In my last post, I closed out because I was receiving guests from my home church, Downey First Christian Church. A group of four came for nearly 5 days. Stephen, the youth minister, was scheduled to teach at the weekend Biblical leadership institute we hold every couple of months. Sarah, my sister and church admin extraordinaire, brainstormed with a couple friends, Monica and Kerri, and came up with a couple talks they could give.

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Monica helps out with the youth group, especially with junior high. She spoke to teens at El Recreo church which is located in a gang-ridden neighborhood. She shared about how God saved her from a life of drugs and gangs. I didn’t get to attend, but I heard comments later that they really appreciated her openness and how passionate she is about sharing Christ with kids who are lost. She doesn’t scare away easily. The church leaders were so glad to have Monica back again. She’s such a good fit at El Recreo church. They say she’s Ecuador’s lost daughter and eventually she’ll find her way home to them.

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Kerri works with the children’s ministry. She held both morning and afternoon sessions at Samborondon church on how to work with kids. Some of her students have been teachers for nearly 2 decades, but were excited to see something as powerful and simple as an object lesson. Gladys is pictured with Kerri. She just started working with the children outreach at her church a few months ago. I asked her what impacted her most about Kerri’s class. Her eyes sparkled with emotion when she said she appreciated the insights for working with kids with trauma.

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Sarah didn’t come to give a class. She came to see me and bring me a suitcase full of stuff from clothes to nutella! Oh, and she organized the whole trip and translated for Kerri and Monica. I was so happy to have her here! Last year she was my guide to Ecuador. We were amused by how that had flipped this year.

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I got to translate for Stephen’s youth ministry course that spanned three days. It was such a great time! I’ve missed being part of his leadership team. He’s such an encouraging leader who is great at listening and encouraging. The first night, people had arrived as quickly as they could after work and were tired and hungry. There wasn’t much interaction that night. The next day, as Stephen shared about mission and vision driven ministry and how it is fed by our own relationship and communion with Jesus, people started grasping onto something they’d not considered before. It was awesome to see them come alive and share their experiences. As you can see in the picture, everyone had a new excitement and insight to take back to their home churches.

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I was honored to participate in the experience. And I learned a lot, myself.
I’m a pretty direct person who believes in always speaking truth into people’s lives, but I learned that grace must be extended before truth can be received. Both must go together, hand in hand.

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Stephen also got to preach at El Recreo church Sunday night. Notice the progress on the upstairs offices in the back. The church is working really hard to complete that project themselves, instead waiting for next year’s missions teams. I’m so excited to see them take ownership of it. They are learning that they can accomplish things for Jesus, too.

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After a busy weekend of teaching and preaching, we toured Guayaquil on Monday. Our first stop was the National Historical Park of Guayaquil.

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They have a zoo section and different areas recreated to represent colonial Guayaquil and regional farming life of the 1900’s. The zoo was closed for maintenance, but we got to see this peacock show off in the coffee plantation area. Magnificent!

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The team left the next day and I admit I was bummed to see them go. Samuel and Paola kidnapped me for the rest of the day.

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We went to explore Santa Ana Port, a high-end esplanade along the Guayas River. If you’ve been to Guayaquil and climbed the Santa Ana hill with the 506 steps up to the lighthouse and faced north, congratulations, you looked out over the Santa Ana Port. You probably noticed a tall twisty building. That’s the tallest building in Ecuador, at 36 stories. It is an office building named “The Point”. I’d always seen it when crossing the bridge into Guayaquil. You know when you always see something from afar and then you finally see it up close you have a sense of fulfillment and attainment (like finally reaching the lighthouse)? That happened. I was finally there. It’s just so tall and twisty.

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We found a coffee shop at the base of “The Point” that had just opened called “El Yogurt Irlandés” (The Irish Yogurt). Yogurt places where you can get yogurt and fruit blends and, my favorite, “pan de yuca” are common in Ecuador. This place adds coffee to the menu. We went in, but the guy was out of stock on everything. This sign advertises a morning special of Irish coffee with 3 “panes de yuca” (yucca bread rolls) for $3.95. That’s pretty steep. Yogurt Persa, my favorite yogurt place, offers a yogurt blended with your choice of fruit and 3 “panes de yuca” for $2.75.

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The School

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that we’re now having school on Saturdays. Due to El Niño flooding they are expecting next year, the ministry of education has decided to wrap up the school year a month early at the end of January to avoid the worst of the rain. To accomplish this we now have school on Saturdays. Yay. Everyone is tired of classes by the time Saturday rolls around, so Lupe plans less academic activities for Saturday. For example, a couple of weeks ago we had a presentation of the extra-curricular “clubs”. The kids’ arts and crafts projects were on display.

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Miss Yuli’s third grade class presented a Snow White play they’d been working on. You get creative with roles when there are 35 kids in your class.

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And my choir performed in “public” for the first time. As each teacher before me presented her students’ completed projects they explained the process they went through to get their outcome. Boy, was I glad for my college voice lessons and the Sister Act movies when it was my turn to explain how we went about learning to sing. I explained about posture, breathing, and scales. I restrained myself from breaking into song… “Doe a deer, a female deer…” a la Maria Von Trapp. The English would have been confusing for them.

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We had our picture taken with the recently purchased keyboard and then they sang “Oceans” in Spanish with a soundtrack (I’m still getting comfortable playing the keyboard). They were amazing! And I was beaming proud.

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Miss Yuli, Lupe, Adrian, and Pastor Jose resting after the kids’ program.

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Food

I have a new favorite street vendor snack: sliced green mango with lemon and salt. The salt looks dirty because they add a bit of pepper. My mouth waters at the memory, but I can only have it once in a while because the lemon is brutal on my teeth. Immediate tooth brushing is required to save enamel.

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This is what I got the other day when I ordered chicken fried steak with French fries. Notice the unmentioned rice takes up the most real estate on the plate. That’s how Ecuadorians roll, especially in the rice farming region that is Samborondon. They don’t even list the rice on the menu. Everyone just assumes whatever is offered comes with a good-sized portion of rice. I heard someone criticize this restaurant for skimping on their rice portions. Huh.

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The coastal plains area (which extends from the ocean to the mountains) of Ecuador only has two seasons: summer is hot and dry, winter is hotter and wet. We’re currently nearing the end of summer when temps drop just below 80 degrees at night. It’s as close to fall as it gets here. I guess that’s why my favorite lunch place offered this pumpkin soup the other day. So yummy! And only $3.50 for the full lunch!

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Before I close, I’d like to thank World Wide Outreach, the elders at DFCC and anyone else that was involved in sending Sarah and the others to spend a long weekend here. I feel loved and I’m grateful for you all.

Next time, I’ll tell you about what Samborondon celebrates instead of Halloween on October 31.

Love and Peace,

Erin

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