I have been in relationship with the Waodani since 1956, when they killed my dad Nate and four of his friends. My relationship continued through the time my aunt Rachel lived with them beginning in 1958 through her death in 1994. I most recently lived with the Waodani beginning just after Aunt Rachel’s death in 1994 until later in 1997, maintaining a house and spending about one quarter of my time with them until 2008.
When people visit the Waodani, they look around and think, “Wow, these people have nothing!” People from the outside think the Waodani are poor because they don’t have three-bedroom ramblers with wall-to-wall carpeting, double garages so full of stuff the cars never fit and, I guess, because they never take vacations to exotic places like Disney World.
So, on speaking tours I began describing these jungle dwellers as “People who all have water front property, multiple houses and spend most of their time hunting and fishing.” The most common response I have gotten when describing the Waodani this way is, “Wow, would I ever like to live like that!” I agree completely.
Tags: poverty, short-term mission