We met so many wonderful people on our trip to Ecuador. We spent one week serving every day with a wonderful group of people from our church. People who we saw every Sunday, but had not gotten to know very well, most of whom we didn’t even know their names. It is amazing how a group of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life can come together to work for a common goal and make friendships that will last forever. Being relatively new to the area we live and to our church, this trip was beneficial not only from a spiritual standpoint, but also from a personal standpoint. I now walk into church and have such deep connections with so many different people. We hug in greeting and laugh together about some of the silliest things. We cry together after sharing memories of things that touched our hearts and changed our lives.
Having served with a group of close to 100 people, there is no way I can share about each one who touched my life, but I do want to talk about a few of them. I will say that it was quite amazing to work with nearly 100 people who willingly sacrificed their vacation time, time with their families, and their hard-earned money to travel such a distance in order to work long hard hours to the point of sheer exhaustion when it would have been so much ‘easier’ to stay home and relax during their time off. That in itself is pretty amazing when you think about it.
Each evening at dinner, we tried to sit with different people so we could meet new people and make new friends. One evening we visited with James, a pastor from Texas who brought a small group from his church to partner with our church. We were able to connect on a personal level. We talked about adoption, how it has forever changed our lives, and our hearts desire to do it all over again. He too shared how adoption had personally affected him and his family. They adopted a precious little girl from Guatemala. It was so sweet to hear him talk about the road they went down, how they came to the decision to adopt, and how they met their little girl. I love to hear everyone’s adoption story. They are all so very unique and filled with such love.
We were also able to work with some amazing people! Juanita is definitely one that stands out, and she will forever be etched into my memory. Every time I hear a rooster crow, I will think of her (a story for another day perhaps). 🙂 She is so full of life and the love of Jesus Christ that it just oozes out of her! She is one of those people who after meeting, you have no doubt of her love for God and you know it is genuine. I so want to be like that. After talking with someone, I want them to walk away encouraged by the love I have for God, and challenged to know Him for themselves. Juanita also had enough energy for everyone on the team. Even after working such long hours, she never seemed to lose an ounce of energy. She remained upbeat, energetic, and kept us laughing.
Every day we also worked with some amazing Ecuadorians. We always had interpreters with us, and at the medical clinic they were life savers! Not knowing any Spanish myself, I depended on them for everything – talking with the patients, deciphering the instructions on the medication (all written in Spanish) and even trying to read one of the Ecuadorian Doctor’s orders. After several days I was able to learn some Spanish, but still have a long way to go. Most of the interpreters we worked with were students at one of the Universities in Guayaquil. They met us at our hotel at 7:30 a.m., helped us explain the medications we were giving to the people, making sure that each patient understood what it was for and how to take it. They did this for 300-400 patients each day from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They then went straight from the clinic to classes at the University, using our 1-1/2 hour bus ride each way to do homework and study. They attended classes from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. each night, went home and worked on essays and homework until early in the morning and then after just a couple of hours of sleep, were back at our hotel at 7:30 the next morning ready to do it all over again. I didn’t realize just how hard and long they worked until one morning, when I was visiting with a young lady, Ginna. She shared about the schedule they were keeping (above) and that the night before she didn’t actually get into bed until 2:30 a.m. After hearing this, I no longer felt qualified to say I was tired. These students were so dedicated and worked so hard, never complaining even once. The only thing I kept hearing them say was, “This is great work! I love doing this.”
It was also one of the translators I was privileged to work with, Vivian, who really challenged my every day life. She was telling me that the time she spent with us was her first time to “help” others. She had never done anything like it before. During our conversation she asked me if I “helped” all the time. At that moment I was convicted and so disappointed in myself. I had to honestly answer, “no, I don’t”. Although I do try to help when and where I can, most of my ‘help’ consists of donating money or supplies and that is it. I know there is need of those things, but what I was convicted of was the many times I had heard of opportunities to volunteer, yet I passed them by because I didn’t have the ‘time’. God showed me that I have this attitude, yet I want to teach my daughter to look for ways to help others. I want her to grow up ready and willing to serve wherever, whenever, no matter the cost to her (including her time). Wow! I have failed miserably in this area. As a parent, I can only teach my daughter to serve to the extent that I too am willing to serve. As I continue on this journey, I know I will not be able to help with every opportunity that comes along, but I’m going to do my best to be available not only to help monetarily, but also to help physically with my time. The next time I’m asked, “Do you help all the time?” I want to be able to answer, “Yes! I help every chance I get.”
Another of the interpreters, Angelina, shared with me recently that she was reminded during our week working together, just how much she enjoyed volunteering. I shared with her how much I enjoyed it as well and that God had shown me how much more I need to be doing in order to lead by example for my daughter. Angelina then told me that she learned to serve others by watching her mother. Wow, what an impact her mom had in her life. It was again encouraging and challenging to see where I need to work in my own life in order to teach my daughter the same.
We worked with an amazing team of people in the medical clinic every day. The Americans and the Ecuadorians joined together and worked hard. Everything ran so smoothly, like we had been doing it for a long time. God stretched us in ways we couldn’t have imagined, multiplied our time in order to see hundreds of people in just a few days, and blessed us beyond measure. He allowed us the privilege of connecting with people we never would have met had we not gone. People we may never have the opportunity to see again face to face on this side of eternity. Yet every one of them have touched my life in a special way and have made a lasting impact. I am forever changed not only by the experience I had in going, but by the people I now call my friends!
If you’d like to read about what we were doing in Ecuador, check out my post Ecuador 2013 – Our mission.