And she’s back!
By now you all know that just barely two months in to my return to Ecuador, early October I returned home one day in late morning to find my the front door to my little house splintered open by a crow bar and many of my valuables and personal items stolen. Nor was I the only victim. Since you have to pass through my landlords’ house to get to mine (my apartment is in the back yard) the thieves also robbed them- demolishing their master bedroom in the process, overturning and dumping every drawer and box open onto their bed and floor. I was spared this awfulness myself, I couldn’t say why. Had the thieves over turned my home in the same way they would have made off with a good deal more. Needless to say it was difficult day- and next few weeks as I had to maneuver without computer, camera, bank access (as my wallet was taken with all my cards and id) or television with which to distract myself from the set back. But I was truly blessed in spite of it all, my credit card company reimbursed me for the cost of my television, some friends opened their home to me and lent me some cash to purchase a temporary and temperamental- netbook (which I promptly sold the first chance I got for a reasonable profit to help stay off the cost of my new laptop.) Friends and family rallied around me to help me acquire and pay for replacements for my things (although regrettably not everything can be replaced.) And as of early November a visiting team brought me my new computer! (yay!) Sadly, the lack of computer interrupted and set back a number of projects I was about to get started on in October so it has taken me since then to reproduce my lesson plans etc and catch myself up. But caught up I am at last and now finally free to get back on top of correspondence and keeping all of you back home informed of my going’s on’s and the Lord’s work through my ministry down here on the sometimes sunny-rainy-cloudy-windy-hot-cold-damp-dry-gorgeous equator!
Sooooooo- ready or not! Here goes my two and a half month update!
Since my last blog entry I got to work with the rescued girls at Casa Gabriel. Not one of them over the age of fifteen, these were girls who had been pulled out of the sex trade here in Ecuador- all of them having been trafficked for years prior to their rescue. I brought mugs and ceramic paints and showed them how to draw and paint all sorts of things on their individual mugs which they each got to keep as their own. It was awesome- but for many reasons I was not able or permitted to take photos of the event.
Meanwhile I also began and finished a mural for a local Christian Recording studio!
As well as painting several ball toss game boards for the Education Equals Hope carnival…
And did some face painting on the day of…
So much fun!
Then I began at long last to head out to Carmen Bajo and reconnect with people there. Originally before I returned I had thought that my future in Ecuador laid with the children in Las Ganas- but since it closed down while I was away I was left more than a little discouraged. I had believed that my time in Carmen Bajo was going to end up a thing of the past- but instead the Lord has made it clear that it is actually going to be my future. This time around I began to attend the Women’s prayer and bible study group on Wednesday nights and was asked to teach a workshop one of the nights. So I planned an ornament tutorial and packed my bag and headed out to do something I had never done before- go to Comite del Pueblo (one of the most dangerous parts of Quito) while the sun was setting (which would mean traveling at night to get home.) Not to my surprise the women had a lot to share, and share, and share, and share- and then consequently to pray for- so much so that I never got to teach my class! (On a positive note though, I discovered that Kelley, a family counselor who lives near me was there at the same time every week and able to offer me a ride home!)
Undeterred and more than accustomed to the organic nature of events as well as to things here in Ecuador often taking a while to happen- I returned the next week with the promise that this time they would make time for the workshop.
Sure enough they did! And it was a success! Since it was already holiday season here (they start preparing for Christmas in October) I did an ornament tutorial and the women all loved it so much that I have been expected to do a tutorial every Wednesday evening since! I realized very quickly that I could not afford to leave early in order to catch a ride with my counselor friend Kelley. I needed to stay until the end, see the class through and be willing to put the relationships I was building ahead of an easy, safe ride home and began taking the bus home. There was so much interest in fact that I saw an opening to expand into a separate class and began having weekly Clases de Manualedades- (that’s Crafting Classes) every Friday night as well from 5 to 8pm.
Some of the ornaments we have made in the class.
My very first class I had ten students. Those numbers have continued since the first class and women who aren’t able to come for certain classes have begun coming to me and asking if I could meet with them to show them what they missed.
As a result I have been invited to a number of homes to do private tutorials where other members of the family who do not come to the Women’s group have been able to participate and I have been able to form more and ever deeper relationships with the
people in the community. A few teenage girls have also been coming to the Friday classes as well as the children who must accompany their moms because there is no one at home to watch them- so I sometimes plan activities for them on the side. Sadly they more often then not end up wearing their projects as a opposed to actually taking them home…
Two Saturdays ago I also launched a new youth ministry with the church at Carmen (which is also where I teach all of my classes presently) where in every Saturday I lead a team of youth from the church to serve in the community painting and helping to fix up homes of the less fortunate in the community. These recipients are not necessarily members of the church, but are simply people known to be in need. (Which is actually EVERYONE in Carmen Bajo…) So far we have stayed close to home- starting the project with the church itself-, which is desperately in need of a good deal more than paint, and I have found is an excellent place to get to know the kids and learn how to direct them successfully. But very soon I hope to be going out with them into the neighborhood to begin serving, for which I am very excited.
Somewhere in the midst of all these new developments I found the time to act as an onboarding host to a pair of sisters who have just come down to serve for two years as well as travel down to Puyo for the first time since I’ve been back!
Believe it or not, this is a road!
Once there I went for my very first, for real hike, out into the jungle to visit and minister at a Quechua community. To reach it we had to ford a river and trudge through shin deep mud for a good half an hour.
And it was there that I was offered my very first bowl of actual chicha. For those of you who don’t know (and that’s probably everyone) chicha is a native drink normally made of mashed… or chewed, Yucca, which is then left uncovered on a shelf in the humid jungle air, to ferment. Yep, that’s right. Hepatitis in a bowl. Naturally, it is offensive to refuse it.
Not that I would.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love to try new things and I have a disturbingly romantic notion about things that have the potential to kill you… like street food. Yum. Anyways, at least here in Ecuador I am known among my friends and colleagues as having a propensity to eat absolutely anything and everything without discrimination- and enjoy it. As a result my opinion is not sought out when it comes to taste testing in the kitchen… But I met my match that day in the Jungle.
It looked like skim milk, smelled like sour Yucca, and tasted like vinegar with soggy wood splinters steeping at the bottom. And I had to drink an entire bowl of it, literally filled to the brim, not knowing until later whether it had been mashed or chewed, while the giver stared at me.
I could have used my gringo status and our renowned sensitive stomachs and un-acclimated immune systems as an excuse to bow out- but I didn’t. I don’t know how long it took- but I drank the whole thing even as I suppressed the urge to throw up, and struggled even more not to let it show. At long last I was done and it was time to hike back. I was assured that chicha, “te da fortalesa por el camino” (gives you strength for the road.) I jokingly replied- “Espero que es todo lo me da!” (I hope that’s all it gives me!) Apparently they thought this was hilarious and for the rest of my time in Puyo I was repeatedly asked- “Te dio algo mas?”(Did it give you anything else?)
The answer? Not a thing. Once I found out that it was mashed and not chewed my impending panic attack subsided as the list of possible diseases I might get from drinking the chicha de-escalated from hepatitis to intestinal infection. In retrospect I must wonder why, in the jungle, surrounded by free sugar cane and fruit, the energy drink of choice is made out of a mashed root with a consistency and flavor located somewhere between dry wood and a potato. Couldn’t they even at least add some sugar cane to help dress up (or cover up) the flavor? These are questions I will probably never have the answers too. But I praise God it didn’t kill me, or make me sick.
Soda Bottle Snake Sculpture!
In my personal life I also celebrated my big 28th, for which my friends here threw me an ice cream party, in lieu of which I was informed by my host mother in Puyo that I now have only two good child baring years left and I need to find a husband soon or else. (The Pastor there also later affirmed this summation. Upon which I quoted the scripture about it being better for a man to be unmarried because his heart is focused on the things of God and not of this world, to which he replied by quoting Genesis where the Lord said that it is not good for man to be alone. Realizing there was no winning this argument I agreed that it is not good to be alone with the caveat that it is also not good to be with the wrong person simply for the sake of not being alone, which seemed to satisfy him.)
I spent an awesome Thanksgiving with friends and made my first pecan pie and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top after scouring the city for ingredients on the very day that all the market sellers decided to go and protest together in front of the Presidential Palace leaving all the markets closed- forcing me to use purple camotes in place of actual sweet potatoes. (Looked strange but tasted the same.) Well that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute! We spent the day laughing and cooking and eating and playing cuarenta and other games hyphened by an impromptu game of hide-and-seek.
Whew! Wow. I sound busy even to myself! I just want to thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers during my unfortunate break in. It has been interesting but a truly blessed first couple of months and I look forward to sharing what happens next! I hope you all realize that none of these growing ministries would be possible without your support.