Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 7 - The End of the Spear

We began our day by going over to the Marbut's home to share a little love. They hadn't gotten much in the way of Christmas gifts from back home yet, so their families sent them down with us. Along with the usual toys, comic books, and the like, we brought down some things sorely missed by the kids like Dr. Pepper, root beer, and Lucky Charms. I can't tell you how much fun it was to bless this wonderful family.

After Christmas at the Marbuts, we toured the Hope House, a home for girls started by Joil and his family. A few years ago a young girl was dropped at their doorstep with nowhere else to go. Their care for that girl started became well known more and more unwanted or struggling girls were brought to them. The home now consists of living quarters, a classroom, and a few other amenities. The girls all attend local school, but are tutored daily at the house as well. Now there are about 35 girls there full time. The first girl that was dropped at their doorstep has now graduated and is in a training program for missionaries. There are big dreams and unlimited potential for this home.

While Nick IV was doing some video work, a few of us took the short trip to the primary church for Joil and his work. A few hundred people regularly meet together in a modest two story brick building. Every month all of the local pastors from the villages in Joil's network come in to Sucua for some pastoral education and training. Their trips are paid, but in return they bring some trinkets to sell in the city and to mission groups that come in. There is some jewelry, small pots, and that sort of thing, but the most popular item are short spears the Shuar use for hunting small game. Several of us purchased one or two as a keepsake.

Before long it was time to hit the road. We bid farewell to Leah, Matt (and familiy), and the rest of of the local team. Joil, Roberto, and the 8 of us would make the rest of the trip. We were only going as far as Banos that day so we could take our time a bit. After lunch at a little restaurant (which was showing Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall for some reason) we stopped in the town of Shell.

Some of you may be familiar with this town from the movie The End of the Spear (Amazon listing - actually a a generally well done film) A small group of missionaries lead primarily by Jim Elliot and Nate Saint had established a missionary base in Shell in the early 1950's. The story everyone knows is of a few men who courageously tried to reach an unreached tribe by dropping supplies and information from a small plane (lovingly dubbed the "bumblebee" by locals). After a year or two the team gets the courage to land on a small sand bank, but they are savagely murdered by the tribe they were trying to reach. The families of the missionaries eventually do reach the tribe and spend the rest of their lives spreading the message of God's love and reconciliation. Leah, Joil's wife, actually felt her call to missions while visiting Rachel Elliot on the field. It's one of the great and terrible modern martyrdoms.

There is a bit more to the story though. One of the pastors that Joil works closely with is a member of the tribe in question. The whole event was big news in the bush so tribesmen came from all of the surrounding area to see for themselves. According to him, there are two primary pieces to the puzzle that aren't shared in the commonly told story:

1) There was a young man who had caused trouble in the village by trying to run away with one of the women. Somehow, he ended up taking a ride on the plane for a few minutes. The missionaries were likely trying to make a connection and he was likely trying to escape. When was confronted in the village, he told the leaders that it was the North American's who were at fault. The motivation for the murders wasn't one of ignorant fear, it was one of misguided retribution.

2) When the first spears had flown, three of the missionaries were dead instantly, but the remaining two were just injured. As the warriors approached to finish them off, the entire sky above them was filled with a host of angels singing. The warriors all dropped their weapons in awe, but it was too late for the missionaries. They immediately knew that they had committed a crime against a power they'd never witnessed. It's a fascinating piece of the reconciliation story.

The missionary group that the men were a part of were cessationists, meaning that they didn't believe that miracles or the Holy Spirit moved in physical ways in the modern world. They've always dismissed this crucial part of the tale  and so it's not been widely told outside of native circles.

In the center of Shell, there is a large fountain with a replica of the "Bumblebee" on top as a memorial to the work that started there. It was absolutely incredible to see how far the Gospel has reached in the last 60 years. We had literally been at the edge of its reach just two days before and could see how some of the dominoes fell in to place over the previous decades. God's work takes many things and among them is time.

After our stop in Shell, we hopped back in the bus for a few more hours and made our way to the Samari Resort and Spa, our retreat in Banos for the evening. The reception building was leftover from an old monastery and the rest of the buildings in the complex were designed to match it. This was as nice of a place as you could hope to find. There was an onsite spa with an indoor pool, sauna, turkish bath, hot tubs, and cold tubs. A few of the guys had massages (they ran significantly cheaper than the U.S.) and we all enjoyed the fresh mountain air. We were so close to the base of the volcano that was erupting over Banos that we couldn't actually see the summit for the cliff that loomed over town. It was a little disconcerting, though, seeing abject poverty literally right next door to our well kept comfort and the pristine mountains.

Dinner was probably the most interesting thing at the spa. There was some delicious soup served with a soft cheese and avocado followed by a most unusual main course. We were all presented a tray of sorts with some potatoes on one side, salad on the back, and a couple of sauces on the other, Chimichurri and a red pepper sauce of some sort. In the center was a piping hot lava stone that was literally cooking our meat. The shrimp, beef, chicken, and sausage all came out partially cooked and then we were responsible for cooking it to our likeness. It was a little bit like grilled fondue. Desert followed with a trio of tres leches, flan, and a chocolate cake, all of which were delicious.

At that meal we began to reflect on our days in the jungle. We each shared some of our personal highlights from the trip and all joined in a few laughs over some of the mishaps. Our return to normal life was just starting to creep in to our minds, but we all did our best to relax and enjoy our surroundings.

The beds were incredibly comfortable, but my (and Jonathan Burkett's) evening was ruined by the extreme discomfort of my chigger bites. I won't go in to to details, but my legs are still a ways off from completely healing and its been about a month as of the writing of this post. We still had one more night in Ecuador before I could sleep in my own bed again though.

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