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Carter discusses 2020 mission trip to meet Waodani tribe

VALLEY — In a Friday Lunch N Learn presentation at Bradshaw-Chambers County Library, Ronnie Carter discussed a 2010 mission trip he was part of to Ecuador to meet members of a Native American tribe in the Amazon rain forest. Until relatively recent times, the Waodani were among the most isolated peoples in the world.

They came to the attention of the western world in 1956 when they speared to death a group of missionaries who tried to make contact with them.

The missionaries had attempted to introduce themselves by dropping gifts to the Waodani from an airplane. Those gifts included photographs, which baffled the isolated tribe. Having never seen such images, they thought that whoever had produced them must be evil.

Steve Saint, the son of one of the missionaries killed in the attack, later developed a friendship with Mincayani, one of the tribesmen who had taken part in the attack. Nate Saint piloted the small plane that landed on a long sandbar near a Waodani village to make contact with the native peoples. The elder Saint was killed along with four other missionaries in that first encounter.

Carter said that he considers those missionaries as true heroes of faith.

“They are hall of fame worthy,” he said.

The 2010 trip to a Waodani village, Carter said, had been very uplifting for him. He took a short plane flight from his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Houston and boarded another plane for Quito, Ecuador. The group then took a five-hour bus ride to the eastern part of the country to the Pan American Highway, which runs from Canada to the southern tip of South America. This major route gets fairly close to the Waodani village, but it’s a pretty rough go.

It was quite a journey to get there, but it’s a trip Carter will always be glad he made. The Waodani are hardly a warlike people anymore, though they do keep some ancient customs alive through dart blowing and spear throwing contests. The group did some construction work on a two-story orphanage that’s in the area. They got to see some Vacation Bible School activities and heard a choir sing a Spanish language version of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

One incident underscores how far the Waodani have come since 1956.

“One of them asked me for my address,” Carter said. “‘You want my address?’ I asked him.”

“Yes,” he replied, “your email address.”

Carter tried his skill at throwing a spear at a target and doing the same thing with a seven-foot-long blow gun.

“It’s not easy to do that,” he said, “but their children are very good at it.”

Underneath a very large village shelter, members of the group had their faces painted, listened to a tribal chant and watched a tribal dance.

Lunch N Learn attendees had the opportunity to see the 2005 film “End of the Spear,” which recounts the story of the five missionaries being slain by the Waodani in 1956.

“I don’t think they were bad people,” said Carter, “but they lived in a kill or be killed world.”

The movie tells the story from the perspectives of Steve Saint, pilot Nick Saint’s young son, and Mincayani, who took part in the attack. The movie had a budget of $9.6 million and made over $12 million at the box office and another $20 million in rentals and video sales.