Have you ever watched "The End of the Spear?" It's a movie about the missionaries in 1956 who went deep into Ecuador's rain forest to make contact with a warrior tribe so effective at revenge spearings that they had nearly made themselves extinct. They made peaceful contact, but a fight within a tribal group had gotten to the point where they were about to spear each other, so they killed the missionaries instead. The story made the worldwide news and the cover of Life magazine. The book by Steve Saint, is WAYYY better. Steve is the kid in the movie, the son of one of the missionaries.
See, the five men were killed before they had a chance to talk about God. In the Waodani culture, the families of the slain missionaries should attack and kill the family who killed their men. Instead, the widows and children moved in with them and brought medicine. They brought healing and the message of forgiveness. They presented the Gospel over the years and changed the culture enough to end the way of the spear.
But the book is incredible. It goes into so much more detail. The movie does a two-sentence voice-over with Steve saying he spent lots of time with the Waodani growing up, but the book tells what that was like, as well as the rest of the story.
They changed some stuff in the movie to make it fit into the 2-hour story frame, having to combine events and people to make a simpler story and character list.
Once the widows' stories started being told (and their books published), people worldwide wanted to help the "poor" indigenous people. That's great. But Steve tells us how much our help hurts people who are so culturally and technologically different. Once they started being given things that they couldn't repair or reproduce, they became dependant on outsiders. Once they tasted food that they couldn't grow, they required outsiders to provide it. Once missionaries built a church with more urban materials, they couldn't repair it; but they also thought they shouldn't build a different one, so they just quit having church. Also, since the missionaries built it, they didn't consider it theirs.
Steve Saint took his wife and three teenage kids to the jungle where he grew up (to his Wao family) to teach the Waodani how to build and maintain an airstrip and fly and maintain a plane for medical emergencies. They set up medical clinics and trained women how to be nurses. They built a house as a community center/ church. He refused to do any of this for them; instead, he demanded that they do it so they would own it. He insisted that his family would only stay for a set amount of time, then go back to Florida.
He and the man who speared his father, Mincaye, had developed a father-son bond as he grew up. Mincaye and some other Waodanis have come to America and Europe for speaking engagements, giving their testimonies. They tell of how Waengongi (Creator God) changed their hearts and now they follow His trail.
And they only listened to Steve's family because they came days after the brutal murders, ready to forgive, and became family.
There's a mission organization out of Nowhere, Alabama (actually, Lineville, but it really is in the middle of nowhere) called SIFAT. Servants In Faith And Technology. They bring tribal leaders from around the world to train them appropriate technology, and how to couple using it with sharing the Gospel. By appropriate, I mean water filters and 16-brick stoves and fisheries and simple irrigation. Things that don't Americanize them at all, just plain make their lives a little healthier.
I went to the top of the Bolivian Andes for a month with SIFAT to serve the Quechans there. But that was August of 1999. This past weekend, I took my church's youth to SIFAT's headquarters. There, they have built a Global Village. (As tribal leaders come in from around the world, they built a replicas of their homes. Their real homes that their families live in.)
So our boys slept in a woven stick hut from Liberia, and we girls slept in a glorified cave from Nepal that had a teeny (like the size of the rug under my chair right now) house for cooking above the roof of the cave.
We made fire in the sprinkling rain (it took nearly two hours), cooked rice and beans for dinner and oatmeal for breakfast. The size of the meals was what Americans would consider two servings... but that was for all ten of us. And we had no dishes. Have you ever tried to eat oatmeal with no bowl? One of the girls found some flat rocks in the creek and scrubbed them off to make plates. The boys worked on setting the foundation for another tribal hut.
We got a tour of the whole village, too. Eight countries were represented, including an urban slum.
Did you know that HALF of the world's population lives in poverty? They didn't ask to be born in a slum or war-torn country or secluded jungle. Just like you didn't ask to be born where you were. You had no choice in whether your parents could find work or not, or whether they stuck around at all. So, the SIFAT guy's main message to the youth this weekend was not about guilt, but about responsibility.
One thing I noticed in Bolivia was that the people were happy. They had only one or two outfits to their name, and a few dishes, a musical intrument they'd made, and maybe a tapestry that could be used as a tablecloth or backpack or blanket or baby carrier. That's it. But they loved each other, and they were happy. And we were there to help them with building a school (using their construction methods and sun-dried adobe brick) and add a windmill to their clinic so they could generate power to treat their sick.
A Nigerian man at SIFAT a few weeks ago looked at an American staff member and told him that we Americans are poor. We surround ourselves with meaningless stuff and big houses. But we don't know our neighbors. We say "Hi," to people we know then just keep walking. We don't stop and talk, don't build relationships, don't care about people, and don't know how to love selflessly. We're fat and depressed. So, though they have no material things, they are rich, and we are poor.
So here's my takeaway: There is one race. There is one family. We are the children of God. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. No matter what difference - language, culture, money, status, religion (or lack thereof), sex, age, odor, or anything else; we are to love others above all else. We are to lift them up so they can stand up high enough to see God. We are to not be blinded by our blessings and think that our things make us better than anyone else. We are to be family, no matter our differences, and offer love and reconciliation and the Good News. As Steve Saint's family put it, Waengongi had a son, and he was speared; but he let his enemies spear him so that those enemies could have a better future. It really is that simple.
I could go on and on, but please go check out http://sifat.org/stories.html. It's awesome.
Share the love, y'all; share the love.