Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Update: Mission Teams and Traveling

Now that it's July, it's summer vacation here! Woo-hoo! This means I am not spending most of my week teaching English and doing the after-school program. Since I have a lot of extra time, I have been helping with several mission teams that have come down from the states. Two groups have come from South Carolina, and this week, one comes from Wisconsin. Mainly I have been translating for the groups, and helping with the work. They have worked in Pijal doing construction on a dining area for the kids' program, as well as doing a vacation Bible school for about 85 kids. Here are some picture highlights:

The first team from John Wesley UMC, Charleston

With Vanessa, a short-term VIM (volunteer-in-mission)

Visiting Cuicocha Lake on our day off
With David and Santiago, two youth from Pijal

Second team from various UMC's in Charleston district

Marjorie, local church girl helping us paint

Hard at work

With pastors Alonso & Laura and their daughter at the wedding
At the park with the kids

Teaching the Ecuadorians how to "bowl"

Translating Pastor Scott's sermon

Hanging out with the teenage girls of the group

In addition to spending a couple of weeks with the groups, I am trying to use this time to travel to some different churches on the request of the pastors (they all want me to come see their church and/or help out in some way!). The first stop was El Refuerzo, where Sara had planned a mini-training for the congregation about mapping their community (which I learned in YAM training!). Afterwards we were graciously invited to visit the farm of one of the church members.

Kids presenting their ideas of the community's needs
Two of the girls in Sunday school
Picking cocoa right off the bush!
Hanging out under the banana trees
So that's what I have been up to the past month. Working with the teams has been super fun, and I'm hoping to visit more churches in August. Also, the second week of August we're doing Vacation Bible School here in my town. Please keep us in your prayers as we plan. May the Lord bless you this summer!

~ John 15:5 ~

Monday, July 15, 2013

Praying Whenever and Wherever

Prayer is such a powerful thing. Though I have heard numerous talks about prayer in the past few years, I think the idea that stuck with me most is this: Prayer is not a ritual. It doesn't have to be done at a specific time of day, nor a particular place. God doesn't place requirements on us, just that we come before Him with an open and honest heart. There are many times when we are worried, and think "what in the world am I going to do?". The simple and beautiful answer: pray. Other times we will be walking through the park on afternoon, exhilarated by the warm sun and smiling flowers. What should we do? Pray. Or when we've just had an ugly argument with our mother or significant other? Pray. It may seem too easy and we don't often see immediate results, but prayer does make a difference. God is listening to our heart's cry in every moment. Sometimes we don't even realize how God speaks to us through answered prayers.


I have recently been inspired by the community of prayer by which I am surrounded. In several instances I did not even think about praying, and a companion suggested it or just began praying out of natural habit. It made me really think about what it means to want to be in the presence of God all the time, to have a conversation with Him as we would a friend.

Last week as I was finishing my English class, I went downstairs to eat lunch with the kids. Now, I almost always eat lunch at the school, but usually I wait about half an hour until the line goes down. I take advantage of the quiet empty classroom to grade the homework assignments of my last class before braving the craziness of the cafeteria (FYI: there is no cafeteria duty here!). However, on this day, I didn't have homework to grade, and I needed to leave sooner, so I went down to eat immediately after the bell rang. To my surprise, one of the ladies who works in the kitchen was praying with the students. It turns out that she prays with every class before serving them their lunch. This act of love and example to the students touched me. Although this is a Methodist school, the kids have not received regular Christian education classes. Yet this small act of sharing faith reminded me of the impact we can have on children through our words and actions, however small.

Just a few days ago, we were in Quito for a two-day workshop on Christian education. I roomed with Blanca, the pastor I work with, and Laura, a pastor at another Methodist church. I love spending time with these ladies. Though Laura is married with two kids, and our life circumstances are very different, I feel a strong connection with her. (In September we went to Peru together for a retreat, and she was one of my first friends here!). I am constantly inspired by both Laura and Blanca in their devoted prayer life. Each morning that we were together we gathered to pray to start the day. One of us would share a devotion (from the Upper Room or a Bible verse), and we would ask God's blessing on this day. In Peru we also prayed to go to sleep. This reminds me of how my parents would pray with me as a child before going to bed. We were not doing it as an obligation, but out of a desire to thank God for everything he had given us in this day.


Prayer is radical. Prayer changes things. When we trust completely in our heavenly Father, we are giving up the need to worry or complain. We are submitting ourselves to His will, allowing Him to have control over our lives. Only then can God work in us and through us. So pray, pray, pray. And believe that God answers our prayers in His perfect timing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Place to Call Home

During the past two years I have not lived in the United States for more than a few months. After graduating from Hope College, I went to Costa Rica, where I took a couple of excellent courses through YWAM that prepared me for long-term mission work. Then, last September, almost a year ago, I found myself on a new continent, and in a new culture. Though I already spoke the language of Ecuador, there were many things I had to learn about life here.

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post about the concept of "home" (to go to my old blog post click here). Recently I have been reflecting more on what home means to me. As someone who has done a lot of traveling, it can be difficult to feel at home or have a sense of home in new places. But I have found that after a while, one becomes accustomed to the town, the culture, and the people, and a place that once seemed foreign transforms into a comfortable, warm, and safe place. It becomes home.

My first two months in Ecuador was one of the hardest times for me. I felt lonely and helpless. I didn't have friends here, I could hardly find my way around the city, and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing here. I spent much of my time reading or walking around by myself after my Spanish classes. Then after making some friends and starting to work more, I began to branch out and learn more. I gradually find my comfort zone. Once again I had to adjust when I moved from Quito to the small pueblo where I'm now living. It was awkward at first, trying to coordinate my schedule and meet my neighbors (who were probably wondering what the young American girl was doing here!).

However, now when I think about leaving this beautiful country and my amazing community and church, it makes me sad. I don't want to think about it. The people I have met here, especially the children, have touched my heart. How can I leave the niños who always are so happy to see me, who visit me in the evenings to ask for homework help and play games? Whose faces are full of innocent joy and laughter?

Something I have always believed is that wherever you are, you should be all there. Be fully present where you are. There are days here in Romerillos where I feel like I have done nothing as far as work goes, but then I think about the time I spent talking with two girls in my house, the conversation I had with the señora who sold me rice and eggs at the store, and I know that this is ministry. This is God working through me. And I am thankful for those moments. Those moments have helped me feel at home here. Though I will not always be here, I will embrace the place God had given me now, a place to call home.