The inevitable question after you get back from a mission trip is “What did you do down there?” Depending on who you ask, you might get a one word response like “stuff,” or you might be occupied for the next ten hours hearing every little detail of the flora and fauna before they even touch on what really happened. So to get the obvious stuff out of the way:
- Yes, we had beds.
- No, there were not millions of Zika virus mosquitos.
- The food was great!
- No, we didn’t eat guinea pigs (although that was almost an option)
- The people were friendly - they don’t speak English and most of us didn’t speak a lot of Spanish but we communicated anyway.
- The weather was not freakishly hot, but rather a cool 70 degrees most of the time.
So now that we have those things out of the way, here’s what we really did. Our first day in Ecuador we visited a church in Santo Domingo. For most of us it was just another church, and if you were to visit there you probably wouldn’t think much about it either.
The rest of the week was divided between two main tasks. The first task was relatively simple: remove a thatch roof and prepare it for a new metal roof. We spent the mornings throwing the old roof into a fire armfuls at a time, sanding and painting steel beams, and trying to move three levels of scaffolding around.
The second task was a Vacation Bible School, or VBS. The really cool part about the VBS was that it was the exact same one our children here in Navarre have been doing all summer. We were able to take the same stories, same crafts and skits, and tweak them just a bit to make them work in a culture that is completely different from ours. The kids (and their parents) absolutely loved it and were so proud of what they did.
And that’s basically it. We didn’t do anything grand or super adventurous. We didn’t go and build a new church all by ourselves or convert an entire village. We simply joined alongside people who have been working in that area for many years. Which brings me back to the church from our first day.
While we were sitting in the service they brought out a block: the first block that our church had helped lay a decade ago. They talked about how Navarre had been a critical part of the church being built - one of our team members had even helped build the columns on the first floor on a previous visit. At the end of the service nearly 100 kids came racing down the stairs from what is now the children’s ministry area on the second floor. And the team right before us had been working on the third floor youth area. The longer we stayed and talked to the pastor and heard stories, we started to realize that we are now part of a larger story. We didn’t do anything spectacular by being there for a week. We weren’t the white saviors coming with lots of knowledge and money. We encouraged, we supported, we did what we were asked to do by the locals. And the reason it was so important that we did it that way is because now that we’re back in the States, Pastor Isaac is still working on the roof and he’s still doing ministry with the kids. They continue to be ministered to and receive love and encouragement. In 20 years, the roof we were a part of replacing will probably still be there, but if that’s what we are proud of then we missed the point. If there happens to be even one kid from the VBS who grows up and becomes a leader in the church, that’s something worth giving God the glory for.
But for those that still want to know what we did, here's a video that will give you an idea of what we did.