Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Sorry I couldn’t actually say that on June 17—I didn’t really have Internet. Anyway, today was basically our day for the interns to relax at the mission school, having it pretty much all to ourselves all day. And I’m so glad we had it, because it gave me a lot of needed time to process what the heck I was going to do about my camera. And after a little time, I was able to finally tell God, “Okay, God, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in this situation, but I know You will turn it into something great.” (The idea of trusting God in everything has been the one idea that I think I’m going to take home, which I’m really happy about.) And even though that whole situation happened, God still made a way for me: I brought two cameras with me, and since they only took one, there was nothing that was going to stop me from making a video in Huaticocha. Also, that afternoon, Jim, who was going to be working with Mark and Cheryl full-time (I’m pretty sure), came down to the school and was a huge comfort for us. That night, we all prayed together, and my main request was: “God, whatever happens, I want this trip to end on a high note.”
In the morning, the interns cut down some grass in the back of the property with machetes. But what we did then had little impact compared to that afternoon, when the team finally came. The group was from Daybreak Alliance Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, made up of two teenagers and thirteen adults. Not quite what I was expecting, but man, were these guys fun. Most of them I didn’t actually meet until we actually got to the school where they were to do their first VBS, but once they got going, the day was so much. I guess you could call it a standard missionary VBS: a few songs in Spanish, a Bible story, some crafts, and a memory verse. But I could tell it was going to be a fun week already.
Our days with Daybreak had a pretty standard routine: breakfast, morning devotions, construction for three hours or so, lunch, going to a river to swim or bathe, VBS at a local school, dinner, and evening debrief. So I guess there wasn’t a whole lot of new things that we did, but let me tell you, it was so much fun to actually be able to work with a team. For a week, we interns were in Huaticocha just getting ready for them, and now they were here. And even as we were digging dirt along the house being built, I was enjoying getting to know the people on the team—particularly the guys: Scott, Matt, both Brian’s, Sean, Dana, Mike, and Hunter (the youngest guy, a senior in high school). That afternoon, we went to the same school as yesterday to do VBS, and it was great being able to hang out with the kids, which I hadn’t done since we visited Ganas.
Today had the same kind of schedule as yesterday, with a few changes. In the morning, most of the guys spent about an hour and a half somewhere else, at a local daycare where we dug sand and spread it for them to use as a playground for the kids. This was the cloudiest day, and it rained a little, but despite everything, we enjoyed ourselves and worked hard. As Mike and Brian put it, we were in “beast mode”. That afternoon, we swam in the same river, except we went farther down to the spot where we canoed during training. The school where we were to do VBS (a different school from the last two days) was within walking distance, and we did pretty much the same kinds of things as before. That night, though, was an adventure: we had dinner at Pastor Ivan’s house, cooked by his wife Nancy, who made these pretty darn good tamales. Except somehow, onions were in it, and Jen, wife of one of the Brian’s, is very allergic to onions. Praise the Lord that all she needed was Benadryl and that she didn’t have to go to the hospital!
We were all determined to make today, our last full day of work, one of our best. More digging, more swimming, and more VBS, but it all still went really smoothly, despite a couple people getting slightly sick. And I forgot to mention—over the past couple days, I had been shooting video of the group at construction, at VBS, and at evening debrief, and I will say, I think this video is going to turn out really nice. Hopefully I’ll be able to get all these videos done before I turn 20!
By the way, I turn 20 a month from today. Anyhow, around 7:30 in the morning, the time came for the team to split up. Half of the team was going into Peas (pronounced pay-ahs), deeper into the jungle to visit a group of people who some of them had worked with before. (Last year, Daybreak took a team there and held the first church service ever in Peas—twelve people accepted Christ!) The other half was going back to Quito this afternoon, so after saying our goodbye, the Peas team left (along with Derek and Aaron, who I’m really going to miss, and Jim, Mark, and Cheryl), and the other half worked a few hours of construction before we had lunch, had afternoon devotions, and finally got our bus (which had dropped the Peas team off and then had to return for us, a six-hour trip) to get us back to Quito! Looking back, I probably looked like a lunatic when Ana and I got off the bus, squealing as we saw Bethany and Jen for the first time in a week or more. But it was so nice to be back, and it was so nice to see Fabian and Mabe again.
I’m starting to think that my days here are becoming more and more bittersweet. In the morning, Gustavo came and joined us as we visited Mitad del Mundo (Center of the World), the museum of the equator, which was pretty darn cool. That was the one spot that I actually didn’t get to go to on day six of the Amazing Race, so I was glad I finally got to see it. After that, we had lunch at a local empanadas shop, where the food was very filling… but maybe a little too filling, since a couple people started having some stomach pains afterwards. But after that, we got to do a little shopping at a local market, where I finally got to buy some souvenirs for my mom, dad, and brother. Hopefully they like what they get! I also was finally able to find some Inca Kola, which I am totally bringing home with me. And once we all finished, we all just hung out at CasaBlanca until dinner and a final debrief, and then the interns joined the Daybreak team as we took them to the airport to catch their flights home. I told them that hopefully, when I go to visit family in State College (which isn’t too far away from them), I’d try to visit their church. Hope that wish comes true!
Here it is, my last full day in South America this summer. I was able to wake up early enough to get most of my stuff packed in the morning, and after a nice last breakfast of French toast by Bethany, we all headed over to the church where Gustavo, Fabian, and Mabe attend in Quito, where they were celebrating their fifth-year anniversary. The service, I kid you not, was three-and-a-half hours long, including a little lunch at the end. So not quite what I was expecting, but it was still nice to go to another Spanish church while I was here—I honestly think seeing these different churches has opened my eyes a little more to the diversity of the body of Christ. And once we got back to CasaBlanca, I got my boarding passes printed and the rest of my things packed, and for dinner, the girls made me lasagna and decorated the kitchen for a little going-away party for me! And that night, I pulled an all-nighter (along with a couple other interns) as I waited for Davíd, the man who lives at Casa Elizabeth (a side property of CasaBlanca), to drive me to the Quito airport at 4:30 A.M.
You’d think today would be an easy day just because all I was doing was flying back home. Nope. Once Davíd and the interns dropped me off at the airport and said goodbye, I ended up getting to my first gate just in time, after having to wait in long lines going through boarding passes and security. But the first flight left on schedule, and by 1:15 P.M., I was at the Miami airport waiting for another flight to take me to New York at 2:00. However, because of bad weather by the New York LaGuardia airport, my flight was delayed about two hours, as was the flight to Cleveland afterwards. But God worked everything out—when I got to New York, I was totally on time for the flight, and at the gate, I ran into a group of students and teachers from Brunswick High School, my alma mater, who were taking the same flight after their week-long trip to France! And we all arrived in Cleveland at 11:30 P.M., safe and sound, where my parents and brother were waiting to greet me.
That may be the end of my trip, but I can guarantee that God’s not done growing me. The rest of the summer, I will not only be editing all the videos I shot for Inca Link, but I will also be a youth advisor at my church, which will also give me more opportunities to trust in God everyday. My prayer is that the things I learned on this trip would never die down, that I would continually wake up in the morning and commit my day to the Lord. Thank you for reading, and I promise that starting next week, I’m going back to talking about movies!