Day 5 presented a really cool opportunity. Our team was invited to a ground-breaking ceremony for another church. Basically, the church owned the plot of land and they were close to starting the building phase. The ceremony consisted of some prayer, worship and a great faith-filled message. A small hole was dug and a rock hung from a string directly above the hole. Towards the end of the ceremony, the string was cut and the rock dropped into the hole, signifying the first stone being laid as part of the construction process. We were a part of history….God’s history! What an honor.
Pastor Alejandro planted this church and is also responsible for training others to branch out and start churches. A good example would be Pastor Jonhny from Project 534, where we spent most of our time serving on the trip. It was a pretty powerful thing to witness and I’m grateful that they invited us along. Although we had no affiliation with that particular church, they considered us family…being brothers and sisters in Christ was the glue that bonded us. The bible in action…awesome.
After the ceremony, we headed back to 534 to finish up some of the lesson plan stuff from day 4, go to some more home visits and prepare for another fun day of VBS with the kiddos! Shortly after we arrived, we received some bad news….
Project 542 is the newest project for our church. This is the 2nd project that our church has funded, along with 534. Project 542 hasn’t started the building phase yet, they’ve only acquired the land…or so they thought. In a nutshell, Kerly, Pastor Jonhny’s wife (from 534) was the main negotiator for the land. From what I understand, it is pretty difficult to find good land and close good deals in Ecuador. Negotiations are primarily sealed with a handshake agreement until things are made official via a notary signature. Apparently, the seller of the land changed his mind and backed out of the deal. This happened just before they were to meet with a notary to make things official. Understandably, Kerly was pretty upset and frustrated because of this. The first thing we all did together was pray…..we prayed for the guy selling the land, we prayed for peace and we prayed for God’s will to be done. I love how prayer was the life-line in all of this. Our Ecuadorian family didn’t have much, but they had God and that’s all they needed. Inspiring.
Later in the afternoon, we received some great news! Kerly decided to meet with the seller one more time. I’m not sure of the exact details of the conversation, but she explained that her church family from North America was visiting and that she would really like him to rethink the whole deal. He seemed pretty shocked that we were actually there in Ecuador as all of this happened. I’m not sure what his main motivation was to change, but he decided to stick with the original deal and go through with the sale of the land….just like that. It was one of many examples during the trip of God intervening when obstacles presented themselves. So cool!
After some good news, it was time to start VBS with the kids again. For some reason, I remember this day being pretty hot and humid. Amidst the basketball and soccer games, I was a sweaty mess….like super sweaty….like really sweaty….like, ok you get the point :). Even amidst the “steaminess” of the day, it was such a joy to see the kids again and make new friends. I was also able to hang out with our sponsored kids, Alan and Nicole again and I could tell that they were getting more comfortable with me. There were more high-fives, hugs and I even scored a couple of kisses on the cheek from Nicole….talk about melting a dude’s heart! Have I mentioned that I love these kids?!
After another great day of VBS had ended, we had the opportunity of going on more home visits. It was time to visit Alan’s house and I was so excited. Because we went right from the project to their house, Alan, his brother and mom got to ride with us on the bus while his dad was waiting at the house. As we approached their home, Alan’s eyes lit up with anticipation and he gave me a “here’s my house!” look as we began to exit the bus.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to conversation because Alan’s family was pretty quiet. To my surprise, as we entered their home, I was greeted with a thoughtful “welcome to my little house” sign on their wall and smiles flashing everywhere. I felt so loved. On top of this warm greeting, Alan’s mom gave me a bouquet of flowers entirely handmade of paper and other various materials. It was for my wife, Pam. I was floored and humbled by such thoughtful gifts. We made small talk and I talked some trash with Alan about beating him in soccer…pretty funny. As we talked some more, I discovered that his dad walks about 1-2 hours to work everyday and once he’s at work, we walks some more….he’s a street sweeper. I developed so much respect for him and all of the hardworking folks in Ecuador who are struggling to put food on the table. I couldn’t help but feel convicted regarding my attitude towards work sometimes….I added it to my list of things to work on.
Unfortunately, it was about time to leave. Towards the end of every home visit, we always closed our time together with a group prayer. During this time, we asked the family if there was anything in particular that they needed or maybe if they had specific prayer requests. Almost every family either prayed for health and/or for their family to stay together. Alan and Nicole’s families were no different. Never once did I hear somebody ask for material things, handouts or pity….only the essential, tangible things that were lasting. In North America, we have so much already and we have the habit of asking for even more. These folks just wanted to survive and stay together. How simple. I appreciated these times of prayer together…..all of us in a circle, joining hands with one common thread: JESUS. Chokes me up just thinking about the power in that. It was beautiful.
It was now time to head back to the hotel. Another great day was in the books! Every day provided me with a new lesson about life and faith. This day showed me that when folks gather together with God as the focus, powerful things can happen. God is always present, but His powerful hand is even more evident when His people unite in love. “For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” -Matthew 18:20
Stay tuned for day 6!!!