Nenquechani: The Kindberg family marches purposefully past a say, welcoming group of Campas, en route to a new house at Nenquechani, built by Will while awaiting his family’s return from a trip to Yarinacocha. The Campas wear the cushma, a course woven sort of Mother-Hubbard of immense practicality in the insect-ridden jungle.
Cushma: Cushmas are worn by mean, women and children, with vertical necklines for men, horizontal for women. The natural brown cotton cushma may be thrown over one’s shoulder to allow freedom of movement, pulled up to allow crossing of rivers without getting it wet, and camouflages dirt very well.
Privacy: Silently, these youthful Campa mothers watch Lee tend her youngest child. The Kindberg house has no walls. They learned very early in their relations with the Campas that privacy was impossible, that sharing the intimate daily routine of their household established a warm and respectful bond with the primitive Indians. “We put a ‘tucuyo’ (unbleached muslin) around our bedroom for some semblance of privacy, only to discover that the Indians loved to pick up the edge and peek underneath,” said Will.
Shared Calling: Lee is a registered nurse, shares with Will an equal interest in missionary linguistic work in the foreign field. The couple met at Wheaton College in the U.S.A.; six months after their marriage [they] arrived in Peru to begin their life work.
José Flores: In the Ene river village of Quempiri, Will consults with Campa Indian José Flores concerning text for the next day’s sermon, which José will deliver. Will, using his home, Nenquechani, as a base, visits other outposts in the Ene river area of the Peruvian Amazon. To reach the most remote places, he travels by canoe, raft, on foot, and occasionally uses the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service aircraft. One such outpost is Quempiri, 35 minutes by plane from Nenquechani, but seven difficult days away poling upstream in a canoe.
The school at Quempiri was built only last year. Teacher Flores was the first Campa with whom Will had direct contact nine years ago when he first began his language work in Peru. Before he came, many of the inhabitants of Quempiri had never seen a white man. Although Will visits Quempiri regularly, José Flores carries the main responsibility of this missionary effort. Nine years ago José could not read, write or understand Spanish, spoke only his own Campa tongue.
Teacher José Flores instructs Campa children at Quempiri under supervision of his old friend and mentor Kindberg. José has provided cultural, educational, spiritual, social and economic leadership in the tiny Quempiri community. He is classified by the Peruvian government as a bilingual teacher, receives a yearly salary of 4,500 soles ($174). So eager are the Campa to learn, that official attendance records at his school show 53 persons attending out of a total village population of 100. Among José’s students: his wife, Felícitas.
José, encouraged by Will, learned to read and write, first his own language, then the national language of his own country. Now bilingual, in Campa and Spanish, and trained to teach by the Peruvian government training school for Indians of the jungle conducted at our Yarinacocha base José is an effective direct link between the Campa tribe and Peruvian national life and government.
His desire to share his own personal faith in Christ with others, plus his ability to read and teach the Scriptures already available, have made him a spiritual leader among his Campa people too.
José told his students, “I learned to read and write through working with Mr. Kindberg. If this had not happened none of you would be learning. You would not be able to read the Bible and to be Christians.”
Then Will, adding his word of instruction, said: “Jesus is in heaven, and we accept Christ’s resurrection as proof that there is resurrection and He will raise us up.” After Will spoke, the students sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the Campa language.
Nursing: In the daily routine of life a Nenquechani, Lee Kindberg bandages the punctured foot of a Campa child and introduces a huge forest parrot to young Dougie Kindberg.
Little Kindbergs: After dinner at the Kindberg home, the family enjoys “reading time,” first for the girls, who perch on their father’s lap and listen breathlessly to “tonight’s story.” The Kindberg boys await their turn to hear their father read from “Paths and Pathfinders,” a basic reader. Afterwards the family joins hands and prays, Daddy and Mommy get “good-night” kisses. There is no fighting to stay up late, for the children are tired after the day’s occupations.
Whole New Testament: “Before we leave the Campa work, I want to see the whole New Testament and portions of the Old Testament translated for them; to see adequate schooling provided, with basic books, such as reading primers, books on arithmetic, history and health, in their own language and in Spanish. We hope to leave an enduring testimony, practiced and led by the indigenous leaders developed during our years here. We hope to stay here until this is assured, however long it might take.”—Will Kindberg
Mission: A Wycliffe pioneer from New Jersey brings Christ’s Word to the Campa Indians, one of the 32 Peruvian tribes being served by the Wycliffe translators.
Missionary-linguist Willard R. Kindberg, of Orange, N. J., is opening spiritual frontiers along the Apurimac river of eastern Peru, three hours’ flight time—or one month overland—from Yarinacocha, headquarters of the Peru branch of our Summer Institute of Linguistics. Shooting the rapids of remote Apurimac tributaries, it is Kindberg’s special joy to be on a spiritual frontier—a joy shared by his wife Lee, and five “little Kindbergs.” For all the Kindbergs, the privations and dangers of jungle frontier life is a spiritual adventure, rich in Christian service, and in the privilege of being the first to tell the Indians, in their own language, about Christ.
An athletic, determined man, Will wants to see his Indians progress, pragmatically accepts the fact that, although he may imitate Campa dress and ways, he is accepted by them only as a representative of another way of life. He contends that the Indians will appreciate the Bible more if they pay for it in kind-bows and arrows or sugar cane.
transcription of an article in Cornell Capa, “First with the Word” in Who Brought the Word (n.c.: Wycliffe Bible Translators, n.d.), 46–57. found and contributed by Jim Duncan [Wally’s son], March 2015
Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)
- What do you remember of the visitor who took these pictures and recorded these vignettes?
- Doug was a baby in several of the photos, so they were probably 1961. But the original article says “Dougie” is the child looking at the parrot (and Eric and Virginia confirm it was him), which would mean the article and picture were at least 1962. Can you confirm the date of the article?
- What else do you remember about Nenquechani? About the “old house” and the “new house”? Why did he have to build a new one?
- Did they finish the New Testament? Any of the Old Testament as Will desired? How many years were they there?
- Who else has articles about the Duncan Eight stashed somewhere that you might like to contribute to eightduncans.com? Can you scan them? Would you like to drop them in the mail? I can email you my address if you need it. Let me know in the comments box below.