Life on Cottage Hill: PAGES

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

coming full circle.

6 years ago, our church partnered with Compassion International and Stadia to build a church in northern Ecuador. In the village of Ricaurte. To give the people a place to worship, a place for the kids to gather for meals, medical help and stories of Jesus. 

4 years ago I signed up to go to that village. To see those kids. To step inside that church. A few weeks before that trip God gave us the best possible surprise- I was expecting our third baby... you might know him as Jonah! So, plans were postponed. I gave up my ticket to a dear friend and I stayed behind.

2 years ago the time came for our church to send another team. I again signed up and this time I went. I met my 2 sponsor kids and I sponsored one more when we were there. I met their mamas, I visited their homes, I was touched... deeply. And my biggest fear was going back and forgetting. Forgetting how it felt to be there, how it felt to feel their pain, how it felt to hear their stories. And so I promised God that I wouldn't.

5 months ago that same company who has oversight over all those babies contacted me. They wanted me- me? - to come work for them, for Compassion International. To ... "tell the stories of what they're doing for the kids." So that they could grow exponentially faster and therefore close the gap on the hundreds of millions of kids waiting for the love and care that they can offer in Jesus' name. After weeks and weeks of interviews and conversations and praying I said YES. Yes to this opportunity. Yes to this calling.I started my journey as a leader at Compassion just under 2 months ago. 

2 weeks ago things came to a full circle. I went back to Ecuador. This time not only as a sponsor, but as staff. What an honor, what a privilege. To be able to "do what I do" for these sweet kids, for a purpose so pure, for the work of Jesus. 

A few photos from my time there...

The first project we visited was on the outskirts of Quito- the capital of Ecuador. While the city itself has areas that are modern and developed, the reality is that there is still so much poverty within the city limits. This program was focused on helping mamas and their babies under the age of 1- teaching them how to care for them, getting them vaccinations and medical check-ups, teaching them skills to bring in at least somewhat of an income... and giving those women a community to lean on, to learn from, to not feel isolated. It was here that we met "D" - she stuck out from the moment we arrived. She was certainly the most energetic, social, joy-full little girl in the group. She stole my heart. After visiting the project and hearing about their progress, after serving lunch to the kids and mamas, one of my teammates and I took a short bus ride to visit "D's" house. Her living space was about a third of the size of my master bathroom. But it was organized to the inch and decorated to suit everything little "D" needed. Through our translators, her mom told her story with tears streaming down her cheeks- long story short, she had been in a low, low place. No food, no place to live, no job and baby "D" to care for. With the support and love from Compassion she was equipped- she was loved and cared for and her life was saved. Literally saved. She has a long, long way to go- things aren't easy- at ALL. She still struggles daily, but I pray that she doesn't give up. When we went to leave I'll never forget hugging her goodbye. It's as if she didn't want to let go. Like we were such a big part of her hope and she was afraid to see it walk out the door. That's a hard thing to feel from thousands of miles of away- knowing I'm here in the comfort of by too-big house and she's there, still in that same spot, dreaming the same dreams I have for my kids but having mountains before her where I only have ant hills. 

We also spent time at one of the largest projects in Ecuador- way up in "The Highlands" which is the region of the country far up in the Andes. As in most countries, the landscape, the culture, the challenges can change drastically as you move from one area to the next and Ecuador is no different. Here, one of the most heart-breaking things was that more than half of the kids are living essentially on their own at any given time since the parents tend to migrate for work- sometimes to other countries or continents, selling their goods and leaving their babies behind on their own. ON THEIR OWN. It blows my mind. Here I was, on a "business trip" but I had support layered on support at home to care for my little ones- my husband and their nanna, their teachers and nanny, note upon note with instructions and detail and every check and balance I could think of. But not these little guys. They are on their own, but thankfully they have the Compassion project to come to- for meals and comfort and love. We served them lunch- likely one of their only meals of the week (picky eaters don't exist here, as you can imagine) and then we played. We played all the things kids like to play and just let them be that... kids. For a few hours at least. After soccer and jump rope and bubbles they lead us inside their church for a worship service before we had to say our goodbyes. Here's the hardest part about going... it's leaving. They literally follow us out the gate and have to physically be pulled from our bus as we pull out. Meanwhile we look out the windows bravely, waving goodbye and trying not to think, "but why me? why do I get to go and this is your reality?" 

Ironically, the place we stayed on our third night there was the same hotel we stayed at for 2 of our nights on my first trip to Ecuador. It's a mountain "resort" if you will. The irony comes in when realizing what I had no visibility to the first time. That project I just told you about? It was literally across the highway from the resort. Hidden up on the hillside. Less than a mile from the comforts of this (almost) modern oasis is where all those kids are struggling to make it. So, when we pulled away... we were literally driving 2 minutes down the road to warm beds, hot showers and way too much food. "Fair" just isn't a theme here. 

And the reality is that it's not a theme anywhere. It's just easier to forget that when we're at home. 

We finished out our trip visiting another project- this time with older kids. It was such an encouraging note to end on. It's hard to keep kids coming to the projects as they get into their teenage years. Because- well, they're teenagers- and so engaging them takes different tactics, but also because they often are forced to stay away because they need to lead at home or get jobs or they start families of their own- way. too. early.  But at this project we saw such hope- the kids were flourishing thanks to a project and community who is determined to evolve constantly to meet their needs. This is the promise of Compassion- that when done well it breaks the cycle of poverty. It breaks the heartbreak and hunger and despair of it all. It's why I'm so thankful to be on this journey. 

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