’s close friend, Danny McCarthy, Chau grew up in the Vancouver-area with his parents, sister and brother. Records show his parents have a home in Salmon Creek.
“I’m devastated,” McCarthy said. “He was a great person. He always wanted to serve others, put others before himself -- his life’s mission was to help people.”
“He had the most even temper – the most mild person you could imagine,” McCarthy added. “I just still can’t believe it really happened.”
And Chau had a zest for travel, adventures and God.
His determination to preach at the island was a goal since Chau’s high school days, according to Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Covenant Journey and Liberty Counsel. Chau was selected to attend a trip to South Africa with the missionary group in 2015.
In his latest and last quest, Chau apparently paid locals of neighboring islands to take him close to North Sentinal’s shoreline and then he kayaked the rest of the way there by himself.
The island natives are known to be hostile to outsiders and two fishermen were murdered there in 2006.
Indian authorities said Chau was injured when he was shot by bow and arrow. He reportedly briefly left the island to return to the fishing boat that brought him out there, only to return to the tribal members the next day, where he was killed.
The trip, both heartbreaking and baffling to the world, is no surprise to those who know and love Chau.
“He really felt called to do it, he said the Lord had called him to do it,” McCarthy said. “He didn’t go for another adventure, he went because he felt compelled to tell these people about Jesus.”
McCarthy said his college friend loved traveling, hiking and mountain-climbing. Chau was known to take cross-country trips, lead backpacking exertions in the Pacific Northwest and had visited other islands off India in the past.
He met McCarthy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they both attended Oral Roberts University.
McCarthy last saw Chau in June when Chau was in his wedding.
“I was just married and (we) were talking about this very thing–him going, right before he went,” McCarthy said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Do you know the risks?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I am probably going to die, but I love these people and if I don’t go, nobody else will tell them about Christ.’”
Staver echoed that sentiment.
“He displayed extraordinary courage and faith, he even acknowledged in his last moments that he was scared, but he asked the question, if I don’t go, who will go? And he knew it might be his last days,” Staver said.
Staver said he talked to Chau’s family on Monday.
“They certainly would like his body to be returned to the United States,” Staver said.
FOX 12 attempted to reach Chau’s parents by phone Wednesday but couldn’t get in touch.
In a statement posted to Chau’s Instagram page, his family said Chau had “nothing but love for the Sentinelese people. We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death,” and he “ventured out on his own free will.”
Indian authorities said those who helped Chau get to the island have been arrested. Chau’s family is pleading for their release.
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