I recently had the privilege of leading a group of 23 youth and adult leaders from Alpharetta First United Methodist Church on our church’s first international youth mission trip to Ecuador. We worked with a ministry called Jungle Kids for Christ, an organization that runs a Christian school called Antioch near the Amazon jungle in a town called Misahualli.
We arrived in Quito, Ecuador Saturday night to temperatures in the 50s. Quito sits at 9,350 feet above sea level and is the highest capital city in the world. We found out the next morning it is also a beautiful city as we drove through the mountain city on our way to the jungle. Google says its only about 200 miles from Quito but the trip took all day driving down the mountains from Quito with a short stop at a hot springs called Termas de Papallacta.
In Misahualli we stayed at the Hostal El Paisano. It was small by American standards but nice with good food that made it very nice to come back to each day.
Each day we would rise to a terrific breakfast and would be on the bus by 8:30. We would travel a short distance to the Antioch school and work on our construction projects. A small part of the group worked on a large cabin that will serve as new classroom at the school. We installed beautiful tongue and groove siding to the exterior.
Most of our team helped put down a concrete floor for a building that will be bathrooms between the classroom buildings. The team moved tons of large river rocks into forms before mixing and laying what looked like TONS of concrete on our second day. While they did have a concrete mixing machine, the team had to carry the 50kg (110lbs!) bags of concrete through a very muddy path from the storage shed to the mixer. They mixed the concrete and then would have to haul it in wheel barrels down another boggy path to the area where the floor was being laid. Our group worked incredibly hard! And it was so neat to be able to help such a great ministry!
Every afternoon we would go back to the Hostal and have lunch and clean up before heading out to put on a Vacation Bible School in a little village called Puca Chicta. The first day there were about 60 kids and by the third day there were over 100 kids showing up for our VBS! We would start out with a few minutes of just playing with the kids. Then the youth in our group would perform a few praise songs and then put on a short drama to teach the kids a bible story. Towards the end they put the kids into groups and made some simple crafts. Our group fell in love with these kids! Hopefully we will see them again soon!
Each night after a great dinner the group would get together for praise and devotion time and we would share how God was speaking to us during the week. And then after devotion time (I have no idea how they had the energy!) our youth would play soccer in the street with some of the Ecuadorian youth that hung out with us all week! It was so neat to see our kids create new friendships with youth from the area!
At the end of the week we toured around the area a little before heading back to Quito to fly home. We took a riverboat tour and had lunch on the banks of the Napo River and also visited a small zoo. On the way to Quito we saw beautiful waterfalls, shopped for alpaca sweaters, and visited the Equator!
It was an incredible trip! As typical Americans, I know we all thought it would be about the work and construction projects but very quickly we realized the joy we experienced with the children and the friendships we built were the most important accomplishments of our journey!
Video by Jay Gulbin
Great stuff Barry! Hopefully, for your kids it is just the start of going, going and going all throughout their lives.