By Kari Lutes, Features Editor
When senior Paul Sigler thought about his cross-cultural requirement, Ecuador came to mind. Sigler’s cousin is the director of Young Life Ministries in Ecuador, so a year ago, Sigler broached the subject of going to Ecuador to make a promotional video for the ministry. Spring Break of 2017, Sigler’s plans became a reality and he spent the first half of the break making the video and the other half in the Amazon Jungle with the Huaorani tribe through a trip offered by Corner Stone International.
“It’s not really a mission trip,” Sigler said, referring to his travels as a “vision trip.”
“It’s definitely not a vacation, but it’s a chance to see and experience another culture,” he said.
The Huaorani tribe is well-known in the missions world due the movie, “End of the Spear,” and the documentary, “Through Gates of Splendor,” both of which tell the story of five missionaries who were killed by the tribe. The wives of the missionaries, however, returned to the tribe to complete their husband’s mission, sharing the gospel with the tribe and seeing the tribe converted.
“[The story] affects every part of their culture,” Sigler said. “They continue to tell their kids what God has done for them and the difference He has made in their lives and in the tribe.”
Sigler met Minkaye, an older member of the tribe, and one of the men who killed the missionaries. Minkaye lived in the culture of the tribe when violence was at its center.
“They said they were miserable like that,” Sigler said.
Minkaye even killed his wife’s family to be able to marry her, but the love of the missionaries and their wives changed him and the violent culture.
“Now, the love of Jesus just pours out of him, and it’s a complete transformation of what he used to be,” Sigler said.
The transformation in Minkaye’s life is reflected in the culture of the tribe.
“Now they know the gospel and they live by love and it shows in everything they do,” Sigler said.
Sigler spent his days in the jungle immersed in the Huaorani’s culture. The Huaorani tribe took Sigler and his team on jungle walks, showing them how to climb trees by attaching vines to their feet, how to get honey from beehives, and how to use a root to poison the water to make it easier to catch fish.
“It’s amazing how well they know the jungle,” Sigler said.
What struck Sigler most about the community was their trust in God.
“Their faith and love is incredible, the love of Jesus, the way that it shines through these people is incredible,” Sigler said.
The moment he entered the tribe, Sigler was able to experience the trust they have in God.
“I was with one of the guys when I first got there and it started to rain, and the plane with our group hadn’t come in yet, and if it rains, they can’t land,” Sigler said. “And [the tribesman] started praying out of nowhere, and he finishes and he’s like, ‘it’s all good now,’ and it stopped raining.”
For Sigler, the whole trip was a memorable experience.
“You’d think living with nothing…to an extent that is stretching,” Sigler said. “That’s the thing that I thought would be the most stretching, but when I got there, there was such a freedom, and a beauty and a joy in that.”
Sigler stressed that anyone can go on the trip and that Cornerstone Intentional, based in Wilmore, is likely to do the same trip next spring, an opportunity Sigler thinks you can’t miss.
“I don’t think you can get more cross-cultural than this trip,” he said.