This January, Grace and I joined with ITEC and some Brinkman Adventures fans to enter the Ecuadorian jungle to meet the legendary Waodani tribe. This was our very first Brinkman Family Adventure! As a girl, I heard the story of Nate Saint and Jim Elliot and the others killed in 1964 in an attempt to share the Gospel with the Waodanis.
Ever since I was a child, these people have been my heroes.
Each person in the story demonstrated powerful faith and love. The five men who gave their lives, the woman who forgave the killers and marched into the jungle to live with them, the Waodani who received the Gospel and were brave enough to change. Each were pioneers of forgiveness, peace, and faith in a highly violent society.
But what are they doing today?
We were heading to Ecuador to participate in a Wao Vision Trip. The purpose of the trip is to support the Waodani and learn from them as we grow in our understanding of missions. The goal is that our mission strategy would be transformed from one that could unintentionally hurt the recipients, to one that purely transmits the Gospel and empowers local believers to lead.
When we got to Ecuador, we met Jamie Saint who would lead us on the trip. Jamie’s grandfather Nate Saint was one of the five men killed by the Waodani. When Jamie was a boy, his family moved into the jungle to live with the tribe. Mincaye, the man who killed his grandfather, became like a grandfather to Jaime.
Jamie helped us consolidate our bags and told us what to expect in the jungle. “It’s dangerous,” he said, “but the Waodoni will take care of us.” He had complete confidence in them.
As we landed on the bumpy grass-covered runway, we were greeted with hugs and face paint and jungle crowns. Mincaye was not there, but Felipe, his youngest son, helped us off the plane. Felipe, I learned, was in charge of our trip from that point on. Although he grew up in the jungle, he led everything from the spiritual aspects of our experience to the practical issues.
Mincaye is now old and has trouble walking. He wasn’t going to join us in the camp but Jamie asked so nicely he couldn’t refuse. They decided he would skip the long hike and arrive by canoe.
I got a canoe ride, too, and was able to watch the weary hikers arrive. They were amazed, as I was, at the beautiful palm-frond sleeping huts, the neatly organized cooking and eating shelter, the beautiful surroundings, and the surprisingly nice toilets! We all marveled at our handmade hammocks and laughed as we tried to figure out how to use them. And then we settled in.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that free. I felt like a kid again! Running around in the jungle looking at flowers and bugs and trees, eating crazy things like turtle eggs, stingrays, and large funny-looking rodents, swinging from vines and planting jungle gardens.
Grace took the cake in Waodoni tree-climbing for her age bracket, and I nearly hit the target with my newly acquired blow-gun skills. The Waodoni taught us how to weave baskets and make spears. They took us hunting and spearfishing and showed us how to cook for 40 people over a fire. We ended everyday washing and playing together in the river. It felt like paradise! I felt so safe and cared for by the Waodoni. (Especially when they knew what to do with the snake in our hut!)
As the Waodani showed us how to survive in the jungle, I began to see that learning from someone creates trust and friendship that doesn’t come any other way. Coming as learners creates an equality that results in everyone knowing they have something to offer.
Jaime told us that, as missionaries we can unintentionally give the impression that we think we know the best way to do things. This often creates a hierarchy that keeps us in the driver’s seat and causes the local people to feel that they don’t have anything to contribute. We may serve and share the Gospel, but are we not able to transfer the gift and responsibility of fulfilling the Great Commission to them?
At night, Felipe led us in a time of worship and storytelling. Mincaye’s sweet wife told us about the transformation of their tribe. We heard about the terror of constant killings. They lived in sorrow, loss, bitterness, anger and fear. I looked into the jungle, growing close around us, and realized that this beautiful place never used to feel safe. The wonder and safety was a radically new experience for this generation of Waodani! The Gospel has transformed their entire existence.
As the days went on, I saw how Jamie intentionally held back and let Felipe lead everything. This caused Felipe to take complete ownership of all aspects of life in the jungle, from the spiritual development of his tribe to the care and upkeep of the camp they created for us. These trips were Felipe’s idea and have brought in the finances to care for their elderly, enable medical flights and fund mission endeavors.
At night, around the fire, my eyes filled with tears as I listened to Felipe, Mincaye’s youngest son, tell of his plans.
“I want to go deeper into the jungle,” he said, “There are villages out there where people don’t wear clothes. They have never been reached with the Gospel. We are making plans to go.”
The slow cultivation of relationships and careful discipleship done by Jaime and his family has allowed people of the most marginalized group in Ecuador to stand up and forge ahead into the hard places for the Gospel.
As I listened to Felipe, it hit me. This is the way to do it! We must empower local believers to enter into the beautiful work of bringing the Gospel to their people. It may take longer and look a little different, but this is God’s way. It is the fullness of discipleship. We are to make disciples that make disciples.
I thought about the people back home that I have been reaching out to. Have I been taking the time to listen and learn from them in a way that builds relationships and trust? Have I been giving off the impression that I know everything and don’t believe they have anything to offer? This has challenged me. I want to be vulnerable and learn from people as I share with them. I want to be bold and go to hard places in conversation to share the Gospel.
As Grace and I passed over the rippling water in the canoe ride out of the jungle, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. It was a profound honor to have met those heroes of the past. I felt excited for the journey that lay ahead for Felipe and the new Waodani leaders.
I left excited for my own journey as well.
Let’s be leaders who listen and learn; leaders who intentionally empower others.
May we enable others to boldly take their place in the sacred mission of making His name known to the very ends of the earth.
The Wild Way
What if your neighbors conspired together and kicked you out of the neighborhood? What if they threatened to hurt you if you came back? Where would you go? Would you move back?
Meet Duguru, a lovable, Jesus following, ex-warrior whose life-changing relationship with Jesus caused him to do something 99.99% of the world with never do. When faith becomes greater than our fears, the incredible can happen.
Get ready to introduce your family to a jungle-warrior hero who risked everything to introduce the life-changing Gospel to his deadly neighbors.
You are not going to want to miss The Wild Way, Season 8 of the Brinkman Adventures. Coming December 2019
To receive our product release announcements sign up here.
Hey! My name’s Grace and I play Gracie Brinkman in the Brinkman Adventures. This past August, my Dad and I took an amazing trip to Papua Indonesia. It took us six flights, and two boat rides to reach our final destination, which was Kri Island. We went there to record two of our upcoming episodes (that will come out early December) about the Wild family who are missionaries working on translating the Bible there. This trip has been a huge blessing to me and one I won’t forget.
We arrived safely August 4th on a Sunday night. The next morning we took a fifteen-minute hike up to a helicopter hanger and started putting together our makeshift studio in a side room. The room we used had AC to prevent the helicopter parts from rusting, which was super nice. Then we went down again to bring up some mattresses. Okay, correction, the Wild brothers brought them up.
We then officially named it Bee Happy Studio (see picture) and buckled down and started recording. That’s when my job came in, logging. I wrote down all the times and script changes while we recorded line by line. This would later help my brothers, who would piece it all together when we got home. The Wilds were really fun to work with, and they all did a great job. We had their lines finished by Friday.
The next day God provided us with Jerome (our really good cook.)
He was able to play two of our pivotal characters. He did an extraordinary job! And we also recorded some extras, Pu and his mom Ira and Muston who were also awesome! That left us with the photoshoot which we wrapped up by Saturday morning.
Kri was …remarkable. I never knew the world was so beautiful, and I know now, how ungrateful I can be for taking this world for granted, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I have also learned how selfish I can be. There are people out there that haven’t even heard of God. They don’t know He made this fascinating world or that He loves them; they don’t know all that. And here I am worrying and complaining about math?
Being there really showed me what and Who to put my focus on.
And even though I’ll still hate math, I know now that there are more important things to do than to complain about it.
I hope you enjoy these episodes come December as much I enjoyed helping my family make them. Also, I encourage you to look up the Wild Brothers from Answers in Genesis. They have some really cool stories and videos and have inspired me in so many ways.
The doorway they drug her through
It all came together last month as I walked up a cobblestone street, looked for the number 4, and knocked. It was a cold night seventy-two years ago when 8 Gestapo soldiers approached the very spot where I was standing. They were disgusted and angry. The couple inside were helping the “inferior” race they were trying to kill. They had killed so many already, but that night they were intent on destroying someone else. Someone standing in their way, my Opa.
I had heard the stories many times as a girl. I always reveled in the miracle that happened that night, and the brave front my Oma put on as she opened the door and was shoved aside. I had often tried to picture the room they rushed into, and all that had happened that night.
But today was different. Today I had a chance to see it, and feel it and to know. Together with my brother Ian, and his daughters Ashley and Michaela, I had crossed the ocean to find pieces of our history that were fading into the past.
It was a year ago that the Brinkman writing team decided to tell the story of Reng and Lynn VanKesteren. My grandparents who risked their lives to rescue Jews during WWII. Their story stands like bedrock in my soul, providing a deep conviction that faith and goodness can prevail in a time of evil and violence.
After a year of researching, interviewing and digging into the past, I found myself humbled, awed, and grateful beyond words to be able to travel there and see it for myself.
I stepped through the door frame my Oma had crossed as they dragged her off to prison. Touched the rough stone that was cold as my Opa hid. I looked up into the big trees behind their house, the trees that saw so much heartache and bravery during those years. The trees my Oma loved.
That moment is forever burned into my mind. It was surreal and almost holy.
The rest of the trip was a whirlwind, like a dream. We found treasures of the past coming alive everywhere we went. We worked hard to cast and direct actors who played out the story with gusto and joy.
I can’t wait to hear this treasured story come to life and be able to share it with you this fall!
Writer-The Brinkman Adventures
The park and the trees she loved
These days it seems many Christian kids are seriously into their audio dramas. I even heard of one parent who punished her child by not letting him listen to his favorite show…. about missionaries! When she took away his CD for the night he wailed like he’d lost his arm!
A few years ago I had an interesting exchange with one of our daughters.
Me: “So…. what’s your favorite movie?”
Michaela: “Jane Eyre……”
“How many times have you watched it?”
“Probably twenty times”
“And what’s your favorite audio drama?”
“The Secret Garden” (Focus on the Family Radio Theatre)
“How many times have you listened to that?” (She hedged with an embarrassed little smile)
“I don’t know…..”
Just give me a rough estimate…”
“At least….. two hundred times….”
Two Hundred???? And Michaela is a visual learner. If I had asked her sister Ashley, our auditory kid, I bet audio drama would have scored even higher. So what gives? Why twenty views versus two hundred listens? It’s an interesting question. As a forty-something year old dad who has been observing his kids consume audio drama for the better part of their lives, I have an idea. While not exhaustive, here’s my list:
First, they are just flat out fun to listen to. Some may require a little concentration to get into, but once hooked, you’ll stay on the line until the closing credits. Next, a good audio drama is like a favorite song – it never grows old. You can listen over and over. It also doesn’t become dated by tacky clothes and bad hair. In fact, sometimes it even gets better with time. Another big plus is radio drama offers more versatility than video. One can listen to an episode while driving, working, lying in bed with the lights off or while gathered around the radio with the family. Finally, audio dramas make us think. They force us to use and develop our imagination. We actually become co-producers and co-creators along with the writer, and there is something very attractive about that. These and other reasons contribute to audio theaters’ current resurgence in popularity.
Here’s an interesting fact: My daughter’s favorite movie had a budget of $28 million. Her favorite audio drama had a budget a fraction of that. This is wonderful news! It means we can create great material at a reasonable cost. And in fact, more producers are coming to this realization. I believe we in the midst of an audio drama renaissance of sorts, especially in Christian circles. Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park, Heirloom Audio Productions, Lamp Lighter Theater and our show Brinkman Adventures are all proof positive. And with the advent of podcasts, secular producers are also beginning to jump on the bandwagon. I’m expecting the choice to consumers will only grow in the coming years.
Audio dramas pack a serious teaching punch while remaining hugely entertaining. As a parent and home educator, if you are not already doing so, take advantage of this form of story telling that stimulates the theater of the mind! And if your family has yet to discover this wonderful audio world, trust me – your ears, minds and hearts are in for a real treat! And you also may just discover a creative new tool for discipline!
Producer of Brinkman Adventures
I sat in a daze, my mind stuck in the fog that comes after flying halfway across the world. I was on my way to Tanzania on a mission trip, but I found myself on a layover in Qatar, the small but wealthy country near Dubai.
As I sat there the haze lifted and was replaced by a hollow sense of being oddly out of place.
I was in the Middle East surrounded by people quite different from me. Off to the left stood a group of Saudi men dressed in red and white headdresses. At one time headdresses reminded me of our annual Christmas play. Today they accompany disturbing images burned into my mind from recent news reports.
A man ahead of me was dressed in a white robe with a black tassel hanging low from his carefully draped headdress. He seemed powerful and important. I blinked, was I really here? I pulled my bag in close to me.
This place ran by a different set of rules, many of which I had probably already broke.
What did this man believe about God, the world, and me as an American? I checked my watch to see when my flight left and then felt regret for the action. I wasn’t feeling like a good missionary. There I was, feeling uneasy, just wishing I could be in a place that thought more like me.
That’s when it dawned on me. I could choose the reality in which I would live: God’s reality or man’s reality. If I chose man’s reality, the uneasiness would win. It would cause me to bow to the seriousness in the air. I would give in to the thinking of “You better be perfect or you are in trouble.” Man’s reality doesn’t believe one can experience an intimate relationship with God through the death of His Son. Most in that airport did not understand the depth of the sacrifice He made to rescue us. They didn’t believe it is even possible to get off the tread mill of performing in order to gain God’s acceptance.
But God’s reality says something different! God’s reality stays this all this is possible. That I AM loved. So in that moment I actively choose to live in the reality of my Father. I sat and rejoiced for no other reason than the fact that He was right there with me. I felt exhilaration the moment I chose to live in God’s reality. I suddenly felt like I was wrapped in a warm blanket. Even though I was alone in a place I don’t understand, I was safe, and as a result, I had love to give those around me.
As I reflect on that experience, it occurs to me that I often allow other people’s perception of reality color my thinking. But I’m not from here! My reality is not drawn from the country I’m in at the moment. It’s not even drawn from my country of origin. I live by the laws and realities of Heaven! We’re not from here. We get to be different. We get to walk around with confidence when others might squirm. We can smile when those around us complain. We have the ability to love when others would hide!
For me, this is where missions begins. It starts when I wake up and realize I am an ambassador for a King and hold citizenship in a very good country; a kingdom that is coming and has come. A place and reality I am privileged to carry with me in my heart.
And where I take that Kingdom? That is the adventure!
Writer-The Brinkmann Adventures