Over the Easter weekend, we made a trip down to Puyo (a town just outside the jungle) together with Daniel Koenig, a missionary who has been here in Ecuador for 12 years. 🙂 We made contact with Dan through HCJB and he kindly offered to drive us down to meet Reinaldo and Blanca, the Columbian couple who have been serving in Ecuador for 18 years and have lived with the Waoranis and are now pastoring the Waoranis who have come out of the jungle.
The Waoranis or Aucas as they used to be called 50 years ago were a savage tribe whose only way of resolving problems was by spearing. Due to miscommunication, they speared 5 American missionaries who tried to reach them about 50 years ago. The wives of the missionaries returned to the tribe to share with them and now almost the entire tribe are saved. There are still some who are unreached and the Waoranis who are saved are trying to reach them.
Being among them on Saturday evening and Sunday, you couldn’t tell that these same people sitting beside us, dressed and singing to the Lord were the same tribe that live in the jungle, hunt and killed in order to survive. They were smiling, friendly, joyful and hopeful.
Today, the Waoranis face many challenges in order to be assimilated into society. Some of their families still live in the jungle although quite a number of the youths and kids have come out of the jungle and are attending school. There are a lot of things they need to learn as their life in the jungle is so different. They need to learn how to interact and live in the town/city area, adapt to different cultural customs. For example, what is the difference between stealing and borrowing since in the jungle, you could just walk into someone else’s house because they were also family and you could just eat a banana. But in the city, you can’t.; they are also needing to learn how to interact with elderly because this is the first time in Waorani history that there are grandparents and elderly because in the past, most of them were speared to death and never lived to old age. They need help with their marriages, learning to handle alcohol and other city vices.. etc. Another challenge now is to help the Waoranis obtain skills in order to survive or make a living.
At the same time, they want to help their family members who are still in the jungle. Some of the elderly do not speak Spanish and only speak Wao so Mincaye (Mincaye’s grandfather, also called Mincaye was one of those who speared the 5 missionaries) travels back into the jungle once every 2 weeks on short missions trips to reach the different communities, teach the youth or translate and share with the elderly.
It was a short but fruitful and amazing trip. It was wonderful to meet the Waoranis in person.. their story is such an incredible story of God’s great love and forgiveness. Reinaldo and Blanca are also an inspiring couple who have given their lives to live among the Waorani, to guide and teach them.
We were glad to be able to speak to them, hear their stories, testimonies and we look forward to organizing short missions trips to Puyo or even the jungle in the future. 🙂