Now that I’ve had a couple of weeks to process through all that we experienced in Ecuador, I thought I’d explain a little of what we did, saw, and experienced.
Let me start with saying this, good gracious, the God we serve is incredible, I began the week asking God to break my heart for what breaks His, and man, He did just that.
Day One we hit the ground running. We flew out Monday evening, made it to the hotel around 10:30 or so and then we had an early flight on Tuesday, like four am early. Tuesday evening, after some good rest, we went to another hotel for the lowdown for the following day: Muskathlon!
Wednesday, we all participated in the Muskathlon in some way, shape or form, whether volunteering, biking, or walking the half marathon. The race benefited Compassion, A21, and Open Doors. The race began at Manchililla, where less than a year ago, we stood on the land and prayed for the church and project that would one day be there. So here we stood, on this same plot of land, seeing God’s faithfulness. I personally volunteered for the race, my post was at the start line, along with two others from my team and three people that work at Compassion’s offices in Quito. Honestly, this was a super hard day and it kind of sucked at first. We weren’t supposed to have anyone at our station for at least four hours, because the 100k bikers were the only ones that would go by us. So we wasted a lot of time, we wondered through Manchililla, we found the beach and looked at all the fishing boats as the men had just gotten in from fishing. We, Meredith, Jeanie and I, wondered up a road where we could look down on the entire little town. We watched as the little town woke up and everyone got going to their day’s activities. We could see all the kids leaving for school and families’ shops getting ready to open.
Around four hours into being left at our post, some ladies began cooking at the Manchililla project, we wanted to help, but none of us knew Spanish, and none of them knew English, so we just played with their kids. Soon enough, Jovi, the pastor of Momentum’s church in Los Bajos showed up, she told us we could help with some stuff. We figured out the language barrier, I still don’t understand how, Jesus, I guess. So we started putting together these little bowls of rice, plantains, and whatever else. 135 of these meals. We never learned where they were going, they weren’t for Manchililla, because their project wasn’t open yet.
Around 12:45, and we had been at our post since 6am, we were picked up and taken to the finish line where we found the rest of our team. A little while later, we headed out to Puerto Lopez to see another prospective future project. We got the chance to love on, talk to, and feed these kids and families. Side note, the food we put together at Manchililla, was what we gave to these kids! Fun little surprise. Sorry, moving right along.
Thursday, day three, was all about relationships. We sat around tables with directors, pastors, tutors, nutritionists, security guards, everyone that works and volunteers at projects in the area. We learned what they’re passionate about, why they do what they do, we heard their stories, gave them candy, and let them act like kids for the day. A few in the room stood in the front and told us exactly where they were, what they thought, and how they felt during the earthquakes earlier this year. We stood there in that room and worshipped, no one cared what they sounded like or how they looked, but stood arms wide open and worshipped our King together, in two languages. We then stood around each of these people and prayed for them, for their ministry, for the kids they reach daily, and for their families. And when we were done, they made sure we gave them the chance to pray for us. At the end of the day, we got to have a baby shower for our Los Bajos project director, Maribel. I think this was possibly the weirdest and most fun baby shower I’ve ever been to. But it was a blast and she felt treasured and that’s what we wanted to happen.
Friday, we got to go to Los Bajos!!! Finally. I missed that place, and now I’m back to missing it. We were welcomed with signs, a choreographed dance, and a devotion led by Jovi, the pastor. We then got to hear a story from a girl named Cathy. When the earthquake hit, Cathy was in a five story building, she felt the building beginning to shake, but then she blacked out. When we woke up, she was under the rubble of the building and was covered by people, she was on top of people, and she couldn’t move. Cathy could hear people screaming, she kept trying to calm them but they wouldn’t quiet down. They were scared, they were weary, and they were hurting. She explained to us that she over and over would hear, “i just can’t do this anymore,” and they’d stop screaming, they let theirselves die. Even her best friend that she was shopping with said that, and then stopped responding when Cathy would yell her name. A lady began having her baby under this pile of rubble, the fireman found her, but while she was giving birth, she passed away. So many people around Cathy were dying, but she still had hope. She remembered, when she was a compassion child, they would sing all these songs about Jesus. Even though she was far from Jesus at this point in her life, those songs came back to her, she began singing them, screaming the words out, she sang “the blood of Jesus is powerful.”
Worshipping Jesus was the only thing that kept her alive during all those hours. After three days under the rubble, Cathy was pulled out of the rubble. Her own father barely recognized her because she was so swollen. Cathy cried out to Jesus and immediately felt a peace, every wound on her body was healed. After all of this happening to Cathy, she said, “but that wasn’t even the worst part.” Three months after the earthquake, she woke up one morning to the sound of her mom screaming, her mom had walked out the front door and found that her brother had hung himself in a tree in their front yard. He couldn’t handle all that had happened recently. Cathy said this, “I don’t understand all this but I believe God has perfect plans. I have to continue growing in my faith to get back to life. One of the biggest blessings I have is Compassion didn’t leave me. They have continued to help me and I now have a job with Compassion.” Cathy gave me hope, she opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how many hundred bad things can be thrown at you, Jesus is still enough. There is purpose in the pain.
The rest of the day in Los Bajos, we did a VBS, we got to see, play with, and love on all of the kids that we made relationships with last year. We then got the chance to go do home visits, which gives some of our team who have Compassion kids close to the Los Bajos project, the chance to go to their homes and get to see that, it’s a really special time for all of them. When we got back to the project, we did the VBS again, but this time for the adults. They never really get the chance to experience things like this, so we wanted to give them that chance.
Saturday was Child Visit Day! This is the day we get to see, play, and learn about our sponsor children. I got to meet our family’s kid, Danna, last year, but this year I got to share the experience with my dad so that was super different, but also really exciting. We did everything from hammock laying, to swimming, to play-doh animal making. We had lunch together and gave each other gifts. The day went by really quickly but it was so good to see Danna and her mom again and be able to know that they’re okay after the earthquake. Danna didn’t feel very good during lunch, so she fell asleep and stayed asleep all through lunch, which was kind of sad, but it was nice to get to talk to her mom. Having to say goodbyes was super hard, Danna stood right outside and watched me through the glass windows and kept waving and blowing kisses to me, just broke my heart in two.
We got to go back to Los Bajos and attend and help with a graduation ceremony after the child visit day. It was a stressful, yet super fun ceremony. All the plans for it changed after it started, but it was well worth it to see how proud the parents were of their kids. After the ceremony, there was a little market in one of the classrooms at the project with a few parents selling things that they make for a living. I love when they do this because you know these families that you’re supporting, it’s not just a random family you’re buying from.
Sunday’s flights had to get moved around, causing us to change our plans for the whole day, and we had to have a four hour bus ride to a different airport to get on a flight from there back to Quito and still make it on our flight back to Atlanta. I expected the bus ride to be terrible, honestly. But God really broke down all my selfish thoughts and brought me back to the fact that I was there for Him and to show others Him, I wasn’t there for me. I rode on that bus and stared out the window for almost the entire ride, just looking at all the towns and the desert landscapes. He broke my heart on that bus ride, so many tears were shed, God used that bus ride to clear up my mind. He cleared all the things up that I wasn’t sure about with this next season of my life.
All My Love,