3 years of planning had lead to this moment as I walked somewhat stiltedly into the jungle clearing close to our guest house. Each step was deliberate, perhaps almost an act of self assurance that we were exactly where God had planned for us to be at that exact moment in time. David was there, talking excitedly to our host. Clearly he had managed to engage the elderly gentleman’s attention as he described vividly our itinerary over the next weeks as they strolled along.
In quiet contrast, Felipe our fixer watched me as I walked out of the trees into this small clearing.
‘You look like a man ready to start on the journey of a lifetime’, he observed calmly in his heavily accented english.
I nodded solemnly in reply. How could I not feel that way after all the years of prayer and preparation? Bringing the gospel to the unreached tribes of the Amazonian jungle had once been a casual passing thought, now turned into hard unrelenting fact. In two days we would be leaving the physical comforts of civilsation to trek days, possibly weeks in search of nomadic tribes, some without having had any contact with the modern world, to live with them, understand them and ultimately give them the taste of the gospel. What lay ahead for us would not be a walk in the park.
Fiercely protected by the Brazilian government, it was a bureaucratic nightmare just getting the necessary passes to venture into the rainforest in the first place. But these seemed tame compared to the harsh tropical conditions we would be subjecting ourselves to in the coming days. Flesh eating insects, incessant downpours followed by stuffy stillness, wild predators and perhaps most alarming; our expected hosts may not look too kindly to being ‘visited’ by a bunch of noisy, clumsy, quarrelsome asians.
How I managed to convince all four core members to join me on this fool’s quest was certainly beyond all reason. Two had even left wives and young children back in Singapore, possibly for a taste of adventure but definitely because of their dedication to the mission of spreading the good news.
My own wife had gazed at me forlorn as I stepped past immigration to a world halfway round the world. Determined as she was to support me on this calling, no amount of words could bring any measure of comfort to that moment of parting. As I savoured that memory and the screams of ‘We love you daddy!’ from my children, I found my eyes beginning to moisten.
As if noticing a my change in mood, Felipe waved me back out of my thoughts. ‘You’re worried about what hardships lay ahead?’, he asked inquisitively.
‘Yes, I am.’, I answered, ‘I guess I can’t hide how I’m feeling inside. I am a very anxious person by nature and with so much uncertainty ahead of us I can’t help but worry. This sounds silly but I fear that one mistake and we’ll all end up dead.’
‘But, you’re already dead’, he answered suddenly.
Without sound he moved quickly towards me and plucked a little wooden dart from the back of my neck.
Alarmed at what I saw I made to cry out in fear but was quickly hushed.
‘There is no poison on this one,’ he said matter of factly, his eyes turning back towards the surrounding trees. My eyes followed his gaze and that’s when I saw him step out into the clearing.
A native indian, dressed in a loin cloth stood before me, a wooden blow pipe nestled in his right hand, the obvious source of the dart to my neck. He glared at me menacingly and I fearfully looked away, feeling suddenly both small and unsure of myself.
And then the laughter started.
Looking up again those menacing eyes were now kind, almost fatherly. Confused I looked to Felipe who was himself smiling with deep satisfaction. It was at that moment that Erwin chose to emerge, rather clumsily, from his hiding place behind a tree, the source of the laughter. His hands clutching his phone in front of his face.
‘You should have seen the look on your face!’, he squealed in between laughs, ‘You really need to learn to relax a bit you know?’, he managed to utter between heavy breaths as he regained his composure. ‘This video’s definitely going into the collection. Maybe I’ll upload it to youtube or include is as a bonus feature in the expedition dvd?’
David, Louis and Vinsant soon popped into the clearing drawn by the noise giving Erwin an undeserved audience as he played the entire thing back to them.
‘Oh good!’, Louis exclaimed looking at me somewhat symphathetically, ‘So you’ve met our guide Mincaye. As you can see he’s quite skilfful with the blowpipe. You can rest assured we’ll be in safe hands as we venture through the jungle, eh?’
‘Skillful indeed,’ I muttered quietly, face still red from the event before.
As the self appointed leader of this expedition I was used to the friendly pranks that the rest would play on me from time to time. This one felt somewhat different though. Assured as I was of Mincaye’s prowess as a hunter, and by extension tracker, I couldn’t help shake the cold realisation that I had been completely oblivious to the feeling of the dart. I couldn’t help but feel responsibile for the safety of my friends as I stood there watching them.
Without the help of God going with us, we’d be out before we even got in.
[Author’s note: The above is a work of fiction that came to me suddenly as I lay in bed in my fevered state. Please forgive any errors in the text.]