2,700 miles directly south of us is a village that holds a special place in all our hearts. It was in that village three years ago in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday when we came together to build a church for the people of Ricaurte. This past week, 21 of us arrived safely home after an incredible 8 days in Ecuador, doing our best to be the hands and feet of Jesus. And to you we want to say THANK YOU- THANK YOU for your support, THANK YOU for allowing us to represent all of you in Ecuador and most importantly, THANK YOU for your prayers.
In the months leading up to this trip we met several times as a team to plan the projects we would complete when on the ground, including leading a bible school for the children. We quickly agreed that we would focus on a theme for those bible lessons- teaching the children through the story of David and Goliath that God Helps Us Do Big Things. We wanted them to know that no matter what they face, God will help them through it. That no matter how BIG their problems may seem, with God they can overcome it, He will never leave them. It was our goal to give them the gift of the unending hope that comes with having a loving relationship with Jesus.
Our time with them was precious and hearing their sweet voices in chorus proclaiming together that “God Helps Us Do Big Things” will ring in our hearts forever, but it got even better. At the end of the week we gathered at the main church in San Lorenzo for a time of worship with the pastors, tutors and staff who work tirelessly every day on the ground in Ecuador to further our mission of Loving God, Loving People and Impacting the World. That evening, Pastor Herman, who leads the church in San Lorenzo spoke about the vision he developed years ago as he started building the church. At that time he had only $18 and the inspiration from Thessalonians 1:8. As we listened to his story we were struck with the realization that his vision, his story was all about how “God Helps Us Do Big Things.”
It was in that moment that our entire trip came full circle. There we were, people from two very different places in the world, speaking different languages and facing different circumstances, but what we shared was even bigger: our love for God and the unwavering faith that with Him we can do big things.
When we first built the physical church in Ricaurte 3 years ago we did a big thing by raising the funds in such a short amount of time for such a worthy cause. But, today, what we will tell you is that what we as a church, with the help of God, have done an even bigger thing- we have helped to plant the seeds needed to grow the spiritual church not only in Ricaurte but throughout the region of San Lorenzo where there are now 11 churches. The light is shining in what was once one of the darkest places in the world and we watched firsthand as that light grew bright and spread wider than we ever could have imagined.
I would encourage you to take the time to ask one of the 21 team members to tell you about just a few of the BIG things they saw happen while in Ecuador- there are far too many to list and I assure you that their stories will touch your heart. I will, however, leave you with one such story.
On our second day in San Lorenzo we were greeted by two men explaining that the mayor had sent to stay with us and protect us during our time there. They joined us in everything we did- trips to the villages, for meals, for prayer- and on the final night during the worship time with Pastor Herman, one of those men who our team grew so close to delivered the following testimony:
“These few days that I shared with you softened my heart because what I realized is that many parents who live in Ecuador don’t have the love that you have for the children- their children. I was reporting back to the mayor on my day and how you were with the children. As I was trying to explain to him every detail of how you were with the children I realized that I was about to cry. We are so thankful for you and what you’re doing here. When you first arrived I knew I had to protect you, but now I realize that you don’t need my protection because you already have it, you have the protection of The Lord. You are the presence of God here on Earth.”
God gave us the opportunity to talk at lengths with him about The Lord throughout the week and when we pulled away from town on the last day he assured us that the next time we see him he will be a Christian. Just imagine the seeds that will grow from having the mayor of this city and his chief of police now developing a relationship with Jesus.
So again we say THANK YOU because such opportunities to make BIG things happen can only be done when we put our compassion into action. When we leave our comfort zones and stretch ourselves to the point of surrendering with our whole hearts to Jesus.
With love and gratitude,
The Impact Ecuador Team 2015