Friday, April 19, 2013

Family of Faith

About a month ago, my mother and grandmother came to visit me in Ecuador. They were able to meet the people in my church, get to know my little community here, and learn a bit about Ecuadorian culture. Many of their reactions to different aspects of life here reminded me of my own thoughts and questions upon first arriving. I realized that I now have a confidence and sense of comfort with the ways things work here.

At La Mosaica, a restaurant with a spectacular view of Quito

Throughout the their time here, we not only took some touristy trips, but almost every day we met up with some of my friends or co-workers here. I was so happy to introduce my family to the people I have spent my time with and who have taken care of me here. And my mom and grandma were so gracious and polite despite the language barrier. 

Eating Columbian food with my friends from Columbia and Nigeria

The Sunday they visited my church in Romerillos, Pastora Blanca preached on the verse in 2 Timothy 1:5 that refers to the faith that Paul saw in Timothy but came from his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. It touched me that she used that verse, as I had never thought much about it before. But how applicable it is to my own situation. Both my grandmother and mother planted in me seeds of faith since I was young. They not only encouraged me to attend church on Sundays, but also set an example for me of sincere faith: a desire to read the Bible, a habit of daily prayer, active participation in church and community groups. If I had not had this loving Christian upbringing, I do not know where I would be today.

With my church family in Romerillos

So, thank you, Mom and Grandma, two wonderful examples of strong, confident, and loving women of faith who have inspired me for years and helped me decide to work in the mission field during this chapter of my life. :)

El Boliche National Park, home of my beloved Cotopaxi
Lovely ladies posing at the equator

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Capuli: Reaching Higher

The other day a friend invited me over to her house, as I had some extra time in the town where I teach English. When we arrived, she suggested we pick some berries that I could take home with me. The berry is called, capuli, and it's like a mini cherry. Very yummy when ripe. The capuli tree was huge, and most of the berries were too high up to reach even on my tippy-toes. So my friend brought a big metal barrel for me to stand on. We gradually moved around the tree, her holding the barrel stable while I plucked as many berries as I could reach. At times it seemed like when I spotted a juicy bunch, it was always out of reach. However, we eventually filled a big bucket of capuli and took it to the house to wash.

This experience reminded me of how sometimes we want to choose the easy route, only pick the berries that are within our reach, without going to the trouble of reaching higher. We are tempted to stick with the convenient, simple answer to the problem. But usually we realize later that the easy route does not produce the best results. An effective solution more often than not takes hard work and dedication. Instead of sticking to the fruit at the bottom of the tree, we should start off with a bigger vision, climbing higher to reach the riper fruits at the top.

Lately, I've been a bit discouraged because it seems that our after-school tutoring program is not going well. At first the kids would come running to the church after school to get started. We would have a game, song, or fun activity before beginning the math practice or homework help. The kids appeared to be enjoying the program, and learning. Now for a few weeks less kids have been coming, and arriving late. We asked the teachers why the kids didn't want to come, and they said the kids did not understand what we were doing. Also, it seemed that after a long day in classes, they just wanted to play. And I had been noticing that when the kids did come, they were always distracted by the other students and had no real desire to work.

So the pastor and I have been examining the situation and thinking of alternatives. Right now we don't know yet whether we will discontinue the program and try to start something different, or change it to be more of a help to a few students who are struggling the most. I think many kids need more individual 1-on-1 help than we had been giving them. Somewhere free from distractions, where they could explain their needs and work with a private tutor. Today we are going to the school to talk with the teachers and get their opinion. Please pray that this meeting goes well, and that God would give us guidance as to what to do next with the program. Something clearly needs to change. We are just not sure yet what that is.

We definitely need to look at the bigger picture, and reach higher to get the better fruits at the top of the tree. It won't necessarily be easy, but the end result will be worth it. These kids deserve our best efforts, whether it's a group program or 1-on-1 help. So here's to pulling out that barrel, and climbing higher. And not giving up when we see fruits we can't reach.