If you haven’t yet tried your hand at posting a blog for every letter of the alphabet, you don’t know how difficult it can be to come up with something interesting for everyone of those darn 26 letters.
I’ve been scrambling to come up with something for “E“.
Embarrassment at falling flat on my face as David and I talked with a shopkeeper on one of the calles yesterday. (Yes, I’m fine except for swollen knee cap and bruised ego.) Escuela for Katherine’s school that has already (in just three days) shown itself to be a bit unorganized in terms of communication, organization and expectations. And, there’s always “etcetera” to cover myriad observations.
But at last it hit me…Ecuador. The country itself. The reason I write. This place I call home. The source of so much that is new.
The first time I became aware of Ecuador was in the 1950s. As a preacher’s kid, a child of missionaries and member of a family whose heart was in missions, I got on my knees every morning and, with my brothers and sisters, mom and dad and anyone else in the house, prayed for every single missionary my parents and grandparents knew around the world. We would go in turn, asking God to protect Alice and Bob, and Dorothy in Africa. The Hoyts in who-knows-where. And “bless Jothi in India and keep him safe.”
Now Jothi wasn’t a missionary. He was an orphan being raised in an orphanage run by missionaries we knew. I remembered him with my family every morning and with other children in the church every Wednesday night and Sunday night. After years of remembering Jothi in my prayers, I got to wondering whatever happened to him. He’d be about 65 now.
All I knew about Ecuador was from missionary tales and Life magazine. It was a land in desperate need for missionaries … a dangerous place requiring great sacrifices from men and women dedicated to spreading the Good News. Ecuador had the Amazon jungle where tribes of mysterious people lived far from civilization and didn’t know God.
Ecuador was the site where five men were executed by Indians for no apparent reason at all. These deaths, widely publicized by Life magazine in 1956 made a huge impact on Evangelicals in the United States. And on my familly. One of my sisters named her son after Nate Saint, pilot of the missionary plane who flew the team of four in to an area called “Palm Beach.” Books were written, a movie was released about the drama that unfolded. Elisabeth Elliot, widow of one of the slain men, eventually returned to the Huaorani people and became friends with those who had killed her husband. The lives of the families in that tribe were forever changed.
Today, anthropologists, sociologists and missionaries have disparate views on the effectiveness or wisdom of having established contact with this isolated tribe — a people known for violence against both its own people and outsiders. Pros and cons weigh in on both sides. But a few things are clear. Even taking away the spiritual impact on the community, the indigenous society experienced a significant drop in violence and hostility. Economic opportunities opened up that helped improve quality of life for future generations.
Operation Auca was the sum of all I knew about Ecuador. (Auca is a pejorative word for the Huaorani people, a modification of awqa, the Quechua word for savages.) So I had a lot to learn. And I am learning.
The Amazon (also called Oriente) is just one area of this amazingly diverse country. The Sierras refers to two ranges of Andes Mountains that run north/south through the country. This is where we live, tucked between the two cordilleras. The Coastal region provides plenty of beaches, fishing, surfing and year-round hot weather for those so inclined. The Galapogas Islands (all 17,000 sq. miles of them) sit 500+ miles off the coast of Ecuador, home to, among many other rare and exotic creatures, the blue-footed booby. (How can one not smile when you say blue-footed booby?)
Today in my History and Culture of Ecuador class, I learned about the Canari people and their defeat by the Incas. And how, less than 100 year later, Spanish conquistador Pizarro overtook 80,000 Incas with only 115 soldiers and a priest. Friday we discuss the colonial period, pros and cons.
I sit in a cool, shadowy room on the second floor of a grand old building overlooking a cobbled street. Ten-to-fifteen feet windows sit in 12-inch thick walls. Wooden shutters with ancient iron closures block the sun. The patina on well-worn wooden stairs reflect years of wear and hint at many stories.
History is very much alive here. Down every street we walk. Around almost every corner. Inca ruins open to the public just down Avenida 12 de Abril. Free museums keep the past very present.
I feel exceptionally blessed to be here.
Hey, that’s another E word. And I close.