The light of the Lord in the jungles of Ecuador

The light of the Lord in the jungles of Ecuador

Photo courtesy of Madelyn Koon

Samantha Meyeres, Staff Writer

A 10-day trip to the jungles of Ecuador is not how most college students envision spending their spring break, but 18 North Greenville University students did exactly that.

Junior Madelyn Koon is an interdisciplinary studies major with components in outdoor leadership and health science. The spring break trip to Ecuador was the first mission trip she had been on. 

Koon said that this specific trip was less of a mission trip and more of a vision trip to see how the Lord has worked in the Waodani tribe in Ecuador.

“The goal of the trip was to go and to see the fruit of a few faithful men that stepped out, went to the ends of the earth and paid the ultimate price,” Koon said.

The Waodani were a group of savage people, their entire society built on a system of killing and revenge. But a group of brave missionaries in the 1950s gave everything they had, even their lives, to see this tribe of people come to Christ. 

Now the Waodani welcome people into their village and love to share their culture, language and the love of Jesus. Koon said it was a truly impactful experience to see how God had completely transformed their lives. 

“These people went from being murderers and living savagely to welcoming random strangers into their home,” Koon said.

Throughout their time in Ecuador, the group engaged in a large range of activities. From ziplining to playing soccer in the rain to hiking to learning a new language, there was never a boring moment.

On one of the days, the group hiked in the jungle to a waterfall. The people of the Waodani tribe had just found that specific waterfall a few months before and were so excited to show their visitors what they had discovered. The hike took them six hours in total.

Koon pointed out that the tribe could have easily done that same hike in half the time, but they were patient and stayed by the side of the less experienced hikers, holding their hands and pulling them up as they were sliding through the mud and struggling to climb up hills.

“It just really reminded me of the patience that the Lord has for us,” Koon said, “that every failure, every time that we walk away from Him or sin or fall short, He’s still by our side. He’s still guiding us and leading us with all the patience and love in the world.”

Koon also shared that this trip opened her eyes to how missions can hurt. The first missionaries that brought the Gospel to the Waodani suffered the ultimate price and never got to see the fruit of their labor. But years later, the light of Jesus is a strong force in the jungles of Ecuador.

Freshman Kaelum Armstrong also went on the trip and shared how it stirred in him a desire to minister to unreached people groups, like the Waodani once were. He was so deeply impacted by what he experienced that he decided to change his major from business and worship studies to Christian studies, keeping a worship studies minor.

“In North America, there are others who are always making a difference, but with unreached people groups, there’s the mindset of ‘If I don’t go, who else will?’” Armstrong said.

Before they headed to the deep jungles of Ecuador, the team had the opportunity to visit the house of the missionaries who lost their lives in bringing the Gospel to the Waodani. 

“We stood in the living room where the wives found out their husbands had been speared to death,” Armstrong said. “And you could feel a weight in the room.”

Armstrong noted that the most impactful conversation he had wasn’t even with one of the Waodani but rather with a cameraman from the Ecuadorian government that was part of a team filming their trip. 

The cameraman was not a Christian but believed that Jesus was simply a good teacher who set a beneficial example. Armstrong was able to have a conversation with him about the gospel. While he did not get to see this man come to Christ, he said he hopes that a seed was planted in the man’s heart.

Both Armstrong and Koon expressed the joy they found in the connections that were made and the lessons that were learned.

“Missions is about listening,” Armstrong said, and Koon articulated a similar point.

The goal of missions in any part of the world, but especially in unreached people groups, is to listen to their stories and their needs and through that to show them the light of Jesus.

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