It has been absolutely lovely staying up here in the mountains in this rugged beautiful ranch style hotel. I even enjoy hearing the rooster crow in the morning :) but it has been interesting to say the least listening to people behind us somewhere having a celebration of some type with loud music over the loud speakers, which apparently began on Thursday. It's Monday night now, nearly midnight while I type this and they're still going strong, with their live music and often fireworks too. Lord give our group peaceful rests in spite of it. The altitude has been a bit of an issue with some people, including Kyrstin and I, not always feeling well. But we make it through the day with God always giving us strength.
Today we knew our visit at the 2nd project would be quite different than yesterday's visit with all the children at a new project that had never had any visitors. That project was #420 and today was #456 and tomorrow will be #468. The prestige organization and efficiency that each project is run with really astounds us. We found that out today at our 2nd visit. This project was a Child Survival Program which is full of mammas and their babies. These moms all have very difficult situations and even though it's hard to hear their stories, it's so meaningful and life changing to be here. Such a beautiful people and when we walked into their center, they sang a blessing to us....so beautiful!! They were all lined up and each had a rose in their hand to give to us. They had beautiful smiles and clasped our hands in warm greetings, so happy that we came to visit. :) So very special to be here!
We all went into the church and sat down while the Pastor and the project workers welcomed us and introduced themselves. I love the passion that they had, first of all for Jesus, and for the people of their land and for the ministry of Compassion in their church. It's such a beautiful thing to see the church doing wonderful things in the lives and community of the poorest of the poor in the world.
We played some games with the women after they sang a couple of songs for us. They all looked so lovely in their skirts and ponchos and hats. After the games we broke into 3 small groups and the project workers together with our translators shared every aspect of the program with us at different stages/tables they had set up....nutrition/cooking, taking care of the baby (how to bath and feed them) at different stages of their young life, showing us the folders and organization that they have for each mom and baby in the project, what all consisted of a home visit each month to the mom, how they're registered into the program and the education lessons and studying/homework each mom is given between visits to the center and their home visit. They're also taught to cook and sew and garden, etc. It was wonderful to see all this and to understand more firsthand what they are shown and taught.
It was a full morning and after serving them all lunch, we sat down and enjoyed a delicious meal as well....for some. :) It was good food...chicken, potatoes with cheese, cooked vegetables amid dessert....but I refused to try the 2nd meat they served us...Guinea Pig! :( It is a delicacy here in Ecuador and supposedly tastes like chicken but I wasn't going to find out! :) The rest of the meal was good though.
When lunch was complete, we got split into 6 groups of 5 and were each given a project worker and a translator to go and visit the mom who Compassion had chosen for us to go visit. Before we left, they gave us each a toque and a scarf which they had made....so, precious! :) Some people walked to their home to visit, another group took the bus, and a couple groups rode in the back of a truck to their homes. It was an adventure! :) But I don't know where to start for you. It was such a humbling experience, you think you've got it all together (well I totally know I don't but we often tend to act that way anyway) and then you're the one getting blessed beyond measure by visiting them in their home. So hard to only choose one to go to....
I am starting to fall asleep, I will need to finish this blog post in the morning :) ...pictures to follow....
I'm up with the rooster crowing :) and my mind and heart super full. I'm thankful to be experiencing this with my daughter Kyrstin and trusting God to show her everything He needs to for her heart to change and to be more like His, just like He needs to do with every single one of us on this trip.
Riding in the truck and then walking the remaining distance to this home was so surreal. These are surroundings we've never been in before. We followed this woman and child with a couple of bags of groceries in our hands, looking at the countryside around us, trying to imagine life here. It's not something we could fully comprehend at the moment. We walked across the threshold of her small bring home and met her mother and grandmother. They have each other and they have The Lord, and a few meager belongings, but that is all. The smiles on their faces and their love for God shone through. They're grateful for a roof over their head and food to eat, some days barely enough, and they're thankful for a bed to sleep in, even if it is just one for all 4 of them to sleep in. They're thankful for the small garden they have to work in, and the one string of cord to have a single bulb of electricity in their home. They're thankful for their Spanish Bible that was given to them at the Compassion project and for the help they receive from them. Through the Compassion project, they receive food each month, instruction on how to take care of the small child in their home, regular doctor appointments, love and care and fellowship from a group of believers who pray for them, a place to go to each month to sing praise to God and to hear about His love for them, and so much more. They are thankful! So humbling to see, so convicting as well. I have much to learn from them...so much to learn.
We went back to the project, the church, with much on our minds/hearts. I'm so thankful for Compassion! The poor can be fed, they can be given shelter, warmth, clothing and comfort but if they don't have Jesus, in the end it does nothing for them. Hence Compassions logo, 'The Difference is Jesus'.... I LOVE this about them. If the peoples spiritual lives are not being looked after, nothing else is worth it. We know we may never see these dear people again here on earth, but we do know that what we did for them today was given in the name of Jesus and we will meet them one day in heaven. <3 That is enough...
Back at the project, we had a closing prayer and a group picture, gave many hugs. We're all thankful and so blessed by the toques and scarfs these mammas made for us and put on our heads and wrapped around our necks with great love and thankfulness in their hearts. The hugs and welcome they gave us will not be forgotten. It reminds me of the song sung by the Watoto children's choir...we are not forgotten, we are not forgotten, we are not forgotten, God knows my name. Yes He does and that is what they cling to each day.
We drove away in the bus with tears in our eyes, full hearts and much on our mind. It seemed a bit weird to go back to our comfortable hotel, enjoy amazing food, fellowship around the table, playing a game of pool, sitting by the fireplaces, having warm drinks, laughing and going over the events of the day.....knowing that not too far away, life is a big struggle for many up here in these Andes mountains. No we are not to feel guilty for being where we're at but we are never to forget....that the poor will always be among us....and to provide for them and give of our resources to help them as much as we can....we are all called to a life of Compassion <3