First off, before we start this off, I want to take a second to thank you all. We want to thank you for your thoughts, and thank you for your prayers. Your prayers were truly felt. We could tell we were being prayed for daily because you could just sense God’s power surrounding us. Thank you for praying for safety, for effectiveness, and for health. I want to thank all of you who helped us financially! I want you to know that your funds were spent with honor and dignity. We would not have been able to do anything without your help. I want to thank all of you who gave donations. Please know that those clothes, toys, hygienic items, and jerseys were given to very deserving struggling families. They gave us thanks that we could never be able to imitate to you, so just know that they are forever thankful. But may I never forget to give the credit and honor to where it belongs. My God, thanks for allowing us to be apart of such amazing work in such an amazing land.
Ecuador 2007 – Passion for Christ Team
As I sit outside on a beautiful California day, I begin to realize… Man, I have it good. There will be no rain today to prepare for and the food for the day is prepackaged and ready to be thrown into the microwave to be enjoyed minutes later. The bathroom smells like roses, and I don’t even have to watch me step. The shower is standing by with nice warm water that I can just jump into at anytime. My car is sitting out front ready for me to drive anywhere I want. Of course the gas gouges my paycheck just a bit, but surely the cars there, and it’s mine. Yup, I have a good paying job that I can go to everyday. I get to serve Christ on a daily basis, but for some reason I never have a gun to my head. No, my country believes that you can believe in anything. It’s not like those other countries that make it a life or death decision to follow Christ. I mean the media just might decide that its national bash on Christianity day, because yesterday was bash on Bush day, and the day before was Brittany Spears. I have a personal computer that I can talk to you on and there is a glistering pool out in the yard that you are welcome to jump in almost all year long.
Etc, etc, and etc… Ok, I could go on and on… But one thing remains on my mind. Why me? Why is my brother in Christ living in the Guasmos of Ecuador while I reside in my humble abode here? Why do we Go? Why do we give? Why do we care? Well, God commanded us too. It is a priority set on our lives, and it needs to be that way. But also, I care because it’s a true privilege. My God created them, and He created me. Yet I have the resources and provisions to help my brother? How could I not?
Ecuador was amazing and to tell you the truth, I don’t even know where to start. So, I thought I would start off by giving you the day-to-day overviews so you can read about what we were able to do there.
Bree and I boarded a plane bound for LAX; Los Angeles International Airport. We arrive late that night and where able to met up with the first part of our team; Doug and Cati. From there, the four of us found out we couldn’t check in until 4am. So, with 12 bags in hand we made a big bed for all of us to take turns sleeping on! What a comical site that must have been.
At about 7am the rest of our team had arrived (Ashley and Tommy) and we had our first team meeting. And from there, the journey began.
Later that night we arrived in Guayaquil and what a shock it was to be hit with HEAT and HUMIDITY. Reason for the shock was the fact that it was after midnight! It was going to take some getting used to, but we were excited for the nice warm change. Finally, after long hours of travel, we met up with Gabe (our host and friend) at the airport and we headed off to our hotel to get some rest for the week full of ministry.
Day two started off early in the morning. Did some devotions, had a nice little breakfast and loaded the van. We stopped at a local market to check out the “flee market” style marketplace. It had all the tropical fruits you could imagine and the smell of fish and hanging hog was enough to knock you off your feet. Then Gabe gave us the tour of his little miniappartment, and then off we went to Guasmo Sur. Like in every city around the world there is a wealthy area and a poor region. Our ministry began in the slums of Guayaquil in a neighborhood called Guasmo Sur. Our ministry that day was simply to run a VBS style program for the kids of a daycare and at a tiny little school. We playing some games, same some silly songs, danced some funky dances, and sharing some great bible stories. We also had a group of older kids and young adults who came in which we were able to reach them with the gospel and give them some support. Sadly, most kids that age who live in those areas find themselves involves with gangs, drugs, and prostitution. So, it was powerful to be able to talk and share with these kids. We even challenged them to a futbol (soccer) match in which we came close to winning… if that means anything.
There is a family of 7 who lives in Guasmo Sur named the Walter family. Gabe chose for us to help this family because he has been working with them for a while. They have five children. Enrique, who is 14 and is addicted to drugs. Then they have their oldest girl who is about 12-13 years old and she is being prostituted off so the family can have more funds. And lastly but not least, they have two little girls, about 7 and 5, and a little boy who is two. This family lives in a filthy cinderblock and brick shack with a rocky dirt floor that is just barely big enough to fit two mattresses and a dresser. On the exterior of the house they have a mosquito attracted puddle of waste and a small bathroom hole. The property was filthy and trashed, and had a lot of mosquito infested over-growth that was taking over the bathroom area. Our plan was to clean the house and property. To paint the inside of the house, build an outhouse for them to use, fill in the sewer hole with dirt, clear the over-growth, and finally to rebuild a guard fence that had fallen down. So, we split into teams and started the projects. After a good hour of work, we had had a team who started out just clearing the house, clearing the floor of the rocks, and had started to prep the walls to be painted. All of the sudden, they noticed that one of the walls had cracked down the middle and was about ready to cave in! We couldn’t believe it! All we wanted to do was help and now it was possible that we could have ruined their home! As a result, all work was at a standstill and everyone began trying to brainstorm how we were going to fix the problem. This was about when God brought HIS plan into the picture… Earlier, we had learned that our gas and a few other expenses were going to be much lower then we had budgeted for. Which left us with extra money, but God had a plan for that money. The solution turned out to be that our team was going to be able to completely fund for the Walter family to have a brand new house built for them. We connected with a Christian foundation in the area that is helping people with these house problems. It is a bamboo home that resembles a tree house, and is very popular in the area. It is a very quality home, and is nice and cool in the summertime compared to the brick oven they lived in. GOD provided this to happen and there will be teams from a local church there in Ecuador that will continue the work. Mr. Walters was in tears when we told him. I will never forget that day. After all was finished; bathroom was built and toilet clean, temporary shelter was built, property was cleaned up and cleared, fence was built, and a new house funded for and on the way. We gathered in a circle and laid hands on this amazing family and prayed for them. God was in control that day, and He turned a situation that went completely wrong into an unbelievable blessing. Praise God! Nothing takes Him by surprise; he had His intentions for this family all along.
Early wake up call and a long road trip ahead! This was our first day of traveling and we were leaving the hot and humid costal region of Guayaquil and making the eight hour drive up through the jungle and into the cool highlands of Quito. The landscapes were so diverse and the contrasts were incredible and stunning. We started off in the low coastal region covered in bananas, made our way through the twists and turns of the lushes jungle, zigzagged our way up/through/over the great foggy Andes Mountains, and ended in the breathtaking highland valleys where Quito sits. What a drive!
After morning devotions and Breakfast we all drove to the Youth World Headquarters, which is the ministry that serves as the “umbrella ministry” of Casa Gabriel. We visited with the staff and got a tour of the ministry and vision for the future. Then we all traveled to a park in the middle of the city where a lot of the street children usually congregate. After rounding then up we split up into teams and had a grande soccer tournament with all of the boys. The girls had a VERY blessed experience talking and sharing with the woman at the same time. After some great matches, we got all the kids together and walked to a nearby restaurant where we bought them all full lunches to enjoy and fellowship with. What a sight it was to see the contrast between the wealthy and the poverty stricken together in one spot. After the great meal we headed over to the park once again where we were able to pass out donated jerseys and share the gospel to these kids! What a truly awesome time it was! After the park we all drove to Casa Gabriel and finally got to see the house we had all hear so much about. It was so much bigger and more established then I had imagined! God is so good, and I look forward to hear what He has next for that ministry.
Following all of this great time, we were able to go and do a little touring of the city of Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador. So, we toured the president’s residence and main government centers. We also visited the huge Catholic Church; the Iglasia Basilica, and the Virgin Statue. The Catholic Church is the dominate faith system in the country, but it really gave us some great opportunities to speak into the lives of these people.
Early in the morning we stared our journey to a village that Gabe had visited 3 year prior. He had remembered it being about a 2 hour drive… Well, that turned into 4 and a half hours! Bless his heart, but hey, we aren’t complaining. However, once we were in the middle of nowhere it became apparent the we were lost… Not just lost, but even stuck on one occasion! What an adventure. After, some time driving around in the mountains we found a small little village with a small school house. We decided that this would work and Gabe went in to ask if we could hang out with the kids. WOW!!! What a divine appointment that ended up being. We ended up washing the kids hair, cleaning there faces, and put lotion on there faces and arms. It was one of the most touching moments of my life. But what made it even crazier was we found out we were the first white people these kids had ever seen in there lives! What a feeling that was!
After that we were so touched that we just wanted to worship. So we just stopped in the middle of nowhere and ate lunch and fellowshipped with God in sweet worship. It will be one of those times or moments in your life that will be with you for your entire life.
After a good hour, we decided to get back on the road; after all we still have a 5 and half hour drive back to Quito. But before we could get out of the village, the Indians started knocking on our window. Come to find out, there was a riot at the village entrance and no one was being allowed in or out. So, we approached the scene which was covered in people, military, and smoke. Smoke from the burning tires. They had placed a rather large dump truck right in the middle of a bridge and had slashed the tires so no cars or buses could make there way in or out. So, we had to sit back and wait for the protest to run its course. We found out the blockade was of the village major’s orders after there had been a disagreement between village and government. So they decided to block the road because it served as a major thruway to other towns and regions. After small talk with the Indians and military/police, we were told that they would be able to open the road for us at 10pm that night… Well, it was 4pm and we had a 5 hour drive ahead of us! So… we prayed. Not just for us but for them… The reality is that we will get out of this, but they will be in turmoil for days, months, or ever years after this… It was quite the experience to watch unfold. However, after only an hour, the people waiting on the buses wanting to go through the village got very anxious and decided to take matters into their own hands! Soon many buses were empty and they all began to try and push the truck out of the way! The Indians saw this and took action to prevent such efforts. So you had two thinks happening. A giant dump truck rocking back and forth as the two groups push there sides. But you also had the other Indians throwing rocks and boulders in the road so that if and when they get past the blockade they would then be blocked by rocks. Well, through the high tension battle, the bus people (for lack of better words) won and were able to move the truck JUST enough to get by. Then, they decided to just go OVER the rocks and boulders! What a scene to see! Finally, we were able to make our way around the mess and get out of there. Praise God!
But that was not it for March 6th! Just hours after clearing that mess we could see a volcano ahead getting extra cloudy, so much so that it grabbed our attention. Then it became clear as the smoke became less like clouds and more like smoke, that we were about to witness an eruption! So, Cameras on hand we watched as billows of smoke and ash rose straight out of that towering volcano! Once again, not a site to forget!
After a LONG but exciting day we finally reach Quito and finally with heavy eyes and aching bodies we dined in a nice restaurant and headed straight to bed.
After an early wake up call we all pack up our goods and loaded the van, and with a final bon voyage we left Quito. We decided to stop at Otavalo Market in the town of Otavalo and do our tourist shopping there. The market is a huge hub where the Indians bring all of their goods to sell. Blankets, hats, handcrafts, and toys were some of the many creations to look at and bargain for. What a beautiful wealth of color and handcrafting skill. After about an hour or two we loaded up for our long journey back to Guayaquil. 8 hours of zigzag through the Andes, winding through the jungle canyons, and then the coastal flats covered in Banana trees.
As we were closing in near to Guayaquil we took time as a team to pray for all who we saw and met. It was one of the most powerful prayer times I have ever been apart of, and the Holy Spirit moved in many ways.
In the early afternoon we checked out and drove to the airport and said our final goodbyes. We had our final Team Time at the gate and talked about what we were going to take home from this trip. What are we going to do to remember all that God has done here. Then we boarded the plane, and back to the states we came.
I know I could talk about this trip forever. It’s just a silly thing about me. For me EVERYTHING seems to be awesome. For some reason it seems that there is not much that doesn’t tip my scale of amazement. I remember while in school at Joshua, my roommates would always tease me about my small vocabulary when I got excited. But, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I truly get awed by God at work in even the small things, and I have a hard time finding words to express such a feeling. So, when I say that Ecuador was AMAZING… I mean it. My eyes were opened to see God at work in this country. There is a huge Catholic dominates in the country and you can see that anywhere you go; huge statues, pristine churches, and crosses on everything. But you ask one person about there faith and they simply just know it because it is all that they have known. They have never been challenged to crack open the Word. So, we brought that challenge. It was amazing to see them reading about Grace and Salvations NOT through works. They were floored! What a foundation and platform to bring the Word in with. Way to go God! I was also challenged to regain grip of my pursuit of the Word. I have been blessed with a bible all my life and I read it often. I get fed from a great congregation on the weekends, and I also try and get some time in during the weekdays. But I HAVE A BIBLE!!! I have closer to 10 between my office/room/bed stand. The bible is the WORD OF GOD! The words from the creator of all things! I like when I come close to grasping that thought because that is a powerful thing I have on my bookshelf. But I “try” and read it every once in a while for a refuel? Wow, talk about not being a good steward! I am praying about stepping up in this. I have been blessed with these bibles and there are many out there who don’t have one. Wow! Once again, what a thought.
This is one of the main things I took home from this trip and experience. God willing I will be back overseas bringing GODS Word to people who don’t have the ability to feast on His Word. So, it is my responsibility to KNOW His Word so that I can be a good steward of the resources that I have been blessed with.
Ecuador is a breathtaking country with a major clash of environments. It contains the wondrous, Galapagos Islands, the Coastal region that is FULL of Bananas and coffee, the foggy region of the Andes Mountain range, the beautiful highlands with it’s mountain villages and snowcapped Volcanoes, and then there is the mysterious Amazon jungle region. You can see the appearance of the jungle region in the movie “End of the Spear.” (www.endofthespear.com) It is the movie about the missionaries who were reaching the Waodani tribe.
The Government is very weak due to unrest over the course of the last ten years. There have been 8 presidents in just the last ten years. Reason varies from corruption to government clashes with the Indians. In the past years, if the Indians (coming from Inca traditions and still makes up the majority of the country) get unhappy with a decision made by Government, and will all make their way in to Quito (the capital) and literary beat down the doors down and overthrow the president. Not a joke or play on words, I mean it… and it has happened to the last three presidents. And even currently there is HUGE unrest in the capital. The president is clashing with the congress and is pushing congressmen out of office. I don’t know enough to make judgment calls but I have heard through nationals that they like the president and believe he is making a big difference in fighting corruption. So, be praying for the government in Ecuador because I am foreseeing big news in the coming months.
Why Missions in Ecuador
Of course there is an obvious reason for missions in Ecuador. We are commanded by God to go into these lands and bring His name to these people. “All Authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. (Matt 28: 18-20) Catholicism is the major stance of faith in the country, but it really gives Christ the foothold. Once you have them open the Word and read for themselves, God moves in big ways. There will always be rejection and persecution. We can read about that in Romans 8! Furthermore, there was and will be people who just will not hear God’s Word, and as I read in 1 John 4: 4-6 we can understand better why that’s happens too. However, God is using missionaries to reach many for Him there in that beautiful country, and we were blessed to be apart of that orchestra. Praise God.
Feeling called to lead this trip scared me because I didn’t know how to execute such a trip. However, God made it clear that His provisions would lead me all the way through, and sure enough… WOW! What a trip. I would like to close out this trip and chapter with a prayer.
Lord, Thank you for you. Thank you for living in us, and using such unwilling, unprepared, untrained, unworthy vessels to do Your work. Ecuador is such a beautiful place, with such beautiful people. Lord, please bless the people of that land. Provide for their needs. We can see their needs to be material things, because we are surrounded by so much excess, but you know Lord that they are more then content to have what they have. So, Lord please provide for their Walk with You. Stir in them a light that will be the salt of the country, THE WORLD! Lord, use the nationals to reach the nationals. There is nothing more important or powerful then that in evangelism. Brothers, reaching Brothers. I pray for the struggling government. Give the president Godly wisdom to lead the country and to weed out corruption that is spoiling so many lives. Lord, protect and provide for those affected by the resent volcano eruption. Lord, you know the needs and the weaknesses of that country. Please raise your might right hand to against evil in that region. We love you and thank you for all your doing, and thank you for using us to help advance your Kingdom. All praise to you.
Thank you once again and may God Bless you.
Pete and Bree