Growing Pains

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Rooftop Living

It’s been over two weeks and life here in Quito is well… normal. It is incredible how fast adjustment can happen. I’m becoming familiar with the city, maneuvering through the public transportation system in order to go to my internship, struggling through broken Spanish and learning more and more each day. It’s become the norm that I can go for hours without speaking a word of English, which means I get a lot of time to talk to Jesus because at least He understands what I’m saying!

This past week, Amanda and I started our internships at Carmen Bajo, which is a Compassion International site in the northern part of Quito. It takes us three different buses and around an hour and a half each way to get there, which gives us plenty of time to run through our Spanish notecards and take in some of the different areas of the city that we would normally not go to. We will be spending four days at this place, so around 30-35 hours a week, which is an incredible opportunity to connect with the kids and the staff and learn from their program. We have the privilege to help with their teen moms program, which includes taking care of their darling babies, helping them in the sewing room and in a few weeks TEACHING a baking class. Now, Amanda and I have never baked in high elevation, do not know much Spanish, and have never used the type of cooking utensils that they have…. which means that we are in for an incredible learning experience all around. We are just excited that we are able to have opportunities to be pushed out of our comfort zone in this setting! I will let you know how the first time goes!

The absolute hardest part of this internship is not being able to communicate because I am still a beginner Spanish student. Only the director speaks English and even then she wants us to speak Spanish to her unless we are completely lost. Now I understand that immersion is the best way to learn, and I am so excited to see how much I pick up. However, spending nine to ten hours being absolutely clueless is exhausting. I have felt frustrated, stupid, angry, and bitter. I’ve wanted to shut down and stop listening or trying to learn. It’s easier to just passively move throughout my day without speaking, because it’s hard. I mess up a lot. I don’t know what to say most of the time. But I’m learning that by fighting through my frustration, I am actually growing. My Spanish is growing a little bit, but my patience and character is really what is being practiced and refined. Because I only can have a few conversations with the people at Carmen Bajo, I am having to find different ways that I can be a light for Jesus and share His love without language. That means that I try to step in and serve wherever I can, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with social work. It also means going in for hugs whenever I can, keeping a smile on my face even when I’m not in any way joyful, and making an effort to use the Spanish I know, even if I know that I am butchering it. What life lessons I am gaining and it’s only been the first week!

Some of the most rewarding parts of the week have been the little things that make my day better at Carmen Bajo. One of the kitchen ladies is named Laura and she loves talking to Amanda and I slowly in Spanish, trying to make sure we understand. We found out that she has nine kids – she had her last one at 44, whew! Every day that we arrive she greets us with an inviting smile and warm kiss on the cheek and truly appreciates the work we put in. Not to mention she makes authentic and delicious Ecuadorean food that we get to eat everyday with the staff. We also have gotten to play with the kids in the mornings and I might not know how to speak to them, but I surely know how to play. Tickling is a universal language that brings laughs and giggles and I can chase a ball with the best of them. I’m slowly learning the kids’ names and I love that some of them remember mine, too. Soon they will realize that we are not just short-term people who will leave in a week but will be around for 3 months!

Last week we were taken zip-lining through the rainforest of Mindo. They hooked us up and we went flying over the trees in the rainforest, taking in all the views from above and feeling the rush of adrenaline that zip-lining provides. I even got to be attached to one of the guides and be flipped upside down – now THAT is the best way to do it. Later in the day we visited the Equator and experienced all the odd things that the Middle of the World provides – like being able to balance an egg on a nail! Now, I failed at it, but many in our group succeeded and proved that it was possible!

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The Mariposa!

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In the last year, God has been preparing my heart for this journey. He has put me a freedom path that has allowed my story to be shared to thousands (!!!!!) of people and my heart to gently and wholly be placed in His hands (if you’re interested, check out a blog I wrote about it at http://www.covenanteyes.com/2014/08/15/girls-hooked-porn-battle-notes-weathered-fighter/). It’s incredible to see that all of those things that have happened to me are coming into play, here in Ecuador! God has taught me so much already. He has opened my heart to believing that His Spirit is in me and is going to do great things through me. Last week, a few friends and I encountered the Spirit in the middle of QuiCentro mall. The four of us were sitting around a table in the food court, sharing our testimonies with each other and praising God for them. After this time, we prayed together and the power of the Spirit came upon us, causing a few to weep, others to laugh with joy and all of us to feel either warmth or electricity in our arms that cannot be explained away in anything rational: it was the Spirit, blessing us with actually feeling His Presence. Following this encounter, we went and prayed for an Ecuadorean man sitting at a table near us and were able to share our heart for the Lord with him. I might not have understood everything he said, but as he got up to give us hugs and take pictures, we knew that it was a God-ordained moment, one of those good works that God planned in advance for us to do.

Some of the greatest moments that I have had here in Ecuador come from worshiping on the rooftop. With the lights of the city twinkling, the shadow of the mountains on the horizon and the buzz of the streets below, one’s thoughts can only linger on the majesty of the Creator. Behind me is an incredible volcano, full of bridled power and strength, in front of me is a valley of people, all created in the image of God, and next to me is fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are singing out praises and glory to God as one. Those moments are what make my heart yearn for heaven, when all will be crying out to God together, marveling in who He is

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West view off our rooftop!

The first night that we were out there, after our encounter with God at the mall, the moon came out at 9:30. This is an incredible feat because the moon usually comes out at around 7:00, and those that have lived there for year have never seen it come over the mountains so late. As I had been praying God drew my attention to the horizon, and as the moon became more visible He began to speak to me and assured me that just as the moon will move through the clouds and out into the open, so will I. I am just like the moon, being moved by the power and light of God, who will shine into the darkness. It will take time for God’s light to become brighter in me for sanctification is a life-long process, but God is working. He has not forgotten about me – no, He made the moon come up later in order to assure me of that. He is constantly working in my life, and He is not going to stop. He is revealing gifts to me that I never thought were possible in my life and revealing His supernatural work in this world. I cannot be more grateful for His unveiling of more of Himself in my life.

One of the ways that God has been unveiling His plans for me is through other people. During our rooftop worship times, I have had a couple people speak words over me that they hear from God. A staff member told me that she sees something special about my eyes, that I am a dreamer and God is revealing those dreams to me in private and in time will allow me to share them with the world. What an awesome promise that is, especially when I know that God created my heart to dream big, to always crave to be used by Him in powerful ways that will surprise me and trample my own lousy plans under their feet. She also told me that my foundation has been reset and that God is going to use me to reset other women’s foundations as well – which is a direct testament to what God has been doing in the last year. I couldn’t get over how accurate it was! God is amazing in the way that He constantly surprises me, especially when I think I have Him figured out (maybe someday I will learn that I can’t figure Him out and give Him the freedom to show up in whatever way He wants).

One of the coolest parts of this study-abraod program is the Christian community that it provides. I have found incredible friends who have already challenged and spurred me on in my faith, my ideas, and my worldview. We are in this together and we are all under the same purpose – to learn and grow more in Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for those nights on the roof worshipping with them, the prayers that we share and the laughs that come from our embarrassing moments. It’s amazing when you know that God placed these people in your life for a reason and it only takes two weeks to start to figure out what that is.

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This week begins with my internship and Spanish tutoring, but ends with our first trip to the Amazon Jungle! We have been anxiously awaiting this trip since we got here. Apparently we are going to see lots of monkeys… and possibly other Jungle animal species that might not be as inviting. I can’t wait to visit this place that I learned about so long ago – I can’t believe I get the opportunity to go. You can pray for our group as we head out there on Thursday – not only for safety, but that we are able to have servant hearts and be lights for Jesus wherever we go!

One of the funniest things I’ve encountered is that no one can pronounce my name here! Since the ‘z’ is said with an ‘s’ sound in Spanish, my new name for this semester is ‘Lis’ or ‘Elisabet’. I actually find it quite endearing!

Until next time, amigos.

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Al Comienzo

Almost three years ago I was starting my journey to travel to the Holy Land for a semester, overcome by feelings of fear, anxiousness, and excitement, all of which pushed me to the point of not wanting to get on the plane. I was eighteen and inexperienced, never been out of North America and succumbed to the the inadequacy that those facts made me feel. I remember blogging a few weeks before I left about how I did not feel qualified or prepared to go, that I was dreading all the goodbyes and my heart was filled with fear of the unknown, fear of what was to come. Now I’ve started another journey that God has set before me, one that looks much different than my time in the Middle East. Here I don’t know the language, I don’t know the customs, and I am living in a much more intentional community setting. This time I am experienced, with a faith that has exponentially grown since I got on my flight to Israel, not because I have tried harder but God has proved Himself faithful over and over again. I know that He has led me here, to Ecuador, to living with eight wonderful women on Sebastian Cedono Calle and to starting an incredible social work internship next week and learning this lovely language.

 

Yet, even a few weeks ago, I felt the same pull to stay with what is familiar. After working at camp all summer and then taking a trip to Texas, I barely had any time to settle back into my routine in Michigan. I had just finally started to attend my church, my small group, and reconnect with friends… and then it was already time to pack and get ready to leave. Even though God has created my heart to be somewhat nomadic and given me the blessing of being adaptable wherever I go, I still fell prey to wanting to stay at home, to being fearful of what was to come.  I even told some of my friends that I did not want to go. WHAT?! Here I am, being given the opportunity to spend four months to study abroad again and I want to stay with what is easy? It’s a good thing that emotions are temporary, only sticking around for a bit and can change momentarily. The moment my heart changed was stepping on the plane in Atlanta and realizing that the next time I touched the ground I would be in my new home, Quito! 

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And what an adventure it has been in the past week. It was only seven days ago that our plane touched down, but I am quite comfortable and adjusted already. Having done this already is a great advantage, for I have been much more prepared for the adjustment process and adapting to a new culture and customs. Who knew that slamming a car door here is considered rude? Luckily, we have an incredible staff that has been diligent in giving us this kind of information (along with every form of safety rule) that will guide us in our semester here. We have learned to ride the trole system, the bus system, and somehow figure out what to say to taxis to get around. My teeny bit of Spanish has provided at least a way for me to understand a few things, but in most things I am completely lost. This language learning is going to be quite the adventure; I am anticipating countless awkward and uncomfortable situations, all of which are going to teach me something, even if it is only to laugh as I make a fool of myself.

A large part of this learning experience is living in community with other believers and spurring each other on to put Jesus on display. Every part of our program comes from the core of Christ, and all that we will be doing this semester will be intentional, not only for our professional internships, but for our walks with Christ. We live in houses together, relying on each other for support and guidance, laughter and joy. It is so cool to already have a family here, one that includes staff that pour into us and sisters and brothers in Christ to run around this city with. Next week we start our individual schedules, but the foundations that we have made the past week (and the rest of this one) will allow us to stay connected even as we move into ‘real life’. 

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One of the biggest challenges that I face is that I will have forty hours of a week of internship that is all in Spanish… and I am still in the beginning processes of learning. I know that God will be teaching me how to communicate without words and to display His love without needing to say exactly what is on my heart. I am excited to see what God does to bridge the language barrier so that I can attempt to connect with the Ecuadoreans that I am working with. My heart is going to be humbled in many ways as I have to realize that I am already a beginner with the social work field and even more so because I can’t understand most of what they say to me. But, God is good, and He has such amazing things to teach me in the next few months. My prayer for myself is that I can stay engaged amidst frustration and continue to seek His grace and presence no matter how hard this will be. 

After living at 10,000 feet elevation for a week, my body is finally starting to acclimate. Our house is on a hill, so we get a workout wherever we go, which is paired with the lack of air supply that comes along with living in the mountains. I am actually enjoying that I get to walk everywhere, because it makes everything more of an adventure and it teaching me to fight against my nature of wanting things to be instant, quick, and convenient. However, despite the hardships, living on the mountain of Pichincha is an incredible experience. All I have to do is go up on my roof to get an incredible view of the city, and we are only a trole ride from Old Quito, which is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever been to. I still can’t believe that I get to live in this majestic city. God’s plans are so amazing and I find that every day I am finding more ways to thank Him for what He is doing in me here. 10659335_10204783742143536_1801989354930246040_n

Tomorrow we get to go visit the Ecuador and also go zip lining – the start of some our high-risk adventures that await us this semester. In a few weeks we will head to our first trip in the Amazon Jungle and then in about a month we start our home stays. So many things to look forward to and prepare my heart for! I am going to seize every moment here, because I know firsthand how quickly the semester is over and how hard it can be to go home with things that I wish I had seen or done. It’s so wonderful to be in a place of faith where my reliance on God is the foundation for why I am here and for everything that I do. Each day is a chance to grow in Him more, to trust Him with all aspects of my life. It’s been quite an adventure already.