David McCleery, MAF’s Latin America Regional Director, just shared with me an unusual ministry report from the Shuar tribe, an indigenous group I flew for in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle. One of their pastors might’ve seen it this way …
Felipe watched out the airplane window as the tire struck the airstrip’s dirt and started spinning. He exhaled slowly. Would this visit be any different? Glad for the rare chance to fly, he’d already walked to this village every month for two years. The people never chased him away, but never received him either. Still, the Lord had clearly directed him here.
The Shuar church association agreed. When its president, Daniel Chu, announced a strategy of relocating its pastors throughout the jungle to save flight costs, they assigned this village to Felipe. The extra walking challenged his body, but the plan to trade sweat for money sounded good. So, what was he doing wrong? He asked the Lord to help him find out.
The engine stopped. He raised his head. Surprise! Bright eyes and smiles surrounded the plane. Besides the pilot, he was the only one aboard. He pushed the door against the press of bodies, making just enough room to stand. Eager hands reached to shake his. Greeting. Welcoming. Invitations to dinner. Invitations to stay. What was this all about?
Weeks later at an association meeting, Felipe shared something the group already knew—Shuar village people suspected the motives of anyone met on the trail—even other Shuar. But no one in the association had guessed the same village people trusted anyone arriving in an MAF airplane—even strangers. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said, “but MAF ministry opens doors in our own culture we can’t crack alone. Maybe trying to save flight fees actually costs us more than we know.”
Shortly after that meeting Daniel Chu presented the association’s newest strategic plan. We are, of course, happy it includes more flying. That’s what we’re called to do. But hearing Daniel tell us our previous six decades of conduct impacts the ministry as much as the work itself turns out to be, indeed, priceless.