Monday, February 11, 2013

Trust with all your heart...

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

Im sitting here asking myself what it means to trust someone with your heart… not your mind. When I have trusted others with my heart and not my intellect it was because of love. It often went against my logical judgment and it was inspired by a deep hope and faith in the person I was trusting. I often saw evidence that would lead me to mistrust the person but Love is a stubborn thing that creates a faith and hope that can do nothing but persevere. To trust someone with your heart means you have to love them deeply. You have to know them deeply and understand their character. You have to believe the best of them in spite of evidence that leads you to believe anything else.
Often my own understanding, based on my circumstances alone, would lead me to believe that God is unjust, hurtful, not kind and not worthy of my trust. When I have trusted him there have been times my paths have been straight but have clearly lead straight to heartbreak. Those times my intellect tells me “why did you trust? You should have known this would hurt. Why did you submit? You would do a better job leading your life. He is not trustworthy.” But it is my heart in those moments that reminds me that I do not have a mere intellectual belief in Jesus. I KNOW him and I love him and my heart tells me that his character is good, that he acts in only loving ways, that when his answer to my pleading is not yes…it is always better than yes…even it if leads down a straight path of suffering. There are deeper things at stake in these moments. Deeper treasures to gain.  My heart hopes and perseveres in that hope because I know my savior who loved and took the straight path set before him, that was full of suffering, straight to a cross for me. I know a love that suffered an agony that far surpasses anything he in his kindness would allow me to taste in this life. I know a love that took on the weight of every sin, felt the excruciating depth of the worlds brokenness and for a time was forsaken by his own father, the one he loved most…so he could bear my punishment… all to be with me. I know a love that chose me, that died for me, and that conquered death so that in my moments of suffering I would not be alone.
 If Jesus had only logically looked at the earth, at those who betrayed him over and over, he should have destroyed us all. It is illogical to save those who will not, can not, and most often do not even slightly want to choose you. He chose to love a people determined to turn from him. Where is the logic in that? Yet despite all logic he pursued me. He loved me first and chose me and keeps me. The anchor holds fast behind the veil and a seal has been set upon my heart. I am his, forever tethered to his love.  There is little logical about how Hosea loved his wife who was a prostitute. There is little logical about how Jesus chose me to be his own, despite what are often my best efforts to choose idols and to be my own God. He loved me with his heart, not only his logic. His love is unfailing and will not let me go.
 I may not understand the straight paths he leads me down as many times they are not paths I would ever wish to take, but I am learning to trust the one who leads me with all my heart because I know him, because I love him. When, by Gods strength and grace, I persevere in this kind of trust, I always find that although the road may be painful and the straight path may lead to a cross, the joy I find in Him and the life that springs from death is always worth it. Although the cost of trusting God with all my heart is great, I have never made a sacrifice. This is a truth that I need to remind myself of daily, and all the more when suffering is the greatest. God has always been faithful. When darkness closes in and pain becomes searing, when the future feels unclear and logic tells me to run, Its those moments that I remember his past faithfulness and his promise of closeness in my darkest hour. I trust with my heart the one I know and love and he gives me, moment by moment, the grace to sustain me. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Power rationing

There is a huge drought in Ecuador...the worst its been in 40 years. Apparently they don't have much elecrticity because the power plants are powered by water. They are now rationing electricity. The schedule is different every day. Some mornings we don't have it, some nights we don't. Today it went out at 3 and won't go on until 11. I am on my blackberry now which requires no electricity.

I decided I like this. Something about it brings everyone together and gets them to turn off their TV's. We all have to sit around a few candles and hang out and talk drinking our evening coffee. Tonight Rosie made colada morada. Its this hot drink that's really sweet and made with tons of fruit. Its most similar to some sort of blackberry pie filling but a little thinner. Its delicious with bread! We all played Monopoly in spanish and Katty, my 13 year old sister killed us!! I also think its funny and makes me feel like I'm in another time period to have to walk around the house carrying a candle. After losing to Monopoly I sat reading by candle light for a little. I absolutely love reading by candle light. Its warm and cozy and so comforting. There is something peaceful about it.

If this was America people would be irate! Here its definitely and inconvenience and people are a bit frustrated but its not a huge deal. Life goes on and no one acts entitled to things. They just adjust and roll with the punches. I like it. I love my family here. I love just sitting with them at night. I honestly feel so at home here and I miss it when I'm gone for a day or two traveling. I'm worried that when I go home to PA I will feel more home sick for pimampiro than I feel homesick for home coming here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adventure to Columbia!

So i never got around to writing about this but my favorite adventure day so far was about two weeks ago. one of pauls friends, Amy, from NY came with her son Andy who is 23 for about ten days. Andy was a lot of fun and quite refreshing to be around after being her for a month and a half. I had not realized how much I missed talking about normal things like tv, music, stories about friends and just the mundane American life until andy came. It was refreshing to have American conversation.

Anyway we both decided we wanted to go to Columbia, mostly just to say that we had gone. We had a very vague idea of how to get there and no idea of what to do once we arrived. We left early, at about 8 am and got a bus headed north to tulcan. From there we did not know what to do. Once in the tulcan terminal we found a taxi and asked them to take us to the Columbian border. The border was filled with chaos and confusion. We exchanged our money and the girl who changed the money for us explained that we needed to first go to the Ecuador side and get our passports stamped, then to the Columbia side to get out passports stamped, then come back and get a taxi. I did not know which side I was even on! So we found our way to the Ecuador side and then found our way to the Columbian side, waited in numerous lines, got our stamps and headed for a taxi. The taxi driver obviously wanted to know where to go and my response was Columbia? Haha. I feared his response because I knew what it would be. “where?” I had no idea. I asked him to take us to the closest town. He took us to Impiales.

Andy and I walked around and noted how clearly different Columbia was. You could just tell there was more money in the country. The clothes was nicer, there were more stores, it was cleaner, the people were still friendly but walked a bit faster and with more purpose. You could sense that this country put a higher value on education. It was just more progressed than even an hour south into Ecuador. It was refreshing.

After walking for a bit we sat down in a nice little café and ordered lunch. I had a chicken wrap with WHITE MEAT! Oh it was fabulous. Andy had a hamburger which I was still not quite adventurous enough to try in this country. I sat contentedly with my tasty little sandwitch and enjoyed talking with my new friend. We talked about relationships, family, jobs, travel and laughed, a lot, over ridiculous college stories. After lunch we paid for our food and then looked at each other as if for the first time we both realized we had no idea what to do.

We brainstormed over possible adventures but none seemed to thrilling, and andy and I were both looking for a GOOD adventure. Columbian Coffee was the only must on my to do list and other than that I felt lost. Then, wikitravel poped into my head. I quickly found impiales on the internet on my phone in wikitravel and all it really said was there was some church that attracted lots of people near by called las lajas. It didn’t sound exciting but I figured we could give it a try seeing as we had nothing else to do. We flagged down a taxi and headed to las lajas.

Andy and I did not have any idea what we were in for. We got out of the taxi and the driver pointed us down this long path and said the church was at the bottom. We walked for about ten minutes and then finally the church broke into view. I stoped dead in my tracks. It was breathtaking. I had little to no expectations of what I would find and this was far beyond anything I could have imagined. There were doves flying everywhere. There were waterfalls. There was a beautiful river and there was this incredible cathedral that was built into the side of a mountain. When you went inside the back wall WAS the mountain. I could not believe it. Andy and I were ecstatic with our find! We kept talking about how amazing it was that we found this and how we were such good adventurers. After a few hours of walking around in awe and taking pictures we walked back up to get a taxi.

The day had been beautiful. Perfect weather really. No more than 30 seconds after we got into the taxi it started to rain. I should not say rain really, torrents of water cascaded from the heavens and pummeled the little yellow taxi. I have never seen it rain so hard since I have been here. We got out of our taxi and ran a few feet to an overhang of a store and stood under it soaking wet. Andy had to meet his mother for an appointment later so we were feeling pressed for time but I was intent on getting my coffee before we left. We ran into a little store and asked for coffee. I asked if we could get it to go. The girl said, oh yes, we have to go containers. We waited for our coffe and I was quite surprised when the girl handed me two plastic disposable cups, a baggy full of sugar and a tupperwear container that resembled a small garbage can filled with coffee all in a little black bag to go. Andy and I tried to suppress the laughter until after we paid. My giggling immediately broke into laugheter once out of the store. WHAT WAS THIS? Coffe in a mini trashcan to go haha. It clearly only added to our experience. As we got our taxi to the border I told andy this day couldn’t really get much better. But I was wrong.
Once at the border we were walking towards a taxi when two young boys, about our age, asked if we needed a taxi. I said yes and asked what it would be to the bus terminal in Tulcan. They have a reasonable price so we climbed into the back of the taxi. Now many taxis here are peoples personal cars or trucks and the outside of this car looked seemingly innocent enough. Once inside I just about died. The seats were race car seats. Everyting was bright blue. There were 5 huge pioneer speakers in the trunk, two on each of the doors, cans of Nos on the sides of the car in the front, 3 tvs that played music videos and the driver BLASTED American rap or reggetton for the whole 15 minute ride to the terminal. I have never laughed to hard. This was one pimped out taxi. So I did the only thing that is appropriate to do in situations like this. I had myself a fun little dance party haha. once in the terminal our driver insisted on opening the trunk to show us the speaker system. We thanked him, paid him, and laughed for quite a while in disbelief.

We finally got on our buss back to pimampiro, sat down still soaking wet from the rain, and opened the lid of the mini garbage can and poured ourselves some nice warm Columbian coffee. It may have been some of the best coffee I ever had. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the crazy things that happen on halloween

Oct 31 09
Today was a ridiculously crazy day. Justin and I had been in Mindo, the cloud forest, for two days which was absolutely amazing. We rode four wheelers in the jungle for a few hours went to really amazing dinners (the best Italian food I have had in my life) and the day he left we went zip lining through the canopy. Justins flight was at 7 so we ran back after the zipline, grabbed our stuff and got on the 2 o’clock buss back to Quito which takes about 2 hours. We got to quito, grabbed a quick dinner at KFC and then took justin to the airport.
At this point I should explain that I had forgotten my wallet with my bank card in it back at pimampiro. I started out my journey with 20 dollars for 3 nights and 4 days traveling around Ecuador. Thankfully I have a fabulous boyfriend who paid for just about everything but by this point I was down to a 5 dollar bill. Justin gave me an extra 5 to make sure I could get back alright (the three hour buss ride from Quito to juncal is 3 dollars and the car from juncal to pimampiro is also 3 dollars). After taking justin to the airport I took the taxi back to the bus station and that cost me 5 dollars. I was not expecting to pay so much for the taxi. I showed up at the terminal with 5 dollars and 50 cents and no way of getting money. I was aware, but had forgotten, that this weekend was a holiday weekend for “dia de los difuntos” or day of the dead, where they bring flowers to the cemetery and honor their dead relatives. Anyway, the buss terminal was not selling tickets because the busses up till 7:30 were full (it was now 5:45) and they would open at 7:30 to buy tickets up till the last 12 o clock bus out. There were hundreds of people and the busses fun to tulcan ever half hour. I was pretty sure I was not going to make it on a bus that night. To make matters worse Quito at night is freezing, almost cold enough to snow at times, and it started pouring down rain like I have never seen it rain in Ecuador. I stood shaking at the back of the line for two hours and had not moved even an inch. I had my visa with me but hostels don’t take credit cards. I could take a taxi to a hotel and pay 50 for the night but then I would not have any money to get back to the train station or to get a buss back to pimampiro. I had to wait and hope that somehow I would get on a buss, which was looking next to impossible.
At this point Im standing in the POURING down rain and im starting to get a bit scared because I realize I am freezing, soaked, have no money and cant sleep in the buss terminal in these conditions for the night. So I did the only thing I could and started praying. I knew God couldn’t leave me in this terminal because I would have frozen to death that night. I started thinking about Gods promises about how he clothes the flowers in the field and so how will he not also take care of our needs. I immediately felt my anxiety leave me and I just told God “Well, I don’t believe you will leave me here so Im excited to see what you do with this.” I was expecting that by some miracle I would make the last 12 o’clock bus and have only standing room and have to stand for till 3 am or something like that… which would have been incredibly kind of God to allow seeing as my only need was to be out of the rain and get home before morning. I love when God works in ways I can not even imagine. I could not have even imagined how blessed I would be that night.
Literally 5 minutes after praying that, at about 7:15 (2 hours of standing in line) a man takes the place of his cousin who had been waiting in line in front of me and decided to go home and try again the next day to get a buss. He kindly offers to share his umbrella with me as it is still raining unbelievably hard and we begin to talk. He tells me his wife and two boys, 4 and 6, are waiting for him in his car and they are going to go to Ibarra. He did not want to take the car in the rain but after about 5 minutes of waiting he realized he would not get a buss. There were two girls standing behind me in line who looked about my age and he offered the three of us a ride to Ibarra.
The problem with this is that busses do not leave Ibarra after 7 so I knew id be stuck there for the night. At least id be two hours closer to home and staying where I was was not getting me anywhere. If im going to be stuck, I should at least be stuck closer to home. Diana, 24, Tania, 22 and I talked and laughed the whole ride to Ibarra. Tania gave me an extra jacket she had so I could take off my soaking wet sweater. I had never been so thankful for something warm! We played with Javier and jose the whole ride and held them on our laps. We played thumb wrestling and also the “curve” game when you go limp around curves and squish each other. Tania had lived in florida for 6 months for an exchange program and was thrilled to practice her English which was pretty good. Diana and Tania called their parents to drive two hours to get them in tulcan. They kindly offered to drive me home, but not only to juncal (which was not out of their way) but to pimampiro which would have added another hallf hour to their trip. When we got to Ibarra their dad took us all out for dinner and we arranged for me to go visit them in tulcan for the holidays. Tulcan is known for is georgeous cemetery that is more like a sculpture garden. People travel all over to go visit this cemetery and I get to go spend the day of the dead with them at this gorgeous cemetery tomorrow. We got back at 11 pm, an hour before i would have even left quito, had I made it onto the buss at all.

I was stranded quito with no money and God just provided not only a ride home but he fed me dinner, gave me something warm to wear, gave me some really great friends and a place to hang out for the holidays. I was pretty amazed and excited. It ended up being such a fun little adventure and I felt so thankful!

oct 15 09

I am starting to work with a family where the mother is abusive, the father is an alcoholic and the children are all fearful, withdrawn and feel they have no value or worth and are not loved. I have spent hours trying to find resources for the family but in this area there are few. I finally got the child a doctors appointment where they confirmed abuse and gave me an official document stating that she had been abused. I then went with the “town judge” to sit down with the family and talk. We shared with the mother that this is illegal (which she did not know because when she was bad her mother would beat her to discipline her as a child). The father desperately wants to stop drinking but feels he can not. I am starting counseling with the father this Sunday and will be working with the mother as well to help her with parenting skills and also to just talk to her about the stresses of having an alcoholic husband. (she takes her anger out on the children much of the time). I will continue to work with the little girl in school as well. There is a rehab about an hour away in Ibarra that I found that is free for its services and you can stay up to a year. I am hoping the father will consider going if I can find a way to raise the 75 dollars a month the family needs to survive without him working. I have two short months to work with this family and I am praying that God would work miracles to restore this family as well as hopefully bring them to salvation.
Yesterday was amazing. Sue and I brought the little 14 yr old girl with us to Ibarra, the closest big city. She had only been there once when she was much younger. We took her to this luxurious fancy lunch place that has a water fountain and courtyards. You feel like your in spain, or another world when you are there. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head when she saw it! The menu was 4 pages long and she just looked at is smiling. She had never ordered off of a menu before and was so overwhelmed by it. We ended up having to order her something because she just had no idea how to even begin. She had steak and eggs with papaya juice and flan for desert. Lunch for the three of us was 16 dollars (lunch usually would be about 4 dollars for 3 people so this was super expensive) and she was amazed that we would pay 5 dollars for her for lunch. Then we were walking around outside and it started to rain. I took out my umbrella and she just laughed and laughed at this. Shes never walked under an umbrella before. We then took a cab to the shopping center that has the “super maxi” which is the only grocery store within hours of pimampiro and we bought some of our American comfort foods. My little girl was amazed by this. She had never seen anything like a super market before. They had these little bags of candy with a little toy in it for a dollar so I let her pick out 5, one for her and all her brothers and sisters. She just looked at me in disbelief. This is a little girl who goes hungry many days of the week because her father spent all their money on alcohol over the weekend. I am sure she has never had someone buy her a bag of candy that cost a dollar before. I think my favorite part however, was where we left the super maxi and went to the bathrooms on the top floor. There was an escalator and she just looked at me like “what is that!!!”. I told her its how we have to get to the top floor. She had a death grip on my arm and almost fell which would have taken both of us down and she laughed the whole time. She is so incredibly quiet and withdrawn so to see these brief moments when she would just laugh or smile in disbelief was so incredible.
Today I was reading in Hebrews 7. Its an obscure passage about the priesthood of Christ. I wanted to understand it better so I read a sermon by piper on it. I have to say is quickly becoming one of my best friends down here. I love pipers sermons. They are fabulous. Anyway, the verse that piper focused on was Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Piper asks the question “saved from what?” the answer is God. Gods holy wrath against sin. The only thing that keeps me alive is that I have a high priest who stands between me and God blocking Gods just wrath and hatred of sin from giving me my just punishment. Not only this but I am able to draw near to this terrifying God who will act justly and punish sin. I can draw near to him and experience his love rather than his wrath because Jesus is living to intercede for me. And not only that but Jesus is praying for me to draw near to God and I am not left to my bent and sinful ways to try out of my own strength to muster up some affections to desire God above my sin which I clearly can not do. And its not that God is all wrath and Jesus is all love. It was Gods plan from the beginning to send his son so that we might experience his love while he still justly hates sin and pours out his wrath completely. He does not lessen or change the “wages” that he promised would be paid for sin. They are still paid in full by his Son who triumphed over sin and death and now stands between Gods holy wrath and my sin that I might be near God. Beautiful. The gospel never gets old.
Piper gave this awesome definition of salvation saying “The LOVE of God has rescued me from the WRATH of God in such a way that the JUSTICE of God is vindicated and the GLORY of God is exalted.”
I just love the gospel, and Jesus, and Piper haha. Anyway… all of that is to say that THIS is the problem with this family. Jesus is not their treasure so they are looking for life in broken cisterns that cannot hold water. They do not understand that they have a high priest through whom they can draw near to God and find streams of living water. Who needs alcohol when you have infinite treasures and satisfaction in Christ? But when you live in such brokenness without such a beautiful hope for eternity AND for today then why not drink away your problems? Why not bleed out your pain onto your children? Why not beat them and allow them to become objects of your wrath since you are one? Jesus is interceding on behalf of THOSE WHO COME NEAR TO GOD. 1. This does not say those who once had a spiritual experience and drew near to God at a point in their life. Its continual. If you are not continuously drawing near to God then the bible says you do not have salvation. 2. Jesus is interceding for those who come near to God which means He is interceding for his children.
So today I realized, then WHO is interceding for this family? Well…I am. Would God bring me to this time and place so that I would bring this family before the thrown of God in intercession? There is so much responsibility in that and at the same time no responsibility. God is the one who would put it on my heart to pray for them. He is the one who moves. It is always him yet I am still here realizing that I bring my prayers before Jesus who hears me and prays for me. I bring my prayers to God when I draw near to him through Christ and plead for the salvation of others. I am called to pray yet God is the one to move. Apart from Christ renewing their hearts and giving them eyes to see him they can not turn from their sin. Oh that God would move so that they might know the glorious riches of knowing Christ! Its one thing to see a little girls eyes light up by taking her to a nice restaurant and telling her you care about her and that she has worth, its quite another for her to come to know Jesus who so desperately loves her and for her to FEEL her worth and FEEL love in his presence. I can do and do and do but it is only a band-aid. The only real gift I have to offer her is my prayers and taking opportunities when God presents me with them to share with her the beautiful hope of the Gospel.

Monday, October 12, 2009

sometimes you backbpack, sometimes you are the backpack...

Sometimes you backpack, sometimes you are the backpack
Here in Pimampiro there is a hike you can go on that is quite famous. There is a “secret” lagoon that you can go to that is way up in the mountains, 3440 meters high. Its called Puruanta and if you are crazy enough you can hike there. My family wanted to go and I thought it would be quite fun. The problem was that when you tried to find out how difficult it was there was so much conflicting information. Some said it would take 3 hours for a guide who knew it well to get there, others said it would take 10-12 hours hiking. Most said you could get there in about 6 or 7. I was guessing it would be about a 7 hour hike. The said you go through swamps and a lot of mud which is sometimes up to your knee. Everyone said it was really difficult. Its not that I didn’t believe them. I was ready for difficult. I was not read for this though. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to do.
I went on this “little” adventure with Carlos, my dad who is around 50, Carlos, my brother who is 17, his friend who is also 17 (I don’t remember his name), Katy and Carlita, my sisters who are 13 and 15 and Don Jose who is 35 and goes every other weekend to fish. Don jose said he got there in 3 hours once when a tourist got sick. He was our guide and I would have quite possibly died without him.
We were up at 3 am and out the door by 3:30. I began to wonder, after my 2 and a half hours of sleep, what I had gotten myself into. You know the journey will be rough when you haven’t started it yet and already cant wait till you get to the destination so you can crawl into your sleeping bag. We drove an hour to Don Jose’s and had some bread and coffee for breakfast. We then drove to his “hacienda” loaded up the horses got ready to leave.
We started our journey on horseback at 6 am and the horses were able to accompany us for the first two hours, until the trail became to hard for them. Carlita and katty were both afraid to ride alone as they have only been on a horse a few times. Since no one wanted to ride I excitedly jumped at the offer. One horse was mounted up with all of the backpacks to make the first two hours easier on everyone and the other horse I got to ride. This first two hours was an adventure in and of itself. I have never been so thankful for the horseback riding lessons I had when I was younger. Had I not known how to ride a horse I definitely would have been on the ground a few times. Two hours of bear back riding is quite hard on your legs and you can most definitely expect to end up with a bruised tailbone. Its hard enough when you are on even ground but this was more like scaling tall mountains on very narrow paths with steep drop offs on the other side of the mountain. And I thought driving cars here was scarry! The horses definitely know there way though. They have gone on this path many times but it doesn’t make it any less terrifying when they are slipping and sliding all over the rocks. You just hear their horseshoes scraping and sliding on the rocks under them and all you can do is hold on and pray you don’t fall off to you right or you will be tumbling down the cliff. It was not all uphill either. Going down the steep inclines was just as scary because the horses don’t just leisurely walk down… they slide down. I would have one hand on the reigns and a good grip on the main and the other hand I would use to just try and hold myself back on the horse so I wasn’t sliding onto its neck. Jose was in front of me with his machete which he uses to smack the horse (with the flat side) when its not listening. Every time he would raise the machete to cut a tree branch the horse would freak out and jump. We would go through trees that were so low that I would have to lay flat against the horses neck going down hill (which is quite scary) so I wouldn’t get clotheslined by the trees that were scratching over my whole back. I held on so tight with my legs that by the time we reached where we needed to begin walking my legs were already shaking and felt like jello. For the most part I wasn’t scared of the crazy ride (with a few exceptions of thinking I was going to go over the clif) but I was definitely in a lot of pain from holding on so tight and from my tailbone repeatedly hitting the horses spine.
Throughout this time, however, there was a tension between being in pain from the ride and being completely blown away by Gods glory. I was horseback riding through a rain forest with a light misty rain falling and the view was honestly breathtaking. Minus the pain, I felt like I was in paradise and I could not help but worship the God who created it all. My prayers were something like this “God you are so incredible for creating this and I am blown away by your glory and love you so much…please don’t let me die.” Haha. I have since decided that I will take this part of the journey and file it under “most amazing memories in my life” and simply separate it from the rest of the trip lol.
Now I knew that the hike would be hard but when they said mud up to your knees I was thinking maybe an hour or two would be that way. I was not expecting 8 hours of mud up to your knees. I can not even begin to tell you how exhausting it is to walk in the mud. The first time I got stuck my boot came off! You quickly learn how to walk without losing your shoes but the energy that is required is unbelievable. The mud is deeper than your boots and at points is above your knees. My boots were full of mud and water and I desperately would try and find roots or stones that I could stand on instead of sinking. The term “stuck in the mud” took on a whole new meaning to me. We start at 1800 meters and climb to 3440 meters. Parts of the journey are straight up with poor footing and if you grabbed the wrong root and it gave way you were going to fall quite a ways down. I quickly became aware that I was entrusting my life to tree roots and the sovereignty of God.
The first two hours were painful but I still was able to look around and thank God for the beautiful creation and enjoy it. The higher and higher we got the more exhausted I became and less oxygen was available. My little family and friends were used to the altitude. The guys who had gone a few times before walked or ran through the mud like it was dry ground. I don’t know how they did it. My little sisters, who play sports all the time and are very athletic, seemed a bit tired but for the most part were doing quite well. Calros, my dad, and I were the only two who were really struggling. We eventually stopped trying to keep up with everyone else and we walked at a much slower place. Carlos, my little brother took my pack from me and attached it to his as he saw how exhausted I was. He also took his fathers huge pack and one of the girls took a small backpack. They distributed most of the weight between carlos and his friend. Even though they carried all the extra weight they were still way inf ront of Carlos and I. My enjoyment and ability to thank God for his creation quickly began to switch to a “jesus please come back and take me now because I want to be dead and its so clear that I am living in a fallen world” type of mentality as I tried to stomach the nausea I was feeling from pushing my body to its limit.
It was about 5 hours of trudging through mud and wanting to die until we reached the swamps. Now this was a whole new adventure. I remember being at the beach with friends this summer watching an episode of bear grylls where he was walking through a swamp in florida and he said if your not careful you will go under. I remember watching him then abruptly fall through the tall weeds and cut a hole to get back out. It looked terrifying. Luckily this swamp was only waist deep so when you would make a wrong move and plunge through the weeds you didn’t go completely under. It was still quite terrifying. I just wondered what was swimming under there. I only went in once. My right leg was firmly on dry ground but my left leg went straight in up to my waist. My mind was quickly turned from the terror of what may attack my leg under the weeds to the sharp pain I was experiencing in my right leg. My right leg had twisted in another direction and a shooting pain was sent through my leg. Carlos, my brother helped pull me out. Once I was out I realized quickly that I had pulled my groin muscle and ever step was incredibly painful. Lifting my leg was what hurt the most and having it stuck in mud and having to pull it out with every step was agony. You honestly cant use your leg at 50% when it means that you might fall and hurt yourself worse or slip down one of these cliffs and die. There is nothing you can do but grit your teeth and keep walking at full force. I knew we didn’t have enough hours of light left in the day for me to turn back. The only thing I could do was walk the next two hours to try and make it to camp. I walked for a half hour on my leg and wanted to die. I thought about just walking into the swamp, going under, and not coming out. I had a face mask that they call a “passa montanas” which basically covers your face and you look like your going to rob a bank. I pulled it down so they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes and the expression of agony on my face. When I started to think I may black out I sat down and told them I needed a break and couldn’t do it anymore. Jose told me to wait there and he ran his pack up the mountain about a half an hour and then ran back. He rigged up his little rope and basically tied me to his back. He carried me the last hour and a half to camp. (the two girls ended up taking his pack the last hour and a half! They are pretty amazing.)
I was completely amazed at jose. He walked twice as fast with me on his back as I did before I hurt my leg with no pack at all. It was quite terrifying though. I cant tell you what its like to climb straight up cliffs on someone’s back. I clung to him as tight as I could so he could use his arms and I just prayed he would not fall. The rope cut into my legs and into his shoulders and my arms felt like they were going to fall off but it was better than the stabbing pain of me walking.
When we finally reached camp and my body was no longer straining to hold on the cold set in. I think my body may have also been in shock but I for the first time, legitimately though I may die there and not make it back. My whole body was convulsing from cold, pain and exhaustion. It took about an hour for the guys to set up camp. Once the tent was up I could barely take off my wet , mud caked clothes and get on my dry ones. My hands were not working and I was too tired. I wanted to admit defeat and lay down right were I was and die. They guys had to help me take my boots off because I didn’t have the strength. Once I finally got dry clothes on I crawled into my sleeping bag. I could not get warm. I laid there convulsing for an hour and a half. I honestly didn’t know if it was from the cold or the exhaustion and pain. I was scared it would be that way all night and that I just wouldn’t wake up. I tried to make my body stop but I couldn’t. I asked them to fill my nalgene up with hot water and then I put it in my sleeping bag. About a half hour later my body stopped shaking and I fell asleep. I slept from 7 at night until 10 am, which is 15 hours, and I woke up a few times through the night with shooting pains in my leg or the feeling of nausea from the exhaustion. I couldn’t throw up because that took too much energy to get out of the tent and it was so cold so I just tried to hold it down and sleep . It didn’t matter though, I was warm and I was not walking. When I woke up I wanted to cry thinking about the 10 hour trip home. I ate some ramen noodle soup for breakfast and went to look at the lagoon, which I now hated for even existing, and took a picture with the girls. I put my muddy wet clothes back on over my nice try clothing and we packed up and started back. I had taken 6 Advil with my breakfast and was feeling pretty good. I was determined to walk back because I could not imagine having jose carry me for that long.
I was walking slow. I did walk for an hour and a half but it was very slow. Going down was easier in some ways because you start out out of breath and then get more oxygen as you get lower. Its just as terrifying though. Going down these steep cliffs, I was scared of slipping and that being the end of me. At that point I really didn’t care much. “If I were on survivor” I thought to myself, “I would be the first to go and I would opt myself off the show asap”. I however, did not have the luxury of opting myself off of any show so I continued in pain to try and walk. Eventually jose found a tree that he hid his backpack in and told me that we would get back at midnight if he did not carry me. He also told me that it was painful to watch me walk because I looked like I wanted to die. That was accurate. So again, I was turned into a little backpack. The ropes were horrible. I was bruised from the day before so they only cut into my legs more. We found a way to rig it up using his sweater as well as the rope so that the ropes didn’t dig into his bruised shoulders quite so much. I felt like a little koala bear at first… then I just felt like a sack of dead chickens hanging there on his back. I would at times put my head on his shoulder and close my eyes and try and pretend I was not there. That was not possible however when he would duck under branches and come up too soon and smack my head on them. I am not in the least bit trying to complain because Jose saved my little life and im SO thankful for him but he is not good at gauging head room when going under trees. I pulled down my face mask to try and protect myself a little from the snapping tree branches. Jose carried me for 5 ½ hours. If I had to have a hero in life, I think it would be him! Haha. I don’t even know how he did it. He carried me with a machete in hand (which I was so scared hed fall and I would land on) and walked at twice the pace that I could have if I had not been hurt and without a backpack. I was terrified when he would scale these cliffs with me on his back and I don’t know how he didn’t fall. I was honestly as amazed by his strength and agility as I was by the rainforest around me. All I can say is that God provides grace where grace is needed and Jose was definitely Gods grace to me.
We finally reached the horses and I sat there fighting the swarms (literally clouds) of mosquitoes as he loaded up the horse. You cant sit still in the mountains there or you will be eaten. I jumped on the horse and realized the pain would be pretty awful as I had to used my legs to hold on. I didn’t even care about the horses sliping all over. If my life had ended I would have been grateful in that moment. Heaven seemed quite appealing to me. Carlos, who was extremely tired at this point got on the back of the horse with me. My horse did not like that much weight and was not thrilled. Carlos also didn’t really know how to ride that well and I think the horse knew it. He fell off when the horse slipped on some rocks and I was scared hed take me with him, but he didn’t. Then he got back on and my horse was not happy. He was throwing his head around and then he started to buck and kick. I got mad and yanked his head around and smacked him hard. I was not in the mood to be thrown from a horse with my leg killing me and I was in too much pain to be scared by its bucking. I was just angry and kicked it as hard as I could with my good leg. Carlos somehow didn’t fall off this time but immediately jumped from the horse in terror which I thought was a little funny, although it would have taken far too much energy to laugh. I was happy when carlos decided to walk because I did not have the strength to fight this horse the rest of the walk and it hurt like crazy to stay on the horse when it was acting up.
We finally got back after dark. The dark did not help with the horses slipping all over the path but I was too exhausted to care. Once we got to the hacienda they had dinner ready for us. I still felt horrible and I did not want anything to eat. It was agony to sit there while they all talked and laughed and ate. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and crawl into bed. Jose showed everyone his bruises and they laughed. They made jokes about how his wife would divorce him for having a gringo hugging him for 6 hours. They made jokes about his bruises saying I hugged him too hard and how would my boyfriend feel about that? He laughed and joked with me saying he would miss his little backpack or that his back was cold. I tried to force a smile and laugh but it took too much energy. Then we had the hour ride home. I finally got to the house and just about fell into the shower. I prayed and prayed for hot water (its not always hot here) and I had the most consistent and hot shower I have taken since I have been here. I never thought I would praise God so much for his grace to me with a hot shower.
I slept 11 hours last night and everything hurts today. Im just thankful for my little bed and clean clothing. I think im done with hiking for a little while.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The first of many sessions...

2 1/2 more months and im realizing there is so much here to do. Its hard to know im building relationships and earning trust with girls who will open up their lives to me only to leave their lives in a few months. There is brokenness everywhere and America is no exception but there is something different being in a place where most have little desire to help and would rather turn a blind eye to injustice. Maybe growing up around it makes you numb to it?

I had my first counseling session today and talked with a beautiful little girl who is the subject of verbal and at times physical abuse from her mother. Her father is an alocholic who she believes loves her but cant leave his alcohol. She is the oldest and is responsible to cook and care for all of the children. Her brother who is a year younger than her hits her when he does not like her cooking. There is little money for food as her father spends it all on alcohol. She sits in my office sobbing asking me why her mommy doesnt love her. She tells me how her brother who was born before she was alive had died as an infant. She says she wishes it had been her. Her mother kicked her out of the house and she rented a room for a year from a woman who she would work for all day and get fed only one meal a day. The woman eventually kicked her out when she found someone else to rent the room who could pay and she moved home with her family. Can you imagine a 13yr old girl living by herself? She asks me why shes had to take care of her brothers and sisters since she has been little but why no one has ever taken care of her?

Her father wants help to stop drinking. He wants to stop but cant. There is no AA in pimampiro. To go to rehab it would cost over a thousand dollars which is more than the family makes in a year. There is no child abuse hotline here to call. I feel so powerless to help. I have spent all afternoon looking for child advocate services or substance abuse centers with very little luck. There are laws against abuse but no one to carry them out, not unless you live in Quito or one of the other few large citys in Ecuador.

My heart feels so heavy. I know this will only be the first of many stories and i feel so illequiped to help when there are no resources here. I feel like i tiny bandade on a gaping wound.

In ways this is so good for me. I AM powerless to do anything. I can do nothing apart from Christ. I know that. I am just praying for opportunities to share Christ because he is the only hope of restoration. She so desperately needs to know she has a father who loves her so deeply and whos heart is breaking over the pain she has gone through. She needs the hope of the gosple, the hope that one day all this pain will be redeemed and restored. She needs to know the one who came and died so she could be set free to have joy in the midst of such great suffering.

Please pray that i would have boldness to take opportunities to share this hope with her but a gentle sensitivity and discernment as well. I feel like its the only thing of any real substance i have to offer to her.