Completed Projects and Hasta Luego

It is so hard to believe that tomorrow night at this time we will be on our flight back to the States.  It seems like we just got here and at the same time it feels like we have known our team and the wonderful people at Cristo for so much longer than just twelve days.

We had another full schedule for our last day at Cristo.  It was so great to see some of our projects completed!  Due to some rain, the roof project will be completed next week.

  • Two sets of shelves
  • Table
  • Closet/cabinet
  • Guitar stand and shelves
  • Skylights in Sunday school rooms and hallway
  • Two children’s programs
  • Abuelito’s (elderly) program

As awesome as it is to see our checklist completed, it cannot even compare to the non-tangible projects (relationships) that were formed that I hope never have a completion date. I cannot wait to see how these relationships will grow and flourish in God’s amazing love.

This has been with me since before we even landed in Quito and it hasn’t left me so I think that means I am supposed to share. Because I learned long ago it doesn’t work for me to argue or ignore God, I will share.  As we flew over Panama and into Ecuador at night I could see the cities and at 39,000 ft they all look the same.  I could see the bright lights and possibly some roadways, but none of the things that divide or separate us.  I wondered if that was how the Heavenly Father see us, His children.  Did He see us as I saw the cities so far below, lights shining bright for the world to see?  God answered my question with a very clear and resounding YES.  God spoke through smiles, tears, laughs, devotions, and prayers to reinforce the message that we are all His children and worthy of dignity and love.  He used this time together to show us that while we are from different countries and cultures His love for us is the same.  God’s love was visible in the joy of the children, the laughter of the youth, and in the twinkling eyes of the abuelitos as we played balloon volleyball.  I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me during our devotionals. It was like the words from an old Wendy and Willy song, “Never accuse the Heavenly Father of not having perfect timing.” It seemed like the words of the Rev. Lourdes’ messages were speaking straight to my heart. Others expressed the same feeling.  It is awesome how God can meet each of us exactly where we are!  God sees our heart our light that shines the same regardless of country, language, culture, or any other ways that can divide us.

I know I speak for the entire team when I say, ¡Muchas Gracias! Thank you for your prayers!!  Thank you for all support you have given us to be able to have such an amazing mission experience!  It was truly life changing.  With some of us attempting Spanish, some of us attempting English, and a lot of gesturing we were able to accomplish many works for the glory of God.  May this only be the beginning.

¡Hasta Luego!

Jan

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Dancing in the Sanctuary

When was the last time you danced in the Sanctuary? Think hard I am sure you have done it, oh wait we don’t do that. Maybe you have swayed side to side with your favorite hymn but an adult dancing in the sanctuary, not in the Episcopal Church. Now what about children, ever seen a child dancing in the pew or sprinting down the aisle with a huge smile during the service? Of course you have and I will bet you did not frown but you smiled, what joy to see the smallest among as dance and run.

Yesterday evening was our children’s festival at Cristo where we joined with Rev. Lourdes and her youth leadership in bringing the children of the parish together for fellowship, fun and recognition. Ecuador is a community where nothing is wasted and this goes for space as well. So, when you have approximately 80 adults and children gather where else would you do it but the Sanctuary. Pews where stacked off to the side off the room, the dance music turned up loud and the party started.

The Lord continues to remind us on this amazing mission that he is present everywhere, not just in the grandest of churches or homes but in the simplest of all places. He surrounds us in everything we do and often shines the brightest where you would not expect it. In a community that struggles to provide the basics for their families; shelter, food, clothing and an education he radiates his warmth and generosity. This joy and love is never more present than in the laughter of children. The youth of Cristo have captured the heart of our entire team this mission and it culminated in last nights event. Bubbles, face painting, bracelet making, dancing, relay races and a spirited game of musical chairs that had Rev. Lourdes tossing children to the side for a spot on that precious seat brought laughter and love to that Sanctuary. Parents and Grandparents, reluctant at first to participate lined the walls of the church like teenagers at the school dance but as the music and laughter got loader they descended upon the dance floor. At that moment God’s love had no social, economic, cultural or racial boundary yet again. As Rev. Lourdes had shared with us that same morning, the Lord has called us into interpersonal relationships with others and these are created each day. It is our role to seize the moment and nurture these relationships and last night that was done with painting faces and dancing.

I know you are proud of your children for taking the step to leave the comforts of home, for putting their summer with friends on hold and traveling to Ecuador. If you could witness what we have seen over the last 8 days you would burst with joy. They have lead our group setting the example of how to cross cultures and language barriers and build relationships. They shined last night, each of them offering what they could to bring Gods love to these children. Together with their brothers and sisters in Christ the two youth teams loved on those kids for hours. When the last song was played and we loaded on the bus exhausted from another day of work and play each face had a smile, we laughed and shared our favorites moments. One common theme, children are so much fun!

Matthew 21:15-16

But when the chief priest and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children’s shouting in the temple courts (Sanctuary) “Hosanna to the Son of David” they we indignant. “Do you hear what those children are saying” they asked him. “Yes” Jesus replied “have you never read, from the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise”

So, next time you feel the desire to dance in the Sanctuary go for it! You may get a few funny looks but grab the hands of a child and those looks will instantly turn to smiles of joy.

Lord, once again you have reminded us of where your love and grace live, in our souls. You have demonstrated this in one of your greatest gift, children. We thank you for this reminder and praise you for your constant presence in our lives.

Amen

Vida en Communidad – “Life together”

This statement “Life Together” is one of the 5 core principles or missions of El Refugio one of the 6 mission branches of Youth World. El Refugio is a retreat center located on 300 mountain side acres outside of Quito. Their mission is simple, educating youth to seek an “Abundant Life in Christ” through a connection with nature. Today on our day of rest, we had the privilege of spending the afternoon at El Refugio in fellowship and personal reflection time to process all we have experienced over the last week. If you have not spent solid time and I mean an hour or two in solitude surrounded by our Lord’s creation you are missing out! What an amazing time to reflect on how God is working in your life. So, what did I come up with during my quite time? God’s grace and love lives in our relationships.  Love does not know race, color, gender or culture it lives in us all and is expressed in our personal relationships. Gods light shines in smiles, laughter, handshakes, and wonderful “besito’s” (the Ecuadorian greeting).  Allow me the explain as I take you through the last 3 days in Ecuador.

Forty adults, teens and children made up of our SC team and our mission hosts from Cristo Liberador  left Quito Friday morning headed to the coastal region. For you that are following us on Google maps we left the city and travelled out of the highlands heading through Pinchincah and Manabi provinces with our destination 450 km away in a small town called Chial which is located outside of Jipijaba. The trip took us from roughly 10,000 feet above sea level to just over 900. The landscape is breath taking, from snowcapped volcanoes through lush mountain passes and valleys, to rolling pastures filled with bananas, rice, sugar cane, and cacao. The pictures will do more justice than I can with words. The journey took 12 hours as I am not sure there is a straight stretch of road more than a half mile the entire way and our hosts love to stop and stretch. We were reminded on numerous occasions it’s called Flexador for a reason!

In Chial we descended upon the home of a Cristo parish members relatives to bring running water to their small encampment of homes for the very first time. Multiple families lived on this small piece of land and for years have collected water through rain barrels and the local river which by any standards is not sanitary. A municipal water line ran through the property however they have never had the means to tap into the line at the cost of $300 dollars and to purchase the supplies to run the line over 100 yards to their homes. The Cristo team from Quito had taken this family on as a mission over the last year. They along with Youth World had helped to raise the funds to get access to the water line and now it was our job as a combined mission team to make it work.

Armed with a few pick axes and shovels and the supplies to run the water line we began working. This is when God’s grace shown bright, the site was amazing. People of all ages communicating through broken translation, using hand gestures and the simplest of tools at times, our hands, we fell into a rhythm. I have played on numerous sports teams in my life and have never seen such teamwork and coordination in such a short time in my life. We grunted, yelled, laughed and smiled our way through the day. Fueled by the amazing Cristo women cooking food for our team and the local families over open flames the entire day we finished the water line in six hours. In just six hours God transformed this families live. It may be hard to realize that as you read this but he delivered water to over 15 family members of all ages for the first time in their lives. Let that settle in your soul for a minute, the matriarch of the family, a beautiful mother who is over 65 years old has never had running water to her home. Image for your entire adult life when you wake up in the morning and want to simply have a glass of water, clean a dish, or make coffee you had to rely on a rain bucket or had to spend your last dollar on bottled water. God delivered water through relationships, team work and your generosity. It was you who sponsored this trip allowing us to travel to the middle of the world to assist this family. God’s grace and love lives in our hearts and when we come together in relationships it shines out.

The Cristo team allowed us to join their mission, the people we came to assist, who have nothing by North American standards are reaching out to those who have even less. What they may not have in possessions the far exceed in generosity and love. We, the Gringo’s were the ones to truly receive God’s gifts this weekend. It was our hearts touched by new relationships and it is our mission to pay it forward as we return home.

I am sure this will not have the impact on you as it has on us, we were blessed to experience it in person and that was because of your spirit and love. I will close with the prayer I wrote in my journal today:

“Lord God, you have reminded me that in our relationships lies your salvation and love. You have designed us to seek out community with others. To invest our time and talents in relationships open to both giving and receiving. We must have relationships of all kinds to nourish our souls. Working side by side on any task, breaking bread with new and old friends and overcoming our differences with your shared language of laughter, smiles and hugs we can accomplish anything. I pray Lord you lay this need for community and fellowship on our hearts as we travel home to our loved ones”

 

Andy

El Chial to Quito

It is late and this will be a short post, but I wanted to let you all know we are safely back in our hostel in Quito.  This weekend was awesome, life-changing, humbling, fulfilling, satisfying, and busy.  These were just some of the words from our debrief tonight.  I don’t quite have the words yet to write about our experience.  Thank you all for your continued prayers!  I could feel God’s mighty presence with us as we worked with our brothers and sisters in Christ this weekend.

I was not going to post any pictures tonight, but I couldn’t resist.

Day Two at Cristo

We continued our projects from yesterday.  I did not get as many pictures today as I spent some time this afternoon fighting with a nail and a baseboard.  Thank you to Jamie for helping me and showing me the correct angle!  I did manage to get a few done right. In my defense we were nailing into plaster and concrete, plus Jamie is younger and stronger than I am. 😉  This post is shorter due to the time needed to prepare for our mission with our brothers and sisters from Cristo to the coast tomorrow.  I will not be able to update the blog until Monday.  According to Cameron we are headed to a teeny tiny town outside of Jipajapa and we are not sure if there will be cell service or internet available.  I am taking my camera, of course, and will have many pictures to share as the internet allows on Monday night.

Blessings and peace to you,

Jan

Our First Day at Cristo

Wow, what a day! It started off with a groggy, half asleep group of kids (and adults) loading into a bus with the final destination (there were a few stops along the way) being Cristo. Cristo Liberador is a small episcopal church on the north side of town made up of only a few rooms. This is where most of the work that we are doing this week will take place. Even though the physical church was small, there was an enormous amount of love that radiated off of everyone that we met. As soon as we walked in the door, the group was greeted with besitos, or hugs and a kiss on the cheek. We had a short introduction from the priest at Cristo, Lourdes, who only spoke Spanish, but no worries, we had a translator! Shortly after we split up into groups and we were assigned to a project.

My group went to a women name Esperanza’s house where we were tasked with replacing the roof. The house was small, with two main doors on the outside of the house. One led to Esperanza’s daughters bedroom, which had a small bathroom in it, but it was only separated by a curtain. The other door led into a small living space with a kitchen and two rooms attached, which were bedrooms. One was home to Esperanza’s son, named Juan Carlos, who never ceased to amaze me. He worked along side us helping to fix the roof, and when I say that I really mean that he did most of the work. He was drenched in sweat when we went inside, but would not sit down or drink anything before his guests did, and most of the time he didn’t have a seat, but that didn’t bother him. He was amazingly kind and always wanted to talk to us because he kept asking us questions. He asked us where we were from, how old we are, how the climate was in South Carolina, and that’s just the beginning. He would even try to answer his own questions in English, and would check with us to make sure he was saying it right. In addition, he would walked around and say everyone’s name because he loved pronouncing them in English. God’s spirit was displayed through Juan Carlos, and it was so amazing to see. Everything he did reminded me of why I came down to this wonderful city, to help these outstanding people, who wanted to give us everything, even when they didn’t have much themselves. It was mind blowing to see how Christ worked through all of the people that I met, and his spirit shown through their hospitality and kindness.

At lunch break we went back to Cristo and had a delicious lunch that consisted of potato and cheese soup with a 3 tomato juice. After, we rested a bit at the church, as well as sang songs, we went back to Esperanza’s house to finish working. We relayed the roof panels and put in more supporting beams in order to prevent the roof from falling down. We finished up the day with an evening prayer back at Cristo, which Lamar, Jamie, and I led. It was pretty nerve wracking because it involved reading in Spanish, and I really didn’t want to mess up! At the end everyone joined in by singing Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, which gave me shivers because of how beautiful the song was with everyone singing. Even if those who spoke Spanish didn’t understand or know the English parts of the song, everyone joined in for the Hallelujah and sang with such confidence, rejoicing in Gods’s name. The day ended with an awesome taco salad (onions, tomatoes, meat, and cheese all mixed in with salad and a dressing) that you could add corn chips or Doritos too. Finally we had a debrief with our hosts, Lillian and Brenda, where we discussed our favorite moments of the day. I am so grateful for this experience and am so excited for what is to come!

Written by Avery Morse

Touring Old Town and Orientation

This morning started with breakfast and meeting with Cameron, Roberto, and their family at the hostel.  Following that, we were off to Old Town Quito where we visited El Panecillo and La Basilica del Voto Nacional. They were both beautiful and the views of Quito were breath-taking.  Many of our team braved the stairs and ladders to the top.  The view made my conquering my dislike of heights well worth it!  After the climb we needed lunch and what a delicious lunch we had – empanadas, bolon (a plantain dumpling stuffed with cheese), fruit, and a variety of Ecuadorian juices.  Poor Cameron had the task of presenting orientation to a tired and well fed, thus sleepy group, but she was awesome and taught us all about Youth World and it’s many missions.  We headed back to the hostel for some down time.