Day five of being in Ecuador is drawing to a close as I type this. Or day six, if you count Saturday, when we arrived here sometime between 7 and 8 p.m.
We spent Sunday in Quito at Inca Link‘s Casablanca. Well, we were there when we weren’t at church or visiting some of the tourist sites in Quito — the President’s Palace, the Basilica, the Virgen del Panecillo, and more.
The church service was incredible. I couldn’t understand most of the songs they played, but the lyrics were projected on a screen and I hoped I was pronouncing the words right as I sang. Then we went into a few other items and the kids broke away for Sunday School while the grownups settled in for the message. The kids from First Alliance were invited to join the local kids. My son and a few others joined in. Rich Brown, the regional director here, interpreted the sermon for those of us seated near him.
We attended church in Quito at “La Luz.”
After that we had lunch. Believe it or not, we had McDonald’s and it was the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever set foot in. It’s also the only McDonald’s I’ve ever been to that had a private, armed, security guard. The guard was fairly effective, I guess, though it was obvious he had a thing for the barista at the McCafe counter.
Then we turned tourist for several hours. Words cannot begin to describe the majesty and splendor of the works we saw. I’ve never seen, in person, something so incredible as the Basilica here. The statue of the Virgen del Panicello was also amazing. Both, however, were like dust when compared to the beauty of God’s creation encircling the city. Ecuador is a truly gorgeous country.
Monday we traveled to Huaticocha where we spent three days based out of the Ninawachi Missions School, a project that is still under construction. We helped with building and maintenance at the site each morning and then performed some ministry work later.
We arrived in Ninawachi, just outside Huaticocha, and began to paint kids’ faces. The kids decided to paint ours, instead.
Tuesday we hopped on the bus and started the trip to Nueva Esperaza. As we bumped along a stone road, the bus turned a curve and then stopped. Gustavo, from Inca Link, told us to grab our stuff. We would have a five minute walk to a tourist area where we could leave some gear. We would return there later for lunch. We grounded gear at the site after about 10 minutes.
From there we crossed a hanging bridge and began the rather steep ascent to the village of Nueva Esperanza. It took at least 30 minutes to get to the top. The kids pretty much bolted up the hill. The rest of us paced ourselves. I know I heard angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus when the school finally came in sight.
The kids here ranged from nearly newborn (I think they lived in the village and came with their parents to the see the Americans) to about 12 years old. One of us gave the Gospel presentation in a really neat format while another of us translated. Then we asked the kids about their relationship with Christ. One boy said he needed Jesus in his life and the tag-team prayed with him for a bit. We then gave out some gifts and led the kids in some songs. Soccer came next.
We took a beating. These kids can play some soccer!
We got spanked.
Then we headed back downhill. Remember that bridge I mentioned? It runs over a perfectly wonderful river. We ate lunch and headed for the water. I stopped short when my feet hit it, though. It was really chilly. Some of the Inca Link interns, however, didn’t mind it that much and were bathing in the river. A few of the braver kids began to swim and some of the adults washed off as well. I eventually decided that since I talked the kids into swimming, I should, too. And I did. I was one of the last ones out. Noah and I swam across the current a few times near the rapids and Missionary Jungle Jim talked Noah into jumping from some rocks a few times.
Then we headed back up the hill. Gustavo reminded us it was only a five minute walk. Something was beginning to sound fishy about him and the words “five minute walk.”
Back to Ninawachi (which, by the way, means “House of Fire”) for supper and some fellowship and prayer.
Wednesday dawned and we had breakfast, did some more work and had lunch. We wouldn’t be doing any ministry until late afternoon. This afforded us the chance to visit a property near the missions school that had a cavern, small swimming area in a river, and some near archaeological and fossil finds. I was in the second group to visit the cave. It was really neat. It had been a few years since I’d been in a cave, but I handled myself quite well. When we came out though, we found out the first group had bathed but we would have to forego that pleasure to get to the kids we were to minister to.
These kids live in Huaticocha and are pretty familiar with the folks at Ninawachi. We shared a Bible story with them, did some crafts, and — of course — played soccer. Then we made the short trip to Ninawachi to clean up for dinner. Dinner that night was at the home of Pastor Ivan and his wife Nancy. They lead the local Alliance Church. Following dinner we sang and shared testimonies. Then we brought in some cake and sang happy birthday for the daughter of my friend Manny, who turned 16 today (Thursday). After a lot of fun we headed to our beds so we could be rested for Thursday.
We weren’t sure what the status of the bridge was, but we started the day packing and handling our chores. Halfway through breakfast a truck arrived with lumber. We offered food and then finished our meals and got to work. Then we did some more packing and cleaning before a truckload of block arrived. We unloaded that and then I headed to the stream to bathe. It was primitive but wonderful. I got dressed in some clean clothes and got ready to go. Our hosts fed us an early lunch and I helped do dishes. Just as we finished the dishes the order came to mount up and move out.
The trip back was long, but not nearly as laborious as the trip out. Our hearts were heavy at leaving our new friends behind, but at least we had less stuff to cart across the nearly-completed bridge to the other bus. It was at this point that our bus driver in the Huaticocha area asked us to pray with him as he asked Jesus into his heart. It was an awesome moment. I was one of those who was with him when this happened. He was inspired to do this by seeing the love and care we exhibited to everyone we met, including him, during our time there.
We’re back in Quito now. Nearly everyone has taken a shower. The lone exception would be me. I’m not even sure where to get a towel at the moment or which shower to use. Also, my clean clothes are in Noah’s pack and I don’t know where he put it. I should have thought of that earlier, before everyone else went to sleep. Oh well, I’m feeling every bit of the 54* F that we currently have here and figuring it is time to get to sleep.