Monthly Archives: July 2015

Day 10 Pictures

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Saying goodbye by Will Wharton

Leaving Ecuador is much harder than doing the physical labor we did, or working with energetic children who speak a different language. Saying goodbye to the children who became so attached to us and the local teenagers who befriended us is nothing short of heartbreaking.

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It is also going to be very difficult to get used to being alone rather than always with the 27 others on this trip with whom I Have bonded with and developed wonderful friendships with over my two trips to Ecuador. Leaving the exotic and natural beauty of the plants, animals, and landscapes of this country is going to be a challenge as well.

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Despite the sadness and longing to stay longer and help more, I find tremendous joy in being able to come here and to see the impact we have made on the youth during vacation bible school, and on the school as the buildings we poured the foundations for last year are now fully functioning classrooms.

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This trip has taught me many lessons that I will cherish for the rest of my life. As this trip comes to an end, I am truly thankful for my experiences in Ecuador and for the people I got to share them with.

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I Feel Blessed by Wesley Powell

Digging fence post holes through rock, mud and tree roots was difficult. Saying goodbye that last time to the children at VBS that so quickly befriended us so openly was difficult.  Attempting to beat the Ecuadorians at their own game of soccer was difficult. But none is more difficult than saying goodbye to this beautiful country of Ecuador after just 9 short days.

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As many wish we were home to celebrate the 4th of July with our families, each of us wishes we had more time here. More time with the kids, more time with our new friends, more time serving in the name of Jesus, no matter how difficult the work. This adventure down to Ecuador has been a trip for the ages. I cannot think of a time when I laughed more with my friends, all while digging a 3 foot hole in the ground, or of a time when I was more willing to give a new friend a piggy back ride or to make him superman however many times he desired.

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Being my second trip down here to Ecuador, I thought I knew a lot of what to expect. However, God’s plan for us this week was far greater than I ever could have expected or imagined. For example, my new friend for the week was a little kindergartener named Matias. From the very beginning Matias attached himself to me, and was not to happy when I had to leave his side to go help out with the games at VBS. He befriended me on Monday, and each and every day the rest of the week, he became more and more attached as the week went on. He trusted me immediately to hang on to him when he wanted a piggy back ride or when he wanted me to spin him around or to make him superman. The connection I was able to develop was truly a gift from God, and something that blew any expectations out of the water.

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Yes digging post holes was difficult, but because I was so blessed to have bonded with Matias, the difficult labor was worth every swing of the pick ax, and every scoop of the shovel. Because I now had a personal connection with one of the school children, I felt as though the hard labor truly was worth it to help in making the children’s educational experience and life that much better, by showing them that someone they had never met before truly loves them and wants them to know the Lord and all of his good works.

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At the end of this trip, after having some time to reflect on all that we did and all that was said, I have come to two conclusions/realizations. The first is the power we all had this week, and will continue to have back in the States, to be such an incredibly bright light and influence not just in the children of the Antioch school or the kids of Misahualli, but even the people we see each and every day back home. I came to this realization at the end of the year ceremony for the school, as all the parents wanted pictures of their kids with the Americans, rather than snatching their kids away. We may never know exactly how much of an impact we were, but we can know we were enough of a bright light in these people’s world that they want to have a picture to remember us by, something that speaks volumes to me about the work we were able to accomplish in the Lord’s name.

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The second realization I came to is just how truly blessed we are to have had this opportunity to serve the people from Dunamis in Quito to the Antioch School in the jungle of Misahualli. It’s been said many times, but it is truly incredible how going into a trip such as this one that we as the people serving, go into the trip expecting to be a blessing, but end up coming out of the trip feeling just, if not more blessed, and I can truly say that God worked through those children and the people of Misahualli to show me how blessed I truly am, all while being able to do the Lord’s work.

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This trip has been one for the ages, and God worked in amazing ways through both us, and the people we were serving. Though I may not want to come home, I am thankful for every second I have gotten down here in Ecuador again this year, and I am excited to see what is in store for the Ecuador mission teams of the future. God is so great, and thank you to all who have supported our team throughout. Cannot wait to see everyone back home, and Happy 4th!

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El Fin De Semana by Wendy Russell

Our incredible week here in Misahualli ended with a celebration. It was the end of the school year for the children at Antioch School and they invited us to attend and be a part of their promotion ceremony. I believe I can speak for the whole team when I say that we were almost as proud of “our” kids as their own parents.

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Our hearts swelled with pride as we watched them perform skits, sing songs and receive their diplomas all neatly dressed in their school uniforms.

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It was such a blessing to meet the families of the children that we had come to love during the week. The families graciously shared their special day with us, foreigners whom they had never met before this week. We were invited to take pictures with the families and exchanged addresses so that we could keep in touch.

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One of the neatest things was the realization that some of the parents were people who had served us all week long. For example, one of the ladies who prepared and served our meals had two daughters at the school and even one of the men that drove the taxis that transported us daily to and from VBS and our worksite was a father of one of the children. As the celebration ended, many tears were shed as we said goodbye to these children who had captured our hearts. The bonds formed with these children were so strong that it was hard for them to leave us. In fact one of the children who lives in Tena (about 30 miles away) came back to the hostel in the afternoon in search of one of our kids. When we told the child that the team was hiking to the waterfall she and her grandmother tracked them down there!

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After a delicious lunch prepared and served by Eunice and her amazing staff, we had a rare free afternoon. Most of the group joined Nelson and Marisol on a hike to the waterfall and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool below the waterfall. The less adventurous members of the team enjoyed a quiet afternoon at the hostal and walked into town to enjoy some ice cream and the view from the bridge over the Rio Napo.

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We closed the week with our final dinner at the hostal and a beautiful time of worship and reflection on the week. We each went around the room and shared what the week had meant to us.

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Rene shared that as she watched the promotion ceremony she had a vision of the future leaders of Ecuador. Nelson shared how impressed he was with the leadership of the kids on the team who planned and led worship and VBS all week long. As we were sharing I had a vision of the future leadership of our church, our community and our country, and it was beautiful. Barry challenged the kids to continue to show the same unconditional love and servanthood when we returned to the United States and specifically in our own community of Alpharettta. What a wonderful week we had, we have truly been blessed to be a blessing.

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Mi Corazón Esta Aquí by Suzanne Kebanli

If someone had asked me a year ago if I would consider going 2,000 miles away from home for a mission trip I have no idea what I would have said. After this trip, I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back again. For the past few months, all I’ve been able to talk about is mission work, mission work, and more mission work. Something I had been struggling with for a while was whether or not mission work was part of my plan for my future or part of God’s plan. I know now that it is something I am being called to do. It sounds cheesy, I know, but I really believe this is what I am supposed to do. What is better than spreading the love that God shows us every day to His other children in this world who may not get to experience it like we do?

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I loved being with these kids for 5 days. I always do VBS at church at home and get close to the kids there but this was completely different. I asked God before we left for Ecuador to help me show His love to these kids, but I prayed specifically to become buddies with a few little boys. At VBS at home, I always hang out with the little girls because they are silly and girly like me, but I knew I needed to be put outside my comfort zone this week. And I definitely was. The Lord answered my prayer immediately because on the first day of VBS I had 8 (yes, eight) little boys all over me the entire time. I could not be happier!!

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Their names were Isaac, Javier, Jostin, Jordan, Camilo, Ricardo, Jheremy, and Jorge. They hardly ever left my side all 4 days of VBS and I was so happy to love on them. I realize now that I was able to show them so much love for one reason, and one reason only: Christ has unconditional love for me, and He wanted me to show that to those boys. Something that stood out to me the most was their trust for me. I’m a girl from America, I have never met these kids before, my Spanish isn’t the best, but these kids could care less. Everyone keeps saying that the kids are lucky to have met us and to have us here with them for the week. I definitely agree witth that, but I honestly think that we are more lucky to have met them then they are to have met us. They taught me so much about havig “trust without borders” and unconditional love and there is no way I could ever thank them enough. Little Jorge was sitting on my lap and I said “Jorge, quien es tu mejor amigo?” (Who is your best friend?) and he turned around and pointed to me…wow. It was at that point I realized that this is what I want to do. Saying goodbye to them today was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I love these boys and girls with all my heart and I never ever want to leave them.  “Mi corazón esta aquí” means “my heart is here”- with Ecuador, with these kids, and with Jesus.

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Day 9 Pictures

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Trust Like a Child By Carly Redmon

The one big thing about this trip that stuck out to me was how trusting the children were towards our team. Most of these kids know very little to no English. Our team knows about the same amount of Spanish. Yet we were somehow able to communicate with them and teach them about Jesus. I think it is cool to see Jesus working through them and our team throughout the course of this week.

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Specifically I spent most of my time at VBS with a beautiful little girl named Keyra. The first day as soon as Keyra got off the bus she ran over to me and gave me a big hug and that’s what started our beautiful friendship. Over the course of the week Keyra and I barely said 10 words to each other but her sweet laugh never failed to make me smile. Even though it was difficult to communicate we grew very close this week and it was very hard saying goodbye to my sweet girl this morning. She’s taught me so much about loving others unconditionally and keeping a positive attitude no matter what and I can’t wait to take that home with me.

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Musica by Madison Boyd

Hey fam back in America! Just sitting in the Hostel singing songs and enjoying my time here.I was extremely lucky to lead worship both with our team at night and at VBS with the kids.

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This summer I am a camp counselor at Camp Highland so I have had the chance to learn songs that these kids would enjoy singing! There is this one chant that the kids ABSOLUTELY love called “A’in’t Nobody” (you may have seen it on Facebook).

Today we were on the bus with a few students from VBS and they started singing the songs without me. These kids who do not know a ton of English could sing complete songs in English by themselves!

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For work today, I was part of the “dirt team” including my other Junior girls. Basically we moved dirt from a pile to a field in the pouring rain! I feel like I deserved dinner, its great!

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This trip has been filled with priceless moments like these! From playing in the roads with the teenagers and making those deep relationships to painting nails with our Ecuadorian friend Natalie. This trip has truly been life changing.:)

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Being Fully Here by Callie Shepherd

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this week is one for the books. It is filled to the brim with love for each other, the work we are doing (despite being super tough), and for the big man upstairs for bringing us all here. The kids respond with nothing but love and trust too.

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I don’t think that there was a single person who wasn’t touched by or had a sweet spot for at least one of the kids. In my case, it was this sweet little boy named Nicholas who every single day greeted me by running to me and enveloping me with his arms. He had such an unending love and trust for me, so much so that during the last part of VBS yesterday he wouldn’t say anything to me because he didn’t think he would see me again after the activities ended. Of course, once I told him i was going to see him at the end of the year ceremony, he immediately jumped into my lap and grabbed my arm as though nothing was wrong in the world.

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I knew that I couldn’t take any time with him, or any of my other little buddies, for granted. Looking back on the week, I began to somewhat regret, for lack of better words, all the times i had been checking my phone for the time, or glancing at my pictures, or basically any time I didn’t spend engaging with the kids. I would do anything I could to be able to spend just five more minutes with these kids and to be surrounding by their unconditional love.

Not even just at VBS. I would do anything to be able to go back to the Antioch school and keep helping out. I would help out with anything and everything they asked me to do because I would know how much of an impact it would make, even if it was some seemingly insignificant task. I would know that the more I (and everyone else) help the quicker they will be able to expand and create more buildings and take in more kids. They already have some ninety-odd amount of kids that go there, and these towns aren’t that big, so the amount of lives that they are impacting just by going home and telling their friends and family about that cool school that they go to. Because of that being in my mind, I tried to keep working and take enough breaks so that i wouldn’t become dehydrated.

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Overall I mainly tried to stay in the moment. I tried to make sure to be fully aware and present wherever I was and during whatever I was doing. It made such a difference to be fully there and to not keep thinking about other things because God wanted me to be here and if He wanted me to be there, I would be. He wanted me, and everyone else on the team, to be here, with these kids, doing these jobs, for a reason and I think that is pretty awesome.

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Promotion Ceremony for Antioch School by Nelson Wilkinson

We had the privilege Friday morning of going to the promotion ceremony for Antioch school.  It was a scene that would not have been out of place in the USA.  There were children who had new hair cuts, slicked back hair, their best clothes and proud parents dressed up for the occasion.

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When the kids came on stage parents with cell phones and cameras came forward to take pictures and video.  The moms took the lead and the dads stood back and watched.

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The program took place in a covered soccer or basketball court.  The air was fresh and relatively cool after the afternoon rain we had yesterday.  The kids sat in chairs on the court and came on stage for their presentation.  Parents sat in the stands.

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The differences where the dog walking around the arena, all of the speaking being in Spanish and the food vendor who rolled up with their cart to sell food, drink and ice cream.  Parents all over the world love and are proud of their kids.

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But the ride home is different than the USA, Too!

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In the same way, God loves us and looks at us when we have our “promotion ceremonies”.  We don’t do anything to earn that love.  God gives us His love through his grace and mercy.  We need to accept that love, grace and mercy from him.  We can then respond by sharing that love with others around us, or others in Ecuador.  Thank you all for helping us to get here to represent AFUMC!

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