EMT 2013

EMT 2013
2013 Ecuador Mission Team

Reflecting On The Week With Thanks

Tuesday, June 16

I want to begin by saying that it is good to give thanks! Now that the EMT 2013 team is back from their mission work, I have had quite some time to reflect on everyone who helped to make this year’s trip happen for us. Our headmaster and principals are among the first group I would like to thank for their unrelenting support for the events that we engage in all school year to raise support. Thanks also to Tom Wood and the advancement team, the Marketing team, and Lou Nardi and his team for their support with our fundraising efforts. To our teachers and staff from all three schools and the administration, thanks for supporting our fundraising events and also generously donating to the cause. Thanks to all Upper School students who wore jeans this past school year and also Middle School student who supported the child sponsorship by purchasing chicken biscuits. In addition I want to also thank all the families at Whitefield who sponsor kids at the Love and Hope Foundation school. The kids are elated when we visit and continuously want to hear about their sponsors. Your partnership is invaluable.

My appreciation also goes out to the kindergarten teachers and their students who continue to raise coins for Quito. This year their contribution of over $400 will be dedicated to equipping the Upper School science lab when the new school is built for the FAE kids. All being well, they should begin construction on this new project in July. The next EMT group should see a brand new school building next summer when they arrive. We must pray for this new school project as it is in the infantile stages at this time and they covet our prayerful support.


Thanks to Michelle Davidson for giving us a well-equipped first aid kit which we only needed for band aids and cough drops this year, praise Jesus! Thanks to Kyle and Susan Justice for allowing us to sell concessions at the Chess Tournament back in January and Chick-fil-A who provided great service on this hectic day for us. 

EMT parents - this would not have happened without you and your EMT members. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication, your heart of service and desire to partner with us as we demonstrate “others ahead of self and the living and active Jesus” all the way in Quito, Ecuador. Your prayers and support make God smile. The Whitefield community continues to be an example of God’s heart, hands and feet; light and salt of the earth until Jesus returns. 

I apologize if I have not mentioned anyone whom I did need to name but please know that the EMT is deeply appreciative of all the support that we receive consistently year after year.

 From us to you, muchísimas (muhas) gracias, until 2013-2014!

Opal and the EMT team

A Wedding And Goodbyes

Sunday, June 23

Sunday began with a late breakfast. We were able to take things a little slower as we did not have to meet at the usual 7:30 a.m. time for our first meal of the day. Since I was expecting to hear pots and pans stirring and Margarita and her daughter conversing at the crack of dawn in the kitchen, I woke up early anyway. I decided to take in the sounds of Quito and the crisp cool air for one last morning. The team started emerging fully dressed for the wedding at about 8:30 a.m. I thought that I had missed the memo, the wedding was scheduled for noon but these guys and gals were ready to go. “They are excited about this," I thought to myself and “they look great too!"  The team wasn't just ready to attend a wedding, they were also ready to set up, decorate, participate, and entertain. It was satisfying to see them all so “on the ball” about this momentous occasion.

After breakfast the decorations emerged and my helpers were busy. By 11 a.m. everything was all set for the guests and guests of honor to arrive. Pity requested that a few EMT members be in the wedding party and we kindly obliged. Then the moment that we were all awaiting for arrived. The processional began with the flower girls, Kiev and Maria Victoria leading the way. The older flower girls, Lorena’s daughter Lorena, another relative, and a teacher’s daughter started the procession. Then the ring bearer, Lorena’s son Henry followed behind. The bridesmaids and groomsmen from the EMT team were Kathryn, Grace, Cara Grace and Kathryn Grace, Nile and Sage. David and Daniel Sola (two of Pancho’s sons) completed the wedding party. Next the bride, escorted by Pancho, lit up the room as she entered. Her groom was pleased to see and receive her; then they gathered at the altar.

Since that was my first Spanish wedding I didn’t know what exactly to expect. I thought that it would have some familiar elements but the first surprise was that they had a praise celebration in the middle of the wedding. Since we didn’t have church that morning, I liked that infusion of praise and worship. Glory to God, the only One who can bring two hearts together and unite them as one! There was a round of cheering and applause when the pastor presented the couple as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time J

A spirited reception followed with one solid hour of dancing and entertainment provided by none other than the EMT group. For every item that we presented they asked for an encore. I took a look at the guests of honor and they were so pleased. I thanked God silently that we could make this happen for them. In our well wishes for them a few of our EMT members mentioned that they were being great examples to the community and to their children by making their union before God a public example. Pancho mentioned to me that another worker recently tol him that she would like to go ahead and marry her longtime partner as well. What an example and a blessing this one wedding will be!

Sometime around the 5 p.m. hour we began to assemble our belongings in preparation for our return flight to Atlanta. We were still in high spirits and I could hear a few EMT members mention the desire to return next year in the same breath as they mentioned the fact that no one got seriously ill this year. They shared photos of the kids they bonded with the most during the week, who they prayed for, and who they want to see again  next summer.

Kathryn Grace had a chance to connect one last time with the young lady who commented earlier in the week that she is not interested in God or the Bible. In their short talk, KG assured Belen that God is in love with her at all times regardless of her emotions or reactions toward Him and that she would continue to pray for Belen until she would get a chance to see her again. Let us all pray especially for Belen and Sarita who lost her mom on Father’s day last year. Sarita is expecting a baby in a few months. She is healthy and attending school every day.


Our trip to the airport took a little over an hour because they opened a brand new airport further away. So we left earlier than usual. Needless to say we got to the airport and to our gate in expectation of an on-time departure, only to spend another three hours waiting on the plane to arrive and then another hour sitting in the plane before take-off. We could only trust the Lord’s wisdom in that situation and remember that we are not in control. 

See you at home,
Opal
Friday, June 22

Honoring The Teachers of FAE

It was a high day in Carmen Bajo today. Teamwork was at its peak. The group was animated this morning before leaving the apartment and I really felt like this was a great start to a day that could turn sad with all the goodbyes that were before us. Absolutely no one was focused on that. They were all eager to meet with their classes and several of them couldn’t wait to share special letters they wrote for each child, give gifts they brought for the kids, and perform for the kids and the teachers as well.

It always touches me when the students pray for us.. With all sincerity they thank us for coming to spend these days with them, spending time to get to know them and praying with and for them. Today, after we received their prayers, thanks and appreciation, we moved right into preparing a party for the teachers and community moms who daily minister to the beautiful children of FAE..  This is always a blessing and a treat simultaneously. The FAE faculty and staff really know how to party J

At the party, our team did two songs for FAE teachers and after asking the 5th grade teacher to join in, the party really started. Teacher Fausto took center stage along with teacher Carlos and Pastor Nelson. Pancho got reeled in and it was a Hollywood moment because all the cell phones and cameras came out to record that moment. By this time the laughter was immense. If any stress entered that room before the party, it was all chased away with the laughter of everyone in the room. We had a White Elephant-type of gift giving time and in the true meaning of White Elephant, there were a few steals but all in good fun as they laughed and cheered on each other. In all the fun of today I was reminded of the words of Proverbs 17:22 – “A merry heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” It’s been quite a while since I have laughed the way that I did today. If no one else did, I know for sure that I needed that diversion.

It was an early night for us tonight. Immediately after dinner Pancho and Pity met for devotion time with us. With only two days left, they asked each team member to mention their high and low points of this trip so far.  From the responses, I can tell that God has stirred hearts within this group. From those who initially were not excited about this trip to those who decided to return (give it another chance so to speak), to those who had no idea what to expect; God has made some real changes. Parents, if you prodded and engineered the thought of making this trip, thanks! From your child to you, they are thankful. To the returning parents, thanks for supporting the decision and seeing it through to this moment and to parents who are doing this for the first time, I can’t thank you enough for the faith you are exercising even now. I know that many obstacles presented themselves for some families as you planned for your child to attend this trip but, God is the one who is really in control here and not our circumstances. There is a song that I love to sing and the opening line is, “Giants, do die, the bigger they are, the harder they fall…let God arise giants die!” When we return to Atlanta I hope that you will see that your child had a new encounter with God while in Quito this year.

I praise God for wellness for us all as we enter into the last few hours of this trip. God is able to see us through. Until we reunite, from us to you - have an excellent weekend as if we were with you.

Opal 
Thursday, June 20

Emmanuel – God with us! 

And He is indeed with us. I woke up this morning praying that when I greeted the team I would see fresh faces and voila, so it was. Thank you Jesus! Since Wednesday was such a blessing to witness I felt like day 6 would be doubly blessed. We decided to take the afternoon sessions outside today and give the kids an opportunity to review their learning this week as it relates to the focus topics of the afternoon and also have soccer competitions. They never turn down a game of soccer so that went well.

Beyond that I must say that their responses to our review questions were on point at all times. I was able to see some of the kids who were more reserved in their responses earlier this week raise their hands and tell us in their own words how they would respond appropriately to different compromising scenarios if they were ever faced with such. It is Thursday and I do feel like hearts have been stirred. Praise God! Today was the end of our afternoon talks because tomorrow afternoon is set aside for the teacher/staff appreciation party.

We had passed by Margarita’s home (she is our main cook) and also Lorena’s home (lady getting married on Sunday) with the hope of doing some painting for them today but we had to change plans and paint the daycare center, (one of many belonging to FAE) that is directly across the street from Lorena’s instead. Margarita occupies a 1 room dwelling with 5 kids and a grandson. We are thinking of doing something special for her before we leave. Lorena is on maternity leave and we wanted to meet up with her before Sunday’s big event and meet the little man (born on May 21st) who is named after Pancho. His name is Francisco Ezequiel and he is just a bundle of sweetness. He is the third gift (gem) from God to Lorena’s family. We are so excited to be part of her wedding service on Sunday at noon.

I am excited to see what our audience will look like tomorrow morning as we present the final piece to the skit, sing the relating songs and repeat Isaiah 9:6 for the last time this week with the FAE family. We have given them a CD with the music and Pity has mentioned that they want to continue with the songs during their worship times and in classrooms as well. Our parting will be bitter sweet tomorrow for us and the FAE family but we will focus only on the sweet part of seeing them soon again.

A huge thank you goes out to our EMT parents at this time who once again gave and gave so that some teachers, drivers and community moms in Quito whom you have never met, will feel appreciated as they contribute to God’s work here at Foundation Love and Hope. On that note I am off to count my blessings and…sheep! 

Opal
Wednesday, June 19

Building Relationships

Wednesday was a very full day for us. We arrived
at the school and were greeted by some very happy faces on the school’s playground “patio” where we once again presented more clues in order to help the audience get closer to understanding or solving the mystery of who God is. 

Our welcoming audience was very responsive to the questions our Detective Do Tell (Kathryn Bracher) asked as our skit rolled on. Many of the kids talked about the clues in the skit such as the Bible, a crown, a heart, and the manger all pointing to Emmanuel. We hope and pray that on Friday we will see the evidence that many hearts were stirred this week.

Classes went on comfortably and the EMT members seemed to be in the swing of things as I passed by to check on who needed any help or resources. The story of the paralytic man was coming alive in classrooms via some very dynamic means. The kids were eager to act out the story and even complete short and long passages of the story which challenged their English vocabulary at times. On the playground I was blessed to see many instances of bonding taking place between EMT members and FAE children. It is wonderful to see how many of these kids connect with and look up to our EMT members. Frankly, I can’t wait each day to hit the playground with them daily. We are praying for these kids all week. We are aware of some of their needs and although we can’t make their challenges go away we are here, and we offer a friendship built on the love of God.

During the afternoon sessions we continued to impress upon them the importance of making the rig,ht decisions as it relates to respect for authority, dating and relationships and drug and alcohol abuse. Their questions in these sessions were very insightful and we made every effort to steer them right with practical responses and biblical references. 

We caught up with Janey Fugate (’11), EMT alum and sister to Alice Fugate (11th) for dinner at Pim’s restaurant in the city. No one complained of any serious injuries before or after dinner. Grace did hurt her shin playing more soccer right after lunch so we took care of that as much as we could before dinner. She complained of some discomfort but being the trooper that she is she did not let that hinder her from making it to the bus on time for our ride to dinner.


Thanks again for your prayers, I can feel them. Until next time…peace unto you all!  

Opal
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coming Together As A Team

We have a lot to be thankful for today. The second day of teaching was satisfying for the team. The connection with the kids is definitely growing. Many were able to recall names and specific things about the kids that made their day today. It was interesting to watch our team members share the detail of the biblical story of the rich young ruler with the kids in their classes. They used illustrations and resources to help bring the kids to this understanding - all the material things that we cling to in this life have little value in fostering a relationship with God. 

The younger kids demonstrated what the heart of the
rich young ruler might have looked like with opaque cups and dark colored paint. Of course, the outside of the cups were clean (appearing pure) vs. the inside of the cups which were painted with black paint. This object lesson was the practical representation of the fact that the ruler's heart was full of sin. How fitting for us, who also need this reminder from time to time.  We are all sometimes as Jesus stated to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25 states - clean on the outside but full of sin on the inside. But the good news is that Emmanuel is with us. We are to commit daily to allowing Him to transform and renew us from within.

After working with the afternoon small groups we were able to play some indoor soccer in a fierce competition against Pancho’s “Ecuadorian team." Needless to say that Atlanta took a fall as they were up against the champions such as Panchito “el jefe de futbol." The first aid kit was ready but I was not! I was determined that we would not need the kit or need a trip to the neighborhood pharmacy to bandage any wounds similar to a few years ago. God be praised because despite the terrible loss and blow to some soccer skills, everyone emerged injury free! As far as I am concerned, we were all winners J.

As we march closer to the end of the week we are looking forward to a successful culmination of the afternoon sessions which will end with a field day on Thursday afternoon. We plan to award prizes to students who can recap some of the main points that we discussed this week, share highlights of the discussion groups as well as those who demonstrate superior physical ability in the games we will play with them. We will be putting the finishing touches on our planning for the teacher’s party on Thursday afternoon as well. 

A special treat is that we will assist with the wedding ceremony for Lorena, one of the long-term employees of the Foundation on Sunday and we are all excited about that! God is good and I know that He is perfecting our team daily as we work hard, play hard, and honor Him. It is almost 10:30 p.m. and it is unusually quiet for this time. Hmm….todos cansados (exhausted teenagers) perhaps? Yup, it is time to rejuvenate and recharge. Blessings to you all and good night from Quito.

Opal
Monday, June 17, 2013

A Day of Teaching And Learning

Hola loved ones! Day 1 of teaching was in the words of our team members, “lovely, good and fairly good." We had an early start, of course, and everyone was ready to boldly go where some of the 2013 team members had not gone before. The FAE family was all set and ready to welcome us on the 
patio with worship songs after which we presented the first part of our lesson - the mystery of discovering who God really is to us. The kids loved the songs (and related actions) especially, “Emmanuel” and “Stirred." They really got into the action of  “stirring," as if stirring a pot (which is pretty much half of the chorus of the second song).


In the individual classes things went as well as Day 1 of teaching should go. Our kids talked a lot about how the children made them smile and touched their hearts tremendously. Kathryn was especially touched by the kids in her class practicing the songs, learning how to sing in English and learning how to say “repeat please” because they wanted to sing the songs over and over. The different talents of this group are certainly maturing before our very eyes. Alexa learned today that she is fluent in Spanish. She was a very valuable asset to her teaching buddy, Nile, and also to her afternoon partners who were imparting the truths about alcohol and drug use. 

Please continue to pray for us in terms of our impact during the afternoon small group settings. Today we had one student in the ninth grade mention that she does not believe in God or the Bible. However, she was very curious as she asked questions and wanted answers. Pancho did mention to me that ninth and tenth graders were posing quite some challenges for the administration this year. We appreciate your prayers as we are also praying for these students especially.

I am confident about the impact that we will have this week and I know God will manifest himself to our team members by sharpening their relationship with Him. Pancho and Pity will have devotions with us starting tomorrow evening after dinner. It is my desire that our hearts will be stirred for the Lord as we seek to stir the hearts of the students and families here. I believe Day 2 of teaching at Amor y Esperanza will be greater than today. We spent quite a bit of time in reflection earlier tonight and shared our thoughts on how to be more efficient with tomorrow morning's session. We had quiet time with God and the team had a chance to reflect, pray, and write in their journals. Tomorrow they will seek specific students from their classes to intercede for over this entire week.

Thanks for partnering with us as we continue to work in this part of the vineyard. Until tomorrow – Curling out!