Monthly Archives: June 2017

In Our Own Words…

Through the rest of the trip, we’ll be posting some reflections on the trip from some of the team members, especially our students.

What’s one way you’ve experienced God during the day/trip so far?
Emily Bonfanti: I experienced God when I saw the amazing work that Boris and his family are doing for the girls they save. He took so many risks and God provided for him every time. We were part of something incredible that is going to change lives!

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Today included a ride on the Napo River

How does what you’ve experienced compare to what you expected?
Deanna Mathis: I totally thought the hostel would be completely isolated in the jungle but we are in this amazing community with some amazing ice cream, culture, and of course spray on tattoos.
Taylor Martin: I didn’t expect for everything to be so beautiful. The landscapes and the way that the people function here is so amazing. I thought that the hostel would be in the middle of the jungle but it’s in the middle of this beautiful town with amazing people and I’m so happy to be a part of this experience. 

Our theme is “Do everything in love.” How have you seen that lived out so far?Michael Pratt: The first work day the team went to the Dunamis Foundation, which shelters girls  from human and sex trafficking, and met the founder named Boris. The passion that Boris had describing Dunamis and the girls that would go through this foundation was moving. This passion was the love he had for the girls that have been through so much suffering.

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We toured the native village of Shiripuno

If you were talking to someone who was scared/reluctant about coming on a trip like this, what would you tell them?

Brendan Payne: What I would tell someone who would be reluctant to coming on a trip like this is that it’s common to feel that way. I felt hesitant to coming on this trip because I had never done anything like this before, I didn’t know what to expect, and it’s out of my comfort zone. However, I believe that’s the point of trips like these, to step outside of that comfort zone and experience a new country and culture. I’m only one day into the trip and it’s already been such a great experience and I’m so happy I decided to come.

Ian Greene: I understand where they’re coming from, but what I’ve experienced here is far less intense than what I expected. The work is hard, but you’re taken care of SO well. The food thus far has been tremendous. Going into this trip, I expected it to be far more intense. But I’d encourage them also to truly just let God be their guide throughout this trip. And God is our prince of peace, and if you allow him to be present, I’ve found that peace that he provides to be overwhelming.

What’s been one of the best things about the trip so far for you?
Emily Bonfanti: One of the best things is being able to see life outside of our little Alpharetta bubble. To see God working hundreds of miles from our home is so eye opening.

Seth Leigh: The best thing I’ve seen so far on this trip is the Dunamis Foundation. Boris and his family have so much passion for rescuing these women from slavery and it really touched me. Seeing Boris devote his whole life to what God called him to is incredibly inspiring and I love seeing God’s work in action! 

Ian Greene: I love being able to see how quickly the group has bonded together and how well we all work together. It truly makes any type of work we do here much easier but it also makes this trip so much more enjoyable.


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June 17: Travel from Quito to the Jungle

Saturday was spent on the road, moving from the high altitudes around Quito to the lower – and much more humid – elevations in the jungle. On the way, we stopped in the town of Banos (a jumping-off point for a lot of ecotourism in the area).
The WHOLE TEAM took a ride that they’ll never forget. During worship last night, several people shared about the beauty of this place. And imagine it…the God who created all of that created us, and He wants to know us better and better.

A ride you’ll never forget:

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Travel & Dunamis

June 15: Travel from Atlanta to Quito. The team had no trouble occupying themselves in the airport. The last picture in this group is our hostel in Quito.

June 16: Workday at Dunamis. What an incredibly beautiful setting! We mixed concrete – in a mixer and on the ground.


At the equator: Latitude 00:00:00

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After much delay…Post Number One!

IMG_20170615_124419453Sorry for the delay in getting this first post live. We had very spotty wi-fi at our first hostel in Quito, but we are now at Hostel Paraiso in the jungle town of Misahualli. (It’s a reliable connection, but slow. This first post will only have text – I’ll be uploading pictures overnight.)

The team is working great together already! We had a long delay on the tarmac before leaving Atlanta, and no one complained. We arrived safely in Quito, and we were in our rooms at the hostel around 1:30 AM.  We were up bright and early yesterday, and after breakfast we headed to the other side of Quito to meet up with Boris at the Dunamis property. Words and pictures cannot possibly do justice to the natural beauty of the setting God has provided. Young girls, rescued from human trafficking, will soon be coming to that property to live for a year or more, find healing, learn valuable life skills, and hear about their immense value in the eyes of God. Our team split into 2 and worked on 2 different sections of wall that will surround the property. We spent hours mixing concrete, hauling buckets of water, and moving large rocks into place.
We ended our time at Dunamis with a very meaningful time of prayer for Boris, for the “sacred ground” of the property, and for all of the young women who will be changed because of this ministry.

We left Dunamis and headed for the equator. (When’s the last time any of us got to say that??) We got to a museum/cultural park just before closing time. While there, we all got to experience some of the unique things about standing where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet. After the museum, we had a delicious dinner of chicken and cheese empanadas.
Everyone was ready to go to sleep by the time we arrived back at the hostel – around 9:30 PM!

Today was a travel day. We were up early, fed, and on the buses by 8 AM. While on the road today, we experienced the majesty and creative power of God out both sides of the bus windows. At one point, we were traveling at approximately 11,500 feet, with a snow-capped volcano in clear sight not too far away. WOW! Amazing beauty.
We stopped for lunch and shopping in the river gorge town of Banos. From there, it was a short ride down the gorge to our river crossing. (Wait for pictures tomorrow. It was an experience none of us will ever forget.)

From there, it was back on the bus for a long ride out of the highlands and into the river basin. We arrived at the hostel after dark and were immediately met by a delicious dinner. We had worship together as a team – led by devotions from Charlotte Williams & Ian Greene and music from Ric Clark and Sarah Miller. We’re all looking forward to a good night’s sleep!

Please keep us in your prayers – and look for some pictures tomorrow.

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Today Is The Day!

Our team leaves at Noon today. But before we do, we will join together for prayer and Communion. We appreciate your support and prayers!IMG_20170614_190608732

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Getting to Know You…

We have a diverse team headed to Ecuador! Read below to find out a little more about some of the team members, in their own words:

Emily Bonfanti

Hi my name is Emily Bonfanti. I am 16 years old and attend Alpharetta High School. I live with my mom, dad, and younger brother. I play volleyball year round. This is my first mission trip ever and I am beyond blessed to be going with my closest friends. Thank you to everyone that has helped us make this possible!

Ric Clark

Ric Clark is the Director of Student Ministries at AFUMC. Ric is married to Sandee and has two kids—Austin and Savannah. He has been to Ecuador 3 times and is looking forward to returning after a few years away. His deepest interest is being with family and hobbies include golf and woodworking. Ric will be heading up the Worship Team for this trip and is excited about being part of another international mission trip.

Mike Dilworth

Mike Dilworth is 58 years old, born in Atlanta, grew up in Decatur, attended/graduated Ga Southern University in 1981 where I met my wife, Beth (- yes, I married up), married for 36 years. 3 daughters and 1 granddaughter, VP of Manufacturing & Operations for medical device company. Hobbies are scuba diving, pilot of single engine planes, woodworking and all sports.

Abby Fribush

My name is Abby Fribush, I am 16 years and a rising junior at Alpharetta High School. I live with my mom, dad, twin brother Ben, and younger brother Will. I work at the bakery Nothing Bundt Cakes and am beyond excited to travel to Ecuador to serve and learn!

Brad Greene

I am 44 years old and am currently serving as an Associate Pastor/Vinebranch Pastor at Alpharetta First UMC. I have been married 20 years to Erica, and we have two children: Ian (16) and Joy (10). In my spare time, I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, photography, and riding my motorcycle.

Ian Greene

I am 16 years old and a rising Junior at Chattahoochee high school. I take part in the Concert band and the Marching band at Chattahoochee, where I am proud to be one of the Visual Captains of the Marching band. My family consists of AFUMC’s very own Brad Greene as my Dad, Erica Greene as my mom, Joy as my little Sister, and Bella as our Dog. Most of my spare time is spent working at California Pizza Kitchen, or in the Gym. It is truly a privilege to take part in this trip!

Meghan Hashemi

Hi, this is Meghan Hashemi. This is my second mission trip to Ecuador and I am looking forward to it. I just graduated from Roswell High School and I am looking forward to attending UGA this Fall. My hobbies include running, hiking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Seth Leigh

My name is Seth Leigh and I will be a senior at Cambridge High School. I am on the varsity lacrosse team and I work at Trader Joe’s. I have two older brothers, one of which has been on this mission trip before. This is my first international mission trip and I’m very excited to see Gods love in action!

Gavril Lim

My name is Gavril Lim and I am a 16 year old rising Senior at Chattahoochee High School. I have two golden retrievers, one named Max and one named Jackson. I really enjoy the outdoors and doing stuff like camping, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. I have been playing the violin for almost 9 years now.

Taylor Martin

My name is Taylor Martin and I am 16 and this is my first mission trip. I am a rising junior at Alpharetta High School and I am on the Varsity Cross Country, Varstiy Swimming, and Varsity Track teams. In my free time I love to go on long runs with my friends. 

Deanna Mathis

I’m Deanna Mathis, I have an older sister, and three parents: mom, dad, and of course God. I will be a junior at Alpharetta High School Fall 2017 and I am a day camp counselor at Camp Highland which is the actual best job ever. I love to workout with my mom, have forced family fun nights with my family (which we claim it’s forced but it’s usually not because I love my family), go to Racetrac with friends, play with my two dogs who I’m obsessed with they’re so cute, and worship Jesus!

Alexis Merlette

My name is Alexis Merlette and I am 16 years old. I am a rising senior at Alpharetta High School. I am the youngest of three children. I have been a competitive cheerleader for four years, and a piano player since I was 8 years old. This is my first mission trip and I’m honored to serve with the Alpharetta First UMC team.

Brendan Payne

My names is Brendan Payne I’m sixteen years old, I am very passionate about my faith and it gives me joy to serve and interact with others. I love just being with my friends and having a great time together.

Michael Pratt

Hello AFUMC family. My name is Michael Pratt and have been coming to this church since I was born. In fact, I was even baptized  here. I am 17 years old and a rising senior at Alpharetta High School. There, I play snare drum in the marching band. In my off time you can find me working at Chick-Fil-A at North Point Parkway. 

Karl von Hillebrandt

Karl von Hillebrandt, Just 50… Married to Annie with two kids: Max (21) at UGA and Andrew (17) at Milton High School. Own Independent Rep Business for sale of machinery to Paper Converting Industry in the Southeast, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Interests & Hobbies: tennis, sailing, and vacations.

Charlotte Williams

Hey my name is Charlotte Williams! I am from Alpharetta Georgia, I live with my two parents and older sister. This is my first mission trip and I couldn’t be more excited to watch my life And others be transformed through Christ! I can’t wait!


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Only a few days away…

Our team is getting more and more excited about heading to Ecuador! We leave this Thursday. On Sunday, the team were commissioned in both of our 11 AM worship services. Here’s a picture from the Vinebranch service:

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