Wondering while Wandering…
…an artist’s limp toward finding ‘Radiance Through the Rain’
‘May the Rain of Suffering Soften Our Hearts,
Seeping Radiance to Our Thirsty Places.’
J. Douglas Thompson© 2023
Rachel Saint was my friend…
My workspace, a small ‘studio’ at the top of some stairs was the path I negotiated each morning for several years. It was also near the top of the world at 9700’ above sea level, making each step a distinct decision.
To quote a colleague who recently wrote me, she said, ‘when we worked together in Ecuador you were this very unassuming ‘printer assistant,’ an artist in disguise, in a very tiny and somewhat messy and seemingly disorganized print shop above an even messier mechanic shop!!…I laugh now as I remember the joyful anticipation I experienced every time I huffed and puffed my way up that shabby staircase (unaccustomed to the altitude, coming from the jungle)! I was excited because I was getting MY ‘artwork’ published as communication letters sent to my friends and supporters.’
It was there in my studio that I produced literature for her, other agency staff and the organization at large through corporate communications informing the supporters in North America and Europe of our work. Our radio propagation covered vast swaths of the globe worldwide with the good news. We were broadcasting from the equator to more than 30 countries while producing programming in those languages by fluent speakers working on our campus. Our antenna farm had many directionally targeted antennas that towered over and along side a special mobile antenna on rail tracks targeting specific geographical areas at specific times. We had our own hydroelectric plant further up into the Andes providing power. All this along with cultural investments in the community with excellence in FM radio, concerts at the National Theatre with the National Orchestra of Ecuador etc.
This not-for-profit organization known then as HCJB, The Voice of the Andes, also did healthcare work with two hospitals, including a teaching hospital in the Capital city of Quito and also a jungle hospital on the edge of the Amazon. There were also myriad health based initiatives such as the eradication of ‘River Blindness;’ by Dr. Ron Guderian and other water based projects working for and with indigenous people groups.
(Dr. Guderian among other accolades, was Member expert commission on parasitic diseases World Health Organization, Geneva, since 1985, consultant on onchocerciasis, 1981-1995. Consultant for malaria United States Agency for International Development, Quito, 1984-1985.)
I admit, that I found out much later after having left and moved back to North America, that I excelled as a ‘producer/art director’ much more than a hands-on graphics practitioner. I saw images in my head instantly which I wanted to produce, but lacked the ‘then new fangled computer skills,’ often failing. I must admit to some obvious frustration as work piled up!
Later in my ad agency days I found the formula and perfect niche for me of being the person interacting with the client, interpreting their needs into visual ideas and then art directing free-lancers who, working for me, produced the final physical product. As stated before, I had twenty-five productive years owning and running my agency.
However, again I digress. Now back to my friend Rachel Saint.
She grew up surrounded by culture, offered the status of becoming the heiress of significant New England wealth yet early on chose the path of its antithesis, a life of invisible service in the depths of the Amazon. She was disowned materially from that opportunity because of her choice.
She personally reminds me of Mother Teresa!
She lived and worked from the late 1950’s until her death from cancer in 1994, with who were at the time known as the Waodani (Aucas) tribe deep in the Ecuadorian jungle. I have had the honour of flying in and then navigating down the Napo river and visiting some of that territory, and then meeting some of the tribe members later.
Rachel’s brother, Nate Saint was among the 5 missionaries who arrived to the tribe earlier and were then speared to death by them. The story is intense, painful and yet paints for us lives of incredible lasting beauty. There have had several books published about these men whose motto from one of their number Jim Elliott made this now profound and famous quote. ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ At the time of their murders this was front-page news all across North America including Life and Reader’s Digest magazines.
One of the more recent books and subsequent full-length feature motion picture is by Steve Saint, Rachel’s nephew and son of one of the martyr’s, Nate Saint. They are entitled ‘End of the Spear’A true story.’(2005)*
I keep digressing.
Rachel would find her way back up to the highlands of Ecuador to its capital for a time of rest. While up there, she came regularly into my little office to visit. These visits were among the best intermittent blessings of my time there.
When she came out of the Amazon depths from, in many ways a stone age reality, and then came to visit my studio space, maybe it was partially to help her reconnect with her early life of significant culture. Not that there was any significant culture in my studio other than our mutual love of art and chatting about it together.
Her father Lawrence Saint was after all, one of the world’s most famous leading stain-glass artists of this generation, designing and creating the ‘North Transept Rose Window’ along with 14 others in ‘The Washington National Cathedral.’ I recently had the chance to visit there along with my son Jon. Of course Lawrence Saints artwork spreads and illuminates light down over the heads and into the eyes of many of the worlds most powerful elite in Washington D.C., as they often attend services there and or funerals of fallen dignitaries like themselves.
Rachel would spend these times with me recollecting the beauty of her past and connection to the arts, which she had now very little time to surround herself with, other than the abundance of the natural world. I guess the fact that I was ‘an artist,’ although pretty junior at the time, gave us a bond of connection that was of both encouragement to her and to me.
Later, as a side note, I did have the privilege of teaching a few watercolour workshops to the widows of the 5 slain missionaries. It was and remains a warm memory of our years working there.
All this to say, no matter our position or place in culture or in life, it is a rich heritage to participate in spreading good news everywhere. We all are human beings with needs, lost longing’s that travel with us permeating our souls. In this we need community, to be a small place of refuge for someone to ponder and recollect and feel partially at home, working things out together. I’m much richer for having had those conversations!
*‘End of the Spear’ A true story.’
Salt River Publishing
Tyndale House Publishers Inc.