Now on to the GREAT news! Somewhere around junior high or high school I read Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. This book was/is one of the most influential in my life. Through this book, and another of her works, Through Gates of Splendor, you see one of the most inspiring missionary stories ever. In the 1950's Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were working in Ecuador with the Quichua Indians, the descendants of whom Geoff and I see everyday. Then they learned of an unreached tribe and their group of missionaries set to work to make contact and share the love and truth of Jesus with the Huarani (aka - Auca) Indians. They had not previously been reached by civilization and initial contact was friendly but took a quick turn. The five male missionaries, Jim Elliot included, were speared to death by the tribe on January 8, 1956. The story did not end there. Elisabeth Elliot, along with Rachel Saint, the sister of one of the slain missionaries, went to live and work with the Huarani converting several of them in one of the best redemption stories known.
When Geoff and I were narrowing down countries in Latin America to move to this story was the tie breaker for me in the decision to move to Ecuador. I loved the idea of being so close to the same people my heroes had worked with, though I knew i woud never meet them. Tourism has brought lots of opportunities for visiting the Amazon basin in Ecuador allowing you to visit indigenous tribes, hike, etc. I wanted more than just a field trip though, I wanted to meet the Huarani. Then I found out about the Huarani Lodge, an eco lodge run by the Huaroni themselves, and was desperate to go! However, after price checking we knew our meager budget would never afford that opportunity. Well, I couldn't get it out of my head so I sent a pleading letter asking for any chance of a discount through volunteering, filling cancelled spots, ANYTHING! They replied offering a HUGE reduction if we could make the upcoming August 23-28th trip. YES! Happy Birthday to me!
We are over the top excited about this for a few varied reasons. One, this is the same group that Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint worked with and I never dreamed of getting this close to my heroes! Second, I am curious to see the legacy that the missionary influence left. After the five missionaries were killed there was a huge wave of inspired missionaries flooding the field in response. I love evangelism, but I have seen pros and cons of what happens when people from a different culture move to a one they do not know bringing not only the love and truth if Jesus, but their often conflicting cultural values as well. The Huarani did become more "civilized" after the missionaries came in, there was less killing, but they were also introduced to the "outside" world and new evils. Most tragically, the oil companies took advantage of the missionary contact with the "savages," which helped to literally pave the road to gaining control of the natives land for oil exploration and development.
I am curious to see for myself what impact the mission work had on the culture, for better or worse. I am also anxious to meet the Huarani and learn from them, to see their view of who God is and how they value His creation. They were untouched by modern civilization until the 1950s and though their traditional way of life is vanishing as rapidly as their rainforest homeland, they are still able to cling to some of their traditions and cultural views. These may not survive another generation, though, so I am anxious to meet them now.
One of the main reasons Geoff and I moved to Ecuador was for a cultural reset. As human sponges we so easily allow our culture to define our values and justify them before God. This culture in Ecuador is not better than any other on earth but it is not our own and so we are less likely to make decisions based on what feels right because it's in line with the cultural values around us. The Huaroni represent a culture on the total opposite spectrum of the one I was born in. I can't wait to meet them, to learn from them, to observe them. I can't wait to see what God will teach us through these people, created in His image, who have observed life so differently.
We are being picked up tomorrow at 6 a.m. from our hostal in Quito and will drive to Shell (yes, named for the oil company), where we will catch a flight on a small plane further into the rainforest. From there we will get in dug out canoes and paddle down river to the lodge and begin an incredible week being immersed into a culture entirely different from our own. I've travelled to several countries and cultures and have more on my list I'd love to see but this at the VERY top of my hopes and dreams. Please pray that GOD will open our eyes to see from HIS perspective, and to learn to love HIM and all of HIS creation with HIS passion and purity.