Monday was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Leslie and a few other WOL staff drove us in their van for a two-hour trip to visit an indigenous village on the Chagris River. The village can only be accessed by boat.
We traveled in canoes dug out of tree trunks they hollowed out with primitive tools. They add motors in order to make the 45-minute trip up the river easier. The river is clear and pure with occasional rapids. As we traveled through the tropical rainforest guided by villagers, we felt like we were in a National Geographic documentary.
When we arrived at our destination, we hiked up a hill and were greeted by the villagers in their tribal dress playing their hand-crafted drums and wind instruments. They danced for us and pulled us in to dance with them. The male chief, female president, and Christian pastor and his wife spoke with us. The chief and president are elected by the villagers. It was a first for them to elect a female president.
The villagers have built a concrete building for the school and the Christian Church. The government provides a teacher who comes to live at the village Monday through Friday and goes home on the weekend. The WOL staff visit often and provide programs for the children. They have plumbing and a bathroom house for the teacher and the tourists and satellite dishes for the school but the villagers prefer to live in grass huts. They cook on an open fire in a central building. They made us a lunch of fried fish and plantains wrapped in a large leaf from the forest.
A number of the villagers are Christian but they follow many of the traditional practices governed by nature. They have access to the public hospital which they use on occasion but they prefer to use their own native herbs and cures.
The women make hand-woven baskets, bags, jewelry and wood carvings to sell to the tourists to make an income. We enjoyed being able to support them. As a team, we managed to buy something from each of the artisans.
We had to leave by 3 in the afternoon so the villager who took us in his canoe could return back up the river by nightfall.
From there we traveled by van back to the city for our final night at the hotel near the airport. The rest of the WOL staff joined us there for a send-off dinner. This was yet another opportunity for us to engage in one-on-one conversations with the WOL missionaries. We learned more about their own ministries over and above the work they do at the WOL camp.
The life of a missionary is built on faith because they depend on monthly financial support from individuals and churches who believe in the mission. Seeing their faith and passion for sharing the gospel made the stories of the mission trips described in Acts come alive.