Greetings from Samborondon, Ecuador! I am so thrilled to finally be able say that! I spent over two months working on one thing after another trying to get the proper documentation to return to Ecuador. Over and over I was told, “We aren’t rejecting your visa application, just the documents you presented. Please correct/apostille/update/translate/renew/reprint/resubmit this document.”
When I finally walked away with my freshly inked 2-year visa in my day-old passport and shared my exuberance online, a friend asked, “So, what did you learn in all this?” At the moment, I couldn’t stop to formulate an answer as I rushed home, purchased a ticket, packed and flew out the next morning. I’ve had a chance to ponder that now and I realize I’ve learned a lot in this experience.
- Ecuador loves tourists, but is very protective about who stays longer to work.
- Background checks in the US require fingerprints and take three months. For other countries, you present a photo ID and the embassy or consulate can print it out right in front of you.
- What an apostille is.
- The vice-consul at the Ecuadorian consulate is Edwin and he is more patient than I am.
- Ecuador doesn’t recognize double citizenship of people who aren’t Ecuadorian.
I can’t tell you why what should have been a straight-forward process required me to leave the mission field for two months and hit every snag it could have while there. But, God continues to work his good and perfect will even when I am at wit’s end. Trusting him in the big things and the small things just makes sense. And trust is lived out in daily obedience.
After 15 hours of travel, convincing the international policeman that my 1-day-old visa in my 1-week-old passport was valid and that I was indeed able to book a flight within 24 hours of travelling, hauling along 200 lbs. of luggage in four pieces, and being questioned about the half dozen practice drum pads not in their original boxes (“Do you have anything hidden in these?” “No, you just x-rayed them.”), I finally made it out to the sea of unknown expectant faces in the international arrival area. Halfway through the throng, my eyes fell on a very familiar bearded face: my dad.
And close behind him was my mom. Her face isn’t bearded.
Their presence in Ecuador wasn’t a surprise. They had booked flights to visit me the first of October when school was on break between semesters. Trusting that God would work things out with my visa, they came ahead and beat me by 4 days. Thankfully, their longtime missionary friends, Bill and Karleen Crandall, were able to host them until I arrived. The surprise was that they accompanied Samuel and Paola to pick me up at the airport. What a welcome sight at journey’s end.
They got to meet people I live and work with.
We explored the historical park on the hottest day of their visit. Hahaha…
We had fresh coconut at my favorite beach.
My school kids and church family got to meet the source of my sense of humor and good looks.
Dad preached on Sunday and I got to sit with mom and listen.
There is no substitute for living together with loved ones, even if for just a few days. Even now I can’t help but grin at the memory.
God is so loving and good and even indulgent with his children.
Just a couple days after seeing my parents off, we had a huge wedding at Samborondon church. Five couples who had common law unions or had simply not bothered with a church wedding, said their vows before a preacher and the whole congregation.
They requested that I sing a few songs with our guitarist, Julio, during the ceremony. The youth group performed a couples’ dance. Brides and grooms of all ages recommitted to each other, exchanged rings and shared communion. It was beautiful!
And then, the party! Food was served. The salsa band cranked it up! Toasts were given. Pictures were with each of the five couples. And a conga line!
All the hard work of preparation paid off. And then, as an afterthought, the single ladies were gathered with the ruse of the brides wanting a final picture. When the true intent was evident in the form of a bouquet being launched it was too late to escape. I’m happy to say that the official bouquet was caught by a widow. But, those weren’t the only flowers. An ornery bride who shall remain nameless, Cristina Quinto, launched an errant stem of mums which just happened to hit my face.
I wish someone had been recording the event to show how quickly our pastor’s wife, Lupe caught the mums—weeds, really—that I flung away and proceeded to whack me over the head with them covering me in petals and insisting that it was a sign from God that I should marry forthwith. From that point no single man was safe from an introduction to me. I’ve been told I have a year. Small towns and their superstitions…
Besides the wonder of husband and wife uniting before God, it was awesome to see how the church came together to gift the event to the couples. Everyone had a part to play and the celebrated couples didn’t have to worry about anything besides getting themselves there.
Have I mentioned that one of my favorite things in this life is to see the church of all ages come together to work, to bless, and serve. Being a part of that is always awesome.