We have been home for 2 weeks now, and I continue to struggle to put into words the things we saw and experienced in Ecuador. I know I won’t be able to adequately describe it all, but I’m going to try my best to share about what we did, why we were there, the amazing people we met, and the beauty of what we saw.
At the beginning of this year, we stepped out in faith, signed up, and paid our deposits to go with our church on their 13th mission trip to Ecuador. Although I was excited about the opportunity to go on another foreign mission trip (it had been 8 years since we had been on one), I was terrified for us both to leave the country without our daughter. Before this trip, the longest I had been away from her was 2 nights. I had no idea how she would handle us being gone for 9 nights! And to be honest, I wasn’t sure how well I would do either! As a stay-at-home mom, I am with her 24/7 except on rare occasions.
There was one thing I desperately wanted for our daughter. I wanted her to understand why we were going, what we were going to do, and eventually want to go as well. I shouldn’t have been too concerned. She has such a compassionate heart, it didn’t take long for her to see the vision we had and quickly began asking if she could go with us so she could “tell the people of Ecuador about Jesus”.
My husband and I signed up to serve on the Medical Team and Tate was to be in charge of the “Pharmacy” once we got to Ecuador. During the weeks before we left, our team met and ‘packed pills’ in 30-day supplies to be ready for distribution in the clinic. Not having anywhere to take our daughter during these ‘pill packing parties’, we took her with us planning for her to color or play while we worked. What I did not expect was a job for her to do and be able to be a part of our mission team as well. After we filled little bags with vitamins, Tylenol, antibiotics, etc., she would put a prescription label on it and toss it into the tub. She became so excited every week for our ‘pill packing’ night. It was such a blessing for her to be able to participate, because as she began telling us that she wanted to go to Ecuador too, we were able to explain that although she couldn’t physically go with us this time, she was still a member of our Ecuador mission team because of all she was doing to help us prepare to go. Sometimes God doesn’t ask us to physically go on a mission trip, sometimes He just wants us to be willing and to help in the way that we are able.
This was our first time to join our church on this trip, and it was amazing! There were close to 100 people from the U.S. that went, approximately 85 from our church/community and the remaining from other churches in North Carolina and Texas. The group was split into 3 teams – 1 medical and 2 evangelism teams. The evangelism teams spent the week ministering in schools, hospitals, and prisons sharing Christ’s love with the people of Ecuador.
As part of the medical team, we shared Christ’s love by first ministering to their physical needs. One of the communities we were in had not had a traveling medical clinic visit them in 30 years! Most people could not afford to go to the doctor. I remember one little boy who came into the clinic with his head down and looking defeated. When he left, his head was held high and his face was filled with pure joy ready to burst with a giddy excitement. He was wearing his first pair of glasses and could finally see the world around him very clearly! 🙂 At this location, we partnered with a local church for a facility to host the clinic. These people who we went to serve, wanted to pray for us before we left. It was amazing to feel so welcome and to see the unity between our cultures because we serve the same God who provides all our needs.
The other days we set up the clinic inside schools. By the time we arrived to each location, there were already lines formed with people waiting to be seen. Many had been in line since 5 a.m.! Because of our hour and a half drive each day we did not arrive until 9 a.m., and generally had thirty minutes to an hour of set up each day before we allowed the first person into the clinic. It blows my mind that the first people had waited a minimum of 5 hours to see a doctor! Working in the pharmacy, we were the last stop for each patient before they left the clinic. Each and every person was still very friendly, gracious, and patient despite the 5+ hours they had been there, most of which was time spent waiting in the heat of the sun.
We worked long and hard every day. The numbers of people we were able to see come through the clinic most days were in the mid 300’s and one day saw almost 450! Every day we had to turn people away when we left. I was fortunate to not have to see that part, and my heart broke for those who didn’t get to be seen and for those who had to tell them that they couldn’t be seen. They too had been waiting many hours just for a chance to come in. On our last day, when we cut the line off for who would be seen, there were still hundreds of people waiting to come in. Fortunately we still had plenty of children and adult packs (packets containing Tylenol, vitamins, and a parasite pill), we gave a packet to 300 additional children and adults who were not able to come through the doors. Total numbers for our week were close to 2000 people including the 300 who received only medicine the last day.
We will never know what kind of spiritual impact we had during our few brief minutes with each person who came through the clinic, but I do know that every one of them left with medication (which many could not afford) to help meet their physical needs, and hopefully a memory of a smiling face, and the knowledge that God loves them so much that He sent people from far away to meet their medical needs and tell them that God loves them!
Our days were full and by the end of the week most were quite a blur, we fell into bed completely exhausted each night, and woke early to begin again each morning. It was some of the best tired I’ve felt in a very long time! We had 5 full days of medical clinic. On our 6th day, we spent half of the day with one of the evangelism teams. It was so neat to be able to see and experience their ministry that they had been doing all week as well. We went with them to a pediatric cancer ward at one of the local hospitals. They brought children and their parents out onto the roof where we visited with the families, sang songs of praise to our God, and danced like only crazy Americans can! 🙂 Before we left we had the opportunity to pray with the parents and children for God to give them strength to face each day, for them to KNOW that God LOVES them, and to pray for the healing of their bodies and hearts.
I am so blessed to have been able to go to Ecuador, and to have shared the ministry and experience with my husband. It’s so hard to tell of what we experienced to others, but there is an understanding between us that doesn’t have to be explained, we just… know. I hope that I’ve been able to give you even just a glimpse of what our ministry was and why we went. I plan to post more about the people we met, the places we saw, and the ways God has challenged my life coming home.