|ADSE Headquarters in Shell|
|ADSE Plane taking off from Shell|
|ADSE Cargo: Bananas|
and live birds
|ADSE pilots and planes getting ready to fly|
|Sometimes it rained hard!|
|The river walk in Puyo|
|English Class and Bible Study|
I want to send a special thanks to all of my new friends because they touched my heart with their openness to answer any question I had about both pluses and minuses of life in missionary work. It was a joy to get to know them and their stories.
During our second week in Shell, I spent some time at the Nate Saint school which is a small K-9 school for missionary kids. I had a lot of fun meeting the teachers and principal there. They even let me sit in on some of the classes.
I also spent three days at the orphanage where their mission is to provide a haven for kids that are abandoned or that have special needs. In the jungle, kids born with special needs have historically been killed at birth since the parents aren't able to take care of them and it would be extremely difficult for them to survive in a culture that relies on walking, hunting and fishing. Now, these kids are brought to the orphanage. It's hard to see so many kids without families and to hear their stories. There was one little boy there about three who runs up and hugs everyone. There is also a little girl who has a degenerative condition that affects her eyesight, ability to swallow and move independently. But her face would occasionally light up with a beautiful smile when I held her and sang to her. While the staff at the orphanage was very kind about letting me help out where I could with my very limited Spanish, I felt like they really needed people who could make a long-term commitment to partnering with them. If you are interested in learning more about the orphanage or sponsoring a child, their website is http://lacasadefe.org/.
|Overlooking Tiweno Airstrip|
|Path from the airstrip up to Tiweno|
We also had the opportunity to fly into a smaller, jungle village called Tiweno. No developed roads go there so airplane is the main way to get people and supplies in and out. At some of the jungle strips, people from the village will spend about an hour a day maintaining the runway by clearing the grass with machetes or, if they are lucky, with weedeaters. The community we visited has developed a tourist industry for when people want to come out to the village. They dress in traditional clothing and sing and dance. They even got Joe to dance which was pretty cool (and rare). They also sell many of the beautiful things they make out of jungle materials. For example, they take a grass-like plant, boil it, and then roll it on their legs to make rope. This rope is then woven together to make clothing, bracelets, hammocks, purses, carrying straps for water gourds and blow guns, etc. One of their church leaders introduced himself and spoke about his village in Woarani, which was translated to Spanish and then to English. He said that even though we cannot understand each other now, some day we will all be together in heaven and we will be able to talk together about all the great things God has done. It was also our pleasure to meet Dyuwi, who was one of the men involved in the spearing party that killed the American missionaries Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian and MAF pilot Nate Saint in 1956. Dyuwi later became a Christian when Elizabeth Elliot (widow of Jim Elliot) and Rachel Saint (sister of Nate Saint) came to live with the tribe shortly after the missionaries were killed. Dyuwi's face has joy written on it. Every time an MAF plane comes in, he makes a special effort to walk from his home at the end of the runway to where the plane parks so that he can pray with the pilot. His prayers (in Waorani) always include a thanks to God for the women who came with the message about Christ so many years ago. What a testimony to a changed life through the Gospel!
|The hut where we danced at Tiweno|
One of the big differences we noticed in culture is a different view of time and planning. Planning ahead is not so common as it is in our culture. The cultural attitude is, why plan ahead when the plan will just change anyway? The culture tends to puts people first. It would be rude to leave the people you are interacting with if you have not finished your time with them, just because you may have an appointment elsewhere. There is a big emphasis on hospitality and it is rude to not greet everyone personally when you go someplace and see people you know. Most everyone goes outside in the early evening to go to the shops and socialize with neighbors, family and friends.
|Pinchos - Chicken and Grubs (no we didn't try grubs)|
|Amazing fish and fried plantains|
The traditional meal for lunch is almuerzo, which was often the only item being served at the restaurant and exact recipe changed from day to day. It was usually some variation on delicious fresh juice, soup, and a small piece of meat with rice and beans. Papas fritas (french fries) were almost always served. Menus with pictures on the wall were just as likely to be decoration as representative of what you could order, as availability depended on what the owners were cooking up that day. One of my favorite things to eat were the barbecued chicken skewers sold on the street (pinchos). The food we missed the most was salad! We took the recommendation that we not eat salad because it could be washed with tap water. Tap water is only drunk by those who have adapted to the microbial content of the water and is a big no-no for turistas. For this reason we drank either treated water, bottled water or soda.
|Overlooking Quito on the hike toward Pichincha|
|Pichincha, taken from 14,500' above sea level|
After our time in Shell, we spent three days in Quito as tourists. Quito is very modern and it feels a little like Miami. The high elevation means it hard to walk up hills and its easy to get a sunburn. Some highlights were taking a bus tour around the city and seeing the old part of Quito with its beautiful churches. We also took a cable car up one of the mountains and then hiked up a trail, achieving an altitude over 14,500 feet. Joe wanted to be able to say he had hiked to a higher point than any of his friends in the lower 48 United States. We also took a mountain bike ride out out near a volcano called Antisana. That area of Ecuador reminded me of the breaks around the Snake River. However, due to the high altitude, the flora was much like tundra. If you ever get to Quito, check out Zinc Gastro Bar. We had one of the best meals we have ever had there!
|A Church in Quito|
|Looking toward Pichincha|
|Lake and "tundra" at over 13,000 ft. near Antisana|
|On the way down from Antisana|
|On the way down from Antisana|
|Grandpa Scott and Grace pick "Olaf" carrots|
While it was nice to have time alone as a couple, we missed Gracie so much! It was especially hard when we would call on FaceTime and she would ask us to hold her. While I'm not sure we could take that much time away from her again, we are proud of how well she did with her grandparents. She had great bonding time with them. They said she knew where we where at and that we were coming back soon for her. One the last day before we got to see her again, she told us she was going to run and grab us!
After this trip, we definitely think that missionary aviation could be a good fit for us. It also opened our eyes to see how many options there are for other ways to help others. Over all, our main takeaways were that:
1) It was not as deserted or spartan as we thought it could be.
2) There is a lot of variety and people tend to do the same type of work overseas that they did at home.
3) It is important to view your work there as not just a job but as a ministry where the most crucial aspect is developing authentic and positive relationships with people.
On a much more personal note, the trip was an important part in my journey to understand my relationship with God and my part in His plan. To be honest, I worry about Gracie and that she will not have the family ties or opportunities that she would in the States. It's so easy to believe the myth that if you work hard enough, you can provide a perfect life for your kids and that if you could, they will be happy. I worry that I don't have myself and my own life figured out, so how can I be a good representative for God? It's definitely easier to pretend like you have it all figured out than to do the hard work of really understanding what you believe and why, and then living that way consistently.
The truth is that while the idea of moving to another country to do missionary aviation forces me to think about these things, it cannot give me the answers. It cannot transform me or satisfy me or validate me. Only a developing personal relationship with the God who knows me perfectly and still loves me unconditionally can do that.
God is not asking me to be perfect or to try harder to get everything together. He is asking me to trust Him. In some ways that is easier than trying to do things myself but it is also hard because I know God wants me to give Him my whole heart and my life. He is asking me to give up having it all MY way for His perfect way, so that I can taste and see that He is good. It is not easy and it is painful and I fail, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
I believe this is the kind of love that transforms, not because of fear or for personal gain, but because of relationship. Just like in a marriage or as a parent, where you chose to do or not to do something you might otherwise do because you love the other person, so it is with God. He loves us and always forgives us, but if we chose to do things we want that are against what He says, then it hurts our relationship with Him.
While we are unsure of what the future holds for us, we know that God is using all of our experiences to prepare us. Every day God calls me to a closer relationship with Him, to spend time with Him and read His Word, and to allow Him to make me more like Christ. He is calling me to figure out what I enjoy, what I'm good at, and how I can use my skills and passions to help others. He is asking me to show other people the same love and grace He has shown me. He is asking Joe and me to learn as much as we can so that we can make good decisions about the things we can control, and then to trust Him with everything else.
I believe that if I put my relationship with God first, then the other things like supporting Joe in his ministry, raising Gracie, where we live and what I do will all fall into place at the right time.
Thank you again for all your prayers and well wishes! They mean so much to us. A few specific things we are praying about for the next few months are:
1) Joe has a mild colorblindness to red and green, which has caused a night-flying restriction to his medical certificate that is required for him to be a pilot. He is in the process of scheduling a test of demonstrated ability for color perception with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to obtain a permanent exemption from restrictions due to his limited color perception. He expects to take the test within a few weeks, so prayer for a successful outcome would be appreciated.
2) I am helping out with a Bible Study at church and considering whether or not I should go on our church's short-term mission trip to India in January.