Squeezed into the rear of the six-seater Helio Courier float plane, I gazed out the small window at the shimmering surface of Lake Yarinacocha—our "runway"—in the Amazon jungle near Pucallpa, Peru. My husband, Bob, and I had been invited to attend the dedication ceremony of the Sharanahua (pronounced Sha-dah-nah-wah ) New Testament recently completed by Wycliffe Bible translators Gene ("Scotty") and Marie Scott. Ours was the last of four small planes taking off from Wycliffe's translation center, also called Yarinacocha, bound for the village of Gasta Bala.
With engines roaring, our pilot, Pete, skimmed the lake, and after the windows cleared of the spray, I saw the saltbox shanties of Pucallpa become a distant shadow.
A thick carpet of rain forest soon subsumed all evidences of civilization. There were no roads, no houses, no power lines. Only the snaking brown Ucayali River offered any contrast to the sea of green below.
Gasta Bala is home to about 150 of the 450 members of the Sharanahua tribe. The only way to get there is to fly two and a half hours into the heart of the jungle. (One tour book offered little information about this part of Peru, citing "inaccessibility.")
Gene and Marie Scott first entered this jungle as newlyweds in 1958. Forty years later—and four children, raised alternatively between the jungle and Yarinacocha; a fire that consumed all their work; a flood that washed away their village; and Scotty's five-year bout with chronic fatigue syndrome—Scotty, now 69, was hand-carrying the only copy of the leather-bound Sharanahua New Testament that he could secure. The other 499 copies were stalled in customs at the airport in Lima. He kept the New Testament in a Ziploc bag to protect it ...