My Journey in Ecuador
Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again."--Author unknown
After a very long bus ride back from the beach (9 hours), we had much to do in a 24-hour period as some of us were getting ready to head back to our homes in the United States. Last minute packing and souvenir shopping as well as cleaning our apartments consumed that short amount of time. Our last night together in Quito was spent at the Jensen's house eating one last amazing meal Marlo cooked for us. This night was incredibly bittersweet for us as we don't know when we would see each other again and just remembering all the good times we've had. After dinner we watched a slideshow Bryan made overlooking the semester. It was awesome to see how far we've come from that first day of orientation at Christy's house. Memories came pouring in of some of the awesome things we did. For example: zip-lining in Mindo in the pouring rain for 3 hours, straddling two hemispheres at once at Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), home-stays, getting foamed at Banos for Carnival weekend, our missions experience in Misahualli, and last but not least debrief in Same. This, of course, is just a few of the many things we experienced over the semester.
Friday morning we got up early to say goodbye to the Cornerstone students as well as Caleb. Watching the car pull away was hard but knowing this isn't the last time we will see each other made it a little easier. This was only the first of many goodbyes as I was the last one to leave the beautiful city of Quito. Later that night we said another goodbye as Sharon (Trinity) was off for her long trip back to the States. There is no better way to drown your sorrows than by eating McDonald's and watching movies at Christy's house until you fall asleep.
Saturday morning we hosted some semi-unexpected guests who are in town for a Youth World wedding this coming weekend. The apartment was once again filled with craziness with 5 new girls and it seemed like the semester was back in full swing! With it being the last day in town, Liz and I found ourselves doing last minute packing and our portion of the cleaning. Before we knew it, it was time to bring Liz to the airport. And then there was one. Seeing Liz leave brought my own emotions up as I knew in a little more than 12 hours I would be the one in her position. Leaving Liz behind at the airport was very sad as I realized that yes, this is really happening and we're all not leaving for a weekend get-away and will be back in a few days.
Sunday morning came very quickly, and it was finally my turn to go to the airport. As one last hurrah I finished packing without electricity and was out the door in no time. The car ride went by way too fast and before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to the people as well as the city I've grown to know and love. After some confusion in the Quito airport, crying for a good 45 minutes at the gate, and 10 long hours of traveling, I finally made it home to CO and was greeted by my loving parents.
Getting readjusted to the American culture has been difficult but good. I'll never take the luxuries of being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, continuous hot water showers, and clean water from the tap again! Not being the tallest one around for miles and being able to understand everything being said to me has been awesome! As I continue in this "fun" stage and move on to the other stages of readjusting, I hope I can apply the things I've learned over the past 3 months.
Thank you again for all your support over the last 3 months. It has certainly been a journey I will never forget and I know God will use it for greatness not only in my life but also in the lives of others.
April 21, 2011
Wow, these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of events! If you remember from my last post, we got back from the jungle and less than 24 hours later we were on another bus headed to the coast for four days. Sunday night what we thought would be a relatively "speedy" bus ride turned into nine hours. After a long night and finally arriving at 7:30 am, we ate some breakfast and then slept for a few hours before hitting the waves.
We spent a lot of time having fun but we also talked about how we've grown (spiritually, emotionally, physically) over the semester. It was amazing to see all that God has done not only in our own lives but also in the lives of my new friends. Each person has been a blessing in my life in one way or another and for that I am truly thankful to God. I know He placed them in my life for a reason and I'm so glad we were able to share this experience together. These last few days in Quito are bittersweet as I've come to love so many things about this city. Most of the students are leaving tomorrow which means today is very busy spending time packing and doing last-minute things as the community we have built. I would not change anything for the opportunities I've had here for the world and am very thankful for all the support I've gotten from my family and friends.
Please pray for safety as we will all be traveling back to the States in the next few days. Pray that our re-entry will go smoothly as it will take us some time to maybe not completely fit back into the culture we came from. Pray that our fruits we have learned here may be brought into our new life, wherever that may take us.
Thank you for taking time to follow me in my journey and I look forward to talking to each and every one of you more when I return. May God continue to bless you as you have been a blessing in my life.
April 16, 2011
We safely made it back from the jungle yesterday afternoon and haven't had a chance to slow down since then! Here is a quick overview of what our experience was like!
This past week the Semester Abroad students and staff took a missions experience to Misahualli, Ecuador, a small town in the jungle (about four hours from Quito). While there we worked with an organization called “It’s all about Jungle Kids.” The organization was started a few years ago by a missionary couple, Roberto and Charmai, who felt God calling them to help care for and educate kids in the jungle. With three children of their own and no school nearby, they decided to home school their children as well as start a boarding school for students in the area. Roberto is very involved with their church as well as working with other remote communities in the jungle. Through this, Roberto and Charmai ended up basically adopting a number of children who had been abandoned by their mothers because they weren’t able to take care of them. There are eleven children all together living with Robert and Charmai. There are two missionary teachers who are teaching the students who range from kindergarten to sixth grade.
Each morning we had the opportunity of serving Roberto and Charmai by helping out with some work that needed to be done on their property. As their organization is growing, they are running out of space to house the students and missionary teachers as well as their own family. They are in the very beginning stages of building a new boarding house so we were able to help out with that a little bit. Because their property is in the jungle and very open, it is hard for them keep other people from wandering in and stealing work tools, fruit, etc. Our team helped out by making huge concrete posts in order for a door to be placed at both entrances. Though the work was very difficult to do in the heat and humidity, we were able to complete the tasks set before us. Each student brought their strengths to the group, whether it was doing more of the physical labor or simple tasks such as getting supplies, holding things until they were needed, or encouraging others in their work.
Due to hurting my back before leaving for the jungle, I was unable to do most of the harder physical labor. Instead I was able to help out at the school doing a number of different things including helping the older students study for their math midterm as well as grading the tests once they were taken and helping the younger students during their ESL class. Though I was upset I wasn’t able to work with my friends, I loved building relationships with the students and learning more about their stories. I also had the opportunity to talk to one of the teachers and learn more about why he felt called to leave his life behind in the States and come serve a jungle community.
After each morning of physical labor, we had the opportunity of going into a smaller community and lead a vacation Bible school program. Our team separated into groups and each took on a task to lead. Liz and I were put in charge of leading the crafts for the kids. As a group, we decided on the topic of the Prodigal Son with each day focusing on a different character of the story. We started out the program by singing a few songs in Spanish and then performing a short drama to get the kids thinking. The kids then broke into three groups based on their ages and rotated to games, a Bible lesson, or crafts. The first day was a little rough, as we had no idea what to expect. After getting a feel of the group dynamics and having a little better idea of what was going on, things ran smoothly and the kids seemed learn and really appreciate the time we spent with them. We ended the program with more songs (the only three we knew in Spanish) and playing/watching an intense soccer game.
The last full day in the jungle we took about a thirty-minute canoe ride to a remote community where we only had fifteen students. The team had decided on which day we were going to repeat and instead of having the students break into groups we did one big group. I enjoyed having the smaller group because I was able to see the program as a whole instead of just from the perspective of crafts. The smaller group felt more intimate as we had one adult per kid. After the program, we were able to talk with the teacher (the VBS program was put on during school hours) as well as Roberto and find out a little more about the community. We learned that many of the kids are malnourished because there simply isn’t enough food and the parents don’t make enough money to feed all of their kids. At the age of twelve or thirteen, many of the girls are married off and have multiple kids by their late teens. Roberto and Charmai are in the process of adopting a few kids from that community because their mothers were too young to take care of them. It was heartbreaking to hear about the dynamic of community and that it’s a never-ending cycle. Roberto and Charmai hope to get a few missionaries in the community to help out in the school and with the people as a whole.
After getting back from our last day of VBS, we rented some tubes and rode down the river. It was quite the experience as there were about fifteen of us going. There were some points during our trip were we had to be careful because of the rapids and a few people flipped over but otherwise we all made it. We stopped in the middle of the trip to take a little climb up to see an amazing waterfall. It was incredible to see the beauty God has created for us that we don't even know exists! I am continuously amazed everyday of how incredibly beautiful this country is.
This missions experience was like one I’ve never had and was very eye opening. It made me fall more in love with the country of Ecuador and working with indigenous communities. I was able to talk to Roberto a little more about “It’s all about Jungle Kids” and found out there are in the process of looking for a few more teachers for their school. It was very encouraging and powerful to hear Robert and Charmai’s story and to see the passion they have for these kids as well as the community. The needs in the community are great but little by little their organization is making a huge difference. Will I find myself working in this community in the near future? Not sure, but I'd be more than willing to serve there if that's where God is calling me.
I cannot believe the semester has come to an end, and it's almost time to go back to the U.S. I know this will not be my last trip to Ecuador but for now it's time to say ciao.
28 days until graduation!
April 6, 2011
Where to begin...
I realize now that waiting almost two weeks to write my next post probably wasn't the smartest thing, but I will do my best to update you as best as possible. Here we go!
At the beginning of last week I spent recovering from our climb up Pichincha the weekend before.
This past Sunday the study abroad students had the privilege of going to Brad and Sandi Miller's (Youth World missionaries) house for a very late brunch. The food was amazing and the fellowship was pretty good too. Phil Payne (the director of semester abroad) safely arrived in Quito for a few weeks so we were able to catch him up on all that has happened in the last few months. Monday and Tuesday night were crazy as we had people over for dinner. Tuesday night was very special as we had my roommate Chelsea's host parents over for pizza. Gus and Vero (Veronica) are two of the most incredible, godly people I have met since my time in Quito (and believe me, I have met a ton). They are not able to have children of their own but have an incredible passion for hosting college students studying in Quito. After much food, many laughs, and a Liga game, Gus sat us all down and gave a little goodbye speech (all in Spanish of course). There wasn't a dry eye from the students (though some probably wouldn't admit to it) as we look back on the incredible ten weeks we've been here and the people who have shaped this experience. After wiping the tears away, Gus and Vero presented each of us with little gifts: matching Liga bracelets and Spanish bookmarks with Bible verses on them. "Si ustedes creen, recibirán todo lo que pidan en oración." "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." --Mt. 21:22 Amen!
This week is my last at my internship at Alliance. I didn't realize how bittersweet this week would be. I have learned so much since being at Alliance and have met some incredible people. I was able to take a picture with the social skills group I co-led with my supervisor. I have to admit I almost lost it when one of the students (who I also see on a weekly basis for individual counseling) ended the group in prayer, thanking God for sending me to Alliance to help them learn. How precious! I will dearly miss these students and wish them the best as they continue their education at Alliance (or wherever the Lord leads them).
The students and staff at Alliance have taught me many things, especially when it comes to different cultures. I appreciate having the experience of working in such a diverse school. Though I by no means completely understand the culture, I know enough to appreciate it in the event I work with the Latin American population in the future. I think the biggest thing I will miss about Alliance is the group of Ecuadorian women I have been eating lunch with. They did an amazing job of making me feel welcomed and including me in their conversations... even though they were usually in Spanish and I sometimes couldn't understand! I know these last three weeks will be very emotional as I prepare to say goodbye to a country I've grown to deeply care about!
This Sunday starts two weeks of craziness as we will be in the jungle for six days, be back in Quito for 24 hours, and then head to the coast for four days to debrief. While in the jungle town of Mishuallí we will be leading a three day vacation Bible school for the kids. Please pray we may remember the true reason for us being there--to serve God and His people! It is very easy for us to get caught up in making sure everything runs smoothly and that we receive satisfaction from the work we are doing while bringing as many people to Christ as possible but at the end of the day, that's not why we are here. Also pray for safety and health (especially with my unknown kidney problem) not only for those of us going on this missions experience but for the people of Mishuallí.
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