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!
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’.
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.
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.