People ask me, "how was Ecuador?!" It feels so shallow, but most of the time I say, "it was great!", followed up by a short summary of the trip. I take awhile to process things. And while I'm processing, about all I can get out is the "it was great" part. So if you've asked me that question, and gotten that lame answer, my apologies.
Ecuador was great.
It was nothing like this summer. I can't say it was better or worse...just very different.
It was challenging and rewarding, exhausting and amazing.
When I left Ecuador on August 2, never in a million years would I have thought that less than five months later, I'd be back. Silly me. Shortly after I returned last summer, I began praying for an opportunity to return sometime this winter. I looked into some different options. But I really felt like God was telling me to just wait. So I did. I can be pretty bad with the whole waiting thing. It's not easy; I like having answers and knowing what I'm doing and where I'm going. But when I found out that Global Encounters was going back to Ecuador over Christmas break, I knew that's where God wanted me. He worked out every detail for me to be on the trip. Money, time off work, family schedule. I was SO excited to be going back.
|It was great to be back with these three who were also on the Summer trip...we love Ecuador!|
|Sweet Little Ava|
|They laughed at my Spanish, I laughed at their English, it was all good.|
|My translators, Andrea and Taty. <3|
|This little guy wrote out his whole verse by himself.|
|If you're shopping at the market in Quito on New Year's Eve, you should definitely buy matching necklaces. :)|
On New Year's Eve, after a lovely dinner at Pastor Benjamin's house, we lit "Micah" on fire and jumped over the burning puppet. We spent the remainder of the evening playing a hard-core game of spoons together as a team at Casa Del Padre. At midnight we went outside and watch the Quito sky light up with fireworks and paper lanterns. It was a sight I will never forget.
New Year's Day brought one of my favorite parts of the trip. We slept in a little bit and then drove to Otavalo. If you read my recaps about the summer trip, you may remember that we worked in that city during the summer. I feel like it was in Otavalo this summer that I really fell in love with Ecuador- its people and the culture. Otavalo was also where God taught me the biggest lessons of the summer trip, so starting the year out there was such a special gift. We enjoyed a much needed day of rest there, and also some market shopping and volleyball. The next morning we were able to return to the church we had worked with during the summer and play some games and do a short program with the kids there. It was awesome to see some familiar faces -- especially little Jordy. :-)
|This view brings back so many memories|
|Tommy and I played "Andy and Lucy" so many times throughout the week. We had to get a picture after our last performance.|
|The church foundation, and the house that some of us slept in|
Two years ago Pastor Gonzalo moved his family from Cuenca to Cochapata to start ministering to the people there. They have the foundation for a church building laid. There is also a building with a kitchen, bathroom, and common area, that is partially finished. We pitched a few tents, and some of us slept in them while others opted to sleep inside on the floor. Except for the first night...just before we went to bed, it started raining. We were told it hadn't rained in seven months. We all slept under the roof that night. :) Aside from the fact that every dog in Cochapata starts barking after dark, the roosters start crowing at about five in the morning, and the donkey starts braying shortly after that, I enjoyed the camping experience. We all worked together to cook our meals, and it was nice to have a slightly slower pace after our action-packed week in Quito.
In the afternoons we walked for about half an hour through the countryside to the school where the kids program was held. It's easy to get into a groove when you're teaching the same lessons over and over again...especially when the kids you're working with know most of the "Sunday school answers". But here was different - the kids didn't know the Sunday school answers. So we stuck to the basics and tried to tie everything back to Salvation. Unlike our programs in Quito, where kids typically stop coming when they are 11 or 12, we had kids who were in 9th and 10th grade coming. In fact, the oldest group of kids was the biggest. On our last day, there were 21 of them there. Much like the program with the single moms, the kids didn't seem to want to leave after the program was over each afternoon. We had fun playing soccer and just hanging out with them after we were done teaching. But my favorite part of the afternoon program in Cochapata? That's easy. She had the biggest smile and a mischievous personality...Sophie. She stole our hearts from the first day.
One evening we were talking with Pastor Gonzalo after dinner. He told us that we were the first team to stay in Cochapata. Other teams have driven back and forth from Cuenca everyday. He also told us that as much as he wants to minister to the community, his first priority is to lead his family well and he asked us to pray for him. He said, "when you go back home, tell the American churches about us. Ask them to pray for us". In this exchange, I was reminded just how important it is to be in prayer for our missionaries. They are on the front lines day in and day out. Especially for people like Gonzalo, who is in a small city far off the beaten path, the work is hard and often lonely. It was a huge blessing to our team to know that God allowed us to be an encouragement to him and his family.
|Taty and Andres jumped onto the team as translators...they were a perfect fit!|
After our program was over on Thursday, we made the drive back to Cuenca. No brake problems this time, but an exciting drive nonetheless. Thick fog, narrow mountain roads, wooden bridges, and drivers who pass wherever they feel like it, make life an adventure. We were able to take a short bus tour of Cuenca with our translators on Friday morning. A Panama hat museum, the interesting architecture, and swinging over the city, were some of the things we enjoyed. After flying back to Quito, we spent our last night with our translators at Tommy and Martina's house. Good friends, good food, charades, and reminiscing about the events of the past two weeks, was the perfect way to end the trip.