This seems like a great time to share a little glimpse of what I've learned about their worldview (or at least one important piece). I could share all of my beginning mishaps from my early years when the people would share their experiences coded within their worldview terminology and just how many times that those important treasure troves of information have gone over my very literal head. Thankfully, those experiences in my first few years provide me now with a lot of information and understanding for present ministry. Let me share one of the first times I learned about the worldview of the people:
On my very first visit to the river, there was a moment when a beautiful rainbow appeared on the horizon. Behind the rainbow was a group of storm clouds lite up by a lovely rose colored sunset. There were several young people chatting and hanging out in front of the house where we were staying at the time. As the rainbow was quickly pointed out by a few teammates, a worldview conversation got started. The young people shared that the rainbow is a giant snake (the “boa”) that from time to time is seen stretched across the sky in the form of a rainbow. Also, if you point to the rainbow, your finger is cursed and will soon rot and fall off. (I can't tell you how many times I've had my hand slapped down because the people were concerned I was about to lose a finger.) This moment provided the perfect opportunity for a story swap, and one of girls on the team, after listening to the story of the snake in the rainbow, shared the story of Noah & the rainbow. In my worldview the rainbow is comforting and beautiful, but in their world it is the giant anaconda.
- If you find where a rainbow connects to the ground, you will find a literal giant (and I do mean giant!) snake, often referred to as a "fierra" (a type of monster)! I have heard actual personal accounts of people following the rainbow and finding this snake.
- Also, the people often say the phrase, “the boa took them,” referring to the death of someone. These types of deaths could be a disappearance of someone or someone who died in the river.
- The “boa” lives in the river and is described as a giant snake that takes up almost the whole bottom of the river. If it were to die, the whole river would dry up.
- It is also not uncommon for the boa to present itself in other forms, for example as a person, or as in the most recent story I heard, as a person in a canoe.
As with most things in this world, I have to leave my western skepticism behind whenever I start traveling on the river. There are so many experiences by the people in this Amazonian world that can't be explained away by western science. The people here have experienced, touched, talked with, and seen "things" that I struggle to understand, but for them, these "things" are as real as bacteria and germs are for me (two things that I swear are real, but the people have never seen).
One of these stories that fascinates the people and me (much more now than before) is the story of a crafty snake that tricks the first woman and man in the Bible. Wow! Talk about the story of the Bible being relevant to EVERYONE. We’re not even two pages into the story of Grace and one of the principle characters in the story is a snake!
This snake tempts and tricks the first couple into doubting their Good Father who has given them everything they could want or need and 1 very simple, easy-to-follow rule. Buuuut they listen to the crafty snake and end up doubting that God has their best intentions at heart, and they decide THEY need to know everything so that THEY can make the best decision for themselves in case God is holding out on them. What a heartbreaking story! One that's left me weeping more than once as I grasp the significance of what happened and the fact that that same crafty snake has also gotten me to doubt in different moments the heart of my Heavenly Father. The people's “heart-level” reaction and grief to hearing this story has taught me so much about the depth of God's Word and just how powerful and alive it is.
The snake in the garden shows up over and over again in Scripture and over and over again in our present human experience. We find that he has a name, Satan, he is deceivingly beautiful, he's the ancient and crafty serpent, the father of lies, the enemy of God, and he wants our allegiance to be turned away from our Creator, which always results in fear and death. As we watch within the first few chapters of Scripture, the snake seems to win. He destroys everything! Or so it appears. Then comes the beautiful promise that one day a Son of the woman will come & crush the head of the serpent, even as it bites His heel… What a beautiful story!