Yesterday was an amazing day serving in the city of Bolivar. The first thing we did when we arrived was walk around and do community outreach. This was a very moving experience for everyone. It brought chills, tears of joy, and lots of praying and hugging. We prayed over the people and their houses. It was such a beautiful thing to watch true joy in their faces when we said we wanted to pray over them. I remember constantly taking it all in thinking this is what walking in Jesus’s steps would feel like. Yesterday the team truly got to experience unconditional love. The phrase on the back of our t-shirts, “Perfect Love Casts out Fear,” was really brought to life. It was like we were walking through the Bible just as Renee said we would be. We could feel Gods word through the shared moments of hugging, praying, playing, and just loving on the people in the city of Bolivar.
In the evening, we got to hold the bible study/pampering session for the teen girls to give them a break from watching their younger siblings and to allow them some alone time to grow with the Lord. This turned out to be quite an experience because almost 100 kids showed up and about 30 teenage girls. Luckily, we were able to encourage the young boys to go play baseball and soccer, or futbol as they call it here, outside with their favorite gentle giant, Jay. They were very excited to go back to playing their new favorite game, baseball, which Jay patiently and enthusiastically motivated them to learn yesterday morning. We ended up setting up small chairs outside under a big tree, and the women in our group painted the little girls nails so they would not feel left out. That was a huge success.
Meanwhile, inside we continued doing the teenage girls hair, makeup, and nails. They especially loved getting chinos, also known as curls. About three quarters of the way through, Jeanette gathered the girls for the most important part, the Bible study. Caitlyn did an amazing job ministering to the girls about loving one another and praising others about their talents. We are each special and unique in our own way with individual talents. She reminded them that beauty is not solely on the outside, but also on the inside. It is better to appreciate what we have and celebrate the gifts of those around us have, rather than comparing and belittling ourselves when there is beauty inside each and every one of us put there by God.
After we closed up the games outside, the pampering party, and the little girl nail painting session, we all piled into the vans to go to church in San Pedro. The lovely church welcomed us with warm hearts, open arms, and muchos besos (kisses) y bendiciones (blessings). They sang beautiful, powerful songs of worship. We did not always understand the words, but without a doubt we could all feel the holy spirit in that church. The dancing, singing, laughing, turning around and genuine joy to be praising our savior Jesus, was an awesome experience. We even got onto stage and sang. We were far from being fully prepared because the songs we downloaded with the lyrics would not transfer, so we ended up with the two Spanish songs being solely the background music. I will admit, we got a little lost at points (in fact a little might be an exaggeration), but we pulled through and praised God at the top of our lungs on the parts we knew. Like Psalm 100: 2 says, “Worship the Lord with gladness, and come before him with joyful noise.” That is what we did. And one of our wonderful translators, Paris, saved us at the end of Cornerstone by praying over the music until the end of the song.
Needless, to say it was a fantastic experience getting out of our comfort zone and being appreciated by the very kind, patient people of San Pedro. It was amazing when the whole group got on the stage for the closing song Great Are You Lord in English. I know that God definitely took control at one point because we went from being lost to all coming back in, in unison, without any cues. I think that represents how God can bring us all back to Him. Sometimes it just takes making that first step out of our comfort zone onto a stage in front of strangers and a lot of trust that He will provide. And He most certainly did.
The pastor at the church of San Pedro closed the evening by preaching about how each person has their own unique talent and we should use it to serve happily. Romans 12:6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” When we serve Him happily, that is a form of worship, and God sees that and blesses us in return. We are seeing those verses every day here in Ecuador. We each have different gifts. Jay with the kids and sports. Caitlyn with teaching. Summer with hair braiding and administering first aid. Renee with uplifting spirits. Carlos and Jeanette with their wonderful bond with the people, contributing to their needs. Maria, Cindy, Paris, and Norris with their wonderful ability to translate. I could go on and on, but the point is we each have one. And there is no greater joy than being able to reach out, offer a helping hand, and see our talents going to a good use: ministering to the people of Ecuador. God is truly blessing us with the opportunities to minister with the people through our actions and His word.
The team is getting to experience true happiness without all the unnecessary clutter and distraction in our lives. These people have so little, but they are so happy, so appreciative, and so loving. We have so much to learn. This is a wonderful opportunity, and we cannot wait to share and experience more.