As a team, we had the opportunity of doing something incredibly humbling: washing the feet of the staff. Our leaders were all on the same page regarding the vision for this idea. The staff at the projects are always pouring into others….very rarely do they have the opportunity to be served. In order for them to be effective leaders and in order for us to be humbled, washing their feet seemed like a powerful idea and boy was it powerful! It’s amazing to think that Jesus, the Savior of the world did the same thing for others….it was an honor to follow in His footsteps in this way.
It was pretty simple. The church staff sat in chairs with the basins of water at their feet. We kneeled in front of them, removed their shoes and quietly washed each of their feet. Once we were done, we dried each foot off, placed their shoe back on and gathered more water for the next person to serve. What an experience!
On a personal note, as the washing concluded, I felt God leading me to go around and just hug people. Not like half-hearted pats on the back, but big, real, tight hugs. I then felt led to place their cheeks in my hands, connect our tear-soaked eyes and kiss them on the forehead. During every hug given and forehead kissed, tears just flowed like a faucet…..good, hard crying took place and it felt like God was breaking chains, tearing down walls and opening up heaven. Authentic, real interaction was taking place…..most of the time, not a word was spoken, there were only God-fueled actions. Powerful.
Now, as somebody reading this bog, I can completely understand how all of this would sound strange, uncomfortably intimate and even weird, I get it. It’s pretty much hard to explain the presence of God in that room….one of those “you had to be there” kind of things. You’ll just have to take my word for it I guess. Picture a nice warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold day…that’s all I got.
As a team, we left this time changed forever. Our tanks were full and we were ready for whatever God was preparing us for.
Next, to keep with the theme of supporting and getting to know the staff, we had the opportunity of visiting each of their homes. It was a blessing to see where they live, to meet their families and to pray with them. It was just amazing to see such beautiful people opening up their homes, pouring out their resources and dedicating their lives to serving others. We were so fortunate to have had this experience.
After the staff home visits were done for the day, it was time to head back to project 534 for another day of VBS….only this time, there was a twist.
Instead of playing the games, bible stories and crafts with the kids, we had a VBS for the parents! The kiddos went into classrooms and did their own stories and crafts while the parents had the chance to have their own fun and just be kids. They participated in the stories and made their own crafts. It was really something! They had a blast!
They also played some of the same games that the kids played and truthfully, I was worried that they might get bored. As I discussed this with some of our team members, I was told that many of these parents didn’t have much of a childhood…..the opportunity to play and to just be innocent kids wasn’t there, which is a sad reality.
To my surprise, these parents who were lovingly observing their kids playing from the sidelines the day before were laughing, smiling and really getting into the games! They had a child-like innocence about the way that they played and participated. It was as if they were enjoying the childhood that they never had. It was awesome to see. I’m grateful to have been a part of that.
During this time, one game was a particular hit. We called it “sponge pass.” There were 2 lines of about 6 people each side by side. At the front of each line was a large sponge and a bucket of water. At the end of each line was a person with an empty water bottle, which was held on top of the head. The point of the game was to soak the sponge with water and pass it overhead to the person behind until it reached the back of the line. The last person in line squeezed the soaking wet sponge into the empty bottle. This was repeated until the water bottle at the end of the line was full. It was a race, so whoever filled up their water bottle first won. Understandably, the person holding the water bottle overhead got the short end of the stick and was soaked by the end of the game! What a hoot!
The parents loved this game. They especially loved watching us folks from the US get soaked. Almost our entire team participated and what started as a simple game ended in a huge water fight! We were a wet, dirty mess by the end of the festivities…absolutely perfect!
After another great day, it was time to head back to the hotel. We had the opportunity of Pastor Alejandro (the pastor responsible for all of the church plants and the guy who facilitated the ground breaking ceremony on day 5) and his wife joining us for dinner. We had a great conversation regarding his vision for his church and also his vision for Ecuador as a country. He currently pastors a very large church (a mega church by Ecuador’s standards) and he’s using his many resources and contacts to make a huge impact on the surrounding community. It was an inspiring conversation full of passion and conviction. I was grateful to have been a part of it.
This was one of those days where, when my head finally hit the pillow for the night, I just marveled at God’s power. I couldn’t believe that He allowed me to experience such an amazing day. Wow.
I am left with one major thought when reflecting about this day in Ecuador: Many times, when we serve others, it’s not just about the person or people whom we are serving….it’s about our hearts as well. God speaks to us through interaction and genuine service….that’s just how he designed things. I know that my cup was filled to overflowing and there’s a part of me that was stamped forever by the love and kindness shared by just actions alone….no words were needed. Amidst every hug, every smile, every laugh and every tear was a common knowledge that we were loved by a God who is way bigger than we are. As we served one another, it was as though we were truly living out God’s will for our lives.
Here’s a few words from my favorite book: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:35-40
SERVING OTHERS = SERVING JESUS. Boom.
Stay tuned for day 7!