Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's not rotten, it's chocolate!

I realized today that I have gone over a year without doing a post on my work with the little kids of my community – in the childcare center. Once a week I go to the center to help out with the kids, from 6 months to 4 years old. I usually don’t have a specific job, and I just float around, doing random tasks. This normally includes encouraging kids to eat during meal times, cleaning tables, wiping snot from kids’ faces, breaking up fights, singing silly songs, and holding crying babies. But it’s not all work. There are the precious moments, too. Like when you arrive and all the kids shout, “BEEEECKY!!” and pummel you. And when a three-year-old guy whispers to you, “Sit by me, Becky. Because you’re my friend.” Of course, no day lacks its funny kid quotes either. Today the older group had bananas for snack, and one boy showed me his brown damaged fruit, saying, “I want a new one. Look, it’s rotten.” To which another child nonchalantly replied, “It’s not rotten. It’s chocolate.” I couldn’t stop from laughing before getting him a good banana. All together it makes for a fun but exhausting day.

Although many of these kids are not from the richest families, they have taught me so much about being content with what you have. They always have clothes on their back, shoes on their feet, and food to eat. That is what is most important. Simple sticks and pieces of paper can be transformed into awesome superheroes and fierce tigers by the power of imagination. Not to say that none of the kids have toys, because that is not true. It’s just that there is very little pouting and tantrums because of not having the latest Barbie or LEGO toy. Their innocent joy is contagious. Kids here can see the good in every situation, and imagine the most humble object to be a something cool and fun. They can see the chocolate in a rotten banana.

Probably the most rewarding part about working at the childcare center is seeing how the kids are learning and growing. One day my four-year-old buddy came up to me and I saw that his shoes were untied. I offered to help him, like I had done many times in the past. This time, however, he said, “No. I can do it.” And I watched patiently, smiling to myself, as he tied those shoes. I was so proud of my little Jofre! Four of the oldest kids at the center when I first started coming have now moved on to school. It’s sad not seeing them anymore, but I am happy knowing that they are learning new and exciting ideas as big kids! The niños here have so much potential, and I can’t wait to see where they all end up years down the road. 

So take a lesson from the kids: let's not forget to see the positive in every situation. Because even when life seems rotten, God leaves a little chocolate just for us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time with the Guys

About a month ago, my dad and brother came to see me. And I've been so busy ever since, I haven't been able to tell you about it! During their time here, which was just a little over one week, they got to see many diverse and beautiful parts of Ecuador.

The first few days, we stayed in Romerillos in my apartment and helped out with a mission team that was working with a Methodist church in Pastocalle. I mainly worked with the Vacation Bible School while Harry and Dad did some construction work on the new school.

On Saturday, we finally did something I've been waiting to do ever since I arrived in Ecuador.....climbing Cotopaxi!! This snow-capped volcano is the second-highest in Ecuador, and only about 45 minutes from my town (although based on the view it looks a lot closer). About 12 people from the church took the journey with us, hiking up to the snow.

Following a lovely service in Pastocalle on Sunday, we traveled to Quito. There we saw some of the city...

We took a day-trip to Mindo, a humid jungle town (that's not really in the jungle) famous for its butterflies and the ancient quetzal bird. 

Another day we went to Papallacta, a well-known town for its natural hot springs. My friend Chika came along with us. 

I superbly enjoyed the time I had with the two Harry's! It's always fun experiencing Ecuador again through a newcomer's eyes. Now they just need to work on their Spanish so I don't have to translate for them next time! :p

Friday, September 6, 2013

These are the Sounds of Romerillos

As I sit on my roof on a warm afternoon, I hear:

Birds tweeting contently.
Trucks rumbling by.
Women slapping wet clothes on a rock.
Dogs barking, protecting territory.
A knock on the store, a vender!
Car alarms beeping incessantly.
These are the sounds of Romerillos.
These are the sounds of a small mountain town.

I smell:
Smoke from a neighbor's fire, burning branches.
Corn tortilla patties being cooked to sell.
Cow manure as the herd passes by.
Fresh pine air that fills up the lungs.
Onions frying in butter.
These are the scents of Romerillos.
These are the scents of a small mountain town.

I see:
Clothes hanging out to dry.
Workers planting onions in the field.
Children leaving school with backpacks in hand.
Trees, grass, plants, everywhere green.
A newly-painted house shimmering white in the sun.
Cows grazing lazily in the pasture.
These are the sights of Romerillos.
These are the sights of a small mountain town.

I taste:
The chicken soup my neighbor made last night.
Morocho with its milky corn texture.
Pancito and coffee for an evening snack.
Fresh claudias and peras from the market.
A sugar cane candy given to me by a friend.
These are the flavors of Romerillos.
These are the flavors of a small mountain town.

I feel:
The sun on my back.
A warm breeze on my face.
A car tire's vibrations on the road.
The cold cement of my house's walls.
The soft fur of a stray puppy.
The calmness of life.
These are the feelings of Romerillos.
These are the feelings of a small mountain town.

I hear, smell, see, taste, and feel. I am a part of this small mountain town.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jesús es mi Superhéroe

The word salvation always reminds me of a knight in shining armor dashing onto the scene to save the princess, or Clark Kent rescuing Smallville with his super-strength powers and lightning speed. In our society that is so filled with fantasy films, romanticized stories, and unrealistic endings, we all dream of a perfect world where a superhero comes in to solve our problems. But in the end we know that it is fiction. Not real.

Recently in Sunday school with the kids at my church, we talked about Jesus being our Superhero. No, he doesn’t fly with a long blue cape, scale walls, or drive a fast car, but he is so much more. He has the qualities we fantasize about in a superhero: power, bravery, a desire to help people, a passion to do good in the world. And even more than that, he gives us love and grace. Jesus came to save the world, not only in the individual sense, transforming hearts, but also in a social justice sense, transforming society.

The salvation that Christ brought to the world comes through knowing and accepting Him and his eternal love for us (all of humanity). But it also comes through realizing his call for justice, for being a neighbor, for reaching out to the suffering. Only transforming hearts would leave us with a world of people on fire for Jesus, praising and worshiping Him, while some still struggled to make ends meet, and others still exploited workers through corporal greed. Likewise, only transforming society would mean that everyone would be treated fairly and would have enough to be content and live on, but have a spiritual emptiness inside.

This is the reason why we as Christians need to realize the importance of integral mission. Both sharing the gospel through preaching and teaching, and working to render ineffective the systemic injustices in our world, are equally vital to being an effective witness to Christ. In the Methodist tradition, we declare a commitment to both personal and social holiness. This means that our church focuses both on having a personal relationship with the trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit), and living out our faith by working to solve the social problems of the world.

For me, salvation represents our hope in something or someone greater than ourselves who will redeem us from our mistakes, imperfections, and the general messiness of life. It is searching for a savior from the pain and injustice in the world, and finding that Jesus is the answer. That when we put our faith in Him, he will work through us to change the world that is plagued by sin and inequality. It is knowing that in all this mess, there is an answer. The answer is not a superhero who comes to fight off villains through violent methods, but one who comes to create a new world through peace and love.

As Glory E. Dharmaraj says in her book Concepts of Mission, “Salvation is not only forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, but transformation of the structural evils of society which perpetually keep the people of God under dehumanizing conditions.” When we talk of conversion, then, let us not speak only of a conversion of the heart, but also of the mind and way of thinking. Let us decide when accepting Christ as our Savior, to put our faith into action to transform society. As a noble superhero would do, let us courageously fight for truth and light to be brought to our world.