Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
I'm sure all of you readers are wondering how the end of our trip was and what some thoughts are now that we are removed from our experience by a couple months. So I want to take the time right now and write a final, parting blog with some summaries and reflections of how I spent my summer in Ecuador. Enjoy and thank you so incredibly much for all of the support and love you have given all of the deputees! With love, Erica.
Dios le bendiga. That's “God bless you” in Spanish, and is a phrase commonly heard when you say goodbye, accompanied by a kiss on the cheek. This my friends, is a characteristic of the unique and beautiful country known as Ecuador. And is also conveniently the place where I spent 2 months of my summer as a part of the Deputation program with University Ministries.
Other useful phrases in Español, you might ask? “Está bien,” “no soy fea,” “donde está el baño,” and “me gustan empanadas, dame una, por favor.” Just in case you were wondering. [Translations: "It's okay," "i'm not ugly," "where is the bathroom?," and "i like empanadas, give me one, please!"]
Ecuador is a South American country right on the Equator line, above Peru and below Colombia. People commonly think that being on the Equator for the summer would be a.) unbelievably hot and b.) would make people incredibly tan. However, both of these things are false. At least at where we were. Our home for 58 days was a church in small mountain town at 8,000 feet by the name of Cotacachi. We wore pants and sweatshirts most of the time, and it rained pretty much every afternoon without fail. But even that couldn't detract from the amazing beauty around us. Towering green mountains, rolling fields and clear lakes abound left us all completely breathless. Pictures don't do the country justice. I guess that just means you'll have to go to Ecuador and find out for yourself!
The missionary work we did while abroad covered a wide range of things. We worked for families from the church, doing anything from childcare to house-cleaning, and from gardening to working in family-owned restaurants. Which, by the way, is where I learned how to make the aforementioned empanadas. We also taught English in a remote Black-Ecuadorian village for two weeks to people aged 8 to 21, which was challenging, but probably one of our favorite parts of the trip. Other tasks of ours included starting up the first English service at the church for American expatriates, singing worship at church, both in English and Spanish, running games and crafts at a kids camp and painting the church, inside and out.
One of the things that stuck out to me throughout my Deputation experience was an overwhelming sense of God's love pouring out from the Ecuadorian people. The church we worked with was incredibly small and didn't have enough money to always pay the pastor, and yet they would rent a bus and drive 2+ hours to a remote village to talk about Jesus to non-believers. That my friends, is one of the greatest examples of God's love that I've ever seen. Their selfless devotion to spreading the gospel and caring for others less fortunate than themselves was beyond inspiring. How many churches here have exponentially more than a tiny church in Cotacachi and yet don't do as much with what they have? That was a question that constantly was, and continues to be, on my heart. All I can say is that the souls of the people there are beautiful.
As far as personal growth goes, one thing that I was constantly facing was my own weakness and the necessity to rely on God. That said, I'm the kind of person who feels the need to take care of others and get everything done myself. But in Ecuador, everything familiar and comfortable was stripped away from me. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, the types of food I was used to, my language, and even my normal intake of oxygen [there's not really a whole lot of air up there at 8,000 plus feet, friends]. And with all of that came the realization that I can't do everything on my own. And at first, that was defeating. But soon I found myself praying to God multiple times a day for everything. Even it if it was as simple as “please get me through this day, Lord.” As time went on and challenges arose, I became more confident in the power and peace of Jesus. And even though it continues to be hard, I'm learning more and more to embrace my own weakness and turn it into reliance on the wonderful grace of God.
Another thing that struck me while I was on this trip was the idea of God as the ultimate Father. To make it simple, I don't really know what a “father” looks like. However, while I was in Ecuador, this idea of a father was just something I couldn't get away from. And it's something I'm still working through, but I had the privilege of seeing what real and good, loving fathers look like in the men of the church, particularly our pastor host. And witnessing to these very well put-together and connected families led me to thinking more about God as our heavenly father. And as simple as it is, it really hit me that God loves me and there's nothing that I can do to make him love me more or less. To him, I am perfectly done; I am lovely. And I am his daughter. And he would do anything and everything for me. And in fact, he already has: he sacrificed his true and perfect son; something that would agonize any loving father. He lost his perfect child so that I could have the chance to live and love, even with all of my flaws and mistakes. And that is something that will continue to mystify and amaze me.
Overall, Deputation was a challenging but life-altering experience. I met people who are a second family to me now, I tried new foods [although regrettably not the specialty dish of guinea pig], I learned new skills, worked on a new language, and discovered new things about myself and about God. And I got to zipline upside-down through the jungle, snorkel, paraglide off a cliff and boat down a river in the Amazon.
I'd say that's a pretty good summer, wouldn't you?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It’s time for our first (but not final) dep blog, time for us to say goodbye to Sierra Leone and our kids at the Banta Home, and also time for us to book it out of the Lungi Freetown Airport where we have at press time, been for the past 25 hours.
It’s crazy to us to try and explain our experience of the past two months here, so most of our stories and little details you will have to hear upon our arrival! But just so you have an idea of what us crazy college kids have been up to, here’s an overview:
• Living in the Banta Mohkelleh Bush in Upper Banta with 100 orphaned and destitute children who have been the loves of our lives as well as our neighbors the past eight weeks.
• Working with nine other teammates (6 Americans, 2 Sierra Leoneans, and 1 Irish man) through the Children of the Nations (COTN) program there.
• Working with COTN’s Village Partnership Program (VPP) in five nearby villages learning new skills such as grinding up cassava leaves, farming, carrying water on our heads, learning Mende (the local language) and Krio (the national language besides English), leading weekly bible studies, attending church, and loving our village kiddos. Victor was in Ngolala (Guah-la), Jessica was in Wondie (woon-day), and Emma was in Mogborie (Mog-bore-eeeee). We all had a partner and a national who came with us four times a week walking through the jungle to our village community. It was one of the best parts of the whole program.
• Spent two weeks running Bible/Community/Summer/Feeding Opportunity/Everything camps! Children’s camp was a huge success although very tiring! All 12 of us interns were split into four houses (red, green, blue, yellow) and were responsible for a total of 269 pekins! (for those of you who aren’t fluent in krio that means children..) Lots and lots of beautiful and hyper kids means lots of fun, not much sleep, planning on the fly, and a great week. The next week was youth camp for kids who were 12 years and older and was run by a team from Florida. We were all so thankful-we were exhausted and they did a great job!
• In the beginning of our trip, the first four weeks we spent afternoons tutoring the kids who needed the most help with English. Very frustrating, but also a great chance to learn the lessons of patience, and to learn about the kids. The school system here is crazy, nothing at all like we’ve grown up with and so we learned to value our education we’ve received and Victor and Emma are inspired to work harder this coming year! We spent a week teaching summer school before the teacher team from Colorado arrived, and that was quite the experience. Stories to come, and make sure to ask Jess her favorite memory verse from that week...(1st Sam. 18:1. But you need to hear her say it)
• We attempted to do personal ministries on a regular basis, but that was not always achievable (see below). When we did get to work in our assigned tasks, Victor was being a computer whiz as usual, and was teaching kids how to type, and how to handle computer class without a reliable electricity source. Jess and Emma were paired up in the clinic where they mostly observed the patients that came in, watched malaria medicine be overprescribed, watched placebo shots be given to every patient, and learned Mende songs! Yes, clinic time was pretty much like a medical day care. It was great!
• We experienced “Africa Time”! Aka, the time you give is not the time things start. For example, we were fortunate enough to experience the nursery and primary school graduations our second week in Banta. The ceremony technically began at 10:45 am and was printed on the “fliers” but when we eventually meandered up the hill to the school as we did each day (which is a half mile walk one way thank you very much) at 12 pm that the ceremony hadn’t started yet and began approximately at 12:45 pm, 2 hours later... So if we are late to coffee dates with you all when we are back, we’re sorry, we’re adjusting from Africa time to Seattle time.
• Finally, one of the best experience we had was a home take over. Each house (and there are 10 of them including the intern house) has an Aunty who looks over the 12-13 kids in each house. The Aunties needed a wee break as Mark would say, and so one Thursday through Sunday, we interns were partnered up and looked after houses. Our duties included getting the kids (but mostly ourselves up) for morning devotions at 6 am, handling morning chores of washing and eating, having meals prepared for the kids, getting them to school/church dressed (oh my goodness, crazier than you would think), cleaning the whole house top to bottom, having resting time, and playing with them. Way harder than we thought. Jess was with House 1 girls (sweetest things you’ll ever say good night to), Emma was with House 5 boys (Ahhh loves of her life), and Victor with House 6 boys (Uncle! Grease!). A fun couple of days but we were so tired by the end we felt like we needed a retreat!
So that is a quick summary of our scheduled adventures... stay tuned for the unscheduled ones! God willing, we will be in Heathrow airport soon and be able to post again! Much love to you all!!! And keep the prayers coming, this travel thing has been a nightmare...
Uncle Teekeh (Victor)
Aunty Nyadavo (Jessica)
Aunty Seinya (Emma)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Join me in prayer for each of the Deputation teams as they begin their travel home.
Team Bethlehem arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 4:45pm
Team Ecuador arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 7:56pm
Team Haiti arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 11:59pm
Team Dominican Republic arrives Thursday, August 12 at 12:04am
Team Kenya arrives Thursday, August 12 at 3:09pm
Team Sierra Leone arrives Thursday, August 12 at 8:43pm
Team India arrives Sunday, August 15 at 4:51pm
Sunday, August 08, 2010
[Is it totally tool-ish of me to always make ^ this note ^ on my Dep blog posts? Guess it's a little late to be questioning my behavior at this point! Oh well, whatever]
Weirdest water experience of my life. Seriously.
The other day on Saturday, we had the opportunity as a group to go to the Dead Sea, not only the lowest point on earth but also one of the saltiest. There's actually a legend I was told that attempts to explain this saltiness, that it is the result of when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (It's actually due to all the run-off from the surrounding hills and from beneath where the lake now stands, from what I understand). This increased saltiness has some rather intriguing side effects. Buoyancy, is as you know, the action of stuff floating while submersed (at least partially) in the water. Or as Wikipedia puts it, "... is an upward acting force, caused by fluid pressure, that opposes an object's weight." In a way, it's very similar to Hot Air balloons floating through the air (but not "at the surface" of the air) because the hot air is less dense... there's more stuff in the air beneath the balloon than within or above the balloon.
In the Dead Sea, there is much much more in the water beneath you than you'd ever expect there to be in water: all that salt! As you're walking out into the water, past the rocks and that pricelessly cosmetic mud-slime beneath your feet, it becomes surprisingly difficult to walk, because you find that your legs no longer want to go down. Just as this realization and it's implications begin to hit, there's no longer anything beneath you, legs and body floating while completely upright. A subtle and nearly imperceptible muscle movement later, knees shoot up in front of you, back goes flat, floating on the surface. Buoyant beyond all reason. Inconceivable.
The mud was also pretty sweet, I guess it's the thing to do: cover one's self ridiculously with the nasty stuff and bake in the 107 degrees of sun for a while, rinse, and enjoy baby's-bottom-smooth skin. (I have to say, my Inner Child was quite pleased with this experience!) Upon the writing of this blog entry, my skin still feels like a good thing to be covering my body, more so than usual that is. Don't take me wrong, I'm generally pretty happy to have skin. But these days, when you're only showering once every 4 or so days... it can be nice to throw off the old man in a manor of speaking. ;)
Looking forward to daily showers when I get home... and church. I'll post more on that later, suffice it to say, I finally had the chance to go this morning. The Church of the Nativity. Pretty sweet.
Also, I would have pics from this adventure yesterday, but my camera is being all wonky, doesn't want to charge anymore. So much for pawn-shop treasures.
For now, Mas Salaama! See you all soon! (Such a very strange fact...)
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Well seeing how I have not written on the blog I thought it was due time for me to put something up. It also helped that we only have a week left!
So from where we left off, we all are still copying, grading those wonderful papers, helping the kids learn that 6 + 4 does not equal 11, and doing anything else that the Rafiki teachers can think of. Personally, I have had a lot of fun helping the teachers with the kids. It’s been such a life changing experience. I have to say some of the work can truly be boring at times but in the end we keep each other afloat with a laugh here and there or just hanging out. We also tutor some of the kids. Barclay tutors a great bunch of kids whose names are Moses, Morris, Steven, and Amos. He really helps them out and has done some pretty creative things to get their mind around math and reading. Megan works with two kids whose names are Stephen and then helps a cute girl named Grace on her reading skills. Drea is busy working on preparing lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten. She really has a knack for it. The boys that I am working with are Elijah who is deaf and Amos who is severely handicapped. Then I work with Victor and Hillary who struggle with math. I truly now know why god had me take ASL (American Sign Language). I work with Elijah on getting comfortable with more signs to Mathematics and then doing oral (he has enough hearing to the point where it’s helpful for him to vocalize thoughts). With Amos I work on building confidence in him, or at least that’s how I see it. He works on puzzles and really has made big strides on how much time it takes him to finish. It’s so hard for us to work with these boys and girls, knowing that there lives are going to be so difficult, but it is also so reassuring knowing that God will be with them every step of the way. Last weekend we took a matatu to Nairobi for some fun. It’s the local transportation, and man, was it roomy! From my head pushing on the ceiling to my knees cutting into the seat in front of me this made for a thoroughly enjoyable time. The feeling of getting off on our own (besides the fact that we had our local friend named Peter, who is awesome and works maintenance at Rafiki, with us) was a blast in a new place. We have a stone wall around us, so for us every time we get a weekend break it’s such a blessing. Not to say we haven’t absolutely loved our time with Rafiki, but it is nice to get out of the compound and experience the real Kenya. Nairobi was so worth it, getting to walk those streets and seeing what a local gets to see every day. We all had a great time with one another and in the end it will definitely be something that we all remember, and I hope that it will be for the others as well.
Sincerely the Kenya team,
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
On Monday afternoon we rested, the all day trip to Mysore left us very tired. On Tuesday we decided it would be nice to make cookies for our host family. We decided to make chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies. As we began making the cookies we realized there wasn’t enough sugar on the shelf for the cookies. Our host mother, Rita gave us a bag of what appeared to be very large sugar crystals. Katie stirred it into the pan with the other ingredients. After several minutes of stirring the cookies weren’t turning into the delectable consistency Katie had made before, instead the sugar crystals were retaining the chocolate liquid and turning rock hard. Katie chose to taste the delicious concoction and ended up with a mouthful of rock salt. Katie grabbed the bag of “sugar” and saw in tiny letters on the label on the back of the bag it said “salt.” We remade the cookies with real sugar and they were quite tasty. On Wednesday we went to Mahatma Ghandi Road (There is one in each city in India) to buy sandals to wear with our Saris. On Thursday we hung out with Aneesha, a teacher in the prevocational class at Asha Kiran. She helped us drape our first Saris (quite complicated!). In the evening the accountant at the school, Subatra, came over and did henna on our left hands. On Friday we went to our first Indian Wedding. It was a Christian service and did not last three days like typical Hindu weddings. The service was similar to Christian weddings in the States. Several hundred people attended the wedding and about 2,000 attended the reception. There was so much food at the wedding! The non-veg line was endless. We decided to join the vegetarian queue, where there wasn’t a long line. A few differences between receptions in the States and in India—There isn’t any dancing. There was a live band which sung several American and Christian songs. The couple greets an endless line of well-wishers on an elaborately decorated stage, with a sign above them that said “Shirley weds Charles.” Our host family said they greeted guests for six hours at their wedding. Wedding cake is eaten by the family of the married couple, not by their guests.
Indian Culture: We have learned a lot about the Indian culture this summer. The following are our findings. We have been pleasantly surprised with the hospitality we have received here. Multiple teachers have asked us to tea and dinner in their homes. We have met several of the locals wherever we go, they are always so welcoming and interested in where we are from and what we are doing in Bangalore. Everyone always asks how we like the spicy Indian food and are pleased to see us wearing Saris and Indian clothes. We can see the delight in the locals as we adopt Indian dress, culture, and customs like making Indian chai tea and the Indian head wobble. Every Sunday at church women comment on our ability to walk in Saris, they are surprised to see white women walking gracefully in them. People aren’t as verbal, or direct in conversation as those in the States. When we have communicated in a direct manner some people are a bit taken aback. Additionally, a month ago we realized how much Americans are afraid of awkward silences in conversations, perhaps it goes hand –in-hand with our chattiness. When our host family has guests over there are always awkward silences intermixed in conversations and a conversation ends after about a minute of silence. Americans are constantly aware of preventing such silences, we have an array of conversation topics in mind and always leave a conversation before an awkward silence occurs. Here awkward silences aren’t “awkward” Indians don’t worry about awkwardness. Life is slower paced and more relaxing here. Afternoon naps are common. Our host family was shocked at the typical work weeks of the careers we are pursuing (business and law). Teachers at Asha Kiran work 25 hours a week. We found that Americans’ emphasize building a career more. Note: we observe this as University students that are constantly confronted with thoughts and questions of what are major will be, what internships to apply for, and assessing future careers. In India there is a stronger emphasis on family (womens’ role as homemaker). Community is valued, there is a small shop down the road from our house, we have the option of paying whenever we shop there, or putting it on the tab of our host family. There is a share the wealth mentality. In the house we live in there is a person who cleans, ironing is sent out, person who waters the potted plants, and a person who cooks. This mentality implies employing friends to do the work they don’t enjoy. Most Americans value independence and self sufficiency. Here instead of having to do everything yourself, they glorify the individual talents of people and try to make use of those talents to benefit all.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers this summer. We have enjoyed our time in India and are looking forward to going home in ten days.
Katie and Sarah