Our two weeks in Ecuador were divided equally into 2 separate, beautiful cities. Our itinerary was different for each city, as the churches in each city had different needs.
The Ibarra church was new, only a few months old, and had a significant need to get people informed about its existence. We were able to be part of several smaller-scale events like “free manicure” stations at the park, a soccer tournament, wearing crazy wigs and hats while holding “Jesus Te Ama” signs in the middle of an intersection… Things like that.
At each city, we also had a “big event” that we focused on. In Ibarra that was a breakdancing competition. So cool! In the middle of a enormous and beautiful park, a stage was set up, complete with microphones and music, and people came. We each had our own jobs to do while we were there. My job was to invite
people to come. So we looked for people walking and said things that I hope meant, “You’re invited to come to watch a breakdance competition! It’s free! And there are activities for children!” Shawn and Noah had cleanup duty, keeping the park free of litter during the competition.
I had my doubts that people would come. At the beginning, the crowd was small and I worried that after all the time and money they had spent preparing for the event, it would be a disappointment to all those at the church who had worked so hard.
But they did come. More than 800 of them. People came, watched the competition, met church people, saw the church’s name, the church made some contacts, and many heard the message of Jesus before the evening was over, with people making eternal commitments to Him.
In Ambato, the “big event” was the main focus of the week. Here, the event was called “Gran Noche de
Esparanza,” translated as “Great Night of Hope.” An evening of music, entertainment, prizes, and Pastor Ferney.
Pastor Ferney leads a church in Cali, Colombia, and he came to share his story with the 400 people who came out that evening. He shared with them how Jesus can change the life of a man deeply involved in the drug cartel, freeing him of the life he had and giving him a new one full of hope in Jesus. We watched and prayed as 76 people came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ.
The next morning we were privileged to hear Pastor Ferney at the church in Ambato, with a translator, as he spoke to us about the importance of family. We watched as he got on his knees, with tears in his eyes, asking the North American section of the crowd for forgiveness for the pain his life’s work has caused our country. So humbling and such an example of the redemption of God. We are never too bad for the forgiveness of Jesus.
The last day we were in Ambato, before we headed for the airport, our trip leaders, Chris and Anndee Stringer, led us in a time of reflection. We were able to answer some pretty deep questions for ourselves about the ways we were changed from the trip, the ways we had seen God work, the things we needed to remember. Anndee said it is too easy for us to go back home and answer the question, “How was the trip?” with telling them about the chicken feet in our soup.
How is it so easy to forget the undeniable work of God in the 2 weeks we were there, and focus only on the chicken foot soup or the toilet paper we weren’t allowed to flush?
But she was right. Even after my time of reflection and knowing how I was changed from this trip, the first couple of times I was asked about the trip – chicken feet and toilet paper.
I kind of reminded myself of the Israelites. In Exodus 16, we see them after God had miraculously convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt where they were oppressed as slaves, then let them cross the Red Sea, then destroy the Egyptian army chasing after them, they began to complain about being hungry.
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!.. you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then God sends manna, a kind of bread, from heaven to feed them daily.
Then in Numbers 11, in verses 4 and 5, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Why in the world can’t they stay focused on the miracles God just did to save them?
While I wasn’t complaining about the chicken feet or the toilet paper- it was simply an interesting tidbit- how in the world could I let that trump the miracles we saw take place while in Ecuador?
God provides. God heals. God redeems. I saw all of this happen in South America. And I have seen His provision, healing and redemption in my own city, in my own life. Yet still I find myself complaining, or focusing on things that don’t matter.
I think a prayer journal of sorts could help here. Take a few minutes and think of ways God has provided for you. Think of ways He has healed you or someone you love. Think of how God has redeemed you from what you once were. Write it down. Thank God for it. Remember it.
And, if you would, share some of these things here so we can thank God for it together.
“Let all I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” (NLT)