As We have arrived in Ecuador our Contact in Quito is a Married Couple who have a big house and have graciously opened up there doors to the team. All 28 of us! We had 2 nights here in Quito before we split into 2 groups, by drawing numbers from a hat. We packed up and headed for the bus station bright and early the next morning! Little to no expectations, really unsure of what the next weeks would look like, and feeling a little bit of sadness splitting from half our team. My team of 13 headed to Puyo, Ecuador a 5 hour bus ride. When we arrive we had no idea what wants us to be doing so we book a few rooms at a hostel ate some food and had some time together to pray about what God wanted us to do for the next couple of weeks. During our meeting God revealed a lot to different people. One woman on our team heard “The end of the road.” Another woman and guy heard “go east.” As we continued to pray and meet we shared our worries, expectations and anything else on our hearts. It was a really great time to just meet and learn new things about each other and be vulnerable. By this point the team as a whole still had no clue what exactly we were meant to do. While we were having lunch at a local restaurant, a lunch of Rice, salad, Chicken (fish in my case), french fries and lemonade all for a $2.50 we meet someone who told us where a local church was that would be having a service that night. We decided we would go and see if we could find anyone who could help us get into the jungle without it being a tourist trap. Later that evening a few people from our group went to the church service and the rest of us stayed back to pray and rest. When the people who went to the church service returned they were very excited about what all had happened. While trying to find the church they got lost and decided to do a prayer walk as they were going. Finally they felt they were to turn down a dark alley so as they are walking, very skeptically, they saw a church and people were just arriving for the service. While there they were able to share who we are and what we were trying to do. Right away they told us of a Christian pilot who flies a Cessna and they could set up a meeting with him for us first thing the next morning. The meeting is set up for 7am.
The next morning we go to the restaurant bright and early to meet Rick the pilot. In the meeting Rick begins hounding us with all kinds of questions and really seeming to want to make sure we were legit. After the interview Rick asks when we want to leave and he takes us to his House/hanger, in Shell Mara, where he draws us a map of all the villages in the area he can fly us to. We sit in the hanger for a while and pray.
While we were all praying I saw 4 giant Warrior Angels that looked as if they were dressed in traditional tribal wear. As I began to watch them I noticed they were all very giddy and excited. I asked God who they were and He said they were the same angels that where there the Day Nick Saint and Jim Elliot were speared to death, back in the forties. As I sat with chill bumps running across my body a few questions began turning in my mind. Why were these angels so giddy and excited looking? When I asked God He began to reveal to me the spiritual back ground of Shell Mara, where we were. He showed me How the spirit of Religion had been allowed to enter and a works mentality had over taken this city. The angels were excited because of what we as a group were carrying into the city and they new what our purpose being there was. Another question that I was pondering on was if these angels were there when those men died why did they not save them from being speared? Right as I began to ask God the biggest angel stopped what he was doing and looked straight at me and said “It was our honor to watch those men lay down there life for the sake of our King!” My jaw dropped and I was speechless. I am so honored God allowed me to experience that and to be in the presence of such awesome beings to be able to see the glory waring along side us for the next week or so.
We finally decided what we were supposed to do, called a taxi, and headed out for the air strip two hours away in a jungle village called Chapienza. Now because the Airplane is just a very small Cessna we could only fit 3 or 4 small people in it on a good weather day. So we divided up by weight and Rick begins hoping us from one place to another. After about 4 or 5 hopes we all arrive in Campo Ayuo where a Cuban missionary couple Ramon, and Karen, have lived for the past 2 years working in this Shuar village in the middle of the Ecuadorian jungles. They were very surprised to see us as we had no way of telling them we were coming in all of the 3 hours we decided to go. However, they excepted us very generously and were so happy to see us. They let us set up camp in the little church they had built, fed us, and told us of the surrounding villages that really needed a fresh our pouring. So we sat up camp and had a group meeting to discuss what all we should do. Me and three others decided that the next day we would go on the 4 hour hike through the jungle to get to 2 other villages that were so spiritually dry and hungry!
That night we went to bed in our tents very early in anticipation for the next day. The next morning we all woke and those of us who had decided to venture further into the jungle got our things ready and had some breakfast. I borrowed some tall rubber boots from Pastor Romano, as it had started to rain and they were insisting I would need them because all I had brought with me were sandals. So I get my backpack and boots on with a thin plastic poncho on to cover them. The team prays for us and sends the four of us and our guide out and we begin our journey. About 5 minutes into the walk we all began to quickly realize why everyone had insisted we wear the tall rubber boots. We were walking in knee high deep mud and crossing many rivers as well as climbing over, around, and through fallen trees. Not only that, but before we left we were highly warned about vipers that can jump up to your face to bight you and the vampire bats that will suck your blood while you are sleeping (but you don't know they are there because they inject a numbing agent into your body first). In the past year this village has had 18 people die from rabies from being bit by vampire bats....We were So excited for that!
The walk was not the easiest we didn't stop for a break once and our guide told us we were walking to slow, but it was still really fun!
Finally, we arrive in the village we meet the President and Pastor of the village, Pastor Diego and his wife Rosa. They have 2 little girls and live in a cute little dirt floored hut at the entrance of the village. The village has a giant landing strip running through it with huts lining the jungle around. In the community there are 11 families and quite a few of them are husbands with 2 wives and 8 or more children living in a hut with no walls only thatched roofs. The first thing we come to when we finally get to the village is a big roofed community platform with a few kids sitting around it playing. They have a little bamboo hut with a thatched roof about 100 meters away from the platform its risen off the ground and is very unsteady. They told us the hut was for us to sleep in and to keep our things. We get to it and are so revealed to finally have somewhere to sit we just ignore all the rat poo covering the floor and just pray we don't break it by falling through the very thin and frail bamboo floor. We ask if there is a river near by where we can wash up and clean all the mud off ourselves and clothes. They point us in the right direction down a jungley path (yes I think I just made that word up). We get all washed up and set up camp inside the hut. This was the first time any foreigners had come to there village and stayed for more than an hour also the first time foreigners had come in almost 3 years.
The pastor then calls for us and says they have food prepared for us. Which we were hoping for, but also ready to fast for the next 3 days if necessary, because we didn't bring any food or water supplies with us. Only Chlorine tablets and a small hand held water filter. We ate Cassava root and potatoes and plantain in a soup which is what we had for the next 3 days. Pastor Diego asks us if we will preach that night and the next day. We said of course we were there to serve. We had about a 3 hour window to just relax before the service. After we all napped and rested we headed back to the community platform where we began to play games with the children and tell them Bible stories after that we had a very short worship time and then my team mate Natalie began to preach, she is also the only one of us whose speaks Spanish which then had to be translated into Shuar (the name of the tribe and its language). After she preached we prayed for the sick, but nothing was happening.
Everything in the village from the moment we walked in seemed dull and lacking any joy. There was a restlessness in my spirit that I could not describe. I couldn't describe what I was feeling, but It was just sadness. After the meeting they fed us more supper and we went to bed. With no electricity there is really not much to do in the jungle after dark. The next morning we wake up to hold another service. Pastor Diego asked us to preach on Marriage which is not a subject any us in the group are adequately prepared to talk about let alone preach on. So we had worship in 3 different languages (some Spanish, some English and some Shuar). Then we had to preached the best we could on a subject non of us knew how to preach on. Incorporating the love of God and what being in a relationship with God looks like and how that is supposed to be an example of our relationship with our spouse. Natalie and Taylor tag teamed on the message and in the end I believe it was very well received. After the message we got everyone to sit together in there families so we could pray for them and bless the family life in the community.
After the service we went straight to each individual hut praying with the families and just being with them spending time and communing with them. As we went to all 11 houses about half way through we began to see a lot of damage caused by missionaries who had come in and preached false messages and left. These missionaries who came in were preaching only on works and told many of the men in the village that they could not be a Christian because they had 2 wives or that they couldn't be a Christian because they had bad relationships in there life. Also we realized that in every household someone in the family had some kind of stomach issues the most common was tumors in the stomach. On top of that there was rumors of a chicken curse throughout the entire village. Every family mentioned how there chickens were dying or running away. By the time we got to Pastor Diego's mothers house we knew somewhat of what we had to do.
When we arrived at the village other than Pastor Diego only 3 other women and 1 other man were Christians. This village was so hurting and confused and Pastor Diego has close to no one and nothing to grow from. They were trapped by religion and stuck in a place where there is no freedom. While siting at Diego's mothers house around the fire eating freshly grilled cobs of corn we began to pray and talk about what has happened in the village. We all agreed that we needed to stand in the place of those missionaries and apologize for any false teachings that may have harshly influenced them or made them believe lies about God. So that is what we did. We looked at the pastor and asked for forgiveness then we all held hands and prayed together. We also asked the pastor about some of the history of the village and he said not to long ago the village was killing its own (mostly spearing in the stomach) for the sake of territory or vengeance. So we asked if he would stand in the place of his ancestors and ask forgiveness and he did.
Then Pastor began t tell us of destruction in his own family that had taken place because of some of this false preaching. He told us how his father used to be the chief and the pastor of the village. Diego and his brother were strong Christians as well, but as they got older his brother began to walk away from the Lord and then suddenly died. Around that same time three other Christians in the village died at the same time. When a missionary flew in one day, only for a few hours, to preach the missionary told the village that the three villagers that died would go to heaven because they were working for the Lord, but the pastors son was going to hell because he wasn't working for God anymore. Because of those words the chief felt shame that he didn't raise his son up right and he too walked away from God and his family leaving his wife, son (Pastor Diego), and daughter to fend for themselves. As time went on the village dwindled down to very few people and even fewer Christians (3 woman and Pastor Diego). The rest living in fear of what might become of there families if they excepted Jesus. After Pastor told us this story we felt we needed to ask forgiveness again in the place of that missionary that didn't know what he was doing. So we prayed again and the pastor excepted our apology with tears in his eyes.
As far as the chicken curse. We prayed against it and spoke life and declared no more death in that village. We kept on walking and releasing joy as we went. Realizing that Pastor Diego has a family member in every house in the village. From hut to hut we went being fed at almost every house. For 10 hours that day we prayed and visited with people it was a long, but beautiful day. Almost dark by the time we finished the boys went down to the river to fish, but with no luck returned shortly after dark. We ate supper in the Pastors home and with his family and was able to discuss the day with him. They are such a beautiful family.
The next morning we are woken up to over half the village outside our door waiting for us. We are meant to leave to meet back up with the rest our team in Campo Ayuo, but there was still one more family we had to visit. A 15 min walk through the jungle away. When we arrived no one was there except the children so we prayed for them and blessed them and the land and the chickens. We get back and are fed breakfast. Within no time at all it seemed it was time to say our goodbyes. Which was a lot harder then any of us expected. With tears in mine, Natalie's, and the pastors eyes we said goodbye and thank you.
The pastors wife Rosa, who is a beast of a women not only was she carrying a huge basket tied around her head, but was also nursing a new born and keeping track of her 2 year old, was leading us back so we could stop in a village on the way, Tres Marias (The Three Marias). The village was still known to practice shrunken heads (where they kill someone and shrink there head and where it around there necks), did not like foreigners, and was very serious about not being a Christian village. We couldn't stop there on the way to San Juan because we didn't have an “in” or anyone to except us and we would probably just be shunned by the village if we tried to just go in. However, Rosa's mother lives there and is one of the 3 Maria's the village was named after. So we had an in.
Before we went to Tres maria's on the way we stopped at one of Rosa's sisters houses (a random house in the middle of the jungle) where a little girl was demon possessed or so the rest of the village said. Which is why the family lives in seclusion away from other people. We met the family and they fed us some of the best grapefruit I have ever had in my entire life and brought the little girl to us her name is Victoria and she is so beautiful, but I have never seen anything that strange. Victoria was blind, deaf, mute, and couldn't walk since the time she was 3, which was when she got sick and brought and left with a witch doctor for 2 days. When the family came to pick her up the witch doctor told her family there was nothing he could do. Some Missionaries had come in shortly after that and told the family that this was the punishment of God and his judgment on them and there was nothing anyone could do. One of Victoria's feet was so swollen it looked like someone had tied a rubber band around her ankle and all the blood had been clogged in her foot. Also her fingers were deforming and disappearing. So we began to pray with her and rebuke anything attached or spoken over her. It wasn't long before she started moaning and screaming and pulling away so we kept praying. Then she stood up and started walking around pulling us around the family was shocked because she was now 5 years old and hadn't walked in 2 years. We praised God and kept contending for more. After about 45 more minutes nothing was happening and we had another 2 hour walk plus another village to visit so we had to go. I could have stayed there and prayed all day for that girl.
We arrived at Tres Maria's and were greeted by Rosa's mom, Maria, and sister we sat and chatted with them and learned some of the Shaur language laughed and then got to pray for Maria. She was telling us she believes in God but she can't work for him because she is afraid of what the village will do to her and they believe that if they become Christians the devil will kill them! She had knee pain so we prayed for that and that fear would be broken in this village and the surrounding ones. I am not sure if Maria was healed or not but she said if felt like ants where crawling around in her knee.
It was now time to leave we still had quite a bit of walking left and this time we were on our own making our way back without a guide. We did pretty good only got confused once then got right back on track. We finally arrive back hot, stinky, and really dirty. The rest of the team was finishing up a leadership workshop they were leading and we walked down to the river to clean off. It felt so nice. We met together as a team and talked together about what everyone did.
We were planned to leave for Puyo the next day after the village cooked us a farewell feast. I got to shoot a 6ft long blow gun and got my target first try! Finally Rick shows up and we begin to walk down to the runway after we had said our goodbyes. The first group of 3 takes off and within 5 minutes turns around because of a storm that showed up out of no where.
So there we are waiting under the wings of the plane for over an hour for the rain to clear up. After a while many people had ran back to seek refuge in the huts. With only a few of us left we waiting soaking wet Rick decides he needs to try again before the grass runway is complete sludge. Those of us still waiting there get into the plane I am in the front and two other girls in the back. We taxi down to the end of the run way and Rick looks at me and says will you pray, so I pray. We begin to take off. The plane begins slide and skid, but manages to lift off the ground. We didn't catch enough speed before, so we were headed straight for the jungle trees. So Rick sits the plane back on the ground and slams on the breaks and we slid! All we can see is mud spraying up on both sides of the air craft. We tip but pop up right at the last second. Finally we come to a stop. Everyone is sitting in silence. Rick speaks up first saying “well that was a close one! We almost had a nasty crash. I think she is to heavy lets try it again with one less person.” He then asks for Elizabeth (from South Africa) if she and her bags will get out and wait for the next flight. She very willingly gets out and the rest of us get out to turn the plane back around. With just me and one other girl, Angela, left in the plane we taxi back down to the end. Rick says “alright lets give this another go, Angela will you pray?” She prays and we take off this time we both keep praying in tongues commanding the angels to hold up the wings of the air craft. Still sliding almost the whole way down the run way we finally get enough speed and lift off this time making it past the trees straight into the black sky. Rain pouring down we can barely see flying through black clouds we see a glimpse of sunshine near a runway strip. Rick's demeanor immediately changes and we all give a sigh of relief. Rick tells us he is going to drop us off and not shut off the engine, but he will be back shortly he just wanted to pick up some Christian Shuar friends who needed a lift from only one village over.
Angela and I have no idea where we are we are thinking “he has just dropped us off in some random village.” Once Rick returns with the family we wait around for about another hour before we decide to ask him where the heck we are. He graciously tells us we are in Chapeinza where we flew out of to go into the jungle, where the bus is to Puyo is. In our defense it looks totally different from the other side of the runway. So we walk down and wait for the bus. Soon after Rick leaves and says he is going to try and pick up more of the team, but he only had 2 hours before the bus came and didn't come again until morning. Thinking we were going to have a night on our own in the city planning out our evening alone when two more of our team arrives. About every thirty minutes for the next 2 hours more of our team began to show up two at a time. By the time the bus arrived we were only short three people.
The bus arrives and we board, asking the bus driver if he would wait for our friends and we told him that if he wouldn't we would stand in front of the bus in protest. He agreed to wait. So we waited not sure if they would show up. All of a sudden we see Rick running toward the bus with two gas tanks in his hands. He jumps on the bus and says can't do anymore tonight. So we drove off leaving two of our team members in a random village in the jungle we hadn't been to before and another team member back in Campo Ayuo with the Cuban missionaries.
On the bus we decided to not just let it be another bus ride because everything happens for a reason and those people were stuck on the bus with us anyway we might as well preach to them. So Dianne one of our team members gets up and begins to preach with Rick translating. After she preached she asked if anyone wanted to except Jesus. Four people excepted Jesus on the bus. Then she asked if anyone needed healing in their bodies and many hands went up including the bus driver who had eye problems, which made us all feel safe as he was driving us in the rain on narrow muddy roads in the dark. Everyone we prayed for said they were healed! Finally arriving in Puyo we then took another bus into Shell Mara and we were exhausted, covered in mud, hungry, and completely wet. On top of that my shoes had broken back in the jungle so I was barefoot walking through the streets. Finally we get to a restaurant we all eat as fast as possible then Rick and his wife lead us to a cheap hostel where we end up staying for the next couple of days to process everything that happened the past week.
The next day we are reunited with the other three who got left in the jungle an extra night. The team decides they want to stay in Shell for a little while longer. After two days we were meant to meet the rest of our group (the other 15 of our 30) in Banos, Ecuador a very touristy area where there are over 60 beautiful water falls you can go and see. However most of the team felt they needed to stay in Shell a little longer but five of us wanted to go and meet the rest in Banos. So we left that morning took a bus and arrived in Banos. We searched the city for over an hour asking everyone we could find if they had seen a big group of Grengos come in the night before. Finally we found some of our team and they lead to the hostel we were staying at. While in Banos I jumped off an over 300 ft bridge into a canyon, stood under a huge waterfall and drove a dune-buggy up a mountain. It was awesome. I am so sorry this was so long. I hope you read at least most of it. Thank you everyone so much for all your prayers and support. I have really been missing my home lately, but God has been doing so much in me that I can not even describe.
Many many blessings to all you and your families.
Love with all my heart,