Sunday, February 12, 2012

Danger in the Amazon Jungle

Full of excitement and anticipation we set out on our 10 hour bus ride from the capital of Ecuador to the Amazon jungle in the Orient. We did not have any contacts or even know exactly where we were going but the Holy Spirit was leading us to go to the remote tribes in the Amazon. We divided in smaller groups and went separate directions into jungle. By the next day after a couple more bus and pick up rides we arrived at a small indigenous market on the edge of the Napo River which is one of the main tributaries to the Amazon. We talked with different people there and asked who could take us with them upriver to one of their villages. We met two young Waorani men and the agreed to take us with them to their village but warned us that we would probably not be allowed to get there but we could try. An oil company had bought up all their land and they were not visitor friendly. We crossed the river and attempted to enter the Waorani territory and after waiting behind a large secured fence for a half hour we were turned back without being allowed entrance. We were slightly disappointed but trusted that if it was God´s will He could open the doors for us.

After this the young men told us it may possible to get in a back way. So we took another boat two hours upriver to a town where we could catch a bus far into the jungle over small unpaved roads. The Waorani tribe were featured in a film called “The End of the Spear” about the missionaries who first went to them that were speared to death. We arrived just as it was getting dark and we were provided a large Waorani grass hut to pitch our tents and hammocks in. That night we were all given Waorani names most signifying different warriors or types of fruit. The next day we went with the men into the jungle with spears and blow dart guns learning how to hunt like them but without much success that day. We ate their food with them and learned some of their songs. Some of the food was hard to swallow but a very interesting experience. The next day many people from the village came together where we stayed and we shared the Gospel with them and prayed for each one of them.

We asked to hear stories from their culture and the owner of that land began to share with us about his childhood. He would go with his father through the jungle and build Waorani houses and then leave them for other people who would travel through later, but if they ever came across people who were not Waorani in a Waorani territory or in a Waorani house like the one we were staying in then they would kill them all because if they are not Waorani they have no reason to be in a Waorani house. He told us that when he grew up and had a family he continued doing the same and would build these grass houses and plant gardens and would spear anyone they found there who was not Waorani. He then told us that the tribes who were still there in the jungle called the Tigeras who hated anything to do with the outside world and stayed deeper in the jungle. He told us how just seven months ago a group of missionaries like us were staying in that area in a house like ours and the Tigeras people came in the night and killed them all except for the little child. He said that we needed to really watch Zoe because if they come the goal would be to kill all of us and take her. He said that normally if they come and see us the first night then they would return the second night to kill everybody while they were sleeping. He said that they were in that area just the week before and occasionally they come to stay in the house that we were staying in. Trying to find some peace, I asked if it was safe for us to stay there that second night and they replied ¨no, this is a dangerous place you are in¨. They painted us all with war paint that night before we went to bed. The mosquitos and many jungle insects did not seem so bad any more. The jungle seemed to have so many more noises that night as we tried to sleep. The animals sounding and branches cracking seemed to be constant through the night. These people were not joking. This was life as they are used to it.
This man who was also a warrior said that if we were in the bush and they attacked us that he would not be able to protect us, but if they came to the house that we were staying in then he would try to defend us but they would kill him too and then kill all of us. We knew that God had brought us way out there to the jungle and it was probably not so that we could get speared that night, so we all prayed together and went to bed and slept as much as possible. The Tigeras people never came but our hearts were moved thinking of who will go to them and how, because they also need to know Jesus. We asked that if we went out to the jungle with gifts would they possible receive us and not kill us, but their response was with confidence that they would just take the gifts and then kill us all the same.

We then went to another tribal village called the Shuar people and took an old canoe up a small river with low hanging vines and trees hitting our faces along the way we arrived to this muddy community out in the jungle and prayed for many sick people and families and God touched many lives with his love as we shared life with these poor families living in small shacks out in the jungle. We ate wood maggots with them and drank their foul tasting fermented drinks. The Gospel touched this village and our hearts were moved with more hunger to go to the remote places where others don’t go because of the difficulty of getting there. Someone has to go, and for those who are up to for the challenge and adventure and are not afraid of death it is a sheer privilege.

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