Ecuador VIM / March 2013
Ecuador VIM / March 2013
Friday, March 1
We have arrived! We are thrilled to be back in this vibrant, colorful, exotic country. We’ve been awake since 6am Thursday, so we’re feeling a tad weary now, and are just running on excitement. Our travels went well, and we were surprised to make a quick stop in San Jose, Costa Rica, as well!
Tonight we will be here at the Conference Center after dinner. Tomorrow we will leave early for the textile markets in Otavalo, then will drive the 5 hours down to Santo Domingo, where we will stay until next Friday, working with the folks of the Methodist Church in El Carmen.
I’ll write longer emails Sat. and Sun!
Love, Sue and Bob
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Friday evening and all day today have brought many blessings, as we’ve soaked up a kaleidoscopic stimulation of all of our senses. We have reunited with friends made last year. We’ve made new friends, walked the cobblestone streets and sidewalks of Colonial Quito, eaten scrumptious Ecuadorian foods, and purchased bags full of brightly colored scarves to sell back in the states, in support of the next VIM trip and the ongoing collaborative mission work here.
The most delightful surprise so far came last night, when Pastora Blanca (the young pastor from the indigenous mountain community of Romerillos, where we worked last year) came into the Conference Center for a meeting. She was so happy to see us, and vice versa.
She and her people have continued the work on which we partnered with them, building walls and a roof (for a fellowship hall) onto their tiny church, and then completing work on a 2nd floor of this addition (an apartment). As of February, the apartment is residence for a 23-year-old United Methodist Young Adult Missionary from Indiana (through the Board of Global Ministry) who is living and working there for the next year. Blanca was thrilled to tell us about Becky, the work she is doing in the community, as well as teaching English to the children. Hearing about Becky and her work REALLY got my juices going – all I could think about was meeting this young woman, and finding a way, someday, to return to Romerillos, to live and work for a couple of months.
This morning, when we came downstairs at the Center, Blanca AND Becky were there to greet us! They had stayed overnight at the Center (unbeknownst to us) after their meeting, and planned to have breakfast with us. We had a lovely visit with Becky, traded emails, got her blog address, etc. Plans to stop in Romerillos on this trip so far had not worked out, but after meeting Becky, Bob and I are REALLY motivated to take specific time and go to Romerillos. So we’re working on that plan, with Oscar’s help. We want to see the apartment, take pictures, etc. What a bonus!
After shopping and lunch (serenaded by street musicians) in Otavalo today, our trusted bus driver, Jorge, drove us the 5 hours out of the mountains, to a modest hotel in Santo Domingo. It felt good to unpack, knowing that we’ll be here for the next 6 nights. From Santo Domingo, we will travel each day down to El Carmen, to our work site. As usual, many of our work plans have had to be altered, due to things beyond our control. Good thing FLEXIBILITY is the name of our game! We will worship in El Carmen on Sunday morning, then will spend time Sunday afternoon with an indigenous tribe nearby, learning more about the many fascinating cultures of this jewel of a country.
Day 3, Sunday, March 3 – Humidity, City, and Indigenous Tribe
We enjoyed a day of extremes, a bit of a more relaxed schedule, and lots of hot, humid weather. As Oscar Destruge reminds us, “It ALWAYS rains in Santo Domingo.” That proved true, which explains the humidity.
We worshiped at one of the UM churches here in Santo Domingo, where we were warmly welcomed. Arturo Maine, the grandpa of our group, offered the sermon. After lunch, we traveled to visit the indigenous community of Los Tsachilas, and the living-history-type of museum they have created (in the midst of a rain forest/banana plantation), preserving their tradition. They are the natives of Santo Domingo los dos Colorados, and 2,500 of them live in their 7 remaining communities. Our time with them was so sacred and beautiful, and we of course were able to purchase some of their crafts. Their lifestyle and gentle, pacifist ways gave us a beautiful contrast to the city of Santo Domingo, population 500,000.
Tomorrow we leave early for El Carmen, and our first day of work. There will surely be some surprises, new friends, and a lot of sweat going on!
Hasta manana, Sue and Bob
Day 4, Monday, March 4 – Extreme Work Day!
Phew. We are one exhausted team tonight. It did feel great to begin our work this morning in El Carmen, a small city about 45 minutes from Santo Domingo. Together, with the local workers, in the heat and humidity, we moved 1,000 wet cement blocks, hoisted all 1,000 of them with rope and pulley up to the second floor, sifted sand (for cement making) and did a lot of sweating! The church ladies fed us an incredible lunch, and we all enjoyed that break mid-day.
We had been told we’d have 40 children for Vacation Bible School at 4 p.m., for one hour. At 2 p.m., 120 children showed up, ready for VBS. Oy!. We shifted major gears, and flew into action, started VBS at 3 p.m., and finished around 4:30. We’ve been told that we’ll have between 160-200 children tomorrow! They all seemed to enjoy the singing, skit, and crafts, and were already very generous with their hugs and big smiles.
Hoping for an earlier bedtime tonight – knowing that we are going to wake up with achy bodies tomorrow. As Stephanie Parsons said at one point, while we were hauling cement blocks, “I sure hope no one asks me to go bowling tonight.”
That’s it for this day –
Love to all, Sue and Bob
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 – Day 5 – Offering Support
We had a great day – not quite as hot and humid as yesterday, and the work was not as strenuous, although we still worked our butts off! We hoisted buckets of sand up to the 2nd floor, sifted sand and moved more cement blocks (now up on the 2nd floor) all morning, assisting the mason who is doing the block work. We prepped for and worked with 160 children at VBS in the afternoon. We’re pros now!
The most meaningful time of the day (for me) was at lunch (the food is incredible) when Pastor Vivas (pastor of this church, along with 3 others, and he’s a District Superintendent as well) told us how much our presence, care, and work means to him and his family right now. His wife (a very active partner in ministry with him) passed away unexpectedly 10 days ago. She had coordinated and planned all of the VBS, and the food service for our time at their church. One of her adult daughters, who lives with her family and works in Guayaquil (5 hours away) took this week off from work, to fill in for her mother, while we are in town.
When we arrived yesterday with our theme and crafts, etc, for Monday and Tuesday (Noah and the Ark), we learned from this daughter, that her Mom had planned the exact same curriculum for Wed. and Thurs. (the days that the church had taken responsibility for the VBS program). She’s flexible, and has alternate plans! Two other adult children and their families live in the area, and have also been very involved in all of the work this week. Pastor Vivas expressed how loved and supported his family is feeling, through our presence. Their faces and their hearts are sad, but they are carrying on, and grateful that we are here.
I am craving some down time and time to process all that we are doing and seeing, and am grateful that that will be coming on Saturday!
Blessings and love, Sue and Bob
Wed. March 6, 2013 – Settling In
This morning, it felt like we had all settled into some routine and norm as a team, swinging well with the rhythms of the week. It always amazes me how quickly that really happens, in a newly forming community.
The day brought lots of rain and humidity, followed by bright sun and heat. We did more work with cement blocks, sand, mortar, and oodles of children! Bishop Cevallos came to spend time with us, and we all worked as support team/gophers for the El Carmenites. I took a turn sending sand up to the 2nd floor in buckets – a job that requires close attention, and one in which a rhythm quickly develops, working in synch with the pulley-puller up at the top (Steph was fantastic! And she doesn’t want to go bowling again tonight!) As our relationships deepen, and our days are so fully immersed in this culture, we all are appreciating the stretching of our bodies and our spirits, through the work we are doing.
The high point of my day came about half way through VBS, when one of the young mothers (who works in the Amigos de Jesus program that the church offers to the community) was holding a bottle for her maybe 10-month-old daughter (who was looking overtired), realized she was needed in the snack distribution for the 165 children, motioned to me, and asked if I would stay with her daughter, Hennessey. NOT a problem! Hennessey was surprisingly compliant, and snuggled right in, also holding onto a few pieces of broken cracker. After about 20 minutes of snuggling, while still drinking from her bottle, she reached her hand up to my lips and fed me the last piece of her cracker, then smiled, while still drinking. Twas a most precious and tender moment for me!
I’m going to attach two photos to this email - the first that gives a wonderfully complete picture of our worksite – the sand pile, 2nd story, the front of the church, and the UM cross and flame – which Lynne and Oscar began freshening up today! The second photo is of me and Henessey.
Tomorrow is another workday, and our final day of VBS. On Friday, we will do major cleanup of the work-site, wrapping up the work for now. Our NY Annual Conference, in fact our very own Catskill Hudson District, is sending another team down to El Carmen in October 2013, to work on the next phase of the project. Bob and I won’t be on that team, but we will participate from afar, and between now and then, we will be selling scarves to help with their project expenses.
Hasta manana, Sue and Bob