Today we saw a miracle, a wonderful wonderful miracle of God's love and healing. Jesus, Anita's son, one of the administrators for FAE, was diagnosed with a 4mm tumor on Friday. Jesus is 11 years old and has been in constant pain and the tumor was about the size of a golfball visibly sticking out of the side of his stomach. His mother came in yesterday around 2:00, in tears because she was about to take him in for more tests, trying to determine if it was cancerous, and asked us to pray with her for him. When he got to his appointment at 4:00 yesterday the tumor had vanished. The doctor couldn't find it on any of the tests he ran and couldn't feel it or see it sticking out of his body. He couldn't explain why it disappeared, but simply said it was a miracle.
Jesus woke up this morning and told his mom that he felt perfectly well (for the first time in many many months) and was proud to show all of us at school today his flat stomach with no lump.
Pity and Pancho had scheduled a follow up with their pediatrician this afternoon for a second opinion. The doctor agreed to only charge him $10 for the visit, because they are so poor, instead of the typical $40-$50. When Jesus and Anita brought him the films from the tests yesterday, the doctor was shocked and amazed that this little boy who had been so weak and sick was completely healed. He was so amazed by this miracle, which he also couldn't explain, that he didn't charge them at all for the visit.
Pancho asked the group how God has moved in their lives during devotionals tonight and several of the kids opened up and said they had been struggling for a visible sign of God's presence and had asked God before coming on this trip that they would at least hear a story of a miracle during their trip. How powerful is our God to perform a miracle right in front of our very eyes!
It's been a fun, but very long couple of days. Yesterday we were busy in the classrooms in the morning and then headed out to the construction site in the afternoon. The students have worked so hard, both inside and outside, and the new campus looks great!
Today we taught the students again in the morning and then the boys headed back out to the construction site while the girls stayed behind and tutored the kids in English.
Daniel's birthday is today and we had a little birthday party for him this evening. Parents, you'd be so proud of the kids, because they all pitched some of their own money to buy him a birthday present. He has spent every birthday with Whitefield folks and your kids made his day extra special.
Tomorrow we're back at the school and we're spending the afternoon playing games with the kids!
Today was another gorgeous day in Quito! We spent the day in Carmen Bajo, the town on the outskirts of Quito where Fundacion Amor y Esperanza has their primary campus. Over 200 children! It's truly an amazing facility, but Carmen Bajo is a very poor neighborhood and these kids have so many needs, both emotional and physical.
The day began with a chapel service on the patio, each school praying for the other and teaching each other worship songs in their native languages - so amazing to see people from different worlds praising and loving the same wonderful God.
Tomorrow we head to the new property that FAE has purchased to build a new school. It will have over 30 classrooms (as opposed to the 12 they have in the current building) and space for an enclosed patio/playground to allow the kids more opportunities to go outside, yet stay safe inside the compound. They just broke ground and are going to put us to work tomorrow. We are going to help mix and pour concrete!
Today we headed out to Otavalo to do a little shopping and stopped for lunch at Lago San Pablo, where we watched Ecuador's first World Cup game - it was a heartbreaker!
After a little shopping (sorry parents, your kids are coming home with suitcases full of llama jackets), we headed back to the apartment for dinner where Pity's mom prepared a gourmet meal.
We finished off the evening with a devotional led by Pancho for our fathers, sharing how much they have meant to each of us and praising God and praying for them.
Tomorrow we head to Carmen Bajo to start the week with the kids. EMT has been busy preparing devotionals, lesson plans and worship time. We are excited to see God moving in our lives and in the lives of the people here this week.
Our adventure in Quito is off to a great start! We put together a short video to show you all of the amazing things we saw today. The word of the day today was definitely teamwork as everyone came together and helped each other prepare the lesson plans for the kids for the week. Pancho and Pity lead a wonderful sermon on facing your giants and talked to us about putting aside your fears and obstacles to focus on the wonderful plan God has for each of our lives. But after a morning of hard work, we headed to the equator (both sites - the tourist site and the official Incan museum) to learn about the culture, do a little shopping and enjoy each other's compan and God's beautiful creation.
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
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,
Friday, June 22
Honoring The Teachers of FAE
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.