Having survived international travel last summer with the Whitefield EMT, and receiving a new name in the process, Roberto (AKA Mr. Justice) has embarked on a second journey to Quito to run a chess camp for students in Carmen Bajo. He is traveling with Zachary, who is his Spanish interpreter, Drew, the chess master of the group, and Zoe, who is tackling blog writing duties (with a little help from Zach, I hear).
You can follow their adventures here.
Day 9 (June 18): El Fin (The End)
Disclaimer: Because of the wifi issue and limited time, I will post a lot of photos from today and yesterday tomorrow (on Monday) (when there is good wifi and more time).
Our last day allowed us to sleep in a little bit—8:30 breakfast! Truly a blessing from above. Afterwards we drove to the Centro Historico to visit La Basilica de Voto Nacional. It’s a huge basilica that took over a hundred years to build and has gargoyles on the outside that are in the form of animals native to Ecuador—jaguars, tortoises, iguanas, monkeys, etc. The group got to walk on the inside where the basilica holds mass and then climb up to the top of the towers and see all over the city.
We went to lunch downtown at a sandwich shop, then returned to the seminary to pack and rest before our last devotional, which is about to happen/is happening as I write this/as I skip the first part to write this. After that we will have dinner and go to the airport. El fin, el fin.
We want to take some time here on the last day to thank all of the people in the Whitefield community who have supported us and helped make this trip possible:
Thank you to Dr. Bracher, Mr. Stevens, Dr. Farrar, and Mrs. Brostrand for encouraging parents and students to get involved, for praying for us, for sending us at all. Without you this could not have happened.
Thank you to the Upper School, Middle School, and Lower School faculty for supporting us, for buying and selling chicken biscuits, for helping with Coins for Quito, Hasta la Pasta, the Chess Tournament, for encouraging the students to be involved, for praying for us.
Thank you to Mrs. Bunny Webb, Mrs. Addie Cochran, Mrs. Cordie Swift, and Mrs. Debbie Breault for helping us with so much administrative work, for helping us with the financial side of the trip, helping us collect money from the kids, and for helping us stay organized.
Thank you to Michelle Durrett, Kim Krebs, and Fran Banta for helping us with the financial side of the trip. It’s a lot to keep up with on top of the regular financial work that Whitefield requires, and we really appreciate your hard work.
Thank you to Tom Wood and the Advancement Team for supporting us and our fundraising endeavors. It’s such an important part of what we do, and we don’t take it lightly.
Thank you to Jason Bilotti and the Vinings Chick-fil-A for helping us with our chicken biscuit sales that raise money for the trip. I know that even all of the students who don’t go on the trip appreciate that morning meal too.
Thank you to the EMT family members whose kids have already left Whitefield, those who were involved and gave to the trip in the past, those who keep up with the trip and pray for it. Thank you for being a blessing then because it enables us to be a blessing now.
A huge, huge thank you to the EMT families of 2017 who bravely and kindly sent their kids down to Ecuador to serve God and others through their work. Thank you for sending letters down with us to encourage your kids, for praying for us, for keeping up with this blog, for being excited and supportive of your kids who chose to do something so big, different, and important. Thank you for parting with your kids for these ten days and entrusting them to our care. They are a blessing, and so are all of you.
Thank you to our hosts Pancho and Pity Sola, and their children Danny, Mateo, and Maria Victoria. You are possibly the most amazing part of this trip, and our partnership with you is an incredible act of God and wonderful picture of the church. Thank you for taking such good care of us and blessing our lives with your words and actions. May God bless you, your school, and our partnership for many more years to come.
Thank you to Opal Anderson-Curling, Susan Justice, and David and little Hannah McCune for leading us. You are all very dear to me and to the students.
And a special thank you to all of the fathers who are on this thank you list, especially to the students’ fathers who let their kids be away from them today. Happy Father’s Day!
It takes all sorts of believers to make up the church, and it takes all sorts of gifts within the church body to help the church grow and function, to make kingdom work happen. All of these people have contributed something vital to this trip. May God bless you and yours, and this trip, for many years to come.
It’s been a joy, an honor, and a blessing to serve on this team and to get to know all of the students and leaders on this trip. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to come back, and I so appreciate the spirits of these people and of this trip. God has been good to us, and really encouraged me in so many ways while I’ve been down here. I pray that He will allow the EMT family to grow.
Cheers, peace, and blessings,
Day 7 and 8 (June 16-17): Last Day of Teaching and Nono
As we head into the end of our journey, we’ve had a lot of excitement, busyness, and then also some time to reflect, play, and rest.
Friday, our last day of teaching, was a bustling frenzy of chaos. We held the science fair that we had been preparing for all week to put on for the parents and the other students at the school. We demonstrated various types of rockets, catapults, mouse trap cars, aluminum foil boats, slime, and solar system models. The kids presented their projects in English and Spanish for their parents and recited verses in English as well.
Pity shared with the team how sponsorships work at the school, and about eleven of our students expressed interest and will receive more information about it on Monday.
The school put on a farewell ceremony for the team before our lunch that included songs and prayer by the kids and teachers, followed by a series of special gifts for each of our team members and leaders. They made us crafts and cards with our names and Bible verses on them to encourage us as we leave. The eighth grade class applauded their teachers Stephen and Evan. They prayed a special prayer for both the group of chaperones and for the seniors who just graduated and are headed to college (William, Dani, Bailey, Jonathan, and Natalie). After the gift-giving and prayer, it was finally time to say goodbye to the kids. The classes all rushed our team, showering them with hugs.
After the farewell ceremony we split up into several groups for the afternoon work: one group went to the construction site, one put on the party for the teachers of Amor y Esperanza, and then Bailey and I met and interviewed Pancho’s quinoa business partner Adam along with Pancho and Pity for a marketing video that Bailey will put together for them this month. Bailey filmed a lot of the kids holding the Healthy Hope Organics product boxes around the school for the video. Pancho wants this video to be shown to churches in the US, where they want to first start selling their products. It’s a huge help and blessing to Pancho, Pity, and Adam that Bailey is putting this together for them.
The teacher party was a success, with food (except we forgot to serve the dessert! but they’ll eat it on Monday), singing (Annie sang a few songs for them, and they loved it so much that they chanted, “Another! Another!”), and a white elephant prize game.Thank you so much for all of your donations! It’s a wonderful time to celebrate, appreciate, and give back to the teachers who do such good work for the kids and for us—and they really appreciate too.
(Below is Abel with his mother helping him to walk.)
(Below is Abel with his mother helping him to walk.)
We all met up at the construction site afterwards to finish up our work for the week: twelve walls! It’s encouraging to see how much we accomplished and to know that we helped get them closer to the new building. But they still have a long way to go, so please pray that they would be able to raise and receive the money necessary to complete it.
Back at the seminary there was yet another soccer game, this time with a pure US team and a pure Ecuador team—no borrowing of teammates. The construction workers that we were with all week has challenged our students to a game, so they played for Ecuador along with Pancho and his sons as well as some kids from the school. Grayson scored the first goal early on in the game for the US, and we held them off for a while. The construction workers told William that they were frustrated playing against girls who played so well! Maggie and Grayson were excellent. Alas, the score ended up being 3-1, Ecuador. There’s always next year.
Our devotional last night was led by the chaperones rather than Pancho and Pity. All four of us shared something that the Lord put on our hearts: Susan shared about how Jesus exists out of time, and therefore before the foundation of the world, we who are in Christ were saved and made his, and because of this we don’t have to worry that God won’t love us if we don’t confess our sins because he already forgave us before the foundation of the world; Opal shared about how she came to understand God through reading about his love for Israel in the Old Testament and what a relationship with God looks like (one point in her message was about how God promises us life in abundance, which Opal described as “forever condensed milk”—her favorite breakfast beverage); I shared about how it’s okay not to get the spiritual high while on a mission trip like this, because it doesn’t happen to everyone and doesn’t mean that you’re spiritually inferior or doing something wrong if you don’t, because God really calls us to act more than he calls us to feel; Dave used the classic chair illustration to paint a picture of how we are either facing God, facing God and feel far away, or facing away from God (the chairs were placed in these different positions). Afterwards we gave everyone fifteen minutes to journal and reflect, followed by “cabin time,” where we came together in three different groups to talk about and share anything that was on the students’ hearts.
Today, Saturday, was adventure time.
We got up early and drove an hour to Nono, a beautiful area in the mountains where Pity’s family has a farm. Some of the group went hiking at Pity’s farm while some of us went to Dr. David and Lois Wells’ ranch to ride horses (the Wells on the board of Amor y Esperanza and the heads of Alliance Academy where Pancho and Pity Sola’s kids go to school). Some of the more experienced went on a trail ride while several of the others learned how to ride in the arena. We had lunch at the Wells’ ranch—cooked by an Argentine chef who lives in the village of Nono, which means lots and lots of meat.
I will put up some pictures soon of the views in Nono, but they don’t do it justice, and I won’t even try to describe to you how breathtaking it is. (Partly because it’s really late at night at this point.)
The Wells have a heart for their neighbors in Nono, and so once a month on a Saturday they invite their neighbors, people from the village, people who are involved in Alliance Academy, Pity, Pancho, and some of Pity’s relatives, and whoever else will come, to have a meal and a time to meet together and talk about spiritual topics. They hope to draw people to Christ by inviting them to their house in an informal, welcoming setting so that they feel comfortable talking about where they are spiritually. We joined them today and led them in worship, then split into six groups to talk about lessons in faith in the scriptures under the guidance of one of the teachers at Alliance Academy. It was a beautiful picture of the what the church is—or perhaps should be. To see Ecuadorians, Argentines, Americans, Ex-Pats, Guatemalans, Jamaicans, Cubans, and who knows what else, all come together to share a meal (and an enormous amount of dessert and coffee afterwards) and to sing, learn, talk, and pray together outside at a mountain house, in the clouds and eventually the rain, was an amazing picture of how big and diverse, how kind and hospitable, how simple and beautiful, the church and its love for others can be.
We had dinner at Pity’s house, played a lot of charades, and then drove back to Quito. Tomorrow is our last day. I will upload pictures tomorrow when I have better service and update y’all on what we do tomorrow before we leave for the airport.
Cheers, peace, and grace to you all,