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Elisabeth Elliot Letter, October 13-28, 1958 - Transcript

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[Under two blank labels on the top of the first page is the handwritten note: “Mrs. Short said to send this to you. She does not want it back. You can let others read it.”]

Oct. 13, 1958
Tiwaenu River

Dearest Marj. and Marilou:

It’s a rainy day and there’s no one here except Dayuma, Rachel, Valarie [sic; Valerie name is misspelled throughout, an indication that this copy of the letter was not made by Elisabeth Elliot], and one couple (Kimu and Dawa).. Everyone else has gone to the original settlement to get food. I’m not sure whether you understand that when Dayuma returned in Sept. the first time with Mankuma and Mintaka, she stayed here on the Tiwaenu river and everyone came to her. She has now given “orders” that this is to be the settlement. It is where she grew up. Of course, there is no food here, so things are pretty difficult for them. The plane could drop us food, but I am anxious to “identify” as much as possible and hesitate especially to ask for food for them lest they become dependent on it.

Mankamu left this morning with all the women who came out to Arajuno. Says she’ll return tomorrow.

I’m not at all sure Dayuma did a wise thing in thus trying to uproot the whole community. It may well be that some will simply refuse to move. That seems to be the case so far with Dabu (Mankamu’s brother) and Nimunga. They have not showed up so far. But I have now met four of the seven men who killed our husbands. It is a very strange thing thus to find oneself between two very remote sides of a story. To us, it meant everything in life and continues to mean that. To these simple, laughing, carefree forest people, killing five men was little more than routine and they had probably nearly forgotten about it.

The story as I have managed to get it thus far, is that the men were all on the beach. The Aucas leaped suddenly out of the forest from behind the tree house and killed them immediately. I suppose the fellows jumped back into the water hoping to evade the sudden shower of spears.

George and Delilah and company knew that the fellows were on the beach because some of the Auca men had seen them there a day or so earlier as they were out hunting. Dayuma knows nothing about the Aucas having responded to the calls and gestures from the plane. (M. and M. Incidently apparently came out simply to see the ‘outsiders’ supposing that all, gringo and Quichua alike, were the same group. They did not come looking for the plane).

Did I tell you that Dayuma cut all but two of the men’s hair in butch style on her visit in? It surely spoils the effect. And she is doing her level best to get everyone to discard their earplugs and put clothes on. However, many may be the blessings of her presence; there are certainly real problems which I had hoped to avoid in the initial stages of introducing what it means to be a follower of Christ. But for this too, I can trust and believe that the prayers of thousands are yet to be answered in the way God wants them to be.

I wish you could hear the singing at nighti When the Qulchua men were still here, we all sat on the logs under the stars and took turns – first Aucas, then Quichuas singing! The Auca men sit with solemn gaze, hands clasped in front of chest, and chant in three parts --a single chord, unvaried through literally hundreds of repititions [sic] of a seven-beat phrase. The words may change every 40 times or so, but not the rhythm or the music. It is fantastically hypnotic. I made a tape recording of it. (This business of trying to record 1. in a diary, 2. in letters, 3. in photographs, and 4. on tape – besides trying to take down language data and keep Valarie [sic] amused, can get complicated.


Oct. 17. Yesterday the plane came over bringing the meat, fish, cheese, candy, toasted avas, canned meats, etc. which I guess you two sent. Thanks so very much for all your thoughtfulness and for your letters and prayers and understanding. You see things rightly when you realize that the problems are not all solved with the an apparently successful entrance into the tribe. The problems are new ones now, and the testings of a different nature, but the Tempter [the Devil] has the same object as has the Deliverer [Jesus Christ]. That is, the former’s is to make diciples [sic] for himself, as the latter’s is to make us like Himself. New situations are only new arenas for faith to be proved. Pray that my faith rest firmly in the Pioneer and Perfecter.

I wish you could see this gang eat. Last night when the meat came in, Mankamu cooked it up and them called the men together. She throws a pile of ste med [sic] yuca and plantains onto a leaf on the ground, opens the pot of boiled beef, and everybody grabs all he can. The sound effects (smacking, sucking, tearing, munching) are fantastic. It’s all over in about three minutes. The men rise from their haunches, the women lick up whatever remains, and they scatter into the twilight. No one has said a word – “help yourself” or “thank you” of [sic] anything. Then the fires are fanned, showing up the ragged silhouettes of leaf huts, hammocks are strung and quiet settles in. The toads anf [sic] frogs, crickets, and cicadas start in with the occasional horn-like call of a Munditi (the black bird like the one they gave Ed and Marilou), and once according to Dayuma, the panting of a nearby puma.

Oct. 18 - Breakfast this morning was roast monkey. Last night Gikita and two sons brought in 5 monkeys and two birds--caught with blowguns and poison darts. (It is quite impossible to bite monkey flesh--you simply clamp your incisors on it and tear). It is a comfort to know that meat is easily digested even if not chewed!

There is a hoard of kids around which keeps Val happy. She is, of course, in her element in an Indian environment - would rather drink their stringy, lumpy banana drink than milk; seems to sleep every bit as soundly on bamboo as on a mattress [sic]. She plays in the river whenever anyone goes down to fish, bathe, or wash pots. She hacks away at trees with a machete, fans fires, strings beads, twists fibers, and generally makes an Auca of herself except for the language.

There are now 10 houses--all of them tiny (about 6’x8’) leaf shacks except for those which Gikita put up. Val and I have our own “private” house. So far there hasn’t been a real rain. We shall see how this roof takes it. There are of course no walls or floor--plenty of fresh air. Weather is id al[sic], not hot as I had expected and no mosquitoes. Plenty of gnats between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M.

Oct. 25. Day before yesterday, Dabu arrived. He is th only one of the present group of men (except Munga, whi [sic] is from downriver [sic]) who had no part in the killing of the five. He, you remember, cried when he heard about it. I can understand why Dayuma thought George was Dabu when she saw George’s picture. Dabu is very much like him, but he smiles a lot and I don’t think there was any smiling pictures of George.



On Thursday night, we were all sitting ox swinging in hammocks but the fire in Gikita and Mankamu’s house when the god dogs began to bark. Of course, this could mean only two things: a tiger, or the downriver killers. So, supposing it to be the latter, Mankamu (sho[sic] I now observe to be the matriarch of the tribe) went out and perched up on a log and sermonized for about half an hour. She told them we are all living well now, we don’t kill, we’ll be glad to receive them if they will come out without spears, etc. I guess they didn’t like the terms--at least, no one appeared! (I took some of her declarations on tape, also Dabu singing.

Yesterday afternoon it rained and blew hard. I saw again how sensibly these people have adapted to their environment. Of course, the rain blows straight through the house. What does one do? One blows up the fire, hangs up one’s few possessions in a carrying net und r [sic] the ridge pole and stretches our [sic] in the hammock. You get wet, naturally, What matter? The fire keeps you warm and as soon as the wind dies, it dries out your hammock. The Indian still has the advantage over us--his possessions are: a blowgun and darts, a few clay pots, a fish spear, and net; a hammock, a basket or two. They do not include camera, radio, tape recorder, notebooks, and clothes, which must be kept dry. However, I find that baskets and nets are suitable storage closets when hung high.

I don’t think I told you that the first day we arrived, Valarie [sic] just sat down on the log which Kimu was squatting on and stared and stared. Then she said “Mama, who IS that? Is that my daddy? He looks like a daddy.” Somehow, in her child mind, she had associated Aucas and daddy--though I’d never told her till [sic] a few days ago that the Aucas had killed her daddy. I waited till [sic] she had met five of the men and then I told her that those men had killed daddy. She said, “Oh”. She prays for them and for the others she knows by name.

Please pray especially now for the downriver group. I feel about them now as I once did about this group--”impossible to reach”. But “it is God who will tread down our enemies” and bring them into subjection to Himself. These people, including Dayuma fear them exceedingly and expect a retaliation any day. (It is their turn to kill someone up here). But there are several downriver people here in this group now-- perhaps God will use them to bridge the gap.

October 28. On Sunday night the last of the men, Numunga, arrived with his wife and baby. Now they have all been here (all 7 of them) at one time or another. Numunga is a small, furtive-looking man, not openly friendly like the rest.
Minkayi and wife are back now, and he is a delightful person. Laughs and plays with the dogs and babies; hovers over me as I talk on the radio, take pictures, or give injections.

The other night I was awakened tice [sic] during the night to receive monkey limbs to eat, were I a proper Auca I would have risen, blown up my fire and cooked some manioc and made myself a meal. Being still a gringo at heart, I stuck them up in the thatch to eat for breakfast.

Very much love,

Betty Elliot

[On the back of the last page is the hand written note: “Dear Luddy [?] + Dale: I though you would like to read this before I give to [sic] Valley Christian. Ady [sic] read it at devotions last night. E. H.”]

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