Eight years ago yesterday, on July 23, 2010, I went with a mission team to Shell, Ecuador. It was an absolutely incredible trip! My Facebook “Memories” feed showed me some pictures yesterday that took me down memory lane. If you’re interested, keep scrolling down to see some of the pictures I took on this trip.

But, first, the story…

GatesShell, Ecuador is where the incredible missionary story played out as told in the movie “End of the Spear” and the book “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot. (If you have never read the book or watched the movie, do yourself a favor and do it very soon. There is a reason why we still talk about this story 62 years after it happened.)

In 1956, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and 3 other missionaries took their wives to Ecuador to share the Gospel with a militant tribe, the “Waodoni,” who lived deep in the Amazon jungle. The “savages” were killing each other and killing the prospectors who were traveling deep into the jungle looking for oil. The Ecuador government, to save its chances of securing a financial landfall in oil, decided to wipe out the Waodani. Those five missionaries and their wives wanted to tell the the Waodani about Jesus before they were all killed.

For starters, they had to find the remote tribe. Nate Saint spotted them on one of his many flights over the vast jungle. Then, they went back and started dropping items from their plane into the village in hopes that the “savages” would associate the plane with gifts and friends. Then, when they thought it was time, they took their plane into the jungle and landed it on the banks of the Curaray River.

On January 8, 1956, those five men were speared to death by the very tribe they were trying to reach with the Gospel.

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If you look at the very top picture on this post, you will see the back of a man’s head and five women with some children. Those were the wives of the five missionaries. That is the moment they were told that their husbands were found dead.

But, the story doesn’t end there.

Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth, along with Nate Saint’s sister, Marge, went back into the jungle. They found the tribe and through a long string of events were able to lead that tribe to the Lord. Because of their courage, their selflessness, their willingness to extend unspeakable grace, and their conviction that every tribe and nation needs to hear the Gospel, that Amazon tribe is now primarily made up of Christians.

… and I was able to visit with them on July 23, 2010, the day we flew to “Terminal City.” “Terminal City” is the name that the missionaries gave to the jungle community back in the 1950’s where they tried to befriend the natives by dropping trinkets out of their plane via a bucket. (You can view how they were able to do this by watching the movie, “End of the Spear.”)

Here are some of the pictures that I took on this trip.

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This is the Nate Saint House in Shell, Ecuador. It was being restored on our visit. This is the house where the picture at the very top of this post was taken. This house sits directly across the road from the small Shell airport where we were going to hop on a plane.
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MAF does an incredible job around the world taking care of people groups who live away from civilization. They provide transportation for food, medicines, necessities and evacuations for people in medical distress.
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First things first. I had to purchase a ticket to get on the single engine plane. In reality, while I was taking the trip to experience missionary history, MAF was taking the trip because the Waodani needed supplies. The fact that a few of us were paying to take the trip made the trip a little less costly for MAF.
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Peering out of one of the airport bays across the street from the Nate Saint House.
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The plane and pilot that would take us into the jungle.
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Hopping into the airplane.
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Making sure the runway is clear before taking off.
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To give you some perspective of the trip we would be taking, look at the bottom left corner of this picture and you can see the city of Shell where we took off. We were flying to “Terminal City” that is marked with the red pin, over 50 miles away.

If you want to view “Terminal City” in Google maps, just enter the following coordinates: -1.292773, -77.318524

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And we’re off!
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After flying for about 5-10 minutes, we passed over the final remnants of civilization (Puyo, Ecuador) as we began our flight over the dense Amazon jungle.
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Words cannot express how breathtaking the beauty was, how vast the jungle was, and how dangerous this flight was. If something went wrong with the engines, we were dead. There were absolutely no clearings in which to land the plane for miles around.
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The Amazon Jungle is massive! We were only venturing about 50 miles into it.
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Terminal City! This was a little over 50 miles from Shell and over 40 miles from anything we would call “civilization.” We were about to land on the dirt and grass airstrip in the center of this picture.
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Here is what it looked like from the airstrip that we just landed on in Terminal City. The Waudani heard our plane and came out to see us.
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Sixty years ago, society was terrified of these people. Now, it is obvious that they had been able to tap into society’s resources to build their residences.
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In this picture, you can even see that there is an electric line attached to this home.
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Talking to some of the Waodani. We learned that most of the men in the village were not present because they were out hunting.
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What a Waodani “neighborhood” looks like. Plenty of lush vegetation.
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These children were so precious.
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Our plane sitting on the runway.
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A traditional Waodani hut.

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Taking off from “Terminal City” on our way back to Shell.
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Our pilot told us he was going to fly us a little bit north to view the Curaray River (more on this in a moment). En route, I took this picture because, as I understood it, this is the general area that the men of the village were hunting.
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The Curaray River. Somewhere along this river, 5 missionaries were speared to death by the Waodani back in 1956. Their story lives on, especially because of Elisabeth Elliot’s courage and grace to go back to the ones who killed her husband and give them the Gospel.
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Our flight over the jungle back to Shell.
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After about a 30 minute flight, here we are flying over Shell as we prepare to land at the airstrip in the center of this picture.
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Coming in for a landing.
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I still can’t believe that I have now “touched” the missionary story that I have heard about and read about for a big part of my life.

One more thing…

We were in Ecuador to serve at an orphanage. It was only a last minute opportunity that enabled us to visit “Terminal City.” But, while in Shell, Ecuador, we heard that Mincaye was in Shell. (Mincaye was the Waodani warrior who claims to have speared Nate Saint to death. However, because of Elisabeth Elliot and Marge Saint’s bravery and grace, he came to receive the message of the Gospel and became a believer 60 years ago.

Unfortunately, we were unable to visit with Mincaye. But, we heard that he visited the Nate Saint House the day before we did. In the following picture, he is touching the table where, back in 1956, the young Steve Saint was unable to contact his father on that fateful day that Mincaye had killed him in the jungle.

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I did not take this picture. I’m not sure where I obtained it.

The very next day, we were in this room. I took the following video where the contractor who was restoring the house told us what had happened the day before. I added the text at the bottom of the screen because it is a little difficult to understand him (bad audio).

God’s grace, the Gospel, and forgiveness are powerful forces! When we actually engage in them, amazing things can happen!