After the Waodani and I buried Aunt Rachel out in the jungles in 1994, members of the Gikitaidi clan of Waodani told me they wanted to talk.

This group included three of the men and one of the women who had participated in the attack that speared my dad Nate, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Pete Fleming to death in 1956. These Waodani were Christ-followers who had accepted Aunt Rachel and made her, and then me, family. Two of the men in the group had baptized my sister Kathy and me when we were teenagers.

What they wanted to tell me was that they had decided that now that Aunt Rachel was gone, it was time for me to return to Ecuador to live with them. They didn’t ask me to return, they were telling me they had decided I was going to return.

Multi-cultural people switch their thought patterns much like most of us who are multilingual switch languages. I was listening to them telling me to return to live with them in the Waodani language with some Spanish translation,  but I was processing their request in the North American part of my brain.

“They Don’t Teach Us To Do”

I asked them what they wanted me to do. Dawa, who Aunt Rachel had always told me was my Waodani grandmother, scolded me. “We don’t say, come and do. All the foreigners come and do, but they don’t teach us to do.”

Then they asked me if God’s Carvings (Bible) teach that all Christ-followers are supposed to teach other people to Walk God’s Trail. I answered, “Yes.”

The Waodani proceeded to explain that they needed tools and training so they could continue to do what Aunt Rachel, Aunt Betty Elliot, Kathy Peek, Rosie Jung, Jim Yost, Pat Kelly, missionary pilots, nurses, doctors, radio technicians, and others had been doing for them for almost 40 years.

They were right. God’s Carvings say that all Christ-followers are supposed to be involved in spreading Jesus’ Good News to everyone everywhere.

“What do you want to be able to do?” I asked. The group of Waodani Christ-followers explained thoughtfully that they wanted to learn to do the tooth thing, the medicine thing, the eye thing, the fixing thing, the airplane thing, and the radio thing. Now people like the Waodani have asked us to do the video thing, the farming thing and the trauma counseling thing.

That is easier asked than done. Most of the group of Waodani had no money, no math, no reading skills, no mechanical training, no computer skills. Their little jungle villages had no electricity, no tools, no telephones, and no stores. That is why ITEC came into being!

Solving Problems with Creativity and Engineering

My first thought was that what they were asking me to teach them was impossible. To learn those skills would take generations and would require changing the Waodani to be like us. It later occurred to me, we could re-invent tools and training systems so people all over the world could learn to care for the physical and emotional FELT NEEDS of their own people as door openers to Christ’s Gospel. This is why ITEC has a large team of engineers that focuses on adapting and creating tools to support training in challenging environments.

It takes a great deal of creativity and engineering to design a 25-pound Portable Dental Chair. How about an optometry office with 200 pair of new glasses in both positive and negative powers? The glasses, lens ladders, stool, and eye exam charts must fit in a roller bag that fits in an airline overhead compartment. You should see the UAV lab at ITEC. They are developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that can fly autonomously to deliver critical payloads to a jungle clearing or a desert encampment in the middle of the night or in bad weather. On our family’s recent trip to visit Mincaye I heard a strange sound as we motored up the Tzapino River. It was a UAV filming us from high overhead. ITEC has assembled a filming system that can shoot, edit, and distribute videos with an iPad mini in a special holder and a tiny tripod. We were in a fiberglass canoe built in special molds that were designed at ITEC Ecuador. The same modular molds can be used to make a 17-foot or a 40-foot fiberglass canoe that won’t rot out in just a few years.  As you may know, ITEC Ecuador is still building very modern airplanes as part of their self-funding program.

To teach frontier people how to accept the baton of both authority and responsibility to care for the physical and spiritual needs of their own people takes a lot of engineering.  We are fortunate at ITEC, to have a group of the best and most creative engineers I have ever known.

Many people think that the unique skills that God has given them are not applicable in missions. But whether you are a medical or dental professional, videographer, mechanic, farmer, administrator, business person, or an engineer, there is a unique role for you to play in fulfilling the Great Commission.

One Comment

  • Cindy Wallace says:

    Excellent article, Steve! Good, simple explanation of the “why” and the “what” of ITEC, and how it came into being. So glad you listened to the pleas of the Waodani folks and did not dismiss their ideas as impossibilities. Glad, too, that you answered God’s call. Thank you for “rewriting the handbook” of modern missions, of teaching indigenous people to “do” for themselves and thus provide a way for them to “own” their work and reach neighboring communities with the Gospel.