Over the next few weeks, we will feature one of Amanda Pennel’s posts that she sent to supporters while she was on our 2015 mission trip to Ecuador. This is the fourth installment in this series. You can read the previous entries here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. if you want more information about our November 4 – 11, 2016 or July 28 – August 4, 2017 trip.
Monday: Day 4 in Ecuador
Joy. This is the word that the Lord had for me yesterday and He showed up big time. We started our morning meeting a few of the teens at the project. There are only five. It seems that the struggle to engage this age group is prevalent here as well. Two of the girls sang for us and they taught us how to make some picture frames. When we asked if they had sponsors and if they received letters from their sponsors, their faces completely lit up. There was such joy in them as they talked about their lives.
We always ask how we can pray for everyone we meet here. The prayer requests we receive are so different than what I am used to hearing at home. I have not yet heard a request for the provision of anything material. Usually, I hear requests for Some- thing. The prayer requests we receive here are always – please pray for my family and for health. Nothing more. Even when we press for it. It’s more than humbling.
We did some home visits yesterday, where some of the team members were able to visit the home of their sponsored child. I visited the home of Gabriel, who my travel buddy, Michala (my friend’s 17 year old daughter), sponsors. It was about a half mile walk to their home, which sits up on hill among the bamboo trees. When I say trees- it’s more like a forest. To get there, we waded through pecking chickens and dirt, crossed a trickling river which will soon be raging in the wet season. We crossed a make-shift bridge consisting of 3 bamboo stalks thrown across the river. Not that I expected to be cozy this trip, but my first thought was, whoa we are walking in the jungle. And this is the trek the kids make to the project several times a week. This is the trek that little 4-year old Gabriel makes to get to the project.
When we arrived, Gabriel jumped into Michala’s arms and did not leave her side the entire time we were there. Joy. Joy expressed in the purest form from this little boy who was meeting his Madrina for the first time in person. The term sponsor does not translate appropriately here; instead, sponsors are referred to as Madrina or Padrino, meaning God-mother/father. That is more fitting considering that sponsors play such a critical role in sharing God’s love with these children. Fanny, Gabriel’s mother, had the biggest smile on her face as she welcomed us into her home. Chairs were already set up for us inside the main room which was decorated with dozens of pictures- simple printouts of photos and crafts that Gabriel had made, which hung in plastic bags from a wall of bamboo . I can’t imagine what it must be like when the rain comes and finds its way between the cracks of the bamboo. Gabriel is shy. His mother says that he would not stop talking before we came, but that now we are here and he won’t speak. But, he does not stop smiling the entire time we are there and he doesn’t leave Michala’s arms. His mother also does not stop smiling. Such grace and hospitality like I have never experienced. The grandmother and cousins from the house next door all come to see what’s going on. These people may seem like they have little, but the concept of family and love is abundant and enough. Before we leave, Gabriel’s aunt appears with a plate of cookies and cups of soda. Out of the very little that they have, they give to us. Strangers who have stepped into their most personal space for just a moment. We pray for them. For what? For their family and health. For things that we so often take for granted in our failure to recognize blessing and our ignorance of our need for God. Fanny thanks us for all we’ve done. I think the gratitude should be reversed. She has so much more to offer us than we have to offer her.
The Lord had a message for me from Psalm 30- a psalm of David. As I read his words, I can’t help but think that these brothers and sisters could probably relate to David. David spent years in conditions that were not favorable. He hid in caves far from home, and probably often wondered- how long, O lord? How long after receiving God’s promise would he have to wait? Despite experiencing many hardships, some of the purest words of joy for the Lord are expressed by David. Pure joy like I’ve seen today.
“I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
Psalm 30:1-3, 11-12
When was the last time you experienced pure joy in the Lord?
Pray for the families in Pueblo Nuevo. Pray for God’s provision and protection. Pray that these children would grow to know hope and pure joy in the Lord. May their love for him continue to grow more and more so that they would be able to discern what is best and remain pure and blameless until the day of Christ.