“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you,
saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ
loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Serving the Lord

Baños de Agua Santo
I woke up to the military chanting through the streets of Shell around 5am this morning and thought it was a dream. When I realized that it wasn't I couldn't believe how loud it was, it sounded like there were standing right outside my door. Thankfully they were just running through the streets and I was able to go back to sleep quickly. When I actually got up for the day it was to get ready for my trip to Baños. As is usual I slept most of the way there on the bus! Christy showed us the Arome café and chocolate when we arrived, we got there just in time since she was opening up the shop right as we walked up. I had an amazing pancake (that had some flavors much like a funnel cake) with chocolate gnosh, scrambled eggs, mora juice (it is all homemade here), and hot chocolate. It was a delightful breakfast, in fact, the best I have ever had here! The rest of the morning was spent walking around and shopping, we went all over town including the spice shop, market, and a variety of other shops.
This guy's jewelry is beautiful!
Also, we went up to the Santo Agua de Banos, the holy waterfall the city is named after. It was beautiful and refreshingly cool, not to mention the great conversation Bailey and I had about serving God here in Ecuador. For lunch we went to Café Hood, then made our way back around to a couple of shops and stopped at the Super Bodega for groceries. After getting all I needed, I talked to the friendly doorman for quite a while! It was great to have a conversation with him and share a bit about why I was here. There are countless moments to serve God through words and actions every single day! I pray that I may become ever more aware of the opportunities I am given! "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" -Joshua 24:15. Daily we make a choice to serve God or other things, I choose to seek Him!  My final purchase was a beautiful necklace from the market, for some reason I wanted to get it earlier, but didn't and the shop disappeared for a while. Sometimes the side street "shops" come and go, note to self buy it while you can! Each little detail on the necklace is hand crafted, it was incredible to watch him work, he even made me a little gift that said my name! Then it was time to pile on to the bus and head home to Shell. I got quite motion sick on the bus ride home, but just when
Ecuadorian sunset!
I thought I could take it no longer the man sitting in the window seat got off the bus. This couldn't have come at a better time, so I opened up the window all the way and stuck my head just slightly out the window. People driving by were probably wondering who the crazy lady half out the window was (they hardly ever open windows on the bus and if they do it is just barely), but it very helpful. I was especially great when it started raining, because that helped me cool off even faster! Upon returning home I took a cat nap. Jeff pick up for a chili supper and game night over at there house. It was the freeman's, Lydia, and the single lady missionaries hanging out and playing banana grams. It is games like these that make me wish I was a better speller. It was a lovely evening with friends! The comic relief for the evening was baking cookies and writing poetry at the Martin's with Bailey and Cheralyn.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Father in Heaven

Working on the art show.
This morning I enjoyed the whole chapel experience complete with the exercises and singing worship songs. It has been cool to see how the school continues to make improvements with policy and structurally, I know it is a great benefit for the kids! I got to see a couple of maestros briefly and was able to talk with them, it was great to catch up and even translate for someone else. My Spanish is far from perfect, but I am learning more every day! Before really getting in to the art show preperations, I helped facilitate school pictures. I was in charge of going back and forth across the wood balance beam over the little river to call in one class at a time. It was fun and always entertaining to see the children's different personalities come out as their picture is being taken. Then, it was time to get down to business with the art show. I worked with Oliva and a bunch of kids on bulletin boards and making a big color wheel. I was very pleased to help, because drawing simple shapes and mixing paints is something I very much like to do. When lunch time rolled around I went out to eat with the Hayes, Cheralyn, and Bailey. It was the first time that I had eaten lunch somewhere other than Alexander's, I especially liked the yucca soup that had a lemony and cilantro taste to it. Then it was back to work in the office on sponsorship stuff. Hanging out with the kids at the end of the day before heading home is one of my favorite things to do and today was no different! I walked most of the way home, until Patty Sue was driving by and so kindly picked me up. I do enjoy my walking time to unwind and think about what God is doing here. How He is growing this place and providing positive changes is incredibly, it is great to be back and see some of the progress that has and continues to be made. Is also a perfect time to reflect on what God is teaching me and how continues to challenge and grow me. I was invited in to the Hayes for hot chocolate and encouraging conversation after work and I couldn't have been more thankful. I also got to see a sweet puppet collection from Baños, so I might have to get a couple when I go tomorrow. We snarfed some pizza before picking up the oldest girls for youth group and heading to Puyo. We arrived in Ecuadorian fashion by showing up at 7:45 for the event that began at 7 and we were some of the first ones there! It began with worship and prayer and I was blow away by Evelyn's growth and devotion to God, I was moved to tears. Last year
Hanging out at the school!
at one of the services she really learned who God was and chose to follow Him, I am so excited for her growth! The message tonight was from Ephesians and about honoring your parents. This is important scripture and can be adapted to anybody in a parental role in a child's life, but I imagion it was difficult for the girls at the orphanage to hear. I know the Lord is going to use this for their greater good, it is my prayer that the kids at Casa de Fe can see how God is our Father in heaven! There was a little party with snacks, for Mother's Day (a bit late). It consisted of mother's (and mother-like people) being thanked with this celebration. We also received a neat heart pencil complete with a holder. Following youth group we went to an excellent French fry restaurant to enjoy salchi papas (hotdogs and fries) with the group! It was fun being with the older girls in this setting, hearing them laugh, be blissful, and jamming out to awesome Latino music with the windows down was a special experience.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The good Shepherd

It's the birthday girl, Nicole!
Today I woke up to the city bus stopping and starting up just outside where I am living. The echoing sound “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other of the engine in my room is not quite as peaceful as the roosters crowing like I had hoped for, but it is kind of like an alarm clock! I made it up to work at the tail end of chapel, but was a bit later than expected since I came across two tias and walked up them. It was well worth the extra time, however I do need to allot more time in case I get to walk with them. Most people's walking pace is much slower than my power walk! Work for the first half of the day consisted of me helping with the sponsorship program and before I knew it, it was time for lunch. On the way to Alexander's for lunch we stopped by my house so I could pick up the clothing donations I brought down here with me, then I was off to lunch with the Freeman's. It was great catching up and just being able to spend time with their family. Also, as mentioned at lunch my hair is as big and crazy as ever :) After returning from food I was able to get some more work done in the office before heading up to the school to help plan for the art show. I am thrilled to be here for it again this year, the kids are talented and it is a great way for them to present their work and show guests around the school. My final job for the work day was helping Steph organize donations up in the attic area and although it was as warm as ever, I was glad to help. There are always many projects to help with and tons of things to do, I'm glad to be able to help where and when is needed. On my way out I got to be with the kids and I watched a group of the kids play soccer from the front step. Christofer decided to come sit on my lap and stare up at the clouds. He kept leaning back, looking up, and doing it all over again. He kept talking about water coming out of the clouds (aka rain) and asking me why it happened...although I know how to describe the water cycle in English I had no idea what to say in Spanish, so I resorted to the fancy phrase "because it's raining"! When 5:30 rolled around I joined Rick, Rebekah, Nicole, and Martin for the birthday supper they take the bigger school kids on to celebrate. It was a blast and although they were a bit distracted by the television in the background, we were able to play some checkers and enjoy time together. I was beyond grateful for the opportunity to join them!
Johnny's with Nicole and Martin for their birthday celebrations!
sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd" John 10:14-16. This scripture reminded me of how much God knows all of his people (sheep) and how deeply He cares for us. Lord understands my whole heart and loves me for it, there is a lot about the kids at Casa de Fe that I remember from last year, in fact I kind of surprised myself. Although I know quite a bit about some of my students from last year there is so much more about them that I cannot fully understand, but the good Lord knows and is meeting their needs in His mighty way. My busy day concluded with late night nachos and girl time, it was a wonderful end to a good day in the jungle.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Anticipation, enthusiasm, and overwhelming joy!

Sunrise hitting the mountains!
This morning started as the typical end to a long travel day, I was exhausted. However, as I started to recognize bigger cities as I passed through anticipation started to take over! Knowing I was almost back to Casa de Fe was surreal. My enthusiasm didn't reach it's full potential until I caught a glimpse of Casa de Fe as I walked up the road at which point my excitement grew exponentially. I could see the maestros working on the fence surrounding the property and smiling familiar faces, and that is when tears filled my eyes with overwhelming joy. I had at last arrived back at Casa de Fe! I trudged through the downpour with my raincoat and umbrella, and still managed to be drenched from my jeans to my socks, yet it didn't matter. In fact, the rain was in some senses a welcoming sight and a comforting feeling. Greeting the missionaries and tias, catching up with Cheralyn for a bit, then visiting the teachers and students at the school was such a gift. Many of the teachers did not know I was coming back so it was sweet to see their reactions! Hugs and hellos from everybody filled me up with so much joy, they were welcoming beyond measure. Marcela lead me around to the classrooms while they were transitioning to their next classes and it worked out super well to see the different age groups of students. Some of them have gotten so big in the last 11 months. I thank the Lord for how He continues to provide and bless this mission here in Shell. After a jam packed morning of great things it was time for my first Ecuadorian meal, almuerzo at Alexander's, with Cheralyn and Jesse (our surprise guest)! Following lunch we went on a little adventure to gather and bring others back food for before heading back to Casa. I did some work in the office before joining the middle age kiddos for Bible Club! The truck ride up to the church was a bit more of a roller coaster than it used to be, because there has been significant damage to the big hill to Casa, but we made it safe and sound all the same. It was fun to sing some of those familiar Spanish songs of worship and watching them dance around. I got a ride back to my house after Bible Club from Jeff and Ana, it was nice seeing them and catching up even though it was a short time. When I got home I visited with the Hayes and went out to supper with Christy, Cheralyn, and my new roommate Anna at Johnny's. At last I was able to enjoy some of the gyusa tea I was craving! Before going home and heading to bed I got to have my "Choco Mix" ice cream cone and pick up some breakfast for the morning. Buenas Noches Ecuador!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A journey

Here I come Ecuador!
At 6am this morning my family dropped me off at the airport and my Ecuador adventure (round 2) began! The travels went smoothly for the first two hops on the trip and I was able to see and talk to some awesome people. As I was boarding the plane in Chicago a little boy and his mother were right in front of me talking about the pictures he drew, he kept telling his mother how he wanted to give them to the pilots. He was adamant about giving them his picture gifts, it was adorable, and when he finally had the chance they graciously accepted! While waiting to board my flight in Miami I met another explorer and share stories for the short time our paths crossed. When I got to my boarding gate the news of a delayed flight developed. The situation was not ideal and I had no idea how to get a hold of my driver from Quito to Shell, but I tried not to panic. This situation made me especially thankful for the message at church last weekend about thanking God at all times, even those times that seem hopeless or less than desirable. God's way is far greater than my own and sometimes the greatest gain is in the hidden treasures or in this case delayed planes. God gives us countless opportunities to grow in trusting Him and it hurts to admit, but sometimes it is the absolute hardest thing for me to do. Usually trusting Him comes naturally, but in situations like today when my flight was delayed I had no idea how it would
The sun rising on the very early morning drive from
Quito to Shell.
all work out. Thankfully He is faithful and so much bigger than any fear I have, whether big or small He knows how I am dealing with all situations, walks beside me, and guides me along His perfect path. After being asked to get off the plane and go to a different gate, I arrived at the new gate and met two new people. They were gracious and let me use their internet to make connections with the missionaries and my driver. Then, I got to play "Nertz" and "Hearts" while we waited for the plane. Maintenance worked on this one (the second plane) for about two hours before they moved us to another that was maintenance free and ready to fly! Although I was more than ready to take off after the 6 hour delay, I was able to make connections with a couple of great people. Every day  we have countless opportunities to hear people's stories, but there is something really special about airports and the doors it opens to hear about people's adventures. May we never underestimate the power of our paths and choices daily! I was empowered by the decisions some made to go out of their way helping others with bags, luggage, and other seemingly simple gestures to contribute in raising spirits. "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" -1 Peter 3:13-15. Today through peoples kindness and new acquaintances I was reminded of the silver lining and hope in all situations.  God always is working things together for our good, but if we do not seek His promises we may miss out on the greatness laid out before us. Also, the driver I was expecting to meet me outside the gate at 10:30pm was there to greet me with a sign "Señorita Erica HALO" when I actually arrived at 4:30am! My journey to Ecuador was exactly that indeed, a journey.