When I arrived at Erin’s house in Ecuador, the first thing I thought was, “How cute is this house!? I could get used to this!!” The gated community in which Erin is living is a collection of colorful establishments filled with friendly people. We put down my suitcases, made fresh lemonade, and I thought, “I totally see why Erin loves it here.” I’m laughing as I’m writing this now because 24 hours later I was sitting in the same chair at Erin’s counter, drinking the same lemonade from the night before, but now all naïve and superficial ideas about life in Ecuador had dissolved.
Across the high-way, literally a 2 minutes’ walk from Erin’s gated community, is Bastion where Erin spends most of her time since moving to Ecuador, and where I’ve spent the better part of my 8 days in Ecuador!
So this is Erin’s life in Ecuador through my eyes! I’ll start with the more light-hearted aspects. For example, I mentioned above that Erin’s house and Bastion are separated by a highway. This is not a minor detail to be overlooked. This means that sometimes in one day, one must RUN across the high-way about four times to get to Erin’s house to Bastion and back again! If you thought Ecuador was dangerous because it was a third world country you would be wrong. I maintain the most dangerous part of Erin’s day is running across this high-way stretching at least 6 lanes. One day, when fleeing from an oncoming truck, I was reminded forcibly of the old computer game FROGGER.
Another unexpected dangerous encounter was the cockroach that greeted me in Erin’s back patio my first night in Ecuador. He was inches away from the screen-less window into her kitchen so we screamed, sprayed random poisonous liquids, and swatted with a broom… we showed him. I can assure you, he won’t be coming back for round 2.
In all seriousness, when I look back over the last 8 days, it’s REALLY HARD to sum it all up in a few paragraphs, but I’ll do my best. I’m going to choose the 3 things I liked best or stood out most to me.
1.) On my first full day in Ecuador Erin wasted no time submerging me into the day to day life of the people living in Bastion. We spent the morning visiting a woman named Naomi who had her daughter Natalie when she was 15 years old. Naomi is now 20
and her daughter 6, but it struck me as I was sitting talking with her that when she got pregnant she was the same age as my sister Hannah who just finished her Freshman year of high school. At 15 Naomi was a mother and moved into a one room house made of bamboo her father built for her. She married the father of her daughter and thankfully this man is kind and good and doesn’t mind Naomi’s faith and the fact that she attends the church and Bible Study. This is not the case for all the women in Bastion. Many have children with no husbands, some are living with men but are not married, some are living with men who are not kind and won’t let them go to church. Life for women here seems to be without many aspirations. It’s not just women either. Erin told me painfully on one of our last trips to the school that many of the kids in Bastion don’t finish high school. As someone who works in a high school, I know that the incentive for our youth in America is that they can be something someday. “Anything they want,” we tell the
m. “So study, get good grades, pursue your dreams.” In Bastion teenagers look ahead and see nothing but Bastion.
In my short time here I was also able to get to know two teens, Linder and Erica. It’s crazy that I’ve only known them for 8 days and I feel so attached. I see what a jaded life in poverty and the culture of Bastion could do to them and I’m so thankful they have Jesus and the Block 6 church. It’s hope that Erica won’t get pregnant before she’s 18 and will marry a Godly man and Linder will grow up to be a good husband and a leader in the church. (First picture is me Linder, Erica, and there little brother).
2.) That thought brings me to number two. It’s not just the injustice and the poverty that makes your heart bleed for a place like Bastion. The people living in this city are possibly the warmest and most humble people I’ve ever met. They have nothing, but EVERY TIME I entered a house in Bastion I was fed and treated like a guest of honor. My first dinner in Bastion, I ate in a one-room bamboo house much like Naomi’s. This woman made me the biggest plate of chicken and rice I ever ate in my life. Seriously, the Cheesecake Factory would be put to shame with this portion I was served. I couldn’t finish. Those of you who know me… think about that statement…
As we walk down the streets of Bastion people from the churc
h and parents from the school stop and talk with Erin, kids from the school yell out the windows to her and run up to her on the dirt streets almost knocking her over with a hug. These people have so little but there is a gratefulness and warmth about them that’s astounding. I met so many people and barely scratched the surface of getting to know them but they wanted to know so much about me and the next time they saw me embraced and kissed me like they knew me as long as they’ve known Erin. Erin’s only known them for 3 months, but I felt like she’s known them forever.
Today I was able to go to school with Erin and help her teach her music classes. Every class we went into was so excited to see me! For the 7th year students I
got to sing them a Hillsong song that they are learning in Spanish (I sang it in English of course). They were so into it!!! I thought about what would happen if I tried to sing for a classroom full of middle-schoolers in the States and almost laughed out loud. After class two of the students stayed after and were asking me question after question about myself. At recess the kids were drawn to Erin and I like magnets. Now Erin I understand, she’s been there music teacher for 3 months. They barely know me and they were hugging and kissing and asking me why I was leaving so soon. It’s overwhelming!!! (The next two pictures are Bastion right outside Naomi’s house and a picture of me with one of the kids at the school.)
3.) Finally the last thing that sticks out to me from my time in Ecuador is the church in Block 6. The leaders of Block 6 church have their hands full. It’s a full-time job in and of itself, and believe me, the leaders of Block 6 church have many other responsibilities outside of church as well. My first experience with the church was my first night in Ecuador, Erin and I went to the Tuesday night Bible Study. Even then, only in Ecuador a few hours, I saw the churches’ devotion, passion, and hunger for studying God’s word. The people who attend Block 6 church LOVE the church because they appreciate it as a lighthouse in a dark world. The young male leaders like William and Carlos were so cool to get to know. They both come from these CRAZY backgrounds and you see how God’s hand was in their life and Jesus just radically transformed them! Now, William for example, is my age and is a rotational speaker on Sundays, leads music on the bible study and prayer meeting nights, leads one of the break-out groups in Tuesday night bible study, leads Kids Club after church on Sundays (which is a blog post in and of itself Erin you need to get on that), AND teaches 4th year and is the vice principal at the school! Oh… did I mention he’s taking college classes as well? He is pouring his life back into service for the Lord. You might picture someone who is stressed out, has no time to be with people, etc. William is the opposite, he is peaceful and joyful and content, he makes time to be with people and share in community and disciple. Service for him is not an obligation or a stress, it’s his pleasure. William is just one example of all the people who serve in leadership at Block 6 church. For example, a great deal of Erin’s leadership involvement happens through discipleship and meeting with people during the week for Bible Study or just simply checking in and building relationships. There is so much need in Bastion not just financially but emotionally and spiritually, and God is perceptively meeting those needs through Block 6 church! (Some of the people from Block 6 church outside of Block 6)
I saw the center city of Guayaquil, went to the beach, tutored a girl with her English homework, chased a cockroach away from Erin’s back window, took cold showers, slept under a bug net, ate a lot of good fruit smoothies, and found a new favorite flavor chip (Limon Plantantinos)! But the things that are going to stay with me from my time in Ecuador are not those things (Well... maybe the chips and the smoothies). The things that will stick with me most: the girl who was crying outside her house to Erin because the father of her son is leaving and taking her son with him, the 16 year old boy in Erin’s bible study who looks like he sells drugs for a living raptly listening to her every word about Jesus, Linder hugging my brains out every time he saw me on the street or in church, the fact that Erin’s students were visibly overcome with excitement and anticipation when I walked into the classroom, the fact that people I had only known 5 minutes and had no reason to like me warmed up to me in minutes, the faithful young men and women at Block 6 church in Bastion who’ve devoted their lives to service in the church. The coolest thing ever is that only Jesus could create a hope and joy like I saw in a hopeless city like Bastion.