Wow, it seems like time has gone so fast since we returned from Ecuador. We have settled back into the busy routine of life on this side of the equator. Erin is full swing into another year of her ballet company, Sara is still working as a sign language interpreter, Emily returned to a job offer from a local restaurant and now works as their head pastry cook, and Luke started his first year of full-time college courses. While we have been busy, we also have been reflecting on our experiences and we wanted to thank you for your prayers and financial support. While it would be impossible to share all of the stories from our time in Ecuador, here are a few.
Three times a week we led a Bible class for all of the kids. We sang songs, acted out skits, read Bible stories, memorized verses, and played games. I enjoyed preparing the lessons for the kids and teaching them about topics like prayer, trusting God, and how each person is a wonderful creation of God. I also got to practice my Spanish as I would teach in English and then translate so that the younger kids would be able to understand. One of the kids’ favorite things to do was to learn the new Bible verse each week. They got to make up songs, learn sign language, play leap frog, put together puzzles, and race to see who could put the verse in the right order first. At the end of the week each child recited the verse by themselves and received a piece of candy.
As you can imagine when there are 60 children under one roof it is hard for the Tias (Ecuadorian care givers) to have enough hugs and attention to go around. That’s where we come in! One-on-one time with the children is my favorite part of visiting Casa de Fe, and its so important for the emotional and social development of the children. It’s time that we use to encourage the child, let them know that we love them and that Jesus loves them more. Sometimes it’s just an opportunity to hold their hand and walk quietly down the street (maybe to buy a special ice cream treat).
One of my favorite times was when Luke and I took Sheyla (3yrs) and Nila (4yrs) out to the park and to dinner. You would have thought they won the lottery, they were so excited. They drank in the attention (especially from Luke –there aren’t many guys working at the orphanage), loved the food –even licking the bottom of the bowl, and thought potty breaks (8 of them) were a blast. From then on whenever Luke walked into the orphanage Nila would sound the alarm and Sheyla would come running. They would attach themselves to him by wrapping their little arms and legs around his ankles and staying close to him as long as possible.
Last year I worked hard with the construction team to get the big, multipurpose building ready for the kids. When we arrived in Shell this year our first stop was to see the kids who are now living in that building! It was so good to see them all again and to see the building finished and being used. This year I helped prepare for and pour the concrete for the second floor of the new school building. When we arrived in Ecuador Dwight and maestros (skilled craftsmen) had already partially setup the wooden form and were beginning to make the rebar supports. In shell there are no cement trucks so we had to prepare the concrete in a small mixer then lift it up to the second floor one bucket at a time. We poured the floor in three sections, each time it was an all day event involving all the volunteers and maestros. It was good to see the floor completed and Lord willing the entire school will be done and ready for school next fall.
Before this summer I had never been to outside of the continental United States so the idea of traveling to foreign country with its own culture and language was a little bit daunting. When I got to Ecuador I found that many things were different. For example, you couldn’t drink tap water and toilet paper did not go down the toilet (that took some getting used to). All the houses had tall fences and barking dogs for security systems, small motorcycles were family transport vehicles, and the rules of the road consisted of “there really aren’t any” and “he who is most determined wins” (maybe not so different). Also, like most tropical locations, cockroaches were small rodent sized roommates. There were beautiful orchids that grew by the side of the road -they were simply considered to be wild flowers. And the culture was laid back and focused on relationships.
Along with the differences, I was also surprised by how many things were the same, especially the children. While each child had their stories and struggles, they still laughed, played, fought and loved like any other kids. It instantly made my fears of “what strange things will I eat”, “how will I cope”, “will our house be clean” and “will I be comfortable, healthy and safe” seem unimportant. As I looked into their faces –some mischievous, some silly, some worried– I could see that they needed the very same thing that we all do—hope, love, and a Savior who will never, ever let you go.
At the end of the trip I looked back on my time in Ecuador and saw how well it had gone and how safe and comfortable I had been and it felt like GOD was whispering “I told you so. I said I would take care of you didn’t I?”
One of the special projects that we were asked to help with this year was tutoring. All of the kids are taught to read in English and Spanish, and the school teachers asked that we spend 15 minutes a day reading with each of the older kids. This turned out to be one of my favorite times of the day. We each worked with two or three kids, and were able encourage them as we worked with each child individually throughout our time in Shell.
One of my kids was Julisa, one of the older girls. I worked with Julisa last year and at that point she had just barely started reading in English. This year she was able to read whole story books. I think that the most important part of reading together was that I had a chance to remind Julisa that she was loved. Through reading books together and discussing the storyline, I was able to encourage her to never give up. She had come so far in the past year and I cannot wait to see where God take her in the future.
One day two of the special needs kids decided that they wanted their turn to be read too. Edison and Pablo do not usually get along, so the fact that they sat together while I read to them was a miracle. The funny thing is that Edison, who was listening very intently, is deaf! The two of them just wanted the attention.
This year I wanted to do more with the kids so I came up with some crafts which weren’t pink and glittery. Their favorite was a mini catapult made from popsicle sticks which fired rolled up pipe cleaners. When we got the kids sitting at their desks and paying attention, I showed them what we where going to make. Their eyes got huge. They enjoyed making the catapults, but they liked shooting them even more. There were pipe cleaners flying every which way!
Thank you once again for your prayers and financial support while we were working in Ecuador. We were so privileged to be able to minister to the children and none of it would have been possible with out your partnership!
Please keep the children and the orphanage staff in your prayers. For more information about Casa de Fe, and specific prayer requests, go to: www.laCasaDeFe.org
Thank you so much! Erin, Sara, Emily, Luke