Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ashes to ashes...airplanes grounded

Psalm 57:1 “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”

*****BREAKING NEWS*****Guayaquil affected by volcano eruption!!!

It is Friday, May 28, 2010, and like any other Friday in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a small group of young people venture out armed with guitars and crayons to visit an orphanage full of children who run out to greet them with waves, affectionately referring to the visitors as “Auntie” and “Uncle”. The visit is ordinary, with some singing, a Bible story about Moses, some coloring pages, lots of laughs, some horse-play, words of affirmation, as well as a few disciplinary warnings. As the little missionary troupe prepares to leave, amidst questions of when they will return, a slight drizzle begins to fall from the hazy sky. Waiting for the bus which will return them to their modest apartments, the group of friends begins to comment on the “drizzle” which more closely resembled snow than rain. “This is not rain!” remarks one. After a bit of conversation, they come to the conclusion that it is ash, which makes sense, since there had been a potent garbage fire behind the orphanage during the visit. The ash seems to grow thicker, and a girl in the group asks: “Did a volcano erupt somewhere nearby, because this is NOT normal!” Within minutes, a text message from the office explains that, sure enough, a volcano has erupted in BaƱos, a vacation town a few hours away, and that everyone should use sunglasses and masks, as it is dangerous to inhale the ash. As the group finally boards number 57 with stinging eyes, they find that the news has traveled and the other passengers have already donned white masks and are rapidly securing the bus windows. The fatigued group settles into their seats and breathes carefully through their make-shift Kleenex masks, commenting on the frightened looks on the locals faces. “Do you think this is going to affect flights going out of Guayaquil…?” *******

This was the situation I found myself in on Friday, and little did I know how much my life and plans would be affected. First of all, a girl from Illinois who was planning on getting in around 3 that afternoon, finally arrived in Guayaquil at 12am after a crazy detour. I figured by Sunday things would be cleared up and I would be able to leave on schedule. That was not the case, and after talking to the airlines until 2 in the morning, I booked a flight out of Quito, and boarded yet another bus for the nine hour journey. When I arrived, I called for a taxi to take me to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, checked my confirmation email, and it showed the flight was for Tuesday, not Monday as I had been told. So, here I am biding my time in Quito, thankfully with a bunch of other Christians from around the US and Canada at Casablanca, where we had our camp in March. They are just about to begin 3-4 month long internships. They too, had frustrating delays due to the volcanic ash. Some of them spent 50 hours in the Miami airport!!!! Ick. It is all part of traveling and helps us to realize that we cannot control everything, least of all the weather and natural disasters. This can be a difficult lesson, especially for us schedule-oriented North-Americans.
I have not been keeping up with the news very well; I just found out about the oil that is gushing out of the belly of the earth, that Venice is slowly sinking, and there was a volcano in Guatemala that killed a few people. Plus, the weather has been off-kilter everywhere, which can only mean hurricane/tornado season is going to be worse than normal. Hmm, does this sound familiar??? It is funny how we don’t (or at least I don’t) pay very close attention, until something affects me personally. I am so thankful that I worship a God that is bigger and stronger than all of these things and that He is taking care of me, and of all of us. It is good to think of and pray for the people who are affected, even when I am far removed from the situation. The Bible talks about all the ways the earth is “groaning” as we draw closer to the end. Yet, who knows how many more levels of groaning there will be before we say good-bye. Are we prepared to face even more hardships on this earth? Or, an even better question, are we prepared to face eternity??

Another Train of Thought:
Ministry isn’t about an organization, a place, a title, or an event. It is about relationships. Here, in this house with a bunch of random people that I will spend no more than 24 hours with, there is ministry. We have encouraged and prayed for one another. We have worshipped together as one body. It was really encouraging to hear the testimony of a couple in their late 50’s. They always felt called to missions, but didn’t make it here until just recently. Their life was spent working, raising kids, and having youth over to their home. There are countless people serving the Lord right now because of what they gave during that time. It was definitely God’s will that they stayed. They encouraged us to broaden our ideas and be open to the Lord changing our path, even when we think we are in the center of His will. He sometimes changes it drastically. All the while, though, the important thing is to keep on serving, trusting, and loving Him with all that we are! I definitely needed to hear that today!
I have enjoyed my day resting, worshipping and fellowshipping. It is a bummer that I am not at home and that I will miss James and Shelly and the kids, but, if there aren’t any more disasters, I should make it home by Tuesday evening. And, for those of you who are looking forward to spending time with me in Wisconsin…just to prepare you, don’t plan on it until July. The month of June will be filled with traveling, Cristo Vive camp in Wisconsin (we need more guys!!!!!), and weddings in other states. I will only be home for a few days before taking off for Kentucky.

I was able to spend a fun weekend in Quito seeing the sights and hanging out with my friends. It was so refreshing to be able to share with them some of my frustrations about working in this culture, and they understand because they too have been through it. BUT, they also have each other – fellow Americans/Europeans who share cultural similarities and language. I didn’t realize until now how vital that is or how much I missed that interaction. We all agreed that it is not healthy to be working alone and that travelling so much also takes its toll on ones sense of belonging and community. I hope and pray that my friend Noele will be joining me in August.
I then returned to Guayaquil, (because I was planning on leaving from there), visited the orphanage. I was standing in the back of a room and there were lots of people there, because there was a special activity going on with some kids from a local high school. Flor was sitting in her wheelchair and she was turned around looking in my direction. When I went over to her, she gave me the biggest hug and was genuinely happy to see me. I think she recognized me and my voice, and was waiting for me to come and say hi. We also had a meeting with a cell group interested in helping and getting their church involved, which is one of our goals that will help us achieve an ongoing presence there.
The Cristo Vive team in Guayaquil is preparing for camp in August, and the team in Quito has an activity coming up next weekend. My new team in Cuenca would like to have a day activity in July and a camp in the fall. Hopefully these things take off, but it will depend a lot on the people there. The plans are in the works for the August trip…get your hammers ready…we’re gonna build stuff!!! Anyone interested, it will be two weeks in duration, and you can go to www.cristovive.net to fill out a volunteer application.

Well, it is very late, and I need to leave for the airport in just a few short hours. Thank you all for your love and prayers. God Bless You.