We had no idea what our itinerary was, where exactly we were going, or what we would be doing. We only knew that we would be gone for six days and that we would be with the Huarani. That was enough info for me! We traveled back down the Pan American Highway and stopped in Banos for breakfast. From there we continued on to Shell, which is named for the oil company and was the base for the missionaries back in the 50's, complete with airstrip. We arrived at this airstrip, slightly changed but still fairly primitive by most standards, and the three of us squeezed into a tiny Cessna plane.
Finally (for him) we came to a cleared strip, circled and landed. Geoff breathed again. We squeezed out of the craft as several people watched us curiously from the edge of the forest. Were they Huarani? We stepped out of the plane and heard, "Welcome to the Huarani Territory!"
We met our bi-lingual guide, Jose, an Ecuadorian from Quito and the only other non Huarani we saw for the rest of the trip. We immediately learned a Huarani greeting, "Waponi!" This word is similar to the Hawaiian "Aloha" and can be used as a greeting, farewell, thanks, congratulations, or said just because it sounds cool. WAPONI! Yup, fun every time.
As we floated down the river I was overwhelmed by the surreal opportunity we were engaging. In 1956 several people committed their lives to bringing the Gospel to this group of people. Five men were initially met with kindness on January 3rd and then speared to death on January 8, 1956. Now, 56 years later, we landed at almost the same place, and were welcomed by the same people, escorted into their territory, and treated like honored guests. It was too much to absorb. We were so thankful to be there; for the opportunity to meet the Huarani and to be taught by them as we engaged their culture. I praised GOD for HIS Mercies as we floated down the river toward the lodge, full of anticipation for the days ahead.