Friday, April 23, 2010

Sneaky Peaky

Here's a little preview of the University Project presentation that will happen at DFCC on Sunday...the video anyway...

The University Project is doing great. I am really excited for all the students that have been able to begin and continue studying because of their sponsors. I hope we can continue to grow this program and help as many students as possible to achieve their goals.


Part of what I love about being in another part of the world is experiencing a different culture—celebrating the same holidays in different ways, seeing the same ceremonies performed with different traditions. It’s a really interesting part of what I get to do here. When I was in Peru a few years ago I was invited to a wedding, which was such a cool experience. In December I spent my first Christmas away from home and shortly after, I got to celebrate the New Year in a surprisingly (scarily) different way. While I love new experiences like this, there’s one I would have given anything not to have. Last week I attended my first funeral in a different culture.

I met Junior Parrales the first time I came to Ecuador in the summer of 2005. Though I didn’t speak the language, a friendship began which has blessed me ever since. He was an active member of the youth group here in El Recreo for a long time—playing keyboard in the band, going on mission trips to help other communities. He set a good example for his younger siblings, who have followed his footsteps into a relationship with Christ. His brother, Pablo, is student in the University Project, and active in the music ministry at the church as well. Junior was a really neat guy.

During the first week of March this year, Junior was shot. Nobody knows for sure who shot him or why. He died of sepsis in the hospital about a month later on April 5th after a number of unsuccessful surgical attempts to remove bullet fragments and repair the damage that was done to his body. His body was buried last Wednesday, April 7th, in a tiny cemetery in the middle of the countryside where his family is from. It was a difficult day that I will never forget.

I know where Junior is now, and I don’t hurt for him. But I ache for his mother, Marina. Mothers shouldn’t have to bury their children. She seemed so broken…so emptied. I’ve never seen that kind of grief before. I ache for Jacinto, his father, who left for Spain almost two years ago for work and hasn’t been able to return to Ecuador. I can’t imagine the desperation he must have gone through, not being able to be there with his family…not being able to hold his son’s hand during those last moments…having to hear his wife’s cries through a long-distance telephone call...not knowing when he’ll be able to come back home. I ache for Pablo, who on top of losing his brother has just become the man of the house at 18 years old, taking care of his mother and his sister. I ache for Lily. She spent all her effort at the funeral at her mother’s side, trying to give comfort to an inconsolable, broken-hearted woman. Who will comfort Lily?

My heart breaks for them, because their family will never be the same. Though God gives abundant grace that is new every morning, and someday they may find comfort in knowing the Lord and His goodness…there will always be something missing for them. And that hurts. And I hurt for them.

I’ll miss Junior. I’ll miss the high-pitched giggle he let out when he thought something was odd. I’ll miss his smile that was so sincere and inviting. I’ll miss passing him on the sidewalk on my way to church in the evenings, him on his way home from work…always tired, but never too tired to stop and say hello and see how things were going. I praise God because it’s because of His love and grace that I can have the hope of a blessed eternity where I will certainly see Junior’s smile and hear that funny giggle again.

I’d like to tell you about the funeral. It was nuts! But…maybe another time. Please keep Junior’s family in your prayers. They will hurt for a long time. And they so need the Lord’s love and peace in their hearts. Pray that God would provide what they need physically as well as spiritually. In order to come home, Jacinto would need steady work here in Ecuador. Pray that God would provide him with a job so that he can be with his family. Pray for Marina. She now has to find a way to pay off the loan she took out in order to pay for the first operation Junior had. She’s also got to find a way to pay for the other surgeries, hospital time, and funeral costs. It’s about $3,000 that she doesn’t have, and it’s an added pressure on an already hurting woman. Pray for Lily. She and her mother have gone to live with Marina’s parents which means Lily has changed schools and is beginning her first year of high school in a new place with new people. High school was hard enough already. Pray for Pablo who is living by himself in his family’s home here in El Recreo. He begins his first year of college next month and has the added pressure of having to work part time as well as study, which was not a part of his original plan. But the family is now without Junior’s income and there aren’t many options. Pray that God would provide for this family in a spectacular way.