“A Way Beyond Death,” by Jemimah Wright recounts the struggles and unceasing missionary work of a married couple, Marcia dos Santos and Edson Suzuki, in the Amazon jungle.
The couple works tirelessly to help the indigenous Indians in the area to combat their own tribal customs of infanticide and suicide, and eventually succeeds at getting new laws enacted to protect indigenous children who are at risk.
Facing challenges ranging from illnesses, threat from wild animals like jaguars, and sometimes even from those whom they are trying to help, Marcia and Edson rely on their faith in incredible situations.
Marcia describes her first encounter with the Surawahá as she and her husband prepare to live in the tribe’s community.
“Immediately they started to inspect me. They couldn’t tell if I was a man or a woman under all my clothes. I had hands grabbing me from every direction. The Surawahá were so intrigued by me that they wanted to take my clothes off to ins pet me more. As quickly as they tried to peel away my clothing, I put it back on.”
After that embarrassing welcome, the tribe celebrates the couple’s arrival by dancing all night.
In her first week there, Marcia learns of the tribe’s suicide custom: “If a person has no value among the Suruwahá or is not liked, when that person eats kunaha he or she is left to die. But if the person is much-loved, then everyone does all they can to bring the person back.”
Her first experience with this happens when an 18-year-old boy sucks the poisonous juice from the root, giving his desperate family only 30 minutes to save him. When the family gives up, accepting the boy’s death, they leave him alone, but while Suzuki continues to pray over him, he gasps and starts breathing again.
The book is well-written, and engaging. In fact, it is difficult to put it down because the challenges the couple faces are so interesting and difficult to imagine. I wanted to finish the book as quickly as possible to find out what would happen next.