(Warning this post is long. Just like the title.)
God is good. Let me start with that. He is good.
I am going to be brutally honest. I wasn't super excited about this mission trip in the months and weeks leading up to it. I'm not really sure why. I knew I wanted to do a mission trip, but I just wasn't "feeling" this one. Oh, I remember how I felt when I got back from Ecuador last year. I remember being sick on the plane ride home but still counting the days until I could go back. I remember the food, the cold showers, the nonworking toilets, and I remembered waking up damp when rain would come in the windows that never shut, because you needed the air circulation. But, none of that bothered me. Not any of it. When I got back last year, I was different. I had done something I never thought I would do, and I loved it. I got completely out of my comfort zone, and because if that, God stretched it. When I got back last year, I was 100% ready to return. So, I am not sure what changed. I was on fire for months, but then the spark of excitement started to fade. It wasn't my passion for missions that faded. It was just where I was going that seemed to lose my interest. Making that even more confusing, my husband had signed up for the trip because of how it affected me last year. Why in the world would I not be excited? This would even be his first flight, his first time using his passport, and his first time stretching himself beyond the limits he had placed on himself. I don't want to sound crazy, but I do believe now it was Satan's attempts to keep me from going. I even thought about changing trips, but before I did, I found out the new trip I considered would have made me miss my daughter's graduation. So, because I couldn't change it, I felt stuck. I felt stuck going on a trip that I had already done. I felt stuck going on a trip in which I knew what to expect. I didn't see how God could grow me or use me in ways that He hadn't already. I wanted to grow. I wanted to be pushed. I just wasn't excited. I thought I knew what it would be like...
But, God is good, and He knows what He's doing. Had I changed trips, I would have missed SO much. This trip's purpose changed the day before we left. Nothing we had talked about or prepared for was what we were going to do. God surprised me. I think he surprised us all. The conditions were pretty much the same. We woke up damp. We had to sleep under bug nets. A few bats and rats were added to this year's fun. But the food was better, and the water never shut off which kept the toilets flushing. (That was a major answer to a prayer. When 20 people are sharing a couple of bathrooms, you need them to flush.) Also, no one on our team got sick. (Another answered prayer)
So, where did I see God? I saw Him everyday.
My husband is kind of shy, but by day two, he got what he asked for. On the first night, we were all asked, "What do you want to happen on this trip?" He said he wanted to be more open, to be bolder, and to be stretched. I love God's timing. The very next day during home visits (something we didn't do last year), he prayed for a family. This might seem small, but this was a first for him. Streeeeetch. On night three, he co-led a men's devotional. Also a first. Streeeetch. On day four he prayed over our meal. Now, he had already prayed out loud for the first time on this trip...This time he had an audience of 25. Streeeetch. On day five we led communion, and I stood beside him as he read scripture. We were also a part of a group that went on a prayer walk (another thing we didn't do last year) that morning. It was awesome. More streeetching. This trip enabled me to see pieces of his heart I hadn't. It also allowed me to see him see himself grow in ways he hadn't imagined.
I am thankful God didn't spoil the surprise. This trip might not have impacted me the way it did if He had. Now, I bet your saying that all of that had to do with my husband, and while the above did, I was stretched as well. On the third day of our trip, I prayed for a family in home visitations. This was a first for me, and a nerve wracking first at that. I don't happen to be good with words, and I have to admit I pray like a 5 year old, but that's ok. I prayed, and out of the overflow of my heart, my mouth spoke. I also prayed specifically for and with different team members on this trip. This is not something I ever thought I would have done for the same reason. I just didn't feel like I could. Actually, the power of prayer, the importance of prayer, and the fruit of prayer is a huge part of what I took away from Ecuador this year. Another is that God will use you and grow you if you let Him and you trust Him.
Another amazing blessing (besides mine and my husband's growth individually and together) was seeing the changes a year can bring. Last year, there wasn't a church. This year, on our first day in Ecuador, we worshiped in the church alongside the new believers of that small town in Ecuador. The service was simple. It was basic. It was done in Spanish and English. It was awesome. It, for one of the first times, made me realize what Sunday's for believers look like all over the world. Worship felt different. It was a huge privilege.
For those of you that supported us either financially or through prayer, THANK YOU! We are overwhelmed with gratitude.
You are a huge part of the amazing things taking place in Ecuador.
Last Year, there wasn't a church. Today, there is, and it's impact is growing as surrounding towns want what's happening in San Jose and Curia. Today, VBS is happening. Today, a small group is meeting. Today, people are learning about how much Jesus loves them. Their lives are changing, because of the messages they are hearing. It's amazing.
Saying "Thank you" will never be enough. You have impacted us forever. You have impacted these towns.
|Our team! I love them!|
|The green house was our home for the week. (Left, view from road, Right, view from beach)|
|Attending two church services in Ecuador was awesome!|
|Prayer Walk Team (Left) Morning Communion Time (Right)|
|The guys building the porch and roof.|
|Donkeys, dogs, and chickens were everywhere!|
|Horses were also everywhere.|
|Playing with the kids (Outside of school)|
|Prayer Walk (Curia)|
|The guys finishing the construction of a wall for the soccer field that was started by the previous team.|
|The small group we attended in Curia. We were in the street at night in the rain, and we worshiped in Spanish and English. Awesome!|
|Saturday we zip-lined! I was scared, but it was fun!|
|A truly amazing walk along the beach our last afternoon in Ecuador.|
|Devotions and Smores (the last night) by the fire.|
|The guys....The girls (Obviously taken at different times)|
Again, this trip was amazing. This experience will never be forgotten, and I pray it changes us individually and as a couple forever.
I leave you with this...