I'm not sure if it was the rooster crowing at the wee hours of the morning or my daughter throwing a pillow at me because I was snoring. :) I decided it was a good time to get out of bed before 6 am anyway since I was awake and I could let her sleep some more. :) I wasn't the only one to go sit in the restaurant here with a device to record my thoughts and post some pics. There are many of us going through much emotion with our very full heart. There's always so much to process when coming on a trip like this. It's not just your 'relaxing at a pool or beach all day' kind of trip. Your heart mind and emotions get taken through the ringer. Our wonderful translators, David, Anita, Pedro, Renata, and our two fearless leaders, Stephanie and Sharon are amazing...we love them tons!
We drove for about 1 1/2 hours to get to our destination at Project 456 up higher in the mountains with the indigenous Quichawah people of Ecuador. This project hasn't had any visitors at all yet so we were their first ones. We were quite excited and were told that they were as well and have been asking lots of questions already. We knew there could be about 300 or so people here today, including kids. As we got closer and closer, our excitement rose. For many on this trip, it would be their first experience at a Compassion project to see firsthand the amazing work this ministry organization does. This particular area/church had been on the waiting list for 18 years before they were able to partner with Compassion. What an incredible blessing it was for them to connect in this way.
The children were all lined up with balloons as we drove up, all dressed up with smiles on their faces and their arms waving excitedly. Immediately my throat choked up and tears sprang to my eyes, trying to imagine their thoughts and prayers before this day. As we stepped off the bus, they clapped and the greetings began. Walking through the lineup of kids, shaking hands and giving hugs and saying Olah, we all went into the church for the welcome program. Music, singing, clapping, talks and prayers filled the first hour. It was wonderful sitting with all the children. They eagerly listened to the Bible story of Jonah via a puppet demonstration. We were also introduced to all the Compassion project staff here. They had all of us in the group stand in the front as the children came one by one and presented us with a gift of a beautiful wallet with Ecuador written on it. It was extremely humbling to receive this gift from them. After the welcome, we broke into 3 groups and went with the children to their classes. The group I was with were the teenagers, knowing their lives were not easy and many of them coming from very difficult home situations. First we served them their snack of an apple and a banana which they received with much thankfulness. What a blessing it was to hear their devotions and prayers from their leader who had much passion for the Word of God and instilling it in the hearts of these kids. The most precious to me was when they all stood, extended their hands into the air towards us and prayed for us. I could not contain myself and allowed the tears to fall freely down my cheeks. Not only was I blessed by their smiles and hugs, then a gift and now their prayers of blessing over me and my family. It was just too much for this heart to take.
Once the morning was over, we broke into more groups to serve them lunch. Some dished out the plates, others served the plates to the children, others poured their juice to give to others to pass out to them, then there were still others who continually made sure the assembly lines were running well to serve all these people with a nutritious meal within a short time frame. What team work! :) Once we finished serving them, we went and gathered together to have a delicious lunch ourselves as a team. It was wonderful!!
After lunch we played some more games with the children, blew bubbles, drew with chalk, threw the frisbee, jumped rope, etc... I learned that it was not a good idea to be at the very front to play a racing game...whew....doing that was not a good idea while feeling altitude sickness but it sure was worth it to see their smiles and to hear their laughter. :)
Once we were played out, we gathered In the church to take part in some of their church service and to have a closing prayer before we left. A group of women in the church sang a couple of songs for us, as did a group of young teenage girls, the two choirs of the church. Hearing their love for God through the songs that they sang was very moving! And Again, it was extremely humbling to be standing as a group in front of the church while all the people stood before us with their hands outstretched towards us as they prayed a prayer of blessing over us and the tears found themselves rolling down my cheeks....again. :) We had many pictures on the way to the bus and waved through the window as we drove away, thanking God for our time together with them, knowing that it most likely would not be until heaven that we would see them.
We drove for over an hour and had a lovely supper at a wonderful local restaurant whose decor was all done with beautiful wood and antiques all over the seating areas. It was great to wind down with some great food and fellowship together before finishing the bus ride back to our country hotel to relax for a bit before climbing into our beds. A wedding celebration as been going on each evening just down the rods from us and they are not stopping yet :) ....I hope everyone has gotten earplugs for the night this time. I pray we all get a good amount of rest for another full day tomorrow. Goodnight!! ....pictures still to come...tomorrow. :)