Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I hope my lunch is good

Well the missions team from CIY came and went and it was a good time...until everybody got sick with the black plague, or whatever it was. In any case, it was gross, and if I had pictures I would not share them because if you saw them you would present with at least one of the symptoms that was running rampant on the second floor of Marcelo and Sandra´s house between Saturday night and Tuesday morning.

Besides the virus (which the team from CIY took back to the United States with them yesterday), everything else went very well with our mission trip to Baba. We sent a team of 15 people from the church in El Recreo with the CIY group to work with the church there in the town of Baba. Baba is a more rural place than El Recreo and there were banana plantations everywhere! it was kind of cool to drive through all the banana trees, especially at night on the way back from the presentations we would do in the different areas of Baba.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the house-visits that we did. Normally, I am not a fan of the house-visiting. I think it´s weird and uncomfortable, and I don´t like it. But that is a product of my culture. In the U.S. you can´t just walk up to a stranger´s house, knock on the door, and say, "can I share a little bit of the Word of God with you?" and expect to be received well. Here, you can knock on the door and ask to share, and they will invite you in, feed you, give you something to drink, and have a real conversation with you about what you are sharing. It is very very different. So, as someone from the U.S. it has taken me a few years and a few house-visits to get used to the concept that it´s ok to do that here. And during this trip to Baba, I really enjoyed it.

We went to visit one morning in the neighborhood where we had done a presentation the night before. Once we arrived the women from Baba who were leading our group realized that no one had brought the addresses of the people who had asked us to come visit them. We stood around for a minute trying to decide what to do since the car wasn´t coming back to pick us up for another two hours, and we decided to just go walk around and knock on some random doors. The first house we went to was Gloria´s house. She came out onto the porch to talk with us a little. She seemed a little quiet and so we asked if we could pray for her before we left. She said yes and we asked if there was anything specific she´d like prayer for. She told us her father was sick and asked if we would pray for him so we said yes and then she said, "he is out back, let´s go" so we followed her around to the back of the house and he was there. He was sitting in a hammock and his legs looked pretty bad. We prayed with him and then we left and went visiting to a couple other houses. The last house we visited that day was Anita´s house. She was outside sweeping her patio and we stopped by and said we were with the group who did the presentation last night. She got a big smile on her face and said, "Yeah, my kids were there, they loved playing the games with you and singing the songs" so we talked for a while about playing with the kids and how fun it was for us too, and after a few minutes she said, " there anything i can do for you? what are you doing here again, do you need help with something?" and we looked around at each other and then looked back at her and said, "we were going to ask you the same there anything we can do for you or pray about for you?" we all kind of laughed and she laughed and said, "please, come in, sit down" we hung out in her house for about an hour talking and sharing with her and her mom. It was really cool, and it was really sad as well. Her mom, Lupita, shared about how her son had been killed not too long ago, in December. It was a sad, sad story and everyone was crying. We prayed with Lupita and after we prayed with her, Anita said, "you know what, I´d like to be a Christian too" so we prayed with her as well, and encouraged her to find a church where she could begin to learn more about Jesus and be surrounded by the encouragement and love of a church family. It was a really beautiful day.

A couple days later we decided to go back and visit again in the same houses. Only this time I was leading the group! It was really crazy because I was the one doing all the talking and all the praying and all the sharing of scriptures and thoughts. And I was translating back and forth for the English-speakers who also wanted to share. I felt very bold, and I felt it was a boldness that did not come from within me, but rather from God, and that was a neat feeling. We went back to Gloria´s house first and this time went back to the back to share a little encouragement from the Bible for her dad. We shared with him about prayer and how we believe we don´t need someone to talk to God for us, that we can talk directly to him whenever we will, and that God wants exactly that-to have a relationship with us. After a while, I began to talk with him one on one and asked him how he was feeling and he told me he hurts all over. I asked if he is taking medicine and he said he was but could no longer afford it. I asked Gloria how much the medicine would cost and she said it was $30, so I asked some of the gringos if they would like to help me pay for the medicine and they said yes of course. We told Gloria we´d like to buy some medicine for her father, and she was very grateful. She went and told her mom, who was inside her house, that we wanted to buy medicine for him (Luis) and her mom (Luis´s wife) came out to thank us. We prayed again for Luis, and this time, as we prayed for him, he grabbed my hand and began to cry and when we finished praying, he said, "thank you.....i hope you will come back and visit again." we assured him that the people from the church in Baba would be back the following tuesday. then we said goodbye to Gloria and her mother and when her mother hugged Katie, one of the girls from the team, she (the mother) began to sob, really, and then Katie started to cry because she was hugging a woman who was crying uncontrollably and thanking her. And then everyone started to cry. It was really beautiful. I hope that they see God´s provision in that, and that they don´t think it was anything that we did. And I hope Luis gets better.

We went to see Anita again too, but we couldn´t spend much time with her because we had stayed so long at Gloria´s, but we spent a nice time talking with Anita, encouraging her and being encouraged by her. I hope she will find a church that she can be a part of. Please keep them in your prayers. I will try to get back here soon with some pictures to add to this post. For now, it´s back to normal at the church here in El Recreo. I have to go because Roberto just came and found me in the internet cafe to tell me that his mom is inviting me to their house for lunch! MMMM Lunch!!!!! See ya!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

three weeks in...

Well, I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted. It’s a good tired, though. Our group mission trip was really great. I feel really good about the things that were accomplished while the team was here.

The first thing we did when we got here was to take some members of the church on a leadership retreat. It was awesome. The campground we went to was in the middle of a jungle. There were insects the size of giant insects everywhere! The first night we were there, I couldn’t sleep at all, I kept feeling things crawling all over me in my bed. I did not ever open my eyes to check and see if I was imagining the crawly things or if they were actually there…but I didn’t sleep, that’s for sure. Besides the bugs, it was so beautiful. I really enjoyed the time we spent there. And the retreat went so well. I was really proud of my team and everything that everyone did to help. Trevor, Trent and Paddy all spoke really great messages about prayer, solitude and stewardship, respectively (notice the trademark Smith Claw being used by Trevor). And based on the feedback I heard, their messages spoke deeply to a lot of people on the retreat. I’m really proud of how willing they were to share their experiences and how they did so with eloquence and grace. We did our drama and Solomon spoke a message of the importance of transformation which was really good. Also, the hammocks were awesome.

We got a ton of work done on the church property when we came back, including but not limited to: plastering walls, sanding walls, painting walls, building walls, stuccoing walls, digging trenches, removing giant rocks from trenches, filling in said trenches and re-digging them in a different place (this is a sore subject for some of our team haha), building fences, building rebar footing for the walls, mixing concrete, pouring concrete…the list really does go on and on. It was a lot of hard work, but the progress is pretty neat. I remember the first year we came to Ecuador, the Sunday church service took place in the street outside of Marcelo and Sandra’s house. Now they have enough space to build a larger building for church services, and they can use the existing building as a school, an internet café, and whatever other plans they come up with. They are also planning on building a cancha (soccer/basketball/volleyball court) on the back of the church lot, which I think will be pretty cool as well.

We went to visit some people in their houses, to try and get to know the parents of the church leaders a little better, we had some church services, did some skits and some dances, we did some kids programs, and we slept in cramped quarters and got lots of bug bites.

One of the neat things we got to do this year that we’ve not been able to do before was go visit children in the hospital outside of Guayaquil. Francisco and Magali, a couple in the church had a child who was sick with meningitis and he was in the hospital during our entire stay in El Recreo. A few of us had the opportunity to go see him and take some balloons to make balloon animals. There were about 20 other kids in the same wing (which was really just one big room) and so we had the chance to visit with them as well and give them some balloon animals. My favorite part of that was the moment that I said, “where’s Gianna?” and I looked around and there she was, in the far corner of the room sitting with Elsie, a girl who had been having extreme back pain, and talking and laughing with her. I loved that. I would never have been so bold my first time on this trip. I’m still not that bold. I have loved the way everyone on this trip has really tried and succeeded at communicating, even through a difficult language barrier. Everyone made friends, and I am so proud of what a great job everybody did at making an effort to talk to people they don’t know in a language that’s not their own.

My team went home on Monday, and now things are different. The house is quiet (and clean. Haha), there are only a few people working at the church during the day, and there’s a sense of calm here that’s very relaxing. I haven’t started to freak out yet. I feel comfortable so far. Sandra and Marcelo have gone way out of their way to make me feel at home. They put a mattress and a dresser in my room which was very nice…except I’m pretty sure there are bed bugs in the mattress. I woke up this morning with about 20 new bites on my back. Ann, what do I do to get rid of them? Anyway, it’s the thought that counts, right? Sandra took me with her to the grocery store which is about a 10-minute busride outside of El Recreo. You can buy things here in town, there are little corner stores all over the place…but the big supermarket is farther away. We walked down every aisle and in every aisle, without fail, she asked, “is there anything you want from here? If you see something you like to eat, just put it in the basket.”

Well, the meals are also different now that the group is gone. It’s a lot like it was in Peru. For breakfast, some toast or cereal, with some coffee or juice. Lunch is the big meal with soup, lots of rice, and some kind of meat ‘n sauce. And for dinner…bread and cheese and coffee. I like it. I went to bed feeling a little hungry last night after a couple slices of bread and cheese, but I’ll get used to it. Here’s the other difference with the group being gone…there’s always plenty of water for a shower. So, that’s excellent.

I thought that once all the missions teams left, I’d have to wait until church services and stuff to see my friends here, but I was wrong. There are people coming over to Marcelo and Sandra’s house all the time. One night, Marcelo wasn’t even home and Sandra was upstairs doing all the homework she needed to catch up on and people from the church just came over and hung out downstairs in the dining room. They asked if I brought any pictures with me of my family and my home and stuff so I brought out my photo album and they looked through it. It was fun. Some people came over the next morning too, just to hang out while I was washing dishes in the kitchen.

Ok, that’s definitely enough. Thanks for reading it all. I’ll try to keep the posts shorter. It’s just I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to get to the cyber, so I’ve got to squeeze a lot of experiences into one post. I’ll try to get there more often. Or maybe I won’t. I don’t know yet.

My stomach’s been hurting a little. Wish me luck with that. Also, I wanted to post more pictures, but it took about 15 minutes for each of those to load, plus some time for the ones that began loading and didnt finish. I maxed out at 3. hahahaha. Hopefully I will figure out an easier way to do this.