Wednesday, February 19, 2014

~ 56 Henry and the Jungle Pilot ~

There are some people in the world who think that flying a plane cannot be considered missionary work. There are some people in the world who do. I just so happen to be one that does. And it's all thanks to a missionary pilot in the heart of the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador back in the 1950s. Nate Saint and his wife Marj were at the forefront of missionary aviation. Nate helped an organization called Missionary Aviation Fellowship (now based in Idaho) get off the ground and really set the standard for their pilots, plans and procedures. Nate engineered new methods for flying safely, having contact with missionaries on the ground and delivering much needed supplies without them getting lost or broken in a drop. Nate was a husband, father, pilot, missionary, mechanic, preacher, friend, son, brother and God-follower. He was also a martyr.

Nate's life story is written out in the book Jungle Pilot by Russell T. Hitt. A good portion of the book is written from Nate's own words from his journals and letters. One reads the stories of flights, projects, meetings and travels through his own eyes and thoughts. It's really incredible.

The book follows him from birth in 1923 to his death in 1956. From life in a big family in Pennsylvania to life as husband and father on the mission field in Ecuador. From life as boy taking the family car apart (and putting it back together) to a pilot and mechanic fixing planes in the middle of nowhere. From life as an Army Air Corps mechanic to an engineer and visionary for MAF's future missionary pilots. From life as a Christian man sharing his faith with his fellow soldiers to a man dying on a sandbar in Ecuador sharing his faith with a stone-age tribe.

I could, in all seriousness, talk about this book for hours. I could go into all the details and share all of the amazing pieces of Nate's life that led to a tribe being won to Christ. But I won't do that. I will just recommend it and share one piece that I cry at every time. It always makes me wonder about what Nate and his 4 missionary friends really knew would or expected to happen. And it challenges me to think about my own life and the time that I have left to be a witness and light to the world for the sake of the Kingdom. I dare you to do the same.

It was Monday morning, September 19, 1955. The sun was fast dissipating the chill of the night before. The air was unusually clear. The "modern missionary mile," as Nate called the little yellow airplane, was standing on the gravel between the kitchen door and the small open-sided hangar. Marj had sorted the mail, and boxed the meat and groceries. Nate was stowing the supplies in the plane, weighing and recording each package. Five-year-old Stevie lent a hand. Marj came hurrying from the radio room off the kitchen, Philip in her arms, Kathy trailing behind. Nate kissed Marj goodbye, took Philip in his arms briefly, gave Stevie and Kathy each an affectionate squeeze. He climbed into the airplane and pressed the starter button. Marj and Philip opened the gate and waved as he taxied through, across the road and onto the long runway. Kathy and Stevie stood on the grassy bank by the house and watched their Daddy climb away toward the morning sun.
This was September 19, 1955... on January 8, 1956, Nate Saint was to die in a swift hail of long, black, wooden lances. 
On that bright September morning as he flew toward Arajuno on the weekly vegetable run, Nate was beginning the last chapter of his life. He had three months and twenty more days to live. 
 - page 258 -

That just gets me. He was going about his usual, everyday routine. But it was the day when he found the clearings where the Waodani people lived. It was the day when the spark was ignited to create and execute a plan of action to meet the Waodani people. It was the day that things changed for Nate, Jim, Ed, Pete, Roger and their families. Did they realize that? Did they have any inclination that things could and would end the way that they did? Did Nate think about how those last days of flying could be his last days of flying? And if he and the others had known, would it have changed anything?

It makes me wonder. And it makes me think about my own life and witness. I don't know what day will be my last. I don't know when or how GOD is going to take me home. But I want to live in such a way that my faith and life is seen in a way that testifies to the greatness of my GOD and the power that HE has to make all things good and new.


Nate and "George" on Palm Beach... January 6, 1956

The remains of Nate's plane, 56 Henry, that were found in 1994 on the Curaray River... They are now at the MAF headquarters in Idaho

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

~ "The event that shocked the world, changed a people and inspired a nation" ~

It was 4:30pm on Sunday, January 8, 1956. The radio at Shell Mera on the edge of the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador stood quiet. Marj, Betty, Barb, Olive and Marilou stood waiting in Shell Mera, Arajuno and Shandia. Waiting for the crackling sound of the radio. But it remained quiet. The next morning missionary pilot Johnny Keenan spotted Nate's yellow piper cruiser torn to pieces on a sandbar in the Curaray River, but he found no sign of the men. Immediately the news spread across the world, a rescue team was organized and prayers were sent heavenward in hopes that maybe they were in the jungle making their way slowly back to Arajuno.

The story above is true. It's the true story of 5 missionary wives who found themselves widowed after their husbands attempted to make friendly contact for the GOSPEL with a stone-age tribe of known killers. It's the true story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully and the Waodani people. It's the true story of 5 missionary families so devoted to seeing the GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST given to every nation, tribe and language that they were willing to die and to sacrifice in the biggest way imaginable.

I was first introduced to the story of the Ecuador 5 and the Waodani when my mama took me to a church service in a town about an hour from where we lived at the time. I was in 8th grade. My mama, grandma and older sister went. And we heard Steve Saint, the son of missionary pilot Nate Saint, share the story of his father's death, his growing up a missionary kid and then his ministry as an adult to the same people who killed his father. Then the really amazing thing happened. We got to hear Mincaye, one of the Waodani men who attacked the 5 missionary men, share the story of his people and how they were a changed people because of the 5 men, their wives and the saving grace of Waengongi (GOD in the Wao language). It was an incredible few hours listening to those two men and being transported to the Curaray River in the 1950s. And was topped off by my Grandma buying me a few books and getting to meet Steve and Mincaye in order to have them sign the books.

I was hooked.

Over the years, I have collected more books about the missionaries and the Waodani people. I traveled to Ecuador for my first mission trip because of my desire to see the country that changed my life in 8th grade. I have written papers and blogposts about the events of 1955-1960 that changed the lives of the Waodani people. I have followed Steve Saint and his ministry ITEC - Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center - over the years. And I have dreamed about going on a Wao Vision trip into the Amazon Jungle to meet and experience the life and culture of the Waodani people.

For the last few months I have been longing to re-read my stack of books on these families and people. So I decided February would be the perfect time to do that. And so far since the 1st, I have read 3 of the 9 that I have.

The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee by Dave & Neta Jackson (a great book for young readers)
Dayuma: Life Under Waorani Spears by Ethel Emily Wallis (a book from the perspective of Dayuma... a Waodani woman who escaped to a hacienda after an attack on her people)
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot (a book written by one of the widows about 
Operation Auca... the actual planning and actions that lead to contact with the 
Waodani and the deaths of the 5 men)

All of them have made me cry (like always). All of them have made me shiver and shake because of the power the story holds. All of them have transported me back to the days when I was in 8th grade and first learning about this story and dreaming of the Curaray River. And all of them have had me dreaming of the day when JESUS returns and I find myself worshipping before the throne with the 5 men, their families and the Waodani people. United as one family, one people through the saving grace of Waengongi. 

"Following God's carving, we live well."
Mincaye and Kimo - 2 Waodani elders

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh where did January go?!?!

We are one-twelfth (1/12) of the way through the year 2014 already! While I am still having trouble writing 2014 on paperwork at home and work, January has already disappeared. This is just getting ridiculous. Time is flying by and I can't seem to keep up! Not to mention, I didn't read nearly as much as I would have liked. Time got away from me. Life got crazy. And I just didn't read as fast or as much as I normally do. But oh well. It was only one month, right? It was only the beginning of a new year. I've still got plenty of time, right?!?! Well, not if time keeps going by so fast.   :)

January had no real rhyme or reason to what I read. But February will. I'm planning to re-read all of my books about my favorite group of missionaries, the Ecuador 5 -- made up of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully. I have 5 books about the missionaries and 2 missions strategy books written by Nate's son, Steve. I have been really aching to re-read these books for a couple of months now and I decided February was as good a time as ever. So that's what I'm going to do starting tonight. And I can't wait!

So, here are my stats for January and I am off to read! Happy reading!

Books read in January: 
What Can We Do? by David Livermore and Terry Linhart
A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
My Heart's in the Lowlands by Liz Curtis Higgs 
The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World by David Horner 
Silence by Shusaku Endo 
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason K. Stearns

Favorite book read in January: 
a tie between  
A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
and 
Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason K. Stearns 

Least favorite book read in January: 
Silence by Shusaku Endo 
just wasn't what I was expecting 

Number of pages read in January: 
1,919 pages

Number of Classics Club books read so far: 
21 of 76

"Who are you to understand what I am telling you?"

Among some of my friends in college, I am known for making a comment that went like this... 

"I don't have a heart for Africa." 

It was then written down on our quote wall to haunt me for the rest of our days in the dorm. And brought up at opportune times to remind me of my lack of heart for the continent of Africa. When I made that comment, I was completely devoted to mission work in Latin America. My heart was devoted to people of Hispanic and Latin culture. I had no desire to expand my horizons and consider doing missions in an African country. And while I have yet to step foot on the African continent, over the last few years my heart has been drawn ever nearer to those lands and peoples. My heart has been drawn to the history, the culture, the people and the lifestyle of the African continent. And maybe one day I will find myself stepping into Kigali, Rwanda or Nairobi, Kenya or Bukavu, Congo (formerly Zaire) or Arusha, Tanzania. Maybe one day I will find myself walking to a village church in Uganda or worshiping with believers in Sierra Leone. Who knows where I may travel and end up. But my heart is drawn there and I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that I am beginning to have a heart for Africa. 

Over the last two weeks I have slowly worked through Jason Stearns' book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. It was an intense book and a heavy read from start to finish. It takes a look at the wars fought in the Congo since the country's independence in 1960, as well as a brief overview of it's history with Belgium and European control. It spends a great deal looking at the state of things in the '90s when Rwanda's genocide turned the Congo-Rwandan border into a hot-spot for militias and refugees. It also spends a great deal looking into the various leaders of the various military campaigns and political leaders who then gained (or tried to gain) control of the Congo. 

Jason Stearns spent years living in and researching the Congo (currently known as the Democratic Repulic of Congo and formerly known as Zaire). His heart and compassion for the Congolese people, while secular, is very clearly seen in his writing. Down to his conclusion where he talks about the current state of things and what Westerners should and shouldn't do. His research was done through an incredible amount of interviews, travels, documents and news reports. He even puts himself in the story as he explains who he talked to and where he had to travel to meet with a specific witness. It was quite incredible to say the least. 

I said that the book was intense and heavy. And it was. Stearns shared a lot of detail when it came to the stories of the massacres and the killings. He shared the witnesses perspectives in an open and honest way that can be hard for some to read. It's like the Holocaust in some ways. People don't want to admit that it happened and if they read the true stories about it, their hearts (and sometimes their stomachs) can't really handle it. While I was familiar with some of the history and the stories of genocide or guerrilla warfare, some of the details he shared were hard for me to read. There were more than a few times where I simply had to lay the book down and breathe quietly to compose myself. 

But while it was intense and heartbreaking, it was eye-opening. It was intriguing to see more of the back-story to the trouble that took place. It was interesting to read the different perspectives of various leaders as to why the wars were taking place. And it was good for me to read the stories of survivors and to remind myself that this isn't the way things were supposed to be when GOD created the world. It also gave me a renewed desire to see the Gospel spread across the lands of the Congo and the World so that peace can come. So that healing can come. So that justice can come.