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Ecuador Revisited

Ecuador Revisited

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Published by: pascov1 on Sep 13, 2011
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Ecuador RevisitedTwo days before Pasadena Covenant’s team of six left to return to Guasmo Sur, a smallcommunity on the outskirts of Guayaquil, Ecuador, I received news that Chris Hoskins, thecoordinator for our trip would not be joining us. A 21 year old student on a team in the Amazon jungle the week before ours had disappeared after jumping into a local swimming hole and beingswept down stream. Chris had to stay to be a part of the search team. Dale Lusk, the head of Merge, the Covenant missions organization we work with, sent me this tragic news and informedme that Richard Santana, a Merge staffer and native of Guayaquil who was on our team last year,would be leading our team. Amidst this tragedy, we headed out unsure of how our time would beaffected.When we arrived at the missionary home in Guayquil with Richard, we were met by one of theother staff members for the week: Josh Swenson whose parents were missionaries in Columbiaand Ecuador for Pasadena Covenant for fifteen years. Josh had given up his vacation time tocome and spend one last week with a team before heading back to work in Quito. AnotherCovenant missionary from Quito, Mandy Hjelm, arrived the following day and our team wascomplete. Our time was heavily devoted to helping the school build the exterior wall on thesecond story addition to one of their classroom buildings. While we were there, I was able to getbetter information about the specific reasons for the addition. Last year, the government passed alaw stating that all elementary schools were going to move from K-7 to K-9 schools beginning inthe 2012 school year. Schools that do not comply will be shut down. This new addition isprimarily to make room for two new grades who will be joining the school next year. We hauled2,500 cinderblocks to the second story over the three days we did construction work. We also cutand bent rebar, hauled water for cement, mixed cement and sand, and did any other grunt work that the mason needed us to do. We worked Tuesday through Thursday 9am-4pm with a 90-minute break for lunch. Hard work, but rewarding to know what we were helping the schoolaccomplish.Upon arrival, we also discovered that the school had received a number of desktop computersand had recently established a computer lab and had begun computer classes for the olderstudents. It had been our impression initially that we were bringing computers that they did nothave, but the reality of these situations is that the church and school have multiple sources of support, so information and situations can change quickly. That does not mean, however, that ourlaptops were not needed or wanted! Laptops are a premium item in Ecuador, and the school willuse the laptops for in-class instruction. On Thursday morning, Melissa had the opportunity toteach PowerPoint to multiple groups of students over the course of three hours. PowerPointhappened to be the next lesson for these students, and the computer teacher was happy to letsomeone from our team step in! She helped them make presentations about themselves and whattheir favorite things are.On Thursday afternoon, I held a reading workshop with all the teachers and tutors from theschool. Ecuador is not a reading culture. Because print material is so expensive, most people donot learn to love reading because they do not have the ability to choose things that they want toread. We also discovered that libraries in Ecuador do not operate the same way they do here.They operate only as reference libraries and reading rooms. The idea of a lending library is
completely foreign to them. This meant that we would not be helping them establish a lendinglibrary; rather, we decided that resourcing the teachers in how to help kids learn to love readingwas the best way to go. I, along with the long term Covenant missionary in Guayaquil, CheryllClark (having served for over 25 years), taught how to incorporate a story time into theirclassroom time as well as a silent reading time. We also showed them how to track the numberof pages students have read in a visible place in their classrooms. Teachers in Ecuador currentlydo not have to have a college degree to teach—they only have to be 16 years old (though both of those things are changing soon as well.) As a result many of these teachers have not receivedmuch training, and no training in teaching reading. But because teaching in Ecuador is not alucrative job (they make minimum wage—about $240 a month), they all have a passion forteaching. They were very enthusiastic about the ideas we presented to them, and were ecstaticabout the nearly 200lbs of books that we brought for them. We’re excited to have this as anongoing ministry to the school.The most important part of our ministry to Guasmo Sur, however, is in the relationships that weare building there. We were heavily involved in Vida Eterna’s services again this year. Ipreached three nights in a row, Joy Steinmeier shared a testimony, and we also led a few worshipsongs. We had the opportunity on Thursday evening before the service to have dinner in thehomes of church members. Last year, we went in groups of three or four into homes, but thisyear, the church really wanted each of us to go alone so that as many church members aspossible could host us. What that demonstrates is an enormous amount of trust and hospitality ontheir part. In short, they love having us there! It was a challenging experience as the majority of the team did not know much Spanish. But the language barrier was a small obstacle, andeveryone had a wonderful time and found ways to communicate. It was great to return, seefamiliar faces, and get to know people better. The community was warm and hospitable last year,but this year people seemed to want to be even closer to us, which was incredible.In addition to connecting with the church and the school, we were able to connect much morewith kids from the community this year. Because of the poverty in this area, not every child goesto school. A number of kids who live right around the school and church do not attend school atall. On our first day of construction, a thirteen-year old boy named Pedro rode up on his bike andasked me if he could help us carry cinderblocks. I gladly accepted his offer. Over the next fewhours a number of other boys from the neighborhood joined in, and they ended up helping outthe entire week. Mandy invited Pedro to come to church, and on Wednesday he did. It wasmoving to see his desire for relationship and connection. Many of the students we work with arestill in awe over the strangeness that we bring being white and from Los Angeles—which iscertainly expected for elementary age kids! But Pedro was making an extra effort all week tofind out more about us and seek out meaningful conversations that went beyond a superficialexchange of information.On Saturday, we Richard heard from Chris that the body of Joshua Kim was by the Cofanpeople. It was a solemn, sobering moment for all of us, but we were filled with hope and joy tolearn that the Joshua’s father, who had traveled down to Quito to be a part of the search team,decided to make a commitment to the Lumbaqui region in honor of his son’s passion for thepeople that he was serving. It was an extraordinary example of Christ’s love. The church was inthe final year of a three-year commitment but has decided to renew that and continue to go back 

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