Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm home.

I can't believe I'm home.  It feels SO weird to be back in the States, in my own house, and with my family.  It's good to be back, but I miss my team so much already.  I miss the beautiful country of Ecuador and I really miss the cool weather. 

Yesterday, my flight was changed from the morning to the evening, so I ended up not getting to the hotel in Miami until 2AM.  My flight to Philadelphia took off this afternoon and I arrived at 5:30.  My parents excitedly greeted me and took me out to a lovely dinner at Applebee's.  It's not the same as Crepes and Waffles, though.....;). 

It's hard to think that our work in Quito is done for now.  God truly started a holy revival there, and He used us to do that.  I wish I could still be there, but it's not where I'm meant to be right now.  For now, I belong in good ol' Pennsylvania with my family, and although I'm not able to minister to the people of Ecuador, I can shine God's light right here.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported me this entire time.  The prayers were most definitely felt by us down in Ecuador, and they were also greatly needed.  Don't forget to pray for Ecuador as God is still working through the people we ministered to and the churches already there.  The final salvation count was 1,024 (and this isn't everybody, because there is no way we would have been able to take count of every single person who accepted Christ).  That's 1,024 souls which are now saved. 

God is so good.  I'll be posting pictures as soon as I can.  Right now, I'm going to get some much-needed sleep.  Goodnight and goodbye for now :).   

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Last ministry day & a very bittersweet day

Yesterday was our very last ministry day AND our last full day as an entire team, as some people had to leave this afternoon.  Yesterday morning, we left for the orphanage.  It took about an hour and a half, and it was a bumpy ride.  Somehow, I got stuck sitting in the back with most of the guys from my team plus one of the guy translators, so it wasn't a very quiet ride either.  Still, we had lots of fun (we always do!). 

We drove into a little town, unaware that it was the town with the orphanage.  It was very small and kind of reminded me of something you would find in an old story about the wild west; run-down buildings and dust flying all over the place because of the wind.  Then we arrived at the orphanage.  Inside, it was small but surprisingly nice.  There were around 18 kids there, from ages 5 to 11 or 12. 

We split into two groups; one of the groups played with the kids and the other helped with whatever they could get their hands on (after a while, we switched).  My group took a bunch of kids to a park closeby and played games.  I played soccer with a few of the kids, and it was TIRING.  Then we went back and I helped build bunk beds.  Last night was the talent show, and, as always, it was lots of fun. 

Today was very bittersweet.  We got up, had breakfast, then left for a day of touring and shopping.  Our translators took us on a tour of Quito, and it was cool to see all of the historic parts of the city.  Then we went shopping at the market.  We only had a short amount of time, but I still managed to get lots of interesting things. 

When we got back to the hotel, we had a team party.  It was one of our teammates' birthdays, so we had cake, ice cream, and a pinata.  Our team leaders spoke for a bit, and then we said our teary-eyed goodbyes to everyone who had to leave.  We waved them off, and as I was walking to my room, I completely lost it and burst into tears.  If it was that hard to say goodbye to only a small amount of the team, I can't imagine how hard tomorrow and monday are going to be. 

To get our minds off of the goodbyes, I went to the market again with a leader, one of my teammates and his sister (who is on another team).  Then most of my team went to Burger King for dinner.  It was so good to have soda and french fries after two weeks of hotel food and pb&j.  Tonight at FUAGNEM was entirely worship and testimonies, and then a bunch of us went accross the street to Crepes and Waffles for ice cream one last time.  After that, we departed with the last one of our beloved translators, which, once again, was very hard to do. 

My flight was changed, so my lobby time isn't until tomorrow afternoon.  A group is leaving bright and early tomorrow morning at 2AM, and I'll be in the lobby to say goodbye to them all.  As much as I am looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone, I really don't want to have to say goodbye to the rest of my team. 

Through it all, God is good.  Love you all. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

And yet, another amazing day has occurred.

How many amazing days can occur in a row?  Apparently a lot of them.  Today was great! :)

This morning, we had an early breakfast and then team time.  Then we left for ministry!  It's funny how God's plans are so different than ours.  Our first plan was to go to the Plaza (a popular spot in Quito) and do the drama three times.  Well, we went to the Plaza and did it once.  I was able to (for the first time on this trip) personally lead someone to Christ, which was SO great.  One of the leaders started this thing he calls a treasure hunt.  Basically, you ask God to bring to mind a few pieces of criteria.  For example; fence, blue shirt, glasses.  Whatever God first brings to your mind, that's the person you're looking for.  So, in the example given, I would look for someone sitting by or leaning on a fence (or something like that), wearing a blue shirt and glasses.  Anyways, the lady I led to Christ met my friend's treasure hunt criteria, and she was the one who grabbed my hand and took me ovre to talk to her.  It was a really great experience. 

Well, then we realized it wasn't a great time to be in the Plaza.  I won't say everything that happened, but it wasn't so great (nor was it safe for us to be there).  While we waited for the bus, the girls huddled against a wall and the guys stood around us.  Then we booked it for the bus.  So much for doing the drama there again! 

After lunch, we went in front of the Basilica, which is the largest catholic church in Ecuador.  It's GORGEOUS.  A group of us, when we originally ventured out to find a bathroom, were able to take lots of pictures :).  Then. we found a bathroom inside of a little store that we ended up shopping in for quite a while.  I bought a few little things for myself :). 

After that, our original plan was to go back to the Plaza, until we drove by to discover team 1 was already there.  Obviously, God didn't want us there.  We went to a gorgeous park and did the drama twice.  In the park, there were ice cream and cotton candy stands.  Do the math, and you could probably figure out that we ate a LOT of sugar.  But the best part of it all was that, even though we hit plenty of speed bumps, the salvation count for just our team was 27 for today.  God is so good!

My day only gets better.  After we got back to the hotel, two of our LITs took my roommates and I accross the street to a restaurant called Crepes and Waffles for dinner!  We had a LOT of fun spending time together.  Of course, after dinner we had to run to get to FUAGNEM, but it was totally worth it. 

At FUAGNEM, Susie talked about how we are to be the bride of Christ.  Then, we had a wedding celebration, and each and every one of us were wed to Christ.  We each recieved a sticker to put in our Bible with our "vows" and we each got a ring which is a nail bent into a circle.  It was so amazing. 

Tomorrow we get to go to an orphanage!  I'm SO SO SO excited!  It's going to be amazing.  It's also bittersweet, though, knowing it's our last ministry day together.  I can't believe how quickly the trip went by.  I'm going to miss my team so much, but I am excited to see my family and friends back home.

Another quick prayer request.  I seem to have misplaced my devotional book for the trip.  I had it last night at FUAGNEM, brought it into my room, and now I can't find it anywhere (i''ve literally taken every single thing out of all of my bags and I can't find it anywhere).  PLEASE pray that i'll find it by tomorrow night for FUAGNEM since I didn't have it tonight! 

Love you all.  :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No words (:

Today has been SO amazing!  This morning, I got up, ate breakfast, and left for the excursion!  It was a two hour bus ride, during which I slept most of the time until we got about 30 minutes away.  As we were going through the mountains, I was astounded by the beauty of God's creation.  The way the clouds cover up the mountain tops and the river runs through the valley is so perfect and beautiful.

There  were two buses, and that is what split us up between the activities.  My bus group went white water "rafting" first.  It ended up not being rafts on which we were floating down the river.  Basically, there were 6 tubes tied together to form a hexagon type of thing, and we had to sit in the middle of where three tubes met, put our legs accross the tube, and hold on to the ropes.  It was a blast!  The water was FREEZING, but we still had a fantastic time. 

Then we had pb&j for lunch (shocker, eh? ;D), and prepared ourselves for zip-lining.  Oh, but the fun part was getting to the zip lining station,.  There were 5 pick-up trucks with bars around the back.  We stuffed into the back and rode on the very bumpy road to get there.  That was an adventure in and of itself!  Once we got there, I was ridiculously excited and kinda scared, but I just wanted to get out there and do it.  As soon as the guide let go of me and I flew over the canyon, I literally laughed out loud.  The entire day felt like an amazing dream.  I was able to view God's creation from way up high; and let me tell you, it was stunning. 

There were 13 stations for the zip-line.  We basically zip-lined from mountain to mountain and back to the original station again.  We had to hike from the end of one station to the beginning of the next, and somne of the hikes were quite difficult, but still rewarding in the end.  I had a great nap on the way back to the hotel :).

As soon as our bus arrived, I grabbed all my stuff and walked up to the door to see all of the guys from my team there to greet me (and the two other girls who went with me) with a bouquet of flowers, a bracelet, and a note for us.  They each had huge grins on their faces and were very ready to give us our gifts (and a hug, of course). I kinda wished I wasn't all sweaty and didn't have hair that looked like I just woke up, but it was still fantastic and so adorable. 

After dinner and a shower, I quickly threw up my hair in a random way for crazy hair night.  It wasn't very creative, but I'm always so amused by everyone else's hair.  One of my LITs, Glenn, shaved part of his head in the shape of a cross and then died other parts blue.  It gave us all a good laugh :). 

I have no clue what we're doing tomorrow, but I'm sure it will be awesome.  I can't wait to share with you all! 

Quick prayer request.  My back has been really sore all day today, so if you could be praying that I will be healed for the ministry day tomorrow, that would be great :D. 

Love you all! :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Another fantastic ministry day (:

This morning, breakfast was at 7AM.  I still managed to get 8 hours of sleep, which was lovely!  Last night I somehow managed to sleep through the leader knocking on our door for five minutes, the phone ringing, AND tuck-ins.  As you can probably tell, I was exhausted (and still am).

Today we went to a little church about an hour away.  We dropped off our backpacks and because most of us had to use the bathroom (the downside of drinking so much water), we were taken to a little building about the size of a port-a-potty that was made out of cement blocks.  In order to flush the toilet (which had no seat), you have to pour down a bucket of water.  It made me realize how ridiculously spoiled we are in the US to have sanitary, indoor plumbing. 

Then we walked up the road a bit to where the new church building is going to be.  We had to move rocks, dig up dirt, carry the dirt/chunks of grass accross the yard, and then flatten out the ground.  It was hard work, but extremely satisfying.  I'm not going to lie, though, I have never been so happy to take a shower in my life.  I was COVERED in dirt from head to toe.  It was a great day, though.  The pastor thanked us again and again and we also got to hear a little bit of his story. 

He used to be an alcoholic before he discovered God through a radio station and going to a church in Quito.  After seeing the change in him, his wife became a Christian as well.  Now, four out of their five children are believers and he's now the pastor of a church (they currently have about 80 people attending). 

Tomorrow I'm going zip-lining and white water rafting.  My lobby time is at 7 so I have to be up by 6:30.  I'll do my best to go to bed early again so I can be well rested! 

Thanks for the prayers & support :). 


Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 3 of ministry (and Sunday!)

Yesterday, we had a lovely day of "rest." I didn't feel so relaxed after Britt Nicole's concert, though.  It was AMAZING,  She has such an incredible heart for God and spent time personally praying for each person standing at the front of the stage (which was everyone who arrived late due to flight problems).  She also had a short message which was incredible.  Then I stood in line for an hour to get her autograph, but it was worth it.  She and her friend Gabby are so sweet.  It was a blessing to meet them both.

Today, my team went to an elementary school and did the drama.  We also played with them, made balloon hats/swords, painted faces, and just loved on them.  They were all so sweet and very welcoming.  After the drama was explained and the kids were dismissed to do whatever they wanted, they all basically attacked us and introduced themselves to us.  It was very sweet. 

Then it started raining, so we went back to the bus and had lunch.  After lunch, we were going to do the drama but it didn't work out, so we went to the highest point in Quito, which is a monument type of thing with a huge statue.  The entire team went up there and prayed over the city.  It was so powerful.  From where we were standing, we could see the ENTIRE city and all the surrounding mountains.  God's creation is so beautiful and I was speechless at the sight of it.  One thing that really struck me while looking over the city was how many houses and buildings there were, and in each of the houses and buildings are people, and God created EACH and EVERY ONE of those people.  He loves them and knows every detail about them.  They were created in His image, and yet most of them don't even know that.  They don't know how valuable they are, and that's why we're here. 

Of course we had to have a little fun as well.  We took plenty of pictures looking over the mountain and some other random ones.  But on the way to the monument from the school, a few of the guys had a little dance off.  We all spent lots of time laughing and enjoying eachother's company.  My team is SO great and we all have lots of fun together. 

Tomorrow I have no idea what we're doing.  But on wednesday, I'm going white water rafting and zip-lining!  I'm super excited and a bit nervous at the same time, considering I've never done either of those things.  I'm sure it will be lots of fun, though :). 

Thank you so much for all the prayers and support.  Please continue to be praying for all of us!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 1 & 2 of ministry

Well, the past two days have been AMAZING, to say the least. 

Yesterday, there were still a good chunk of people missing from my team because of flight difficulties.  At team time, we were informed that we were still going to do the drama.  The LITs filled in for all of the missing parts.  "Flexibility" has most definitely been the word of the week!  During team time, guess who came and joined us?  None other than Britt Nicole (and her friend, Gabby)!  They ended up traveling with us the whole day and ministered right beside us. 

Britt was one of the most amazing people I've ever met.  She's so bold for Christ and went right up to people and shared the gospel with them.  At one point, we were praying for a lady, and Britt was leading us in prayer.  Tears started pouring down the lady's face, and after the prayer, she said "I am content."  Three small words that meant SO much.  It was so great to minister to people and see how God worked through us.  We also played duck, duck, goose with a group of kids, painted faces, and played any game we could think of.  The kids had so much fun and the smiles on their faces were priceless. 

This morning, everyone from our team had finally arrived and we were able to go and minister as a full team.  We went to a GORGEOUS park.  There were swings, a zip-line, and these little car things that you pedaled to move around.  I drove in one, and it was so much fun.  We did the drama three times, all in different parts of the park. 

After one of the drama performances, I saw my friend Taylor sitting next to a guy who watched the drama, so I grabbed a translator and ran over.  We were talking to him and basically he didn't understand how God could love him.  He thought that God would have to punish him because of all the sins he has committed and what he's struggling with, and that he didn't feel God working in his life.  When we explained to him that Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins, he said "what a sacrifice."  Then, after talking to him some more, he placed his hand over his heart and said "I feel it now."  (Turns out he spoke english and we didnt need a translator in the first place...haha.)  We prayed for him and told him that we would be praying for him, and he kept saying "gracias, gracias, gracias!"  Then he took off one of his bracelets and gave it to me.  We also got a picture with him.  When he walked away, he had a huge smile on his face.  It was so cool to see how God worked through us to bring this man closer to Him.

At the park, we also played with a ton of kids, which was so much fun.  They are so sweet and love to hang out with us.  One more quick cool story.  The leaders met a blind man and went to pray for him.  Turns out, he is so filled with joy and peace, that he was able to minister to the leaders and LITs who prayed with him more than they ministered to him.  God is so good. 

Tomorrow is a day of rest.  Hallelujah!  I can't wait to sleep in and take a day off of the craziness.  Sorry I haven't been updating much, I've hardly had any free time (which is why I'm so excited to take a day off tomorrow!). 

Love you all, and thank you SO MUCH for the prayers.  Ya'll are amazing :).