End of the Spear by Steve Saint provided new insights after our unit on Eco-tourism in Ecuador. The book barely mentions eco-tourism but Steve deals with more significant survival issues for the tribe of people a little deeper into the rainforest than those in our simulation game. Our game was based on the Quechua people, Steve’s lifetime association is with the Waodani people.
Years ago I read Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. She tells both the story of her husband’s life and the story of five missionaries, her husband among them, who were murdered by Waodani people (aka “Aucas”) in 1956. Steve Saint’s father was also one of those five missionaries. Like Elisabeth Elliot, Steve’s mother did not leave Ecuador after the death of her husband but stayed on and continued to work for the mission organisation. Steve’s aunt lived with the Waodani people and grew to love and be loved by them.
End of the Spear begins with Steve attending to the burial of his Aunt in the village where she had lived with the Waodani. He had also lived there with her, for some time as a young boy. I found it a little hard to follow initially as the story flips back and forth from Steve’s childhood time with the Waodani to his current life in the US and touches on other events in between. The further in I got the more the focus narrowed in on two issues. Steve was trying to piece together all he could about the events surrounding his father’s death. He was also trying to assess if and how he could help the Waodani
“…learn the skills and develop the economy necessary to take care of their own needs…”
In order to assist the Waodoni, Steve and his family lived with them for 18 months. An airstrip was built by Steve and local villagers. Steve and his sons then built a house for the family. The majority of his time was spent flying between villages each day.
My average flight was about eight minutes long. But to travel the equivalent amount I had that day with old BTS (his plane) would have taken two hours on the trail for every minute in the air. It would have taken about three or four Waodoni to carry the cargo I had delivered.
Naturally there were decisions that had to be made about which calls for help he would attend. Steve insisted that the Waodoni make these decisions and give him instructions. In a culture without a leadership structure this took some getting used to. When Steve’s time in Ecuador was drawing to a close the Waodoni realised that they wanted to not only continue to have access to a plane, but also be the owners and operators. Steve’s desire to help the Waodoni equip themselves motivated him to establish I-TEC on his return to the US.
It was intriguing to read of Steve’s experiences, hear his descriptions of the Waodoni’s lifestyle and the change in the lives of many who heard the gospel from Steve’s Aunt. The man who killed Steve’s father has become one of Steve’s dearest friends and is a surrogate grandfather to his children. Because such love exists between them they were finally able to discuss the events on Palm Beach where Steve’s dad was speared. Before becoming God followers the Waodoni would have assumed that Steve would make contact with them only so that he could have revenge for his father’s death.
The story does not end when Steve and his family return the US. Some of his Waodoni friends come to Florida and their reactions to all they see are both amusing and sobering. Steve continues to work with his friends to help indigenous tribes around the world learn new skills and obtain equipment. He also continues to tell the story his father set out to tell so many years ago. The story of salvation by the grace of God.