In the depths of the jungles, under the shadow of the clouds, just around the river bend, dwell human beings. Human beings with souls who are precious to the heart of God. People wandering, wondering, and waiting; people for whom Christ died.
It was the 1970's. Four adventurous young men from an organization called “New Tribes Missions” trekked into the deep, dark jungles between the Guaviare and Inírida rivers in south-east Colombia. There were rumors of an unreached tribe located somewhere beyond the trees, and they set out to find them.
After miles of walking into the unknown, the four men began to hear a sounds that were written off as animals or birds. But as the sounds grew closer, the men began to realize they were surrounded by a group of the Nukak people hidden behind the tall trees.
The four men began to sprint back from which they came as fast as their legs could carry them. Should they reach the Guaviare river, they would be safe and out of the Nukak territory. Suddenly, one of the four, Danny, was shot in the neck with the Nukak’s weapon of choice: the blow dart. These blow darts are not to be messed with. They are long, fast, and deadly. Miraculously, Danny was not killed. He and the other men made it out alive and began making preparations to find other avenues to reach the Nukak.
After a few years, the men from NTM began to build trust with the Nukak and many spent years living among these fascinating people who once chased them out of their jungle. They began learning the culture and language of the Nukak, as well as cultivating an unlikely friendship. Danny, (the aforementioned blow dart man) actually ended up spending many years living among the Nukak with his wife. They are very loved by the entire tribe, even to this day.
The Nukak are nomadic, hunter-gatherers who fought hard to stay alive despite the many tragedies and hardships that come to their people over the decades. They faced disease, death, and have come close to extinction. They faced exile from their land due to the drug cartel. Armed and dangerous guerrillas overrun and occupy the jungle they call home.
I had the honor of meeting the Nukak in March 2016. It was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had in my life. Seeing a group of people so far different from anything I had ever known was beautiful to me. Although few people on the entire planet know their unwritten language and it was impossible for me to communicate with them with words, I loved them immediately.
The day we arrived in the village, we heard that a young Nukak man died earlier that morning. Many Nukak choose to poison themselves with the poison they use in the blow darts. They do this if they face rejection, disappointment, or if they had a fight with a friend or relative.
During my stay in Colombia, I was able to document numerous stories from missionaries who have been living among the Nukak. Some of these missionaries have been there for just a few years, and some for decades. Hour after hour, we listened to their stories of faith, courage, hardship, and victory. They have been giving their time, money, and very lives to learn the Nukak’s language and culture so they might effectively and clearly share the Gospel with these people they have grown to deeply love and care for.