Hi everyone, thank you to all who have supported me financially and prayed for me on this trip, I'm so thankful for all that the Lord has done through it! I came back home last Saturday and went straight into school this week, including a new job, so things have been less than ideal for sitting down and writing a blog post; I apologize for the lateness of it.
Ecuador held many new and beautiful things for me, and God showed me many things during my time there. First I'll just summarize what I did: The first week consisted mostly of preparing for vbs and meeting many new people, getting to know Juan Diego and Jose (Nube's nephews), playing with the Vogans' kids Timmy, Debbie, Mateo and Sammy, and overall settling in. The second week had much more activity as our team from the church was doing two different vbs's in separate villages during the afternoons, and in the evenings I conducted English classes for all who wanted to come. The final week (up until Wednesday, as I left on Thursday) I was teaching English classes and we were organizing all the stuff from vbs to be used for next time.
That being said, God showed me so much through my opportunity to live with the Vogans and share ministry with them, but I want to focus on a couple of things. First of all it was amazing to witness how God is working in different churches all over the world. I was able to attend many meetings with the small church that meets in the Vogans' house, including Sunday morning, youth group, Bible study, and worship discipleship. My spanish improved while I was there and though I didn't catch everything, I probably understood on average about 70% of what was being said, and I was blessed by God's presence there. Nube led a devotional one night about what it means to be "blessed" as that is what the Bible calls us, and so often we think purely on a physical level when we say that we are blessed, as though blessing is something only to be seen, touched, felt, etc. But, the word of God is clear that our lives will not always (if ever) look like we plan them to, so blessing is more than a state of possession, it is a state of being. We ARE blessed, no matter what our circumstances look like, and God has been speaking to me about this over the past few weeks. No matter what I do, no matter what I see and regardless of what I or anyone else thinks, I am accepted in the beloved of God and totally, completely blessed by Him. I was encouraged by spending my time with the Vogans and their church family, God is doing beautiful things there and I'm glad I got to be a part of them.
Another major thing God was showing me more about is His desire for oneness in His body, regardless of differences in opinion or practice. South America is predominantly traditional Roman Catholic, although there are a lot of different types of churches present. I found through talking to people in the city about why I was there, the first question they ask when I say that I'm with a church is "Are you Catholic or Evangelical?" Honestly the differentiation took me back a bit at first because I'm not used to making such a distinction, but I began to realize that there was a wall being put up that God never intended to be there. My response to that question when I was talking with a lady on the bus was, "I probably lean more towards Evangelical, but I don't see there being much of a difference because we serve the same God, we both love Jesus" and she laughed saying how true that was. We proceeded to have a very deep conversation about God and how seeking after material things was so empty and worrying over our lives brings nothing but pain and burdens, and how we need to live our lives trusting God every step of the way. Did she have a full awareness of God's heart for her and the truth in the Bible? Probably not; I don't know anyone who would raise their hand to say they did, I certainly wouldn't. She was Catholic but she loved Jesus and had an awareness that her relationship with Him should affect the way she lived her life. This is what God has been showing me personally: instead of judging because someone serves God differently or has a different opinion about something, it doesn't mean that I can put up a wall and place them in another category, or try to get them to fit into my category. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us from glory to glory, so if there is healing that needs to come or truth that needs to be administered I can trust Him to take care of that in His time and I can pray and listen for His guidance, otherwise I just need to love because that's what Jesus did.
Thank you again for all your prayers and support, I feel that God is going to take me back to South America sometime soon so I'll keep you updated when that happens!