This year we have travelled from Texas to five different states and nine different countries, including of course Ecuador! It's been an incredible year for us - one of healing and great adventures - and we are excited to learn where G-D leads us next! Thank you to all our friends and family who have encouraged us through the years.
Tonight at 6:57 p.m. we will have been married for exactly 6 years! We have experienced so much together and the last year has been particularly exciting!
This year we have travelled from Texas to five different states and nine different countries, including of course Ecuador! It's been an incredible year for us - one of healing and great adventures - and we are excited to learn where G-D leads us next! Thank you to all our friends and family who have encouraged us through the years.
Based on what we've seen on Facebook and through more direct connections, it appears to have been a tough week for several. Sickness, grief, robberies, death and other forms of earthly trials seem to have attacked several in our circles.
As the sun sets this evening, Sabbath begins, a day of rest on the seventh day as illustrated by our Creator Himself. I praise GOD that "there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of GOD (Heb. 4:9)." The cultures of the world make Sabbath rest increasingly hard to receive, but I pray that we are able, if only for a moment, to find rest in HIS healing presence. This day is set aside to allow us to be still and receive HIS Love as we become mindful not of the things of this earth that pass away, but of HIS Eternal Kingdom. On this Sabbath we pray for the presence of GOD to invade our hearts, bringing peace and rest to all.
"Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is exalted over all the nations, His glory above the Heavens."
There are days when the plight of the orphan hits me harder than others. Yesterday was one of those days. We walked up the road toward the orphanage and one of my favorite little boys was swinging on the rusty front gate. As soon as he saw us his face lit up into a smile and his feet broke into a run. He didn't stop running until he was caught up in my wide-open arms and spun around for a big hug. He kissed me on the cheek in the customary greeting for men/boys to women in the culture, and hugged me as several of the younger ones do - not letting go for an extended amount of time, soaking up as much love as possible.
These are good kids. They have incredible hearts. They are made in the image of GOD. Some aren't officially orphans but their parents are either too poor or too hurt themselves to provide a home for them. Others do not have parents and are at the orphanage with their siblings; others seem all alone in the world but for the love of those caring for them.
Since we've been back from our trip around Ecuador, we have learned more about the orphanage each day than in all our previous time there. Nothing we have learned has been encouraging. There were 10 more kids sent to the orphanage during our 3 week absence, raising the current total to around 95 kids. Their funds have been cut and the welfare of the children depends on an unorganized structure caught in constant political and religious battles that often seem to respond to the kids as burdens instead of blessings.
We've heard stories of kids who run away into town and come back hungry, drugged, or hurt having realized after brief experience on the streets of Montanita that their life at the orphanage was at least better than their chances there. They sometimes return only to be rejected - there are too many kids to take care of already for the orphanage to deal with kids who choose to run off. Children on the streets of Ecuador have little hope of escaping the prostitution and drug rings that enslave so many around of the helpless around the world. Kids come and go from the orphanage without clear records of what happened, and the rumors are nightmares.
Some days we can go to the Orphanage and leave feeling inspired, thankful for the opportunity to be with the kids and see their smiles...patting ourselves on the back for doing very little. I could, and will, write many stories of the incredible love and blessing this place is. However, there are also times when the hopelessness of their situation is blinding. There are days when everyone seems down, we arrive and some of the more persistent and bold of the children ask us why we won't adopt them and take them home if we have no other children. This is a constant routine for some. They are not playing a game, they are serious; it's a literal matter of survival for some. We can't explain why we can't take them with us....we don't know.
Last night as I stayed up writing this I couldn't get one little boy in particular out of my mind. He's 8 years old, but looks closer to 4 or 5. He ran for his hug from me and firmly shook Geoff's hand when we arrived. He had a new cough developing and didn't appear to feel very good as he sat quietly beside us, playing with a small abandoned shoe. His name is Jonathan, which means God has given. What has GOD given him? Not a mother to rock him when he is sick. Not clothes that fit, or shoes without holes. Not friends who won't beat up on him because he's smaller than they are. Where is GOD for Jonathan? Is he in me? A white gringo who has spends minimal time with him and can't even speak enough of his language to really get to know him? Is it in Fatima - the incredible woman who loves and cares for the majority of the children, almost single handedly? She is directly responsible for 55 of the children, 24/7, all of whom have incredible needs for love and affection. GOD surely multiplies her efforts - even loving me through her - but this is not HIS original design.
There are times to rejoice in the provision of our gracious GOD who has promised us Salvation from this broken world. There are also times to grieve the sin, hurt, and pain that exist. When we do not grieve it is often because we don't want to accept the reality of such pain. Without acknowledgement of this reality, it is much easier for us to live our lives first for ourseles, to pay others to make a difference for us, and to keep a safe distance from building relationships with those whose brokeness would cause us uncomfortable grief. I prefer it this way. However, yesterday, and still today, my heart is broken for children around the world who don't have eyes to look into of one who adores them more than anything on earth. Right now there are children who are suffering through their last day on this earth before they die of starvation, malnutrition, or disease tonight. We prefer the stories of redemption and hope but there are painfully true stories as well that are not helped by being ignored. There are children who feel all alone in the world because they are. Has GOD abandoned them? I don't think so. These are the results of living in a fallen world yet we are still shocked by the effects of sin as though we didn't really believe it could hurt the innocent. This is the reason my Saviour Jesus came to this earth, not only to die, but to live and teach us how to live so that we could bring HIS Love to these otherwise dark realities. There are dozens of verses in scripture that defend the "fatherless" and the orphan. I know my heart hurts because my Father's heart hurts as well. I ran across this quote on a blog that I follow:
"Sometimes I would like to ask GOD why HE allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world, when HE could do somehing about it...but I'm afraid HE might ask me the same question." - Anonymous
There are incredible stories of hope, miracles, and love that I could write about. I could focus on the amazing work that the orphange does, and focus only on what an incredible blessing it is that there are places for the orphan to go. There are also sad realities that don't need to be ignored in favor of the more inspiring, hopeful perspectives. There are realities of despair and hurt and these are on my mind today as I intercede through prayer and petition, feeling helpless to make any difference in a world that has, by comparison, offered me everything. May HIS power be made PERFECT in our weakness and selfishness as we seek to bring HIS Kingdom of LOVE into this hurting world. May all of us find the courage and strength to respond to HIS call to be the LOVE and Presence of JESUS through direct relationship with God and the broken. HIS Grace is sufficient; HIS Love is perfect.
Check out this post from a blog I follow of a family of 11 (4 biological children and 5 adopted) who are serving in Guatamala working at a home for special needs children. Their's is one of the most inspiring stories of radical living for JESUS that I have seen in a while. This is one post that helped put the plight of the orphan in a different perspective than I had looked at it before: My Adoption Story
"Religion that GOD our Father accepts is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
-James 1:27 (NIV)
Last night Jamie and I got to watch our first football game in Ecuador, and boy was it a doozy! We have sought opportunities for brief football watching in town before but invariably as soon as we spy a game on and get seated...the channel is changed to real "futbol" (a.k.a. soccer). Nothing against soccer...we just want to see ONE football game!
One of the gringos in Montanita is starting up his own micro-brewery and was selling tastes during the game last night. (By the way, the term "gringo" is used widely here to refer to any foreigner, particularly of the white variety. This can include people from the States, Canada, Europe, even the South Pacific; it's not usually derogatory, just identifying).
Gringos rarely pass up the opportunity for a party - especially one involving football and good beer. (If you want to hear my "theology of party", email me or comment:-) We were invited and made our way over - looking forward to the guarantee of Monday night football and hanging out with some fun people! The hosting restaurant is called "Por Que No," directly translated "for what no?," or, "Why Not?" Coincidentally, this is also our favorite Spanish phrase.
We enjoyed conversation with a wide variety of people, some of whom we have met and spent time with before, others we met for the first time last night. Conversation ranged from things we love about living in Ecuador, to how amazing the kids here are, football, and even the land of the Bible and how cool it is to read the Bible from a cultural perspective - something expats can appreciate! All sorts of reasons come up for people to move here - tired of politics, cheap living, beach life - and sometimes people simply move here to experience something other than traditional U.S. living expectations. It's not that people necessarily dislike the U.S. (though some do); they just believe there's more on earth than the culture that the States promote.
It's nights like last night, with different languages, cultures, races, and nationalities mingled together that make living here so much fun! We love the "small town feel" of seeing someone we know no matter where we go, and making new friends whenever we arrive! When we were last in Cuenca we met a family who were staying at the same hostel we were, checking out the possibility of moving to Ecuador, and then we ran into them last Wednesday night in Montanita! They were at the party last night, along with several Gringo's we've met on previous occasions, and lots we had never met!
During Spanish lessons yesterday our tutor mentioned a good place to get fresh organic eggs at $3.80 for a tray of 30...without a car, though, some of these places are hard for us to get to. We showed up at the restaurant last night and she was there with a pallet of eggs on the table that she picked up for us! Friends are good. We love the open air restaruants here, with the town dogs running in and out begging for scraps or love or taking naps by your feet.
The best part off the evening last night (aside from great conversation) was that they DID have the game on and it STAYED on the American Football channel the whole time! Unfortunately, the small box TV that hid high in the corner behind the bar was a little hard to see so I can't say we really SAW much of the game, but it was good to know it was there! We were even able to sneak out for a bit to a slightly quieter avenue (hard to find in Montanita at night, even on Monday!) to call my parents, and it was great to see them! We love FaceTime!
As the party dwindled at Por Que No, we wandered over to the "Chicago Wings" restaurant that a young industrious couple (from Chicago, believe it or not) just opened in Montanita this week. We were able to watch the last half of the fourth quarter on their VERY nice flat screen! We felt so spoiled.
One last note: I really don't want to pick on the substitute NFL refs too much (there's enough already!) but I couldn't resist this picture in light of the final call of the game last night! I feel sorry for the refs. Poor guys - they're doing the best they can!
In case you missed it, Jamie and I are pretty excited about our our new nephew (we've decided it's a boy)! We would be equally as excited about a new niece however, especially if she's named after me. Now, I know it may not be best to name a girl Geoff...but what's wrong with Carroll?!
While we are on the topic of how great it is to be Uncle Geoff and Aunt Jamie, we thought we'd share some recent photos of the rest of our herd - mainly because we have started to miss them in the midst of all the new baby news and excitement. When you miss people and live far away, you quickly find photos to look at, and then of course you feel the need to share them with others...and then you give a mouse a cookie. Now, for family albums...
Here are some recent pics of my sister Amber and her husband Kent's kiddos:
But wait - there's more! TWINS! These are my brother-in-law, Jason and his wife Katie's girls:
The photo above is one of our all time favorites, and coincidentally was taken almost exactly a year ago at the ACU game at Cowboy Stadium. We had an incredible opportunity to be with both of our families at the game, and got to have our nephew and nieces all together at one time! Very fun! We love you all!
Guess who get to be Uncle and Aunt again?!
Jamie's sister Jana and her husband Justin are excited about their incredible gift from the L-RD who plans to arrive in time for Spring training!
Please take a moment to say a prayer of petition to the Good L-RD for the healthy physical and spiritual development of this life as He prepares to bring him/her into the world to be a light of HIS Love!
We are SOOO excited!!
My parents sent some English/Spanish flashcards down with Caryn when she came for a visit. They are a big hit! The kids love showing off the English they learn, and they have also gotten very good and turning the game around..."Okay, YOUR turn in SPANISH!" This is prime learning time for me! Forget the verb conjugations and sentence structure...the kids are incredible teachers and there is much more laughter involved all around. I just can't get enough of it - or them!
In other news...many of you know of my dear husband's incredible passion for the land of the Bible and studying the Text through the eyes of the original audience. He's had enough time to really miss having that teaching/discussion outlet (the kids aren't that interested just yet) and so we are excited to announce his NEW WEBSITE!
I know what you're thinking, how will you ever remember that one? Or maybe you're thinking..."I didn't know he spelled his name wrong!" It's okay...if you're attached to the idea of us as Jeff and Jamie and how cute the two J's are...by all means, keep it that way in your heads (I know I do)! However, for web navigation purposes, best to use the old, original variety to find him.
All of Geoff's past blogs have been transferred here so if you are still holding onto an old blog address and waiting for it to come back to life...it's time to say goodbye. You can either navigate to his blog on his website, or bookmark this link to go right there!
Direct Blog Link
Geoff will be posting on his new blog 2-3 times a week...but don't get so excited that you forget all about our stories here! His awesome pictures of rocks (like the synagogue in Capernaum below) just will NOT compete with the faces above...however...he shares some pretty incredible perspectives and lessons that are well worth reading!
Ser o no ser. That is the question.
One of our original goals when we decided to come to Ecuador was to study good ol’ Español! Spanish is one of the most prevalent languages in the world, behind Mandarin which is twice as prevalent as any other language. English and Arabic are a close third and fourth, depending on which list you google (“google” is a universal verb, by the way).
We notice an increasing need, especially in the United States, to be able to speak Spanish and interact with those who at times are marginalized just because they don’t speak English. We saw this too often in Texas which is now a minority-majority…much to the chagrin of some of the more entitled of the English-speaking population. Border control and immigration laws influence attitudes and even Christians sometimes forget the bigger picture that we are ALL created in the image of G-D; that we are one PEOPLE under G-D. We can’t fix all attitudes, but we can improve ours and so…here we are trying to learn Spanish – it’s like a whole 'nother language!!
When we first arrived in Ecuador we studied on our own using Fluenz and other study materials to catch up on what we had previously learned. Being immersed in the culture makes it easier (and more necessary) to pick up on at least common Spanish phrases. After a while, however, we reached the end of what we could efficiently teach ourselves so it was time to pay for lessons!
We love our private tutor; she’s GREAT! She comes to our house 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and we study on our own doing homework, review, and memorization on the “off” days. Our tutor is Ecuadorian but is also fluent in English which has its very helpful moments! Many times, she seems to know better English than WE do (y’all know what we is sayin??).
Jamie and I have very different learning styles which can be interesting in the more formal, academic lessons. Jamie learns better experientially, in context while I am just nerdy and want to know all the rules. I generally learn faster with the tutor, but Jamie is the one that has to end up doing most of the communicating when we’re out in public (because I don’t have a CLUE what the person said). Between the two of us, we manage pretty well.
We hope to continue improving our Spanish so that we can build relationships with our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters, whether we remain in Ecuador, the States, or in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. It’s a bonus to study on our front porch with the sound of the waves and the sight of palm trees. It’s very calming when the language gets overwhelming! It also inspires me to get my work done quickly so that I (not Jamie, as often) can go jump in the ocean!
To help us with greater immersion in the language, all future posts will be written in Spanish. NOT!
Before we left for Ecuador we wanted to get an "Our Story" page up. Well, we've been here three months, so we decided it was time to get that finished! Don't worry, it's our story...summarized...and includes our current mission that might help to answer some questions about why we up and moved to Ecuador!
Check out the page on the menu bar above, or you can read Our Story here.
Watching the airplane leave after dropping us off
This has been a very hard blog to write because there are so many stories, perspectives and experiences that deserve to be shared. When we made plans to go to the Huaorani territory we had two goals: we wanted to experience the traditional culture and we wanted a firsthand look at the legacy of the missionaries and the cultural impacts of their contact. What we learned about the later was enlightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. As we share our experience, know that we did not spend time at the missionary base but with some of the Huaorani who have intentionally distanced themselves. We wanted their perspective first and we anticipate a fuller understanding through future visits to the mission sites. Our reflections are based on the experiences and opinions of those we were privileged to interact with.
At the end of 1955 Nate Saint and a group of missionaries began Operation Auca, flying over Huaorani territory in search of the feared and elusive tribe of "Auca's" or "savages.” As mentioned in previous blogs, the missionaries were successful in making contact but were then speared to death by Huaorani who believed that all foreigners were threats and no gifts were given if you didn't want something in return. They were right.
However, killing the 5 missionaries did not preserve the Huaorani from the advance of the outside world. Instead, it catapulted them onto the radar of thousands of praying Christians and concerned oil exploration/ illegal logging groups. They were immediately famous to a world they did not want to know. Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot managed to live with a group of Huaorani, some of those responsible for the killings, and reportedly converted many of them. However, I still wonder about the value of the sacrifice versus the eternal impact on the Huaorani...and I think Elisabeth Elliot struggles with the same questions, which I’ll address later.
Victim of Polio
Before landing in Huaorani territory we already knew we didn’t want to be the first to bring up the missionary efforts. Some regard the missionaries as invasive culture killers and we didn’t know where our guide, or those we would interact with, would stand on the issue. I didn’t have to worry. No matter how anyone feels about the missionaries the Huaorani story cannot be told without mention of their impact as it all started with them.
When we first arrived we crawled out of the plane and by way of orientation were informed that the place we were standing was the first community established by the missionaries. It was very near the site of the missionary killings, which happened on the other side of the air strip clearing on the river running parallel to the one we stood by. Our guide said a few brief things about the missionaries and we quickly understood he was NOT a fan. This was not surprising to us but it was disheartening. Our guide resented that the missionaries who have taught the Hua0rani over the past several decades, had not come to learn about the Huaorani, but to teach them what they wanted them to know. He primarily quoted the influence of Rachel Saint, who after moving to Huaorani territory stayed until her death in 1994. They wanted to convert them and he reported that they would lure them into friendship promising schools, gifts, etc. in exchange for becoming Christians. I asked for examples of this and he said kids would not be allowed to go to the missionary schools unless they had uniforms and they only got uniforms if they memorized certain Bible verses, etc. As horrible as it sounded from his perspective, I assumed that their motives were still good and it was nothing more than normal church-style evangelism – offer something you know they want and teach them Jesus while they are there. Like offering free child care in the form of VBS! Of course it’s a ploy, but it’s for a good cause, right?
We also learned that the mission schools required the Huaorani to speak Spanish, which the kids had been taught early on. They are not allowed to use their given names but have to adopt Spanish names. Any anthropologist will tell you about the serious cultural damage of taking away a cultures native language, and this has been greatly criticized. The missionaries were probably not concerned about cultural preservation, though. They needed to know JESUS, and needed to be civilized, what else mattered? What the Huaorani already knew, and what God may have already revealed about Himself to them was likely not considered.
We heard countless stories from Huaorani and our guide about the missionary methods. We did not see any evidence of people who followed Christianity – at best we saw that they had learned to play along with the missionaries to get supplies, education, and healthcare that they needed, but they did not fear God or even know Him. The opinions and beliefs of those closer to the mission may be different. One of the Huaorani who shared most passionately was directly related to Dayuma, one generation younger. She spoke with respect for Dayuma, telling the stories of her famous relative. Dayuma was Rachel Saints partner in evangelizing the Huarani after she and Elisabeth Elliot first came to the territory. Elisabeth Elliot did not stay as long and I wonder if it was because of disagreements with Rachel Saints methods, which have been widely debated. As criticized as Rachel Saint may be in some circles, however, she is still respected for the courage she displayed by moving and living with the Huaorani until her death. The greatest credit for her missionary influence was the decline in killings within the Huarani population. Their numbers were very low as a result of "avenge the death" killing sprees, and they may have wiped out their entire population if not for the influence of the missionaries. Even the missionaries greatest critics credit this as a plus.
The most significant cultural change, however, is the destruction of Huaorani territory by oil companies and illegal logging. After the missionary contact, the road was easier to pave, literally, into the Huaorani territory. Rachel Saint, along with other missionaries, encouraged the Huaorani to negotiate with oil companies. They believed the oil companies would come regardless so why not get something out of it. Whether this was the right or wrong way to go is hard to say. Those who have submitted are now dependent on the oil companies, and have been further corrupted by civilization, and its inherit evils - alcoholism for example. Those we were with began the Eco Lodge as a way to remain self reliant so that they did not need to compromise their values and become pawns of the oil company.
Kids fascinated by their image on my camera
As mentioned in the last post, the Huaorani live in the NOW and have a very hard time thinking ahead. Our guide even complained of the difficulties of training them for work at the lodge, because between groups, no one was there, so why were they training to take care of anyone? They struggle to grasp the idea that people PLAN to come at set times in the future. Goal setting is just not their design. This dominant cultural trait has been their biggest threat as the outside world has closed in on them. In fights with the oil companies they cannot understand that the people building a road, will take much more with them. Even after Huaorani leaders visit areas that have been completely destroyed, they cannot grasp the reality of that happening in their territory. TODAY the trees are good, therefore everything is okay.
This allows the oil companies easier negotiating, using bribes of goods and fancy things from the outside world that fascinate the Huaorani, luring them in to submission while their territory is being stripped from around them. Since the missionaries use similar tactics to build relationship with the Huaorani, you can see how the outside perspective links these two together, calling their gifts bribes. Even I was guilty of this tactic, wanting to interact with the kids and using my camera as an icebreaker.
Bei greeted by wife w face paint
The culture of the contacted (there remain a few clans deep in the jungle who have avoided contact and live traditionally. These include some of Bei’s cousins…yet even Bei would not be welcomed in their part of the territory) has changed significantly, though still seems primitive by our standards. Most notably, they wear clothes…at least more often. Nudity was not abnormal, but most (babies excluded) wore at least a pair of shorts, though clothes are still not an ideal for them. Bei’s wife was the funniest example I saw of this cultural conflict…topless wearing cutoff denim shorts…all in the name of fitting into the new culture!
Huaorani still hunt regularly for food, which was one reason we didn’t see much animal life…smart animals were hiding. However, they supplement their yucca/meat diet with rice, salt, and other basics that they can get from the mission or “the bridge.” They have lighters, a couple flashlights, and a few basics like that. The workers at the lodge reportedly asked for Direct TV. Hopefully this won't happen, but it will, someday. We tried to discourage this the best we could, as we would love to do in our own culture as well! The current manager/guide has every intention of protecting them from this as long as possible. Few of these have ever left the jungle, and have only had access to stories or pictures of those who have traveled.
Philipe and Geoff
On a positive note, one obvious cultural change to us was that we were interacting peacefully with the feared Huaorani, as invited guests into their territory. 56 years after the spearing of the missionaries in 1956 we were hanging out having a dance party with one of the killer’s grandsons. Minkaye, who was featured with Steve Saint in the movie End Of The Spear, is credited with killing at least two of the missionaries in the attack. He is still alive although was in a village we did not visit. However, we did meet his grandson who is named Minkaye after his grandfather but whose Spanish name is Philipe. It was incredible to be able to befriend him. He married Bei’s daughter and lives in his village. He is one of the leading spokesmen, along with Moi, for the Huarani in fights against the government and oil companies for the protection of the Huarani territory. We had a great day interacting with him at his home. He travels to the city and even to the states on political trips and I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of standing in the grass hut as he wrote his email address on my hat for future contact.
We loved our time with the Huaorani. We learned to see GOD better through their appreciation of HIS creation. We wanted to let them know that we believe GOD has revealed so much of HIS story to them through creation already; that they already know so much…and there’s even more to learn. Instead they believe the missionaries teach that the Huaorani's ways are entirely evil - that they have no understanding of GOD and must reject all of their former ways to walk a new path. I hope this isn’t what was taught - but it IS what those we were with understood.
So many, myself included, have been inspired by the missionary story of the 5 martyrs and the subsequent conversions of the Huaorani. We were not in the more Christianized area of the territory so we can’t report on that but the primary evidence we saw of the missionary influence was anger and frustration toward them. Frustration that the oil companies came, that diseases like polio came, and that their traditional way of life was discarded. This was heartbreaking. However, what we learned about the traditional Huaorani culture was very inspiring, as they revealed a capacity for understanding GOD and the way HE reveals Himself through His Creation in a way we could all benefit to learn from. What if we got together as family and all shared the parts of the story we knew with each other, instead of arriving as missionaries with all the answers?
In the book, Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of the missionary efforts, and killings. On the 40th anniversary of the missionary deaths, in 1996, she wrote a second epilogue containing further reflections. After our experience with the Huarani, we wrestled more than ever with the missionary impact, and nothing inspired or consoled me more than finding these words written by Elisabeth Elliot, who by the way…is more than ever one of my greatest heroes. If you haven't bought her book yet (you should) read some of her words below:
There is always the urge to oversimplify, to weigh in at once with interpretations that cannot possibly cover all the data or stand up to close inspection. We know, for example, that time and time again in the history of the Christian church, the blood of martyrs has been its seed. So we are tempted to assume a simple equation here.; Five men died. This will mean x-number of Waorani Christians.
Perhaps so. Perhaps not. Cause and effect are in God's hands. Is it not the part of faith simply to let them rest there? God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice....
For us widows the question as to why the men who had trusted God to be both shield and defender should be allowed to be speared to death was not one that could be smoothly or finally answered in 1956, nor yet silenced in 1996.... I believe with all my heart that God's Story has a happy ending....But not yet, not necessarily yet. It takes faith to hold on to that in the face of the great burden of experience, which seems to prove otherwise. What God means by happiness and goodness is a far higher thing than we can conceive....
The massacre was a hard fact.... It was interpreted according to the measure of one's faith or faithlessness - full of meaning or empty. A triumph or a tragedy. An example of brave obedience or a case of fathomless foolishness. The beginning of a great work, and demonstration of the power of God, a sorrowful first act that would lead to a beautifully predictable third act in which all puzzles would be solved, God would vindicate Himself, Waoranis would be converted, and we could all 'feel good' about our faith...But the danger lies in seizing upon the immediate and hoped-for, as though God's justice is thereby verified, and glossing over as neatly as possible certain other consequences, some of them inevitable, others simply the result of a botched job. In short, in the Waorini story as in other stories, we are consoled as long as we do not examine too closely the unpalatable data. By this evasion we are willing still to call the work 'ours,' to arrogate to ourselves whatever there is of success, and to deny all failure.
A healthier faith seeks a reference point outside all human experience, the Polestar which marks the course of all human events, not forgetting that impenetrable mystery of the interplay of God's will and man's....
I think back to the five men themselves, remembering Pete's agony of indecision as to whether he should join the others in the venture; Ed's eagerness to go even though Marilou was eight months pregnant, his strong assurance that all would be well; Roj's depression and deep sense of failure as a missionary; Nate's extreme caution and determination; Jim's nearly reckless exuberance.
I think of the tensions that developed after the men died among those who had to try to 'pick up the pieces' of the work they had left behind. There was misunderstanding between some of the mission boards as to what part each was to play in continuing efforts to reach the Waoranis.
I think of how, when Rachel and I finally arrived in the Waorani's jungle clearing, we found that what she and Dayuma had been using as the Waorini language was not readily understood. Dayuma had forgotten a large part of it, and had unwittingly jumbled up Waorani, Quichua, a smattering of Spanish, and a little English intonation for good measure. Then gradually I saw, to my dismay, that Rachel's approach to linguistic work, her interpretation of what the Indians did and said, and the resulting reports she sent out were often radically different from my own.
I think of the Indians themselves - what bewilderment, what inconvenience, what disorientation, what uprooting, what actual disease (polio, for example) they suffered because we missionaries got to them at last! The skeptic points with glee to such woeful facts and we dodge them nimbly, fearing any assessment of the work that may cast suspicion at least on the level of our spirituality if not the validity of our faith.
But we are sinners. And we are buffoons....It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package - our bravery and our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses. The God who could take a murderer like Moses and an adulterer like David and a traitor like Peter and make them strong servants of His is a God who can also redeem savage Indians, using as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains, for 'we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain the treasure [the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ], and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us, but is God's alone.'" (2 Cor. 4:7 NEB)
- Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor, Epilogue '96
Travel with us as we explore new lands, engage cultures, and learn to better love each other, those we encounter, and the Lord Jesus Christ at every crossroad of life.
Where Are We Now?