The Gringo Treatment

A few weeks ago I flew into the Waodani village of Tiwaeno for a few hours with a church group that had spent the week volunteering at an orphanage in Shell. I knew that we would be flying into the same village the very next day with Gene Jordan and I was interested to see how things might be different between the two trips. I wanted the tourist experience, a.k.a the Gringo Treatment.


The village of Tiwaeno is where Rachel Saint spent a good part of her life teaching the Waodani and consequently there are many Christians there. The people are open to visitors and many short-term missions teams fly into this village over the summer months. Dyuwi came out to meet the two planes when we landed and immediately offered up a prayer with the pilots. He was part of the original spearing party that killed the five missionaries in the 50s.


We hiked up to the church and everyone was given headbands and a little red paint made from achiote seeds.


Some of the leaders in the church wore the Waodani traditional dress and gave a message of welcome to the group. Many of them had recently attended a conference in Quito for indigenous church leaders and mentioned that they had been inspired to find ways to partner more with Christians from the outside world. They said that they welcome groups to come to their village to learn and find ways to work with them. They asked if anyone would want to come live with them and teach English. My heart jumped at the thought! I think the more I learn about the Waodani the more interesting their way of life is to me.

They also mentioned that as brothers and sisters in Christ they were glad that one day we would meet in heaven where there were no language barriers and we could talk freely. They then sang “I have decided to follow Jesus” in Waodani and Spanish, and we joined in for the last verse in English.


We then walked over to a traditional Waodani structure made with woven palm leaves.


They sang one of their traditional chants (with at least ten verses!) and danced in a circle. They even pulled in some Gringos to help!


Some of the young hunters in the village showed us how to use a blow gun and everyone took turns trying to hit a little bunch of bananas they set up for target practice. They hunt by dipping the tiny darts into curare which is a nerve-stunning poison that numbs the animal.


We had a great time and I was excited to come back the next day to visit more. It was a blessing to learn about their culture and I hope that visits like this open up doors to work together in the future. There is so much that we can learn from each other!