Posted by: calloftheandes | December 11, 2009

Waorani Tribe Members Gather in Ecuador’s Jungle to Study Small Engines

story by: Nate Dell
photos by: Chet Williams

After working on his canoe motor, a Waorani man named Oma said, “In the past people have sold or given us motors but never showed us how to fix them when they were broken. Now we understand how to repair them.”

Many similar comments flowed during a late November small engine mechanics course on the banks of the Curaray River in Nemompade, a Waorani community in eastern Ecuador.

Missionaries Jim Yost, an anthropologist formerly with Wycliffe Translators, and Nate Dell, of HCJB Global, travelled from the U.S. along with friends and family to help with the course. Dell formerly served as missionary to the tribe along with his wife, Rachelle. Youth World missionary, Chet Williams, also helped organize and run the workshop. They were also joined by Menewa Nenquimo, a young Waorani man now attending the School of Missionary Aviation Technology in Michigan. His skilled translation and mother-tongue instruction proved invaluable for the group.

Travelling from 11 different villages, Waorani tribe members hiked jungle trails or travelled by canoe to attend the course in a central location .

They brought chainsaws, generators, Weed Eaters and outboard motors for hands-on instruction and assistance. Twenty-seven men received certificates for completing the course, the majority of them receiving toolsets subsidized by the team’s churches and friends.

Lead mechanics Gary Yost and Greg Lynch teamed up with Nenquimo to explain the details of both two-cycle and four-cycle internal combustion engines, assisted by photo and video as well as a small cutaway-view motor.

Gary also assembled a clear plastic cylinder to demonstrate combustion that allowed the group to launch a ping pong ball with a controlled explosion sparked by an actual spark plug and fueled by hair spray. “The video and motor cut-away showed us how the inside of a motor works,” commented a student named Quipa. “That will help us repair it.”

Later the course switched to troubleshooting and repairing engines that the Waorani brought with them. Each new engine revealed its own set of problems, allowing the students to gather experience with multiple types of repairs.

One nearly new generator was deemed irreparable because of a broken rod. Nevertheless, it became a tangible teaching aid as students and teachers disassembled everything, analyzing how each part worked and discussing why it had failed.

Devotions were held each day before the instruction started, allowing Waorani Christians to share biblical truths with believers and non-believers alike.

One day Pegonka, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, shared that “some motors are bad so we give up on them and throw them out. God doesn’t do that. He wants to heal, to keep us, to save us. I almost died. If I had, God wouldn’t have discarded me. He would have taken me with Him.” Another Waorani man shared that man can fix a motor, but only God can fix a man.

In the end, Tementa concluded, “Just as the team came to teach because they love God, so we need to teach others both what we have learned and the good news of Christ.”



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