Thursday, September 20, 2012
One week ago I was just finishing my first day here in Quito. My head was spinning from all of the Spanish translating I had been doing and I was exhausted from the lack of oxygen at this altitude, but that didn't make me any less ecstatic to be here. Even after a week I still find myself smiling uncontrollably when I see the white face of Cotopaxi (Ecuador's second highest volcano) glowing in the morning sun, or the mist against the towering Andes in the distance after an afternoon rain. This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen.
Right now I'm living with Teresa Susong, a missionary who is an old friend of my family. She and her husband Dan (who is visiting the U.S. right now) have a ministry fighting against child labor, and helping those who have been victims of child labor to finish their educations (http://facesministry.org/). It's been really interesting to see what goes into a ministry like this, and the work and passion that Teresa puts into it all is inspiring to say the least. She's truly being the hands and feet of Jesus every day, and I'm thrilled to be able to do what I can to help.
So far what my job has been is helping out at the ministry center. Kids from around four to fifteen years old, all from difficult family backgrounds and often extreme poverty, come to hang out at the center after school. The ministry center feeds them a hearty lunch, leads them in worship and a Bible lesson, and helps with their homework. My duties have been helping Blanca our cook make lunch, doing a little filing in the ministry's social worker's office, helping the kids with English and computer homework, and cleaning and organizing around the center. Right now it could use a lot of sprucing up, so I'm starting by decorating all of the bulletin boards with Bible verses and fun themes. If anyone has any creative ideas or favorite verses to share I'm very open to suggestions! Like I said, most of the kids come from very difficult backgrounds and broken families, so there are quite a bit of behavioral issues. But they are all very sweet and affectionate when they want to be, and I love getting to know them. They really just need so much love, and I'm learning they have so much love they want to give, too. There is nothing sweeter than kisses on the cheek and never ending smiles and waves and hugs from the littlest ones.
Besides spending time with the kids, one of my favorite things so far has been helping Blanca cook. Unlike last fall in Mexico, I really like most of the food here! It's so fun to be able to help her and learn simple healthy dishes. And speaking of food, there's a bakery AND a fresh produce store right outside the gate to our neighborhood, a 3 minute walk from the house! Even if it was further than that it would still be wonderful though, because I love taking walks here. The weather is absolutely perfect. It's unique because you get warm sunny weather and cozy fall weather all in the same day. In the mornings it's always gorgeous bright blue skies with a temp around 75, but by the time the sun goes down it's a nice 55 or 60.
Everywhere I look is a backdrop of towering, indescribably beautiful mountains and hills, contrasted against perfect blue sky and puffy white clouds. But one thing that makes the beauty stand out even more is the contrast of the poverty in the foreground. The majority of the people here live in small rented concrete houses or rooms, don't own vehicles, and work long hard hours for a tiny salary. The other day I went with Teresa to visit a lady who wanted her son to be in the ministry's night highschool. There is a mountain behind our house with a monument of a cross on top, and this lady lives toward the bottom of it. A dirt road led up to her rented house, which was a tiny little building made of grey cinder block. Someone from the states would definitely regard it as more of a shed than a house. They had an amazing view though. The sun was just starting to set and was casting shadows and glowy light all over the mountains in the distance and everything in the valley between us and them. It was literally breathtaking. She led us inside where the walls were also plain cinder block and the floors bare concrete, and the crisp air from outside seeped in through cracks around the windows and ceiling. The house was divided by hanging blankets. We sat down at her table and she told us about her life and family. She is a single mother of five children, one of whom is fifteen and wants to go to the ministry's highschool. He works construction full time during the day, and will now start attending the highschool in the evenings.
When I think about the fifteen-year-olds I know in the states compared with this boy, the contrast is sobering. I wish that everyone would travel just to get some perspective; just to see that no matter what kind of "economic crisis" we might be having in our country it will never compare to what most of the rest of the people in the world will live in for their entire lives. We have so much to be thankful for, and so much to give! If anyone would like to make a donation to this ministry or even come and volunteer some time here yourself, please talk to me and I know Teresa will help you work it out, she's great like that. Trust me, coming here isn't as crazy as it sounds. ;)
P.S. I will try to upload some pictures soon! I haven't taken many yet because I don't carry my camera everywhere because of theft, and also if the kids saw me with they would probably destroy it. :)