77. That Time I Tangled with Barbed Wire

Many missionary kids have learned the folly of strolling carelessly through the jungle, and some even have the scars to prove it.

The jungles in Ecuador are beautiful: dazzling waterfalls, crystal-clear streams, bright flowers and lush vegetation. However, visitors to the jungle must not become too distracted by its beauty. The jungle is a wild place, full of potential threats.

No, I’m not talking about piranhas, jaguars, poisoned darts or ancient temples full of death traps. The true dangers of the jungle are much more insidious and sinister: ticks, amoebas, parasitic worms and mosquitoes. I particularly detest mosquitoes, those messengers of Satan, which buzz and bite and sometimes carry deadly diseases.

The jungle is also full of sharp objects waiting to pierce unwary feet. Unwary visitors to the jungle are confronted by thorns, spines, sharp rocks, rusty nails and even barbed wire. Only a fool walks through the jungle without watching his step.

I was always careful to watch my step. The problem was that sharp objects in the jungle are sometimes found in places other than the ground underfoot.

When I was just a kid, I went camping in the jungle with my old man and big brother. The place to which we went was called Aguas Claras, or Clear Waters. On our way there we stopped at a cacao plantation to visit the parents of a pastor with whom my parents worked. (For those who don’t know, cacao beans are the main ingredient of chocolate.)

My old man, a true missionary, stayed for hours talking. Having long since become accustomed to my parents talking for hours with people I didn’t know, I went off exploring alone. Fortunately, it was an interesting place to explore. There were groves of cacao trees nearby and a river with stones for throwing. I also found a couple of paths through the jungle.

I don’t remember why I decided to run along one of those paths. My brother may have been chasing me, or I may have been letting off steam. Whatever the reason, it was a mistake. Stretched across the path at eye level was a long strand of rusty barbed wire.

Have you ever run into a clothesline? I don’t remember the exact details of my tangle with the barbed wire, but I imagine it must have been something like colliding with a taut clothesline while running at full speed.

We were many miles from any kind of medical facility, so the gash in my left cheek was never stitched up. Some weeks after the incident, my old man tried to console me about the scar by pointing out that I now had something in common with both Indiana Jones and the evil lion from The Lion King. I didn’t need to be consoled. As far as I was concerned, a scar—especially a facial scar—was pretty much the coolest thing that could ever happen to a missionary kid.

My left cheek is still scarred more than a decade later. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed that the scar isn’t very noticeable. I suppose I should simply be thankful I didn’t lose an eye.

The moral of the story? Be aware of your surroundings if you ever visit a jungle, and consider wearing goggles.

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