Bringing the Pieces Together

Last week, we began shooting our big documentary project we’re working on here in Ecuador. Gene Jordan joined us from MAF headquarters for the week to serve as narrator and guide, since he flew as a pilot in Shell for 20 years and knows basically everyone. It was a whirlwind of activity, as we interviewed over a dozen people, flew into two jungle villages, and heard countless stories over dinner each night.

Gene arrived in Shell on Tuesday, just in time to join us for the 5th anniversary celebration of Alas de Socorro del Ecuador (ADSE, MAF’s affiliate program in Ecuador). The staff in the hanger cooked up a feast, and everyone’s families came for lunch, followed by a short program and an afternoon of Ecuavolley. The second most popular sport here (after soccer), Ecuavolley is basically volleyball played with a higher net, fewer people, and a soccer ball.

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Wednesday morning we did some interviews with Lloyd Rogers, a long-time member of the Ecuador mission community, then flew out to two Waodani villages with pilot Chad Irwin. Our first stop was Tzapino, to visit “Grandpa” Mincaye, one of the members of the spearing party who killed five missionaries, including MAF pilot Nate Saint, back in 1956. It was amazing to meet Mincaye and his wife Ompodae, who we have read so much about and seen in films like The End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor. They were both radiant, full of joy and laughter. When we landed, Ompodae gave Chad a spanking for not bringing his wife.

The trip was especially meaningful, since we had flown out with Gilberto Nenquimo, Mincaye’s grandson. Gilberto is one of the leaders in the Waodani church, and it’s clear how deeply he cares for his people. It was incredibly moving to hear Mincaye and Gilberto talk about their shared past and hope for the future. (Mincaye spoke in Wao, and Gilberto in Spanish, so it will be interesting figuring out how to get that all translated and edited down.)

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After the interview, Gilberto presented the village with a Proclaimer – a solar-powered audio player loaded with the New Testament in Wao.

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We flew to Tiwaeno next, where we met with Dyuwi – another member of the spearing party. Nobody knows his age for sure, since the Waodani don’t traditionally keep track of birth dates, but he and Mincaye are both probably somewhere between 80 and 90. Despite this, Dyuwi walked from his house down to the airstrip to meet us, then promptly hiked up a steep hill to the church. He told us the story of how he came to know Christ and about his hope for future generations. It’s difficult to imagine Dyuwi or Mincaye, these sweet old grandfathers, as killers. They embody redemption and forgiveness, and symbolize the change in the Waodani culture as a whole.

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A few of the church leaders put on traditional dress and treated us to some chants and dances. They shared a bowl of chicha (chewed & fermented yuca) with Gilberto, but gave us gringos something more suitable to the western palate, a warm drink made from banana pulp. Chad was visited by a lovely butterfly friend while he drank his. Gilberto presented the village with another Proclaimer, and we said our goodbyes to fly out before dusk.

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On Thursday, we met with Chet & Katie Williams, Pat Kelley, and Miriam Gebb, who all have unique perspectives and experiences with the Waodani. Of course, Gene is old friends with all of them, and it’s fascinating to see how all these different people from different organizations are all linked by the same mission and the same story. For the last 60 years, through three generations, MAF (now ADSE) has been bringing all the pieces together. The story continues to be written, and now we’re a tiny little part of it too.

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