Monday, August 19, 2013

Vacation Bible School

It's summer, and that means Vacation Bible School!! I have always loved helping out at my local church's VBS, whether teaching a class, doing music, or helping with crafts. So now working at a Methodist Church in Ecuador that had never had a VBS before, I knew we had to do it. Vacation Bible School is tons of fun for the kids, they learn all about Jesus' love for us, and discover that church can be a cool place. So, after weeks of planning and preparing, this week we had the first Vacation Bible School ever at my local church here in Romerillos. Despite the constant mob of kids running around, the daily changing of plans, and the general craziness, I think it was a success.

The little ones playing "duck, duck, goose"
Explaining to the kids about today's song

One important lesson I have learned here in Ecuador is that money does not equal success. It isn't necessary to have fancy backdrops, pricey crafts, and themed t-shirts to have a great Bible school. As we were a bit limited in resources, volunteers, and time available, we did the simple version. We bought lesson booklets, picked out fun songs about God's love, planned easy crafts (mostly with materials we already had in the church), and asked church members to bring the snack each day.

Enjoying snack time
Three of the oldest girls

Not ever having done a program like this before, the pastor and I didn't know how many kids to expect. We were excited to see around 25-30 kids show up each day. Some even brought friends or siblings the following day, and on the last day the kids said they didn't want it to be over!

Passing an orange down the line using only your neck
Lesson time!

Although it was a very busy and at times stressful week, I believe that everyone involved learned something and grew in new ways, especially me. The kids learned about God's love, and have found the church to be a welcoming place for them. Some might start coming to regular church services. Also, the congregation really came together, many people, especially the youth, helping with various aspects of the school. Thanks to everyone who helped in any way!

Pastor Blanca caring for our littlest participant
The "jovenes" playing music during snack time

All the kids and helpers on the last day

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ecuadorian Weddings

Since coming to Ecuador, I have attended three Christian weddings. The biggest differences I have noticed compared to American weddings are: way longer, way more food, and way more talking. In the following section I will explain the beauty and mystery of Ecuadorian weddings.

The basic style of weddings here is the same, just extended (typically they last 2-3 hours). The bride wears a white Western-style dress, and the groom a suit. 

There are bridesmaids and groomsmen, decorations, processional, and a reception afterward. 

However, there are also some noteworthy distinctions:
Instead of a flower girl, in Christian weddings here there is usually a young child who carries in the Bible, as well as a boy and girl who together bring in the rings. 

Sometimes, instead of throwing birdseed or rice on the happy couple, we throw rose petals!

There is a designated time for worship during the ceremony, during which a praise band and/or guest musicians play a few numbers, everyone singing along.

The pastor will actually preach a message, having to do with the commitment and love required in a marriage, before initiating the marriage ceremony.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen, instead of standing in front with the couple-to-be, are positioned in the aisle, making an arch of flowers as the rest of the party enters. 

Words of the parents: before or after the vows are exchanged, the parents of the new husband and wife, as well as the godparents, are asked to give words of wisdom or encouragement for the new couple.

No dancing. In Christian weddings here, there is not dancing. Sad, right? Since dancing here is associated with drinking, it is looked down upon in many Christian families. There is sure to be music at the reception, but just for listening and clapping. 

More food than any human being could possibly eat in one sitting. At the first wedding I attended here, I could not believe the amount of food we received. First came a huge bowl of soup, which was enough to fill me. Then came an enormous plate of meat and potatoes, including literally a third of a chicken and steak. Later I was relieved when the servers came around with to-go baggies for everyone. Apparently no one expects you to finish it all. Finally, the cake. The bride and groom usually cut it and hand it out to the guests, but there is no smashing cake in each other’s face.

 More toasts. In addition to the family members and those in the wedding party, any guest who wishes to publicly congratulate or well wish the new couple is welcome and encouraged to. Tis all very lovely, but makes for a seriously long day, and often, night. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013


***This entry begins a new series of posts focusing on children in my community. Each story will tell about one child's life from his or her own perspective. My hope is that this will allow my readers to see and experience the daily realities for these children, the joys and the struggles. (For confidentiality's sake, I have changed the names of the children I will be writing about). Please keep these niños in your prayers. They are very special to me and God has a purpose for each of them.


With an angry look on her face
She turned away and hid from me
The first time I entered her home.

Go feed the dog! her mother yelled
Reluctantly, she obeyed
Trudging her feet, eyes downcast.

Without a word she stood gazing at us,
As we spoke to her mama
Fidgeting with a pencil in her hands.

Each day she arrives at school at 7 AM,
Trying her best to learn, but
Distracted by life's problems.

She sees the letters but confuses the words.
Other kids say she can't, that's she's stupid
But I tell her she can.

At home she has to work, too.
Feeding the animals, digging onions,
cooking meals when her mother cannot.

Feeling the pressure to be an adult,
At times she runs off to escape the toil
To just be a kid for a few hours.

Returning home, she fears the pala and hortiga,
And the angry words of her mama.
She cries herself to sleep, full of guilt and defeat.

She just wants to play with her friends. 

Her thoughts of shirked responsibilities and
The time she doesn't have fill her mind
As she tunes out the teacher's lecture on long division.

She steals money from the family savings
To buy candy she can't afford
And go on class field trips without permission.

She just wants to be loved.

Lonely being the only child in the house,
She needs someone to talk to, someone to listen.
She needs someone to confide in.

She is nine years old.
No one remembered her birthday.
She tries so hard to do what's right.

She just needs to feel important to someone. 

But there is hope.
Now her mama is getting better.
Everything is calmer and pleasanter.
She helps in the kitchen, caring for her every need,
Hoping for a new chance, a new beginning.

They came to church again this week.
Both of them smiling, content.
Her mother can walk again. 
Lord, you are healing them.