Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day Three - Friends, Weapons, and Warpaint...

Day three in the jungle dawned when the roosters began to crow at 5:00 AM. Although we didn’t get up until 6:00, it’s rather hard to sleep with Mr. Rooster evidencing such exuberance. Not a problem, however, because the jungle coming alive with the various sounds of nature was worth listening to as some early morning dozing took place.

One important tidbit I failed to share from Monday’s activities was our group’s afternoon interaction with Gabriel, Timothy, and Gallo. All three of these men are leaders among the Huaorani people. Gabriel is the tribal chief (a.k.a. president); Timothy is the pastor of the Baptist church in the village and Gabriel’s brother-in-law; Gallo is a right hand man who is intensely curious about the American way of life. The pictures you see are of these men with a blowgun and lance. We all had our try at each of these and I must confess when it came to the blowgun I was sorely lacking (no hot air comments please). This hunting tool is approximately 12 feet long and capable of shooting a dart 50 yards with incredible precision and velocity. I feel quite certain that Gabriel could shoot an eye out at 25 paces with little or no problem should that be his intention.

The lance was 10 feet long and made of a type of jungle ironwood. It was sharpened to a lethal point on both ends and is unquestionably a powerful weapon. Due to size, weight, and velocity when thrown it would easily pass through the human body and come out the other side. I was glad we only threw at a papaya that we all had trouble hitting.

Gabriel said that the reason we could not hit the target was because our faces had not been painted. Within minutes a runner brought back a plant that had red seeds inside a pod and the chief began painting our faces with red war paint. It was great fun, but it didn’t help us hit the mark.

These men are products of a culture that thrives on men being strong hunters and mighty warriors. Although they no longer war between their clans or with outsiders, you can tell they maintain a fierceness and strength by the way they carry themselves. Please do not get the wrong idea, however. The Kakatarro Huaorani were incredible hosts and never once did we feel threatened or in danger.

When visiting with the missionary I asked him about their friendly disposition and he shared that we had been invited to their village. If a stranger were to appear from the jungle at Kakatarro, they would question him as to intentions and politely request he leave. If he did not heed the request, he could possibly be in danger of harm. Further in the jungle are other Huaorani tribes that are even more primitive than our Kakatarro friends. Should you wander into their village, your life could be in grave danger.

The Ecuadorian government has little power over enforcement of laws among the Huaorani people. These are self-governing tribes that maintain a strict code of conduct. For crimes such as murder, rape, child molestation, capital punishment would be the sentence. For lesser crimes such as stealing, public beating would serve as a deterrent. I find their swift judicial process quite interesting in light of the loose system of justice so common in America.

With the church painted on Tuesday, we sought to build a storage building on the back of the church on Wednesday. As you can see form these pictures we set the foundation posts in place and built a frame for flooring and walls. Digging postholes was done with a machete and concrete was river sand and gravel that would harden up when dried. The structure was complete all but the flooring and walls by the end of the day.

At lunch on Wednesday I had my first taste of monkey. Gabriel had gone hunting that morning with his antiquated 16 gauge single barrel shotgun and had killed two monkeys. The picture you see is the traditional way they tie the tails together to carry them through the woods. The other pictures you see are the monkey arm I was given and the head of a monkey that was boiled in the same pot with our food. I will confess that I was not upset when the monkey head was kept to be eaten by the Indians. The arm I was eating was enough for me. People have asked what it tasted like and my best answer is squirrel. It is a dark, tough meat with not a lot of flavor. All in all, it wasn’t that bad.
They also steamed fish for us on Wednesday. This was fish caught in their river, cleaned, and wrapped in banana leaves for steaming. It was delicious!

That afternoon we celebrated a special event that would take place later that evening – the chartering of the very first Baptist church in Huaorani territory. I will tell you more about that tomorrow.

Spiritual Applications –
First, my experience among the Huaorani proved a precursor to Revelation 7 and what we might expect around the throne of God in eternity. I have long held that Anglos may be the minority in heaven because there are so many people of color around the world. Verses 9-10, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” In eternity I will worship my Savior with Gabriel, Timothy, Gallo and other Huaorani brothers and sisters I met at Kakatarro.

Second, Jesus Christ is oftentimes the only thing we have to offer people of other nations. When I viewed my friends at Kakatarro, it was not difficult to surmise what all they lacked from an American point of view. Nonetheless, these are some of the richest people I have ever met. They have very few needs and even less worries. They do not have electric bills, water bills, credit card debt or house payments. Worry about retirement accounts and interest rates play no role in their daily thoughts. They do not fret about where their next meal is coming from and there seems to be very little jealousy over what others might have that they do not. In essence, I have determined that should I have been born a Huaorani Indian boy I would have loved every minute of it because it is a life centered upon nature, hunting, fishing, and freedom. Maybe we could learn some things about materialism from these people who have so little and yet are so richly blessed. So what do we have to offer them? What must we offer them? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our most important contribution to these people who have little need of what else we might offer.

Stay tuned tomorrow for some additional thoughts.