A recent conversation reminded me of a unique situation in the Jungle’s of Ecuador. I went to work with the Shuar people in a very remote village. Hours of driving and as much walking led us to a village of about 25 families. “Shuar,” in the Shuar language, means “people.” They are fiercely tribal, humble, and simple people. I was not their long enough to get a deep understanding of their culture and world-view, but I did discover something interesting.
Walking around the village with one of the elders, I noticed 4 small buildings at various stages of completion, but as yet, all still unfinished. I ask him what they were. He told me this story:
Many many years ago, I can not remember exactly, the Lutherans came and started that building. They were here for a short time and had to leave for one reason or another, I can’t say… After that came the Episcopalians. They built the second building and again were with us here for a short time and had to leave. I can’t recall the reason they left either. Then came the Church of God. They started the third building and were here with us for a bit longer than the other two, but again they had to leave.
Looking at the fourth building my heart became heavy… he continued:
Finally, came a group of non-denominational Christians. They started the fourth building. They claimed to be part of no specific group and were very interesting to us, but they, for some reason, had to leave as well.
I had two questions in my head while contemplating this situation. First, “Why didn’t any of the other organizations build on or finish the previous churches?” And, “Why didn’t the Shuar people complete any of these 4 buildings and use them for other things?” I decided to ask the elder only the latter.
Here’s what he told me:
“My friend, the Shuar people believe that until a building is finished, it belongs to the person or group that is building it.”
I had asked a question which led me into a deeper understanding of their culture and made a friend. I still think about this from time to time and wonder…
What are the implications for modern-day church planting efforts?