pool-300x155Over then 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 sixth installment in this series. You can read the previous entries here: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5 if you want more information about our November 4 – 11, 2016 or July 28 – August 4, 2017 trip.

Wednesday: Day 6 in Ecuador

Love.  It seems like such an inadequate word to really describe what I experienced today.  Perhaps it’s because we overuse and abuse this word.  How would you define love to someone who doesn’t understand it?

Today, God defined it for me, very clearly.  Today was the day that some of us were reunited with the children we sponsor, and some of us were able to meet them in person for the first time.  More than 20 children, along with their moms and some siblings, came to our hotel to spend the day with us.  For the children, coming to the hotel to play in the pool and on the beach is probably the equivalent of some kids at home experiencing Disney World for the first time.

Our team had our usual breakfast on the patio and watched some of the kids arrive and play on the playground.  We were encouraged to wait for everyone to arrive so that we could then be introduced to each other.  Some of us recognized our children right away.  I caught eyes with Rashel, the young girl that we sponsor, for a moment and we both recognized each other instantaneously.  We vigorously waved to each other since we were separated by the invisible barrier of patience.  I hadn’t yet spotted Cristopher, the young boy that we sponsor, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The next 15 minutes (it really felt like 60) were pure torture as we sat and waited to be introduced to our kids.  I think I had to pray for the power of God to hold me back from running, scooping up my kids, and suffocating them with…me.

And then, the moment came.  Two little people came running towards me, 4 arms wrapped around me, and squishy little cheeks pressed against each of mine. All anxiety that existed for anyone easily melted away as hugs and kisses were exchanged and joy began to fill any void within us and around us.

No one wasted any time hopping into the pool, where we spent a majority of the day playing, laughing, and swallowing a lot of pool water.  Our only battle seemed to be against time, as we fought to delight in every God-given second provided to us.   And yet, my heart was reminded that as the battle belongs to the Lord, He was the one truly at work, breaking down stongholds.  He was the one breaking down every wall of discouragement, every thicket of hate, every fortress of deception that any of these children have had to face as they were hedged in by pure love.

At one point, I took a moment to stop and see, to look for the very presence of God among us.  There are those who would view us through a world focused lens and describe our time and experience as chaotic.  I mean, 40 some people in a small pool, screaming and jumping, speaking different languages….isn’t that the definition of pure chaos?  And then there are those who would choose to focus their lens with an eternal perspective, with a God-view setting, and see it as chaos made neutral by the peace of God; it isn’t chaos, but rather, beautiful chaos.  Not one tear of sadness.   Not one word of hate.  Not one envious wish.  Not one bit of whining or complaining.  And isn’t that God’s definition of love?  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.

Love.  It will conquer because God is love.  I witnessed it today because I saw God among us, everywhere.  I saw him in the eyes of Karen, Cristopher’s mom, as she expressed her gratitude and offered me a handmade gift, while daring to apologize that it wasn’t perfect.  What could be more perfect than her gift offered to me in love?   I heard him in the voice of Jessi, Rashel’s mom, as she humbly asked for me to pray for their family, for God to provide steady work for her husband.  I saw him in Cristopher’s eyes as they lit up each time I brought him a plate of french fries, and in his delightfully quiet smiles as he answered all of my many questions.  I felt him in Rashel’s hugs and in her words as she tried to speak with me in english.  She says, “hello friend” and can count to 10.  I saw him in the people who carried children on their backs, who slid down itty bitty slides, who dug into the sand to build castles, who reached into their own areas of discomfort and did whatever would make a child feel safe and comfortable.

Love.  It’s overwhelming as we pray for all of the families.  It’s what prevents your heart from completely shattering as you watch one of the little girls lay face flat on the floor, devastated because she can’t bear to leave.  It’s what relieves the pain of saying goodbye as you see one of the children make her way back to us with a plate of birthday cake, while her Padrino rushes to her, smothering her with kisses.

Love was abundant today.  You’d have to be numb to not feel it, even as an outsider looking in.  And if God is love, I pray that we would all have an even greater understanding of just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for us, after having experienced him firsthand today.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”  1 John 4:7

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4: 19

If God is love, how do others experience God through the love you share?