Philippians 4:11-13 speaks of Paul’s ability to be content in all matters. I have found that this chapter in Philippians has been one that has meant a lot to me in various circumstances. Starting off with how to put your total trust in God and receive the Peace that surpasses understanding (verses 4-6), to how to guide your thinking (verses 8-9). Verses 11-13 kept coming up to me during this trip – Being Content. Being content is not an innate trait but one that is learned through the Grace of God. I struggle with this often times in wanting more out of my life. I think it is normal to strive to improve and be better – indeed I think this is what we should continue to do but within limits.
What struck me during this trip was how all of us on this trip experienced working and communicating with those in Ecuador and never hearing any complaining, exasperation, frustration nor judging. Those living in the jungle have a tough life, one that we can hardly imagine, yet they give the appearance of being content.
Their eyes, heart, smiles and hugs show the loving nature that seems to exude from each of them.
You wonder how they can be content and I believe it is through Jesus Christ that many have shown them their love and care that transcends God’s peace and contentment to each one of them and makes its way to each of us. Likewise the experience that each one of us on this trip takes home is how blessed we are in so many ways. Maybe we can remember to be content with many of the situations we deal with and let God’s Peace and timing work in our lives more each day. One of my most favorite musicals is Les Miserables. The last verse is so beautiful – “To love another person is to see the Face of God.” I believe we saw God all over the School in the Jungle. May God continue to bless the children and staff. Can’t wait till next year!
These past few days in the jungle have been absolutely amazing. The last day of VBS was bittersweet. I felt as though I formed a strong bond with some of those kids, and had a hard time saying goodbye.
I formed a special bond with a 3rd grade child named Nahomi, and almost cried when I had to say goodbye. Even though she hustled me out of a few headbands, she’s someone I’ll always remember and appreciate.
It was especially hard to say goodbye to some of the other kids since we didn’t have long to see them.
On my last day of work, I continued my work on the yard work (The Weed Whackers) that I had been doing for a few days. After one day of hauling heavy concrete and carrying heavy branches with tons of bugs, it was kind of nice to be able to just rake leaves.
I gained a whole new appreciation for all the people on this team. The place that we worked at allowed us to see a lot of the other work going on as well. While it was completely pouring rain, people still did not complain about having to haul large amounts of concrete or dig large trenches. The food on the last day was definitely one of the best we’ve had all week. I’ve had good shrimp before, but nothing compares to what was served for us.
While chilling in Eno Village one more time, I began reflecting back on this amazing trip we’ve all had. From taking a few beatings in soccer, to showing the entire team I know the Single Ladies dance, and picking up a few Spanish terms here and there this trip has been nothing but exciting! I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to come, and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the children of the school!
After an amazing day of VBS and a variety of work projects around the school,
we were blessed to have our missionaries join us for dinner, worship, and a dance party in honor of Suzanne.
Our devotion was offered by Noah and Suzanne who talked about the fact that we are more alike than different, no matter who we are or where we come from. This is a theme that we’ve experienced throughout our trip—people in the jungle live very different lives than we do, but every time we hear a child laugh, pass someone on the street and exchange a smile, or experience the feeling of complete joy at the sound of rain on the tin roof as we sleep, we are reminded that God created all of us and all that we have and enjoy. We shared Holy communion in our outdoor dining room (everything is open air here!) and it was amazing to serve not just our team, but the new pastor for the school and his wife who came here from Cuba, School Director Roberto Davalos and his family, Susan the missionary from Florida, a few invited guests, and Eunice (our wonderful Hostel Paisano Hostess) and one of her staff. It was a beautiful gathering of people whose lives intersected in this time and space, and as we worshiped the Lord together, we were simply brother and sister, family in this beautiful little place called Puerto Misahualli, Ecuador. This is our common ground, that we are all created in His image. I pray that each of us leaves this place transformed by the experience, the people, the absolute assurance that God is with us. How good it is that we are all more alike than different, united by the fact that God loves us more than we can ever imagine or understand.
We woke up yet again this morning to the sound of rain pounding on the roof of the hostel. The soreness of making concrete the day before didn’t help either when it came to getting out of bed. Then again when you have two roommates that get up with the 7:00 alarm there’s not much you can do but get up on time. The early wake up call was worth it in order to get to breakfast on time which yet again was delicious. Then it was off to the school for day three of VBS. Today it was the fourth graders.
We started off once again with teaching them the song which went smoothly for the most part because they understood English more than the younger kids. Then story time rolled around where I was late on a few of my lines due to not needing our translator Karl as a buffer. When games rolled around we got limited to half of our space, but such is the risk when you’re at a school.
We wrapped everything up with a science experiment in which I spent most of the time telling the kids to stop messing with the bucket and the balloons.
After lunch it was back to work where I continued my work as a Concrete Cowboy which is a nickname that all the people that worked with the concrete agreed on. Today our job was to move all the freshly cast concrete blocks to the path that they were lining.
After that was done we became the Gravel Gauchos where we took a bunch of gravel and moved it to the muddy areas. Then we returned to the hostel for dinner and Suzanne’s birthday party.
All in all another great day in the jungle.
The morning came fast as we woke up at 7:00 and got a good breakfast to start off our day. After breakfast we got on the bus to head back to the school for VBS. This day we had the third grade boys, who seemed ready for us as we arrived.
The boys of today’s class were not much easier than the second graders. Kids like Julian, Luis, Gustavo, Issac, and Eithan owned my heart. We started the day with a song which followed by a craft. The craft was fun because the kids were able to use their creative minds to make something special.
After that came recess and Andrew, Karl, and I taught the kids how to play American Football. During that time we were also able to see the second graders from the day before. So seeing the kids like Fabian, Matias, Ehan, and Axel brought a smile to my face.
After finishing VBS we returned to the Hostal for a great lunch, which was short lived as we had to return to the school for the dirty work. We arrived back at the school and were split into different jobs. My job was to dig trenches for the new wall they were going to be putting up hopefully in the near future. So for three grueling hours, stuck in the heat of the Ecuadorian Jungle, Andrew, Rene, Abbie, Karl, Suzanne, and I worked to create a spot for this wall.
After finally returning from the “sauna” we got to eat a beautiful dinner which was followed by singing and a devotional which concluded day two in the Jungle.
Even though the third grade boys did not behave as well as the second grade boys, I had a great time hanging out with the girls. They were so sweet and they always wanted piggy back rides which was sometimes a struggle.
The work at the school was sometimes a struggle, but there were cute dogs that I could pet when times got tough. My job was to move branches down a hill so the school didn’t look like it was covered in trees. I had a great time because the branch team and I sang some Hannah Montana and other Disney throwbacks.
At one point I held a branch too close to me and about 50 ants fell on me. That was pretty scary. I loved moving branches though because we were in the shade and out of the sun. Towards the end we were moving branches that looked like palm tree leaves but a lot bigger, and I saw a pretty big snake. Even though everything wasn’t perfect during work it was so great to help out and really see a difference in the way the school looked. The rest of the teams were doing trench digging, concrete pouring, and sanding, so I think I got the better end of the deal because I didn’t have to do any heavy lifting or be in the sun all day. I can’t wait to see what else this week has in store for us!
After hearing rain all night long the rain finally let up just after breakfast time on Monday morning. You always expect rain in a rain forest but this year there has been a lot! The rivers are both up quite high and are flowing very quickly. The temperature has been I the 60s at night and 70s during the day. At breakfast we celebrated Suzanne’s birthday! The kitchen staff made her a special pancake “cake” with a candle and she got a small gift.
After breakfast we prepared to go to teach Bible school to the 1st grade class as the rain was finishing up. The first graders are a very energetic bunch! And it was good to see so many familiar faces from last year. We taught them a song about trusting the Lord and the Bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
The Tony awards called to ask us to perform on Broadway but we had to turn them down. We have real work to do! After returning to the Hostel for lunch we returned to do the typical “unskilled” labor jobs that short term missionaries typically do and the same questions start to pop up. Are we making a difference? How is clearing brush or moving concrete curbing or varnishing boards doing any good?
At the end of the day the school director welcomed us and thanked us for coming. He told us about the history of the school. How the school provides not only and excellent education but brings the kids up in a Christian environment. They are training the future leaders of Ecuador! He also said that in 3 days we can get as much done as the maintenance staff can get done in 3 weeks and that we provide a real momentum in what they are doing. Also in doing the manual labor it frees the skilled staff to work on the building and doing other skilled work. The school is beautiful, the kids are so loved and cared for. It is a privilege to work alongside the Ecuadorians in building the school. You see, right now they have 1-6 grade which is the equivalent of our K-5. They add a new class to the top every year so that the 6 grade class can go on to the next step in the fall. I am glad to be here helping to make that happen.