After many meetings, tons of preparation and a lot of prayers, the day had finally arrived! My team and I were heading to Ecuador! I remember feeling both elated and anxious at the same time. It was early, I wasn’t hungry and coffee didn’t even sound good. Leaving the family was so hard…really hard, but I had to trust. I came this far. Only God knew what was in store.
We arrived to the airport at 4am to catch our 6am flight. Our leaders, Bryce and Amy told us that the mission trip started when we set foot in the airport….boy were they right.
We were tested as a group immediately….our flight to Dallas was cancelled due to weather. After about 30 mins. or so, they figured out a way to get us to Miami and eventually to Ecuador. It was a plan that consisted of splitting our team up into small groups. Some of us headed to San Francisco, others to Los Angeles, others to New York and I headed to Chicago with my home girl Kelly. By a miracle, at the end of the day, most of us (the 3 New York folks didn’t make it) made it to Miami on time to catch our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador. The others made it the next day.
When we finally set foot on South American soil, it was roughly 4am or so the next morning (give or take…c’mon, my brain was a little foggy ;)….our original time for arrival was 9:30pm the night before. We quickly found out that most of the team’s luggage didn’t make it to Ecuador. Luckily, the luggage was found and delivered the next day. Crazy man!
Through it all, our group was a bunch of warriors. No complaining, just focus and flexibility (like rubber bands). God knew what He was doing…..priming us for a week of love, power, grace and awesomeness.
After a couple of hours rest, we met with the staff/volunteers from the different projects, 534, 535 and 542 (534 & 542 are the projects that ALC has funded, but ALC sponsors some kiddos from 535 as well).
Prior to this, our fearless leader “Mama Liz” told us that we would be shaking things up a bit this trip. That our mission was not just to impact kids. Our mission was to build the church, which meant supporting the staff and building relationships with these beautiful people. This consisted of the amazing opportunity to serve them, converse with them, visit their homes, meet their families, teach them our ways of how to run a Sunday school lesson/VBS and just be a family. Of course, we would spend a lot of time with the children as well, but this trip would be two-fold. What a fantastic vision….one that we all embraced.
I tell you what, we had such a powerful/fun time! We played a hilarious name game…..we all stood in a circle and each of us had to give our name and a body part that itched (ie., my name is Paul and my nose itches). The person next to you in the circle had to repeat your name and body part and then say their name and body part…..this continued until we were all the way around the circle….If we repeated something wrong, we had to get in the middle of the circle and dance! I was towards the end and repeating 40 people’s names and body parts was not my strength….but they humored me and I danced a lot :). So fun!
Next, we had a powerful time of conversation and prayer. Thank the good Lord for our amazing translators (Pauli, Titi, Nicko, Fernando, Jonathan and Liz), they bridged the language gap so beautifully! At my table, we prayed over our time together, the culture and for God’s hand to be on the different projects. Man, was that powerful. I cried like crazy because I was so overwhelmed with God’s presence. My Ecuadorian family prays with passion, conviction and desperation. It really touched me. We don’t see that much emotion in the states and I certainly don’t pray like that on a day-to-day basis! I felt like God was saying; “hey Paul, welcome to Ecuador. Get ready, I have some plans for you so hang on tight!” Amen to that!
To end the day, we ended up going to a big store called Super Maxi….kinda like a Walmart. We bought some last-minute supplies and stocked up on chocolate, coffee and other cool stuff to bring home! It was a fun outing and it was a great introduction to the city.
We ended with dinner and anticipated going to 534 the next day. So exciting!
Overall, those 1st couple of days taught us something…..when God is moving and people are following, there will always be obstacles. Satan is always waiting to trip us up, but God has bigger muscles than he does, so we’re good to go. Our team was given an extra dose of strength, patience and perseverance for this trip, I truly believe that.
We also learned that God likes to shake things up. We all expected things to go a certain way, but that wasn’t His plan…..so often we settle for “good” when he’s more interested in “best.” We need to hang on loosely to our lives, we really do. God always knows the path, we just need to be willing to step. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:11-13
Day 3 to follow…stay tuned! 🙂