Tuesday, November 9, 2010

River thoughts

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Saint Augustine

When we stepped off the bus we immediately felt the humidity and exclaimed, "Ah! Too much oxygen!" Yes, we were in Tena, the jump off town for jungle excursions and missionary ventures to hard to reach people. We were in "el Oriente." We had barely missed one bus that morning so we had decided to eat bagels and sip coffee while we waited for the next one. And we were so glad that we had eaten something before that four hour bus ride. However, the bus ride was probably one of the best since we could watch the terrain change and the clouds clothe the mountains in a mysterious manner.
We arrived in Tena just in time to pay for the next day's rafting excursion and find a hostal close to the river. Because it was later in the afternoon we decided to walk around town. We found an ecua volley game tournament that was going on and decided to watch some incredibly athletic older men play some of the best volleyball I have seen. Although we were the only gringas, we felt part of the culture and thoroughly enjoyed simply being a part of the Friday night activities.
The next morning we got up bright and early to eat breakfast and head out to go rafting. We met up with the rest of the group at the rafting office and piled into pickup trucks to head to the launching point. Kimberly and I were placed in a raft with the guide, Lucho, who only spoke Spanish, as well as with the cutest couple from Spain who spoke perfect English and continually made us smile at their Spanish lisp. We were given a safety briefing and a review of paddling commands. Then, we were off down the river Jatunyancu, which means "big water" in Quichua.
The river was perfect! It was Class III rapids but the rapids were not continuous. We went through rapids and then pools, rapids and then pools; this allowed for swimming. The river was frigid but fun to float down alongside the raft. The guides encouraged us to get in, and even pushed us in several times. They wanted us to enjoy the feel of having our bodies be carried by the strength of the river. And the rapids were great too. Sure, we flipped several times but we enjoyed every minute of it. We rode rodeo style on the front of the raft and were continually laughing at each others surprised faces. It was a great day on the river, admiring its beauty and enjoying time spent with one another.
I think what was most captivating about the day were the people we saw along the river. There are many Quichua communities that still live along the river. We passed people looking for gold under the rocks on the river banks. We rode alongside half-naked children swimming with water bottles to stay afloat. Like us, they were enjoying the pull of the river's current. Their smiles were enchanting. Suddenly, I cared not about the rafting experience. Seeing the different peoples was the greatest pleasure.
While admiring the amazing beauty of the landscape and the people, I was reminded that not too far from where we were, five men were killed in 1956. These men gave their lives to reach people like the ones I was floating by. They were not living for the experience of a fascinating and beautiful land. They were living with a passion for people. They had a heart for those who had never heard God's name and had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were willing to give everything for this. Jim Elliot, one of the men who was killed once said, "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Indeed, he gave what he could not hold onto anyways to gain Christ, whom would never leave nor forsake him.
I asked myself on the river, "Have I been giving to gain? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ the most important thing to me? Am I living it, sharing it...?" I was passing beautiful people on the river and for two months I have been passing beautiful people in the city in which I live. Sure, I stop to admire the mountains. Yet, have I stopped to admire the people? Have I stopped to think that they need Jesus? Have I stopped to think that I pass so many image bearers of God, however, many will never see His face? Do I have a passion for these people or am I simply passing the time gazing at mountains and "gaining" experiences?
God loves people. We were created for Him, to be satisfied in Him, to glorify Him. He had a relationship with himself designed for us. But we sinned; we rejected Him. Not just Adam and not just Eve; all of us. But, even though we rejected Him, He loved us enough to make a way for us to be restored! There is no other way besides denying that we cannot make it on our own and trusting the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. We deny everything we thought would make us happy and fulfill us for what we were created for, to praise our gracious Creator and live for His glory. God's heart is that all may know Him, have a relationship with Him, be satisfied in Him... God's heart is for the nations. For those of us who know God and have a relationship with Him, this should be our heart as well. However, I must confess that I myself have been sidetracked. I have gone after experiences and sites and bucket list points. But please join me as I pray for a change in my heart; that I may have a heart like my Savior, one that loves the Gospel and loves people.
Another quote by Elliot: "Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the expression of His."

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