Memories and Onions

A few days ago, my mom gave me a large stack of papers.  She had been cleaning out some closets in the house and came across a variety things from my past.  Things like report cards, notes, artwork, stories and other stuff like that.  I brought it home and spent some time soaking in my past and reviewing who I was and who I am now.  It was a pretty revealing time for me.

Something that I’ve realized as I grow older is that my memory sucks.  I remember some random, weird details about my past, but there are a lot of blank and fuzzy spaces left to be explored.  I tend to focus on the here and now, forgetting that I was once a little boy who was learning about life, navigating heartbreak, absorbing harassment from bullies and attempting to avoid the pain of my parent’s divorce.  I forget that the concrete pad and basketball hoop in my driveway acted as a safe counselor, providing a consistent outlet to release my emotions and imagine a successful future.  I forget about the great times spent with friends, the loving sacrifices of my single mom and my enthusiastic, always-cheering dad at basketball games.  I need to be intentional about remembering stuff like this because these experiences have added to the story of who I am.

To put it simply, I’m like an onion.  Onions are a common metaphor used for illustrating the complexity of our personalities and rightly so!  As you look at an onion, you basically just see the outer skin and it’s round shape.  Once you peel back the skin and slice it in half, you notice the many layers hidden inside.  Piece by piece, you can peel that vegetable down, eventually revealing it’s core.  My memory works like that.  I operate as a whole onion most of the time, forgetting that I have layers and depth and experiences that have molded me into the “onion” that I am!  It’s beautiful really.

Sure, not all of the layers hold awesome memories…in fact, some of them are quite depressing.  I found crappy report cards with “needs improvement” plastered all over them and “I’ll be sure to tell Ryan not to pick on Paul anymore” notes from school administrators…I also found drawings and cards negatively written by a sad, angry boy…..me.

There were many positive things too, like encouraging letters from my mom and redeeming “Paul is making great improvements” notes from teachers and other things that represented my growth and ability to change.  Man, God sure had His wide, heavy, protective, loving hands on my life.  He still does.  I’m Grateful for that.

We all have a story friends.  We all have fond memories mixed with not-so-fond memories.  We all are human, imperfectly stumbling our way through life, doing our best.  Let’s not be so hard on ourselves, on our past lives, on our times of “falling short.”

There’s something to be said for facing our own selves head on.  To frame the picture of our lives and proudly display it for all to see.  We are each a unique painting, colors creatively, chaotically, yet purposefully splatted on a canvas.  We’re not meant to be hidden or subdued or ashamedly slid under the bed….we’re meant to shine, mixing our colors with those around us.  I need to work on this more.

You see, I believe many of the memories that I’ve forgotten have been intentionally buried deep to avoid pain, not lost forever…maybe they’re resting on God’s lap…or sitting in a jar on His nightstand and He’s sitting there with a big fatherly smile, handing them back to me as He knows I can handle them….as He knows others can handle them….yeah, I’ll go with that.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

My Favorite Place On Earth

img_6064The beach is my favorite place in the world.  Not a tropical, warm beach, but the cold, damp, salty Oregon Beach.  Where the morning mist soaks, freezing water numbs and the weather changes faster than, than, well it just changes fast.  It’s a beautiful place full of charm, grit and beauty.  I could live there, truly.

I’ve asked myself many times why I love the beach so much and I think I’ve found the answer:  God seems to show up there for me.  I know He’s everywhere, whether I’m at the beach or not, but I notice Him there more.  With every crashing wave, every seagull chirp, every footprint in the sand, every whiff of ocean air, every seashell found, I’m reminded of God’s power, creativeness and attention to detail.

Folks always seem to be nice and relaxed there also.  It’s a great place to people watch.  Dogs are roaming the wide open space, families are creating memories and kids are getting sand everywhere….it’s beautiful.

I think we all need find a spot like this…somewhere to unwind and disconnect a bit.  The pace of our daily lives can be hard to maintain at times….endless shuffling and texting and calling and travelling and organizing and committing and helping and serving and…..stressing.  Taking time to refocus on what matter helps us be better people.  Period.

All of our “places” of rest are different.  For some it’s the mountains, while others prefer Disneyland or camping or a tropical island or a coffee shop or their own bedroom.  It doesn’t matter, just find it and hit the life-pause-button from time to time.  You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your favorite place to find solitude or rest?

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

God’s Provision and a Pendleton Blanket

pendleton-blanketIt was a cool, fall-like day and I had the nagging itch to go for a run.  It was a weekend, so I decided to jog the trail on the opposite side of the river….a typical weekend thing that I like to do.  It’s pretty scenic and quiet…a good time to reflect on life and hang out with God.  So I laced up and hit the road.

As I was jogging down the path, breathing in the crisp air, my eyes and heart were drawn to a gal walking towards me.  She was pushing a grocery cart full of cans, clothes, food….basically her whole life stuffed in a basket being pushed with feeble, weather-worn hands.  As I passed her, I smiled and said hello, but I don’t think she noticed me….she was probably used to folks turning the other way or becoming conveniently preoccupied with their phones or whatever.

I continued down the path towards the end, where I usually turn around and head back the way I came.  My steps had a nice rhythm going and my body was warm, my blood pumping pretty good.  Through the rush of exercise came a gentle whisper in my soul….this whisper basically told me that if I happen to see the gal on my route back, that I need to stop and talk to her.  It was like one of those butterflies in the stomach feelings.  Almost like my whole being was on alert with the anticipation of seeing her, wondering what God had planned.

Guess what?!  As I followed the bend of the path, there she was, patiently pushing her cart, heading to who knows where.  So I listened to the whisper, or the Holy Spirit as I like to call Him and I stopped to talk.  I said something like “for some reason, I feel like I need to talk to you.  You mind if I tag along for a bit?”  She didn’t seem to mind at all, so I just walked with her for a bit.  I found out that her name was Karen and we talked about her life, faith and what it was like to be homeless, surviving off of the land and trash cans and shelters and hand outs and whatever she could get her hands on.  She gave me some tips on what trees were best to sleep under and other interesting stuff.  She was pretty street smart and really nice.

I didn’t have much to give her since I was out running and all.  The only thing that I had was the sweatshirt that I was wearing, so I gave it to her.  She seemed happy with it, but I wasn’t….I wanted to give her more.  So, after we parted ways, I sprinted back to my house (about 1 mile away) hoping that I could grab some food and clothes really fast and meet her at the end of the path in time.  So when I got home, I made an announcement to my wife and 2 boys that we were to quickly grab a bunch of food, some clothes, blankets, toiletries and whatever else was available so we could complete the mission of finding Karen.  After everything was gathered, we hopped in the truck and drove back to the river, where the path ended….guess what?!  We found her!

We basically just pulled up next to her and I reminded her of who I was and that my family wanted to give her a few more things.  We all participated in loading up her grocery cart with items that seemed pretty basic to us, but probably were necessities for her.  Along with the stuff that we brought from our house, I also noticed a couple of blankets in the back of our truck, so I gave those to her as well.  She seemed pleased, we said our goodbyes and that was it.  It was great.

Well, later I found out that one of the blankets that I gave her on impulse was a nice Pendleton blanket given to us as a wedding gift.  OOPS!!!  My wife wasn’t mad or anything, just bummed that I chose that blanket to give away and I can understand that.  My bad.

Here’s the cool part of this whole story….a couple of weeks ago, a family friend dropped by the house to deliver some Christmas gifts.  Really nice of her.  Guess what one of the gifts was?!  A BRAND NEW PENDLETON BLANKET!  My wife had told her this story in passing a while ago and our friend felt led to replace the blanket that we gave away.  Isn’t that awesome?!

I was so blessed not only by our friend’s generosity, but that God used her to remind me of His provision.  That blanket meant a lot to my wife and He replaced it.  What a practical, yet powerful thing.

God’s pretty creative and He never ceases to amaze me.  I had no idea that this story would blossom from a simple run on a fall day.  I hope Karen got some good use out of the stuff we gave her.  One thing’s for sure; we both scored some new blankets out of the deal!  Wink wink.

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

My #1 Goal For Next Year

img_5988Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this last year.  It’s been full of awesomeness, it really has!  I’ve met some great people, I’ve grown closer to others, I’ve been stretched, I’ve traveled, I’ve overcome obstacles, I’ve failed, I’ve succeeded, I’ve grown, I’ve battled dark clouds and rejoiced when those clouds have retreated.  Overall, it’s been a pretty darn good year.

In a couple of days, the slate will be wiped clean and another year will be upon us.  More opportunities lie ahead around every corner….ordained opportunities that are waiting to welcome us like an anxious puppy patiently anticipating their owner’s arrival home.  Exciting!

As I’ve grown older and wiser (hehe!), I’ll typically set a goal to pursue for the upcoming year.  Not a new years resolution or anything, just a vision to follow.  So here’s mine….drum roll please….MY #1 GOAL FOR THIS NEXT YEAR IS TO LOVE BETTER.  There you go.

So what in the world does this “love better” stuff mean?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  For me, it means being open to God’s invitations.  To love people, even though I may not receive anything in return.  So often, I hesitate when I feel God’s nudging to love on somebody or offer kind words.  Ok, I admit it…most of it stems from fear and lack of trust.  For some reason, I forget that God is bigger than me.  I forget that I’m just a limited human, influenced by culture and sin.  I forget that it’s not about me, it’s about Him.  God wants HIS love in MY heart to spew or spray (ok, weird words) or add flavor to those around me.  Not that I’m exceptional or worthy or anything, it’s that He’s exceptional!

So, when I feel led to give the shirt off my back to someone in need, I want to do it.  When I feel led to talk to that lonely looking guy on the bench, I want to do it.  When I feel led to feed that homeless person, I want to do it.  When I feel led to pray for somebody, I want to do it.  When I feel led to send that text, email or make that phone call, I want to do it.  When I see God working in ways that don’t necessarily make sense to me, I want to follow Him…NO MATTER WHAT!  There’s something powerful and beautiful that happens when we are walking in-step with our Creator.  Life is full and complete and purposeful…almost normal feeling…like we were meant to love with boldness, following God’s lead, serving others, not ourselves…hmmmm.

So that’s it.  Pretty simple goal, but so hard to follow through with sometimes!  I’m gonna try though, so watch out world!

WARNING:  You may be hugged next time I see you.  Don’t be afraid, God probably told me to do it.  😉

Happy New Year friends and family.  I believe that God has some amazing powerful things in store for all of us, I really do!

What goals do you have for next year?  What is God challenging you to pursue or change?

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

Ecuador – Day 8 (Final Day)

ecuador-344Well, the amazing week was coming to a close.  This was the final day of an incredible journey.  My emotions were so mixed….I was super excited to see my family back at home, yet I felt like my heart had planted roots in Ecuador.  I had new family there and saying goodbye to them bummed me out.  Another full day was ahead of us though and I couldn’t wait to get moving.

We had the opportunity of checking out project 542, ALC’s 2nd funded project.  Construction had not begun yet, but the plot of land was acquired (after some drama – see day 5 for details).  We had a small church service and hugged a lot of great folks….notice the hugging theme?  🙂  It was cool to envision what the new project would look like and what memories would be shared there.

ecuador-514These projects are placed in great locations, right in the middle of impoverished communities, which is ideal.  They serve as great hubs and resources for those in need.  I love the way God works and I love the way He uses His people!

Speaking of God using His people, I have a cool story for you.  After we said our goodbyes at 542, we broke up into groups and visited a few more homes.  My group had a special mission.  There was a little boy named Freddie who just had a birthday about 1 week before.  A little before Freddie’s birthday, his dad started a new job working in the mines.  The job wasn’t close to home, so he had to travel.  Although it’s great that his dad found a job, the family hadn’t heard from him in about 2 weeks.  They didn’t know if he was just unable to make a phone call, in trouble or dead.  Freddie’s birthday came around and he was really hoping to see his dad…..well, the day came and went and the family still had not heard from him.  Understandably, Freddie was very bummed about this and he missed his dad very much.  This story laid heavy on the hearts of the staff of 542, so they decided to do something so special…..they threw him a surprise belated birthday party and we got to be a part of it!!!!  They went to a bakery and purchased a cake made just for him.  They also brought some drinks and decorated the walls of the house with cool kid stuff.  To top it off, they had this awesome sparkler candle to place on the cake and those pull-string little firework confetti things.  Although the folks from 542 had limited resources and funds, they still gave what they could in order to pour out God’s love on this little boy.  Inspiring.

ecuador-549I’ll never forget walking down the dirt streets to his house, cake and supplies in-hand.  Then entering his house and seeing his smiling face light up.  He was surrounded by people who loved him, family and strangers alike.  I couldn’t believe that we were standing in a house in Ecuador, eating cake with beautiful people, witnessing God’s love in action….I was standing on holy ground…truly.

After our little party came to a close, we took the last bites of cake and it was time to head out.  We visited a couple more staff houses to meet their families and pray with them.  I was reminded once again of how dedicated these folks were to serving and pouring out every resource that they had.  They hold on loosely to their lives, knowing that God will provide.  I want to be like that.

After some great visits, the trip was officially coming to a close.  We were saying goodbye to our friends and driving to the city.  The plan was to head to the market to buy some souvenirs for our friends and family.  It was a great time and fun to negotiate prices with the vendors!  I wish we could wheel and deal like that more in the states!

The next stop was back to the hotel…the same one that we stayed in at the very beginning of the trip.  We organized our luggage there and ate some dinner.  For me, this was a sad time.  We were heading directly to the airport from the hotel and I couldn’t believe that the journey was over.  After months of preparation and prayer, God’s agenda had been accomplished and we had the divine opportunity of being a part of it.

ecuador-564Well, it was about time for our team to pack up and head to the airport.  The anticipation of going through customs and security became our new focus.  Eventually, we all made our way through the ticket line and it was time to say goodbye to our leader, Liz and the translators.  They became family to us and saying goodbye was harder than expected.  They were amazing people and we couldn’t have made it through each day without them.  They wished us well and we made our way through customs, through security, to Miami, to Dallas and finally, to Portland.  The trip was smooth coming home (thank goodness!!!) and we were ready to see our families.  When the plane landed in Portland, we all knew that it was time to apply all that we had learned in Ecuador to our daily lives.  There was so much to share with our loved ones!

After tons of hugs from our families, we gathered one last time with our group to pray.  We thanked God for an unbelievable experience and our strong team.  We thanked God for His protection and for the opportunity to be loved and to love in a whole new, powerful way.  I’m grateful for my amazing team and the memories that we shared together.

ecuador-572Looking back to about a year ago, I never would have pictured myself traveling to Ecuador.  I’m just a normal guy who goes through the daily grind like everyone else.  Being interested and responding to God’s call to go abroad never seemed like an option or a possibility.  Boy did that change!  It just goes to prove that God can use any of us to make an impact around the world.  There are folks struggling out there, doing their best to make it through another day.  They need hope and joy and comfort and food and care and love just like we do.  Getting to that point of thinking outside of our little boxes is hard, but it’s necessary if we want God to make an impact through us.  It takes intention and it often takes God slapping us across the head to get there.

So how do I conclude such an awesome trip?  How do I sufficiently portray what’s on my heart?  I guess I’ll just leave you with some great words behind why I went: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20

As a Christian, the Great Commission lays heavy on my heart and truthfully, it scares the crap out of me sometimes.  God calls all of us to “go.”  It’s not always pretty or organized or perfectly planned, but neither is life.  God uses normal people to accomplish miraculous things, He just needs folks who are willing to take steps in faith and trust Him.  So I ask you this: Are you brave enough to go?  Are you willing to stretch yourself and risk being uncomfortable?  I encourage you to let these questions sink in.  God’s inviting you to join Him in transforming lives…in transforming your life.  Take the invitation.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks so much for following me along this incredible journey!  It’s been fun!

ecuador-585God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador – Day 6

ecuador-570In my mind, this day was the most powerful in regards to sensing God’s love and power.

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.

ecuador-328Next, 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.

ecuador-171Instead 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!

015The 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!

017After 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!

God Bless,

Paul

 

Ecuador – Day 5

ecuador-229Day 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.

ecuador-340Later 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?!

ecuador-273After 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.

ecuador-295Unfortunately, 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.

ecuador-085It 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!!!

God Bless,

Paul