Jim Tingler: ITEC

Jim Tingler is the Director for Administration of a missions support organization called ITEC, or Indigenous Peoples Technology and Education Center, based in Dunnellon, Florida. ITEC has a fascinating origin story and a very cool mission.

Outline of the Discussion

  • ITEC’s focus is: Developing, Equipping, and Training. They develop equipment that can be used by indigenous Christians, equip them with the tools and skills needed to acquire, use, and maintain them, and train them in how to use them.
  • ITEC was founded by Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, who was a missionary pilot to the jungles of eastern Ecuador in the 1950s. Nate was killed while trying to reach the Waorani tribe with the Gospel. Nate’s sister Rachel subsequently reached them and spent her life with them. Steve grew up spending summers with his aunt among the tribe that killed his father.
  • Steve had a serious injury about 7 years ago that left him partially disabled (he’s now a “incomplete quadriplegic,” he still has limited use of his arms and legs.) Jim suggested a series of videos on Steve’s life since his injury called “The Next Chapter.”
  • At the time that Nate Saint died, the Waorani tribe (known as Auca, meaning “naked savage” to the outside world) was considered the most violent tribe to have ever lived in human history, with a homicide rate exceeding 60%.
  • The cultural divide can present a challenge in that our intentions to help indigenous peoples can end up having unintended negative consequences.
  • After his aunt Rachel died, the Waorani asked Steve to come down and live with them as she had. They wanted him to teach them how to do the things that the missionaries had always done for them.
  • Equipping the Waorani to take care of themselves, with modern dentistry and medicine, enables them to pick up the mantle of the Great Commission and spread the Gospel among other villages in their tribe.
  • It’s unrealistic to send volunteers down to the jungle as they are available to provide for the needs of indigenous people. The goal of ITEC is to help those people help each other.
  • A couple interesting things that ITEC has developed are a portable dental chair for use in the jungle, and a powered parachute that is cheaper and easier to train to use in the jungle than a traditional small airplane.
  • ITEC is also working on UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) to deliver packages into remote places.
  • ITEC has a vehicle called the Maverick, which is a fully functional road vehicle that also functions as a powered parachute with a short takeoff distance.
  • The biggest thing ITEC wants Christians to understand is “the great omission,” that we need to include indigenous people in our goals of carrying out The Great Commission.
  • A short term missions trip should be less of “what can we give?” and more of “what can we train?”
  • We can be much more effective in our use of financial resources by not just giving away what people need indefinitely. Jim gives the example of a natural disaster to demonstrate the value of beginning with a simple giving model initially to help people through the challenges of losing necessities (relief), but then moving on to a rehabilitation, and finally moving to development. Don’t get stuck in the relief state forever.
  • One thing ITEC has done in Ecuador that is very helpful is to develop a “Wao Vision” travel experience. The Waorani tribe hosts tourists and gives them an authentic experience of life in the Amazon jungle.
  • They currently engage in five training programs, and are adding a sixth soon. They train indigenous people in dentistry, medical work, mechanical (small engine repair and maintenance,) vision enhancement (eyeglasses,) and video production. They are soon adding agricultural training to maximize the efficiency of resources available to the people.
  • Watch the ITEC website for their podcast called “Mission Minded,” launching this month!

Additional Resources

  • ITEC website
  • Free Resources from ITEC – “Missions Dilemma” Video Series by Steve Saint, and free downloadable ebook “The Great Omission.”
  • The Next Chapter – a video series about Steve Saint’s life since his life-changing injury — Youtube Playlist

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