Lessons I’ve learned from the vulnerable.

Father to the fatherless and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitations. -Psalm 68:5

These past four months in Ecuador have been a wonderful experience. I have been spending as much time as I possibly can working with orphan ministries trying to learn as much as I can. I am very thankful for the information I have obtained so far but am more thankful for the things it has taught me about God. There are two main lessons that I have been learning: 1. how amazing it is that God would identify Himself with the orphans and 2. how adoption reflects the gospel. I will explain both of the things in greater detail.

1. God identifies Himself with the one of the most marginalized people groups. I have posted this quote by Tim Keller but think it is worth repeating:

Why should we be concerned about the vulnerable ones? It is because God is concerned about them. It is striking to see how often God is introduced as the defender of these vulnerable groups.

Don’t miss the significance of this. When people ask me, “How do you want to be introduced?” I usually propose they say, “This is Tim Keller, minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.” Of course, I am many other things, but that is the main thing I spend my time doing in public life. Realize, then, how significant it is that the biblical writers introduce God as “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:4-5). This is one of the main things He does in the world. He identifies with the powerless. He takes up their cause.”

God is the creator of the universe and does not need anything. He is not dependent on anything that any of us do. We would like to think we are a bigger deal than we really are and constantly stand up against God. This God who creates by the power of His words chooses of all people to identify Himself with the most vulnerable and helpless group of people. Catch the irony in that? It blows my mind that of all the people He would choose them.

2. Going off of that, I have learned more about how adoption reflects the gospel. We in many ways are like orphans. We were helpless in our condition, sin. We were powerless to do anything. We all come to Jesus with a lot of problems, just like these children do to their adoptive parents. God not only identifies and helps orphans, He ADOPTS them to be a part of His family. How crazy is that?! I get how insane this is after spending time with orphans. They are precious but have very deep issues. Many of them have disabilities, diseases, are messy and not to mention have lice. In reality, there is not much glamour. We are the same way. We don’t have much to offer to God. In fact, we come with a lot of sin, rebellion and selfishness. He looks at us knowing what He is getting Himself into and adopts us into His family. It is CRAZY!! I just can’t get over how good God is to take us in and be our Daddy. The gospel is such a beautiful thing and is so displayed in the process of adoption. I am so thankful that God looked at me in my brokenness and chose to adopt me.

With that being said, here is an opportunity to help with an adoption. A family came down to Ecuador recently to visit some of the orphanages. I was able to go with them and got to know them a little bit. They have decided to start the process of adoption with one of the boys here. If you would like to support them here is a link to their blog: http://thenailscrew.blogspot.com/. They are doing a drawing for a mini iPad to fundraise for this little one. It is an awesome opportunity to be a part of the adoption process.

Thank you all for your support and prayers. You have really made a difference and I am so grateful for my friends and family. See you all soon, it is so crazy how fast time has gone. I will be heading back home in just over 7 weeks. I am excited to get together and see many of you. : ) Much love!

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Thanksgiving Update

So it has been a while since I have posted, I guess I just haven’t know what to write about even though there is a ton of stuff going on. It has been such a great experience being here. After two and a half months I have started getting into a routine and have found my niche.

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The beautiful country I get to live in : )

First of all, I am learning more about who God is and what it looks like to follow Him. I am surrounded by people that have really taught me a lot about Jesus. I am excited to be involved in various ministries but I am not defined by them. It is easy to start worshipping ministry instead of Jesus. This article from the Resurgence really helped me to have a right perspective: http://theresurgence.com/2012/06/19/ministry-can-be-dangerous

So with that, I want to talk about what I am doing but not because I am great but because Jesus is. Jesus came to the helpless. He says He will use the weak to shame the strong. He identified Himself with the oppressed and I think that is pretty amazing. Tim Keller once said:

Why should we be concerned about the vulnerable ones? It is because God is concerned about them. It is striking to see how often God is introduced as the defender of these vulnerable groups.

Don’t miss the significance of this. When people ask me, ‘How do you want to be introduced?’ I usually propose they say, ‘This is Tim Keller, minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.’ Of course, I am many other things, but that is the main thing I spend my time doing in public life.

Realize, then, how significant it is that the biblical writers introduce God as ‘a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Psalm 68:4-5). This is one of the main things He does in the world. He identifies with the powerless. He takes up their cause.

I am really excited to be involved in two different ministries here in Ecuador. On Thursdays a woman from church and I have the opportunity to serve at a house for women coming out of human trafficking/ domestic violence. It is a rehabilitation ministry that teaches the girls skills so they can have a job to sustain themselves. While they are working, we care for their children. So far it has been really cool and I am excited to be a part of what Jesus is doing in their hearts.

I also am going to start serving at a local orphanage. This is where my heart truly is. We met with the director a month and a half ago but continued investigating other orphanages in the city. We had started serving at the other house but my heart was still with the orphans so I contacted the director again. After talking some more we decided that I would come in once a week and volunteer in different areas of the orphanage to see how it runs. It is very well respected here and I am super stoked to learn from them.

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The children’s home we are going to serve at.

Today also was a wonderful day celebrating Thanksgiving. Friends from church came over to eat delicious food and spend time together. It was so fun hanging out with them and having a piece of home here in Ecuador. 

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The lovely decorations done by Morgan. : )

But yep, just wanted to give a little update. If you could be praying for me to continue to learn more Spanish and be able to get past any barriers so that I am able to better connect with the people here that would be awesome. Also just for wisdom in these ministries I get to be a part of.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers! I really appreciate it. Love and miss you all back home!

Week 4

Today marks four weeks since I arrived to Ecuador. I can’t believe how fast time has gone!

Mount Cotapoxi from where we were with the group.

 

Last week we had a group here from Missouri which was awesome. They were here to help with some work projects and to build relationships with members from the church. One night we did a bilingual Bible study which was amazing.

Our friends from Matthias Lot Church.

The next day we had a party with the whole church. They came out to where we were staying and cooked some delicious food for us. It was really awesome seeing people from two completely different cultures bond and grow closer together. I love that Jesus transcends all cultural and language barriers. As followers of Jesus we are all a family no matter where we come from. I love the diversity in the body of Christ. It is such a beautiful thing to see.

Some of the group and members of La Fuente at the party we had.

We had the chance to take the group to hand out bread and juice at the hospital. This was really awesome and definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Every time I have gone I have had a native speaker with me. However, this time it was just me and three girls from the group that didn’t speak a lot of Spanish. By God’s grace we were able to have some really awesome conversations with the people at the hospital. It is a very sobering experience each week.

This is from a few weeks ago but is the assembly line for making sandwiches for the hospital.

Now, I am working with a lady from the church, Esperanza to investigate missional opprotunities in Quito. It has been really fun working together and exploring different options. Last week we visited an orphanage to talk about ways we can serve.

 

The orphanage that we went to.

 

Yesterday Esperanza and I met up and called a variety of foundations. We are looking into some other orphanages, a foundation for kids with autism and a ministry for kids on the street. The possibilities are endless and we are finding out about many ways to get involved. We want to serve the marginalized because Jesus first served us. After we are done investigating we will be putting together an archive of all the information we find. That way the community groups at La Fuente will have resources when they want to serve the community. We also are wanting to serve together weekly in one of the orphanages that we find. It has been a really cool opportunity and I am learning a lot.

Breakfast before starting our work.

I am really loving Ecuador, and not because it is comfortable, but because it isn’t. Every day I have to leave my comfort zone and trust in Jesus more. At home I never had to think about if I would have the capability of communicating with people. Here it is different. At home, I know the culture and the norms. Here I don’t. At home, I know how to get around and navigate. Here, I can’t. I am reminded that I am weak and He is strong. I am very thankful for the community here and the grace that they have on us despite the different culture and language. 

Such a beautiful place.

Meeting Camilo!

On Tuesday I had the joy of meeting my sponsor child of two and half years, Camilo. I flew over to the coast of Ecuador and stayed in a hotel until the next morning when I was met by Camilo, his pastor, mother Lucia and our translator Jonathon. This experience was unreal and very emotional.

Camilo and me meeting for the first time.

First, we went to the mall to do some shopping which honestly felt kind of weird because we took a child living in poverty to a large mall filled with expensive things. However, we were able to find him some socks and shoes which was fun for him and made him happy. Then we got some raisin flavored ice cream which I had never had before. It was actually very yummy! Haha.

Raisin ice cream!

Next, we went to the beach and bought a soccer ball and kicked it around for a long time. In our letters he mentioned the beach a lot. So, I was really glad we were able to go to a place that he enjoyed.

The pastor, Camilo and I after playing soccer.

Camilo and me at the beach.

We then had some lunch and went for a walk down the beach. We came up to some palm trees which was nice for shade but even better for climbing! Haha- we took some pictures and climbed for a few minutes before heading out to our next destination.

Lunch time!

Climbing the trees.

My favorite part by far was after the beach. We all drove about an hour or so to his house, church and Compassion International project. The drive was nice but the further out we got, the more poverty we saw. I am sure we didn’t even get to the places with the most poverty, but it was still an eye-opener and something that really makes you think. It is a perspective changer to see how other people live and makes you think.

A huge thing of corn on our way to his house.

When we arrived, they gave me a tour of the project. First we went to his classroom to meet his classmates and tutor, Fanny. She gave me a card, encouraged me and was such a blessing. It was amazing to meet her because she has written me before.

Fanny, Camilo, his classmates and me.

After seeing his classroom they took me to the main office where I started to get very emotional and overwhelmed by God’s grace. They showed me a file of all of Camilo’s information that included pictures of him over the years, his grades, his application to Compassion, a list of the gifts he was able to buy with money I sent and information about his parents. It also had notes about where he was at with God. It was such a powerful moment to see what $38 a month does for a child. It is such a small amount to pay but the benefits are innumerable. Most importantly, he gets to learn about Jesus. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Then, they brought me oranges and juice along with multiple gifts. They handmade some coin purses for me, one of a Powerpuff Girl and one of Mickey Mouse haha. Camilo gave me a purse that says Ecuador and a picture he drew for me. This made me ball because I love getting his pictures in the mail and I always hang them on my wall or put them where I will see them. So, when the drawing was handed to me by Camilo face to face instead of by the mail, I lost it. I couldn’t really get any words out but was so blessed and overwhelmed by the moment. I am sooooo thankful that God would allow me to be there. The Bible says we are blessed to be a blessing. I understood this to a greater degree this day.

After Camilo gave me the picture and going through his portfolio.

Then, we went to go play soccer outside and man can these kids play! It was super fun and really hot outside too. I don’t think I had ever smelled so bad in my life. Haha.

Playing soccer with the kids.

In the church with the kiddos. They were soooooo cute I wanted to keep them!

They then took me to Camilo’s house to see where he lives which was a really cool experience to see how he lives.

The welcome sign they had on their front door for me.

Then, it was the hardest part of the visit. Saying good-bye. Before praying Camilo asked that I would pray for his family. I could hardly keep it together and tried to pray in Spanish through the tears. Then it was time to go. Camilo had been very quiet the whole visit but started to cry and grabbed his mom. This made me cry even harder because it was the first time he was really expressive. Getting in the taxi was the hardest part of the day. I wanted to just stay there. Have you ever felt like you were right where you were supposed to be and didn’t want to leave? That is what it was like. It felt like all of the dreams God has put on my heart came to fruition on this day.

Lucia, Camilo, me, his sister Cindy and the pastor right before having to say good-bye. It was so hard to leave these people who became like family.

It was one of the best experiences of my life and I hope to visit him again before heading back to the States.

Just before getting into the taxi. : (

Thank you again for all the support. The prayer, encouragement and financial support have made this possible. I can’t thank you enough for what my time here has meant to me. Thank you so much!

Bracelets that Camilo got for me while we were at lunch. Such a sweetheart!

For His glory.

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

I never really paid attention to the second half of this verse. It didn’t make sense to me for a long time. I have been working through a study about God’s Heart for the Nations. It talks about God’s global purposes. Through this study I have started to understand this verse more. I think the implications of these words are greater than simply taking time to be quiet and still.

Let me explain. As I overlook the city of Quito I am overwhelmed by the needs of the people. We as people need Jesus desperately. I am deeply saddened by the injustice that has been carried out in the name of Jesus. Latin America has a very dark history as far as the church goes which has created a skewed view of Jesus. The gospel is simple, Jesus came as a man but was fully God, lived a perfect life, was killed and rose again. Salvation is through Jesus alone, not religious tradition, church attendance or good deeds. This is a message for every people group and should not destroy culture. God wants people from every people group to be a part of His kingdom. It is easy to lose hope when I look out at the city. I wonder if they will ever come to a right understanding of Jesus. Is it too far gone? Has the church done so much damage that people won’t ever really want to come to Jesus? I can start to get disheartened.

A view of Quito from the porch.

However, this verse shows me that I lack faith. God is confident that He will be exalted among every nation and people group. He says He will be exalted. This leaves no room for doubt. It is not my job to save the country of Ecuador. I can be still and have peace knowing that God is in control and will work out everything according to His will. There is no person, culture, people groups or country that is too far gone to come to Jesus. That is how this verse carries me through phases of discouragement. I can be still because God is who He says He is and will be praised by the people of Quito. I am blessed to be a witness of this truth. It is really encouraging to see that He is at work. I need to be faithful to what He has called me to and trust that He will be glorified in the end.

Have you had a bad experience with a church that changed your view of Jesus? I want to apologize for these experiences. Nobody inside the church is perfect and should never claim to be. I want to ask forgiveness and propose that you reconsider your view of Jesus. He will be glorified in all the earth.

Highlights from the week

I am going on week two down here in Ecuador and am loving it. I am really fascinated by the culture, language and people. Every day I learn something new about life down here. I am also getting used to speaking more Spanish and am eager to learn more. I can’t wait for the day that it becomes effortless to speak and understand.

I love the house that I am living at. One of the girls, Amie and I go for a run in the morning at a local park. I am getting used to running at a higher elevation. I am hoping it will get easier as the weeks go by. Another thing that I love is the fruit truck that comes by. A few days a week you can hear them call out different fruits over the megaphone. It drives right by the house and has pretty affordable prices. Forget ice cream trucks when you can have one with fruit! Haha.

The lovely fruit truck.

One of the highlights this week was going to a hospital in Quito to hand out sandwiches and juice. Some of the people wait for days to get in to receive the medical care they need. They can’t always get food so La Fuente has a ministry that takes lunch to the people. We also get the chance to talk and pray with some of them. It is was really overwhelming and heart-breaking to see all of the pain. The whole time I just kept thinking that this is not the way life is supposed to be. I love the verse that says that when we are with Jesus He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and pain will be no more. I am looking forward to going back each week and having the opportunity to share this truth with the people at the hospital.

My other highlight was community group. Each week members from the church come to the house for dinner and teaching/discussion. I really love getting to know the people here and being immersed in Spanish. I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to come here and be a part of La Fuente.

The living room where Community Group meets.

Next week I get to meet my sponsor child through Compassion International. I have had him for about two and a half years. He was the reason that I started looking into Ecuador. His encouragment and letters have meant so much to me. It is crazy how somebody can impact your life before even meeting face to face. Sponsoring him was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had no clue how much it would change my life.

 

Pictures Camilo has drawn for me.

I am so thankful that God would allow me to be a part of what He is doing in the world. It has been such an awesome experience and I am looking forward to the rest of this journey. Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement. I really mean that. I know that people are praying for me which is a great comfort. I love you all so much and am so blessed to have you. This has been one of the best experiences so far and I know there is much more in store. So thank you again.

 

 

I made it!!

My first blog post from Ecuador! My flights went well and I made it through customs in record timing haha. So far it has been wonderful! I am so excited to be here and learn from everybody. The people are so welcoming and fun to be around. These next six months are going to be really awesome.

Today I met with Amie, the intern coordinator and her mom Sandi to talk about what I will be doing each day. There are so many opportunities and areas of ministry to get involved in. So far, I will be doing inventory for a jewlery business Sandi has. It helps support local women and provides jobs for them. You should check it out if you want to spruce up your wardrobe or give an amazing gift to a friend. www.etsy.com/shop/QueEncantadora.

Jewelry from Que Encatadora.

Another area I get to serve in is children’s ministry. I can’t wait to meet the kids! I will be helping on Sundays at church as an assistant teacher. During the week I will also watch the kids if their parents are in meetings. It sounds like it is going to be really fun. I also will be doing some investigating to find out ways we can serve the community. I am really excited about this because we will hopefully be able to partner with local organizations. We want to find the needs in the community and become more aware of how to help. This will also be good because I will be talking with the locals and improving my Spanish. Serving Jesus and learning more Spanish. I’m stoked!

A view of the city from our house.

Thank you everybody for all of your support. It has really been amazing and comforting know that people are praying for me. I know that it will get challenging and that being immersed in a completely different culture is overwhelming. So please just keep praying that I trust Jesus and am a learner.

Thanks again!!

 

ECUADOR!

In three and a half weeks I will be boarding a plane and heading to a completely new country. After spending years of studying Spanish and Latin American culture I get the amazing opportunity of experiencing it for myself in Ecuador. I am going to be interning with a church for three months. We are working out what that will look like day to day but there is no shortage of ministries to be involved in. The first few weeks that I am there I will be shadowing various leaders to see where I fit. It will be quite the experience. But before going into all of what I will be doing, I want to say why I am going.

Yes, I want to go to Ecuador to be immersed in Spanish and become a more fluent speaker. However, Jesus is primary. The Bible is filled with praises and declarations of God’s glory among every nation. It is AMAZING that every single tribe, ethnicity and nation will worship Jesus. Think about that. EVERY people group EVER. ALL nations will have people that follow Jesus. That sheds so much light on God’s character. My God is stronger than any racial barrier any language barrier and He says that He will be made known. There is unity in Christ that can never be achieved through anything else. That’s awesome!

 I get to be a part of seeing this truth being worked out in Ecuador. I am really looking forward to learning about Jesus from another people group. It is one of the most encouraging experiences seeing people from across the globe following Him. It is very humbling. I know that I will be challenged in many ways while I am there. I am praying that I would be a learner and want to support them instead of being egocentric. I am sure there will be a lot of adjustments when I get there, but I think that is exciting.

You can take a look at the church I will be interning at. Their website is: http://www.compassionconnection.net/

Prayer Requests- For God to keep preparing my heart and the hearts of the people I will be meeting. 

Thank you so much for all of your support!